Saturday, December 20, 2014

Will Cuba be the new Emerging Market?

Was Obama's reason for ending the 50-year-old embargo on Cuba based on "humanitarian reasons" — such as to bring home an American spy and so that Cuban families could reunite?

Or was big business behind Obama's decision to open trade relations with another dictatorship so as to create another "emerging market" to boost corporate profits — and to accommodate American companies who are seeking another pool of cheap labor?

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, who agrees with ending the embargo on Cuba, recently said that he had grew up in a family that opposed communism — and that trading with China was the best way to actually ultimately defeat communism.

But did the U.S. — by opening up trade with, and offshoring jobs to, China defeat communism in China? Or did it enable China to now become the world's largest economy? (Senator Marco Rubio claimed on Fox News that Rand Paul (his fellow Senate Foreign Relations Committee member) "has no idea what he's talking about".

And speaking of China...

Will new trade relations with Cuba mean people like Sheldon Adelson and Steve Wynn will want to open new billion-dollar casinos in Havana? If so, will they have to bribe Cuban officials?

Also, as the largest private employer in all of China, and one of the biggest supply chain manufacturers in the world, Foxconn just announced that it will soon start using robots to help assemble devices at several of its sprawling factories in China.

Apple, as one of Foxconn’s biggest partners (assembling its iPhones, iPads, etc.) will be the first company to use their robots.

Foxconn said its new “Foxbots” will cost roughly $20,000 to $25,000 to make, but individually be able to build an average of 30,000 devices. The company will deploy 10,000 robots to its factories before expanding the rollout any further.

And speaking of robots...

From Scientific American: How the digital economy could lead to "secular stagnation" (a condition of negligible or no economic growth).

"The digitization of the economy may have far-reaching implications for the future of growth and employment ... After 2000, when the first wave of IT investment peaked, the demand for new work in the U.S. declined ... There is much that governments can do to prevent stagnation. They can redistribute income to those with a higher propensity to spend. They can also support investment into industries that might foster more new jobs [other] than digital technologies ... Self-employment might become the new normal. The challenge for economic policy is to create an environment that rewards and encourages more entrepreneurial risk taking. A basic guaranteed income, for instance, would help by capping the downside to entrepreneurial failure while boosting spending and combating inequality."

* My related posts on this subject:

Maybe (in the not too distant future) American companies could be buying "Foxbots” from Taiwan and using them in Cuba to put more Americans out of work in the U.S.? Which begs the question: Just how rich does the very rich have to be before they are ever satisfied? (I've already imagined what the top 0.01 percent's ultimate "END GAME" might look like.)

And speaking of the very rich...

What about all the American MULTI-billionaires who are now on government welfare? According to a new study by Good Jobs First, not only do Bill Gates, Warren Buffett (Berkshire Hathaway), Larry Ellison (who was named Greediest Person of the Year in 2014), the Koch Brothers, the Waltons (Walmart), Michael Bloomberg and Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) all own companies that have received billions in taxpayer funds — and 99 of the 258 companies connected with the multi-billionaires on The Forbes 400 List have received such subsidies.

The report says: "Subsidies — in the form of business property tax abatements, corporate income tax credits, sales tax exemptions, training grants, infrastructure improvements and the like — are supposed to promote job creation and broad-based economic growth. Yet they are often awarded to profitable, growing companies that do not need tax breaks to finance a project --- meaning, that the subsidies serve mainly to increase profits.

Five of the 99 firms have been awarded more than $1 billion in subsidies, including Intel ($5.9 billion), Nike ($2 billion), Cerner ($1.7 billion), Tesla Motors ($1.3 billion) and Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway ($1.2 billion).

Kenneth P. Thomas (author of Competing for Capital) writes:

"The new report points out that subsidies for investment increase inequality as average taxpayers subsidize wealthy corporate owners. Location incentives directly puts money into their pockets, which then has to be offset by higher taxes on others, or by reduced government services, or with higher levels of government debt. Moreover, as the study notes, despite the huge amount of these subsidies given in the name of "economic development", there has not been enough payback to raise real wages. In other words, if economic development has created so many new jobs, why haven't wages risen?" [Editor's Note: He also has a post saying Mitt Romney's Steel Dynamics took subsidies — not once, but twice — under Bain Capital's ownership.]

