The American public is hurting. The bare necessities—clean water, nutritious food, and affordable housing—are hard to come by. Tap water is contaminated with lead, PFAS, and other pollutants. The water systems that serve cities and towns suffer additional stressors, including drought, overuse, and a failure to incorporate greywater systems. And, like many necessities, you have to pay for it in the United States: Water utility prices continue to go up and up. Hunger is a severe problem. Insufficient money and/or access means that millions of families regularly go hungry. Massive corporations dominate what is available in a grocery store, and much of what they produce is innutritious.
Change is coming to the World Bank. While not expected to be formalized until October, it looks like the two big shifts will involve climate change and a bigger emphasis on middle income countries. It’s difficult to predict exactly how the new mission will play out, but one thing is clear: the efforts are being driven by the desire to counter/thwart Beijing’s expanding global influence. Both Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan devoted chunks of their big China speeches in April to the subject. And it looks like the reforms will go hand in hand with pushing the debunked narrative that Chinese lending is a debt trap while also trying to relegate China to the backseat in the growing number of distressed countries.
In England on May Day tens of thousands of nurses went on strike and walked out from their work at the NHS. In London alone there were over a dozen picket lines as anger, despair and the struggle for a better wage were shouted out on the streets. The government offered the nurses a 5% pay increase which some union members accepted. However, with the inflation continuing to rise in the UK this offer was turned down by many union members too. Nurses, who are highly skilled workers are burnt out and some are leaving the job for better wages. The striking nurses say the situation has gotten so bad within the NHS, that they are not only striking for better pay but for the safety of their patients.
Sudan is experiencing its fourth week of conflict between two military factions, which has caused the death of over 700 people. Sudanese civilians have fled the capital and the country altogether while the fighting continues with no end in sight. Commentators have so far focused on the military factions and ethnic conflicts. A reductive explanation has been given for the food crisis in Sudan, such as economic crisis, climate change, and the Ukraine war. The significance of macroeconomic policies and the institutions that promote them at the root of these crises tend to be overlooked. Toppling over the breadbasket The IMF imposed liberalization in Sudan, particularly in the agricultural sector, to promote exports.
Three years ago this month, the City University of New York (CUNY) pivoted to remote operations during the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic. When the university began to gradually reopen in-person operations after vaccines were widely available, dining services on many campuses — which students rely on for affordable meals — remained closed. At the same time, wages have not kept up with inflation, and budget cuts from the city and the state are gutting many of CUNY’s other services. Not only are affordable campus dining options important, but students and workers are struggling more than ever to afford basic needs.
The slim Republican majority in the House of Representatives has just voted to give itself a streamlined way to fire civil servants and shut down federal programs it doesn’t like – outside the standard process of review and debate. This method, known as the Holman rule, has been used in the past by both parties to cloak political decisions in the language and process of saving taxpayers money. It was included in a package of rules approved as the House began its business in January. As a former acting general counsel of the U.S. House of Representatives and the author of a treatise on congressional procedure, I know that this method has been used in the past to push extreme political agendas through the political process without due consideration for the public interest.
In The Capital Order: How Economists Invented Austerity and Paved the Way to Fascism, Clara E. Mattei brings us back to the dawn of modern austerity politics, just after the First World War. In both liberal Great Britain and fascist Italy, she argues, austerity imposed steep costs in the short term but in the long term proved beneficial to capital. By forcing the working class to rely on the private labor market for survival, austerity ensured the survival of the wage relationship at a moment of anti-capitalist upheaval. In our current moment, as policymakers are once again entertaining monetary tightening as a means to impose necessary hardship and discipline on working people, The Capital Order is a potent reminder of the cruel rationality of austerity: maintaining stable class relations is worth the price of the economic pain austerity causes.
This week world leaders meet in Davos to discuss cooperation to address multiple crises, from COVID-19 and escalating inflation to slowing economic growth, debt distress and climate shocks. Only three months earlier, finance ministers had gathered in Washington DC for the same reason. The mood was grim. The need for ambitious actions could not be greater; however, there were no agreements, evidencing the fragility of multilateralism and international cooperation. Worse, policy makers -advised by the International Monetary Fund- are resorting to old, failed and regressive policies, such as austerity (now called “fiscal restraint” or “fiscal consolidation”), instead of much needed corporate/wealth taxation and debt reduction initiatives, to ensure an equitable recovery for all. A recent global report alerts of the dangers of a post-pandemic wave of austerity, far more premature and severe than the one that followed the global financial crisis a decade ago.
The House Republican majority recently adopted a rules package to guide that chamber’s legislative action that would put up steep barriers to investments in critical national needs while paving the way for ever more tax cuts, inevitably tilted toward the wealthy and profitable corporations. That isn’t an agenda that will expand opportunity or support broadly shared economic growth. Proponents describe the rules as “restoring fiscal sanity,” but they just reflect an ideology that ignores reams of evidence showing that the tax cuts of recent decades haven’t meaningfully boosted economic growth. The large tax cuts have led to higher deficits and debt and lower investments in areas such as education, research, child care, climate, and transportation that would make our nation as a whole stronger. The new House rules can be waived, but this package offers a window into the House majority’s priorities — favoring new tax cuts while hindering new investments.
As Congress delivers nearly a trillion dollars for military spending through the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in fiscal year 2023, one of the country’s most vulnerable sectors is in the midst of financial turmoil, with lingering effects across the country’s workforce. Within the American Rescue Plan, a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package passed in March 2021, a mere $39 billion was allocated towards child care relief funding, an amount proven to not be enough with funds already drying up. The shortage of money sets up a house-of-cards style effect on child care and the workforce as a whole. With the onset of the funds, “teachers at the [child care] center have gotten a more than 40% pay bump over the past two years, from $14 an hour before the pandemic to $20 an hour now,” reports Bloomberg.
It has now been two months since tens of thousands of Sri Lankans stormed the presidential palace and toppled the country’s president in a powerful rejection of price hikes on food and fuel. As shocking and inspiring as the news was, many economists and geopolitical experts were quick to point out that Sri Lanka would not be the last country to experience a mass-uprising. Around the world, the policies of the neoliberal era are straining economies as the neoliberal system is pitched into crisis after crisis. In the last several years, these crises have been fueled by supply chain disruptions from the pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and rapidly worsening climate change.
By the end of the 1970s,U.S. capitalism entered its neoliberal phase where austerity and privatization reigned supreme. Federal agencies such as the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) were reduced to near non-existence. Welfare was eradicated all together in 1996 and tens of thousands of public housing units were demolished or privatized under the Bill Clinton administration. CAP agencies either shut their doors permanently or offered only the services that were supported by a mixture of private philanthropy and meagre government subsidy. It was out of this environment that Tri-CAP formed to address the growing problem of extreme poverty, addiction, and homelessness in the cities of Everett, Malden, and Medford. By the time I arrived as a caseworker in the fall of 2013, Tri-CAP had already experienced years of shrinking state and federal funds
A Spanish lawmaker has condemned the NATO summit that was held in Madrid this June, denouncing the US-led military alliance for advocating for more war and pushing to enrich the weapons industry while Europeans suffer from inflation and an energy crisis. On the floor of Spain’s parliament, leftist Deputy Gerardo Pisarello argued that “the NATO summit was not organized to strengthen the cause of peace,” but rather “was organized basically to reinforce the geostrategic priorities of the United States… above all to weaken China.”
Around 70,000 Belgian workers marched through Brussels on Monday demanding government action to tackle sharply rising living costs, as one-day strikes at Brussels Airport and on local transport networks nationwide brought public travel to a near-halt. Protesters carried flags and banners reading "More respect, higher wages" and "End excise duty", while some set off flares. Some demanded the government do more, others said employers needed to improve pay and working conditions. Unions said about 80,000 were present. Police put the figure at 70,000. Brussels Airport said it could not allow passenger flights to depart because the industrial action extended to security personnel, and most arrivals were also cancelled.
The protest held on the eve of ahead of this week’s national rail strikes by 50,000 rail workers on June 21, 23 and 25. Seeking to maintain control of an emerging strike wave, the union bureaucracy pulled out all the stops. Even so, while the demo was somewhat larger than the annual TUC protests in recent years, it was much smaller than that held in 2011 of around 200,000, called after the Conservative government came to power and first launched a savage austerity offensive. Organized amid a powerful sentiment among workers for taking on the Johnson government and the employers, the turnout testifies to the decline in the authority of the trade unions after decades of betrayals—that a necessary turn to more militant rhetoric cannot conceal.