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marmar

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Why the Shift from Production to Speculation?

from Dollars & Sense:


Why the Shift from Production to Speculation?
BY ARTHUR MACEWAN | MAY/JUNE 2014


Dear Dr. Dollar:

Why has our economy switched so greatly away from manufacturing that produces real goods and services that provide real value and towards speculative, financial activity—everything from mergers and acquisitions to derivatives, off-shore tax shelters, and other scams?

—Glen W. Spielbauer, Dallas, Tex.


The rising role of finance has certainly had all of these impacts (the “scams” you mention). Also, the switch to finance was at the center of the housing bubble, the collapse of the bubble, and the onset of the Great Recession. The switch to finance, however, was not a switch of the economy as a whole; that is, financial firms do not account for a growing share of output (GDP) or employment. The long-term decline in manufacturing has been balanced by the expansion of “services that provide real value”—education and health care, for example.

The switch to finance is a switch in terms of where profits are being obtained and, along with the profits, very high salaries. In the late 1960s, profits of financial firms accounted, on average, for less than 14% of all U.S. corporate profits. In the years 2000 to 2012, financial firms were taking in 30% of corporate profits. In 2004, they peaked at 42.5% of corporate profits. (See graph.) Financial firms’ profits, however, have been volatile: In 2008 their share plummeted to only 10.2%. The 2004 and 2008 figures represent the highest and lowest shares of corporate profits obtained by the financial industry since at least 1965. Since 2008, the financial share has risen back up to over 27%.

Profits of Financial Firms, Percent of All Corporate Profits, 1965–2012


Several factors, intertwined with one another, account for the rise of financial profits. One factor has been the generally slow growth of the U.S. economy since the 1960s. Slower growth reduced the opportunities within the United States for profitable investments in real production. So firms and people with money shifted towards financial investments.

At the same time as the economy was growing less rapidly, a larger share of income was being captured by people with high incomes—apparent in both the greater income inequality among households and the smaller share of income going to labor as opposed to capital (i.e., profits, rent, and other forms of property income). So as opportunities for profits from real investment were poor, firms and wealthy people had more money to invest. ...................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2014/0514macewan.html


Howard Zinn’s July 4 Wisdom: Put Away Your Flags


from the Progressive:


By Howard Zinn

Editor’s Note: Historian and activist Howard Zinn, a World War II bombardier, was the author of the best-selling "A People's History of the United States.” This piece was distributed by the Progressive Media Project in 2006.


On this July 4, we would do well to renounce nationalism and all its symbols: its flags, its pledges of allegiance, its anthems, its insistence in song that God must single out America to be blessed.

Is not nationalism -- that devotion to a flag, an anthem, a boundary so fierce it engenders mass murder -- one of the great evils of our time, along with racism, along with religious hatred?

These ways of thinking -- cultivated, nurtured, indoctrinated from childhood on -- have been useful to those in power, and deadly for those out of power.

National spirit can be benign in a country that is small and lacking both in military power and a hunger for expansion (Switzerland, Norway, Costa Rica and many more). But in a nation like ours -- huge, possessing thousands of weapons of mass destruction -- what might have been harmless pride becomes an arrogant nationalism dangerous to others and to ourselves.

Our citizenry has been brought up to see our nation as different from others, an exception in the world, uniquely moral, expanding into other lands in order to bring civilization, liberty, democracy.

That self-deception started early. ................(more)

The complete piece: http://progressive.org/news/2014/07/187763/howard-zinn%E2%80%99s-july-4-wisdom-put-away-your-flags#sthash.9015rwFk.dpuf



When You Hit That Pothole This Weekend, Thank Corporate GREED


from the Working Life blog:


When You Hit That Pothole This Weekend, Thank Corporate GREED
Posted on 03 July 2014.


