Dilemmas Of The Radical Left In A Dying Capitalist System

Protesters march at the G20 Summit in London, 2009.

By Immanuel Wallerstein for Toward Freedom – In what I call the pan-European world (North America; western, northern, and southern Europe; and Australasia), the basic electoral choice for the last century or so has been between two centrist parties, center-right versus center-left. There have been other parties further left and further right but they were essentially marginal. In the last decade however, these so-called extreme parties have been gaining in strength. Both the radical left and the radical right have emerged as a strong force in a large number of countries. They have needed either to replace the centrist party or to take it over. The first spectacular achievement of the radical left was the ability of the Greek radical left, Syriza, to replace the center-left party, Pasok, which actually disappeared entirely. Syriza came to power in Greece. Commentators talk these days of “pasoksation” to describe this. Syriza came to power but was incapable of carrying out its promised program. For many, Syriza was therefore a great disappointment. The most unhappy faction argued that the error had been to seek electoral power. They said that power had to be achieved in the streets and then it would be meaningful.

How Capitalist Central Banks Have Been Creating The Next Financial Crisis

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By Jack Rasmus for Counter Punch – As central bankers, finance ministers, and government policy makers head off to their annual gathering at Jackson Hole, Wyoming, this August, 24-26, 2017, the key topic is whether the leading central banks in North America and Europe will continue to raise interest rates this year; another topic high on the agenda is when the three major central banks – the Federal Reserve, European Central Bank and Bank of England – might begin to sell off their combined $9.8 trillion dollar balance sheets that they accumulated since the 2008-09 banking crisis. But the more fundamental question – little discussed by central bankers and academics alike – is what are the likely effects of further immediate rate hikes and/or commencement of central banks’ balance sheet reductions? The assumption is further rate hikes and sell-offs will have little negative impact on the real economy or financial markets. But will they? The effects of hikes and sell off will prove the opposite of what they predict. Central banks in the US and Europe were grossly in error predicting in 2008 that massive liquidity injections and zero interest rates would re-stimulate their economies and return them to pre-crisis real GDP growth rates.

Wells Fargo's Lyin' Cheatin' Ways: Banking With A Sociopathic Institution

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By Lainey Hashorva for Occupy – Are you facing serial cheating, abuse, lies, ongoing stress about money, issues of fidelity, questions about your future and are at a loss as to where to turn? Do you often feel angry, taken advantage of, less than, a voiceless victim? Did you put your trust and your nest egg, your faith and your money on someone or something that took you for all you’re worth, jilted your faith in the institution and robbed you blind? Deep down, do you think you may be going steady with a good looking grifter? I hate to tell you this, but you may be banking with a sociopath. That’s right. That harmless tall handsome stone wall that promises you the world, smiles at you shamelessly through bulletproof glass and marble floors, black suits and lollipops, is a sociopathic lover out to take all that you hold dear. All that you’ve put your faith, and money, into. This is not fifty shades of gray. It is now clearly black and white. Do you still bank with Wells Fargo? Can we talk? Maybe you have a thing for bad boys? Fast talking flashy – “Here’s a new credit card, baby,” Scaramucci-style pinky ring?

Raising The Minimum Wage Is Not The End Goal—We Need To Challenge Capital Itself

Protestors march in a rally on Capitol Hill in Washington to push for a raise to the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, on July 22, 2015. (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images)

By Richard D. Wolff for Truth Out – Once more with feeling, the old debate rises into the headlines and the talk show circuit: Should governments — state, federal or local — raise the minimum wage or not? Employers of minimum-wage workers weigh in to say “no.” But that raises a PR problem: It looks bad to advocate keeping workers’ wages so low. So, they make a better-looking claim: that raising minimum wages causes some employers to fire low-paid workers rather than pay them more. Their opposition to raising minimum wages then morphs into an advocacy for low-paid workers to keep their jobs. Workers and their allies mostly take the bait. They weigh in with counterarguments. These mostly respond directly, claiming that raising minimum wages does not lead to significant job losses. Over the decades, professional economists and statisticians (increasingly overlapping sets) have entered the debate. Their entry resolved nothing. Every few years, the debate has flared up again. The economists write articles and books that enrich their resumes. Some score research grants from foundations, business lobbies and labor groups to prepare shiny new versions of the old arguments.

