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Gender: Male
Hometown: Detroit, MI
Member since: Thu Oct 28, 2004, 11:18 PM
Number of posts: 72,481

Journal Archives

The 2015 Federal Budget Ended Pension Protections for Millions of Retirees

In the last few days of the 113th Congress, lawmakers snuck a rule into the 2015 federal budget that endangers retiring Americans by eliminating the government’s legal obligation to insure pensions in the event the funds cannot pay retirees.

University of Missouri, Kansas City economist Michael Hudson explained the change on “The Hudson Report” at The Real News Network on January 5.

In drafting the budget, he explains, the U.S. Congress declared as illegal a 1974 law that had been enacted to protect employee pensions. Now, if pension funds can’t raise enough money to pay their retirees, the funds cannot go to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation—a government insurance program—to make up the difference. The retirees will simply receive less money.

Specifically, Hudson says, “We’ve abolished the government guarantee on pension funds if the pension fund is run by a labor union,” meaning that it has “more than one employer contributing to it, like airline funds, truckers funds… we’re going to give the fund managers, mainly the financial managers on Wall Street, the right to cut back on these pensions that are due.” Employees were promised this money during wage contract negotiations—and they often accepted smaller salaries because they understood their pensions would give them greater security in retirement. .................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.truthdig.com/eartotheground/item/the_2015_federal_budget_removed_pension_protections_for_retirees_20150105

The War on Pensions – The US Budget Anti-Pension Law

By Michael Hudson, a research professor of Economics at University of Missouri, Kansas City, and a research associate at the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College. His latest book is “The Bubble and Beyond.”

On the Senate’s last day in session in December, it approved the government’s $1.1 trillion budget for coming fiscal year.

Few people realize how radical the new U.S. budget law was. Budget laws are supposed to decide simply what to fund and what to cut. A budget is not supposed to make new law, or to rewrite the law. But that is what happened, and it was radical.

Wall Street’s representatives in Congress – the Democratic leadership as well as Republicans – took the opportunity to create an artificial crisis. The press called this “holding the government hostage.” The House – backed by the Senate – said that it would shut the government down at some future date if two basic laws were not changed.


Critics have focused on how there must be a loser for every winner in a derivatives contract. The problem is that if banks lose, the government will bail them out just as it did in 2008.

Less attention has been paid to what happens if banks win. They will win largely in making bets against pension funds. Indeed, pension funds have not been treated well by Wall Street in recent years. ................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2015/01/michael-hudson-war-pensions-us-budget-anti-pension-law.html

Oil, Power and Psychopaths

Oil, Power and Psychopaths

January 3, 2015
Posted by Raúl Ilargi Meijer at 10:24 pm

Iran has a – very – long running dispute with the US about its nuclear technology. The US wants Assad (Bashar Al-Assad) out of Syria, while Iran and Russia support Assad (Russia’s sole proper base in the Middle East), who’s an Alawite (a Shi-ite branch), a people historically persecuted by Sunni’s. ISIS (or Daesh in the region) is Sunni. So are the Saudi’s. Iran is Shi’ite. Bahrain is ruled by Sunni but has a majority Shi’ite population. And I could go on for a while. A long while.

All this plays into the oil game, the falling oil prices. Blaming OPEC for the recent price fall is seeing the world from a child’s perspective. OPEC and its major voteholder, Saudi Arabia, are no more to blame for the plunge than the US, Russia or other non-OPEC producers. Everybody produces as if there’s no tomorrow, and the Saudi’s have merely concluded that their only choice is to do the same. It’s a race to the bottom.

The reason is the fast declining demand for oil; China is nowhere near as mighty as we seem to think, Europe is a basket case, emerging economies are being strangled as we speak by the surging dollar and the Fed taper, and we’re just getting started. It’s cute and all that nobody wonders how much virtual money has vanished into the great beyond as both oil itself and the companies that get it out of the earth have lost half of their ‘values’ in Q4 2014, let alone the countries that depend on oil for their very existence. But cute doesn’t cut it.

Oliver Stone talks about ‘Ukraine: The CIA Coup’. I’ve talked about exactly that all of last year. While on vacation, Obama declares new sanctions on North Korea for hacking a Japanese company only the FBI claims it was guilty of. While US sanctions against Iran are ongoing.

