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Don’t Worry, Centrists. Bernie Isn’t Radical.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 25/02/2020 - 8:01am in

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            Watching panicky corporate-owned Democrats twist on the devil’s fork of Bernie Sanders’ “political revolution” is almost as much fun as it must have been for my mom and her fellow villagers to watch Vichy collaborators and Nazi sympathizers being executed by the resistance at the end of World War II. (That, Chris Matthews, is how you do a Nazi-to-2020 metaphor.)

            Centrist/moderate/Third Way Dems are afraid of Bernie, not because he would lose to Trump or inverse-coattail down-ballot candidates, but because they would lose their longstanding minority control of the party apparatus. After the convention in Milwaukee, for example, the nominee gets to choose the new DNC chairman. Sanders will not keep Tom Perez.

            Electability, however, is the moderates’ supposed chief concern. And enough moderate Democratic voters are buying it to make it A Thing.

            Don’t worry, centrists. The data is clear. As it they did throughout 2016, head-to-head matching polls show Bernie defeating Trump by a comfortable margin.

            More to the point, you can’t trust corporate media outlets that describe Sanders’ policy agenda as radical or extreme. I wish he were! He’s a classic liberal Democrat, not as ambitious as FDR or LBJ, more like Humphrey or Mondale.

            And that’s just on domestic economic issues. On foreign policy, Bernie Sanders is no progressive. In fact, he is to the right of where the Republican Party was before Ronald Reagan.

            He acknowledges it was a mistake but he voted for George W. Bush’s 2001 invasion of Afghanistan. He voted several times in favor of funding the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. He favors military interventions like those against Syria and Libya, albeit in a limited fashion. He is less critical of Israel than most progressives. He is OK with drone assassinations.

            Sanders is basically George W. Bush plus deadlines minus the invasion of Iraq. No real “socialist” shares his views. Socialists, democratic or otherwise, are anti-interventionist. So why are centrists so freaked out?

The answer, obviously, is his domestic platform. But even that is relatively moderate if you take a hard look at it.

            Bernie Sanders wants to raise the federal hourly minimum wage to $15. That movement goes back at least to a strike by fast-food workers in 2012. Seven big states and several major cities including New York and San Francisco, have already instituted $15.

            Over the last eight years, of course, inflation has eaten away at the value of those $15. Meanwhile, corporate profits have risen. And it would be at least another year until a President Sanders could theoretically sign a bill. At the official, ridiculously understated-from-reality inflation rate, $15 in 2012 will be equivalent to $17 in 2021. If the inflation rate were still calculated the same way as a few decades ago, the minimum wage would be at least $25 in order to be worth the same as it was in 1970. If it were up to me, I’d start the discussion at $50.

            Looking at it from a historical vantage point, Bernie’s proposal is too little, too late for workers. It isn’t radical and it won’t tank the economy—New York and San Francisco are proof of that.

            Sanders wants to forgive all $1.6 trillion of student loan debt and make college tuition and fees free at public four-year colleges and universities. Let’s take those two ideas one at a time.

            Financial aid budget cuts, soaring tuition and high interest rates have made student loan debt explode. In 1999 it totaled $90 billion—adjusted for inflation, 8.7% of the current total. In 1986 it was $10 billion—and that’s after the Reagan Revolution replaced almost all student grants with loans.

Restoring student debt to 1999 levels would require forgiving 91.3% of today’s total. Bernie wants 100%. Not a huge difference. And it would stimulate the economy by freeing up you g adults to buy houses and cars. But the banks sure would miss “their” profits.

            Bernie’s tuition plan only covers 70% of college students; those in private institutions would receive nothing. Tuition and fees only account for 39% of expenses for the average public college student living on campus. So Bernie would pick up the tab for 27.3% of total expenses for American college students at four-year schools.

            Actually, it’s not even that much. Kids whose parents earn a total of $125,000 a year would get nothing. That eliminates 12% of students. Total cost to taxpayers would be $48 billion a year. A sizable sum to be sure, but less impressive/scary than you might think. Here’s another way to think about it: it’s the same as occupying 2.3 Afghanistans at once. We can easily afford to get closer to “richer” countries that offer completely free college—tuition, fees, housing, books, everything—economic dynamos like Turkey, Uruguay, Slovenia, Morocco, Malaysia, Brazil and Kenya.

            Medicare For All is as close as the senator from Vermont comes to pushing a radical agenda. But that’s only by narrow American standards. Compared to other countries, MFA would be a relatively modest affair. It wouldn’t come close to what the rest of the world expects government to supply in terms of healthcare. Like, I just got a mysterious surprise bill for $1,800. Description: “lab test.” What lab test? It was June. I don’t remember. And I’m insured.