* Below are two tables from the 27 page report (in PDF format) CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE.

New study from Good Jobs

Friday, December 19, 2014

Millennials and "Anti-Government" Government

What do our prime-age workers, the unemployed, the under-employed, the over-worked and the under-paid all have to look forward to in 2015 with the new GOP Congress when it comes to jobs and wages?

Over 9 million unemployed Americans (and more than 6 million others who are "not in the labor force" but who also want a job) will soon see what the new Congress will propose next year as their first "jobs bill" (Hint: It won't be for government jobs or public infrastructure investment — and it will be the GOP's very first bill).

CNN reports that soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) said a measure authorizing construction of the Keystone pipeline will be the very first bill he'll schedule for a vote. McConnell said, "People want jobs. And this project will create well-paying, high-wage jobs for our people."

But TransCanada's website says the Keystone XL pipeline would only create 20,000 jobs for Americans — 13,000 in construction (until it's built) — and 7,000 in manufacturing. But the job estimates listed in their application draws from a 2011 report commissioned by TransCanada that actually estimates 20,000 “person-years”, not 20,000 people. Either way, that's not very many jobs at all.

So what do our prime-age workers have to look forward to? We might expect to see more offshoring with two pending trade agreements: the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP), a trade agreement linking the economies of the U.S., Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam and eight other Pacific Rim countries — along with an even bigger trade deal with the European Union: the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

And the new GOP Congress most likely won't pass a new federal minimum wage (which might have put pressure on all employers to raise everyone's wages) which might have allowed service industry employees, part-time workers and "temps" a semi-adequate income to live on.

Also, how will government agencies that protects our workers fare? Will their budgets also be cut like others were in the last spending bill? And on the state level, might we also expect to see more "right-to-work" laws, furthering the GOP's assault on labor unions?

And we also might expect more guestworkers visas (H-1B, etc.) to flood the labor market, putting more Americans out of work and further depressing domestic wages.

A poll released last October by Harvard University’s Institute of Politics found that among 18-to-29-year-olds who had planned to vote in the midterms (meaning: "definite voters", those not hampered by voter suppression laws) 51 percent said they would prefer to see Republicans in control of Congress — while 47 percent favored the Democrats. (They should have been more careful about what they wished for.)

On the question: "How important is the economy in determining which candidate you support in November?" — 77% had answered "important" — but yet, 40% were "not sure" which party they trusted to handle the economy. Maybe they weren't aware that the major U.S. stock markets had, not only regained all their previous losses from the crash of 2008/09, but they also hit many all-time record highs over the last two years. And even the most die-hard "free market" capitalists should realize that "capitalism" also requires "government". So the only question should be: What kind of government do you want? One that protects the rights and economic interests of everyone, or just those of the most rich and powerful?

In a recent interview posted at Reuters, David Kaplan asked former Democratic Congressman Barney Frank, "What do you think of the midterms?"

Answer: "I’m discouraged by more than simply the God-awful turnout. The root of our problem is people who are frustrated because we haven’t produced for them economically. You get into a vicious cycle in which people are disappointed in government because it hasn’t delivered, so they then get mad at government and vote for people who dislike government, which makes it even less likely that government will do anything for them." And this: "The press is very different today. It’s a major contributing factor to the pro-right-wing, anti-government feeling. Because even the liberal press is anti-government."

[Editor's Note: In an article titled Hunger Games Economy by David Cay Johnston, he writes about the new spending bill: "Far too many mainstream journalists help obfuscate the awful truth . . . our leading news organizations cater to economic elites favored by advertisers, and how the current generation of reporters at the best news organizations comes heavily from the upper economic tiers of American society. Reporters and editors whose parents were coal miners, truck drivers and clerks have given way to those with degrees from elite schools, some with trust funds that insulate them from the realities of American life for the vast majority. With that shift comes a predicable change in perspective." I've also noticed that CNN has been leaning a lot more "right" rather than "neutral" as they once were. See my post: Notable Economist Blasts Media Bias. I also touched on this subject in a post about The White House Correspondents Dinner.]

