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marmar's Journal
marmar's Journal
May 10, 2016

The Collapse of the Middle-Class Job


Our middle-income jobs are disappearing. That fact may be disputed by free-market advocates, who want to believe Barack Obama when he gushes, "We’re in the middle of the longest streak of private sector job creation in history."

But the evidence shows that living-wage, family-sustaining positions are quickly being replaced by lower-wage and less secure forms of employment. These plentiful low-level jobs have padded the unemployment figures, leaving much of America believing in an overhyped recovery.

The Incredible Shrinking Job

New research is beginning to confirm the permanent nature of middle-income job loss. Based on analysis that one reviewer calls "some of the most important work done by economists in the last twenty years," a National Bureau of Economic Research study found that national employment levels have fallen in U.S. industries that are vulnerable to import competition, without offsetting job gains in other industries. Even the Wall Street Journal admits that "many middle-wage occupations, those with average earnings between $32,000 and $53,000, have collapsed."

Productive Workers, but Less of Them

High-salaried jobs in technology still exist, but they're available to fewer people as machines become smarter. Netflix, for example, serves 57 million customers with less than 2,200 employees, who have a median salary of $180,000. Google is worth $370 billion but employs only about 55,000 workers (50 years ago AT&T was worth less in today's dollars but employed about 750,000 workers). Facebook's messaging application WhatsApp has 55 employees serving 450 million customers. ...............(more)


May 10, 2016

The Pain You Feel is Capitalism Dying

NOTE: For whatever reason, I assume because of the @ symbol, the link doesn't work on DU. You can access the article by going to https://medium.com and typing the title of the piece and/or joe brewer in the search box.

Joe Brewer
The Pain You Feel is Capitalism Dying

It can be very confusing to know that you won’t find a decent job, pay off student loans or put in a down payment on a house in the next few years — even though you may have graduated from a top-tier university or secured glowing references from all those unpaid internships that got you to where you are today.

Even if you are lucky enough to have all of this going for you, you’ll still be one among hundreds of applicants for every job you apply for. And you’ll still watch as the world becomes more unequal, with fewer paid opportunities to do what you feel called to do in your work or for your life path.

What’s more, you won’t find much help from your friends because most (if not all) of them are going through the same thing. This is a painful and difficult time that is impacting all of us at once.


Reason 1: There Are No More Profits to Extract.

As eloquently described in the writings of Jeremy Rifkin and Paul Mason, the primary motivator for capitalists — to extract wealth from consumer exchange in the form of monetary gain — is crippled by the fact that the science of wealth extraction has become so advanced that every new wave brings diminishing returns. What is called “marginal cost” by economists, the difference between how much it costs to produce something and what people are willing or able to pay for it, is nearly zero now for everything we manufacture or provide as a service. This zero marginal cost trend is breaking capitalism down by the unexpected outcome of its own spectacular success.


So the nails are in the coffin for capitalism. What remains to be seen is whether this will take down our globalized civilization as well. I am hopeful, yet sober about our prospects. It’s going to be a very turbulent time (for the rest of our lives) but I think we can make it through this restlessness by acknowledging that it’s real, naming the architecture of wealth extraction that created these systemic harms, and dismantling this globalized system to release vital monetary resources for the emergence of a new, life-affirming paradigm for economic development. .............................(more)


May 10, 2016

Higher Education and Neoliberal Temptation: An Interview With Henry A. Giroux

Higher Education and Neoliberal Temptation: An Interview With Henry A. Giroux

Monday, 09 May 2016 00:00
By Almantas Samalavicius, Eurozine | Interview

If the university is to survive, faculty are going to have to rethink their roles as critical public intellectuals, connect their scholarship to broader social issues and learn how to write for and speak to a broader public. Of this much, the cultural critic and doyen of critical pedagogy Henry Giroux is convinced.