Globalization’s Blowback

(Image: High altitude, air pollution via Shutterstock)

By Alex Jensen for Local Futures – A recent study of air pollution in the western United States made a startling finding: despite a 50 percent drop over the past 25 years in US emissions of smog-producing chemicals like nitrogen oxides (NOx), smog actually increased during that period in the rural US West – even in such ‘pristine’ environments as Yellowstone National Park. Most of this increase was traced to “the influx of pollution from Asian countries, including China, North and South Korea, Japan, India, and other South Asian countries.”[1] That’s because over the same period that NOx emissions declined in the US, they tripled in Asia as a whole.[2] In media reports of the study, China and India are described as the “worst offenders” of this fugitive “Asian pollution”.[3] Left only with these findings, a reasonable conclusion would be that the US has become more environmentally enlightened in recent decades, while Asia – particularly ‘developing’ Asia – is a veritable eco-reprobate, sacrificing not only its own but global airsheds to choking pollution. The new, anti-environmental EPA director, Scott Pruitt, recently expressed this view in explaining why the US should exit the Paris Climate Accord: “[China and India] are polluting far more than we are.”[4]

Is The Post-Capitalism Revolution Already Arriving?

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By Staff of The Free – Take the Cooperativa Integral in Catalonia. . It’s a mixed consumer and producers coop and like many Iberian ventures has its own money, the Ecu. (which is interchangeable with the Euro and other alternative currencies, but not issued or directly controlled by the banks or the State). You can exchange, or gift or buy online, via Faircoop. Tiny tiny, you may say, but this coop is also behind FAIRCOIN, which is a blockchain currency, like Bitcoin but collectively owned and managed without speculation to finance alternative projects and coops., In theory Faircoin could expand exponentially. It could develop into a world Coop currency and money-free credit system quite apart from State and Bank control.. (see #faircoop.. Occupying free economy with Anti-money.. #faircoin and many links below.) The hot organisational topic right now is ‘Democratic Confederalism’, a system elaborated by the heretical anarchist Murray Bookchin. The ideas were adopted by the Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan in his lifelong prison cell, and proposed, taken up and adapted by the revolutionary ‘Kurdish Spring’. The Kurds replaced the old hierarchical stalinist resistance of the PKK movement and renounced the goal of a new Kurdish state..

Why American Politics Can’t Be Reformed

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By Robert Urie for Counterpunch. The dominant political parties in the U.S. have assumed absolute control over electoral processes at a time when the power of concentrated wealth has been solidified. The result is an all or nothing political process where who it is that perpetuates this system of upward distribution is the only open question. For those who forgot, Bill and Hillary Clinton attended Donald Trump’s wedding and they consider each other ‘friends.’ The food-fight over ‘Russian interference’ is political theater for gullible loyalists, I mean an outrageous assault on our sacred democratic institutions. A central challenge for reformers is that ‘the world,’ including the dispossessed plurality within the U.S., doesn’t have another fifty years to work current political dysfunction out. A political system that can only support the upward distribution of social resources at ever-rising social costs will fail more people at an increasing rate. As fact and metaphor, Barack Obama’s program to combat global warming was insufficient on its face and a cynical dodge when combined with his program (TPP) to give corporations the ability to override environmental regulations aimed at resolving it.

Activist Investors Must Disrupt Corporate Business As Usual

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By Clara Herzberg for Truthout – Once known by terms like “asset strippers” or “corporate raiders,” activist investors — shareholders who take large stakes in a company and pressure or replace its management in order to raise share prices — have now entered the mainstream and are spreading like wildfire. Hundreds of companies are being singled out by activist investors, who are hungrily adding European firms to their target list after having nearly saturated the US market. Most recently, financier Nelson Peltz set his eyes on Proctor & Gamble (P&G), disclosing a $3.5 billion stake in the consumer goods behemoth and announcing that he’s vying for a seat on the board. The move came a few weeks after Third Point, led by activist investor Daniel Loeb, clinched an equally large stake in Nestlé, the world’s biggest food company. Peltz, Loeb and other activists are now making headlines with their calls for P&G and Nestlé to shed unprofitable brands and streamline operations, all in a bid to boost their own bank accounts by reconfiguring their investees’ operations. Their supposedly “disruptive” campaigns to “shake things up” at bloated Fortune 500 firms have won them applause from the media, commentators and fellow investors.