So it appears that a combination of factors had affected the last mid-term election results: voter turnout, apathy, lack of information (or ignorance), poor Democratic messaging and GOP propaganda (e.g. Fox News, SuperPACs and dark money in campaign ads, etc.), which may have all contributed to those Millennials who had voted against their own best economic interests (while also greatly harming the "Silent Majority" in the process).

So it seems that all of the GOP's "anti-government" rhetoric has helped achieved its desired affect. And budget cuts in the sequester didn't help much either. The Institute of Politics' poll showed that 56% of Millennials blamed all members of Congress for the gridlock in Washington, whereas only 22% correctly blamed the Republicans for obstruction (such as filibusters, nominations not approved and bills not brought to the floor for a vote).

This may have left many Millennials with a bad impression of all "government" in general. From the Washington Post: Millennials exit the federal workforce as government jobs lose their allure (by Lisa Rein on December 15, 2014) -- "Six years after candidate Barack Obama vowed to make working for government 'cool again', federal hiring of young people is instead tailing off and many Millennials are heading for the door."

Below are excerpts from the Financial Times: Millennials Rejecting Government Jobs May be Making a Big Mistake (By Eric Pianin on December 16, 2014):

A raft of developments have discouraged or scared away the Millennials — including last year’s government shutdown, periodic furloughs and pay freezes. Still, all of that couldn’t be any worse than the realities for undereducated Millennials who lack the verbal and technical skills to succeed in the workplace. So says The Future of Millennial Jobs, a new report by the Young Invincibles.

The report suggests that despite society’s mind-boggling array of technological advances, young people today have less to cheer about in terms of employment opportunities and advancement than people their age 50 years ago, at the dawn of the computer age.

“The optimistic vision of economic prosperity has been tarnished by severe economic retraction, industry shifts, and ironically, lost jobs due to increased technical efficiency.”

For those young adults fortunate enough to have found employment, their jobs are disproportionately more likely to be part-time, the study shows. About 25 percent of employed 18 to 34-year-olds are working only a part-time position.

What’s more, employers “have shifted towards hiring more part-time and temporary workers in lieu of investing in full-time employees,” the report states. Although contract workers comprise a relatively small sector of the labor market, contract workers have also increased four-fold in the past three decades. Career Builder’s annual jobs forecast claims that 42 percent of employers planned to hire temporary or contract workers in 2014.

“The trends are alarming for young adults who are starting their careers with fewer options than before,” the report concludes. So, with all of that to contend with, a government post many not look so bad after all.

[Editor's Note: And any union job also looks good. But then again, we have GOP politicians corrupting the process. Gov. Bill Haslam and U.S. Sen. Bob Corker were among several Tennessee politicians subpoenaed as part of the United Auto Workers' appeal of the failed union vote at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga.*]

Abraham Lincoln, our first Republican president, had advocated for "a government of the people, by the people, for the people". Today the Democrats are seen as the party of "government" (protecting the poor, the elderly, the disabled and the working-class) — while the Republicans more-or-less represent the "anti-government" (big corporations, big banks and the very rich) — except of course, when it is the GOP itself who is "the government".

The Millennials will certainly have a lot of obstacles going forward in their daily lives — and most likely, for the rest of their lives — because if the GOP ever has their way, young workers today won't have Social Security or a pension to look forward to either (after slaving away for 50 years at low-paying jobs). But the Millennials (the ones who were allowed to vote) got just what they wished for in the last mid-term elections — an "anti-government" government (less oversight, less regulations, more corporate tax dodgers, fewer voting rights, less worker rights, more budget cuts, a weaker safety net, fewer social programs, out-of-control tuition costs, etc., etc., etc.) So --- good luck with that.

