November 29, 2011

Historical Trends in Income Inequality

From "A Guide to Statistics on Historical Trends in Income Inequality" by Chad Stone, Hannah Shaw, Danilo Trisi, and Arloc Sherman, November 28, 2011, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:

The broad facts of income inequality over the past six decades are easily summarized:
  • The years from the end of World War II into the 1970s were ones of substantial economic growth and broadly shared prosperity.
    • Incomes grew rapidly and at roughly the same rate up and down the income ladder, roughly doubling in inflation-adjusted terms between the late 1940s and early 1970s.
    • The income gap between those high up the income ladder and those on the middle and lower rungs — while substantial — did not change much during this period.
  • Beginning in the 1970s, economic growth slowed and the income gap widened.
    • Income growth for households in the middle and lower parts of the distribution slowed sharply, while incomes at the top continued to grow strongly.
    • The concentration of income at the very top of the distribution rose to levels last seen more than 80 years ago (during the "Roaring Twenties").
  • Wealth (the value of a household's property and financial assets net of the value of its debts) is much more highly concentrated than income, although the wealth data do not show a dramatic increase in concentration at the very top the way the income data do. ...

November 22, 2011

From Athens Polytechnic to UC Davis

Linda Katehi a few months ago helped to end Greek restrictions on police entering university campuses. She was a student at Athens Polytechnic during the 1973 uprising there which led to the downfall of the military junta. What a disturbed individual.

November 21, 2011

Goldman Sachs taking over Europe

Goldman Sachs has already established itself at the reins of the U.S. government (e.g., director of the National Economic Council Robert Rubin under Clinton, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson under Bush, and Timothy Geithner, president of the NY Federal Reserve Bank under Bush and Treasury Secretary under Clinton and Obama's chief economic adviser and former National Economic Council director Larry Summers, who was also Treasury Secretary under Bush); they are increasingly part of Europe's governments as well, as reported in "What price the new democracy? Goldman Sachs conquers Europe", The Independent, 18 Nov. 2011.

For example, Italy's new prime minister, Mario Monti, was on the GS board of international advisers. (He is also European Chairman of the Trilateral Commission.) Greece's new prime minister, Lucas Papademos, ran Greece's Central Bank when it made derivatives deals with GS to hide size of Greece's debt. (He too, is a member of the Trilateral Commission.) The head of Greece's debt management agency, Petros Christodoufou, is a GS alumus. The new head of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, was vice chairman and managing director of GS International.

One is compelled to wonder how much of the Euro crisis was actually manufactured by Goldman Sachs to maintain the U.S. dollar's dominance as world currency.

See also "Just Another Goldman Sachs Take Over" by Paul Craig Roberts.

November 20, 2011

Obama: Refrain from violence against peaceful protestors — hah!

Obama calls on authorities to refrain from violence against peaceful protestors. In January. In Egypt. Not now in Egypt or U.S. [via The New Civil Rights Movement]

Remarks by the President on the Situation in Egypt
January 28, 2011
State Dining Room

Good evening, everybody. My administration has been closely monitoring the situation in Egypt, and I know that we will be learning more tomorrow when day breaks. As the situation continues to unfold, our first concern is preventing injury or loss of life. So I want to be very clear in calling upon the Egyptian authorities to refrain from any violence against peaceful protestors.

The people of Egypt have rights that are universal. That includes the right to peaceful assembly and association, the right to free speech, and the ability to determine their own destiny. These are human rights. And the United States will stand up for them everywhere.

I also call upon the Egyptian government to reverse the actions that they’ve taken to interfere with access to the Internet, to cell phone service and to social networks that do so much to connect people in the 21st century.

At the same time, those protesting in the streets have a responsibility to express themselves peacefully. Violence and destruction will not lead to the reforms that they seek.

Now, going forward, this moment of volatility has to be turned into a moment of promise. The United States has a close partnership with Egypt and we’ve cooperated on many issues, including working together to advance a more peaceful region. But we’ve also been clear that there must be reform — political, social, and economic reforms that meet the aspirations of the Egyptian people.

In the absence of these reforms, grievances have built up over time. When President Mubarak addressed the Egyptian people tonight, he pledged a better democracy and greater economic opportunity. I just spoke to him after his speech and I told him he has a responsibility to give meaning to those words, to take concrete steps and actions that deliver on that promise.

Violence will not address the grievances of the Egyptian people. And suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. What’s needed right now are concrete steps that advance the rights of the Egyptian people: a meaningful dialogue between the government and its citizens, and a path of political change that leads to a future of greater freedom and greater opportunity and justice for the Egyptian people.

Now, ultimately the future of Egypt will be determined by the Egyptian people. And I believe that the Egyptian people want the same things that we all want — a better life for ourselves and our children, and a government that is fair and just and responsive. Put simply, the Egyptian people want a future that befits the heirs to a great and ancient civilization.

The United States always will be a partner in pursuit of that future. And we are committed to working with the Egyptian government and the Egyptian people — all quarters — to achieve it.