Almantas Samalavicius: The neoliberal agenda that came into being a few decades ago in the northern hemisphere, and was eventually globalized, now seems to threaten systems of higher education worldwide. The persistence of this phenomenon has become alarming to many who care about its social consequences. As you have correctly and insightfully observed in your 2014 book Neoliberalism's War on Higher Education, "a full-fledged assault is also being waged on higher education in North America, the United Kingdom and various European countries. While the nature of the assault varies across countries, there is a common set of assumptions and practices driving the transformation of higher education into an adjunct of corporate power and values." Why is this agenda taking over societies that are so different from each other? What makes neoliberalism so overwhelmingly powerful and resistant to criticism as well as to social action? Why do governments give themselves up to neoliberal ideology, even if they claim to represent quite different ideological positions?

Henry Giroux: For all of its differences, neoliberalism brings together a number of elements that makes it appear almost insurmountable, if not universal, in its ability to normalize itself and convince the rest of the world that there is no alternative as Margaret Thatcher once argued.

First, it has created a new set of power relations in which power is global and politics is local. The financial elite now operate in the global flows of capital and have no allegiance to the nation-state or to the social contract that mediated between labour and capital in the post-war period. This separation points to a crisis of agency on the part of the state and a crisis of politics in terms of the ability to develop social formations that can challenge capital on a global rather than simply a local scale. The nation-state can no longer make concrete decisions on the economic level or create social provisions necessary to limit the effects of the market and offer the most basic services for people.

At the nation level, state sovereignty has been transformed into economic sovereignty. Governments don't give themselves up, they have been hijacked by the institutions, power and wealth of the global elite. There is no way for states to challenge global forms of governance. We must remember that neoliberalism is very powerful not only because of its economic structures but also because of its pedagogical and ideological power. It not only consolidates wealth and power in different wars for the ultra-rich, it also controls all of those cultural apparatuses and pedagogical sites that function to produce identities, desires and values that mimic the market. In this sense it is a mode of governance that controls all of social life and not simply the market.

As a mode of governance, it produces identities, subjects and ways of life free of government regulations, driven by a survival of the fittest ethic, grounded in the idea of the free, possessive individual and committed to the right of ruling groups and institutions to accrue wealth removed from matters of ethics and social costs. As a policy and political project, neoliberalism is wedded to the privatization of public services, the selling off of state functions, the deregulation of finance and labour, the elimination of the welfare state and unions, the liberalization of trade in goods and capital investment and the marketization and commodification of society. As a form of public pedagogy and cultural politics, neoliberalism casts all dimensions of life in terms of market rationality. ................(more)


May 10, 2016

Emails Reveal Navy's Intent to Break Law, Threatening Endangered Wildlife

Exclusive: Emails Reveal Navy's Intent to Break Law, Threatening Endangered Wildlife

Monday, 09 May 2016 00:00
By Dahr Jamail, Truthout | Report

[font size="1"]A marbled murrelet, one of the species threatened by the US Navy's jet noise. (Photo: US Department of Agriculture; Edited: LW / TO)[/font]

When it comes to getting its way with war-gaming in the Pacific Northwest, nobody is better at the concept of "distributed lethality" than the US Navy. In 2015, the Navy introduced this concept "that promised to add more fire power to all manner of Navy vessels and operate them in a way that would spread thin enemy defenses." The Navy seems determined to move forward with planned military activities like increasing jet dogfighting, electromagnetic warfare training and other actions, regardless of how many animals it kills. Internal emails show how the Navy has been working to manipulate the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) biologists into bending the law, then proceeded to break the law, whilst the consultations between the two entities are ongoing.

An anonymous Navy source leaked several internal emails to Truthout that reveal how the Navy is trying to redefine "harm" to wildlife, in a way that would allow the Navy a potentially far greater rate of "takes" to marbled murrelets and other endangered and/or threatened species. A "take" is defined by the Endangered Species Act as to "harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect" any threatened or endangered species. Marbled murrelets are secretive diving seabirds that nest in old-growth forests, which makes them vulnerable to both jet noise and sonar.

The emails show that while the Navy is aware that exceeding authorized levels of harm to species is illegal, it is nevertheless going to great lengths to move forward with its actions -- regardless of their toll on wildlife.

