AuthorTopic: The “Gig Economy”  (Read 1662 times)

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The “Gig Economy”
« on: February 14, 2018, 04:47:38 AM »
https://www.globalresearch.ca/the-gig-economy-global-unemployment-low-wages-migration-and-the-future-workplace/5629025

The “Gig Economy”: Global Unemployment, Low Wages, Migration and the Future Workplace
By Prof. Anthony A. Gabb
Global Research, February 13, 2018
Region: USA
Theme: Global Economy, Poverty & Social Inequality

The author tracks key economic forces that have resulted in technological innovations which have given birth to the gig economy that is threatening job security, the gigzombie who is the alienated worker in the gig economy, and misguided anger directed at immigrants.

“A gig economy is an environment in which temporary positions are common and organizations contract with independent workers for short-term engagements. The trend toward a gig economy has begun. A study by Intuit predicted that by 2020, 40 percent of American workers would be independent contractors.”

Introduction

This article explains sweeping changes that have resulted in the gig economy and migration patterns. The gig economy is the future workplace, once associated with less industrialized countries in the 1970s, where temporary, unstable employment is commonplace and companies tend toward hiring employees who are all but in name performing the work of permanent workers, but are denied permanent employee rights. It undermines the traditional economy and will aggravate unemployment, poverty and immigration. The gigzombie is the alienated gig employee, whose vitality has been sapped by rapid technological advancements that are changing the nature of work and increasingly threatening job security. Mr. Doug Scfifter, a New York City livery driver, wrote before he recently killed himself in front of New York’s City Hall, the gig economy “is the new slavery…I am not a slave and I refuse to be one.” 1

Since the end of the post WW II economic expansion in the 1970s2 capitalism has been struggling with slow growth and flat wages. The gig economy, which is driven by technological innovation, is a restructuring response to cut production costs and increase profits. It is not a solution for unemployment and forced migration, yet estimates show that the gig economy will soon account for more than one half of all jobs.3 Capitalism manufactures unemployment which is necessary for its existence. Immigrants are not the cause of unemployment and the gig economy is not the solution for unemployment; they are manifestations of the logic of this system.

Explaining the Underlying Economics Forces of the Sweeping Changes

To understand these sweeping changes in the U.S. and global economies and migration patterns, it is important to understand the economic forces that have brought us to this point. The best explanation of the economic forces that have brought us to this point is the Marxist theory of the accumulation of capital (wealth). The theory assumes that labor is the source of all wealth. The drive for profits gives rise to technological change. Labor and machines working together create more wealth.  However, in order to create more wealth, workers are displaced by machines, which tends to cause unemployment. When the number of displaced workers, plus the increase in population is greater than the number of jobs created, the result is the reserve army of the unemployed (mass unemployment), misery and impoverishment, which triggers migration to places where people think there are jobs. Immigration laws, which are anti-labor laws, are used to manage the ebb and flow of the global reserve army of unemployed, by opening or closing the immigration spigot to make cheap labor available.

To summarize, to cut labor costs and increase profits, capitalists replace workers with machines, thereby producing the reserve army of the unemployed (mass unemployment) which is necessary for its own existence. Capitalists control unemployed workers, who are forced to accept lower wages and poor working conditions. As they move into and out of the workforce, they are used as a lever to discipline the employed to do the same, thereby destroying unions and depressing wages, making it easy to lay off workers without notice and replacing them with gigzombies (temporary and part-time employees), destroying the safety net, and keeping production costs down. In this respect, unemployed workers are as necessary as employed workers for the existence of capitalism. In proportion as wealth increases, unemployment rises, and the levels of unemployment, torment, ignorance and poverty grow. Capitalism is unable to create enough jobs for everyone who wants to work; it manufactures and uses the army of the unemployed, a necessary outcome of the accumulation of wealth, as a tool to perpetuate its own existence, by pitting employed and unemployed workers and native and immigrant workers against one other, making them compete for a limited number of jobs.

The reserve army of the unemployed, the workers’ “graveyard of immiseration and impoverishment,” is evidence that capitalism is unable to deliver sufficient jobs. This system blames workers’ jobless predicaments on them and/or encourages them to blame others, like immigrants. Immigrants are not the cause of unemployment; they are one of the manifestations of the process of production whose natural outcome is unemployment.

In addition to mass unemployment and migration, capitalism creates obscene levels of inequality; the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Even mainstream “economists are skeptical that the benefits of growth [from the]…albeit fragile recovery…will reach working people whose wages have stagnated even as jobless rates have plunged.” “The World Economic Forum… [recent] survey…warned of rising economic inequality… [and]…rising risks…adding that they threaten catastrophic consequences for humanity, and for the economy.”4

The Modern Workplace

There have been significant changes as the modern workplace transitions from the traditional forty-hour work week with benefits, to the gig economy, where there is a race to reduce labor cost, and immigrants are targeted and dehumanized. Immigrants remain another instrument of control for the capitalist due to the schism between them and the native workforce. The most important shifts in the workplace include those directly related to automation, and the state’s use of right-to-work laws to dismantle unions as well as restructuring the tax system.

Today, the gig workplace could be virtual, your home, a day-to-day temporary location, an Amazon or Walmart warehouse, driving your car as an UBER or Lyft independent contractor, and to a lesser extent the traditional office. It is characteristic of temporary and part-time, flexible jobs, without benefits. It undermines the traditional economy of full-time workers who rarely change positions and instead focus on a lifetime career.

Technological innovation gives employers the ability to identify, calculate, and monitor how much you produce whether your office is in your home or somewhere else. In this increasingly automated workplace, machines supplied and used by workers maintain their oppressive function by managing the workplace from a distance allowing employers complete control over workers; as has been said, the machine incorporate and absorb the worker who is the appendage within it and extracts labor power from it.  Already more than 34 percent of the workforce is employed as temporary part-time precarious employees and an additional 13 percent wish to join the gig economy.5 Expectations are the gig economy will soon make up half of all employees.

The transition to the gig economy has been advanced by right-to-work laws. Under provisions of the Taft-Hartley Act that require unionized workplaces to become “open shops”, employees must be allowed to work whether or not they join the union or pay dues. This makes it more difficult for workers to form unions. In part, right-to-work laws have devastated organized labor. A study by Cornell University’s, International Labor Relations School, found that wages for union members are generally ten to thirty percent higher than the wages for non-union workers.6 In the absence of union representation, labor costs decrease at the expense of workers, by reducing wages and benefits. These anti-union attacks are also evident in other industrialized countries. While the U.K. government is demanding health care by demanding give backs from workers, in France unions are under attack from a government that wants to make it easier for businesses to fire employees.

The recent tax law passed by the U.S. Congress and signed by the President, an act of class-warfare that gives $1.5 trillion to corporations and the wealthy, has also contributed to the transition to the gig economy. Many find appealing the opportunity that it seemingly offers to cut taxes for small businesses, and are expected to continue to form independent contractor small businesses in order to take advantage of it. This, however, comes at a cost as employers shift the cost of wages and benefits, once hard-fought for by unions, onto employees.

In search of cheap labor, capitalists reconfigure and control global markets, by war, militarism, and persecution. The best evidence of this is in the Middle East where immigrants fleeing into Europe and elsewhere have become another instrument of control for the capitalist, because of the schism between the indigenous European and migrant workers. These migrants are greeted with physical and figurative walls, xenophobia, and other forms of misguided anger.

Composition of the Workforce

The composition and size of the workforce has dramatically changed due to cost-cutting technological innovations driving the transition to the gig economy. The most important changes include an increase in the reserve army of the unemployed; transitions from union to non-union employees, as well as full-time permanent status to temporary part-time independent contractors, consultants, and freelancers; increased migration; and the widening inequality gap.

The spectrum of the workforce (the proletariat) spans from active employed workers to the mass unemployed (reserve army of the unemployed) to those who have lost their class identity, people who are very poor and disenfranchised, “the lowest sediment of the relative-surplus population”, “vagabonds, criminals, prostitutes…”, (the lumpen proletariat). 7 The active employed are distributed among the primary, secondary, and tertiary sectors. The reserve army of the unemployed includes the floating, latent, and stagnant unemployed. While there has been a proportionate decrease in the active employed, there have also been significant increases in the reserve army of unemployed.

The labor market is divided into three sectors of the economy: The primary, secondary, and tertiary. The primary sector includes all non-manufacturing workers in the extractive industries like mining, farming, and fishing; the secondary sector includes all industrial/manufacturing workers; and the tertiary sector includes service workers in the public and private spheres.

The reserve army of the unemployed is also divided into three sectors: The floating, latent, and stagnant unemployed. The floating unemployed is the most mobile group and moves more easily into and out of manufacturing jobs, depending on whether the economy is expanding or contracting. The latent unemployed, generally less mobile, include primary sector workers who migrate to urban areas where they compete with unemployed manufacturing workers. The stagnant unemployed, the least mobile and fluid sector, includes those who are able to work, those who cannot work, like the elderly, the disabled, the sickly, and the single parent households, and “orphans and [poor] children”. As the deindustrialization of the economy becomes more acute, the floating and latent sectors and misery grow.

Technological innovation has displaced a significant number of workers who have migrated from farming and manufacturing into the service sector, the fastest growing sector both in the U.S. and globally. As this trend continues it will result in an increase in the floating unemployed, especially where jobs are more easily automated, like machine operators and fast food service workers.  Since 1970, the workforce in the manufacturing decreased from 17.4 percent to about 10 of the workforce In the U.S. The supply of independent freelancers, contractors, consultants, and precarious and informal workers will expand.

Over the past fifty years, the number of workers displaced by automation plus the increase in population has far outpaced the number of jobs created, in the U.S. and global economies. The size of the global industrial reserve army of the unemployed is over 1.5 billion. By 2030, not accounting for population growth, an additional 400 to 8oo million will be displaced by automation.8 In the U.S. the reserve army of the unemployed increased by over 70 million or 114 percent and globally, the number of unemployed increased by 780 million, or 111 percent. The U.S. population increased by 74 million and the global population increased by over 4 billion.9 These numbers are much bigger than the 47.5 million full time and part time jobs created in the U.S. and 920 million jobs created globally. These changes will all create downward pressure on wages and exacerbate unemployment, migration and inequality.

