Author Archives: CoolCatM

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The Doomsday Economy

Back in January of 2018 the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ moved what they call the Doomsday Clock two minutes from midnight. The clock represents the hypothetical global catastrophe as “midnight” and this adjustment is the closest the clock has been set since 1953. The countdown clock was design and developed as a warning since the development of nuclear weapons and the threat of nuclear war. Although the clock in 2018 was moved due to the threat of climate change, nuclear war and, the lack of confidence in U.S. leadership; I bring this up because the clock represents a real threat and humanity should be aware of the probability of crisis, but why don’t we have one for the economy?

I have listened to a number of economists that have warned for years since the Great Recession of 2008 and that wages have stagnated despite productivity increasing and the stock market showing record highs and recovery. For example, the minimum wage has not been raised since 2009, and, although a movement has called for a $15.00 an hour, a minimum wage of $21.72 per hour if adjusted with average productivity growth.

Of course there are arguments against raising the minimum wage such as it will create inflation; but inflation is already rising. Those that make more money and have skills, education or trades should not make the same as those who do not, and if a rising tide raises all boats, these skilled laborers would make more money too. Businesses can’t afford a raise in the minimum wage; yet a report by the American Sustainable Business Council showed 61% support for raising the minimum wage with the cost of living by small business owners.

From what I have read the likely threat is to the amount of subsidies the average tax payer has to pay for major corporations to provide low wages. Low wage workers turn to public assistance for help. Medicaid, food stamps, the Earned Income Tax Credit and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families subsidized fast-food workers and their households at $243 billion over four years a paper from UC Berkeley reported. Estimates by Americans for Tax Fairness estimates Walmart costs taxpayers 7.8 billion a year. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos is on the bargain as well.

After the 2008 crash the Federal Reserve responded by bailing out banks and lowering Federal Interest rates to 0.25% in Dec. effectively making the rate 0. These are the mechanisms in place that financial leaders have used to fix the economy and help the people: and they have failed. Bailouts saved the banks and reinforced that deregulation can work as long as a constituency of taxpayers are available to maintain the the institutions that lobby for “free markets”. With Federal Interest rates lowered banks and those that have assets in non-taxing accounts (such as the Cayman Islands) and can borrow money from the Federal Reserve at these low interest rates and buy stocks back and finally cancelling them driving up the cost. Driving up the cost is rewarded buy bonus and higher valued stocks options. The results are in and the mechanisms didn’t work.

Dani Burger wrote an article for Bloomberg titled “Rife with Anxiety, Markets are Churning at the Fastest Rate Since 2008” in the article Nikolaos Panigirtzoglou, a J.P Morgan “strategist”, is quoted as saying “Market turnover tends to be high when uncertainty is high, as institutional investors tend to reshuffle their portfolios,” This is a period Max Keiser has called “smart money selling to dumb money”. My opinion is to watch as much economic news as you can, the battle of propaganda between investors has begun. While trying to convince some that the economy is fine or as John McCain said in 2008 “The fundamentals of economy are strong…” or as CNBC’s Jim Cramer from Mad Money answered in March 2008 whether Bear Stearns was still a safe investment his answer was … Bear Stearns is fine. Do not take your money out.” Bear Stearns investment bank and brokerage firm fails and gets a taxpayer bailout.

Media outlets like Bloomberg are late, too late. The failed policies over the past few decades have eroded the middle class and threatened the system that the 1% praise. The problems of our economic system are deeply rooted and originate in our corporate-captured political system. Attacks on Unions, wages, and the deregulation of the banking industry have crippled labor and the blue collared workers

Going back to the Doomsday Clock, maybe it’s time for an Economic Crisis Clock. We know that the economy cycles in booms and busts, some are honest about the causes of these busts other choose to ignore the contradictions. We need those with insight and foresight that have a wide view of the issues challenging or society and economy.  This board of economic advisors needs to be a group of economists, environmentalists, biologists, botanists, and climatologists.

Economists such as David Harvey, Richard Wolff, Kate Raworth, Michael Hudson, Stephanie Kelton, Herman Daly, Ann Pettifor and, Nomi Prins have given us warning and solutions to upcoming economic collapse. Suggestions for fixing our economic system have been worker co-ops (like Mondragon), raising minimum the wage, regulating Banks and Wall Street (like the Glass-Steagall Act), instituting a Green New Deal (an economic stimulus package that would invest in renewable energy and resource efficiency while creating new jobs), Framing our understanding of economics within social and planetary boundaries, eliminating college debt, Medicare fore all, or community based cryptocurrencies, all these potential solutions for big problems.

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists factor in Climate Change in their calculations for the Doomsday Clock, all agree that time is running out (if it hasn’t already) for the nations of the world to respond in a meaningful way to limit the damage that is already predicted. The effects of Climate Change are already making an impact on our planet. 2018 is expected to be the hottest summer on record. Louisiana is losing coastal land to rising sea levels with the lower third of the state expected to be underwater if levels rise 3-5 feet, the islands Laiap and Ros of Micronesia have already lost two-thirds of their land area. The Antarctic is melting three times faster than expect and the largest contributed of rising ocean sea levels. In 2017 an iceberg the size of Delaware was discovered to have broken off from the ice shelf in Antarctica. Our Planet is presenting evidence that we are stressing its’ ability to sustain our living standard, the boundaries are being strained.

