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Something remarkable just happened this August: How the pandemic has sped up the passage to postcapitalism – Lannan Foundation virtual talk

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 22/08/2020 - 6:30am in

Two days ago, something extraordinary happened. Something that has never happened before in the history of capitalism. In Britain, the news came out that the economy had suffered its greatest slump ever – more than 22% down during the first 7 months of 2020. Remarkably, on the same day, the London Stock Exchange, the FTSE100 index, rose by more than 2%. On the same day, during a time America has ground to a halt and is beginning to look like not just as an economy in deep trouble but also, ominously, as a failed state, Wall Street’s SP500 index hit an all-time record.

Unable to contain myself, I tweeted the following:

Before 2008, the money markets also behaved in a manner that defied humanism. News of mass firings of workers would be routinely followed by sharp rises in the share price of the companies “letting their workers go” – as if they were concerned with their liberation… But at least, there was a capitalist logic to that correlation between firings and share prices. That disagreeable causality was anchored in expectations regarding a company’s actual profits. More precisely, the prediction that a reduction in the company’s wage bill might, to the extent that the loss of personnel lead to lower proportional reductions in output, lead to a rise in profits and, thus, dividends. The mere belief that there were enough speculators out there thinking that there were enough speculators out there who might form that particular expectation was enough to occasion a boost in the share price of companies firing workers.

That was then, prior to 2008. Today, this link between profit forecasts and share prices has disappeared and, as a consequence, the share market’s misanthropy has entered a new, post-capitalist phase. This is not as controversial a claim as it may sound at first. In the midst of our current pandemic not one person in their right mind imagines that there are speculators out there who believe that there are enough speculators out there who may believe that company profits in the UK or in the US will rise any time soon. And yet they buy shares with enthusiasm. The pandemic’s effect on our post-2008 world is now creating forces hitherto unfathomable.

In today’s world, it would be a mistake to try to find any correlation between what is going on in the real world (of wages, profits, output and sales) and in the money markets. Today, there is no need for a correlation between ‘news’ (e.g. a newsflash that some large multinational fired tens of thousands) and share price hikes. As we watch stock exchanges rise at a time of tanking economies, it would be a mistake to think that speculators hear that the UK economy, or the US economy, have tanked and think to themselves: Great, let’s buy shares. No, the situation is far, far worse!

In the post-2008 world, speculators – for the first time in history – don’t actually give a damn about the economy. They, like you and me, can see that Covid-19 has put capitalism in suspended animation. That it is crushing corporate profit margins while also the destroying lives and livelihoods of the many. That it is causing a new tsunami of poverty with long-term effects on aggregate demand. That it demonstrates in every country and every town the pre-existing deep class and race divides, as some of us were privileged enough to keep social distance rules while an army of people out there laboured for a pittance and at risk of infection to cater to our needs.

No, what we are living through now is not your typical capitalist disregard for human needs, the standard tendency of the capitalist system to be motivated solely by the needs of profit-maximisation or, as we lefties say, capital accumulation. No, capitalism is now in a new, strange phase: Socialism for the very, very few (courtesy of central banks and governments catering to a tiny oligarchy) and stringent austerity, coupled with cruel competition in an environment of industrial, and technologically advanced, feudalism for almost everyone else.

This week’s events in Wall Street and the City of London mark this turning point – the historic moment that future historians will undoubtedly pick to say: It was in the summer of 2020 when financial capitalism finally broke with the world of real people, including capitalists antiquated enough to try to profit from producing goods and services.

But let us begin at the beginning. How did it all begin?

Before capitalism, debt appeared at the very end of the economic cycle; a mere reflection of the power to accumulate already produced surpluses. Under feudalism,

  • production came first with the peasants working the land to plant and harvest crops.

  • Distribution followed the harvest, as the sheriff collected the lord’s share. Part of this share was later monetised when the lord’s men sold it at some market.

  • Debt only emerged at the very last stage of the cycle when the lord would lend his money to debtors, the King often amongst them.

Capitalism reversed the order. Once labour and land had been commodified, debt was necessary before production even began. Landless capitalists had to borrow to lease workers, land and machines. Only then could production begin, yielding revenues whose residual claimant were the capitalists. Thus, debt powered capitalism’s early oeuvre. However, it took the second industrial revolution before capitalism could re-shape the world in its image.