As the reserve army increases, the level of poverty increases, proportionately. According to UNICEF, over 22,000 children die every day due to poverty and 1.3 billion live on less than $1.25 per day in extreme poverty. The U.S. accounts for 5 percent of the world’s population and over 20 percent of the incarcerated; over 2 million people, many of them due to the criminalization of poverty, are incarcerated in the prison industrial complex of the U.S, and counting.10 Fifty percent of the labor force earns less than $27,000 per year and the bottom half of the population has less wealth than the top one percent. Eighty percent is struggling, living from pay check to pay check and the student debt has reached $1.3 trillion dollars.

The evidence shows that the active employed segment of the workforce in the gig economy is increasingly subjected to less than subsistence wages. The U.S. military is the biggest employer in the world with 2.2 million employees, Walmart is the third biggest employer in the world with 2.1 million employees, and MacDonald’s is fourth with 1.9 million employees. Many of these workers live pay check to pay check on sub-standard wages; many of them qualify for food stamps, a subsidy to employers’ profit margins. To add insult to injury, Walmart’s response, in part, is to sell online 13 square foot domiciles for $4,000. Just when you think it could not get any worse, recently Walmart closed sixty stores and 10,000 people lost their jobs; they found out they were fired when they showed up for work and the entrances to the stores were locked, that was the only notice they received.11  Mr. Doug Schifter, the New York City livery driver, wrote before committing suicide “I worked 100-120 consecutive hours almost every week for the past fourteen plus years [only to end up deeper in debt].”12

The role of labor unions is to serve as a voice for employees and act as their representative during collective bargaining negotiations. After peaking at 35 percent (21 million members) in 1979, today union membership in the U.S. is at an all time low, about 10 percent. About 28 states in the U.S. enforce “right-to-work laws” which makes it difficult to form or join a union. As union membership decline, migration, inequality, outsourcing, globalization, and unemployment increase, and wages and benefits decrease. In desperation many workers join the gig economy, while others have been forced into retirement, or slip into poverty.

The rise in the global reserve army of unemployed which has worsened economic plight, as well as natural and human made disasters (like wars) and persecution, have contributed to increased migration patterns. These migration patterns have impacted economic, social and cultural dimensions in the U.S. and globally. On the one hand, what often drives the public discourse on immigration are issues relating to the threat immigrants pose to host countries’ values and customs and that the government should manage immigration against such threats.  On the other hand, a circumspect review of immigration data dispels these myths about immigrants and their impact on the economy and cultural and social values. The truth is that immigrants inject new energy into academia, arts and sciences, and technological innovation.

Contrary to popular belief,

    “While some policymakers have blamed immigration for slowing U.S. wage growth since the 1970s, most academic research finds little long run effect on Americans’ wages. The available evidence suggests that immigration leads to more innovation, a better educated workforce, greater occupational specialization, better matching of skills with jobs, and higher overall economic activity. Immigration also has a net positive effect on combined federal, state, and local budgets.”13

Furthermore, immigrants have lower rates of crime than the native-born because they don’t want to risk deportation. Most immigrants do not compete with low wage American workers because they occupy different niches and immigrants often lack English language skills. In addition, while the number of immigrants has increased, the number of murders has decreased in the U.S. Suggesting that contrary to popular belief, at the same time that the number of immigrants increased, there has been a dramatic fall in the number of murders in the U.S. 14

Today, over 60 million people have been displaced by wars and natural disasters and there are over 160 million others living outside their countries of origin.15 In 1999, 4 million U.S. citizens chose to live in other countries and in 2016 that number more than doubled to 9 million. Many immigrants no longer see the U.S. as their first destination. In 1978, the U.S. was the first country people chose to move to, but by 2017, it was number sixteen. However, due to heightened economic plight in the less developed world, immigration has continued to shape the U.S. workforce. In 1970, there were 9.6 million immigrants in the U.S., or 4.7 percent of the population. In 2016, there were 43.7 million, or 13.5 percent of the population. The majority of immigrants in the U.S. are from India, China, Mexico, the Philippines, and Canada. Over fifty five percent had private health care coverage compared to 69 percent of U.S. born. Twenty nine percent use the public health care system compared to 36 percent of native born.

Meanwhile, as attacks on immigrants continue, wealth has become more concentrated in the hands of a few billionaire oligarchs. The number of billionaires in the U.S. increased from one in 1970 to 425 today; globally, the number of billionaires increased from two in 1970 to 2,043 today. The richest 42 people on the planet control more wealth than the poorest fifty percent of the world’s population. Over 65 percent of Americans have less than $1,000 is savings; 44 percent of them have less than $400. These repulsive levels of inequality rival the time of the Pharaohs. More and more “Free time…both leisure and time for higher activities,” is saved for the privileged few who engage in creative, fulfilling activities, while the majority of people engage in “alienated labor” just to stay afloat.

Conclusion: “Workers of the World Unite”

The data regarding unemployment, immigration, inequality, and poverty are staggering. Last year in New York City there were over 50,000 homeless children, 1.9 million children living in poverty, and 77,000 people in New York City were homeless. In the U.S. there were over 2.5 million homeless children and between 13.4 million and 16.5 million children living in poverty.16 The U.S. population has outpaced job creation by over 50 million. About 55 million workers in the U.S. are employed in the gig economy, most of them in temporary, part-time, low paid jobs, without any job security or benefits.

The global economy has followed similar trends. The world’s population increased by 3.4 billion and there has been a shift toward the service sector, which is already under pressure from automation. The availability of cheap labor as well as high levels of unemployment and the lack of unions in the less industrialized world have maintained and intensified temporary part-time employment that is now trending in more industrialized economies. More than 3 billion people live on less than $2.50 per day.

Migrant serfs, otherwise known as mostly retired elderly white people, who gave the best years of their lives, now live nomadic lives, in make-shift refugee trailer camps, which they set up serendipitously in the parking lots of big box warehouses where they work; they are constantly chased away by the police. Because their social security checks are generally less than $1,000 a month, they supplement it by working at Amazon and Walmart warehouses, many of them making sub-standard wages in exchange for robotic ten hour workdays. They can be fired without notice and don’t get paid extra if they take longer than the prescribed time to complete their assigned work.

Many of them have said that they work sometimes under horrible workplace conditions without any air conditioning or heating and are made to endure remarks from their superiors (such as “we appreciate you because of your mature work ethic and the example you set for younger gigzombies”). At the same time they are complemented for their work ethic, they are discouraged from talking to union organizers. It has been reported that Amazon warehouses have set up “Li’lMed” stations and Urine Color Charts outside bathroom walls for workers to check the color of their urine to monitor dehydration and to convey the feeling that the company cares about them.17 Recently, Amazon announced that it plans to universalize its “Li’lMed” health care approach. It wants to lower healthcare cost for workers and has plans to revert back to the days of the “company store” when employees depended on employers for everything. It plans to set up its own health care system, at first, to service its employees.  If it is successful, it could metastasize throughout the whole economy, allowing Amazon to privatize and provide universal health care for all of us.

Sadly, these elderly workers, who are made to compete with younger workers who are in their prime working age, have been known to say that they are happy with what they can get, the opportunity to subject themselves to such humiliation. Exhausted, even though they need the money, termination comes as a blessing in disguise, since it gives them recovery time to heal physically and emotionally. Evidently, capitalism not only produces misery and impoverishment, but it has no desire to help those in need. In this respect, the working conditions of the gig economy is reminiscent of the horrible working conditions experienced almost a hundred years ago, in the 1930s, by San Francisco longshoremen; there is a well known example of a reported incident after a 700 pound load accidently dropped on the foot of a longshoreman and broke several bones. Employers placed the worker on the no hire blacklist because they said he had weak bones.18

As economic crises become more frequent and deeper and unemployment, migration and inequality reach dizzying heights, and militarism and war persists, critics have called for a greater role for government. But these trends are systemic and ubiquitous and, as such, a greater role for government and the gig economy that is automated and stocked with gigzombies, are not solutions to these problems. Mass unemployment is a necessary outcome of the capitalist production process. Immigration, globalization, outsourcing, and the transition to the gig economy are all manifestations of capitalism’s need to re-invent itself. The reserve army of unemployed is, indeed, the “graveyard of immiseration and impoverishment,” and is the necessary outcome of the logic of this system; as such, capitalism continues to produce its own “grave diggers.”

In this respect, there are important lessons to learn from the revolutionary tradition in the U.S. This tradition has a long history that has inspired subsequent generations to demand a world free of misery, impoverishment, exploitation, oppression, and class distinctions. They understood that radical change is not just a thing of the past, but that it requires international solidarity, since the alternative is a life of abject poverty.

Capitalism is an economy driven by profits, which retards the development of humanity; when profit investment ventures dry up, the system shuts down. A collectivized system where the fruits of human labor are available to all, will set free the forces of labor for the benefit of everyone, not just a few. The solution to misery and poverty is international solidarity. The workers, the creators of wealth, want dignified and creative work, with a shorter work week and a livable wage with benefits. While the words of Marx were resounding for the nineteenth century working class, they still ring true today: “A study of the struggle waged by the English working class reveals that, in order to oppose their workers, the employers either bring in workers from abroad or else transfer manufacture to countries where there is a cheap labor force. Given this state of affairs, if the working class wishes to continue its struggle with some chance of success, the national organisations must become international.” 19

*

Anthony Gabb, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of economics at St. John’s University, New York. He has delivered and published dozens of papers, a book chapter and a book review. His most recent work, Financial Oligarchy Feudal Aristocracy, was published by The World Financial Review.  He work has appeared in The New York Times, Corriere della Sera, and he has appeared on Chanel 1 New York.