Energy Watch Group and The Post Carbon Institute argue that with the largest oil discoveries having been made between the late 1930’s to the late 1970’s new oil discoveries cannot continue to meet the world demand. Not only will these new discoveries be unable to meet current and growing demand these discoveries will not be able to meet the demand that will be need to use this energy for the conversion to renewable, sustainable and more ecological sources of energy. The pursuit of oil as the primary energy resource with coal not far behind has not only made our environment and climate stability tentative but also our economy and our international relations with global nations.

In the meantime industry not only squandering resources that could be used to convert our society to that of a more ecological and sustainable economy. Our financial industry is ruthlessly applying its’ influence and investment to the gain of a few, subsidizing the conspicuous  consumption of the wealthy affluent instead of making investments that could be used to ease, develop and optimize our communities and society.

The effects from our lack of planning and investment will present itself more so than it has in our climate. Our chance of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees will be used up in four years, the Global Carbon Project the rapidly increasing carbon emissions will push us past the 2 degree limit in only three decades. The small rise in global temperature will not only increase the heat but limit availability to freshwater, slow crop production, rise sea levels, melt ice and permafrost, none of these things are going to be good for the people or the economy.

The rich affluent may horde their paper money and gold but when the earth is your home and your home is unlivable those tokens lose value. Today people are concerned about their livelihood and are worried about the mechanisms and markets that affect them the most that is why the subjects of housing, food, water, healthcare, education keep being brought up. These are the issues that matter. If people could be concerned beyond these they could understand and potentially have an impact on the issues mentioned that will also greatly impact them. The economy is what we use to improve ourselves and the community, deregulation, lack of investment in the development of our infrastructure, suppressed wages are steering us toward another financial collapse.

The economy is cycling toward another crisis and we are two minutes to midnight.

 

Michael DeWitt

CoolCatM   Twitter: @CoolCat0001    Guerrilla Communication Tactics

Thank Unions for Labor Day

I have been listening to Karl Marx’s Kapital Volume 1 audiobook through LibriVox recordings (non-profit) and following up with Reading Marx’s Capital with David Harvey lectures (which can be found for free online).

As I listened to the book and the evidence Marx gives of the unrelenting greed of capitalists during his time it causes me to consider our nations attitude toward labor, unions, and regulations. Focusing only on labor and the working conditions of laborers we should have such a great appreciation for those that sacrificed so much, including their lives to progress us to today’s working conditions that we take for granted.

Peter J. McGuire the “father” of Labor Day, May Day, and the founder of United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, Peter did more to persuade locally conscious union activists across the nation that a united national labor federation was essential and possible. McGuire wrote for a convention of the national conference of labor unions the that established the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions which in 1886 would reorganize as the American Federation of Labor (AFL) which still exists today as the AFL-CIO.

The first recorded labor strike was 1768 in New York, the journeymen tailors protested wage reductions, it marked the first time in American history that workers joined together in a common labor movement, their motto “United We Stand, Divided We Fall.”

1905 in Chicago, Illinois the IWW, the Industrial Worker of the World, or otherwise known as Wobblies was formed by leaders like William D. “Big Bill” Haywood, Eugene Debs, Mary Harris “Mother” Jones and others. The Wobblies, believed that all workers should organize as a class. They also believed war represented the struggles among capitalists where the working poor die to make the rich richer.

1948 Republicans gained control of both houses of Congress their highest priority was the weakening of organized labor power. Republicans passed the Taft Hartley Act allowing states to enact laws banning union shops that mandated all workers to be a part of the union and pay dues. Southern states immediately passed Right to Work laws, twenty-two states have these laws today and union participation rarely exceeds ten percent.

In school we teach children about the discovery of America by Europeans. The “taming” of America through war. The revolution of America as an independent nation through war. The civil unrest and eventual re-unification of the U.S. through civil war. The triumph of the U.S. over deteriorating European relations not once but twice. The continuing influence The U.S. has had on other nation all across the globe through war. All against governments yet, we never teach the conflicts of the United States citizens have had over their own governments inability to empathize with the laborer in relation to the capitalist. Monuments in every state can be found to a general or some other military leader but very few labor leaders that influence our every day working conditions.

Children are the future, what we teach them will determine how they treat the generations before them, after them, and each other. If they are not taught that a person that works to the best of their own abilities deserves respect no matter what job they perform or how many hours they perform it, they are destined to be at the influence of the few and divided from the many. In 1916 a ferry of Wobblies attempted to dock in Everett, Washington, the local sheriff, backed by armed deputies and guards hired by businesses, asked “Who are your leaders?” A unified shout answered “We are all leaders!”

For us to keep and improve our standards we need to teach of the bravery, determination, and sacrifice that those leaders carried and inspired in others to fight for the dignity and humanity of all.

