with Chris Hedges
Central to us on the left is the dilemma of a seemingly indifferent working class to the changes that impact directly not only on our material well-being but on the corporatisation of our cultural lives. Some argue that it’s down to the prevailing sense of powerlessness as the gulf between those who govern and the governed, deepens and widens. But there is perhaps another explanation for our disenfranchisement; the role of the ‘middle class’ as a mechanism of social control.
In Extraenvironmentalist #67 we discuss the implications of the bursting global credit bubble with economist and historian Michael Hudson. Our conversation covers many of the themes in Hudson’s new book, The Bubble and Beyond which covers the process of quantitative easing, neofeudalism and more.
Chris Williams, author of Ecology and Socialism: Solutions to Capitalist Ecological Crisis, and a participant in the ecosocialist coalition System Change Not Climate Change, reports on the latest report on climate change–and the Wall Street non-response to it.
October 1, 2013
“The conventional wisdom on the world’s stock markets is that all listed reserves will be exploited and burnt.”
— “Unburnable Carbon 2013: Are the World’s Financial Markets Carrying a Carbon Bubble,” report by Carbon Tracker Initiative
“Developing new green technology, hiring workers and investing in new productive facilities involves a real risk: it may not be as profitable as purely speculative investments.
Part F in the Insider’s Economic Dictionary.
Factoid: A hypothesis, rumor or story so consonant with peoples’ preconceptions that it is accepted as a fact or working assumption, even though it often is made up a priori. Among the most notorious examples are the ideas of diminishing returns, equilibrium, that privatized ownership is inherently more efficient than public management, and that trickle-down economics works. (See Junk Science.)
This week marks both the fifth anniversary of the fiscal meltdown that almost tanked the world economy and the second anniversary of Occupy Wall Street, the movement that sparked heightened public awareness of income inequality. Yet the crisis is worse than ever – in the first three years of the recovery, 95 percent of the economic gains have gone only to the top one percent of Americans. And the share of working people in the U.S. who define themselves as lower class is at its highest level in four decades.
More and more are fighting back. According to Robert Reich, Bill Clinton’s secretary of labor: “The core principle is that we want an economy that works for everyone, not just for a small elite. We want equal opportunity, not equality of outcome. We want to make sure that there’s upward mobility again, in our society and in our economy.”
This week, Reich joins Moyers & Company to discuss a new documentary film, Inequality for All, opening next week in theaters across the country. Directed by Jacob Kornbluth, the film aims to be a game-changer in our national discussion of income inequality. Reich, who Time magazine called one of the best cabinet secretaries of the 20th century, stars in this dynamic, witty and entertaining documentary.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” — Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
“The organic-food movement is in danger of exacerbating the growing gap between rich and poor in this country by contributing to a two-tiered national food supply, with healthy food for the rich. Could Wal-Mart’s populist strategy prove to be more “sustainable” than Whole Foods? Stranger things have happened.” — Fred Maloney
In 1935, Sinclair Lewis wrote a satirical novel entitled It Can’t Happen Here. In the book, a democratically elected President transforms the country into a totalitarian, ruthless regime, relying upon patriotic rhetoric and fear to dominate and control a docile populace.
At no point in Canadian history have we faced such a precarious social and political stability. The profligate consumption that sustains a capitalist order will not last much longer; no matter how much faith we place in markets to rectify other means of renewable energy, transportation, housing, and production.
The popular perception of climate change as a problem projected into the future, a problem (we are told) faced only by our grandchildren, is rapidly being exposed as dangerous folly. Recent studies reveal Arctic sea ice – the so-called canary of climate change – has already collapsed to one fifth of its 1980 level and will likely exist for only one or perhaps two more summers.
Part C in the Insider’s Economic Dictionary.
Camouflage: A cloak of artificial attractiveness or even of invisibility. Financial debt-claims on the economy’s income and assets camouflage themselves as wealth, although the financial tactic is to strip it. (See Euphemism and Parasite.)
Just recently, in late July, Wells Fargo surpassed the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) as the world’s largest bank by market capitalization. This followed Wells Fargo reporting a 19% increase in profits over the second quarter as the bank has been busy consolidating the housing market while other big banks have retreated from it. Wells Fargo had amassed a share of almost 40% of the U.S. mortgage market by early 2013.
In the second quarter of 2013, the third-largest U.S. bank by assets, Citigroup, posted a 42% increase in profits which CEO Michael Corbat praised as a “well balanced” result of “cost cutting” programs, including the firing of 11,000 workers.
This big bank has a sordid history of predatory profiteering and criminal activity, not unlike all the other large banks. In the early 20th century, what was then National City Bank was the main bank for the Rockefeller Standard Oil interests. Continue reading
The recently declared bankruptcy of Detroit City could serve as an epitome of the rise and fall of not just American capitalism, but the capitalist system generally as an historical mode of production. It is a mode of production that is no longer viable as a way of efficiently organizing and sustaining society in the 21st Century. In fact, the system has become the nemesis of American and other societies across the world.
I have known my postman for more than 20 years. Conscientious and good-humoured, he is the embodiment of public service at its best. The other day, I asked him, “Why are you standing in front of each door like a soldier on parade?”
“New system,” he replied, “I am no longer required simply to post the letters through the door. I have to approach every door in a certain way and put the letters through in a certain way.”