Notes

1. https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=1888367364808997&id=100009072541151

2.  Robert Gordon, The Rise and Fall of American Growth: The U.S. Standard of Living Since the Civil War, The Princeton Economic Series of the Western World, 2016

3.https://www.mckinsey.com/~/media/McKinsey/Global%20Themes/Future%20of%20Organizations/What%20the%20future%20of%20work%20will%20mean%20for%20jobs%20skills%20and%20wages/MGI-Jobs-Lost-Jobs-Gained-Report-December-6-2017.ashx

4.  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/27/business/its-not-a-roar-but-the-global-economy-is-finally-making-noise.html

5.https://www.mckinsey.com/~/media/McKinsey/Global%20Themes/Future%20of%20Organizations/What%20the%20future%20of%20work%20will%20mean%20for%20jobs%20skills%20and%20wages/MGI-Jobs-Lost-Jobs-Gained-Report-December-6-2017.ashx

6.https://digitalcommons.ilr.cornell.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.google.com/&httpsredir=1&article=1176&context=key_workplace

7. Karl Marx, vol. 1, Capital (Moscow: Progress Publishers), pp. 600-604                         

8.  https://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2017/home.htm

9.  https://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2017/home.htm

10. Survival of the Richest w/ Donald Jeffries – YouTube

11. https://www.truthdig.com/videos/companies-like-amazon-exploit-itinerant-elderly-workers-lost-great-recession-video/

12. https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=1888367364808997&id=100009072541151

13. http://budgetmodel.wharton.upenn.edu/issues/2016/1/27/the-effects-of-immigration-on-the-united-states-economy

 14. https://www.truthdig.com/articles/fascist-underpinnings-trumps-state-union/

15. https://www.ukessays.com/essays/cultural-studies/migration-in-the-era-of-globalization-cultural-studies-essay.php

 16. https://www.unicef.org/publications/files/UNICEF_SOWC_2016.pdf

 17.https://www.truthdig.com/videos/companies-like-amazon-exploit-itinerant-elderly-workers-lost-great-recession-video/

18. WBAI Letters and Politics, 1/10/18, Peter Afrasiabi https://www.wbai.org/archive.php   

19. Karl Marx, International Workingmen’s Association 1867, meeting on June 4, 1867 the General Council, On The Lausanne Congress
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💵 Economic System Reform: Saving the Planet; Salvaging the Human Prospect
« Reply #1 on: February 15, 2018, 02:09:19 AM »
https://www.globalresearch.ca/economic-system-reform-saving-the-planet-salvaging-the-human-prospect/5628951

Economic System Reform: Saving the Planet; Salvaging the Human Prospect
By Robert Snefjella
Global Research, February 12, 2018
Theme: Environment, Law and Justice

Economic systems include elements of design. Economic systems are not the progeny of happenstance, nor are they beyond our powers, like the sun and moon and stars above. And based on how things have worked out, nor are they the fruit of unimpeachable wisdom. In any case, they are influential. If a successful human presence on earth – which includes wise stewardship of the biosphere – were deemed to be a worthwhile goal, the intention of excellence in the design of economic systems is indispensable.

How are contemporary societies doing, while employing, or being deployed by, current economic systems?

Things are not working out so well for billions of people and many other species on earth. In an age of unprecedented technology and knowledge and productive capacity, we observe increasing environmental degradation, countless species lost or diminished, and many hundreds of millions of humans living in more or less squalor, and in great financial difficulty.

Countless jurisdictions also face financial difficulty, including debilitating levels of debt. Even in so-called wealthy countries, there is widespread social breakdown and high, even unprecedented, levels of public and private debt, and high real levels of unemployment. Perversely, what is financed includes ongoing development of vast capacity to destroy, highlighted by the continuing pathology of wars of aggression.

Meanwhile, in many countries, a small percentage of the population gains a very disproportionate portion of the wealth, and a tinier percentage have gained extreme concentrations of wealth, with a smaller number yet claiming ownership of much of the planet’s wealth and property..

The confluence of environmental and social breakdown, wars, widespread financial difficulty, and extreme concentration of wealth is not accidental. It is an outcome of the very design of our economic systems. Current money systems are designed to privilege selfish or narrow group interests; elite interests. And narrow – oligarchic – interests having been given primacy, broad human betterment and environmental stewardship are secondary considerations, at best.

That is, many national systems and the international money system are by design such that we can never achieve broad human success and good stewardship of the earth.

But that has not been the story told. The intrinsic financial elite serving bias of economic systems has been misrepresented to the public – as say, among obscure matters too complex for mere commoners, or as sensible obedience to immutable economic laws – and sometimes the system is just pushed down the people’s throat – with ongoing attempts made to camouflage the economic systems’ inherent elite-privileging characteristics.

Financial-elite domination of mass communications has hitherto ensured that broadly-beneficent economic models receive insufficient public attention to create a strong and knowledgeable economic-reform consensus; and academia has overwhelmingly taught conventional financial-elite-friendly economic theory. And politics manifests economic dogma and ignorance, while too often serving not the public interest but elite agendas.

The elite privileging and dysfunctional designs of current economic systems were developed in an extinct cultural context – especially pertaining to technology. That is, besides being dysfunctional, they are outmoded.

Given that current financial systems are catastrophically flawed, proposals have been made for economic system reform that is intended to provide broad, not narrow, benefit, and to eliminate harmful features. And what person of goodwill would not prefer economic system designs that work well – intrinsically – on behalf of broad, not narrow, human benefit, while encouraging harmony with the biosphere, and including a decisive concern for the future?

But selfishness will never retire gracefully. Those dominating the established financial paradigm are also busy, stealthily or brazenly, intending to maintain or strengthen the elite-privileging characteristics of existing financial system arrangements. This includes the attempt to reduce the role of physical currency and to expand the role of elite-controlled and manipulation-enabling ephemeral means of exchange and stores of value.

Current financial system reform proposals are offered within the context of rapidly evolving and widely available new technology and tools, and changing societal and cultural circumstances. These include unprecedented and rapid massive creation, compilation and outpouring of knowledge; and an internet-based massive increase in less fettered or unfettered public discourse, in conjunction with broad access to same.

Following is a look at, and comparison of, and some comment upon, two recent efforts via books to present a program of broadly beneficent economic reform. Both writers happen to be fellow Canadians, but they come from different backgrounds, and their formulae have some important differences. But there are also many points of agreement in their respective theses.

Because the Future Matters: Let's Stop Letting Modern Economics and Our Energy Addiction Ruin Almost Everything! by [Braden, John]

One of the authors, John M. Braden, could hardly be more obscure. The title of Braden’s book is Because the Future Matters: Let’s Stop Letting Modern Economics and Our Energy Addiction Ruin Almost Everything! The book was published in 2015 and Braden passed away in 2017.

The other author, Paul T. Hellyer, is a well known long time public figure in Canada, having authored over a dozen books, a majority of which have dealt, in whole or part, with economic matters, and having held senior cabinet positions in the Canadian federal government, including Minister of Defense and Acting Prime Minister. His book is called THE MONEY MAFIA and subtitled A World in Crisis. Published in 2014, Hellyer wrote this book early in his ninth decade

In both books there are many matters I am not commenting on, but leave to the readers of these books to discover. Presented are some of the key ideas in the books that pertain to reform of the economic/financial system. I knew Braden personally, and read and made suggestions on an earlier version of his manuscript.

Both authors evince genuine concern about not just our current and future human predicament but about the very fate of the earth. Both authors make use of the word transitional to describe their proposals.

As if to underline the extreme absurdity of our situation, both Hellyer and Braden resort to the summary word “insanity” to describe aspects of the current financial system and conventional economics.

Hellyer, in his outspoken style, describes the folly of giving “private corporations a monopoly to create money as total insanity.” Further, “to let them create all that money as debt that has to be repaid with interest goes beyond total insanity….”

Braden in his understated style almost apologizes for his use of such “strong words” as insane and insanity in reference to the “energy extravagances” of modern society. His basic thesis, stated “more gently” is: “conventional economics virtually compels sane people to engage in insane economic activity.”

Both authors are adamant that the financial system as currently designed has basic characteristics doing great harm and leading to more catastrophic consequences, and that we can, and ought to, and must, make basic improvements.

A closer look at Braden’s proposals

Braden calls his proposed economic program Intelligent National Frugality (INF). It is offered as a corrective to current economic systems that in effect mandate environmental degradation, increasing resource scarcity, and social breakdown and dysfunctions.

He proposes an alternative taxation and pricing and financing strategy that will inherently encourage environmental stewardship, more careful resource use, and greater social health, and discourage resource foolishness and energy gluttony: Thus Intelligent.

The term Frugality explicitly rejects the ideology of perpetual economic growth, and the culture of ‘more and more stuff is better and better’, of material and energy extravagance. But it allows for a wealth of cultural expression and unlimited qualitative progress within the context of a much more careful and sensible human presence on earth.

The term National identifies the nation state as the scale at which INF economics should apply, and also that a country is the appropriate political vehicle for establishing INF economics. Implied is that in order for any country to be able to carry out such a reformed economic system, it must have sufficient independence and sovereignty.

One basic principle found at the heart of Braden’s thesis is that a taxation and pricing system should as far as possible encourage the beneficial and discourage the harmful – encourage the good and discourage the bad. Stated thus, it’s a principle hard to argue with, but it begs the ongoing question as to what constitutes good and bad.

Braden’s core answer is that INF economics would heavily tax those types of energy classified as non-renewable – so-called fossil fuels and nuclear – on the basis of their actual energy content, and at the primary stage of their movement into use. This would mean that all processes and products coming later, using either the energy or matter of the energy source, would in cost and price reflect that original taxation.

All direct and indirect subsidies would be removed from these forms of energy. And the tax would be introduced gradually, intending a not-seriously-disruptive process of increase over a period of years.

As a result, there would be a growing disincentive to use fossil fuels in a cavalier fashion, and a growing incentive to use such energy more carefully. More benign and renewable competing forms of energy, and processes that use these, would gain comparative price advantage; thus be encouraged.

Nuclear energy, in Braden’s vision, if taxed appropriately and not subsidized, will simply become completely untenable. Indeed, one of the highlights of the book for me is Braden’s elegant and succinct yet devastating refutation of nuclear energy, on the basis of its financial, ethical and safety shortcomings.

Which leads to another key principle of INF economics: that human energy, mental or physical, is not taxed at all. Human energy thus becomes the financially most advantageous energy of choice in many instances. Under INF economics, sales taxes and value added taxes would also be eliminated.

There is no inherent ‘right’ or ‘left’ ideological basis for Braden’s proposals. But in order to implement his ideas, it is as noted necessary that a country be able to make independent national economic policies. This includes not being bound by restrictive bi-national or multinational economic agreements that preclude independent national initiatives in economic policy.

Braden repudiates so-called ‘free trade’, which in practice elevates international financial and corporate power over indigenous national economic policy, and he endorses less reliance on distant trade and long transport of goods. INF economics inherently encourages a more decentralized and self-reliant society; and a tendency towards many more and smaller internally competitive industrial enterprises and businesses. And many more small farms, and villages and towns, would primarily serve their locality. INF economics would also intrinsically encourage production of products featuring ease of repair, durability, recycling, and so on.