            First, the cost: $34 trillion over 10 years. But Americans would have a net savings because healthcare costs here are even higher than that: $36 trillion over 10 years. Net savings: $2 trillion over 10 years. What Sanders does not talk about, and would need to be addressed, is how to deal with the insurance company employees who would be laid off. Job retraining would be needed for them as well as previously displaced workers.

            Denmark, Britain and Germany are among the countries that have systems more or less similar to MFA. No one is suggesting that their governments are “radical.”

            Finally, there’s the Green New Deal. Sanders wants to abolish fossil fuels in the U.S. within 10 years. He’d spend trillions to accomplish that. But consider the alternative: mass extinction. Not doing it is the wild-and-crazy option.

            To recap: love, hate or be indifferent to Bernie Sanders, that’s up to you. But moderates shouldn’t fear him because he’s a radical. Radicals shouldn’t love him because he’s one of us.

            He’s really not.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of the forthcoming “Political Suicide: The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

Workers of the Globalising World

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 25/02/2020 - 8:00am in

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Since the 1970s, increase in capital’s bargaining power vis-à-vis labour has caused immense difficulties for labour movements. Workforces have responded by developing different ways to protect themselves. As new expressions of working-class organisation and mobilisation emerge to better battle with capitalist globalisation, aging and less agile trade union forms decline and even disappear. In this blog post I provide a set of reflections on this topic, which my new book Globalization and Labour in the Twenty-First Century addresses in more detail.

Corporations benefit from postulations that globalisation, like the weather, must be endured. Helpful, then, in assessing working-class resistance to globalisation are currents within Western Marxism that critique economic determinism and its corollary, fatalism, for example the writings of Jean-Paul Sartre, E.P. Thompson and Antonio Negri. My book identifies eight interconnected features of globalization that seriously challenge labour movements and presents case studies of workers’ reactions from around the world, to evaluate the emergence of new ways of opposing capital.

1. Confronting post-Fordist production

Workers’ novel methods to disrupt post-Fordist ‘lean production’ include exploiting corporations’ reliance on Just-in-Time production, which renders them peculiarly vulnerable to industrial disruption. Workers in one small part of vertically integrated supply chains can halt production of entire chains to press their demands, for example in automobile manufacturing in the USA in the 1990s and in China in mid-2010, when strike action at Honda’s Nanhai parts plant in Foshan triggered a strike-wave that secured significant industrial gains. The growth of smaller, decentralised, casualised workplaces has been confronted by faster and more flexible forms of mobilisation than traditional union-building, such as the nationally coordinated walkouts of staff at Walmart stores and fast-food outlets in the USA, generating publicity that pressures employers to improve wages.

2. Reversing decline by going online?

Computer-mediated communication has facilitated new ways of mobilising collective action, for example, cyber-unionism as a cost-effective way to organise post-Fordist workforces, and YouTube videos to rally support during industrial disputes. The interactivity of Web 2.0 has been utilised effectively by unions, even to the point of virtual industrial action, for instance the mass picket in ‘Second Life’ to support workers at IBM Italy on 27 September 2007, organised by Rappresentenza Sindicale Unitaria and Union Network International.

 3. Subverting the shift in production

Militant new labour movements are
emerging in lower-wage economies to which capital has relocated. China,
especially the Pearl River Delta, is a major
site of workers’ struggles. The Delhi industrial belt is another focal
point of working-class composition, indicated by significant disputes at Maruti
Suzuki and ASTI Electronics
in Gurgaon. In sweatshops in developing economies,
workers have allied with civil-society actors to name and shame corporations,
because workers in horizontally integrated supply chains such as clothing cannot
exercise industrial power as effectively as in vertically integrated supply
chains.

4. Countering Capital Mobility

The capital mobility that makes labour transnationalism necessary also encourages it. Workers’ organisations in developed economies have united with those in developing countries to overcome the corporate divide-and-rule strategy of capital flight or threatened capital flight, which puts downward pressures on wages everywhere. Transnational corporate structures have helped foster novel forms of transnational labour mobilisation: injury to vulnerable workers can be resisted by stronger workers elsewhere. Global Unions now present a more coherent united front to improve wages and conditions internationally; and less formal transnational labour operations have proliferated, aided by computer-mediated communication.

