Category Archives: Social values

Joe Firestone: The Lawless Society

Yves here. This post lays bare the depth of corruption in the US. We addressed the problem of what Joe Firestone calls “the lawless society” and presented some initial thoughts about the necessity of pressuring political parties rather than working within them in our Skunk Party Manifesto. A key section:

Corruption is the biggest single problem. Until we tackle that, frontally, it will be impossible to get any good solutions or even viable interim measures to the long and growing list of problems we face. Conduct that would have been seen as reprehensible 40 years ago, like foreclosing on people who were current on their mortgages, or selling drugs even when the company knows they increase heart heart attack and stroke risk enough to be fatal for a meaningful percentage of patients, barely stirs a raised eyebrow today.

As Frederick Douglass said:

Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.

It has become fashionable to talk of outrage fatigue, but political and economic abusers have used that to press for more advantage. And events of recent weeks suggest that even a downtrodden and disenfranchised public is capable of rousing itself and acting when they have finally been pushed too far. Escalating violence by police and the utter indifference of local authorities to it has produced not just a backlash, but sustained protests. Similarly, while the publication of the CIA torture reports is unlikely to lead to real reform of the CIA, it has embarrassed our foreign collaborators and has confirmed the worst of what US critics and skeptics overseas believe. Even if the report produces little change in the US, it has ended any pretense that the US has moral authority in the world at large.


Peter Temin: Lessons From the Great Depression

In this video, Peter Temin, a highly respected expert on the Great Depression*, discusses some of the revealing parallels between that era and our current financial and economic plight with Marshall Auerback. Don’t be deceived by the leisurely pacing of this conversation and Temin’s soft-spoken manner. Temin in his measured way sets the stage for discussing how the trajectory we are on, which is undoing more and more social safety nets and job security, which are fundamental to trust, does not merely lead to lower productivity and hence hurts everyone, including the wealthy, but also puts us on a trajectory towards a dystopian future.


SEC’s Mary Jo White Approves of Torture

It might seem bizarre to solicit the view of a financial regulator on torture. But not only did this happen but the regulator was queried about the real deal, and more than once. The reason in SEC chairman Mary Jo White’s case is that in her prior life, she prosecuted terrorism cases, such as a 1993 plot to bomb the UN. And the tacit assumption was that if Mary Jo White approved of torture, um, the firm handling of foreign fanatics, she’d be tough with crooks in in the moneyed classes too. From FAIR’s blog last April (hat tim Mark Ames):


The State of Workers’ Wages Around the World

Yves here. Some of this Real News Network interview with Richard Wolff, who is currently a visiting professor at the New School, on a new ILO report on workers’ wages covers familiar ground. Wage growth in advanced economies has been much slower than that in emerging economies, in large measure due to multinational moving jobs overseas to exploit lower labor costs. But the interesting part of the conversation is Wolff’s argument on why this is in fact not defensible conduct and what countries like the US ought to do about it.


New York City: Aggressive “Broken Windows” Policing but Carte Blanche for Banksters

Yves here. Class-based policing, particularly against blacks, has been a long-standing feature in New York City. Bill Black focuses on the mythology of the low-tolerance “broken windows” tactics under police chief Bill Bratton in the Giuliani era. What appears to have been more effective is his idea of mapping crime patterns and flexible deployment of police, with a focus on getting to know the problematic neighborhoods and focusing on the types of crime prevalent in them. But the monied classes appear to have derived more comfort than was warranted from “quality of life” tactics that made the streets seem cleaner but didn’t do much for crime, such as getting homeless people out of Manhattan. Black argues that current race-based crime strategies such as stop and frisk are not merely of similar dubious value but come with high hidden costs.


Gaius Publius: An “Open Rebellion Caucus” Forms in the Senate

Yves here. Gaius Publius describes how an increasingly uppity faction within the Democratic party is revolting against the way that the party has become largely indistinguishable from the Republicans on economic matters. Oh, they make more middle class friendly noises, but as Lambert puts it, “The Republicans let you know they plan to knife you in the face. The Democrats tell you they only want one kidney. What they don’t tell you is next year they are coming for the other kidney.”

But can this “Open Rebellion Caucus” make headway when the Democratic party has moved to significant central control of funding?


Workers vs. Undocumented Immigrants: The Politics of Divide & Conquer

Yves here. Obama’s plan to give 4 million illegal immigrants temporary suspension from deportation has amped up the intensity of the already-heated debate over immigration and competition for US jobs from foreign workers.

This Real News Network interview with Bill Barry, who has organized documented and undocumented workers in the textile industry, makes an argument at a high level that many will find hard to dispute: that the fight over immigration reform and the status of undocumented immigrants diverts energy and attention from the ways in which a super-rich class is taking more and more out of the economy, to the detriment of laborers.


Why Congress Should Not Get Out of the Way of the Postal Service

Yves here. One of the slow-motion looting projects underway is effort to shut down the Postal Service or shrink it into uncompetitiveness. This post gives an update on the state of play in Congress as a particularly vocal Republican opponent, Ron Johnson, is set to become head of the Congressional committee responsible for Postal Service oversight.


Obama Pretends to Put Immigration Reform in Play

I’m reluctant to write about immigration reform, given that when the topic of illegal aliens comes up in posts on labor policy, too often there’s an upsurge of xenophobic, even racist, comments and a dearth of thoughtful discussion. So let this introduction serve as a warning: I’d like to use this piece to serve as a point of departure for discussing what a good immigration reform policy would look like, so we can have benchmarks for measuring what comes out of Obama’s promise that he would move immigration reform reform forward in an address Thursday evening.

But bear in mind that Obama’s speech and proposal for immigration reform is almost all public relations to cover up an action that is hard to swallow: making a bad situation worse by suspending deportations for illegal immigrants. Of course, cynics might argue that we’ve had flagrant non-enforcement of the law as far as elite bankers were concerned; why not extend that privilege to the other end of the food chain?

Obama’s pretext is that this action is a forcing device to get the Republicans to pass a “responsible” immigration reform bill. But the real political calculus is all too obvious.


Wisconsin as a Frontier of School Privatization: Will Anyone Notice the Looting?

I never dreamed that a class I took in college, The Politics of Popular Education, which covered the nineteenth century in France and England, would prove to be germane in America. I didn’t have any particular interest in the topic; the reason for selecting the course was that the more serious students picked their classes based on the caliber of the instructor, and this professor, Kate Auspitz, got particularly high marks. The course framed both the policy fights and the broader debate over public education in terms of class, regional, and ideological interests.

The participants in these struggles were acutely aware that the struggle over schooling was to influence the future of society: what sort of citizens would these institutions help create?

As the post below on the march of school privatization in Wisconsin demonstrates, those concerns are remarkably absent from current debates. The training of children is simply another looting opportunity, like privatizing parking meters and roads.


Does It Pay for Firms to Invest in Their Workers’ Wellbeing?

Yves here. While the findings of this short paper on the merits of employers promoting their workers’ job conditions, that viewpoint is perversely unfashionable today. It is somehow seen as more beneficial to employers to keep their minions cowed and fearful. One of the most active threats is the ease of firing workers. And of course, the belief that employment is tenuous works against the notion of making any investment in employees, even ones that are actually self-serving. But notice that this article does have a specific definition as to what “wellbeing” amounts to, which is workplace satisfaction. A major element appears to be bosses not acting like jerks.