Braden, like Hellyer, considers full employment to be a basic goal and one which INF economics would facilitate. Again, this follows from the elevation of human energy in many instances into the most financially attractive choice.

Another foundational proposal by Braden is for adoption of a new banking system, one which is not debt-based. Here Braden and Hellyer join conceptual forces with advocacy of “Hundred Percent Money” as Braden calls it or Government Created Money (GCM) in Hellyer’s words. Braden notes the taboo-like near absence of contemporary discussion by conventional economics of GCM.

Braden’s basic proposal regarding GCM is that governments create an appropriate amount of legal-tender currency, and introduce the money into the economy by spending the money for worthwhile purposes. In the case of changed circumstances, say population or economic growth, where more such money would be helpful, more money can added in order to continue to “… facilitate normal commercial transactions in everyday life.” This money is permanent, not ephemeral like much of the ‘money’ in our debt-based system. GCM does not obligate or earn interest in its creation.

This GCM “does not constitute newly created wealth” but will facilitate economic activity which can create new wealth. Braden stresses that GCM “is able to function quite satisfactorily regardless of whether economic growth does or does not take place.” This is in sharp contrast to debt-based money, which requires a growing economy in order for the debt treadmill to continue functioning.

Braden then turns to fractional reserve banking, which in a nutshell gives lenders the privilege of lending money that does not exist, and then asking for repayment in real dollars plus interest, or the collateral if the repayment is not made. At the strokes of a banker’s computer keys, the issuance of “impermanent” credit creates an increase in the country’s ‘money’ supply, and when the loan is paid off, the money supply of a country is reduced. Through the process, interest is collected. This is now the dominant means by which ‘money’ is ‘created’.

Braden asserts that he can find “no theoretical arguments at all in favour of the fractional reserve system.” And he lists several reasons for condemning it, including that the fractional reserve system is “unworkable [without] ongoing economic growth.” Braden rejects as folly the dogma that perpetual economic growth, per se, is desirable.

As an example of the harmful absurdities built into the current fractional-reserve, credit-creation privileges that some financial institutions have been granted, a young family in Canada typically ends up paying more or less twice for the home they purchase, unless they lose the home due to not being able to pay for it twice: it’s called a mortgage.

Braden believes that governments can act sensibly regarding money creation and management of associated policies, which is not a storyline that private financiers have endorsed. One might note here that elite financial domination has been served by a lot of hand wringing angst in media over the specter of democratic processes and governments having final authority over money creation and policy, but there seems to be much less concern over obscure financiers controlling both money and politics. We might also note that any dearth of competent politicians and bureaucrats when it comes to money matters is to some significant extent the fruit of financial and corporate influence over the political selection process, and elite achievement of attenuated public discourse about basic financial issues.

Braden presents his ideas using commonplace, clear language. His is a broad yet limited vision. Some pertinent practical challenges that we face are either absent or hardly discussed.

These challenges include the massive inertia of and massive dependence upon the existing system; the trillions of dollars per day volume; the power of those willing and able to deploy tactical disinformation and extreme violence to maintain control over existing financial arrangements; the control of mass communications by those avoiding full and effective discussion of critical economic and finance-related issues. Also absent is discussion of the large role played by international financial institutions like the BIS or the IMF, key institutions of the global-financial cabal.

What Braden does provide, however is a basic outline of an economic and financial system that is designed to encourage sensible human behaviour, both in respect to human interaction, and in relationship to the earth. His ideas deserve careful consideration.

A closer look at Hellyer’s ideas

In contrast to Braden’s low key and circumspect approach to the subject of financial reform, Hellyer presents in swashbuckling style his financial reform proposals. He grapples with a different field of practical considerations than does Braden, including identifying extreme criminality in the prevailing international financial system. But he is kindred with Braden in many basic goals and concerns, and in many ideas, including being an ardent advocate of debt-free government-created money. And Paul Hellyer (image right) like Braden evinces great concern over environmental degradation, including the over-reliance on problematic fossil fuels.

Hellyer begins his book with a well known 19th century Lincoln quote in which the green-back president admits to great concern that the money power in the United States will use its cunning influence to concentrate wealth “in a few hands … and the Republic [will be] destroyed.”

And lo and behold, and that’s now just about where the US is at, along with many other countries in more or less the same boat: the danger that concerned Lincoln has now gone global: Hellyer writes that “a small group” … “using the cover of globalization” have “the ultimate goal of creating an unelected World government under their control.” He sees in such an outcome an extremely wealthy oligarchic global tyranny, presiding over an enslaved public, in which serf-like austerity for the many is enforced. Bad idea, asserts Hellyer, for “we have the capability of providing ‘the good life’ for all humankind.”

How do we do that? For Hellyer one key requirement for human success is “… to establish the kind of democracy we dream of and deserve – government … for all of the people, and not just the rich elite.”

He describes his book as including “an integrated blueprint for action” to “replace war with peace, injustice with justice, immoral inequality with improved equality of opportunity and, topping the list an end [to destroying earth, and mobilizing] to preserve it for the benefit of generations yet unborn.”

Whereas Braden repudiates so-called ‘free-trade’ as inherently a bad idea, Hellyer admits to a residual fondness for the idea, but has great reservations about its actual manifestation, which he suggests might be called “unrestricted investment”: Under so-called free trade, corporate privilege and influence dominate, while the public interest and influence atrophy: Hellyer asserts that for national politicians to implement ‘free trade’, it is already in effect treason, but then goes further, describing eliminating by treaty a country’s inherent right to issue currency as “high treason.” By such a default the corporations and especially the bankers win control over the people and their sovereign powers. Even food safety standards and public health are fodder for the corporate greedy-grindstone.

Turning to “the International Banking and Financial System”, Hellyer finds “… grand larceny on a scale almost beyond belief.” He notes that fractional reserve banking is now running amuck, with no real limit to the amount of interest-accumulating credit that can be created out of thin air, no matter how little actual money is ‘in reserve’. But in the end, unwilling to give government complete control over issuance of currency, Hellyer settles on a formula by which commercial banks can create loans on the basis of having in reserve just over one third of the credit issued.

Hellyer devotes a chapter each to the Bank of International Settlements (BIS, the elite and dominant private central bank of the global network of private central banks), the International Monetary Fund, and the private banking cartel known as The Federal Reserve, nominally of the United States. He finds each of these to be inherently pernicious, and urges their elimination.

Hellyer asserts that private corporations’ domination of issuance of currency and credit must end, and be replaced with government created money. “The right to create money belongs to federal governments….Banks … have only privileges granted by legislatures,” but through cunning have usurped government’s proper financial role and power, to great elite advantage and societal disadvantage.

Faced with countless needed or beneficial projects left undone, and much harm being done, including much unemployment, due to “an acute shortage of money” deployed for proper purposes, Hellyer asserts that “what the world desperately needs is a massive infusion of government-created debt-free money (GCM) ….” He tentatively suggests 10 trillion dollars as a start. And as does Braden, Hellyer notes the “profound difference” between GCM and Bank Created Money (BCM). “All [ephemeral] BCM has to be repaid with interest whereas GCM [is] debt-free and remains in the money supply permanently.”

As an example of a successful use of GCM, Hellyer describes Canada’s experience during the period from 1939 to 1974. In contrast to its inadequate response to the extreme poverty and financial difficulties of the 1930s, the Canadian government, with the advent of WW2, got a brain and printed money and spent it into circulation. In effect, the government and commercial banks shared the money creation function, and this enabled a previously seriously impoverished largely agricultural country to quickly undertake ambitious national projects, including much industrial development, without getting ensnared in ‘the web of debt,’ and without an inflation problem.

This beneficent policy was mysteriously ended in 1974, leading to an unnecessary cost over the following decades of hundreds of billions of dollars to Canadian taxpayers; and many worthwhile projects were made more financially difficult, expensive, or stillborn.

Hellyer describes a recent proposal made by a group of banking system reformers to have the Canadian government use its constitutional power to create 150 billion dollars of GCM, with half going to the federal government and half to the provinces and territories and municipalities. The Canadian charter banks, over several years, would be required to increase their cash reserves up to 34%. The proposal includes giving the democratically elected Finance Minister the final say over Bank of Canada policy.

Hellyer identifies the “most formidable’ obstacle to monetary reform as the ignorance of the public when it comes to money matters. But whatever specific variation on the theme is implemented, “…any worthwhile reform must [provide] a fast, smooth transition to full employment and the transfer of the ultimate power over interest rates and … the money supply from unelected, unaccountable bankers to the elected representatives of the people who, in theory at least, should operate the system in the interests of their electors.”

Hellyer draws other important considerations into his vision of social and financial reform, for example calling for the end of suppression of energy breakthroughs and beneficial patents. And with Braden, he stresses the need for a strong ethical or spiritual foundation for society: Who was it who said, for any system to work well, no matter how brilliantly conceived, good people are indispensable?

While Braden and Hellyer both introduce their own noteworthy innovations on the theme of economic reform, their basic position on the central issue of money creation is one that is shared by many. For example, Ellen Brown in her brilliant book THE WEB OF DEBT advocates GCM, and elimination of personal income taxes. And in his 1992 book DEBT VIRUS, Jacques Jaikaran writes: “The solution is a system that would provide adequate [GCM] funds for government without borrowing; a system that would effectively eliminate income taxes….”

It is easy to take a cynical attitude towards attempts by ‘naïve’ people to concoct ‘grandiose’ blueprints for basic economic reform. But more appropriate targets for criticism are those whose active commitment is to the egregiously and grievously dysfunctional financial path we are on.

As noted, this is not just about us. Previously I mentioned environmental degradation: more particularly, to cite just a few examples, many species of insects over wide areas of the earth have disappeared or are in trouble; historically prolific flora and fauna of the oceans and in the tidal pools are missing or in trouble, from mammals to fish to crustaceans to phytoplankton; the oceans now have vast areas of garbage and vast dead zones; the earth’s atmosphere has had incomprehensible millions of tonnes of aluminum oxide added to it via supremely-arrogant experimentation; a large part of the protective ozone layer is thinned or missing, human created unstable pernicious radioactive atoms proliferate in the environment, and glyphosate and other harmful chemicals become near ubiquitous in the environment. This list is the mere tip of the total situation.