5. Confounding workforce fragmentation

Workforces have become even more heterogeneous as globalisation draws subsistence farmers and unpaid domestic labourers into waged labour, and encourages migration within and between nations. While capital is highly mobile, labour is restricted and often vilified if it migrates. Traditional unions have frequently failed to represent such workers, for instance Asian workers in Eastern Europe. However, many unions are counteracting increased workforce fragmentation by collective strategies and solidarity actions, focusing on organisation of marginalised workers, as shown in examples from Japan, Germany, the USA, UK, continental Europe, Australia, Mexico and Nicaragua.

6. Opposing unemployment and precarity

Precarity, underemployment and unemployment are crucial features of globalisation, adversely affecting employed workers, who fear job loss so accept lower pay and intolerable overtime. In Japan, unions are concerned with ‘karōshi’ (death from overwork), but their responses differ. Where unions fail to represent the precariat or ignore unemployed workers, new organizations have emerged to organize and mobilize. For example, at the Chung Hong Electronics factory in the Wroclaw-Kobierzyce Special Employment Zone in Poland, temporary workers’ struggles have been led by left-wing group Inicjatywna Pracownicza, because the established union declined this role. At FaSinPat in Argentina and elsewhere, workers threatened with factory closure have occupied and recuperated workplaces.

7. Protecting the public

Incessant marketisation characterises globalisation. Constant pillaging of the public realm and erosion of the commons adversely affect increasing numbers of citizens. Communities therefore become a terrain for struggle; class confrontation extends beyond the workplace. Unions around the world have used their resources to lead broad coalitions against privatizations and public-sector cuts. Significant battles include the ‘water wars’ in Bolivia and Ireland, Iraq oilworkers’ campaigns to protect national control of Iraqi oil, and South Korean railway workers’ strikes 2013-2014 to prevent railway privatization.

8. Raging against the Rich

Transnational agencies of globalising capitalism have inflicted regimes of austerity to manufacture crisis conditions that aid redistribution from labour to capital, commencing with Structural Adjustment Programs in Africa and South America late last century. Since the Global Financial Crisis, austerity has been imposed in many countries; and labour movements have often led opposition to such policies. In Greece since 2008, workers have offered resistance by establishing new ‘base’ unions when mainstream unions failed to articulate popular hostility to austerity.

Conclusion:
Striking Back Against Empire

Workers have acted imaginatively in the encounter with globalization. Where existing unions have been unable or unwilling to defend workers’ interests, workers have often formed new organizations, sometimes inspired by anarchism and syndicalism. The forces of globalisation that have caused workers grief both encourage and enable them to develop creative responses. Resistance to globalization is far from futile, because globalizing capital needs labour for its reproduction, hence the continuing capacity of labour to contest the power of capital and influence its development. And, unlike capital, which needs labour, labour can exist independently of capital. This makes cooperative forms of production achievable, though difficult, within capitalism, as workers’ control episodes indicate; and points to possible transformation beyond capitalism.

The post Workers of the Globalising World appeared first on Progress in Political Economy (PPE).

How the Black Panthers Paved the Way for New Progressivism

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 21/02/2020 - 4:56am in

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Today’s progressivism contends that economic rights are human rights. Rights to fundamental goods, such as health care and housing, are regarded as inalienable—as much a part of freedom as core rights like bodily autonomy. The view is consistent with the notion of the “American dream,” in that one must secure and then transcend each of these basic needs in order to advance, or to pursue happiness as the Declaration of Independence puts it. 

More than coincidentally, these needs cover many of the Black Panther Party’s* 10-point program. Paralleling democratic socialism’s rise in mainstream progressive politics, the Black Panthers’ ideals are enjoying somewhat of a renaissance. And not without reason.

Though commonly associated with the sensational, the Black Panthers conceived of and implemented a wide array of meaningful social programs. The Panthers started free breakfast for school children, with party members cooking every morning for the poor and undernourished kids in their communities. They established the Oakland Community School, which offered adult education and childcare, as well as free medical clinics staffed by well-regarded academic physicians who volunteered a portion of their time. Mary Bassett, former commissioner of health of the city of New York, writes that the Panthers initiated medical research into sickle cell anemia, which was largely ignored prior to their work. They provided plumbing, home maintenance, and even pest control services.

All of this work spoke to the Black Panthers’ bedrock values: “We want land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice, peace and people’s community control of modern technology,” and “the federal government is responsible and obligated to give every man employment or a guaranteed income.”

