Posted by: Doug Henwood | February 28, 2014

Fresh audio content

Just added to my radio archives:

February 27, 2014 George Ciccariello-Maher, author of We Created Chavez, on the unrest in Venezuela • Adolph Reed, author of this article, on the long, sad decline of the American left

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Posted by: Doug Henwood | February 24, 2014

Fresh audio product

Just added to my radio archives:

February 20, 2014 Richard Walker, co-author with Suresh Lodha of The Atlas of Californiaon the Golden State’s physical and social geography, history, economy, ecology

Posted by: Doug Henwood | January 31, 2014

Fresh audio product

Sorry for the delay, but three shows freshly posted to my radio archives:

January 30, 2014 Laura Newland, author of Chasing Zeroeson how Wall Street is messing up college life • excerpts from Kshama Sawant’s response to the State of the Union • Tom Philpott on GMOs and ag tech

January 23, 2014 Christian Parenti on nature, capital, and the state • Anne Elizabeth Moore on political unrest in Cambodia

January 16, 2014 Stephanie Coontz on why men need feminism • Branko Milanovic on the world income distribution (paper here)

Posted by: Doug Henwood | January 13, 2014


I forgot to change the year directory on the radio archive to /2014/, so the links I initially posted didn’t work. Now they do:

January 9, 2014 (back after holiday reruns) two interviews recorded on a visit to Lisbon: economist Ricardo Paes Mamede and labor historian Raquel Varela on Portugal and the eurocrisis

Posted by: Doug Henwood | January 13, 2014

Fresh audio product

I visited Lisbon the week after Christmas and two of my souvenirs are the interviews that make up this show, freshly posted to my radio archives:

January 9, 2014 (back after holiday reruns) two interviews recorded on a visit to Lisbon: economist Ricardo Paes Mamede and labor historian Raquel Varela on Portugal and the eurocrisis

Posted by: Doug Henwood | December 26, 2013

Fresh audio product

Just posted to my radio archives:

December 19, 2013 Sam Gindin, former advisor to the Canadian Auto Workers Union, on why unions need a left • Christy Thornton, grad student organizer at NYU, on unions and the corporate university

There was no December 12 show because KPFA was fundraising. The December 26 show is a rerun because of the holidays.



Posted by: Doug Henwood | December 7, 2013

Bill de Blasio’s continuing evolution

I’ve been a little distracted the last few days so I’m only catching up with the news that Bill de Blasio named Anthony Shorris as first deputy mayor. The Daily News described him as “a seasoned city government hand and veteran troubleshooter,” which is certainly one angle.

Another would be this: he worked in a couple of finance posts for Ed Koch, for Joel Klein at Bloomberg’s Board of Ed, and is now Vice Dean, Senior Vice President and Chief of Staff of the NYU Langone Medical Center and board member of the NYS Hospital Association. He’s also on the board of the Regional Plan Association, one of capital’s peak associations for the economic and physical development of the city and its inner suburbs, and is co-chair of its Fourth Regional Plan. So a real-estate friendly guy out of the medical-industrial complex.

De Blasio disappeared for a few weeks after the election. Now we know what he was doing – reassuring the FIRE elite that all that “tale of two cities” talk was just electoral hot air.

Cue the apologists and holders of feet to the fire….

Posted by: Doug Henwood | December 5, 2013

Fresh audio product

Just added to my radio archives:

December 5, 2013 Mark Fisher, author of “Exiting the Vampire Castle” and Capitalist Realismon Russell Brand, identitarianism, and depressive hedonia • George Scialabba, author of For The Republicon democracy & plutocracy

Posted by: Doug Henwood | November 21, 2013

Fresh audio product

Just posted to my radio archives:

November 21, 2013 Jennifer Silva, author of Coming Up Shorton the consciousness of younger working-class adults • Heidi Shierholz of the Economic Policy Institute on what has and hasn’t been driving wage inequality (paper here)

November 14, 2013 Richard Seymour on the politics of austerity in the UK (here’s the pic of David Cameron preaching austerity from a gold lectern) • Arun Gupta looks behind the fast food workers organizing campagin (article here)

Posted by: Doug Henwood | November 7, 2013

Fresh audio product

Just added to my radio archives:

November 7, 2013 Max Blumenthal, author of Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israelon repression and daily life in that country

October 31, 2013 Michelle Chen, author of this article, on how drug companies use patents to screw the sick • Mark Ames on libertarianism and the Koch Bros. network

Posted by: Doug Henwood | October 25, 2013

Fresh audio product

Just posted to my radio archives:

October 24, 2013 Bruce Bartlett, former Republican, on the lunacy of his former party • Isaac William Martin, author of Rich People’s Movementson the history of popular mobilizations to untax elites (i.e., the Tea Party is nothing new)

October 17, 2013 Jodi Dean, professor of political science at Hobart & William Smith and author of The Communist Horizon, on the need for a left party • Kshama Sawant on her campaign as an open socialist for the Seattle city council

These programs mark a return to normalcy after some fundraising pre-emptions. If you want to keep these shows coming, please support KPFA and mention Behind the News when you do.