Braden and Hellyer, instead of losing heart in the face of seemingly overwhelmingly difficult and portentous human-driven earthly dynamics, have identified a basic problem – a deeply defective money system – and both have sketched for us largely kindred ideas towards a more sensible economics.

While nearly everyone has financial concerns, most people lack even rudimentary understanding of current financial systems, or proposed alternatives. Indicated then as helpful would be the development of a more effective, broadly-based, unfettered, basic-financial-reform study-teaching-and-advocacy movement.

*

Robert Snefjella is a retired Canadian organic farmer and contractor.

Featured image is from Bart/flickr/cc.
The original source of this article is Global Research
Copyright © Robert Snefjella, Global Research, 2018
« Last Edit: February 15, 2018, 03:00:31 AM by RE »
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🧛‍♂️ Making America Great Through Exploitation, Servitude and Abuse
« Reply #2 on: February 15, 2018, 02:43:36 AM »
https://www.globalresearch.ca/making-america-great-through-exploitation-servitude-and-abuse/5628697

Making America Great Through Exploitation, Servitude and Abuse
By Prof. James Petras
Global Research, February 09, 2018
Region: USA
Theme: Law and Justice, Police State & Civil Rights, Poverty & Social Inequality


The public denunciation by thousands of women and a few men that they had been victims of sexual abuse by their economic bosses raises fundamental issues about the social relations of American capitalism.

The moral offenses are in essence economic and social crimes. Sexual abuse is only one aspect of the social dynamics facilitating the increase in inequality and concentration of wealth, which define the practices and values of the American political and economic system.

Billionaires and mega-millionaires are themselves the products of intense exploitation of tens of millions of isolated and unorganized wage and salaried workers. Capitalist exploitation is based on a rigid hierarchy with its private prerogatives, which enables the oligarchs to demand their feudal privileges, their seigniorial sexual predations.

US capitalism thrives on and requires unlimited power and the capacity to have the public treasury pay for its untrammeled pillage of land, labor, transport systems and technological development. Capitalist power, in the United States , has no counterpart; there are few if any countervailing forces to provide any balance.

Today, 93% of US private sector workers have no organized representation. Moreover, many of the 7% who are in unions are controlled and exploited by their corrupt union officials – in league with the bosses.

This concentration of power produces the ever deepening inequalities between the world of the billionaires and the millions of low-wage workers.

The much-celebrated technological innovations have been subsidized by the state and its educational and research institutions. Although these are financed by the tax-payers, the citizen-workers are marginalized by the technological changes, like robotics, that they originally funded. High tech innovations flourish because they concentrate power, profits and private privilege.

The hierarchical matrix of power and exploitation has led to the polarization of mortality rates and moral codes. For the working poor, the absence of competent health care has led to the massive use and abuse of prescription opioids and other addictive drugs. For the upper class, it has led to the flagrant physical and psychological abuse of vulnerable employees, especially, but not exclusively young working women. The prestigious bourgeois media blur the class polarization by constant reference to what they term ‘our shared traditional democratic values.’

The pervasive and growing vulnerability of workers of both sexes coincides with the incorporation of the latest technological innovations in production, distribution and promotion. This includes electronic and digital advances, artificial intelligence, robotics and extensive surveillance on workers, which incorporate high profits for the investors and long hours of demeaning monotonous work for those who manufacture and transport the ‘products’.

The proliferation of new technology has grown in direct relation with the abject debasement of labor and the marginalization and trivialization of workers. Amazon and Walmart approach trillions of dollars in revenue from mass consumption, even as the Chaplinesque speed-up of robotized humans race to fill the overnight delivery orders. The entertainment industry amuses the population across class lines with increasingly vulgar and violent offerings, while the moguls of film entertain themselves with their young workers – who are depersonalized and even raped.

The more egregious immorality exposes itself one time too often and is condemned, while the victims are temporality lionized for their courage to protest. The worst predators apologize, resign to their yachts and mansions and are replaced by new avatars with the same power and structures in place which had facilitated the abuse. Politicians rush to embrace the victims in a kind of political and media ‘Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy’ when one considers their own role as enablers of this dehumanization.

The problem is not merely corrupt and perverted individual miscreants: It is the hierarchy of inequality which produces and reproduces an endless supply of vulnerable workers to exploit and abuse.

The most advanced forms of entertainment thrive in an environment of absolute impunity in which the occasional exposé of abuse or corruption is hidden behind a monetary settlement. The courage of an individual victim able to secure public attention is a step forward, but will have greater significance if it is organized and linked to a massive challenging of the power of the bourgeois entertainment industry and the system of high tech exploitation. Sexual abuse of an individual in the workplace is just part of a chain that begins with exploitation of workers in general and can only be stopped through collective worker organization.

Can anyone say with a straight face that the US remains a nation of free and autonomous citizens? Servitude and moral degradation are the outcome of an atomized, impotent laboring class who may change one boss for another or one vulgar president for a moralizing hypocrite. We hope that the exposés will start something but without class conscious organizations we don’t know what will arise.

The original source of this article is Global Research
Copyright © Prof. James Petras, Global Research, 2018
« Last Edit: February 15, 2018, 03:03:16 AM by RE »
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💸 America’s Millennials Are Waking Up to a Grim Financial Future
« Reply #3 on: June 23, 2018, 02:18:15 AM »
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-06-21/america-s-millennials-are-waking-up-to-a-grim-financial-future



America’s Millennials Are Waking Up to a Grim Financial Future

Job prospects, savings, safety nets, life expectancy—the data show just how bad a mess they face. 

June 21, 2018, 12:00 AM AKDT
 
An ETF Aiming to Capture the Millennial Generation
 
 

Lately I’ve been losing track of how old everyone is. Friends, co-workers and family members are resisting middle age with vigorous exercise, careful diets and regular doctor visits. Even when 50-year-olds look like they’re 50, they often dress or party as if they’re still in their twenties. 

Our capacity to fetishize youth never ceases to amaze. But while older Americans definitely want to look like younger folks, they certainly don’t want their finances. That’s because the wealth gap between generations keeps widening, and their children’s future is beginning to look ugly.

Just two years ago, the median American born in the 1980s—the cradle of millennials—had family wealth that was 34 percent below what earlier generations held at the same age, the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis reported last month. And all the data show it’s probably going to get worse.

As affluent baby boomers thank years of soaring markets for their paid-off mortgages and plump portfolios, millennials and the next cohort, Generation Z, are weighed down by student debt and stagnant wages. They can only contribute the bare minimum to their retirement plans and struggle to find affordable homes within commuting distance of their jobs. 

Of course, it’s perfectly normal for people just starting out to have less in the bank. However, the St. Louis Fed warned that, even when taking that into account, young Americans are slipping dangerously behind. For a time, Generation X was also losing out, thanks to the 2008 financial crisis. But its members managed to make up most of the shortfall in the years since, tapping into the longest economic expansion in decades.

For some reason that period of tremendous growth barely helped millennials. The St. Louis Fed called this anomaly “a missed opportunity because asset appreciation is unlikely to be as rapid in the near future.” That’s pretty bad news for twenty and thirtysomethings who may have been hoping to catch up. But it gets worse.

By 2034, Social Security won’t be able to pay out full benefits, the program’s trustees estimated this month. Any solution that would rectify its finances will probably require more taxes and more benefit cuts—all coming out of the pockets of younger workers. Boomers, who are exiting the workforce in droves, will already be comfortably seated when the music stops, or out of the picture.

“We turned the economy into a miserable hellscape and you’re just going to have to deal with it.”

Fixing Social Security is hardly the only issue where younger Americans have different priorities than their elders. U.S. President Donald Trump was elected on the votes of older Americans favoring tax cuts and less government, while young voters flocked to Senator Bernie Sanders, who supports rebuilding social programs and establishing national healthcare.  

Alicia Munnell, the director of Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research, recently lamented that government inaction on Social Security means “that most baby boomers have escaped completely from contributing to a solution.” This month, she offered some depressing advice to younger Americans about what they can do to make up the difference: Work longer.

The reaction to her earnest advice was rage.

“Wait, this is the good news?” read one indignant post on Twitter, echoing many others. Slate’s Jamelle Bouie called it “a great example of ‘we turned the economy into a miserable hellscape and you’re just going to have to deal with it.’” 

Ouch. But Munnell assured young people that they don’t need to cancel their retirements entirely. “In fact, my research shows that the vast majority of millennials will be fine if they work to age 70,” she wrote for Politico. (Small solace given that life expectancy for Americans recently took a turn for the worse.)

Still, Munnell has a point. Across a generational time-frame, people are still living much longer than their parents. As my colleague Peter Coy recently pointed out, a man who is “chronologically” 65 is actually more like a 55-year-old from the perspective of 1957. With the extra years, a longer career doesn’t necessarily mean a shorter retirement.

Retirement-age Americans are already working in record numbers. Whether by choice or necessity, because of boredom or fear, a full third of those between 65 and 69 were in the workforce in May, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, along with 19 percent of those aged 70 to 74—together almost double the number 30 years ago. 

Nevertheless, the retirement advice of “just work longer” can sound pretty tone deaf to younger ears, especially when the old American promises—of advancement, financial security and home ownership for everyone who works hard—have faded into myth. 

What about the booming economy of 2018? Won’t that help smooth the path for young savers? Perhaps, but Goldman Sachs Group Inc. economists recently said the current pace of the U.S. economy is “probably as good as it gets.” That can only make young Americans more furious about the “missed opportunity” mentioned by the St. Louis Fed.

Paychecks aren’t reflecting the improving economy. Hourly wages were unchanged in May from a year earlier. And according to a Fed survey, four in 10 Americans said it would be tough to come up with $400 for an emergency expense. The same 2017 survey found 27 percent skipping medical treatments because they can’t afford them. Another poll this month reaffirmed the inability of many Americans to save any money at all.

So work longer? First you have to live longer, and that’s not guaranteed.

Wide swaths of the country are getting sicker and dying younger than just a few years ago, with a widening health gap between educated, affluent Americans and everyone else. Alcohol abuse and obesity, upticks in suicide and an epidemic of drug overdoses have all played a role in an ominous milestone: Year-over-year declines in American life expectancy while the rest of the world lives ever-longer.

Perhaps it’s a statistical blip. If not, the U.S. faces an almost dystopian future—one of hyper class-stratification in which the few are rich and living longer while the many postpone retirement, struggle to get by and ultimately die younger.