Today, people across the country and at every level of government are carrying forward these timeless ideals. In Jackson, Mississippi, Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba advocates for quality housing at $100 a month; in New York, state legislators are very close to guaranteeing “completely free medical care” for all Black, brown, and oppressed people, just as the Panthers called for. Five decades later, presidential candidates are proposing a federal job guarantee and universal basic income

As we should remember this Black History Month—and every month—Black Americans have had a remarkable vantage point from which to view the importance of equity, good society, and reliable social programs. New progressivism in the 21st century would not be the same without their historic leadership. 

*Note: Throughout this piece, “Black Panthers” refers only to the Black Panther Party founded by Bobby Seale and Huey Newton in 1966.

The post How the Black Panthers Paved the Way for New Progressivism appeared first on Roosevelt Institute.

Yvonne Rall Memorial Lunch

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 21/02/2020 - 2:12am in

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There will be a memorial lunch for my mom Yvonne Rall in mid-March. If you were her friend, please contact me directly. Rall.com/contact

Data Protection and Brexit

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 20/02/2020 - 5:16am in

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(Blog) At the moment, the General Data Protection Regulation (or GDPR) is an important piece of legislation protecting personal data, but it is European, not UK law. There is therefore a certain amount of concern about what might happen to data protection in the UK in the future, but there also seems to be some confusion about what is happening now.

Temporary migrant workers in Australian agriculture

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 18/02/2020 - 8:07am in

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The agricultural industry throughout the world has great trouble recruiting and retaining workers drawn from the local population and has become reliant on temporary migrant workers to undertake work which is low paid and arduous. The viability of many of the industry’s branches, and especially horticultural and vegetable cultivation, harvesting and packing, is contingent on the employment of these workers. Interest in how this reliance shaped the dynamics of the industry in different locations was the subject of a collaborative research project jointly funded by the University of California Davis and the University of Sydney. Several of the papers presented at the UCD-USyd forums have now been published in a special issue of The Journal of Australian Political Economy. These papers are primarily focused on the analysis of the extent and character of temporary migrant work in Australia’s agriculture industry.

The recourse to temporary migrant workers is a relatively
recent phenomenon in Australia compared with say North America, Europe or South
Africa. This is in part a response to the difficulties of recruiting from local
rural communities. Depopulation and the ageing of these communities has eroded
a traditional source of labour, and the relatively low rates of remuneration
and arduous nature of farm work discouraged younger workers from considering a career
in agriculture.

While there are no definitive figures on the number of
migrant workers employed in agriculture, probably half or more of the
industry’s workforce is drawn from overseas, and a distinguishing feature of
Australia’s temporary labour migration policies is the number of programs that successive
governments has established. The most numerically significant cohorts are those
who have been issued with a Working Holiday Maker visa or a Work and Holiday
visa, which offer these workers the opportunity to extend their stay in
Australia for up to three years if they work for a minimum time in agriculture.
The Seasonal Worker Program invites Pacific Islanders to work for up to nine months,
mostly in horticulture, while the Pacific Labour Scheme seeks to attract
workers for low-skilled and semi-skilled occupations. The Safe Haven Enterprise
visa provides refugees with employment rights in rural areas. Temporary skilled
workers can be recruited under the terms of the 482 visa, and the Designated
Area Migration Agreement enables the recruitment of migrants to work in a range
of occupations in specified regional areas. These migrant worker cohorts are
supplemented by a growing workforce of unauthorised migrant workers.  

This internationalisation of Australia’s agricultural
workforce can be considered as one manifestation of a more general structural
transformation of the industry. This transformation is increasingly bound up
with its global reorientation. The industry is endeavouring to consolidate its
standing as a food bowl for Asia and beyond, expanding exports into
international markets under the aegis of free trade agreements. Agribusinesses are
developing a more substantial presence and this structural shift is being
reinforced by the increasing aggregation of farms, which is being underwritten
by the growing interest of pension, investment and sovereign wealth funds
looking to spread their risks by diversifying into agriculture. In the process,
they are bidding up land values and the cost of water as it has become a
tradeable commodity.

In a classic example of how the impacts of structural transformations
can unfold differently across industry, the detrimental effects of increased
input costs – of land and water exacerbated by the long drought – on the
profitability and viability of agricultural enterprise have been particularly
felt by small and medium farms. The pressures have fuelled industry calls on
government to relieve labour market pressures by introducing further relief
through the establishment of a designated agricultural worker visa.

This call for a more flexible migrant labour visa for agricultural work has proved to be extremely problematic because of the industry’s less-than-salubrious employment record. As is the case in agriculture across much of the world, the employment of temporary migrant workers has been darkened by a history of workers being subjected to a raft of exploitative and abusive conditions. Underpayment, wage theft, unsafe working conditions, evidence of bonded and forced labour, poor and unhygienic accommodation and exorbitant charges are prevalent.