America is trying to control the world by throwing it into confusion, emboldened by poorly understood theories about military superiority, and creating conflicts all over the place that look like they will never be solved. Whereas all it would need to do is make sure it secures itself, its own territory, not control the entire planet. ....................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.theautomaticearth.com/oil-power-and-psychopaths/

BART Video: "Farewell Old Wool Seats"

Karl Polanyi weeps

[font size="4"]The crucial point is this: land, labor, and money are essential elements of industry; they also must be organized in markets; in fact, these markets form an absolutely vital part of the economic system. But labor, land, and money are obviously not commodities; the postulate that anything that is bought and sold must have been produced for sale is emphatically untrue in regard to them. In other words, according to the empirical definition of a commodity they are not commodities. Labor is only another name for a human activity which goes with life itself, which in its turn is not produced for sale but for entirely different reasons, nor can that activity be detached from the rest of life, be stored or mobilized; land is only another name for nature, which is not produced by man; actual money, finally, is merely a token of purchasing power, as a rule, is not produced at all, but comes into being through the mechanism of banking or state finance. None of them is produced for sale. The commodity description of labor, land, and money is entirely fictitious.[/font]

-- from "The Great Transformation"

Austerity Killing You? How About a Trade Deal?

from HuffPost:

Robert Kuttner
Co-founder and co-editor, 'The American Prospect'

Austerity Killing You? How About a Trade Deal?
Posted: 01/04/2015 10:36 pm EST Updated: 01/04/2015 10:59 pm EST

Europe is right on the edge of another downward lurch into prolonged deflation. GDP growth is hovering right around zero. Germany, as an export powerhouse, continues to thrive, but at the expense of the rest of the continent -- victims of German-imposed budget austerity demands. The euro, which keeps sinking against the U.S. dollar, is now trading at just $1.20, its lowest level in four and a half years.

Unemployment outside prosperous Germany remains stuck at over 12 percent. All of this weakens the political center that supports the EU, and increases the appeal of far-right parties. (You wonder if Europe's leaders bother to read their own history. When there is protracted depression and desperate people, nasty things have been known to happen in this part of the world.)

The one institution that intermittently challenges Angela Merkel's government in Berlin, the European Central Bank, is mostly a paper tiger. ECB chief Mario Draghi talks a good game about doing whatever it takes to levitate Europe's moribund economy. But when push comes to shove, Draghi stops far short of the aggressive bond-buying program used by the American Federal Reserve, for fear of antagonizing the Germans who continue to think Europe can deflate its way to recovery.

So what does Europe have left? It is a mark of the delusion of Europe's leaders that the EU is putting its chips on a trade deal with the U.S. -- the so-called Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. TTIP is not really a trade deal at all but a series of measures intended to promote further deregulation of economic, financial, health, labor, safety, privacy, and environmental protections on both sides of the Atlantic. TTIP was designed by corporations to weaken labor and government -- and would do just about nothing to get Europe out of its austerity trap.


The fact that neo-liberalism has dismally failed seems not to have fazed Europe's leaders. This struggle is about power, not about evidence or practical success. The corporations and bankers on both sides of the Atlantic make more money when they are subject to fewer social constraints, even when the economy is flat and tens of millions of people are jobless. ................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-kuttner/austerity-killing-you-how_b_6414534.html

The End of the American Middle Class?

from HuffPost:

Steven Strauss

The End of the American Middle Class?
Posted: 01/04/2015 11:56 pm EST Updated: 01/04/2015 11:59 pm EST

Are we destined to be techno-serfs serving a ruling elite of information oligopolies?

In the brave new world envisioned by pundits, we will all be micro-entrepreneurs with personal brands -- each of us controlling our own destiny, selling our services into digitally enabled markets. Traditional employers and wage slavery will be extinct.

Unfortunately, the companies of this new economy aren't philanthropic do-gooders. They are profit-maximizing corporations, with incentives (and increasingly, the market power) to pay their personnel (AKA independent contractors, euphemistically called micro-entrepreneurs) as little as possible. This could lead to a future with a small affluent elite, and the rest of us reduced to techno-serfism.

Economists (see, David Autor and David Dorn (2013); Maarten Goos, Alan Manning, and Anna Salomons (2014)) have noted a long-term hollowing out and polarization of our labor markets due to offshoring and automation. The result is: rapidly increasing demand and productivity for high-skilled "knowledge" workers (e.g., software developers); some increased demand for certain types of low-skilled service workers with jobs difficult to automate or offshore (e.g., home health care workers, waitressing); and collapsing demand for middle-skilled workers with jobs easily automated or offshored (e.g., assembly line workers in manufacturing). All of which helps explain the increasing levels of income inequality we have been experiencing in the U.S. (see, Wojciech Kopczuk, Emmanuel Saez and Jae Song (2010)).