There is some good news for younger generations, though. As they focus on the hand they’ve been dealt, they will find there is one good card to play, one that may allow them to address the myriad problems they face: numbers. 

It’s no secret the widening gap in financial security is shadowed by a similar gap in politics, setting up the potential for generational warfare at the ballot box in coming elections.

The outcome of the 2018 midterms may largely come down to whether left-leaning millennials and Gen-Xers, who make up a majority of eligible U.S. voters, show up. In recent elections, these two demographics voted at much lower rates than previous generations at the same ages, according to the Pew Research Center. Unless that changes, wealthier, right-leaning baby boomers and the remaining members of the so-called Silent Generation will once again swamp them at the polls.

Regardless of turnout, or even who wins, academics predict a growing animus between young and old to match the polarized party politics currently roiling the nation.

“I think you’re going to see growing conflict,” said Susan MacManus, an emeritus professor of political science at the University of South Florida. One sign that “this huge generation is awakening to things is that we have seen record levels of younger candidates stepping up to the plate and running for office at every level,” she said.

And she said these young people, just now realizing how bad their prospects are financially, are increasingly angry.

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https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-06-21/america-s-millennials-are-waking-up-to-a-grim-financial-future



America’s Millennials Are Waking Up to a Grim Financial Future

Job prospects, savings, safety nets, life expectancy—the data show just how bad a mess they face.

June 21, 2018, 12:00 AM AKDT
An ETF Aiming to Capture the Millennial Generation

Lately I’ve been losing track of how old everyone is. Friends, co-workers and family members are resisting middle age with vigorous exercise, careful diets and regular doctor visits. Even when 50-year-olds look like they’re 50, they often dress or party as if they’re still in their twenties.

Our capacity to fetishize youth never ceases to amaze. But while older Americans definitely want to look like younger folks, they certainly don’t want their finances. That’s because the wealth gap between generations keeps widening, and their children’s future is beginning to look ugly.

Just two years ago, the median American born in the 1980s—the cradle of millennials—had family wealth that was 34 percent below what earlier generations held at the same age, the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis reported last month. And all the data show it’s probably going to get worse.

As affluent baby boomers thank years of soaring markets for their paid-off mortgages and plump portfolios, millennials and the next cohort, Generation Z, are weighed down by student debt and stagnant wages. They can only contribute the bare minimum to their retirement plans and struggle to find affordable homes within commuting distance of their jobs.

Of course, it’s perfectly normal for people just starting out to have less in the bank. However, the St. Louis Fed warned that, even when taking that into account, young Americans are slipping dangerously behind. For a time, Generation X was also losing out, thanks to the 2008 financial crisis. But its members managed to make up most of the shortfall in the years since, tapping into the longest economic expansion in decades.

For some reason that period of tremendous growth barely helped millennials. The St. Louis Fed called this anomaly “a missed opportunity because asset appreciation is unlikely to be as rapid in the near future.” That’s pretty bad news for twenty and thirtysomethings who may have been hoping to catch up. But it gets worse.

By 2034, Social Security won’t be able to pay out full benefits, the program’s trustees estimated this month. Any solution that would rectify its finances will probably require more taxes and more benefit cuts—all coming out of the pockets of younger workers. Boomers, who are exiting the workforce in droves, will already be comfortably seated when the music stops, or out of the picture.

“We turned the economy into a miserable hellscape and you’re just going to have to deal with it.”

Fixing Social Security is hardly the only issue where younger Americans have different priorities than their elders. U.S. President Donald Trump was elected on the votes of older Americans favoring tax cuts and less government, while young voters flocked to Senator Bernie Sanders, who supports rebuilding social programs and establishing national healthcare.

Alicia Munnell, the director of Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research, recently lamented that government inaction on Social Security means “that most baby boomers have escaped completely from contributing to a solution.” This month, she offered some depressing advice to younger Americans about what they can do to make up the difference: Work longer.

The reaction to her earnest advice was rage.

“Wait, this is the good news?” read one indignant post on Twitter, echoing many others. Slate’s Jamelle Bouie called it “a great example of ‘we turned the economy into a miserable hellscape and you’re just going to have to deal with it.’”

Ouch. But Munnell assured young people that they don’t need to cancel their retirements entirely. “In fact, my research shows that the vast majority of millennials will be fine if they work to age 70,” she wrote for Politico. (Small solace given that life expectancy for Americans recently took a turn for the worse.)

Still, Munnell has a point. Across a generational time-frame, people are still living much longer than their parents. As my colleague Peter Coy recently pointed out, a man who is “chronologically” 65 is actually more like a 55-year-old from the perspective of 1957. With the extra years, a longer career doesn’t necessarily mean a shorter retirement.

Retirement-age Americans are already working in record numbers. Whether by choice or necessity, because of boredom or fear, a full third of those between 65 and 69 were in the workforce in May, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, along with 19 percent of those aged 70 to 74—together almost double the number 30 years ago.

Nevertheless, the retirement advice of “just work longer” can sound pretty tone deaf to younger ears, especially when the old American promises—of advancement, financial security and home ownership for everyone who works hard—have faded into myth.

What about the booming economy of 2018? Won’t that help smooth the path for young savers? Perhaps, but Goldman Sachs Group Inc. economists recently said the current pace of the U.S. economy is “probably as good as it gets.” That can only make young Americans more furious about the “missed opportunity” mentioned by the St. Louis Fed.

Paychecks aren’t reflecting the improving economy. Hourly wages were unchanged in May from a year earlier. And according to a Fed survey, four in 10 Americans said it would be tough to come up with $400 for an emergency expense. The same 2017 survey found 27 percent skipping medical treatments because they can’t afford them. Another poll this month reaffirmed the inability of many Americans to save any money at all.

So work longer? First you have to live longer, and that’s not guaranteed.

Wide swaths of the country are getting sicker and dying younger than just a few years ago, with a widening health gap between educated, affluent Americans and everyone else. Alcohol abuse and obesity, upticks in suicide and an epidemic of drug overdoses have all played a role in an ominous milestone: Year-over-year declines in American life expectancy while the rest of the world lives ever-longer.

Perhaps it’s a statistical blip. If not, the U.S. faces an almost dystopian future—one of hyper class-stratification in which the few are rich and living longer while the many postpone retirement, struggle to get by and ultimately die younger.

There is some good news for younger generations, though. As they focus on the hand they’ve been dealt, they will find there is one good card to play, one that may allow them to address the myriad problems they face: numbers.

It’s no secret the widening gap in financial security is shadowed by a similar gap in politics, setting up the potential for generational warfare at the ballot box in coming elections.

The outcome of the 2018 midterms may largely come down to whether left-leaning millennials and Gen-Xers, who make up a majority of eligible U.S. voters, show up. In recent elections, these two demographics voted at much lower rates than previous generations at the same ages, according to the Pew Research Center. Unless that changes, wealthier, right-leaning baby boomers and the remaining members of the so-called Silent Generation will once again swamp them at the polls.

Regardless of turnout, or even who wins, academics predict a growing animus between young and old to match the polarized party politics currently roiling the nation.

“I think you’re going to see growing conflict,” said Susan MacManus, an emeritus professor of political science at the University of South Florida. One sign that “this huge generation is awakening to things is that we have seen record levels of younger candidates stepping up to the plate and running for office at every level,” she said.

And she said these young people, just now realizing how bad their prospects are financially, are increasingly angry.


Articles like this have everything upside down and backward.

The reason for all this is not that the boomers or the gen-x-er's somehow screwed their own children. It's because our congress has spent money out of control for endless wars, and the only way to pay it off now is through inflation and  financial repression.

If BAU were to persist, the next generation will have it even worse, if the same situation persists. The bill just keep going up.

I think it's so funny that we see these Bernaysian articles with wonks at the Fed seemingly scratching their heads wondering why the Millenials are not struggling harder to keep up the appearances of affluence.

"We just can't figure this out. It's a mystery!"

Somebody should tell Americans.


 "All of you could have had free healthcare and free college, and you could all own a nice house, but your Presidents and your Congressmen have  instead wasted the entire natural resources and all the intellectual capital of a great country on bombs and airplanes and fuel to ship young people overseas (at a cost of about $1Million a year apiece) to get shot up and maimed.....so that some greedy corporate bastards could make bank along the way."

Making the world safe for democracytm sounds so much better.

What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well.

Offline Surly1

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The Gig Economy Thread
« Reply #5 on: August 12, 2018, 05:44:11 AM »
“WHAT HAVE WE DONE?”: SILICON VALLEY ENGINEERS FEAR THEY'VE CREATED A MONSTER
Gig-economy companies like Uber and Instacart are on the verge of overtaking the traditional economy. And the only people who understand the threat are the ones enabling it.




SUSAN FOWLER
AUGUST 9, 2018 5:00 AM

Illustration by Ben Wiseman.
In the heart of San Francisco, the gig economy reigns supreme. Walk into a grocery store, and a large number of shoppers you see are independent contractors for grocery-delivery start-up Instacart. Step outside, and cars with black-and-white Uber stickers or flashing Lyft dashboard lights are sitting, hazards on, blocking the bike lane as they wait for passengers. Cyclists zigzag around the cars, many hauling bags branded with various logos—Caviar, Postmates, Uber Eats—as they deliver food to customers around the city. You can stand on a street corner and count the number of gig-economy workers walking by, as I often do; sometimes it’s 2 out of every 10. On some corners, like the one near the Whole Foods on 4th and Harrison, I’ve counted 8 out of every 10.

The gig-economy ecosystem was supposed to represent the promised land, striking a harmonious egalitarian balance between supply and demand: consumers could off-load the drudgery of commuting or grocery shopping, while workers were set free from the Man. “Set your own schedule,” touts the Uber-driver Web site; “Be your own boss,” tempts Lyft; “Make an impact on people’s lives,” lures Instacart. These companies have been wildly successful: Uber, perhaps the most notorious, is also the most valuable start-up in the U.S., reportedly worth $72 billion. Lyft is valued at $11 billion, and grocery delivery start-up Instacart is valued at just over $4 billion. In recent months, however, a spate of lawsuits has highlighted an alarming by-product of the gig economy—a class of workers who aren’t protected by labor laws, or eligible for benefits provided to the rest of the nation’s workforce—evident even to those outside the bubble of Silicon Valley. A July report commissioned by the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission found that 85 percent of New York City’s Uber, Lyft, Juno, and Via drivers earn less than $17.22 an hour. When the California Supreme Court ruled in May that delivery company Dynamex must treat its gig workers like full-time employees, Eve Wagner, an attorney who specializes in employment litigation, predicted to Wired, “The number of employment lawsuits is going to explode.”

