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Posted by: Doug Henwood | March 15, 2019

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March 14, 2019 Cinzia Arruzza and Tithi Bhattacharya, authors (along with Nancy Fraser) of Feminism for the 99%, on a truly transformative feminism • Sam Stein, author of Capital City, on bourgeois urban planning, with an emphasis on NYC

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Posted by: Doug Henwood | March 14, 2019

Making capital pay for the GND

Christian Parenti has an excellent piece up at Jacobin arguing that Corporate America could pay for a lot of the Green New Deal. They’re rolling in cash, and through a combination of regulation, taxation, coercion, and incentives, all that surplus capital could be steered into environmentally beneficial investment. I endorse this completely. I’m just here to underscore how much cash they have and show what they’re now doing with it.

According to the latest edition of the Federal Reserve’s financial accounts*, as of the end of 2018, nonfinancial corporations had $4.4 trillion in cash and other liquid assets (meaning they could quickly be turned into cash). And that doesn’t include unincorporated businesses, which have another $1.6 trillion on hand. (I’m leaving out financial firms, since a lot of what they hold is other people’s money.)

But that’s not all. Businesses are making far more in profits than they know what to do with. They do invest and hire, but they’ve also been shoveling vast pots of cash into the pockets of shareholders. They do this through several routes—traditional dividends, buying back their own stock to boost its price (which not only makes shareholders happy, it also makes top executives smile, since they typically own lots of stock in their employer), and taking each other over. (Stock buybacks were essentially illegal before 1982; they could be made illegal again.) Put all those together into something you could call transfers to shareholders, and you get some really staggering numbers. Between 2012 and 2018, firms paid their shareholders a total of almost $6 trillion dollars. Since 2000, the total is $14 trillion. Both totals are equal to about half what they spent on investment in real things like plant and equipment over those periods.

In other words, they’ve got plenty of money to spend on building a green infrastructure. Of course, they don’t want to, and even if forced, they’d do everything they could to avoid complying. But one thing they can’t do is plead poverty.


* The more familiar national income and product accounts (NIPAs), the source of GDP and related data, cover production of goods and services and incomes earned in production (like wages and profits). You might think of them as an accounting of the “real” economy, though there’s no shortage of unreality under the regime of capitalist production. The NIPAs do not cover purely financial things like assets and debts. That’s what the financial accounts, formerly known as the flow of funds, do. The figures in this post come mainly from tables B.103 (balance sheets of nonfinancial corporate business) and F.103 (flows of nonfinancial corporate business).

Posted by: Doug Henwood | March 8, 2019

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March 7, 2019 Richard Walker, geographer and director of the Living New Deal project, on what the original can teach the Green one • Aziz Rana, author of this article, on the need for a left internationalism

Posted by: Doug Henwood | February 28, 2019

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February 28, 2019 Melinda Cooper, author of Family Values, on the relationship between “free” market neoliberalism and family values conservatism

Posted by: Doug Henwood | February 21, 2019

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February 21, 2019 Daniel Aldana Cohen, author of this article, on the role of housing in a Green New Deal • Joel Whitney, author of this article, on the CIA’s history as a purveyor of fake news

Posted by: Doug Henwood | February 14, 2019

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February 14, 2019 Noah Kulwin, staff writer with Jewish Currents, on why Ilhan Omar’s AIPAC tweets aren’t anti-Semitic • Thea Riofrancos, one of editors of Jacobin‘s Green New Deal series, on the agenda’s scope and politics

Posted by: Doug Henwood | January 31, 2019

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January 31, 2019 Jamieson Webster, author of this article, on what we miss when we muffle our symptoms with psychiatric drugs • John Patrick Leary, author of Keywords, on the language of contemporary capitalism

Posted by: Doug Henwood | January 24, 2019

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January 24, 2019 Alex Caputo-Pearl, president of the Los Angeles teachers’ union and Jane McAlevey, author and organizer, on the union’s great victory in their LA strike, protecting public education against the plutocrats’ attacks

Posted by: Doug Henwood | January 24, 2019

Union density update: back to 1900 levels

Sam Gindin pointed me to a history of private sector union density—the percent of workers belonging to unions—going back to 1900. (They’re credit to Troy and Sheflin’ Union Sourcebook, a standard source.) No doubt these numbers are more approximate than recent ones, but here’s a striking fact: 2018’s level, 6.4%, is a hair below 1900’s level, 6.5%. For simplicity’s sake, let’s just say they’re the same.