In Australia, this is a history that has been the subject of
several government inquiries, with next-to-no legislative initiatives designed
to bring an end to the exploitative practices. Indeed, with the exception of
labour migration programs that institutionalise these practices, the federal
government has been reluctant to intervene to regulate the industry’s labour
markets. In 2016 the government established the Migrant Worker Taskforce led by
Allan Fels and David Cousins. They were commissioned to explore the plight of
migrant workers across several industries, not just agriculture, and to develop
a ‘whole of government’ approach and recommend measures to do what has not
occurred to date, viz., to bring an end to exploitation and abuse. Their
reflections are published in the special issue of the Journal. They
conclude with the observation: “The Taskforce was able to generate new ideas
and suggest both changes in policy and administrative and enforcement
practices. It achieved agreement on a significant package of reforms that, if
adopted
(my emphasis), should have a significant impact over time of
reducing under-payments.”

In March 2019, the federal government delivered its
response
, signalling some legislative initiatives and that it would
consider or examine other recommendations, including whether wage theft should
be treated as criminal offence. Yet nearly a year later, the government has still
not acted, exploitative practices continue to be regularly reported, and in the
meantime it has relaxed some of the regulatory oversights governing the various
temporary migrant worker visas and eased some of the restrictions on the
duration of their employment. The collection of articles in this latest issue
of JAPE highlights the nature of
the problems, some of the ways in which workers try to cope, utilising social
media to alert others of their experiences. The studies also emphasise the need
for greater scrutiny of employment practices and for strengthening compliance
with employment standards and exposing the vested interests that continue to
oppose reform.

The post Temporary migrant workers in Australian agriculture appeared first on Progress in Political Economy (PPE).

Thanos: the Undercover Economist (who is NOT Thomas Malthus)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 18/02/2020 - 5:08am in

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Almost everyone went to see “Avengers: Endgame” last year – even those among us who do not particularly care for superheroes. Good thing we did too: that movie gifted us with an endless supply of memes to get us through exam season. However, what stood out to me was how Thanos – the villain who seeks to destroy half of intelligent life in the universe – seemed to have an understanding of economics which far surpassed that of most sci-fi characters. 

In fact, Thanos was able to frame the biggest problem in economics in a single quote:

Human beings possess only limited resources to satisfy our endless needs. Economics students learn this in their first year as the “scarcity problem”. Nearly all economic research is somehow related to making people as happy as possible, given the impossibility of giving everyone everything they want. 

Thanos quickly concluded that since resources are finite, as a planet’s population grows, there will eventually not be enough food to feed everyone. Apparently, such happened in Thanos’ planet Titan: there were “Too many mouths, not enough to go around”. His proposed solution was to randomly murder 50% of his kind. Understandably, Thanos was ignored by his people and witnessed the destruction of his home world through overpopulation. In order to prevent the same mistake being made again, he set out to impose his solution on everyone in the universe. 

Many were quick to point out that Thanos’ views on population growth very much resembled those of economist Thomas Malthus.  However, the two are different.

First, let us see what Malthus believed. In 1798, Malthus published a book called “An Essay on the Principle of Population”. His main idea was that whenever living standards improved, populations increased.  According to the trends at the time of the Industrial Revolution, Malthus predicted that, given prosperous conditions, populations could double every 25 years. However, he also believed that it was impossible for food production to keep up with the increase in population forever – after all, there is only so much arable land available on Earth. 

Moreover, unlike Thanos, Malthus observed how the implications of overpopulation ran deep:  he believed eventually overpopulation would lead to an excessive supply of workers. He reasoned that employers would have a greater number of workers to choose from, enabling them to pay lower wages. At the same time, food prices would rise, making it increasingly expensive to sustain a family.

Hence, Malthus and Thanos both felt the need to somehow “keep life in check”:

However, they differed in two very important ways. Firstly, on their proposed solutions. Thanos immediately turned to random genocide, “dispassionate and fair to rich and poor alike”.  Malthus’s answer was a bit trickier. In fact, Malthus’ focus was on discussing the problem of overpopulation, rather than proposing solutions.  As a reverend, Malthus encouraged people to not have children before marriage and to marry late. Moreover, he advocated for adults abstaining from parenthood until they were able to provide for their offspring. 

