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July/August 2022 Issue

Our July/August 2022 issue is at the printers and e-subscribers have been sent their digital copies. (Not a subscriber? You can subscribe now here!)

Here is the p. 2 editors’ note for the issue:

Inflation Blame Game

In this issue’s cover story, John Miller tackles the multiple factors that have pushed the inflation rate up to its highest since the early 1980s. Mainstream economists and media commentators take the easy route and blame today’s inflation on “the usual scapegoats”—greedy workers and profligate government spending. Such explanations tee up what Miller calls “class-war macroeconomic policy strategy”—interest rate hikes that drive the economy into recession—that is “intended to repress wages and assure robust profits.” But since this approach is blaming the wrong culprits, it is unlikely to tamp down on inflation. Miller advocates instead a strategy that addresses the real causes of inflation, especially the supply-side pressures and the ability of corporations to use their market power to set prices.

Miller’s policy proposals to address inflation would simultaneously (and not coincidentally) reduce inequality by reining in profits and pushing up real (inflation-adjusted) wages. In her article drawing on Oxfam’s latest report on global inequality, Jayati Ghosh examines the connections between inflation on a global scale and corporate profiteering. The great wealth accumulated by global corporations and by uber-wealthy families, e.g., the families that own Cargill and Walmart, comes with accumulated power to influence governments, which then implement policies that favor those same corporations and families, which suck up more wealth and resources. Ghosh explains that while “billionaires’ wealth has increased by 42%” over the past two years, “at least 240 million more people are likely to fall into extreme poverty and face dire hunger because of the economic trends of the past two years.”

The focus of Alejandro Reuss’s feature article is the broader impact of the ongoing Covid-19 crisis on the U.S. working class. Beyond bearing the brunt (and the blame) for inflation, U.S. workers have faced a complicated set of outcomes from the pandemic. Reuss sorts through these twists and turns and shows how capitalist firms have reacted “in ways that protected or increased their profits,” initially by laying off workers, using market power to boost prices, and relying on the government to take action to stabilize the system. The negative impacts of the pandemic have been distributed unequally, with burdens falling most heavily on low-income workers, people of color, and women. The tight labor market has allowed for some pushback by workers, both at the individual level (via the “Great Resignation” and negotiating better wages and conditions with employers) and collectively (via increased union organizing and strike activity). More concerted collective action will be needed to bring about fundamental change and shift the balance of class power.

Part Two of Bill Barclay’s two-part series on California’s intensive agriculture system focuses on the state’s water wars. It is a case study of how concentrated wealth and political power distort a system, with a small number of wealthy growers, including prominently the Resnick family of the Wonderful Company, sucking up the water required to run their agricultural empires. To get an appreciation of the damaging and irreversible effects of how these companies and families have wielded their power, take a look at the pair of photos on p.26, among the most dramatic we’ve published in Dollars & Sense.

Rounding out the issue, Arthur MacEwan’s “Dr. Dollar” column proposes that Barry Commoner’s ecological principle that “Everything is connected to everything else” also be adopted as a first principle of economics. Growing inequality leads to markets for luxury goods like Rolex watches, mansions, and yachts, but the labor and resources producing them are then not available for other kinds of production that might benefit people who aren’t so wealthy. The ecological crisis of climate change is another example of how everything is connected to everything else, where millions of individual transactions have effects on the climate. In this case, too, we see how inequality, concentrated market power, and the capture of government by industry have had distorting and destructive effects. Again, only widespread political organizing and mobilization will counteract the power at the top.

Also in this issue: Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram on how the United States manipulates “free trade” agreements to contain China, feedback on our cover story on group homes, and more!

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