Category Archives: The destruction of the middle class

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel Forced Into Historic Runoff

This Real News Network interview describes why the coming mayoral runoff in Chicago is in many ways a referendum on failed neoliberal policies, such as privatizing schools. The very fact that this race is taking place at all reveals an unexpectedly large degree of popular discontent with misrule by what passes for our elites

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Mathew D. Rose: Greece – Dead Man Walking

Rose focuses on an issue that reader Swedish Lex and other have pointed out: the heavy-handed actions of Germany in the tempestuous negotiations between the Eurozone and Greece have wound up being a major own goal.

But the bigger issue that Rose raises is that last week’s ugly negotiations, in combination with the fiasco in Ukraine, is exposing Germany as a lousy hegemon, which he argues is producing a political crisis in Germany and fracture lines in Europe.

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TransPacific Partnership: Fast Track to Financial Instability

In his State of the Union speech, President Obama said he would submit a bill to Congress that would grant him the fast track authority to finalize the TransPacific Partnership (TPP)—a trade pact with Pacific Rim countries such as Japan, Malaysia, Peru, and Chile.  While free trade has brought benefits in the past, tariffs in the world economy are at an all time low and new deals like the TPP offer few new gains in terms of growth and jobs for the American people. And the TPP in particular comes at unacceptably high cost.

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How Third Way Trade Agreements Study Distorts Via Omission to Pave Way for TTP and TTIP

Even cherry-picked data shows only modest gains for trade agreements, and more comprehensive looks tell a very different tale. And that’s before you get to all the nasty sovereignty-gutting provisions of the TTP and TTIP.

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Why is It Hard to Land a Well-Paid Job After Losing One?

Yves here. I sometimes run posts from orthodox economic sites as exercise in critical thinking, or to remind readers of what passes for research in economics, since economic work is treated with undue reverence in policy circles.

Here, the issue at hand is why people who have well paid jobs take a while to land another one, of course assuming that they manage to land well. The analysis by the author is not bad, save its rather frightening level of abstraction. But take a good look at his summary of conventional assumptions about how job-finding and wage-setting for the unemployed is supposed to work.

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Is Syriza About to Score a Tactical Win Against the Troika?

Those who were hoping that Syriza would be cowed by the ECB’s aggressive moves to shut Greece out of bond markets and Eurozone finance ministers’ unified resistance to the new government’s proposals are no doubt frustrated by its refusal to capitulate. On Sunday, Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras gave a rousing speech reaffirming Syriza’s plans.

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The Rich and the Great Recession

Much research about the Great Recession in the US has focused on the boom-bust in housing wealth and spending of the middle class. This column argues that a large role was actually played by the rich. The savings rate of the rich went through a similar cycle as that of the middle class with rising wealth first stimulating their consumption and falling wealth restraining it. Most importantly, the wealth of the rich has become so large and volatile that wealth effects on their consumption could impact the whole economy.

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What Thomas Piketty and Larry Summers Don’t Tell You About Income Inequality

In a new paper for the Institute For New Economic Thinking’s Working Group on the Political Economy of Distribution, economist Lance Taylor and his colleagues examine income inequality using new tools and models that give us a more nuanced — and frightening —picture than we’ve had before.  Their simulation models show how so-called “reasonable” modifications like modest tax increases on the wealthy and boosting low wages are not going to be enough to stem the disproportionate tide of income rushing toward the rich. Taylor’s research challenges the approaches of American policy makers, the assumptions of traditional economists, and some of the conclusions drawn by Thomas Piketty and Larry Summers. Bottom line: We’re not yet talking about the kinds of major changes needed to keep us from becoming a Downton Abbey society.

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Wolf Richter: In Search of Cheap Labor in Tech – Behind the H1-B Visa Scenes

his post focuses on how the procedures in the H1-B visa process that are meant to protect workers from unfair competition from foreign workers and contractors are a joke. And this is one of the reasons that the calls by disconnected Beltway pundits and technocrats for American students to get more technically oriented education, most of all in STEM fields, is hopelessly misguided. Companies are more and more refusing to supply much if anything in the way of entry-level jobs, sending yeoman’s work in former white collar professions, including accounting and the law, to outsources in India. And the fix of having more specialized training is just as unrealistic. The more specialized the training, the more at risk you are that those skills will prove to be useless. That is why so many mid-career professionals fall far when they lose their perch, since if they can’t use the narrow expertise that they’ve accumulated, they have to fall back on their generalist skills, which means low-level jobs like call center work, retail, or if they are lucky, a position like an office manager in a small business.

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Will the Cavalry Ride Over the Hill in Time for Greece?

We’ve cautioned readers that Greece is in a very weak bargaining position relative to its financial overlords in the Troika. As much as Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis is making sound, logical arguments and presenting proposals that if anything are too accommodating, despite initial cool reactions, many of Greece’s soi disant partners are diehard neoliberals and/or are politically constrained. Varoufakis is approaching them as if they can deal in good faith, when their idea of “good faith” comes from a punitive parallel universe.

Three important meetings today will provide a better sense of whether Greece is gaining any political ground in its uphill battle to roll back austerity.

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