Latest Trends In The Capitalist Crisis

Capitalism has always been a highly irrational socioeconomic system, but the constant drive for accumulation has especially run amok in the age of high finance, privatization and globalization. (Image: Pixabay; Edited: JR / TO)

By C.J. Polychroniou for Truthout – Having survived the financial meltdown of 2008, corporate capitalism and the financial masters of the universe have made a triumphant return to their “business as usual” approach: They are now savoring a new era of wealth, even as the rest of the population continues to struggle with income stagnation, job insecurity and unemployment. This travesty was made possible in large part by the massive US government bailout plan that essentially rescued major banks and financial institutions from bankruptcy with taxpayer money (the total commitment on the part of the government to the bank bailout plan was over $16 trillion). In the meantime, corporate capitalism has continued running recklessly to the precipice with regard to the environment, as profits take precedence not only over people but over the sustainability of the planet itself. Capitalism has always been a highly irrational socioeconomic system, but the constant drive for accumulation has especially run amok in the age of high finance, privatization and globalization. Today, the question that should haunt progressive-minded and radical scholars and activists alike is whether capitalism itself is in crisis, given that the latest trends in the system are working perfectly well for global corporations and the rich, producing new levels of wealth and increasing inequality.

The Dance Of Death

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By Chris Hedges for Truth Dig – The ruling corporate elites no longer seek to build. They seek to destroy. They are agents of death. They crave the unimpeded power to cannibalize the country and pollute and degrade the ecosystem to feed an insatiable lust for wealth, power and hedonism. Wars and military “virtues” are celebrated. Intelligence, empathy and the common good are banished. Culture is degraded to patriotic kitsch. Education is designed only to instill technical proficiency to serve the poisonous engine of corporate capitalism. Historical amnesia shuts us off from the past, the present and the future. Those branded as unproductive or redundant are discarded and left to struggle in poverty or locked away in cages. State repression is indiscriminate and brutal. And, presiding over the tawdry Grand Guignol is a deranged ringmaster tweeting absurdities from the White House. The graveyard of world empires—Sumerian, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Mayan, Khmer, Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian—followed the same trajectory of moral and physical collapse. Those who rule at the end of empire are psychopaths, imbeciles, narcissists and deviants, the equivalents of the depraved Roman emperors Caligula, Nero, Tiberius and Commodus.

Going Soft On Corporate Crime A Bipartisan Affair

Russell Mokhiber
Editor
Corporate Crime Reporter

By Russell Mokhiber for Corporate Crime Reporter – Donald Trump is not a fan of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), the law that says it’s illegal for any person — corporate or human — to bribe overseas. And you could argue that the Trump Justice Department’s first two FCPA enforcement cases reflect Trump’s point of view.Trump has called the FCPA “a horrible law” and has said that the law “puts us at a huge disadvantage.” Both were declinations — despite the fact that the companies disclosed illegal overseas payments and agreed to disgorge illegally gained proceeds. Some are using the cases to ask the question — is Trump soft on corporate crime? As the lawyers say, let’s stipulate for the record that he is. But let’s also remember that going soft on corporate crime was perfected by the Democrats. The Obama Justice Department, for example, regularly used declinations — five in Obama’s last year in office — and non prosecution agreements — 22 over the eight years of his administration — to settle corporate FCPA matters. And since September 2015, when the Obama administration put out the Yates memo calling for more prosecutions of individual executives, there have been 20 FCPA corporate prosecution agreements — yet not one individual has been charged in connection with those cases.