Here’s an update of yesterday’s graph.

union density over time

Back where the 20th century started. That’s 118 years of progress for you.

Posted by: Doug Henwood | January 23, 2019

Union density hits record low

Union density—the share of employed workers belonging to unions—fell to 10.5% in 2018, the lowest since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began reporting the data in its modern form in 1964, down from 2017’s 10.7%. (See graph below.) After rising 0.1 point in 2017, private sector density fell back to match 2016’s 6.4%, the lowest since stats began in 1929. Republican governors’ war on public sector unions is having a visible effect: just 33.9% of government workers belonged to unions last year, the lowest since 1978, when membership was on an upswing—an effect that is only going to intensify as the effects of the Supreme Court’s decision in the Janus case, which forbids mandatory payment of union dues, spreads.

union density over time

There’s an old lie that unions are good for white men and no one else. That’s the opposite of the case. As the graph below shows, black women, for example, earn 63% as much per week as white men overall; belonging to a union brings that up to 78%—still a large gap, but a much smaller one. Nonunion Latinas earn 60% as much as white men; a union brings that up to 83%. And, as a team of researchers from the Economic Policy Institute argues, unions can raise the level of nonunion workers if they’re prevalent enough in a geographical area or industrial sector. No wonder employers hate them.

Weekly wage union vs non 2018.png

Union density varies widely by state, as this map shows. They’re strongest in the Northeast and far West, mixed in the Midwest, and weak in the South and interior West.

union density map

Changes in union density also vary widely by state. Since 2000, density is down 3.0 points. It was down in every state (including DC) but three. Losses were small in high-density Massachusetts and low-density Alabama and North Carolina. Density was down hard in states where reactionary governors made war on organized labor—most notably, Scott Walker in Wisconsin, but even Chris Christie in liberal New Jersey. New York, the state with the second-highest union density in the country, 22.3%, saw an above-average loss of 3.2 points.

union density by state

There are signs of life in the labor movement, most recently the spectacular victory by the Los Angeles teachers, following upon the upsurge in West Virginia, Arizona, and Oklahoma last spring. And we’ve seen some organizing in the electronic media. These are extremely cheering signs. But we’re going to need a lot more of this if the erosion of working-class living standards is ever going to be reversed.

Posted by: Doug Henwood | January 18, 2019

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January 17, 2019 Andrew Bacevich tries to make sense of Trump’s foreign policy • Steven Maher (author of this article) on the rise and fall of GE

Posted by: Doug Henwood | January 10, 2019

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January 10, 2019 Quinn Slobodian, author of Globalists: The End of Empire and the Birth of Neoliberalism, on the history, theory, and practice of the doctrine

Posted by: Doug Henwood | January 3, 2019

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January 3, 2019 Samuel Moyn, author of Not Enough, on the paradox of human rights discourse arising alongside great inequality, and on the difference between poverty reduction and income compression

Posted by: Doug Henwood | December 28, 2018

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December 27, 2018 Wilson Sherwin, a grad student at CUNY writing on the welfare rights movement, on that and its relation to anti-/post-work politics • Marta Silva Cabral and Forrest Hylton look at Brazil on the eve of Bolsonaro’s inauguration

Posted by: Doug Henwood | December 15, 2018

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December 13, 2018 Robert Pollin, lead author of this paper, on how to pay for Medicare for All—covering everyone and saving money • Anton Jäger, author of this article, on the problems with the anti-/post-work position

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