Around the world governments have an obligation to respond to their citizens. That’s true here in the United States; that’s true in Asia; it is true in Europe; it is true in Africa; and it’s certainly true in the Arab world, where a new generation of citizens has the right to be heard.

When I was in Cairo, shortly after I was elected President, I said that all governments must maintain power through consent, not coercion. That is the single standard by which the people of Egypt will achieve the future they deserve.

Surely there will be difficult days to come. But the United States will continue to stand up for the rights of the Egyptian people and work with their government in pursuit of a future that is more just, more free, and more hopeful.

Thank you very much.

November 18, 2011

We are here to denounce the control of our government by the 1%

We are Occupy Memphis. We stand with the Occupy Wall Street Movement and all other nonviolent democratic uprisings around the world.

We are here to denounce the control of our government by the 1%. We the People have a right to govern ourselves; that right has been usurped by corporations, big banks, Wall Street, the Federal Reserve, and the wealthiest 1% of our population. These elites put profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality.

They say we have a budget crisis, but what we have is a priority crisis. They say we have a fiscal deficit, but what we have is a deficit of democracy. They have taken our silence for consent, but no more.

We are seniors, teachers, small business owners, clergy, and union members. We are clerks, firefighters, nurses, police, and immigrants. We are service workers, veterans, entrepreneurs, students, the unemployed, and recipients of Social Security benefits.

We are mothers, fathers, children, grandparents, friends, and neighbors. We are those who do all the work and keep this society running. We are you and you are one of us. We are the 99%. We are here to peacefully Occupy Memphis until our demands are heard.

We demand that Wall Street be held accountable for its role in the destruction of the global financial system.

We demand that the 1% pay their fair share of taxes, that all tax loopholes benefiting the super-rich are closed, and that those who try to skirt our country’s tax laws are tried and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

We demand that corporations not be afforded the same First Amendment rights as individuals; that corporations not be allowed to influence elections through campaign contributions.

We demand equal treatment from our justice system at all levels and at every stage, from investigations, through trials and sentencing, regardless of race or social class.

We demand that our government recognize health care as a basic human right. It is shameful that our city’s infant mortality rate is higher than in many developing countries.

We demand an end to Tennessee’s regressive labor laws, such as right-to-work and at-will employment, which keep us in poverty. We demand an ordinance mandating that no city services can be privatized; any outsourced services should be brought back in-house.

We demand affordable and fair housing for all and that Wells Fargo be held accountable for its racist, predatory lending practices in Memphis.

We demand that those Memphians who experienced foreclosures due to the illegal activities of banks and other financial institutions be adequately compensated and their debt forgiven.

We demand that the city use our money for education and public services rather than corporate incentives and tax freezes for companies like Bass Pro or Electrolux. Memphis gives away more public dollars in corporate welfare than any other city in the state, yet our unemployment rate is at 12.1%.

We demand a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Our concerns will be addressed. Our demands will be met. We will not be discouraged. We will not be intimidated. We will not be ignored. We are the 99%.

“We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.” —Martin Luther King, Jr

En Español: La Primera Declaración de la Ocupación de Memphis

November 14, 2011

Basic Steps of Election Reform


1) Direct election of the President

Democracy is based on the principle of one person, one vote. The electoral system, however, assigns electors to each state according to their total representation in Congress, in which every state has a number of representatives fairly reflective of its population but also -- no matter its size or population -- 2 senators. In large-population states such as California and Texas, the addition of 2 does not greatly affect the ratio of electors to voters. In low-population states, however, such as Wyoming and Vermont, the addition of 2 effectively triples that ratio. In other words, a Vermonter's vote for President is worth 3 times as much as a Texan's vote. Since the 17th amendment to the Constitution in 1913, U.S. Senators have been directly elected. The President ought to be as well.

Further, because most states assign all their electors to the winner of their popular vote, votes for the loser in that state end up counting as nothing. A Republican, for example, in a consistently Democratic state essentially never gets his or her vote counted for President. (And analysts wonder why turnout is so low.) Until the anachronistic electoral system is abolished, states ought to at least assign their electors in proportion to the popular vote, so the electoral result is a little more reflective of the popular result. Maine and Nebraska do so already.

2) Instant run-off voting

Voters should be comfortable voting according to their true opinion rather than having to strategize their vote. The resulting winner should reflect the general desire of the majority. If, for example, there are 1 "conservative" and 3 "liberal" candidates in an election, the majority may vote "liberal" yet the "conservative" may win -- even though the majority would prefer any of the "liberals." Instant run-off voting allows the voter to specify a 2nd and 3rd choice as well as the 1st choice. If the counting of 1st-choice votes does not produce a majority winner, then the lower-polling candidates are dropped and the 2nd-choice votes on those ballots counted, etc.

3) Proportional representation

With the current winner-takes-all system in most elections for representative bodies, it is typical that more than half of the voters are in fact not represented in government. (Yet, again, analysts wonder why participation is so low.) