Nov/Dec Editorial Note, Adidas and Sweatshops, Co-opoly, etc.

(1) Nov/Dec Issue:We’re still trying to get back on schedule with the magazine;  we didn’t make much progress toward that goal with the Nov/Dec issue, but I think we’ll catch up some with the Jan/Feb issue.  Anyhow, the Nov/Dec issue has been sent to e-subscribers, and it will ship out shortly to print subscribers.  It’s a great issue, I think.  Here’s the editorial note from p. 2; more than usual we were able to show how several of the articles are related to each other, and to what’s in the news (the “fiscal cliff,” the Grand Bargain/Betrayal, etc.):

The Grand Betrayal
The combination of tax increases and spending cuts that Congress set up to detonate in January 2013, as a result of the debt-ceiling debacle of summer 2011, surely would endanger our current weak recovery. That doesn’t mean that the fiscal cliff is a real crisis.  As Heidi Garrett-Peltier argued in our September/October issue (“Don’t Drive Off the Fiscal Cliff!”), Congress could easily achieve long-term budget balance with a combination of tax increases on the rich and cuts to military spending. Instead, the fiscal cliff that Congress set up was a pretext, by members of both parties, to create pressure for a “Grand Bargain.” Obama and congressional Democrats would make concessions on “entitlements” in exchange for concessions on taxes from the Republicans.
This kind of bargain would be no bargain at all for most people. Rather, it would be another step in the “structural adjustment” of the U.S. economy. As “Ask Dr. Dollar” columnist Arthur MacEwan argues, we do not tend to use this term, in the United States, to refer to changes in domestic economic policy to benefit corporations and high-income individuals. The overall thrust of economic policy in recent decades, however, has been the same here as in countries where the International Monetary Fund and World Bank pushed “structural adjustment” as a condition for loans: to “shift the government towards supporting business and the well-being of the elites at the expense of lower-income groups.”
In this issue’s “Up Against the Wall Street Journal,” Dollars & Sense co-editor Alejandro Reuss dismantles one argument for cutting programs like Social Security and Medicare:  New York Times columnist David Brooks’ claim that the “entitlement state” has ballooned out of control since the early 1960s, and threatens to “bankrupt the country.” As Reuss shows, Brooks wildly overstates the numbers, and fails to account for the actual benefits people, and society as a whole, derive from “entitlement” spending.
Economist Jayati Ghosh tackles the parallel issue of fiscal austerity in Europe. She reviews how badly austerity has turned out in the EU—inflicting incalculable suffering while only exacerbating the fiscal problems of highly indebted countries like Greece. Only a reversal of the austerity policies pushed by higher-income “surplus” countries like Germany, she argues, can stave off a double-dip recession in Europe. A new downturn, Ghosh warns, would likely engulf not only the whole of Europe, but also the United States and other economies around the world.
Marty Wolfson, in this issue’s “Comment,” explains how conservative politicians have used free-market rhetoric to justify attacks on the safety net, labor unions, and other protections for ordinary people. They have portrayed the “success” of the very rich as the just deserts of talent and hard work. So income redistribution, they say, amounts to unfairly re-jiggering the verdict of the “free market.” Even many liberals, Wolfson points out, buy into the narrative that conservatives are just defending free-market outcomes. In reality, however, conservative economic policies have sought to rig outcomes in favor of corporations and the rich—reducing the size of government when convenient and demanding government interventions of various kinds when necessary.
Finally, in our cover story, independent journalist Darwin BondGraham unveils the latest face of privatization: “public-private partnerships” in infrastructure projects. Conservative politicians, think tanks, and (of course) the companies that stand to profit are pushing “P3” as a solution to states’ fiscal troubles. Instead of paying for new infrastructure up front, they argue, the states can bring in private consortia and pay over time through tolls or future taxes. In fact, P3 allows construction corporations, private equity firms, and investment banks to feed at the public trough, saddling the public with added costs and risk. In other words, it is yet another ugly side of structural adjustment.
The story, however, is not all gloom and doom. As Arthur MacEwan points out, the elites’ push for structural adjustment worldwide has been met by “many popular responses and some popular victories”—so there are plenty of good examples to emulate.

A couple of articles from the issue are posted online:  Alejandro Reuss’s The Big Lie About the “Entitlement State”, a satisfying take-down of David Brooks, and Arthur MacEwan’s Structural Adjustment, Here and There. To read the whole issue, subscribe or order a back issue here.

(2) Adidas and Sweatshops:  The most recent article I’ve posted is Sarah Blaskey and Phil Gasper’s Campus Struggles Against Sweatshops Continue, an updated version of their article from our Sept/Oct annual labor issue. Read about what a scoundrel Barry Alvarez, the University of Wisconsin athletic director, is.  He gripes about how much money the university will lose if they drop Adidas’ sponsorship, while Adidas is refusing to pay back wages to sweatshop workers in Indonesia.  At the top of the page there’s a moving photo of some of those workers; we used the same photo on the cover of the new edition of our book Current Economic Issues.

(3) Co-opoly!  Looking for holiday gift ideas?  How about  Co-opoly: The Game of Cooperatives, from Our friends at Toolbox for Education and Social Action (TESA)? Here’s the scoop:

Co-opoly: The Game of Cooperatives, players collaborate to found and run a democratic business. In order to survive as individuals and to strive for the success of their co-op, players make tough choices regarding big and small challenges while putting their teamwork abilities to the test.

This is an exciting game of skill and solidarity, where everyone wins – or everybody loses. Will the Point Bank continue to dominate the players’ lives, or will they break free and take control by jump-starting the movement for a truly democratic and cooperative economy in their community?

By playing Co-opoly, players discover the unique benefits, challenges, and operations of the cooperative world – as well as the skills needed to participate in a co-op!

Co-opoly is the world’s first and only board game that is sustainably and ethically produced in the spirit of Fair Trade.

Co-opoly is for teens and adults. Read more about how Co-opoly is played.

For a few more days (until 12/16) you can get their special holiday deal, so order now!

(4) Our holiday fundraiser:  Another holiday gift idea:  give $50 or more to D&S, receive one of three great gifts.  Details here.

(5) Post-election analysis:  I had a while bunch of links I wanted to pass on in a blog post, but in our frenzy to get the Nov/Dec issue out, I lost some of them, and some of them got stale.  One that is still worth passing on is post-election analysis from Bill Fletcher, Jr. and Carl Davidson: How the Left Can Become a True Political Force to Be Reckoned With.  I was ambivalent about their arguments for supporting Obama, but I thought this piece was valuable. I’d also wanted to post a couple of articles about the whole Hostess bankruptcy and why it was ridiculous to blame the striking workers. Here’s a more recent article about management’s shenanigans leading up to the bankruptcy: Hostess Took Workers’ Pension Money to Fund Itself.

–Chris Sturr

And on Wednesdays we wear pink

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