There's a difference between "bad" government and "good" government (and/or more or less of either); but "government" itself isn't the problem, it's who we have "governing" the government that also matters. Yes, the Democrats made a HUGE mistake by not focusing more on what would also benefit white working-class Americans. Even former Democratic Congressman Barney Frank said in that recent interview: "We have to persuade white guys that we really do care about their economic interests." --- because most Americans are really "economic populists" --- so it makes less sense for them to "get mad at government and vote for people who dislike government, which makes it even less likely that government will do anything for them."

From the Washington Post: The Schumer prescription for 2016 (by E.J. Dionne Jr. on December 17, 2014)

Here’s the heart of Schumernomics: “As technology continues to advance, automation supplants employment across a number of different industries; low-skilled and even high-skilled wage and salary workers lose their jobs to machines. Globalization, enabled by technology, allows businesses and employers to relocate to low-wage markets halfway around the globe — putting downward pressure on wages. While overall, technology has many good effects — making markets more efficient — it cannot be denied it puts a downward pressure on wages."

The other part of Schumer’s argument is that only government can expand the bargaining power of the middle class and help it to “adapt to these new forces.”

From the Center for Economic Research: Schumer Should Focus on Keeping Government from Redistributing Income Upward (by Dean Baker on December 18, 2014)

The basic story is that technology and trade have displaced large numbers of middle class workers, and thereby redistributed income upward, but government can redress this problem. Every part of this story is wrong ... It is government that increased inequality ... So Dionne and Schumer are right. We need government [but] we need government to stop pursuing policies to give the rich all the money. Unfortunately, Schumer is not talking seriously about the real problem. He is putting on a silly show."

So it's not just "government" per se, but who runs the government and who decides what the government does for us. One government can allow for the offshoring of jobs and paying slave wages — while a different government can prevent this from happening. It's only in my humble opinion that "Third Way" Democrats and "moderate" Republicans (who are beholden to corporate interests) are equally guilty of destroying our middle-class.

Millennials would be much better off with FDR's party (progressives, who caucus with the Democrats). But if they believe they'll have a better future with the Tea Party (or with no government at all), then good luck with that too.

* UPDATE: The United Auto Workers qualified for the top tier of a new labor policy at the Volkswagen plant in Tennessee, giving the union its first formal role within a foreign-owned auto plant in the South.Contrats!

Zombie Workers: The Working Dead

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

How does Cheap Oil Risk U.S. Jobs and Pensions?

FORBES (from 2011): ExxonMobil CEO Says Oil Price Should Be $60 To $70 A Barrel -- "Rex Tillerson, the boss of ExxonMobil admitted last week that the price of oil–based purely on supply and demand- should be in the $60 to $70 a barrel range. The reason it’s above $100 a barrel, Tillerson explained, is due to the oil majors using futures contracts to lock in current high prices, and speculation that is engineered by the high-frequency trading of quantitative hedge funds."

Fast forward to December 2014...

The DOW (Source: Google Finance)

DOW JONES on December 16, 2014

The Economist (December 15, 2014): "As the oil price plunges, gloom and ill-will, oddly, abound. Be careful what you wish for. After years of grumbles about a historically high oil price, the cost of crude has tumbled. But cries of woe are outnumbering the shouts of joy. Exporters, oil-company shareholders and industry suppliers are all contemplating a future of oil at $60 a barrel—or below. So too are all the people who lent money to them. Markets are pricing in the pain and pessimism immediately, while seeming to discount the future gains to energy users ... Weak demand is only a minor factor, though. The biggest cause of the falling price is rising supply from non-OPEC countries, particularly from America ... Spending on new projects is falling, chilling the prospects for jobs and profits ... In theory, lower prices should boost demand ... So long as the era of excess supply and declining profits continues, rivets are popping."