The invention of electromagnetism, on the back of James Clerk Maxwell’s famous equations, gave rise to the first networked company, Edison for example that produced everything from the power generation stations and the electricity grid to the light bulb in every house. The funding needed to build these megafirms was, naturally, beyond the limits of the small banks of the 19th century. Thus, the megabank was born, as a result of mergers and acquisitions, along with a remarkable capacity to create money out of thin air. The agglomeration of these megafirms and megabanks created a new Technostructure that usurped markets, democracies and the mass media. The roaring 1920s, leading to the crash of 1929, was the result.

From 1933 to 1971, global capitalism was centrally managed and planned under different versions of the New Deal, that included the War Economy and the Bretton Woods system. Following the demise of Bretton Woods in the early 1970s, capitalism returned to a version of the 1920s: Under the ideological guise of neoliberalism (which was neither new nor liberal), the Technostructure again took over from governments. Our generation’s 1929, that happened in 2008 was the result.

Following the crash of 2008, capitalism changed drastically. In their attempt to re-float the crashed financial system, central banks channelled rivers of cheap debt-money to the financial sector, in exchange for universal fiscal austerity that limited the middle and lower classes’ demand for goods and services. Unable to profit from austerity-hit consumers, corporations and financiers were hooked up to the central banks’ constant drip-feed of fictitious debt.

Every time the Fed or the European Central Bank or the Bank of England pumped more money into the commercial banks, in the hope that these monies would be lent to companies which would in turn create new jobs and product lines, the birth of the strange world we now live in came a little closer. How? As an example, consider the following chain reaction: The European Central Bank extended new liquidity to Deutsche Bank. Deutsche Bank could only profit from it if it found someone to borrow this money. Dedicated to the banker’s mantra “never lend to someone who needs the money”, Deutsche Bank would never lend it to the “little people”, whose circumstances were increasingly diminished (along with their ability to repay any substantial loans), it preferred to lend it to, say, Volkswagen. But, in turn, Volkswagen executives looked at the “little people” out there and thought to themselves: “Their circumstances are diminishing, they won’t be able to afford new, high quality electric cars.” And so Volkswagen postponed crucial investments in new technologies and in new high quality jobs. But, Volkswagen executives would have been remiss not to take the dirt-cheap loans offered by Deutsche Bank. So, they took it. And what did they do with the freshly minted ECB-monies? They used it to buy Volkswagen shares in the stock exchange. The more of those shares they bought the higher Volkswagen’s share value. And since the Volkswagen executives’ salary bonuses were linked to the company’s share value, they profited personally – while, at once, the ECB’s firepower was well and truly wasted from society’s, and indeed from industrial capitalism’s, point of view.

This was the process by which, from 2008 to 2020, the policies to re-float the banking sector from 2009 onwards resulted in the almost complete zombification of corporations. Covid-19 found capitalism in this zombified state. With consumption and production hit massively and at once, governments were forced to step into the void to replace all incomes to a gargantuan extent at a time the real capitalist economy has the least capacity to generate real wealth. The decoupling of the financial markets from the real economy, that was the trigger for this talk, is a sure sign that something we may defensibly label postcapitalism is already underway.

My difference with fellow lefties is that I do not believe there is any guarantee that what follows capitalism – let’s call it, for want of a better term, postcapitalism – will be better. It may well be utterly dystopic, judging by present phenomena. In the short term, to avoid the worst, the minimum necessary change that we need is an International Green New Deal that, beginning with a massive restructuring of public and private debts, uses public financial tools to press the oodles of existing liquidity (e.g. funds driving up money markets) into public service (e.g. a green energy revolution).

The problem we face is not merely that our oligarchic regimes will fight tooth and nail against any such program. An even harder-to-crack problem is that an International Green New Deal, of the sort alluded to above, may be a necessary condition but is, most certainly, not a sufficient condition to create a future for humanity worth striving for. Can we imagine what may prove sufficient? My controversial parting shot is that, for postcapitalism to be both genuine and humanist, we need to deny private banks their raison d’être, and to terminate, with one move, two markets: the market for labour and the share market.

