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Rank-and-File Economics | 9/11 | Ponzi | Floods

Widespread Panic, behind the Dollars & Sense office
Widespread Panic, behind the Dollars & Sense office

(1) Rank-and-File Economics:  I have just posted the cover story from our Sept/Oct 2011 Annual Labor Issue, Rank-and-File Economics: Fighting for a Wage- and Job-Led Recovery, by Katherine Sciacchitano.  This is a great article–I hope it gets wide circulation.  (I’m working on that now–submitting it to the news aggregators; you can help by linking to it, posting it to Reddit, Stumbleupon, etc. etc.) It is part analysis of the current situation (“recovery” in the wake of recession/depression in the wake of financial crisis) from Katherine’s usual historical and global perspective; part talking points for rank-and-file union activists who are facing a heightened attack on unions and on the working class generally.  Read and circulate and post and repost and print and distribute, please.

(2) Responding to PonziPerry: Best thing I’ve seen yet in response to Rick Perry’s characterization of Social Security as a Ponzi Scheme is this blog post by James Kwan at Baseline Scenario, Ponzi Schemes for Beginners.

(3) 9/11: I was waiting to find just the right commentary on 9/11 to pass along, when D&S collective member Alejandro Reuss reminded me of two pieces that we published in D&S:  One was a discussion on 9/11 by members of the D&S collective in our November/December 2001 issue;  and the other was this feature article about 9/11 and the airline industry by Rodney Ward, then a laid-off flight attendant (later our business manager, now a schoolteacher).  As Alejandro pointed out, both are prescient.  I welcome suggestions of good 10-year retrospectives from left perspectives.

(4) EPA as “Job-Killer” Revisited: D&S pal and economist Liz Stanton has a great post up at the Triple Crisis blog–Jobs, and Clean Air Too, that addresses the point about the false choice between job and environmental regulation that we’ve raised before, here; it’s under item 2, The EPA as Job-Killer. In that post we complained that the New York Times was reporting that GOP presidential candidates are making hay about the claim that environmental regulations are job-killers, but the Times failed to assess for its readers whether there’s any empirical evidence for that claim.  Well, more recently the Times did run an article providing economists’ views on such claims, but in the print edition (and in the top of your browser in the web edition) the headline still pushed the idea that we must choose between jobs and regulation:  A Debate Arises on Job-Creation vs. Environmental Regulation, which doesn’t sound like an article about whether these are in tension in the first place; it seems to assume they are mutually exclusive and what is up for debate is which we should choose.  Liz Stanton’s blog post explains why that’s not the case, as does our article by Heidi Garrett-Peltier.

(5) Floods: A while ago (in this post, item 3) I cast aspersions about meteorologists as climate-change deniers or obfuscators.  I would like to revise that assessment, at least partially, on the basis of a hair-raising report from a weather guy at Weather Underground.  (I’d always been a little annoyed at that weather site’s name, but I am told that the site is actually critically minded and takes climate change seriously, and its coverage is actually political in a good way.)

Anyhow, in Binghamton, NY (near my hometown of Syracuse and near Ithaca where I lived for years), they recently had rainfall that exceeded the daily record by *60%*; the Susquehanna River flooded disastrously.  The economic angle is reported at the bottom of Jeff Masters’ post at Wunderground:  the streamgage to gather data about the Susquehanna, in operation since 1847, is slated to be shut off on Oct. 1 because of budget cuts:

The extreme rains are due the the remains of Tropical Storm Lee interacting with a stationary front draped along the Eastern U.S. Adding to the potent moisture mix last night was a stream of tropical moisture associated with Hurricane Katia that collided with the stationary front. You don’t often see a major city break its all-time 24-hour precipitation record by a 60% margin, according to wunderground’s weather historian, Christopher C. Burt, and he can’t recall ever seeing it happen before. It’s worth noting that the Susquehanna River Binghamton stream gage, which has been in operation since 1847, is due to be shut off in 3 weeks due to budget cuts. Here’s the note at the USGS web site:

NOTICE (03/23/2011)–Data collection at this streamgage may be discontinued after October 1, 2011 due to funding reductions from partner agencies. Although historic data will remain accessible, no new data will be collected unless one or more new funding partners are found. Users who are willing to contribute funding to continue operation of this streamgage should contact Rob Breault or Ward Freeman of the USGS New York Water Science Center at 518-285-5658 or dc_ny@usgs.gov.

A blogger at Only In It for the Gold, where I found out about Scott Masters’ remarks, had this to say:

Have we been underestimating the extent to which climate change will drive extreme events?

How should we be thinking about such bizarre occurrences?
And how the hell is it possible that we cannot afford something we were able to achieve in 1847, after 164 years of sustained 3% growth compounded annually? Can someone explain that to me?
(6) FEMA and Tea Party: One last thing:  I had to chuckle when I read about how Tea Party politicians in areas hit by this summer’s storms, e.g. Irene and upstate NY, didn’t like Eric Cantor’s suggestion that disaster relief money would have to be offset elsewhere in the budget (according to this piece in the Times).  One of the Tea Partiers in question is Ann Marie Buerkle, member of congress from my parents’ district in Syracuse (or at any rate from one of the districts near there), and the article was from after Irene but before Lee, Katia, and whatever other storms inundated Binghamton.
It’s funny to see cracks in their anti-government sentiment.  The difference between relief for this kind of “natural” disaster (can we even use that term anymore in the age of climate change?) and the kind of economic relief for the unemployed and the foreclosed-upon that stimulus spending would provide is supposed to be…what?  I guess the main difference would be that the financial crisis and recession are just more directly and obviously the fault of the ruling class politicians and rich people. So even less of an argument to balance the budget on the backs of the victims of these disasters.
That’s it for now.  I will try to do shorter and more frequent posts.
–Chris Sturr


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