Gayatri Spivak on privilege etc.

I’ve been meaning to post this for a long time and never got around to it. This is Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak speaking at the Gramsci Monument in The Bronx on August 24, 2013. The monument, a grandiose name for a structure built out of 2×4’s and plywood, to the Italian political philosopher Antonio Gramsci was conceived by the Swiss artist Thomas Hirschorn as a temporary installation and erected on the grounds of the Forest Houses, a public housing project in the only one of the five boroughs of New York City that’s… Read More

NYC has way too many cops

As do many other cities, but since I’m a New Yorker, I’m leading with the hometown news. US cities vary widely in the number of cops they have relative to their population, as the graph below (drawn from data assembled by Governing magazine). Among big cities, DC, Chicago, New York, Baltimore, and Philadelphia top the list, with over 40 officers per 10,000 people. These are well above the national average of just under 28 per 10,000. Cities toward the bottom of the list have 20 or fewer. If New York had an average… Read More

Forced binaries, etc.

I’ve been hating on the Democratic party in public for almost 35 years, in private for longer than that. But I have to say, and I don’t see how anyone could deny this, if a Democrat were president now there just wouldn’t be anywhere near as many dead and doomed people. The CDC might not have been richly funded, but it certainly wouldn’t have been eviscerated, with talented people not wanting to go anywhere near it. The pandemic task forces wouldn’t have been disbanded, and probably would have been listened to from… Read More

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… Read More

The wit and wisdom of Larry Kudlow

News that Larry Kudlow will become Trump’s top economic advisor reminded me of my experience with him when we were Left vs. Right guests on a WNYC-TV show in the early 1990s. WNYC’s studios were then in the Municipal Building in lower Manhattan. A producer met us in the lobby to take us upstairs, and proudly noted that the building had just been renovated. Larry’s response: “They should have just let it fall down.” In an effort to democratize the form, WNYC had placed remote cameras in a few dwellings around the… Read More

Never demand.

Matt Bruenig already wrote about this (now deleted) tweet from Paul Waldman, which was a response to one from Bernie Sanders… …and before typing any more, I must confess to feeling guilty about writing a second blog post (god knows there are probably more) about a tweet. But, onwards. As Bruenig writes, “The difference between Obamacare and AHCA is 24 million uninsured people while the difference between single-payer and Obamacare is 28 million uninsured people.” Obamacare, with all its omissions and cost-shifting, isn’t innocent of monstrousness. There’s a point about political strategy… Read More

Making collective guilt palatable to liberals

Michael Tomasky, whom I’ve known over 20 years—sparring with him much of that time but liking him anyway—just wrote an awful piece which apparently aims to legitimate for liberals assertions of collective Muslim responsibility. Following the lead of the president, himself no stranger to rampant paranoia about Muslims, Tomasky basically tells Muslims to shape up or face Donald Trump. To counter accusations of tendentious paraphrase, let me quote a few choice bits: [Obama] used the usual liberal language about how most Muslims are great, but he also said that religious fundamentalism is “a real… Read More

The student debt boom (cont.)

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York is out with it latest household debt report, covering the first quarter of 2015. Its parent in DC, the Federal Reserve Board, publishes lots of similar data, but the New York Fed is the first source to publish rigorous numbers on student debt. The latest report is here; you can get the numbers behind it here. Since the official end of the Great Recession in June 2009, households have been borrowing very cautiously (how much it’s their decision, their lenders’ decision, or a combination of the… Read More

Consumption: a response to Michael Roberts

Michael Roberts writes in response to my piece on Marx: However, Henwood reckons the current crisis is the result of inequality and low wages reducing consumption and thus the answer is to raise wages and public spending. The problem with this view of Marx is that it does not match the facts: consumption did not slump at all prior to the Great Recession: it was the collapse of the housing market, profits and then investment, not consumption. Raising wages and reducing inequality will help the majority but lower profitability further and thus reignite the… Read More

Money porn

Institutional Investor’s alpha is out with its annual ranking (The Rich List) of top hedge fund earners, which always provokes meditation on our upper class. In 2012, the top 25 hedgies collectively earned $14.14 billion. That’s the lowest since 2008, but down only 2% from 2011. It is also equivalent to the collective income of 1.3 million of the poorer households in the U.S. In the magazine’s telling, this year the markets rewarded “the fearless investor,” who ignored all those macro worries—a crappy U.S. recovery, implosions on the periphery of Europe, etc.—and stayed boldly… Read More

Make that 12%. No, 18%.

Sorry, this one needs a rethink.

How Obama aims to cut Social Security benefits by 10%

Word is that Obama is willing to cut a deal on the f***** c**** (I can’t bear to type the words) that would use the chained CPI (C-CPI-U) to adjust Social Security benefits for the cost of living. Let’s leave aside the technical details of the C-CPI-U vs. the standard CPI-U (the U stands for urban consumers, about 87% of the U.S. population) and the somewhat less standard CPI-W (the W stands for urban wage earners and clerical workers, about 32% of the population) for now. What attracts budget cutters to the… Read More

Capital drought

U.S. corporations are flush with cash. As of the end of the third quarter, they had $1.8 trillion in cash, bonds, and other liquid financial assets on hand—and I’m talking about nonfinancial corporations, not banks or insurance companies. Profits are very high, and firms are gushing with cash flow. But they’re not investing all that much—in things, that is, like buildings and machines. Usually, corporate capital spending tracks closely with cash flow (profits plus depreciation allowances). Firms typically invest all their cash flow, and very often more (borrowing the difference). Over the… Read More

Why Obama lost the debate

This is a lightly edited version of my radio commentary from today’s show. First, I should say that while I am not a Democrat, and never had much hope invested in 2008’s candidate of hope, I do think we’d be marginally better off if Obama won. One reason we’d be better off is that when a Democrat is in power, it’s easier to see that the problems with our politics—the dominance of money and state violence—are systemic issues, and not a matter of individuals or parties. That’s not to say there 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