Malthus also believed that the rich had a moral responsibility to have less children so as to allow more resources for the poor, while attributing much of the responsibility for overpopulation to the disadvantaged. He believed that the upper and middle classes should help those less fortunate, through “discriminate charity”, noting that indiscriminate attempts by the rich to assist the poor often just prolonged their suffering. While Malthus was no advocate for murder and attempted to reduce the level of poverty, he believed that some poverty was inevitable. As such, he viewed destructive phenomena (such as famine, war and plagues) which usually impacted most heavily on the poor, as a natural population control, and not entirely unwelcome. Furthermore, lack of hygiene among the poor made these destructive phenomena all the more effective – a less equalitarian view than the one held by Thanos .

Second, while Thanos turned out to be right about the fate of his own planet, Malthus was wrong about the fate of future generations on Earth: in 1798, there were 800 million people alive. Today we are over 7 billion, and we haven’t all starved yet. However, Malthus’ mistaken prophecy was not entirely his fault. After all, he could not have predicted that advances in medicine and agricultural practices, as well as more productive use of land, over time would have made it possible to keep food supply in line with population growth.

Hence, while Thanos is definitely reminiscent of Malthus, they are far from being one and the same. Obviously, this blog post comes nowhere near introducing Malthusian economics: we’ve barely scratched the surface! But if you are curious about Malthus’ contributions to economic thinking, and his similarities to a certain purple alien, why not take a look at some of his works, and judge them for yourself?

References

Malthus, T. (1973) An essay on the principle of population. 7thedition. London: Dent. 

Avengers: Endgame (2019). Directed by Anthony and Joseph Russo. Walt Disney Studios Motion Picturers.

Avengers: Infinity War (2018). Directed by Anthony and Joseph Russo. Walt Disney Studios Motion Picturers.

Images:

The post Thanos: the Undercover Economist (who is NOT Thomas Malthus) appeared first on Post-Crash Economics Society.

Bernie Should Own the Socialist Label

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 18/02/2020 - 2:42am in

Image result for bernie socialism

            Bernie Sanders is currently the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination. He and everyone else knows exactly how the Republicans will attack him if and when he becomes the nominee: old-fashioned redbaiting.

            China became communist in name only during the 1980s, the Soviet Union shut its doors in 1991, the Cold War is dead, and the 64% of Americans under age 50 have no memory of an actually-existing socialist regime. Yet Trump and the GOP have already broadcast their plans to hang the “democratic socialist” label around Bernie Sanders’ neck.

            Whether such archaic fear-mongering—against long-dead adversaries—will be effective even with elderly voters is anyone’s guess. Considering the fact that 40% of Americans consistently tell pollsters they prefer socialism or communism to capitalism, branding Bernie Sanders as a nefarious democratic socialist might have the unintended effect of bringing out people who don’t normally vote to support an ideology they’ve never had the chance to get behind before.

            On the other hand, only 76% of Democrats say they would vote for a socialist.

            One thing is for sure: the socialism thing will be Sanders’ biggest challenge. And so what? Every candidate enters the game with a handicap of some sort.

            Elizabeth Warren has acquired a reputation for deception and opportunism. Amy Klobuchar plays a mean girl on TV and behind closed doors. Pete Buttigieg is gay; only 78% of voters say they’d consider a gay candidate. He’s also inexperienced. Joe Biden appears to have been suffering from dementia for years.

            Political weaknesses are inevitable; what makes or breaks a candidacy is how his or her campaign chooses to address it. History’s answer is clear: take it on honestly, directly and credibly.

            Own your crap. Americans voters hate sneakiness and avoidance.

            Bernie has no one but himself to blame for this potential electoral albatross. As Paul Krugman of The New York Times points out, the independent senator from Vermont is not really a socialist: “He doesn’t want to nationalize our major industries and replace markets with central planning.” He is a New Deal Democrat indistinguishable from old liberal figures like Hubert Humphrey and George McGovern. The economic model Sanders wants to establish isn’t the USSR or even Yugoslavia, but the Scandinavian countries with their superior safety nets and enlightened penal systems. Capitalism as we know it would continue, albeit with reduced overall cruelty.

            Bernie is a social democrat, not a democratic socialist. For some unknown reason, however, he chose to label himself as a democratic socialist. “It’s mainly about personal branding,” Krugman speculates, “with a dash of glee at shocking the bourgeoisie. And this self-indulgence did no harm as long as he was just a senator from a very liberal state.”

            Now he’s going to have to explain himself and his beliefs to American voters who have been propagandized through education and the media to believe that socialism equals communism equals totalitarian dystopia.

            If he’s smart – and there’s no reason to believe that he and his staff are anything but—he will own the phrase and address those concerns head on.