Of course, the threads of this disillusionment are woven into the very structure that has made these start-ups so successful. A few weeks into my tenure at Uber, where I started as a software developer just a year after graduating from college, still blindly convinced I could make the world a better place, a co-worker sat down next to my desk. “There’s something you need to know,” she said in a low voice, “and I don’t want you to forget it. When you’re writing code, you need to think of the drivers. Never forget that these are real people who have no benefits, who have to live in this city, who depend on us to write responsible code. Remember that.” I didn’t understand what she meant until several weeks later, when I overheard two other engineers in the cafeteria discussing driver bonuses—specifically, ways to manipulate bonuses so that drivers could be “tricked” into working longer hours. Laughing, they compared the drivers to animals: “You need to dangle the carrot right in front of their face.” Shortly thereafter, a wave of price cuts hit drivers in the Bay Area. When I talked to the drivers, they described how Uber kept fares in a perfectly engineered sweet spot: just high enough for them to justify driving, but just low enough that not much more than their gas and maintenance expenses were covered.



Those of us on the front lines of the gig economy were the first to spot and expose its flaws—two months after leaving Uber, I wrote a highly publicized account of my time there, describing the company’s toxic work environment in detail. Now, as Silicon Valley struggles to come to terms with its corrosive underpinnings, a new vein of disquiet has wormed its way into the Slack chats and happy-hour outings of low-level rank-and-file engineers, spurred by a question that seems to drown out everything else: What have we done? It’s a question that I, too, have been forced to grapple with as I notice how my job as a software engineer has changed the nature of work in general—and not necessarily for the better.

Gig-economy “platforms,” as they’re called, take their inspiration from software engineering, where the goal is to create modular, scalable software applications. To do this, engineers build small pieces of code that run concurrently, dividing a task into ever smaller pieces to conquer it more efficiently. Start-ups function in a similar way; tasks that used to make up a single job are broken down into the smallest possible code pieces, then partitioned so those pieces can be accomplished in parallel. It’s been a successful approach for start-ups for the same reason it’s a successful approach to writing code: it is perfectly, beautifully efficient. Across so-called platforms, there are no individuals—no bosses delegating tasks. Instead, various algorithms run on the platform, matching consumers with workers, riders with the nearest driver, and hungry customers with delivery people, telling them where to go, what to do, and how to do it. Constant needs and their quick solutions all hummingly, perpetually aligned.

By now it’s clear that these companies represent more than a trend. Though it’s difficult to accurately determine the size of the gig economy—estimates range from 0.7 to 34 percent of the national workforce—the number grows with each new start-up that figures out how to break down another basic task. There’s a relatively low risk associated with launching gig-economy companies, start-ups that can engage in “a kind of contract arbitrage” because they “aren’t bearing the corporate or societal cost, even as they reap fractional or full-time value from workers,” explains Seattle-based tech journalist Glenn Fleishman. Thanks to this buffer, they’re almost guaranteed to multiply. As the gig economy grows, so too does the danger that engineers, in attempting to build the most efficient systems, will chop and dice jobs into pieces so dehumanized that our legal system will no longer recognize them. And along with this comes an even more sinister possibility: jobs that would and should be recognizable—especially supervisory and management positions—will disappear altogether. If a software engineer can write a set of programs that breaks a job into smaller increments, and can follow it up with an algorithm that fills in as the supervisor, then the position itself can be programmed to redundancy.

A few months ago, a lunchtime conversation with several friends turned to the subject of the gig economy. We began to enumerate the potential causes of worker displacement—things like artificial intelligence and robots, which are fast becoming a reality, expanding the purview of companies such as Google and Amazon. “The displacement is happening right under our noses,” said a woman sitting next to me, another former engineer. “Not in the future—it’s happening now.”

“What can we do about it?” someone asked. Another woman replied that the only way forward was for gig-economy workers to unionize, and the table broke out into serious debate. Yet even as we roundly condemned the tech world’s treatment of a vulnerable new class of worker, we knew the stakes were much higher: high enough to alter the future of work itself, to the detriment of all but a select few. “Most people,” I said, interrupting the hubbub, “don’t even see the problem unless they’re on the inside.” Everyone nodded. The risk, we agreed, is that the gig economy will become the only economy, swallowing up entire groups of employees who hold full-time jobs, and that it will, eventually, displace us all. The bigger risk, however, is that the only people who understand the looming threat are the ones enabling it.
« Last Edit: August 12, 2018, 05:30:20 PM by K-Dog »
"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

Offline RE

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Re: The “Gig Economy”
« Reply #6 on: August 12, 2018, 06:09:52 AM »
We already had a Gig Economy thread.  I merged the topics.

RE
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Offline Surly1

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Re: The “Gig Economy”
« Reply #7 on: August 12, 2018, 06:50:27 AM »
We already had a Gig Economy thread.  I merged the topics.

RE

Thanks. Looked and could;dn't find it. Getting increasingly difficult to find threads anymore. How many times has one thought, "I know there's a thread for this, now where TF is it?"
"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

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Re: The “Gig Economy”
« Reply #8 on: August 12, 2018, 07:03:56 AM »
We already had a Gig Economy thread.  I merged the topics.

RE

Thanks. Looked and could;dn't find it. Getting increasingly difficult to find threads anymore. How many times has one thought, "I know there's a thread for this, now where TF is it?"

Happens to me all the time.  I made this one Sticky though, so now it is EZ to find.

RE
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Re: The “Gig Economy”
« Reply #9 on: August 12, 2018, 10:05:49 AM »
We already had a Gig Economy thread.  I merged the topics.

RE

Thanks. Looked and could;dn't find it. Getting increasingly difficult to find threads anymore. How many times has one thought, "I know there's a thread for this, now where TF is it?"

Happens to me all the time.  I made this one Sticky though, so now it is EZ to find.

RE

Yup. I had to rip out the HTML and post it old skull. It was screwing up the formatting. I am not enough of a code-jockey to sort out why.
"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

Offline K-Dog

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Re: The “Gig Economy”
« Reply #10 on: August 12, 2018, 06:06:26 PM »
I found a misspelling and fixed it.  Probably came from the cut and paste. 

Though I get distracted and miss turns frequently RE may recall me telling him I once drove a cab in Seattle.  I know the streets better than someone born here and being tech savy i'm OBLIGATED to opine.

I drove for a real cab company, yellow cab.  Not a gypsy outfit which to me is all that Uber and Lyft are.  Because of my background I won't take an Uber unless I have to.  I drove cab at a time when the cab industry in Seattle was being deregulated.  It was the Margret Thatcher Ronnie Ray-Gun era when the mantra of privatization allowed anyone who could paint a name and number on their car door and pay fifty bucks to be a cab.  Be all you can be and all that. 

Gypsy cabs immediately stole all the fares from the hotel/airport circuit because they could park on the cab stands for hours, score a stiff and charge more than I would to get the same customer to the airport.  How could they do this and not I?  Because they did not have a radio to pay for like I did.  I needed the radio to be dispatched.  Our company ran the blood between hospitals.  We had expenses to pay out that a gypsy cab did not have.  Every night I had to pay for the dispatch service.  Deregulation ruined the jobs of 500 people so more drivers could charge more money and provide less service than before.  We needed the airport runs and when they were taken from us we died.  It was hell to be at the head of a cab stand like the Olympic Hotel's, first in line knowing an air crew was about to walk out the door and need to get to Sea-Tac and have the dispatcher call you to pick up the blood and get it to the U-Hospital at the time of the day you knew you would have to dead head back empty for your next fare.  But I had to do it.  Getting to the airport and back would have made my day more than once.  Instead I went home with hardly more than I started with.

Uber bites the big one.

The gig economy is anti-doomer.  Sometimes fairness has to be enforced and a person with no job does not have an automatic right to ruin anothers'.  The gig economy dances around all kinds of regulations and the people behind it are banksters.  I leave them to RE.

The young author has a higher sense of his influence in the food chain than he thinks.  Coders are drones, code itself is not breaking any rules, people break them and algorithms can only do so much.

The gig economy, sucks and it needs to be regulated or shut down.  Regulations exist for a reason.  The existing structure before it was ripped away by stupidly then and stupidity and technology now had been fine tuned for years to the point of giving everyone a fair shake.

New is not always better, sometimes it sucks.
« Last Edit: August 12, 2018, 06:08:07 PM by K-Dog »
Under ideal conditions of temperature and pressure the organism will grow without limit.

Online Nearingsfault

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Re: The “Gig Economy”
« Reply #11 on: August 12, 2018, 06:52:48 PM »
Sounds like the construction world. Whole home builders are getting rare. General contractors divide it up into more and more subs every year to the point you end up with workers untrained to do anything but their single piece. No coding required. Cars are the same; pieced out to a dozen countries who compete downwards then assembled by the majors. I recently took a cab for the first time in a decade. Fairly cheap, I just flagged him down, knew the city well. I would not do uber but I dont cab  regularly. The sign up and app are more time consuming then finding the cab or the restaurant. City problems...
If its important then try something, fail, disect, learn from it, try again, and again and again until it kills you or you succeed.

Offline K-Dog

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Re: The “Gig Economy”
« Reply #12 on: August 12, 2018, 10:53:30 PM »
Sounds like the construction world. Whole home builders are getting rare. General contractors divide it up into more and more subs every year to the point you end up with workers untrained to do anything but their single piece. No coding required. Cars are the same; pieced out to a dozen countries who compete downwards then assembled by the majors. I recently took a cab for the first time in a decade. Fairly cheap, I just flagged him down, knew the city well. I would not do uber but I don't cab  regularly. The sign up and app are more time consuming then finding the cab or the restaurant. City problems...

That's the game, divide it up so you can have cheaper workers.  You may need more of them because as you already know, whole home capable people are skilled and fast but one trick ponies are still learning.  The point is that the more a job can be dummied down the cheaper the worker is and that's the game the bean counters want to play.  It makes sense to them and that is all that matters.  The gig economy attempts to match needs and suppliers up using a matching algorithm.  Brain dead simple stuff.  'Matching' covers a lot of territory in the software world.  Gigism is an exploit which ignores real world considerations such as laws and ethics.  It should take only a sliver of profit but takes far more than a simple match should be entitled to but that is the way of the world.