‘Obscene’: 70 Top Healthcare CEOs Raked In $9.8 Billion Since 2010

"Stock-heavy pay drives CEOs to do the exact opposite of their buzzword-laden goals of creating a 'patient-centered' health system that focuses on 'value,'" writes Axios's Bob Herman. (Photo: Elvert Barnes/Flickr/cc)

By Jake Johnson for Common Dreams – While the Senate GOP’s plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been denounced as potentially devastating to the poor, the sick, women, people of color, children, and those with pre-existing conditions, a new analysis published Monday finds that no matter what happens, the CEOs of large healthcare companies are likely to continue living lavishly. “The median household income in 2015 was $56,515, which the average healthcare CEO made in less than a day.” Bob Herman, Axios Since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) passed in 2010, the “CEOs of 70 of the largest U.S. healthcare companies cumulatively have earned $9.8 billion,” according to a report by Axios’s Bob Herman. Herman goes on to add that the CEOs’ earnings “far outstrip[ped] the wage growth of nearly all Americans.” “The richest year [for healthcare CEOs] was 2015, when 70 healthcare CEOs collectively made $2 billion,” Herman notes. “That was an average of about $28.5 million per CEO and a median of about $17.3 million per CEO. The median household income in 2015 was $56,515, which the average healthcare CEO made in less than a day.”

Fighting Inequality: Which Nations Do More Than Pay Lip Service?

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By Sam Pizzigati for Inequality.org – Two years ago, in 2015, just about all the nations in the world came together and agreed to make reducing inequality — the gap between rich and poor — a prime United Nations “sustainable development goal.” A noble gesture. But UN groups make noble gestures all the time. These gestures do sometimes translate into real progress. They more typically amount to blowing smoke — and obscuring how little progress governments may actually be making. How can we tell which nations are just blowing that smoke? People worldwide clearly need global measures — comparative yardsticks — that can help average citizens hold their governments accountable to all their noble rhetoric. On inequality, we now have one such yardstick. Oxfam, the activist global charity, has just teamed with the Development Finance International consulting group to unveil the first-ever Commitment to Reducing Inequality Index, “a new global ranking of governments based on what they are doing to tackle the gap between rich and poor.” We already know, researchers at Oxfam and DFI point out, what governments should be doing to reduce the gap between rich and poor.

Our Obsolescent Economy

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By Steven Gorelick for Local Futures – A friend of mine from India tells a story about driving an old Volkswagen beetle from California to Virginia during his first year in the United States. In a freak ice storm in Texas he skidded off the road, leaving his car with a cracked windshield and badly dented doors and fenders. When he reached Virginia he took the car to a body shop for a repair estimate. The proprietor took one look at it and said, “it’s totaled.” My Indian friend was bewildered: “How can it be totaled? I just drove it from Texas!” My friend’s confusion was understandable. While “totaled” sounds like a mechanical term, it’s actually an economic one: if the cost of repairs is more than the car will be worth afterwards, the only economically ‘rational’ choice is to drive it to the junkyard and buy another one. In the ‘throwaway societies’ of the industrialized world, this is an increasingly common scenario: the cost of repairing faulty stereos, appliances, power tools, and high-tech devices often exceeds the price of buying new. Among the long-term results are growing piles of e-waste, overflowing landfills, and the squandering of resources and energy. It’s one reason that the average American generates over 70% more solid waste today than in 1960.

Are You Ready To Consider That Capitalism Is The Real Problem?

Fifty-one percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 no longer support the system of capitalism. [Illustration: Kseniya_Milner/iStock]

By Jason Hickel And Martin Kirk for Fast Company – In February, college sophomore Trevor Hill stood up during a televised town hall meeting in New York and posed a simple question to Nancy Pelosi, the leader of the Democrats in the House of Representatives. He cited a study by Harvard University showing that 51% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 no longer support the system of capitalism, and asked whether the Democrats could embrace this fast-changing reality and stake out a clearer contrast to right-wing economics. Pelosi was visibly taken aback. “I thank you for your question,” she said, “but I’m sorry to say we’re capitalists, and that’s just the way it is.” The footage went viral. It was powerful because of the clear contrast it set up. Trevor Hill is no hardened left-winger. He’s just your average millennial—bright, informed, curious about the world, and eager to imagine a better one. But Pelosi, a figurehead of establishment politics, refused to–or was just unable to–entertain his challenge to the status quo. It’s not only young voters who feel this way. A YouGov poll in 2015 found that 64% of Britons believe that capitalism is unfair, that it makes inequality worse. Even in the U.S., it’s as high as 55%. In Germany, a solid 77% are skeptical of capitalism.