Economy

7 Reasons Why the 99 Percent Keeps Losing

iStockPhoto/© porcorex
iStockPhoto/© porcorex This article originally appeared in The Huffington Post . O ur current political situation is unprecedented. The vast majority of Americans keep falling behind economically because of changes in society's ground rules, while the rich get even richer—yet this situation doesn't translate into a winning politics. If anything, the right keeps gaining and the wealthy keep pulling away. How can this possibly be? Let me suggest seven reasons: 1. The Discrediting of Politics Itself The Republican Party has devised a strategy of hamstringing government and making any remediation impossible. Instead of the voters punishing Republicans, the result is cynicism and passivity, so the Republican strategy is vindicated and rewarded. The media plays into this pattern by adopting a misleading narrative that makes the gridlock in Washington roughly the equal fault of both parties—with lazy phrases such as "Washington is broken," or "politics is broken," or "partisan bickering." (...

Reckoning With the New Auto Recall Bill

(AP Photo/LM Otero, File)
(AP Photo/LM Otero, File) In this May 13, 2014 file photo, an auto worker inspects finished SUVs coming off the assembly line at the General Motors auto plant in Arlington, Texas. As General Motors tackles a safety crisis, a look at its numbers from June show just how intent the company is on keeping new-car sales on the rise during a record spate of safety recalls. S ome 46 million vehicles nationwide—nearly one in five on the road today—have a recalled, but unrepaired, safety issue. That’s because drivers, along with auto dealers and rental companies, have no legal obligation to fix safety recalls—a gaping regulatory loophole that puts millions at risk. For years lawmakers have more or less ignored the issue, until earlier this month, when Democratic Senators Richard Blumenthal and Edward Markey introduced the Repairing Every Car to Avoid Lost Lives (RECALL) Act . The bill would require car owners to comply with all pending safety recalls in order to reregister their vehicles with...

Why the Real Story of the Irish Exodus to America Isn't Taught in Schools

The famine that brought vast numbers of Irish to the U.S. wasn't caused by nature; it was caused by ruthless capitalists.

(Photo: Lawrence Collection, National Library of Ireland)
(Photo: Lawrence Collection, National Library of Ireland) During the potato blight of the 1840s, tenant farmers were not allowed to partake of the grain, poultry and other edibles they raised, and were often evicted, as shown above, by ruthless landlords when they could not meet the rent under the duress of starvation. This article was produced by the Zinn Education Project , and is part of the project's If We Knew Our History series. “ Wear green on St. Patrick’s Day or get pinched.” That pretty much sums up the Irish-American “curriculum” that I learned when I was in school. Yes, I recall a nod to the so-called Potato Famine, but it was mentioned only in passing. Sadly, today’s high school textbooks continue to largely ignore the famine, despite the fact that it was responsible for unimaginable suffering and the deaths of more than a million Irish peasants, and that it triggered the greatest wave of Irish immigration in U.S. history. Nor do textbooks make any attempt to help...

The Dance of Liberals and Radicals

(AP Photo)
(AP Photo) U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson, right, talks with civil rights leaders in his White House office in Washington, D.C., January 18, 1964. The movement leaders, from left, are, Roy Wilkins, executive secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); James Farmer, national director of the Committee on Racial Equality; Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference; and Whitney Young, executive director of the Urban League. This essay originally appeared at The Huffington Post . M arch 15 was the 50th anniversary of Lyndon Johnson's best speech, his "We Shall Overcome" address applying the final round of pressure on Congress to enact the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Much of the speech invoked the bravery, dignity and historical rightness of Martin Luther King, Jr., and his fellow movement activists. All of which puts me in mind of the complex relationship between liberals and radicals. History shows that liberals...

Sharing the Wealth

Why can’t we broadly distribute the wealth produced from America’s common resource pool? Conservative Alaska manages to do it.

(AP Photo/The Juneau Empire, Klas Stolpe)
(AP Photo/The Juneau Empire, Klas Stolpe) Governor Sean Parnell announces the 2010 dividend check amount that all Alaskans receive through the state's popular Permanent Fund. Looking on is Department of Revenue Commissioner Pat Galvin, a trustee on the Alaska Permanent Fund Board. This book review appears in the Winter 2015 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . With Liberty and Dividends for All: How to Save Our Middle Class When Jobs Don’t Pay Enough By Peter Barnes 174 pp. Berrett-Koehler Publishers $19.95 I n the mid-17th century, Gerrard Winstanley led a series of protests in England against “enclosure,” the practice of landlords privatizing public lands. Nonviolent, with a utopian communist agenda, Winstanley’s followers, the Diggers, published pamphlets and, more quixotically, sang their hopes and fears. A stanza from one of their songs: “Your houses they pull down, stand up now, stand up now Your houses they pull down, stand up now. Your houses they pull...