During the 1960 campaign John F. Kennedy responded to worries about his Roman Catholicism that he might take orders from the pope in a speech that allowed anti-Catholic voters to take a chance on him. “I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute, where no Catholic prelate would tell the president (should he be Catholic) how to act,” Kennedy said.

            Aware that he was going to run for president in a few years, Barack Obama discussed his drug use as a young man, specifically the fact that he had tried cocaine, in his memoir and in an interview published ahead of the race. By the time he ran in 2008, the coke thing was old news baked into the politics of the time.

            “Democratic socialism” is a pretty meaningless term. Which is not necessarily bad. Because it doesn’t define an existing party or ideology in the real world, Bernie can imprint his own definition upon his awkward tabula rasa.

            Like every crisis, this is an opportunity. Voters want to know what Bernie stands for. Their confusion about democratic socialism (confusion caused by Sanders’ weird word choices) is his chance to explain himself and his policies.

            The one thing he should not and cannot do is to shy away from the S word. No matter how much he protests, Republicans are going to call him a Marxist, a communist, a socialist and worse. So there’s no point in protesting. “Yes,“ he could say, “I am a socialist. A democratic socialist. A democratic socialist is a person who cares more about you as an ordinary American than about greedy billionaires and corporations who pollute your water and lay you off at the drop of a hat.”

            Nothing neutralizes an attack more effectively than to cop to it.

            If nothing else, even if he loses, Bernie can rehabilitate socialism as an acceptable economic alternative. In the long run, that would be a greater accomplishment than anything Sanders could accomplish in eight years as president.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of the forthcoming “Political Suicide: The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

Facing a liquidity tsunami? Profit, risk, and discipline in emerging markets

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 13/02/2020 - 6:22am in

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In April 2012, at the White House on her first visit to the United States since her election in 2010, Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff scolded advanced capitalist economies for unleashing a ‘tsunami de liquidez’,a ‘liquidity tsunami’, onto the developing world. The expression liquidity tsunami suggests that the sheer scale and volume of financial capital flows to developing and emerging markets had become an issue. It indicates that these quantities were overwhelming and could trigger devastating damages.

This in itself is puzzling.
Have we not been told by development economists and practitioners that
financial capital flowing into the poorer areas of the world economy is
something good and desirable? That one of the main causes of underdevelopment
is actually the lack of capital and domestic savings in developing countries,
and that this should be compensated with foreign capital inflows? Following
this line of reasoning, vast swathes of financial capital flowing into emerging
markets surely should be seen as a boon.

And there was some truth
to that. The capital flow bonanza from the mid-2000s to late 2013 (coupled with
the primary commodity super-cycle) did deliver some benefits to emerging
markets. It helped governments fund themselves at better conditions. It
provided the material basis for significant redistribution via a number of
social policies. It contributed to economic growth performances much higher
than over the previous decade. It also made a minority of people much richer in
a very short period of time. In sum, the capital flow boom temporarily helped
deliver some economic and social gains, and this was instrumental in
consolidating social contracts between governments and their populations.

Yet, as Gill Marcus, the
South African Reserve Bank governor at the time, put it in a Financial Times
op-ed: ‘One can have
too much of a good thing’. The irony of this statement will not be lost to the
reader: South Africa, Brazil, and many other emerging markets had made
considerable efforts and deployed extremely costly policies for years in order
to attract financial capital flows and build their reputation as attractive and
profitable investment destinations. The very same countries were now
complaining that they were receiving too much financial capital. As it turned out, the
blessing of financial capital did not come without significant costs.

Given the sheer scale of
the flows circa 2011, these costs were becoming increasingly problematic for governments
in emerging markets. Not only were volatile cross-border financial capital
movements a serious factor of macroeconomic instability and financial
fragility, contributing for example to strong currency appreciation, the
formation of asset bubbles, and the build-up of various forms of external
vulnerability, they also constituted a major
mechanism through which financial crises which originated elsewhere in the
world economy (for instance, in the Eurozone) were transmitted to emerging
markets.

It became clear that economic development in the latter was increasingly dependent and subordinated to global liquidity conditions and market sentiment. Furthermore, the end of the financial capital flow boom post-2013 played a decisive role in the profound political crises that unfolded recently in many emerging markets, by worsening economic conditions and prompting state authorities to implement deflationary adjustment policies, at huge social and human costs. In other words, from a scenario where financial capital inflows were experienced as too much, there was then an extremely fast and brutal transition to a configuration where they were experienced as too little, and this was equally, if not more, harmful to emerging markets. This temporal sequence tells us that whether it is experienced as too much or too little in emerging markets, the movement of financial capital across the world market has the capacity to powerfully determine the prospects of entire regions and the fate of their populations.

