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Energy: The Recession Trigger?

There is confusion among mainstream economists and policy-makers on whether the major economies are heading for a recession, or are already in a recession; or will avoid one altogether.  The majority view, at least in the US, is the latter.  This optimistic view argues that, while inflation rates are high, they will start to fall over the next year, enabling the Federal Reserve to avoid hiking its policy interest rates too much to the point where it could restrict investment and spending.  At the same time, the US unemployment rate is very low and the ‘labour market’ remains strong.  Such a scenario hardly suggests a recession. Who ever heard of a slump where there is full employment?, the argument goes. On the other hand, the pessimistic view is that the major economies are already in a slump that will be eventually recognised. 

Nonprofit Arts, Culture Organizations Have Lost $17.3 Billion In Pandemic

IWhile hundreds of people in the US and 10,000 globally continue to die each day, American media outlets lose no opportunity to assure their viewers and readers that the pandemic is “over.” In fact, the suffering of the population continues, long- and short-term physical and economic suffering. For example, Feeding America reports that more than 50 million people in the US experienced food insecurity in 2020, up from 35 million in 2019, while more than 42 million face the same condition this year. A new study also indicates that one-third of Americans planning to retire now say the pandemic has delayed their retirement. Artists are faring badly, along with other vulnerable and unprotected portions of the population.

How America Went From Mom-and-Pop Capitalism to Techno-Feudalism

The sort of capitalism on which the United States was originally built has been called mom-and-pop capitalism. Families owned their own farms and small shops and competed with each other on a more or less level playing field. It was a form of capitalism that broke free of the feudalistic model and reflected the groundbreaking values set forth in the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights: that all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, including the rights to free speech, a free press, to worship and assemble; and the right not to be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process.

Unemployment Benefits Are Not Creating A Worker Shortage

As the U.S. economy bounces back from the COVID-induced downturn, some employers say they’re having a hard time finding workers. GOP lawmakers like Rep. David Rouzer (N.C.) blame the safety net. “This is what happens when you extend unemployment benefits too long and add a $1400 stimulus payment,” Rouzer said on Twitter last week, posting a photo from a Hardee’s that said it was closed for lack of staff. “Right when employers need workers to fully open back up, few can be found.” It’s a dubious argument. Republicans said this same thing last year when Congress passed a big relief bill that added $600 per week to state unemployment benefits for four months. Democrats “are going to make the next four months impossible for small businesses to hire,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said.

Debt As Colonialism

Debt, according to standard economic assumptions, emerges from a purely private exchange. Independent rational agents willingly enter into a contract in a free market. That market, in turn, sets a fair price for the debt. Freedom and fairness: these are the assumptions that underpin the common narrative about debt and indebtedness. This essay sets out to explode these assumptions. Contrary to the common narrative, the massive dollar-denominated debts in the Global South did not arise from private exchange in a regulatory vacuum. Rather, they are the product of an international financial system carefully designed to facilitate neo-colonial extraction. Debt is a vicious cycle that is neither free nor fair.

Moth-Eaten Eviction Moratorium Leaves Hundreds Of Thousands Without A Roof

Washington, DC - “Raise your hand if you can’t pay rent,” she yelled sharply and resolutely into a microphone. A Spanish translation echoed her words as hands shot up across the crowd. “Now make that into a fist. Because we gotta fight! It’s only when we fight that we can win!” Cheers and hollers muffled by face masks reverberated off the brick facades. Cars honked as they drove by, throwing solidarity fists at the “Cancel Rent” posters lined up along the sidewalk. A woman with a “Food not Rent” banner waved back with encouragement. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “some 22 million adults reported that their household didn’t have enough to eat,” with Black and Latino households more than twice as likely as white residents to go hungry.

Informal Workers Have The Tools To Build Better Cities Post-Crisis

On November 2020, New York City street vendors from the Street Vendor Project marched over the iconic Brooklyn Bridge in force – food carts, multilingual signs and musical instruments in hand – to call city hall to action. Eight months had passed since the COVID-19 pandemic devastated their livelihoods, and they had received no relief. While the city took multiple measures to provide a lifeline to storefront businesses, vendors received no dedicated small business support. Instead, many continued to receive summonses and fines from a punitive enforcement regime. Struggling vendors were left to make ends meet supporting each other through mutual aid. Their patience was gone, and their proposal was simple: the city should decriminalize vending, lift the arbitrary, 38-year-old cap on...

Beyond COVID: The Essential Building Blocks Of A Just World

We are living through extraordinary times. Even pre-COVID they were strange, unprecedented in a variety of ways; now more so, crazy in many ways. Among the madness, contradictions and movements for and of change, the detritus of human society is somehow being raised from the shadows into the light of public awareness, apparently impossible to conceal or deny. As well as providing a stage for social goodness and acts of community kindness, the pandemic has functioned as a mirror to a range of social horrors and abuses, failed structures, inept politicians and corrupt methodologies. Nothing new, nothing previously unknown; old issues rooted in divisive attitudes, broken systemic practices and organized methods of conditioning and control made loud. 

