New Issue!



New Issue!  Our Jan/Feb 2015 issue is (finally) out–or at least it is ready to be sent to the printers tomorrow. (E-subscribers will get their pdf by email tomorrow also.)  We posted John Miller’s “Up Against the Wall Street Journal” column today: Another Gift for Corporations–Lower Tax Rates, timely because of Obama’s discussion of tax reform in the State of the Union (more on the SOTU when I get a chance to post some links that have been accumulating on my desk).  There is lots else to enjoy in this issue.  Here is our p. 2 editors’ note:

Why Must It Be So? 

Almost by definition, those who are battling the wealthy and powerful are normally going to be on the defensive. Being the wealthy and powerful is like holding the high ground in a battle. It makes it easier to repel any challenges. And it means that you must have won battles in the past, or you wouldn’t still have the high ground.

Seeking to understand and explain why society is how it is—what we try to do at Dollars & Sense—means confronting, over and over, why the other side is winning, how they occupy the high ground. But it’s a task that can give rise not only to despair, but also to hope: Ask “why is the world how it is?” and you’re liable to end up asking “well, why isn’t it different?”
In this issue, Deborah M. Figart and Thomas Barr look at the growing world of check-cashing outlets (CCOs). With a mostly low-income clientele not well-served by regular banks, check-cashing is an industry rife with the possibility of predatory practices and extortionate fees. So why isn’t that always the case? Figart explains that the story varies a great deal from one state to another, and that the difference is effective (and effectively enforced) regulation.

Gertrude Schaffner Goldberg takes a look back at the mass upsurge of the Great Depression era—the labor struggles that created large industrial unions and the lesser-known movements of the unemployed—and why we haven’t seen anything on a comparable scale during our Great Recession. She argues that the underlying conditions of the present era, while not as severe as the 1930s, were enough to create a much larger upsurge than actually happened. The missing ingredients have been even modestly supportive government policies and cohesive, ideologically committed groups of organizers.

Robin Broad shows us an example to emulate—the 1964 “Tokyo No,” in which 19 lower-income countries opposed a World Bank proposal to create a tribunal where investors could sue governments, sidestepping national courts. While the tribunal system still went through, this is no mere nostalgia for past defiance. The issue of “investor-stage dispute settlement” is ever more pressing, as such institutions have grown in power, and is provoking renewed defiance today.

Economist Jayati Ghosh points to the obstacles standing in the way of economic development and labor solidarity, and yet offers an optimistic and ambitious vision of the world that could be: where “your life chances are not fundamentally different because of accidents of birth. So if you are born as a girl of a minority ethnic group in a rural area of a poor region, you would still have access to minimum conditions of life and opportunities for developing your capabilities that are not too different from a boy born in a well-off household of a dominant social group in an affluent society.”

So, how do we get there from here? We do not have mass movements in the United States today at the scale of the 1930s. To give but one example, in 1934 and again in 1937, the percentage of all employed workers involved in a work stoppage was over 7%, a figure exceeded for only three years in the next half century. There are, however, nascent movements impacting U.S. political life in important ways. The Occupy Movement sounded a battle cry over the growing abyss of income and wealth inequality—giving us a new lexicon of the “1%” and the “99%.” Movements like Our Walmart and the Fight for 15 are showing that workers in low-wage industries like fast food and retail will not take low pay and abusive working conditions lying down. The Black Lives Matter movement is fighting back against the racist and repressive face of the state. (We should note, too, hopeful developments on the world scene: Leftist parties like SYRIZA in Greece and Podemos (We Can) in Spain, for example, are on the rise, offering alternatives not only to business neoliberalism and right-wing populism, but also to center-left parties that have done the dirty work of austerity.)
The movements of today are, perhaps, less akin to those of the Depression era than to those that persisted between the Red Scare and the Great Crash—that, even under assault by employers and the state, laid the groundwork for mass risings of the next decade. The challenge, now, is to build these movements, as Goldberg describes, into mass movements of millions, and to imbue them, as Ghosh proposes, with the vision of a new society that only they can make.

Links on SOTU, Black Lives Matter, the economics profession, the Van Hollen plan, and other stuff soon!

–Chris Sturr


Friday Links: Gaza, Ferguson, Argentina, and unemployment

(1) Max Blumenthal, interviewed on Jung & Naiv.  An excellent interview with Max Blumenthal, contextualizing the assault on Gaza in the rise of right wing and genocidal rhetoric in Israel.  (Hat-tip to Marjo van der Veen.) A wide-ranging interview, well worth watching the whole thing, but one point he makes (in response to a question from the interviewer, who is German, about anti-semitic rallies in Berlin) that is especially good:  “Zionism is using Jews as human shields; they’re speaking in the name of all Jews, and claiming that this war they are carrying out is being conducted in the name of all Jews.” He also talks about the overlap between Zionism and anti-semitism, e.g., when Israel points to anti-semitism in France or Germany and encourages French or German Jews to move to Israel (as if to agree with the anti-semites that Jews don’t belong in France or Germany). (I posted a great Real News Network interview with Blumenthal on Facebook and Twitter, but not here; it’s also worth watching. See also Jason Stanley’s Boston Review piece, When Protesting Israel Becomes Hating Jews, which I mentioned in my last links post.)

(2) Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Dave Zirin on Ferguson:  Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has a really powerful piece in Time magazine, The Coming Race War Won’t Be About Race, relating the protests in Ferguson to inequality and class warfare.  Dave Zirin has an interesting response in The Nation, The Major Problem With Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s Powerful Essay on Ferguson, which essentially praises Abdul-Jabbar’s piece but takes him to task for prioritizing class over race. I stopped reading the comment section on Zirin’s piece–even at The Nation‘s website, comments can be so toxic. But I can’t help feeling that Zirin misinterprets Abdul-Jabbar.  Anyway, both are worth reading.  Also check out this Real News Network interview with Kevin Alexander Gray, a lawyer who is working with organizers of the Ferguson protests. 

(3) Jayati Ghosh and Greg Palast on vulture funds and Argentina:  D&S author and pal, investigative journalist Greg Palast, spoke with the Real News Network about Paul “the Vulture” Singer, whom a U.S. judge said Argentina must pay $3 billion for bonds Singer paid $30 million for. And here’s economist Jayati Ghosh, one of the founders of and bloggers for our sister blog Triple Crisis, talking about the ramifications for the global financial system of the judgment and the Argentine default that would result if Argentina did pay Singer and the other hedge funds that have refused debt restructuring: The Outrageous US Court Judgement Causing Argentinian Default, from NewsClick.

(4) Heidi Shierholz, Bill Barclay, and Ron Baiman on the job market: The summer drought of new material on Doug Henwood’s excellent radio show, Behind the News, is finally over; he posted a couple of new episodes recently.  My commute to and from New Hampshire will be informative again for a while, vs. melting my brain with NPR, as I’ve been doing. The July 10 episode includes a segment with the Economic Policy Institute’s Heidi Shierholz, talking about the flaccid job market. Doug’s interviews with Heidi are just so great. (The second half of that episode features an interview with Sean Jacobs on the political economy of soccer. The “Active Culture” article in our current issue has a piece by our awesome intern Zion Griffin about “The People’s Cup” activism in Brazil around the World Cup, which Jacobs discusses in the interview.)  And here is what Bill Barclay and Ron Baiman wrote for CPEG about the July jobs report; and here is a statement Bill gave to the D.C. Jobs Summit in July.

That’s it for this week.

–Chris Sturr