Posted by: Doug Henwood | October 9, 2013

Me in Salon

Josh Eidelson interviews me about the shutdown, default, the Tea Party, and the rot of the American ruling class: “Tea Party’s shutdown lunacy: Avenging the surrender of the South

Josh and I had nothing to do with the headline.


Posted by: Doug Henwood | October 5, 2013

Me in Sydney, October 16-20

I’m going to be in Sydney, Australia, to speak at a conference on financial market dysfunctionality (!) at the University of Technology’s business school. Arriving early Oct 16, feeling like crap I’m sure, and leaving the afternoon of the 20th. Conference is on Thursday and Friday – my bit is on Friday.

Any suggestions of things to do, people to meet, etc.?

Posted by: Doug Henwood | September 30, 2013

Fresh audio product

Just added to my radio archives:

September 19, 2013 Daniel Denvir on the crisis in Philadelphia public schools • Jonathan Crary, author of 24/7, on the ill effects of always-on culture

September 12, 2013 Sanjay Reddy on the Indian economy • Jesse Walker, author of The United States of Paranoiaon conspiracism

No new shows for a few weeks while KPFA fundraises. If you like these shows and want to keep them coming, please contribute to KPFA. Be sure to mention Behind the News.

Posted by: Doug Henwood | September 24, 2013

Situating finance

I’ve long been bothered by activists’ habit of focusing on debt both as a political target and analytical center. This came to the fore during the Occupy moment, and continues today in, well, should we call it the post-Occupy era?

Yes, debt is a problem, no doubt about it. Given the age of many Occupy activists, student debt is understandably very much on their minds (as are crappy job prospects, which don’t always get as much attention). Before that, mortgage debt and exotic variations on it were major contributors to the financial crisis of 2008, and the inability to get the debt machinery going again has contributed to the weakness of the post-crisis recovery. And across the Atlantic, debt is obviously a major part of the European crisis, which goes on and on.

But debt is also symptom as well as cause. If education were free, as it should be, student debt wouldn’t be a problem. If we had a humane health care financing system, medical debt wouldn’t be a problem. If housing weren’t so expensive—and if rising prices weren’t taken as a sign of a “healthy” housing market (why is the rising price of one of life’s essentials a good thing?)—then mortgage debt would’t be a problem. If wages hadn’t been under relentless downward pressure for the last 30 years, people wouldn’t have borrowed so heavily against home equity during the bubble, and wouldn’t have put so much on their credit cards.

Along with that, there’s a mistaken theory making the rounds. Here’s a concise statement of it from Andrew Ross (someone I should say I like and admire a great deal, even if I’m disagreeing with him here), in an article (“The Politics of Debt Resistance”) in New Labor Forum:

In recent decades, however, elites in advanced economies are less and less dependent on profits from productive labor. They rely increasingly on unearned income from financial manipulation by circulating paper claims on the future in the form of debt-creation. This form of wealth accumulation has meant that the majority of populations in fully industrialized countries are now caught in a debt trap that fundamentally affects how they make a living.

This is only a partial truth. Trading profits of the sort that Andrew Ross alluded to above (“circulating paper claims”) are essentially a wash—one trader’s gain is another’s loss. But there’s much more to the story. The claims are claims on incomes earned in production.

There’s no denying that the financial sector has grown enormously in size and importance over the last few decades. But that doesn’t mean that production and productive labor have disappeared from view. A few numbers to make this point. In the second quarter of 2013, U.S. GDP—the total value of goods and services produced domestically—was $16.7 trillion. Of that, $8.3 trillion—half the total—was produced by nonfinancial corporations. Just over half of that, $4.7 trillion, went to pay employees. These same nonfinancial corporations “earned” $1.2 trillion in profits, after paying salaries and other expenses. Financial corporations, though huge, contributed only about 15% as much as their nonfinancial counterparts to GDP. (See table 1.14 here—alas, no direct link is possible.)

Of course, finance is very big—I’m not trying to deny that. But where does its money come from? A lot of it from income earned in production. Firms and their employees pay interest and fees to their bankers. (In the second quarter of this year, nonfinancial corporations paid out a net of $304 billion in interest to creditors, and households another $244 billion.) And nonfinancial corporations have been shoveling out huge quantities of cash to their shareholders, some of whom are individuals, but many of whom are financial institutions. Combine traditional dividends with other means like share buybacks and takeovers (both of which involve corporate resources going to buy up outstanding stock), and there’s been a massive transfer of cash from corporate treasuries to shareholders—an average of $867 billion a year since 2011.

The conclusion to draw from that blizzard of numbers is that finance gets most of its money from corporations and workers engaged in the real world of production. Appearances to the contrary, financiers aren’t creating the stuff ex nihilo. The financial and the real are intimately connected to each other. So if you want to talk about debt, you shouldn’t stop there—you need to start talking about debt for what, serviced by income from where.

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