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Gender: Male
Hometown: Detroit, Michigan
Home country: Citizen of the world whose address is in the U.S.
Current location: Detroit, Michigan
Member since: Thu Oct 28, 2004, 11:18 PM
Number of posts: 69,332

Journal Archives

At Least Six Millionaires to Take Senate Oaths Tuesday

(Bloomberg) There's no shortage of statistics to show that Congress no longer reflects the demographics of the nation it represents. That's especially true when it comes to personal finances. Of the 13 newly elected members of the Senate to be sworn in Tuesday, at least six are millionaires. That's a conservative estimate and the proportion is almost certainly higher.

Their arrival in the Senate comes as the wealth gap between the nation's top 20 percent of earners—including many members of Congress—and every other income group in America has reached its widest point in at least three decades, according to a Pew Research Center study released in December. Pew also found in a report released in October that the issue of income inequality is of growing importance to the American public. Forty-six percent of respondents said it's a “very big problem,” while 32 percent said its a “moderately” big problem.

While that might suggest Congress should make the issue a priority, underlying figures show why the gap between the public and its elected class on the need for action may actually grow: Only 19 percent of Republicans see income inequality as a major problem, compared with 59 percent of Democrats and 49 percent of independents. All but one of the incoming freshman senators are Republicans.

To identify the wealthiest new senators, Bloomberg Politics reviewed the annual disclosures of financial assets and liabilities that are required of federal candidates. Those forms offer only broad ranges for valuation, making it impossible to determine exact figures. ......................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2015-01-06/at-least-six-millionaires-to-take-senate-oaths-tuesday

"Markets" terrified that the people of Greece might vote in a leftist, anti-austerity party

MUMBAI: The benchmark Sensex on Tuesday plummeted by 855 points in its worst crash in five and a half years as stock markets globally went into a tailspin amid speculation about probable exit of Greece from the Euro region and oil prices cracking below $ 50 per barrel mark.

The Nifty also tanked 251 points, or 3 per cent. Both the bellwether indices closed at more-than two-week lows. Panic selling sent markets on a free fall with losses across sectors, traders said, adding that investor wealth plunged by nearly Rs 3 trillion as four counters fell for one that rose.

Oil prices continued to drop, with the US benchmark contract briefly falling below $ 50 a barrel for the first time in more than five years on concerns about ample global supplies and weakening economic growth.


Fears mounted that an election in embattled Greece later this month could put the opposition anti-austerity party Syriza in power, jeopardizing the country's economic reforms mandated by the international financial rescue, analysts said. .....................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/business/india-business/Bloodbath-Sensex-tanks-855-pts-on-Greece-woes-oil-gloom/articleshow/45778242.cms

Bernie Sanders' Brutal Letter On Obama's Trade Pact Foreshadows 2016 Democratic Clash

WASHINGTON -- Progressive unrest over free trade policies is shaping up to be a major issue in the contest for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, if a strongly worded letter from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to the top Obama administration trade official is any sign.

Sanders has been considering a presidential run for months. Like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), another progressive favorite often mentioned as a potential 2016 contender, Sanders has been critical of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a major U.S. pact being negotiated with 11 Pacific nations, which Sanders says will exacerbate income inequality and erode important regulations.

The letter Sanders sent on Monday to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman criticizes secrecy standards that Froman's office imposes on the TPP talks.

"I have been very concerned that up to this date the text of this agreement has not been made public," Sanders wrote. "The only text that I am aware of that has been made public so far has been through leaked documents, and I find what I read very troubling.

"It is incomprehensible to me that the leaders of major corporate interests who stand to gain enormous financial benefits from this agreement are actively involved in the writing of the TPP while, at the same time, the elected officials of this country, representing the American people, have little or no knowledge as to what is in it," Sanders added. ..................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/05/bernie-sanders-michael-froman-tpp_n_6419874.html?ncid=fcbklnkushpmg00000013

The 2015 Federal Budget Ended Pension Protections for Millions of Retirees

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Oil, Power and Psychopaths

Oil, Power and Psychopaths

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BART Video: "Farewell Old Wool Seats"

Karl Polanyi weeps

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

-- from "The Great Transformation"

Austerity Killing You? How About a Trade Deal?

from HuffPost:

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

The End of the American Middle Class?

from HuffPost:

Steven Strauss

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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