SEIU’s FFFE: a lot of expensive nothing, apparently

In my recent posts on the Wisconsin results and the dire crisis of organized labor, I argued among other things that unions must fight for the broad working class and not just their shrinking memberships if they’re ever going to turn things around. Some people who disagreed with me claimed that unions were already doing that. Example offered were the AFL-CIO’s Working America program the SEIU’s Fight for a Fair Economy. [Ed. note: I’d originally said that Working America was one word, a la high-tech branding, but it’s two. Sorry.] So what are… Read More

Profitability: high, and maybe past its peak?

As every Marxist schoolchild knows, the profits “call the tune” for the capitalist economy, as Michael Roberts put it recently. He writes: Despite the very high mass of profit that has been generated since the economic recovery began, the rate of profit stopped rising in 2011.  That’s a sign that the US capitalist economy will not achieve any significant sustainable growth over the next year so so.  The rate remains below the peak of 1997.  But the rate is clearly higher than in was in the late 1970s and early 1980s at… Read More

Fresh audio product

Just posted to my radio archives: June 21, 2012 Yanis Varoufakis, now economist in residence at Valve Software, on the Greek elections and the reasons for German Sturheit • Amber Hollibaugh, co-director of Queers for Economic Justice, and Kenyon Farrow, former director of QEJ, on the New Queer Agenda

From the vault: money and the mind, a psychoanalysis

[Related topics came up earlier today on the Facebook, so I thought I’d post this excerpt from my book Wall Street (Verso, 1996/1997). You can download the whole book for free here. For a more “economic” analysis of money and gold, see From the vault: the gold fetish.] Money, mind, and matter: a psychocultural digression  Money is a kind of poetry. — Wallace Stevens (1971, p. 165) Who drinks on credit gets twice as drunk. — Turkish proverb One virtue of Keynes’s attention to psychology and sentiment is that it forces us to think about economics… Read More

Sam Gindin on the crisis in labor

[This is a lightly edited transcript of my interview with Sam Gindin, first broadcast on June 14, 2012. The audio is here. Thanks a million to Andrew Loewen for doing the transcription.] My next guest is the excellent Sam Gindin. Sam is an economist who spent more than 20 years in the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) Union, first as a researcher and then as an adviser to the president. He retired from the CAW in 2000 and has since been teaching in the wonderful political science department at York University, Toronto. He… Read More

My chat with Adam Davidson

My latest radio show, a long chat with Adam Davidson, is up in my radio archives: June 9, 2012 Adam Davidson, host of NPR’s Planet Money and columnist for the New York Times Magazine, on finance, innovation, bourgeois ideology, journalism, and being mean on the Internet (a conversation that was prompted by this piece of mine) [Davidson columns discussed include: Wall Street, Bain dude, Honduras] • full conversation (unedited, except to remove some patter at the beginning and to suppress several volume spikes) is here

Sam Gindin comments…

The excellent Sam Gindin, who spent many years with the Canadian Auto Workers as an economist/advisor (and who cannot be dismissed as some armchair pointy-head), writes in response to my recent stuff on Wisconsin: Very good response; I think you are right on re labour. The one thing I’d add, and I think it is very significant, is that this crisis in labour overlaps with the crisis on the left.  I’m convinced that any renewal in labour won’t happen until there is an organized left with feet inside and outside labour—and even… Read More

Incentivize labor leaders’ pay

Paging through the salary listings for top labor leaders reminded me of an idea that Liza Featherstone and I came up with a while back: tie their pay to performance. It’s a scandal that these characters, who’ve presided over years of shrinkage in membership and political power, are nonetheless paid well into the six figures (putting them securely in the 1%, in other words). To take one egregious example, the president of the Laborers Union is paid almost $600,000 even though membership is down almost 30% over the last decade. So why… Read More

Wisconsin follow-up

Follow-up to yesterday’s post on the Wisconsin recall (“Walker’s victory, un-sugar-coated”). I’ve been amazed at some of the tendentious misreadings of the piece that have made the rounds, mainly from left labor people. My favorite is that I just wasn’t aware of all the door-knocking and retail campaigning that union forces were doing over the last few months. Two points about that. One, months isn’t enough. I’m talking about years of education, organization, occupying. Face-to-face talk, direct action, all manner of things. And two, all that actually existing door-knocking was subsumed to… Read More

Walker’s victory, un-sugar-coated

Democrats and labor types are coming up with a lot of excuses for Scott Walker’s victory in Wisconsin. Not all are worthless. But the excuse-making impulse should be beaten down with heavy sticks. Yes, money mattered. Enormous amounts of cash poured in, mainly from right-wing tycoons, to support Walker’s effort to snuff public employee unions. While these sorts of tycoons—outside the Wall Street/Fortune 500 establishment—have long been the funding base for right-wing politics, they seem to have grown in wealth, number, consciousness, and mobilization since their days funding the John Birch Society… Read More

Fitch lecture video up

I could never bear to watch myself, but in case there’s someone else who might, the video of my Bob Fitch memorial lecture (Explaining what goes on in the world: in memory of Bob Fitch) is up here.

New York Fed: lower payments = lower default rate!

The New York Fed is out with a new paper (“Payment Changes and Default Risk: The Impact of Refinancing on Expected Credit Losses”) that shows that reducing monthly mortgage payments “significantly” reduces future default risks. (Abstract follows.) The details of the paper strike me as less interesting than the fact that this basilica of High Finance is arguing that some degree of debt reduction is prudent—bolder than anything that a mainstream politician would ever say. Remember, these are the folks who had David Graeber in recently to talk about debt (and debt forgiveness). Payment… Read More

Airline dereg: more a failure than Matt Yglesias says

Years ago, I wrote a piece on deregulation of all kinds and developed a mini-obsession about the absurdity of the airline sort. It had produced bankruptices, savage wage-cutting, union-busting, awful service, and the abandonment of marginal cities while not producing any improvement in affordability. It’s hard to get people to believe this, but it’s true. Matt Yglesias is out with a post (“Passenger Aviation in the United States: 40 Years of Failure”) on how the airline industry is a “stunning business failure.” Is it ever. But he doesn’t mention deregulation. The industry… Read More

Fresh audio product

These shows have been up on the server for a while, and available to podcast subscribers (e.g., iTunes – Podcasts – Behind the News with Doug Henwood), but I’ve finally gotten around to updating the web page. Here are three recent shows: June 2, 2012 DH on Bob Fitch (an abbreviated aural rendition of this) • Ben Jacobs on the Wisconsin recall • Stan Collender on the fiscal cliff May 26, 2012 Vijay Prashad, author of Arab Spring, Libyan Winter, on the topics implied by the book title • Mark Dery, author of I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts, on pop culture, beheading, David Bowie… Read More

Raid the Pentagon budget, do good works

A friend posted an item to Facebook, pointing out that it would cost C$5 billion a year to provide free university to all Canadians, a fraction of the country’s $24 billion military budget. I thought translating this into American would be a useful exercise. Here goes: Translating this in to American: We spend about $845 billion on the military, and personal expenditures on higher ed are about $165 billion. So for 20% of the military budget we could make higher ed free to individuals. But that’s not all. The old rule of… Read More