Fully aware of how difficult it is to imagine a technologically advanced economy lacking share and labour markets, I wrote my forthcoming book Another Now – in which I lay out the argument that terminating labour and share markets, along with the type of commercial banking taken for granted today, is a prerequisite for a postcapitalist society with functioning markets, authentic democracy and personal liberty.

Lannan Foundation virtual talk, in conversation with Daniel Denvir, Thursday 13th August 2020

 

 

 

 

Trump’s “Law and Order” Campaign is a DistractionTrump has...

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 19/08/2020 - 5:13am in

Trump’s “Law and Order” Campaign is a Distraction

Trump has refused to act to contain the coronavirus, opting to sit on the sidelines as the pandemic ravages the country. But when it comes to waging violence against his own people, he’s quickly risen to the occasion.

Here are 6 ways Donald Trump has failed to attack the coronavirus, but instead has attacked Americans.

1. LEADERSHIP? 

Trump has said he has “no responsibility” for the coronavirus pandemic, fobbing it off on governors and mayors whose repeated requests for federal help he’s denied. 

But when it comes to assaulting Americans exercising their right to protest in defense of Black lives, Trump is quick to assert strong “leadership.” He called the NYC Black Lives Matter mural a “symbol of hate” and has sent federal agents to terrorize protestors even as mayors and governors urged him to stay out.

2. STRATEGY? 

Trump has never offered a national strategy for testing, contact tracing, and isolating those who have the virus. He has provided insufficient funding for the schools he’s trying to force open, abysmal standards for reopening the economy, purchasing critical supplies, or helping the unemployed, and no clear message about what people and businesses should do. 

But he has a strategy for attacking Americans. He deployed unidentified federal agents against protesters in Portland, Oregon, where his secret police pulled them into unmarked vans, and detained them without charges. Federal agents have since left the city, causing violence to go down almost immediately, but Trump has threatened to send agents to Kansas City, Albuquerque and Chicago. He also said he’ll send them to New York City, Philadelphia, Detroit, Baltimore and Oakland – not incidentally, all cities with Democratic mayors, large Black populations, and little violent unrest.

3. PERSONNEL? 

Trump can’t find enough federal personnel to do contact tracing for the coronavirus.

But Trump has had no problem finding thousands of agents for his secret police, drawn from the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security.

4. EQUIPMENT? 

Public health authorities don’t have adequate medical equipment to quickly analyze coronavirus tests. 

But Trump’s police have everything they need to injure protesters, including military style armored vehicles, teargas, and tactical assault weapons – “the best equipment,” Trump boasted obnoxiously.

5. LEGAL AUTHORITY? 

There is ample legal authority for Trump to contain the coronavirus.

But he’s likely exceeded the legal authority for him to send federal troops into cities where mayors don’t want them. The framers of the Constitution denied police power to the national government. The local officials in charge of public safety have rejected Trump’s troops. (The mayor of Portland was tear-gassed. The mayor of Kansas City called them “disgraceful.” Albuquerque’s mayor announced: “There’s no place for Trump’s secret police in our city.” Chicago’s mayor said she does “not welcome dictatorship.”)

6. THE TRUTH? 

Trump has tried to suppress the truth about the coronavirus. The White House instructed hospitals to report cases to the Department of Health and Human Services rather than to the CDC. Trump muzzled the federal government’s most prominent and trusted immunologist, Dr. Anthony Fauci, while the White House tried to discredit him. 

But the Trump campaign ran fictitious ads portraying cities as overrun by violent leftwing mobs, and Trump’s shameless Fox News lackeys have consistently depicted protesters as “rioters” and the “armed wing of the Democratic party.”

** 

More than 160,000 Americans have already died from the coronavirus — tens of thousands more than would have died had Trump acted responsibly to contain it. And the economy is in freefall.

No matter how hard he tries, we can’t let Trump shift public attention from his failure to attack the virus to his attacks on Americans protesting to create an America where Black lives matter and everyone can thrive.

In fewer than 90 days, we must hold him accountable at the ballot box.