The emails, from August and September 2015, reveal in detail how Navy personnel from the Pacific Northwest to the Pentagon pressured an apparently overwhelmed and cash-strapped FWS to complete its biological opinion (BO) in ways that would benefit the Navy. A BO is a legal document from the FWS that is required in order for the Navy to obtain the permits it needs under the Endangered Species Act, while conducting exercises and war games. As of publication of this article, the BO, covering marbled murrelets, northern spotted owls, bull trout and other species, is not complete. ..................(more)


May 9, 2016

Another Condo Bubble Bites the Dust

Another Condo Bubble Bites the Dust
by Wolf Richter • May 8, 2016

[font color="blue"]Luxury condo boom in Lower Manhattan turns to glut, prices sag[/font]

In Lower Manhattan, 31 towers with over 5,000 apartments are sprouting up. They’re not exactly in the “affordable” category. The median price for condos – half sell for more, half sell for less – has soared 77% since 2013, to $2.43 million, while the median price in the overall Manhattan condo market has shot up “only” 54% to $1.84 million.

These are stunning numbers, even for those of us who’ve become inured to stunning numbers by being exposed on a daily basis to the craziness in San Francisco.


Soaring condo prices induce developers to build more, and they gravitate toward the top end. Why? Because that’s where the money is. Cheap credit funds their ambitions. It takes years to take a condo tower from planning to completion. Once the process is far enough advanced, it’s difficult and costly to stop it. And these towers keep growing and adding new supply, long after demand has started sagging. That’s why condo gluts are so terrible – particularly for lenders.

And demand in that space is now sagging: The number of condos sold at over $4 million plunged to their “lowest level since 2012.” To get things moving, the prices of a third of the 261 penthouses on the market in April – 261 penthouses on the market! – was cut by an average of 10%. And some prices were slashed a lot more. The FT:

In Chelsea, the asking price for a 5,995 sq ft penthouse in Walker Tower, a refurbished art deco project, fell from $70 million to $55 million in the 10 months to March, according to StreetEasy. In SoHo, a 5,912 sq ft penthouse with a private rooftop deck has been on sale for almost nine months and the price has been reduced from $26.5 million to $22.5 million.



May 9, 2016

How Wall-Street Hocus-Pocus Inflates S&P 500 Revenues

How Wall-Street Hocus-Pocus Inflates S&P 500 Revenues
by Wolf Richter • May 9, 2016

[font color="blue"]But even the well-oiled machine couldn’t hide the decline.[/font]

Despite what you might think, there’s a difference between our financial markets and casinos in Las Vegas: casinos aren’t rigged.

In a casino, the odds are officially against you. You know what they are, and you subject yourself to them – statistically speaking – to lose money … while having a blast.

Wall Street on the other hand has become an ingenious hocus-pocus machine where even the most taken-for-granted and often-cited data points are systematically inflated. Yet this particular trick – one of many – is perfectly legal. It’s how it is supposed to be done. And that makes it even more insidious.

The S&P 500 companies account for about 75% of the US equity market capitalization. So when aggregate revenues of the S&P 500 companies rise or fall, it’s an important indicator as to what is happening in the US business scene. It’s also a gauge of the global economy since many of these companies derive their revenues from around the world. So we pay close attention to it. ................(more)


May 9, 2016

Clinton’s VP Trial Balloon: Can She Really Be This Full of Air?

(The Progressive) Almost as fast as Carly Fiorina disappeared from that stage in Lafayette earlier this week, Donald Trump became the Republican nominee on Tuesday night.

Why? For sure, a lot of it was racist, misogynist, loud-mouthed buffoonery. But most of it was his central theme was that he wasn't bought, that he's, "not in this for anyone other than YOU.” And his most powerful message about how things would be different under Trump? No more corporate-written trade deals that export American jobs overseas.