So, we have a plausible future where profits, information and political power (the leading companies of the Digital Economy already invest heavily in politics) increasingly accrue to a small group of technology-driven oligopolies. And the rest of us are reduced to commoditized micro-entrepreneurship (i.e., techno-serf) roles, paid the minimum the Amazons of the world calculate as necessary (given our lack of alternative employers) -- but paying the maximum these oligopolistic powerhouses can charge.

Welcome to our potential future -- is wage slavery starting to look good? .................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/steven-strauss/the-end-of-the-american-m_b_6413660.html

Jim Hightower: A Flat-Footed Backflip for Wall Street

A Flat-Footed Backflip for Wall Street

Saturday, 03 January 2015 13:29
By Jim Hightower, OtherWords | Op-Ed

Congress, which had been so tied up in a partisan knot by right-wing extremists that it became unable to move, suddenly sprang loose at the end of the year. Before heading home for the holidays, it put on a phenomenal show of acrobatic lawmaking.

In one big, bipartisan spending bill, our legislative gymnasts pulled off a breathtaking, flat-footed backflip for Wall Street. They then set a dizzying new height record for the amount of money deep-pocketed donors can give to the two major political parties.

It was the best scratch-my-back performance you never saw. You and I didn't see it, because it happened in secret — with no public hearings, debate, or even a vote.

Tucked into the year-end spending bill known as a "cromnibus" was a provision allowing Wall Street's most reckless speculators to have their losses on risky derivative deals insured by us taxpayers. Such losses were a central cause of the 2008 financial crash and subsequent unholy bank bailout. .................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/28334-a-flat-footed-backflip-for-wall-street

Cities Without Traffic

x-posted from the fantastic Public Transportation and Smart Growth group http://www.democraticunderground.com/?com=forum&id=1130

from the Flat Iron Bike blog:

Cities Without Traffic
Posted on December 26, 2014 by Zane Selvans

It’s an underlying axiom, a chanted mantra, a litany:

More people means more cars.
More cars means more traffic.
More traffic means more congestion.
We hate congestion, ergo:

The litany was recently recited by John D. English in his Daily Camera guest opinion, imploring Boulder to “preserve our quality of life” by protecting the right of motorists to drive in the city without encountering traffic congestion. But cars are not inextricably linked to people, and the freedom to drive everywhere is not quality of life. Equating these things stalls infill development in the name of auto dependence, and keeps half the city trapped in late-20th century office park purgatory. It preserves not quality of life, but underused asphalt oceans, impenetrable superblocks, and sad bike lanes painted on the side of roads that might as well be freeways.

The assumption that more people must inevitably mean more cars means different things to different people. To the member of traditional Motordom with an interest in infill development, it means we need to build more regional road capacity (induced demand be damned!). To auto-dependent neighborhood activists who cannot stomach the thought of Change in Our Fair Town, it means infill is unacceptable.


Parking is a ridiculously powerful policy knob. If you build a city with zero parking, you can be sure there will be zero cars. It’s an impossible to ignore, durable physical mandate. Do we need to turn this particular knob all the way up to eleven to keep congestion under control while our population grows? Probably not. But it’s there in our back pockets, and it’s a much more powerful and economical stick than any of the carrots we have left at our disposal.

Does this sound like some harebrained utopian scheme? Zürich, Switzerland already does it. They haven’t built a new parking space in the city since 1996. The city is consistently ranked as one of the cities with the highest quality of life in the world. To quote John D. English: people are “free to move about their community with ease.” They just don’t do it with cars. ...........(more)

The complete piece is at: http://flatironbike.com/2014/12/26/cities-without-traffic/

Seals discovered having sex with penguins

(BBC) Things are heating up in the cold climes of the sub-Antarctic. On a remote, and mostly desolate island, seals have been caught engaging in an extreme form of sexual behaviour.

Specifically, they have been trying to have sex with penguins.

More than one fur seal has been caught in the act, on more than one occasion.

And it's all been captured on film, with details being published in the journal Polar Biology. ..............(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20141117-why-seals-have-sex-with-penguins?ocid=socialflow_twitter&ns_mchannel=email&ns_source=inxmail_newsletter&ns_campaign=bbcnewsmagazine_news__&ns_linkname=na&ns_fee=0

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