CNBC: (December 16, 2014): Ticking time bombs: Where oil's fall is dangerous -- "Oil consumers, from motorists at the gas pumps to energy-hungry economies such as those of China and the United States, are enjoying the windfall of cheaper crude. Producers, on the other hand, are bracing for a sudden, sharp loss of tens of billions in revenues ... Russia and Venezuela are among major oil exporters facing the biggest risk of political and social fallout."

CNBC (December 16, 2014): "Global demand is still expected to grow next year, but by far less than many thought earlier this year. The economies of China, Japan and Western Europe — the top oil consumers after the United States — all appear to be weakening. Oil demand falls when economic growth stalls ... The depth of oil's plunge could be a signal that the global economy is struggling even more than economists think. A weak global economy could hurt the U.S. economy by reducing exports, employment and spending, which together could outweigh the economic benefits of cheaper fuel ... For oil companies, oil-producing states, and oil-exporting countries, the oil price collapse is painful ... States that rely on taxes from energy production such as Alaska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Texas will see lower revenues and some have already had to trim budgets."

Econbrowser: "West Texas Intermediate sold for $105 a barrel at the start of July [2014], but ended last week at $58. The most important factor has been surging U.S. production. But another reason oil prices have slid so much is weakness in demand for the product, which may be related to a slowdown of overall world economic growth."

Tim Duy's Fed Watch: "The string of solid US economic news continued with industrial production advancing 1.3% in November. Year-over-year growth (5.2%) is now comparable to the late-90's. Meanwhile, the international fallout from the oil price drop continues [and] Russia is a classic emerging market crisis story. The decline in energy prices reveals a currency mismatch between assets and liabilities."

Fox News (on December 13, 2014 @ 10:30 am PST) said U.S. stocks are faltering because of low oil prices (and that's because the global economy is slowing), and that this may be taking a bite out of our 401ks and pensions — and that U.S. oil producers may cut back production, which in turn, could affect jobs.

* Question: Are we damned either way — with either low oil prices or high oil prices?

Fox Business (last month): "With new technology such as hydraulic fracturing (fracking), the U.S. has been able to access large deposits of oil and natural gas that were previously unusable. Seemingly overnight, the U.S. has gone from one of the largest energy importers to one of the world’s largest energy producers. This has helped the U.S. to be less dependent on foreign energy sources as well as create thousands of new jobs. In addition, we can enjoy very low energy costs compared to almost anywhere in the world."

Paul Krugman (December 15, 2014): "It’s impressive just how quickly and convincingly the wheels have been coming off the Russian economy. Obviously the plunge in oil prices is the big driver, but the ruble has actually fallen more than Brent — oil is down 40 percent since the start of the year, but the ruble is down by half ... Saudi Arabia only accounts for about 13 percent of world production ... The last time there was anything like the recent oil glut, namely back in the 1980s, even drastic cuts in Saudi production weren’t enough [to keep prices high] and prices crashed."

Charles Schwab Market Update (December 16, 2014): "Stocks Under Pressure as Oil Continues to Drop:

The U.S. equity markets are lower in early action, with oil's persistent drop continuing to weigh on sentiment as the Street grapples with potential ripple effects outside of the energy sector ... Overseas, Asian stocks finished mostly lower amid the oil concerns and as a read on Chinese manufacturing activity contracted.

The European equity markets are trading mostly lower in afternoon action, with upbeat eurozone economic reports being overshadowed by concerns toward Russia and the persistent pressure on oil prices with Brent crude oil falling below the $60 per barrel mark for the first time since July 2009. Russian stocks are falling sharply on the dropping oil prices and as the nation's central bank's aggressive interest rate action is failing to stabilize its currency, with the ruble falling sharply."

Stocks in Asia finished mostly to the downside on the heels of the solid declines in the U.S. and Europe yesterday that came amid the continued drop in crude oil prices, which is fostering heightened volatility and pressuring commodity-related issues. Moreover, a disappointing read on Chinese manufacturing activity kept global economic growth concerns elevated."