Infrastructure Plan Doesn’t Come Close To Tackling The Housing Crisis

The spending plans that the Biden administration released this week laid out substantial investments into our nation's housing system, including $213 billion for building and retrofitting affordable housing units, $40 billion for public housing capital repairs, and grant funding to address zoning laws rooted in racial and economic exclusion. These proposals are a welcome first step to ensuring safe, affordable, sustainable shelter — and Congress should move swiftly to enact them  — but they do not come close to meeting the scale of the housing crisis that has been underway in the United States for decades. The reality is that although the failures in our housing system were exacerbated by the pandemic — to the tune of 10 million people at risk of eviction and more than $57 billion owed in back rent — the pandemic didn't cause them.

The Southern Tenant Union Playbook

Despite an eviction moratorium that was intended to keep people housed during the pandemic, landlords filed more than 95,000 evictions in just eight major cities across the South last year.  With the passing of the most recent stimulus bill, Senate Democrats approved more than $45 billion in rental and mortgage assistance, but it won't be enough to stave off what housing advocates call the "tsunami of evictions" still to come. But the fight to keep people housed didn't begin when the country shut down, and it won't end when people can safely dine in restaurants.  The solution to the current crisis requires novel tactics just as much as it builds on old ones, tenants' unions and advocacy groups say—particularly in the South.

How The Pandemic Economy Could Wipe Out A Generation Of Black-Owned Businesses

Of all the products made at Danette Wilder’s small manufacturing plant near the University of Kentucky in Lexington, the products she depended on most for sales were the O-rings cranked out by her vintage presses. Each month, Wilder’s crew of six people, working at long tables as they listened to a soundtrack of funk and R&B, made thousands of the rubber loops, cut from spools into precise strips and spliced into uniform perfect circles. The work distinguished Wilder’s company, SealingLife Technology, as one of the vanishingly few rubber products suppliers owned by a female engineer — not to mention one who is also Black. It hasn’t been an easy path: Wilder has navigated state and federal set-aside programs, tight-fisted bankers and what she saw as obvious discrimination. But eventually, Wilder built SealingLife into a reliable vendor for all manner of aerospace, medical and other industrial businesses.

Doing Too Little In This Crisis Will Come Back To Haunt The US Economy

The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan (ARP) is essential to a robust and equitable recovery. The risk of doing too little is far greater than the risk of doing too much, and the American Rescue Plan meets the scale of the crisis. The overall size and components of the ARP have been carefully studied and considered. Given the balance of risks facing the economy and the danger of delay, passing the plan at its current scale and composition is the most prudent thing policymakers can do to ensure a rapid and fair recovery. Clearly, this is necessary. As the Senate debates what belongs in the final relief bill this week, policymakers must not shortchange aid to state and local governments, which is essential to a robust recovery.

Will 2021 Be Public Banking’s Watershed Moment?

Just over two months into the new year, 2021 has already seen a flurry of public banking activity. Sixteen new bills to form publicly-owned banks or facilitate their formation were introduced in eight U.S. states in January and February. Two bills for a state-owned bank were introduced in New Mexico, two in Massachusetts, two in New York, one each in Oregon and Hawaii, and Washington State’s Public Bank Bill was re-introduced as a “Substitution.” Bills for city-owned banks were introduced in Philadelphia and San Francisco, and bills facilitating the formation of public banks or for a feasibility study were introduced in New York, Oregon (three bills), and Hawaii.  In addition, California is expected to introduce a bill for a state-owned bank later this year, and New Jersey is moving forward with a strong commitment from its governor to implement one.

Real Unemployment Is Three Times What They’re Telling Us

Southwest Harbor, Maine – As Congress gets set to debate the Biden Pandemic relief package, one of the favorite Republican lines is the contention that an economic recovery is already well underway. Pouring more money into an accelerating economy is likely to induce seventies style inflation. It is time, they argue, for a little cautionary austerity. However politically efficacious this line may be, rosy portraits of an expanding economy hide the chronic weakness of the US economy and especially the burdens imposed on poor and minority communities. Fear of inflation on the part of Republicans is insincere and ill timed.

Debt In The Time Of Pandemic

On New Year’s Day, I received an email from Navient, a student loan servicing company, requesting that I pay $4,442 by January 28. Initially, all I could feel was shame for being in so much debt. But soon, my feelings of shame transformed into anger – how could they request such a big payment, in such a short time period, amid a global pandemic that left so many young people like me unemployed or underemployed, struggling to keep a roof over their heads and put food on their tables? Indeed, I am hardly the only person with an American education worrying about student loan repayments in the middle of the most serious public health crisis the world has faced in decades.
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