My
new book proposes to scrutinise how this
forceful form of social regulation subjects emerging
markets to the discipline and logic of capital, that is, to the money-power of
capital. In particular, it is concerned with how this ‘seemingly transcendental power’, to borrow an expression from Marx,
as expressed through the cross-border movement of money and financial capital,
encapsulates a messy
entanglement of opportunities and constraints which present states in emerging
markets with a series of challenges which are particularly difficult to manage.

The
book also explores how states have tackled these challenges by developing
specific policy designs, regulations, instruments, and forms of interventions
in the post-2008 crisis environment. For instance, different forms of capital controls, macroprudential
regulations, foreign exchange derivatives regulations, unconventional monetary
policy tools, and ‘aggressive’ foreign exchange market interventions were
implemented in countries as diverse as Brazil, South Korea, Indonesia, China,
Costa Rica, Uruguay, the Philippines, Peru, Taiwan, Colombia, Argentina, and
Thailand. The book provides an in-depth exploration of the drivers of this
outstanding diversity in the contemporary landscapes of cross-border finance management in emerging markets.

The book addresses this
issue by foregrounding class relations as a fundamental
analytical category. This is important because it allows uncovering the
multiple class-based relations of domination and exploitation that underpin
both the movement of cross-border finance and the various institutional and
political forms of state power in emerging markets that mediate this movement.
Put differently, a focus on class allows conceiving of the social relations of
capitalist production and the limits set by the dynamic process of capital
valorisation as crucial determinants of cross-border financial policy processes
and outcomes.

The book also argues
that differentiation in cross-border financial management is a process shaped
by the specific position of emerging markets in global financial and monetary relations, and the implications of this
position in terms of the global distribution of financial gains, risks, and vulnerability.
This is because emerging markets occupy a subordinate positionality in the geographical organisation of financial and monetary
relations on a planetary scale,
or what the book calls the relational geographies of money-power. The
book constitutes one of the first attempts to systematically characterise the
subordinate positionality of emerging markets in these geographies from a
multi-disciplinary perspective, combining insights from Marxist political
economy, post-Keynesian economics, economic geography, and postcolonial and
feminist IPE.

While my approach is
resolutely grounded in geographical political economy, I also draw upon each of
these perspectives in order to scrutinise various aspects of the network of
space and power relations that characterises contemporary global finance. These
include: the geographical organisation of the circuits of financial capital
(the financial system), the functional/spatial configuration of convertibility
between different currencies (the global monetary system), the concentration of
money-power in a limited number of world financial centres and institutions,
and the gendered and racialised imaginaries involved in the construction of
emerging markets as an asset class.

The book shows that patterns
of cross-border finance in emerging markets are considerably shaped by these
geographical features, with far-reaching implications for state policy-making,
the dynamics of capital accumulation, and for prospects of progressive social
change in these countries. As such, the book contributes to an emerging research agenda concerned with
uncovering the global relations of power, value, and exploitation which
underpin the subordinate financial integration of developing and emerging
economies into the world market, and how this contributes to the reproduction
of inequalities on a global scale. It makes an original contribution addressing
this question from a perspective centred on the classed, raced, and gendered
geographies of money-power.

The book investigates these issues from both a theoretical lens and an empirical one, by focusing on two case studies, Brazil and South Africa, where I conducted extensive fieldwork research and more than 85 semi-structured interviews with state managers in various government ministries and central banks, financial regulators, financial journalists, trade unionists, academics, activists, as well as economists at business organisations. It will be especially useful to those researching and working in the areas of international political economy, contemporary geographies of money and finance, and critical development studies. It should also prove of interest to policy makers, practitioners, and activists concerned with the relation between finance and development in emerging markets and beyond.

The post Facing a liquidity tsunami? Profit, risk, and discipline in emerging markets appeared first on Progress in Political Economy (PPE).

Another Pause...

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 13/02/2020 - 1:00am in

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Various distractions means that I will wait until the weekend until my next piece. Unless something interrupts, it will be about Scott Fullwiler's piece on "sustainable" fiscal policy. If the reader wishes, they can read ahead and be ready to pepper me with comments...
Fullwiler, Scott T. "The debt ratio and sustainable macroeconomic policy." World Economic Review 7 (2016): 12-42.
The pandemic news (and American politics...) appears to be the big story right now. One of the advantages of not pretending to be a forecaster is that I do not have to waste my readers' time with my takes on the economic effects of viruses. (Pandemics are bad, and I do not see what else I can say.)

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