Not 'the' matching algorithm, nothing that fancy.  Simple automated gate keeping that monkeys could code.  In a zillion years.  The builders you talk about if any can do a 'hello world' might like this.

https://www.wikihow.com/Use-the-Hungarian-Algorithm
« Last Edit: August 12, 2018, 10:57:43 PM by K-Dog »
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Offline RE

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👨‍🌾 Becoming Serfs
« Reply #13 on: August 27, 2018, 01:06:38 AM »
https://www.truthdig.com/articles/becoming-serfs/

Aug 26, 2018
TD originals
Becoming Serfs
Chris Hedges


A 2016 demonstration in Manhattan's Zuccotti Park, where the Occupy Wall Street movement started five years earlier. (Corinne Segal / pbs.org)

You know the statistics. Income inequality in the United States has not been this pronounced in over a century. The top 10 percent has 50 percent of the country’s income, and the upper 1 percent has 20 percent of the country’s income. A quarter of American workers struggle on wages of less than $10 an hour, putting them below the poverty line, while the income of the average CEO of a major corporation is more than 300 times the pay of his or her average worker, a massive increase given that in the 1950s the average CEO made 20 times what his or her worker made. This income inequality is global. The richest 1 percent of the world’s population controls 40 percent of the world’s wealth. And it is getting worse.

What will the consequences of this inequality be economically and politically? How much worse will it get with the imposition of austerity programs and a new tax code that slashes rates for corporations, allowing companies to hoard money or buy back their own stock rather than invest in the economy? How will we endure as health care insurance premiums steadily rise and social and public welfare programs such as Medicaid, Pell Grants and food stamps are cut? And under the tax code revision signed by President Trump in December, rates will increase over the long term for the working class. Over the next decade, the revision will cost the nation roughly $1.5 trillion. Where will this end?

We live in a new feudalism. We have been stripped of political power. Workers are trapped in menial jobs, forced into crippling debt and paid stagnant or declining wages. Chronic poverty and exploitative working conditions in many parts of the world, and increasingly in the United States, replicate the hell endured by industrial workers at the end of the 19th century. The complete capture of ruling institutions by corporations and their oligarchic elites, including the two dominant political parties, the courts and the press, means there is no mechanism left by which we can reform the system or protect ourselves from mounting abuse. We will revolt or become 21st-century serfs, forced to live in misery and brutally oppressed by militarized police and the most sophisticated security and surveillance system in human history while the ruling oligarchs continue to wallow in unimagined wealth and opulence.

“The new tax code is explosive excess,” the economist Richard Wolff said when we spoke in New York. “We’ve had 30 or 40 years where corporations paid less taxes than they ever did. They made more money than they ever did. They have been able to keep wages stagnant while the productivity of labor rose. This is the last moment historically they need another big gift, let alone at the expense of the very people whose wages have been stagnant. To give them a tax bust of this sort, basically reducing from 35 percent to 20 percent, is a 40 percent cut. This kind of crazy excess reminds you of the [kings] of France before the French Revolution when the level of excess reached an explosive social dimension. That’s where we are.”

When capitalism collapsed in the 1930s, the response of the working class was to form unions, strike and protest. The workers pitted power against power. They forced the oligarchs to respond with the New Deal, which created 12 million government-funded jobs, Social Security, the minimum wage and unemployment compensation. The country’s infrastructure was modernized and maintained. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) alone employed 300,000 workers to form and maintain national parks.

“The message of the organized working class was unequivocal,” Wolff said. “Either you help us through this Depression or there will be a revolution.”

The New Deal programs were paid for by taxing the rich. Even in the 1950s, during the Eisenhower presidency, the top marginal rate was 91 percent.

The rich, enraged, mounted a war to undo these programs and restore the social inequality that makes them wealthy at our expense. We have come full circle. Dissidents, radicals and critics of capitalism are once again branded as agents of foreign powers and purged from universities and the airwaves. The labor movement has been dismantled, including through so-called right-to-work laws that prohibit agreements between unions and employers. The last remaining regulations to thwart corporate pillage and pollution are removed. Although government is the only mechanism we have to protect ourselves from predatory oligarchs and corporations, the rich tell us that government is the problem, not the solution. Austerity and a bloated and out-of-control military budget, along with the privatization of public services and institutions such as utilities and public education, we are assured, are the way to economic growth. And presiding over this assault and unchecked kleptocracy are the con artist in chief and his billionaire friends from the fossil fuel and war industries and elsewhere on Wall Street.

The elites cook statistics to lie about a recovery from the 2008 global financial crash. To gather unemployment statistics, for example, government agents ask people two questions: Are you working? If they answer “yes” they are counted as employed even if they have a temporary job in which they work only an hour a week. If they say “no” they are asked if they have been looking for work. If they have not looked for work in the last four weeks they are magically erased from the unemployment rolls. And then there is the long list of those not counted as unemployed, such as prisoners, the retired, stay-at-home spouses and high school and college students who want jobs. Alternative facts did not begin with Donald Trump.

“You don’t have to be a statistical genius to understand that over the last 10 years, a significant number of people gave up looking because it’s too disgusting,” Wolff said. “The jobs they were offered were inferior to what they had before or so insecure that it made their family life impossible. They went back to school, went into the illegal economy or began to live off their friends, relatives and neighbors.”

“The quality of the jobs, the security, the benefits and the impact on physical and mental health have been cascading downward as the wages remain stagnant,” he went on. “We’re not in a recovery. We’re in an ongoing decline, which, by the way, is why Mr. Trump got elected. This is happening to capitalism in Western Europe, Japan and the United States. This is why an angry working class is looking for ways to express and change its circumstances.”

“Society has a responsibility to itself,” Wolff said. “If the private sector can’t or won’t manage that, then the public sector has to step in. It’s what [Franklin] Roosevelt said when he came on the radio: ‘If there are millions of Americans who ask for nothing other than a job, and the private sector can’t provide it, then it’s up to me. Who else is going to do it?’ If we cut back on welfare we are making people depend on the private sector. What happens to people thrown on a private capital sector that cannot and will not function in a socially acceptable way?”

“Instead of creating a middle class, it polarizes everything,” he said of the inequality. “It allows the top executives to go completely crazy with their pay packages. They are paid beyond what’s reasonable, beyond what their fellow capitalists receive in other parts of the world. There is a collapse of the ability to buy things. A company that saves all this money through a tax cut from Mr. Trump is not going to spend its money hiring people, buying machines, producing more. They’re having trouble selling what they already produce. They’re impoverishing the very people they sell to. What do they do with the money? They take it and pay themselves. They give themselves higher pay packages. They buy back their own stock, which they’re legally allowed to do. It pushes the price of the stock up. Their [personal] compensation is connected to how well the price of the stock does. No jobs are created. No growth is created. The price of stock is going up even though the viability of the enterprise—because of the [company’s] collapsing market—is shrinking.”

“Capitalism is hollowing itself out,” he said. “The capitalists refuse to face this because they are making money, for a while. That’s the same logic as the monarchs before the French Revolution building the fantastic Versailles without understanding they were digging their own graves in those lovely gardens.”

The elites divert attention from their pillage by blaming foreign countries such as China or undocumented workers for the economic demise of the working class.

“It’s a classic ploy of crooked politicians stuck with a problem of their own making, blaming somebody else,” Wolff said. “We take the poor 10 or 11 million immigrants in this country with questionable legal status and we demonize them. We scapegoat them. They couldn’t possibly account for the difficulties in this economy. Throwing them out does not fundamentally change the dynamics of the economy. It’s childishly easy to show this. But it’s good theater. ‘I am smiting the foreigner.’ ”

“Tariffs are another way to smite the foreigner,” Wolff went on. “The tariff is a punishment of others. These days, the bugaboo is China. They are the bad ones. They are doing this. I’d like to remind people two or three things about these tariffs. One: Historically, they don’t work very well. It’s very easy to evade. For example, we put a tariff on steel from China. What do the Chinese do? They cut a deal with the Canadians or the Mexicans or the Koreans or the Europeans. Sell it to them, who resell it here. It’s on the same ship coming here. It just has a different flag at the back. This is childish. It’s well known.”

“Number two: It’s political theater,” he said. “It doesn’t change very much. For example, a good half of the goods that come from China come from subsidiaries of American corporations that went to China over the last 30 years to produce for the American market. You are smiting them by closing off their market. They’re going to be angry. They’re going to lose their investments. They’re going to take corrective action. All of this is negative for the American economy. It’s bizarre.”

“Finally, the Chinese, their politicians being not that different from ours, will have to posture in return and retaliate,” he said. “They’re already targeting our farm products. It is chaos. The United States, when we were a young country, was accused by the British and the Europeans of stealing their technology and intellectual property. Never before has it been easier to communicate intellectual property than it is today. The Chinese have been doing their share of this as an up-and-coming economy. It’s not new. It’s not frightening. It’s a part of how capitalism works. To suddenly get people outraged as if something special is going on, that’s just dishonest.”

There is no discussion in the corporate-controlled media of the effects of our out-of-control corporate capitalism. Workers struggling under massive debts, unable to pay for ever-rising health care and other basic costs, trapped in low-wage jobs that make life one long emergency, are rendered invisible by a media that entertains us with court gossip from porn actresses and reality television stars and focuses on celebrity culture. We ignore reality at our peril.

“We’ve given a free pass to a capitalist system because we’ve been afraid to debate it,” Wolff said. “When you give a free pass to any institution, you create the conditions for it to rot right behind the facade. That’s what is happening.
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Offline K-Dog

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Re: The “Gig Economy”
« Reply #14 on: August 27, 2018, 01:32:53 AM »
Quote
"What happens to people thrown on a private capital sector that cannot and will not function in a socially acceptable way?”

Regulation fixes capitalism so that the dream of socialism is realized in a system that allows for individual accomplishment and gain.  The idea that everybody is supposed to be the same under socialism is advanced only by its enemies.  The real goal is to give a fair deal to all in a fair and just society.  Not to hammer high achievers to a common level but to create a garden where all flowers can grow and blossom.
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In yer dreams!
Under ideal conditions of temperature and pressure the organism will grow without limit.

 

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