NYU Graduate Students Win Historic Victory

After over a year of tense negotiations, a tentative agreement is a major win, and the result of a renewed push to mobilize the Manhattan campus.

(Photo: NYU AWDU)
(Photo: NYU AWDU) New York University graduate students rally for a fair contract in Manhattan on November 21, 2014. This article originally appeared at Waging Nonviolence . I n the early hours of Tuesday morning, the Graduate Students Organizing Committee of the United Autoworkers, or GSOC, reached a historic, tentative agreement with administrators at New York University, averting a strike that was scheduled to begin just hours later. After over a year of tense negotiations, the agreement is a major victory for graduate students and the result of a renewed push to mobilize the Manhattan campus. As GSOC member-organizer and sixth-year sociology Ph.D. candidate Daniel Aldana Cohen put it, “We definitely have the feeling that organizing is working right now.” Under the prospective new contract , NYU will cover 90 percent of graduate workers’ health premiums , and provide basic dental insurance along with wage increases for Ph.D. students. The agreement further includes a 75 percent...

Looking Forward to the Sequel

If we don’t alter the power distribution that led to the financial collapse, it will happen again.

(Illustration: Wesley Bedrosian)
(Illustration: Wesley Bedrosian) This book review appears in the Winter 2015 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . The Shifts and the Shocks: What We’ve Learned—and Have Still to Learn—From the Financial Crisis By Martin Wolf 466 pp. Penguin Press $35 M artin Wolf is one of the few people on the planet who can mingle with financial elites without being co-opted by them. Fans of his regular column in the Financial Times —and I am one—are familiar with the power of his writing, the clarity of his logic, and the independence and delightful unpredictability of his views. But Wolf fans beware: While his columns can be devoured as easily as a Thanksgiving pumpkin pie, his new book, The Shifts and the Shocks , tastes more like the side of brussels sprouts that Aunt Millie brought to the holiday dinner—obligatory to consume and good for you, but requiring a lot of chewing. This is dense and at times highly technical reading, laden with jargon only an Oxford economist could...

There Are Nearly Six Unemployed Construction Workers for Every Construction Job Opening

If today’s labor market woes were the result of skills shortages, this would not be the case.

(Photo: iStockPhoto/© sculpies)
This article was originally published by the Economic Policy Institute . O ne of the recurring myths following the Great Recession has been that recovery in the labor market has lagged because workers don’t have the right skills. The figure below, which shows the number of unemployed workers and the number of job openings in January by industry , is a useful way to examine this idea. If today’s labor market woes were the result of skills shortages or mismatches, we would expect to see some sectors where there are more unemployed workers than job openings, and others where there are more job openings than unemployed workers. What we find, however, is that there are more unemployed workers than jobs openings in almost every industry. The notable exception is health care and social assistance, which has been consistently adding jobs throughout the business cycle, and there are signs that workers in that industry are facing a tighter labor market. However, we have yet to see any sign of...

Will the Fed Kill the Recovery Again?

(Photo: Wikimedia Commons/AgnosticPreachersKid)
(Photo: Wikimedia Commons/AgnosticPreachersKid) The Marriner S. Eccles Federal Reserve Board Building in Washington, D.C. This article originally appeared at The Huffington Post . T he Labor Department reported that the economy added 295,000 payroll jobs in February, the 12th straight month of job creation of better than 200,000 a month. And the Dow Jones Industrial Average promptly dropped by nearly 300 points. What gives? Do capitalists hate workers? Well, perhaps; but the immediate explanation is concern about the Federal Reserve. If unemployment keeps falling, the Fed is more likely to raise interest rates. And if the Fed raises rates, that's bad for the stock market because bonds start to be a better investment than stocks; and the expectation of flat or declining stock prices feeds on itself and sets off a wave of stock-selling. Supposedly, the assumption that the Fed will raise rates in the not-too-far-distant future has been already "priced in" to share prices. But that's...

Markets, States, and the Green Transition

To get renewable energy technologies into broad use, government needs to promote both supply and demand. Markets are too risk-averse.

(AP Photo/U.S. Army)
(AP Photo/U.S. Army) This solar array at White Sands, New Mexico, is the largest of the U.S. Army's solar photovoltaic systems. The $16.8 million project includes nearly 15,500 sun-tracking solar panels spread across 42 acres. This article appears as part of a special report, "What the Free Market Can't Do," in the Winter 2015 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . I f you believe in the perfect efficiency of free markets, then any government intervention, by definition, has to make things worse. Evidence is of no consequence. I once participated in a debate on innovation with two panelists from two of Washington’s most market-oriented think tanks. When I pointed out that a government program—the Department of Defense’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)—had created the Internet, my opponent was hardly fazed. He responded, in effect, by saying we don’t know whether the private sector might have done it faster and better had the government not been interfering...

Saving Obama from a Bad Trade Deal

Republican intransigence may have saved the president's legacy—from himself.

(AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)
(AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File) In this June 11, 2013, photo, President Barack Obama speaks in the East Room of the White House in Washington, prior to a trip to Europe for a Group of Eight summit of major Western democracies, where the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with Europe was be a top item. The deal is touted as a means of boosting growth and jobs by eliminating tariffs and other barriers, but those expectations are unlikely to be fulfilled in the deal, which would benefit corporations far more than governments or citizens, which would likely be hurt. P lans to rush fast-track authority for two trade deals for a quick House and Senate vote abruptly broke down on Tuesday. The White House was hoping to put the vote to Congress as early as this week. But Republicans wanted to see more details of one of the deals, which addresses trade with Pacific nations—before agreeing to a fast-track vote. Democrats who favored the deal were seeking some concessions to...

The Perils of Privatization

When a public function is privatized, the result is a muddled middle ground.

(AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
This article appears as part of a special report, "What the Free Market Can't Do," in the Winter 2015 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . O ne November morning in 2004, three U.S. military men boarded a small turboprop plane at Bagram Air Base near Kabul for a two-and-a-half-hour flight to Farah, a base in western Afghanistan. They were Lieutenant Colonel Michael McMahon, Chief Warrant Officer Travis Grogan, and Specialist Harley Miller, the only passengers on Flight 61. The flight was operated by an affiliate of Blackwater, the private military company under U.S. contract for air transport of mail, supplies, and troops. Forty minutes after takeoff, flying far north of the customary route from Bagram to Farah, the plane crashed into the side of a mountain. McMahon, Grogan, the pilot, co-pilot, and the mechanic apparently died instantly. At the time, McMahon was the highest-ranking U.S. soldier to die in the war. Miller, though he suffered internal injuries, may...

CPAC Labor Panel Does GOP No Favors in Outreach to Latinos, Women

Organizing among fast-food workers and home health-care aides has clearly gotten under the skin of anti-labor leaders—even as they boast of another anti-union triumph in Wisconsin.

(Photo: Ron Sachs / CNP via AP Images)
(Photo: Ron Sachs / CNP via AP Images) Governor Scott Walker, Republican of Wisconsin, speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at the Gaylord National at National Harbor, Maryland on Thursday, February 26, 2015. He's expected to sign new anti-union legislation, passed by the Wisconsin Senate on the day before, into law if, as is likely, the bill passes the state assembly. O n February 26, day one of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland, a panel convened on the state of the labor movement. To describe the tone of presenters as triumphant would be an understatement. At the Thursday afternoon breakout session titled “There’s No ‘I’ in Teamsters: Obama’s Bow to Big Labor Bosses,” panelists discussed a long list of topics, ranging from the salaries of top union leadership to “pernicious” attacks on franchisers of fast-food restaurants, whose workers have taken to the streets to demand predictable schedules and livable wages...

CPAC 2015: Right-Wing American Dream Kind of Crappy

Republican politicians are rarely shy about expressing some hatred of the government, and Mia Love is no exception.

(Photo: C-SPAN)
(Photo: C-SPAN) (L-R) Raffi Williams of the Republican National Committee, Charlie Kirk of Turning Point USA, U.S. Representative Mia Love and U.S. Senator Ben Sasse, appear on a panel about millennials and the American dream at the Conservative Political Action Conference on February 26, 2015. W hat is the American dream? Is it owning a house and having a job you love? Perhaps you want to be able to have children and send them off to school? Well, this year at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, members of the Republican Party are promising to help you make your dreams come true. On Thursday morning, CPAC—an annual gathering at which a broad range of right-wing constituencies are represented—officially started as presidential hopefuls, political pundits, conservative activists and college students filled the Gaylord National Convention Center at National Harbor, Maryland, just outside of the nation’s capital. Because both political parties go through great lengths to...

Christie Blusters His Way Through CPAC Appearance

Christie’s bluster has some appeal, but there’s only so long that he can use it to avoid owning up to some of his massive leadership failures.

(Photo: C-SPAN)
(Photo: C-SPAN) N ew Jersey Governor Chris Christie wasn’t going to let something like record-low approval ratings get him down as he took the stage Thursday afternoon at CPAC’s annual gathering in National Harbor, Maryland. Exuding that Sopranos-style confidence that’s earned him notoriety, Christie, sitting on the CPAC stage for an interview with conservative radio talk-show host Laura Ingraham, dismissed the idea that, compared to other potential presidential candidates in the crowded Republican field, he’s not well-positioned to run for president. (A January survey conducted by Bloomberg Politics and the Des Moines Register showed Christie was the first choice candidate among just 4 percent of Iowa Republican caucus-goers .) Asked by Ingraham if such numbers disturb him, Christie retorted, “Uh, is the election next week?” He continued: “I’m not worried about what polls say 21 months before [the election],” going on to point out that he won gubernatorial races twice in a blue state...

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