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Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 18/08/2020 - 8:38am in

Economic Update: Defining Capitalism

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 17/08/2020 - 10:44pm in

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A weekly show focusing on the economic dimensions of everyday life and alternative ways to organize our economy and politics, with Prof. Richard D. Wolff.

Betsy DeVos’ Deadly Plan to Reopen SchoolsTrump education...

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 12/08/2020 - 4:51am in

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Betsy DeVos’ Deadly Plan to Reopen Schools
Trump education secretary Betsy DeVos is heading the administration’s effort to force schools to reopen in the fall for in-person instruction. What’s her plan to reopen safely? She doesn’t have one. 

Rather than seeking additional federal funds, she’s using this pandemic to further her ploy to privatize education — threatening to withhold federal funds from public schools that don’t reopen.

Repeatedly pressed by journalists during TV appearances, DeVos can’t come up with a single mechanism or guideline for reopening schools safely. She can’t even articulate what authority the federal government has to unilaterally withhold funds from school districts — a decision that’s made at the state and local level, or by Congress. But when has the Constitution stopped the Trump administration from trying to do whatever it wants? 

DeVos is following Trump’s lead — prematurely reopening the economy, which he sees as key to his re-election but is causing a resurgence of the virus.

Let’s get something straight: Every single parent, teacher, and student wants to be able to return to in-person instruction in the fall — but only if no one’s life is put at risk. 

Districts need more funding, not less, to implement the CDC’s guidelines. Given that state and local governments are already cash-strapped, it’s estimated that K-12 schools need at least $245 billion in additional funding to put safety precautions in place — funding that Republicans in Congress and the Trump administration refuse to give.

One might think an education secretary would be studying what kind of safety precautions would work best, and seeking emergency funding for those safeguards. Not DeVos. Just like her boss in the Oval Office, she’s been hard at work shafting working families to advance her personal agenda.

In late April, she issued rules for how states should use the $13 billion allocated in the CARES Act for schools. Her rules would divert millions of dollars away from low-income schools into the coffers of wealthy private schools. It’s such a blatant violation of federal law that several states are suing her and her department.

DeVos’ entire tenure has centered on shafting low-income students and their families — the very people she’s supposed to protect.

She has repeatedly empowered the predatory for-profit college industry at the expense of the students they prey upon. Why? She has considerable financial stakes that are rife with conflicts of interest. Her financial investments are a web of holdings in for-profit colleges and student loan collectors.

When DeVos took office, she repealed an Obama-era rule imposing stricter regulations and higher standards on for-profit colleges. She also stopped canceling the debts of students defrauded by these institutions — a move that has prompted 23 states to bring a lawsuit against her. In the process, she was even held in contempt of court for violating a federal court order.

Now, in the middle of the worst public health crisis in more than a century, she’s jeopardizing the safety of our students, teachers, parents, bus drivers, and custodians, while rerouting desperately needed public school funds towards the private schools she’s always championed.

Remember, when you vote against Trump this November — you’re voting against her, too. It’s a win-win.

Economic Update: The Fed’s Rigged Money Management

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 11/08/2020 - 1:37am in

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A weekly show focusing on the economic dimensions of everyday life and alternative ways to organize our economy and politics, with Prof. Richard D. Wolff.

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Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 09/08/2020 - 3:58am in

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Summer Summit 2020 KaraOERke Setup Update

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 06/08/2020 - 8:44pm in

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I wrote about my KaraOERke setup a couple of days ago, but after some testing with my co-hosts Chahira and Tim I need to make some updates to my original setup. Seems like Zoom wins over Jitsi for video conferencing for a few reasons:

  1. The ability to move the video of the participant where ever you like in Zoom works much better for the OBS stream. Jitsi seems to want to keep whoever is sharing their screen as the featured video, rather than who is talking/singing.
  2. Zoom’s option to share your audio when screen sharing is proving to be crucial for enabling those karaoke-ing to share both their screen and audio. This solves at least two issues: it stops the audio from auto-ducking which is a built-in feature for both Jitsi and Zoom and it prevents the video thumbnail of the singer cutting away to whomever is running the video conferencing room (pinning the video is a crucial feature).
  3. Finally, if the singer shares their video and audio, there is no perceivable lag. It makes the experience better, and given a few of us will be co-hosting we can coach folks through making sure they fullscreen their shared Youtube video while reminding them to share their audio when screen sharing.