Meanwhile, on the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton is firmly in the driver’s seat, but she can't quite get Bernie out of the car. Why? Sanders has a message that is similar to Trump’s—minus the misogyny, racism and buffoonery. Actually, Trump, a master used car salesman, was quick to see what was working for Sanders and stole it.

Clinton’s latest attempt to shake off Sanders, who is at this moment is clinging with steely determination to the bumper of the 2016 campaign, is to float the idea of a potential Vice Presidential candidate. After all, what better says, “It’s over! I got this!” than picking your running mate?

Not a bad strategy, unless the person you are floating undermines your assurances to working class voters that you’ve seen the error of your ways when it comes to corporate give-away trade deals and you’re really in it for them now. .........(more)

- See more at: http://www.progressive.org/news/2016/05/188713/clinton%E2%80%99s-vp-trial-balloon-can-she-really-be-full-air#sthash.ItYtbIOT.dpuf

May 9, 2016

"the idea that technology will create a new job to replace the one it has destroyed is no longer..."

Robert McChesney: Capitalism Is a Bad Fit for a Technological Revolution

Sunday, 08 May 2016 00:00
By Mark Karlin, Truthout | Interview

In this interview, Robert McChesney, author with John Nichols of People Get Ready, discusses their new book, its challenge to the idea that technological advances always benefit humans and a framework to envision a digital age that will benefit workers over the super-rich.

Mark Karlin: Let me start with the grand question raised by your book written with John Nichols. I think it is safe to say that the conventional thinking of the "wisdom class" for decades has been that the more advanced technology becomes (including robots and automated means of production, service and communication), the more beneficial it will be for humans. What is the basic challenge to that concept at the center of the new book by you and John?

Robert W. McChesney: The conventional wisdom, embraced and propagated by many economists, has been that while new technologies will disrupt and eliminate many jobs and entire industries, they would also create new industries, which would eventually have as many or more new jobs, and that these jobs would generally be much better than the jobs that had been lost to technology.

And that has been more or less true for much of the history of industrial capitalism. Vastly fewer people were needed to work on farms by the 20th century and many ended up in factories; less are now needed in factories and they end up in offices. The new jobs tended to be better than the old jobs.

But we argue the idea that technology will create a new job to replace the one it has destroyed is no longer operative. Nor is the idea that the new job will be better than the old job, in terms of compensation and benefits. Capitalism is in a period of prolonged and arguably indefinite stagnation. There is immense unemployment and underemployment of workers, which we document in the book, taken from entirely uncontroversial data sources. There is downward pressure on wages and working conditions, which results is growing and grotesque inequality. Workers have less security and are far more precarious today than they were a generation ago; for workers under the age of 30, it is a nightmare compared to what I experienced in the 1970s.

Likewise, there is an immense amount of "unemployed" capital; i.e. wealthy individuals and US corporations are holding around $2 trillion in cash for which they cannot find attractive investments. There is simply insufficient consumer demand for firms to risk additional capital investment. The only place that demand can come from is by shifting money from the rich to the poor and/or by aggressively increasing government spending, and those options are politically off-limits, except to jack up military spending, which is already absurdly and obscenely high. .................(more)


May 7, 2016

Kudos to London for not giving in to fear and RW demagoguery. Cheers, love!

(Bloomberg) Khan’s election is a challenge to the rise of anti-Muslim rhetoric by right-wing politicians including French National Front leader Marine Le Pen and presumptive U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who promises to ban Muslims from entering the country.

London is a city “that not only tolerates but celebrates diversity,” campaigner Doreen Lawrence said as Khan was sworn in Saturday. Lawrence, mother of Stephen Lawrence, a British teenager who was murdered in a racist attack in South East London in 1993, said the city had “chosen hope over fear.”

In brief remarks after taking the oath, Khan promised to be “a mayor for all Londoners.”

Khan beat Conservative Zac Goldsmith, who had questioned whether Khan’s links in the Muslim community made him a suitable person to keep the U.K. capital secure, with 1.3 million votes to 995,000. The new mayor was sworn in during a ceremony in London’s Southwark Cathedral Saturday. ..................(more)


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