The average man (or woman) on the street is not very savvy on the economics of the global oil market, but this post (A glut of oil?) makes some very interesting claims; and the reader's comments are very interesting as well. Perhaps after reading through everything, maybe someone can sum it up in layman's terms as to:

1) How do U.S. (consumers) benefit from fracking?
2) How can the U.S. possibly ever be "energy independent"?
3) What constitutes a real "oil glut"?
4) How can energy prices brought down voluntarily?
5) Should the U.S. export refined oil (or crude, or it's byproducts) on the global market?
6) How does moving Canadian oil (via the Keystone pipeline) to refineries in Gulf Coast states benefit American consumers?
7) Should Canadian oil (moved through any pipeline at all) be taxed for royalties for State budgets — or for direct payment to their citizens, like oil profits are in Alaska?
8) Why shouldn't the U.S. government nationalize America's natural resources (oil and natural gas) solely for the benefit of domestic consumption, rather than allowing a very few at the very top to mostly profit?

Above all, please don’t say any of these things will raise stock prices for the energy companies, which would also help retirees with 401ks and pensions. Hedge fund managers, private equity and banking CEOs (institutional investors) and the very top 0.01% do far much better with stocks than we do (The top 10% owns 90% of the stocks and the top 1% owns 50% of the stocks.)

* Question: So what good is cheap and abundant oil — even if we can have cheap gasoline for our cars and cheap heating oil for our homes, but then our retirement plans get screwed by a declining stock market? Wouldn't that mean “energy independence” is a BAD thing because the oil companies operate for profit? (Maybe the energy companies should be nationalized — and oil and gas should be sold to U.S. consumers “at cost” — and then not invest our 401ks and pensions in energy stocks.)

As an aside: (from 2 months ago) "Fox News has officially criticized Obama for making gas prices too cheap. It marks the first day in which Fox News hasn’t criticized Obama for making gas prices too expensive."

Monday, December 15, 2014

Vanishing American Workers

New York Times: The Vanishing Male Worker (by Binyamin Appelbaum on December 11, 2014) -- From a New York Times/CBS News/Kaiser Family Foundation poll of 30 million Americans 25 to 54 who are without jobs: 44 percent of men in the survey said there were jobs in their area they could get, but were not willing to take (because they pay so low). Mr. Katz, a Harvard economist, said that some men might choose to describe themselves as unwilling to take low-wage jobs when in fact they cannot find any jobs at all. There are about 10 million prime-age men (25 to 54) who are not working, but there are only 4.8 million job openings for men and women of all ages. The decline of the work force is divisible into three related trends:

— 1) Young men are spending more years in school, delaying their entry into the work force.
— 2) At the other end of the 25-to-54 spectrum, many older men who lost jobs have fallen back on disability benefits or started to draw on retirement savings. [Editor's Note: Binyamin Appelbaum always takes pot shots at disabled workers.]
— 3) In the third group are men too young to retire but often ill-equipped to find new work.

New York Times: Why U.S. Women Are Leaving Jobs Behind (By Claire Cain Miller and Liz Alderman on December. 12, 2014) -- As recently as 1990, the United States had one of the top employment rates in the world for women, but it has now fallen behind many European countries. After climbing for six decades, the percentage of women in the American work force peaked in 1999, at 74 percent for women between 25 and 54. It has fallen since, to 69 percent today. In many other countries, however, the percentage of working women has continued to climb. Switzerland, Australia, Germany and France now outrank the United States in prime-age women’s labor force participation, as do Canada and Japan ... In a New York Times/CBS News/Kaiser Family Foundation poll of nonworking adults aged 25 to 54 in the United States, 61 percent of women said family responsibilities were a reason they weren’t working, compared with 37 percent of men. Of women who identify as homemakers and have not looked for a job in the last year, nearly three-quarters said they would consider going back if a job offered flexible hours or allowed them to work from home ... The poll also showed a stark difference between the experiences of nonworking women and men. Although the numbers of both have risen in the last 15 years, many more women appear to be in a better position to re-enter the work force.