So, it does appear that Zoom wins the day. I wanted to use Jitsi, but the ability for users to share both their screen and audio in Zoom is an indispensable feature for karaoke.

How Mitch McConnell’s Republicans are Destroying AmericaSenate...

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 05/08/2020 - 7:55am in

How Mitch McConnell’s Republicans are Destroying America
Senate Republicans’ shameful priorities are on full display as the nation continues to grapple with an unprecedented health and economic crisis.

Mitch McConnell and the GOP refuse to take up the HEROES Act, passed by the House in early May to help Americans survive the pandemic and fortify the upcoming election. 

Senate Republicans don’t want to extend the extra $600 a week in unemployment benefits, even though unemployment has soared to the highest levels since the Great Depression.

Even before the pandemic, nearly 80 percent of Americans lived paycheck to paycheck. Now many are desperate, as revealed by lengthening food lines and growing delinquencies in rent payments.    

McConnell’s response? He urges lawmakers to be “cautious” about helping struggling Americans, warning that “the amount of debt that we’re adding up is a matter of genuine concern.” 

McConnell seems to forget the $1.9 trillion tax cut he engineered in December 2017 for big corporations and the super-rich, which blew up the debtdeficit.  

That’s just the beginning of the GOP’s handouts for corporations and the wealthy. As soon as the pandemic hit, McConnell and Senate Republicans were quick to give mega-corporations a $500 billion blank check, while only sending Americans a paltry one-time $1,200 check.

The GOP seems to believe that the rich will work harder if they receive more money while people of modest means work harder if they receive less. In reality, the rich contribute more to Republican campaigns when they get bailed out.

That’s precisely why the GOP put into the last Covid relief bill a $170 billion windfall to Jared Kushner and other real estate moguls, who line the GOP’s campaign coffers. Another $454 billion of the package went to backing up a Federal Reserve program that benefits big business by buying up their debt.

And although the bill was also intended to help small businesses, lobbyists connected to Trump – including current donors and fundraisers for his reelection – helped their clients rake in over $10 billion of the aid, while an estimated 90 percent of small businesses owned by people of color and women got nothing.

The GOP’s shameful priorities have left countless small businesses with no choice but to close. They’ve also left 22 million Americans unemployed, and 28 million at risk of being evicted by September. 

For the bulk of this crisis, McConnell called the Senate back into session only to confirm more of Trump’s extremist judges and advance a $740 billion defense spending bill. 

Throughout it all, McConnell has insisted his priority is to shield businesses from Covid-related lawsuits by customers and employees who have contracted the virus.

The inept and overwhelmingly corrupt reign of Trump, McConnell, and Senate Republicans will come to an end next January if enough Americans vote this coming November.

But will enough people vote during a pandemic? The HEROES Act provides $3.6 billion for states to expand mail-in and early voting, but McConnell and his GOP lackeys aren’t interested. They’re well aware that more voters increase the likelihood Republicans will be booted out.

Time and again, they’ve shown that they only care about their wealthy donors and corporate backers. If they had an ounce of concern for the nation, their priority would be to shield Americans from the ravages of Covid and American democracy from the ravages of Trump. But we know where their priorities lie.

Shadow Wars: Leaks by Mossad Point to Israeli Involvement in Deadly Attacks on Iran

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 05/08/2020 - 2:27am in

Israel is believed to be behind several recent acts of sabotage against Iranian civilian and military infrastructure, including a hospital, that have taken the lives of at least 19 people and has further disrupted an economy already in the throes of a devastating downturn brought on by a global pandemic and crippling economic sanctions.

Click-Here-to-watch-on-YouTube

Read more about the attacks:

Feature photo | Rescue workers search for survivors at the scene of a mysterious explosion at the Sina At’har Health Center in the north of Iran’s capital Tehran on June 30, 2020. Amir Kholousi | ISNA

The post Shadow Wars: Leaks by Mossad Point to Israeli Involvement in Deadly Attacks on Iran appeared first on MintPress News.

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