For the millions of people hitting the road at this very hour, and in the hours to come, it’s going to be a bumpy journey, crashing through potholes after pothole, rutted road after rutted road, and creaky bridge after creaky bridge–all thanks to the dismal shape of the country’s infrastructure (which gets a D+ from the American Society of Civil Engineers). No doubt, drivers will curse a whole list of people–but a small wager that few give up a few choice words for a big culprit: corporate greed.

You may know this, courtesy of Citizens for Tax Justice:

Most federal funding for highways comes from the federal Highway Trust Fund, which will face a shortfall starting in August because Congress has not adjusted the 18.4 cent per-gallon gas tax and 24.4 cent per-gallon diesel tax, which are not indexed for inflation, since 1993. The fact that they have not been increased to keep up with the rising costs of construction or adjusted to account for reduced fuel consumption now means that these taxes no longer raise enough money to fund our infrastructure needs.


Of course, one way to deal with this is to raise the tax of gasoline (we still pay really low prices relative to the rest of the world). But, that ain’t happening with the jokers running the show in Congress.So, instead, CTJ points out: ...............(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.workinglife.org/2014/07/03/when-you-hit-that-pothole-this-weekend-thank-corporate-greed/#sthash.rogTUAxb.dpuf



Worker-Owners Cheer Creation of $1.2 Million Co-op Development Fund in NYC


(In These Times) In a victory for new economy advocates, the New York City Council passed a budget last week that will create a $1.2 million fund for the growth of worker-owned cooperative businesses. The investment is the largest a municipal government in the U.S. has ever made in the sector, breaking new ground for the cooperative development movement.

Melissa Hoover, executive director of the U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives and the Democracy at Work Institute, hails the New York City Council’s move as “historic.” “We have seen bits and pieces here and there, but New York City is the first place to make an investment at that level,” she says.

New York’s cooperative development fund was the brainchild of a coalition of community groups—including the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies, the New York City Network of Worker Cooperatives, the Democracy at Work Institute, Make the Road New York and others—that came together to stage a series of public forums and advocacy days to secure widespread support for the initiative on the City Council. Over the next year, the fund will provide financial and technical assistance in the planned launch of 28 new cooperatives and the continued growth of 20 existing cooperatives, supporting the creation of 234 jobs in total.

While this may just be a drop in the bucket when it comes to the city’s $75 billion total budget, cooperative advocates are hoping New York’s example can help turn the tide in favor of alternative strategies for urban development. ...........(more)

The complete piece is at: http://inthesetimes.com/working/entry/16901/new_york_co_ops



Orwell’s Dystopian Future Is Almost Here: A Conversation With Glenn Greenwald


from truthdig:


Orwell’s Dystopian Future Is Almost Here: A Conversation With Glenn Greenwald

Posted on Jul 3, 2014
By Sonali Kolhatkar


There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate, they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live—did live, from habit that became instinct—in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.

—“1984,” George Orwell


Investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald, best known for his reporting on the U.S. surveillance state, told me that in the year since he first met whistle-blower Edward Snowden, he went back and re-read Orwell’s dystopian novel “1984.”

In an interview on Uprising, Greenwald said that what surprised him the most about re-reading the ominous story was that “I had always remembered the ubiquity of the surveillance [in ‘1984’], which was we had a monitor in every single room of every home constantly watching every single person. So, a lot of people said, [our world is] not like ‘1984’ because not every single one of our emails is being read and or every one of our calls are being listened to because nobody could possibly be doing all that.” But, as Greenwald rightly pointed out, in Orwell’s world, “nobody actually knew whether they were being watched at all times. In fact they didn’t know if they were ever being watched.”

In essence said Greenwald, “The key to the social control was the possibility that they could be watched at any time.” Although we have no evidence that the Obama administration is engaging in any organized form of social control in our real world, the most dangerous possible outcome of the U.S. surveillance state is a dampening of dissent because of the mere possibility that the government is watching our every move.