CoolCatM

Twitter: @CoolCat0001    Guerrilla Communication Tactics

American Participation in Political Labeling

Mort Sahl would start his stand-up by showing a chart of Left, Right, and Center of the political spectrum saying that we needed the correct nomenclature to describe the politics of people. The U.S. has always seen its politics through this lens and as Mort Sahl fractured each column into more nuanced columns he admitted that you could continue to do this on-and-on.

With access to the World Wide-Web developers of political commentary are flooding and saturating the internet with blogs, videos, podcasts, and etc. That’s a good thing (as I explained in my last post). With all these broadcasts there seems to continue to be a distinction that we as voters must continue to perceive our politics as Left and Right, that self-determined individuals cannot unite on issues that interest them without the favor or endorsement of one of the two parties that represent the whole country is inconceivable or, to put it kindly; ignorant (naive at best).

There are bloggers that have seen through the veneer of restrictive sectarian labels and to the humanity that unites us all, they write with the hope that our humanity will coalesce us together over common rivals and issues that threaten us all. However, decades have divided us and these labels have entrenched into our culture, society, politics, education, and our minds; an analogous minefield.

When a blogger, vlogger or any developer ventures into politics they need to beware that other pundits will look to criticize and scrutinize what they write, and the way they write it. Pick your battles. Think about the outcome of your writing, will it be misinterpreted? Will there be a fallout? Mort Sahl understood his audience and spoke to it effectively, although I think his commentary was a bit shallow and was a response to the narrative of the time (i.e. Stalin was a “leftist”), he was less concerned about the consequence of such comments, because they were already wildly promoted.

No matter what extreme or radicalization of Left or Right, or Center we identify ourselves with, we all share our humanity. Maybe not all the same priorities.

I don’t wait for people to agree or promote my views, values, or beliefs, there are some people you can’t get through to, but, those issues and problems I’m concerned with I know will strike at the humanity and the things that those people value and that they may eventually come around (like some have with the ACA). As an individual I would not deny those people I disagree with the positive or gainful dividends of the things I promote or value. I do hope that through education that we can teach or demonstrate the thinking that results in benefits to them, their families, the community, and effectively the world.

CoolCatM

Twitter: @CoolCat0001    Guerrilla Communication Tactics

 

Why Freedom of Speech is Important

In this era of Trump and right-wing extremism those that feel empowered to stand for their values seek to affect a positive change in the world. We all have a definition of what that is and, some of us agree and some of don’t. In their wisdom the founding fathers established the first amendment to enshrine free speech and the freedom of the press as the vanguard of liberty and justice. Though George Washington had issues with the press and, Thomas Jefferson encouraged James Madison to “…take up your pen, select the most striking heresies , and cut him to pieces in the face of the public.” against Alexander Hamilton and his Federalist; the founding fathers were not as amiable as we were led to believe. As early as 1797 John Adams and the Federalists controlled Congress, they believed they were the government and that no one should publicly criticize them (sound familiar?), and so, events led them in 1798 to pass a series of laws one of them being the Sedition Act; it’s provisions directly aimed at those who spoke out against the Federalist. Washington would go on to say (and I like this quote) “If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”

Fredrick Douglas said “Power concedes nothing without a struggle.” and as John Lewis said “The press is supposed to serve as a check on the government.” Right now we are seeing an attack on the public’s access to broadcasting forums such as, Net Neutrality, communities lack print access for individual opinions, and with 51% of Americans claiming the television as their primary source for news and information the attack on local public access television continues. Whatever the role looks like, writer, singer, director, blogger, or vlogger, free speech is the material to a social-evolution.

Some developers of alternative media beg the question ‘Should critics cause discourse or only comment and inform us of it?’ I don’t think it matters. Artists have challenged our social norms, and this continues to today. Leo Tolstoy said “Art is a human activity consisting in this, that one man consciously by means of certain external signs, hands on to others feelings he has lived through…”. Developers wether they are bloggers, bloggers, and etc. are communicating their human experiences, in the times we are living in we should learn to listen and find merits that can lift us all to greater plateaus.

Whistle-blower Julian Assange is quoted “What annoys me the most is when people abuse their power and abuse innocents.” his goal, bring down the firewall between the Neo-liberal power and ordinary people. He currently has asylum at Ecuadorian embassy in London, self-imprisonment without being able to explore the city. President John F. Kennedy would defend this struggle by saying “Our press was protected by the First Amendment…to inform, to arouse, to reflect, to state our dangers and our opportunities, to indicate our crises and our choices, to lead, mold, educate and sometimes even anger public opinion.”

Developers should not have to adhere to a sense of commercialism, industrialism, activism or advocacy. The purpose of communication is to represent thoughts, feelings, opinions. We may not always like what people have to say or how they say it but, at the end of the day, we should appreciate that those things can be said. In a different parts of the world, and in different time periods the right of freedom of speech was a luxury given to the few. Today tolerance (and patience) will get us much further to attaining that “more perfect union” the founding fathers wrote of.

CoolCatM

Twitter: @CoolCat0001    Guerrilla Communication Tactics