Al Jazeera: America should be more like Disneyland (by David Cay Johnston on December 12, 2014) -- America in the 1950s was a land of boundless expectations about the future. We built the interstate highway system, created NASA and invested in middle-class prosperity. It was not the nation of today, in which the commonwealth crumbles around us, while powerlessness and hopelessness define millions of people’s lives ... America fails to invest in its infrastructure, costing us lives from accidents, floods, sinkholes from water-main failures and explosions from faulty natural gas lines. Sidewalks buckle or heave after winter freezes, making many hazardous to walk on. America’s roads deteriorate, costing the economy in efficiency ... As a people, we disinvest in America. Even though the country could borrow at extremely low interest rates, we refuse to take the risk. Instead, we let infrastructure deteriorate, cut school budgets, close libraries, raise college tuition and pay ever more for police and security even though crime has been declining for decades ... In an era when human knowledge is expanding at a rapidly accelerating rate, Congress cuts budgets for basic research, thereby encouraging smart young scientists to go overseas because they can get funding abroad. And of course the countries that receive them will reap the benefits of their discoveries ... A half-century ago, we put almost 1 percent of our economy into landing men on the moon, yet today we fall behind other countries in exploring space ... We pay a huge price for our lack of investment and faith in the future of America. We pay for all the inefficiency of our decrepit infrastructure. We pay with minds that will never be fully developed and with scientific breakthroughs that will enrich other countries. And we pay with lives of daily grind and unpleasantness without hope of respite.

[Editor's Note: Now, with a GOP Congress, we can forget about a higher federal minimum wage, or strengthening Social Security, or any adequate infrastructure spending. This country his headed straight down the toilet — right along with American workers. As it is now, China has already surpassed the U.S. as the world's largest economy. Now all politicians in Congress (and the very rich on Wall Street) has to do is just remember to flush.]

Dying for a Living Wage

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Congress Forgot to Flush

The Senate passed the new spending bill on a 56 to 40 vote. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) voted against the bill because of the Dodd-Frank provision that allows the banks (once again) to recklessly gamble with other people's money. Here's what Elizabeth Warren had said just before the vote.

...

How American Workers were Devalued

Labor vs. Capital

Here is Franklin D. Roosevelt's Statement on the National Industrial Recovery Act (on June 16, 1933) -- "No business which depends for existence on paying less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country."

Adam Smith (sometimes referred to as "the father of capitalism") wrote in his magnum opus The Wealth of Nations (the first modern work of economics): "Labour was the first price, the original purchase-money that was paid for all things. It was not by gold or by silver, but by labour, that all the wealth of the world was originally purchased."

Fast forward to 2014...

Pensions at Risk in New Spending Bill

The new spending bill contains a measure that would allow (for the very first time) pension benefits of current retirees to be severely cut. The rule would alters 40 years of federal law and could affect millions of workers, many of them who are part of a shrinking group of middle-income employees (i.e. truckers, construction workers, supermarket employees, etc.)

Friday, December 12, 2014

Cable Companies Hold People Hostage

The issue of net neutrality has garnered most of the attention for major broadband providers — and how they plan to manage access to their networks and the information flowing over them to maximize profits, address government regulation and innovate in the years ahead.

Cable Company Monopolies

From Gizmodo . . .

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

China now ranks #1 in World Economy

China leads in the global economy.

After already over-taking Japan has the world's 2nd largest economy, the Chinese economy has just passed the U.S.’s to become the largest economy in the world. Market Watch recently reported: "For the first time since Ulysses S. Grant was president, America is not the leading economic power on the planet ... The International Monetary Fund recently released the latest numbers for the world economy. And when you measure national economic output in “real” terms of goods and services, China will this year produce $17.6 trillion — compared with $17.4 trillion for the U.S.A."

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Can People be Corporations?

"Corporations are people my friend!"

People should incorporate themselves.
(This post was excerpted and edited for length from the Washington Post)

If companies are claiming the rights and privileges of people, maybe people should start claiming the rights and privileges of corporations. "Rights harmonization" should flow in both directions, since we’re now all indistinguishable and equally protected “persons” in the Supreme Court’s eyes.