In fact, Fourth of July celebrations in Boston this year will be the focus of intense high-tech surveillance, according to media reports. There is, of course, great irony in imposing “Big Brother” tactics on a day that is theoretically meant to symbolize freedom from colonialism and the hard won rights of personal freedoms. Meanwhile, President Obama’s own appointed watchdog panel has given a mostly unreserved thumbs up to the NSA’s programs. Can it get more Orwellian? .............(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/orwells_dystopian_future_is_almost_here_a_conversation_20140703



Say Goodbye to America's Landmarks This Independence Day


Say Goodbye to America's Landmarks This Independence Day

Friday, 04 July 2014 09:57
By Chris Trejbal, America Blog | Op-Ed


As we celebrate the nation's birthday, let us all take a moment to say goodbye to some beloved members of the American family. Ellis Island, Jamestown, Mesa Verde and 27 other national landmarks could soon disappear thanks to climate change.

A national celebration with a dash of mourning won't be so different from many of the family cookouts taking place from sea to shining sea this weekend.

Generations gather for good food and good company, but grandma and grandpa are on everyone's mind. Maybe they're slowing down. Maybe the doctor had some bad news. Maybe they're not remembering all of the grandkids' names like they used to. Everyone knows that this might be one of the last times that the whole family is together.

Adults will want to savor the family stories that will eventually be lost with generations gone by. Everyone knows that one of these years will be the last, and the family will be forever diminished. ...............(more)

The complete piece is at: http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/24780-say-goodbye-to-americas-landmarks-this-independence-day



Amy Goodman: Almedalen: A Swedish Export the U.S. Could Use


from truthdig:


Almedalen: A Swedish Export the U.S. Could Use

Posted on Jul 2, 2014
By Amy Goodman

VISBY, Sweden—Sixty miles off the coast of Sweden, in the Baltic Sea, sits the island of Gotland. Every summer, for one week, tens of thousands flock here to participate in a unique public event known as Almedalen (pronounced ALL-meh-DAH-len). The name comes from a park in Gotland’s main town of Visby, where, in 1968, Sweden’s education minister at the time, Olof Palme, stood on the back of a flatbed truck and gave one of the rousing political speeches for which he was renowned. Palme went on to become one of Sweden’s most transformative prime ministers, up until his assassination on the streets of Stockholm in 1986. The speech that Palme gave in Visby planted the seed for what has grown into Almedalen, a vibrant, open, festive and freewheeling week of debate and dialogue, demonstration and dissent. A dose of this would no doubt benefit the ailing, gridlocked body politic in the United States.

As a parliamentary democracy, the Swedish government is formed by coalition. Smaller parties have a role here, thanks to the proportional representation voting system, which ensures that any party that gains at least 4 percent of the vote nationally will be represented in parliament. The parties that can create a coalition with more than 50 percent of the members of parliament will then run the government, deciding amongst themselves who gets chosen as prime minister, foreign minister and so on. It is a system of governance that rewards participants for finding common ground. Contrast this with the U.S. government, chosen in “winner take all” elections that marginalize small parties and shore up our dysfunctional, polarized two-party system.

Here in Almedalen, all the major political parties in Sweden come and showcase their ideas, with each party featured on one day of the week. On the morning we arrived on Gotland, the Green Party was featured, with environmental issues at the fore. A crowd gathered around a fair-trade coffee stall, where Per Bolund, Green Party member of parliament, was questioning corporate CEOs about environmental regulations they would like to see. And they were actually responding! Sound pie in the sky?

While Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt of the center-right Alliance coalition led a parade nearby, followed by 50 chanting college-age supporters in matching orange T-shirts, current polling suggests that come September’s elections, they will lose to the Red-Green coalition, which includes the Social Democrats, the Greens, the Left Party and the new Feminist Initiative party. The Feminist Initiative has enjoyed recent success at the polls and is expected to send the first radical feminist to a national parliament. ....................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/almedalen_a_swedish_export_the_us_could_use_20140702



Economist Richard Wolff on 'Communism' & 'Capitalism' As Universal Terms








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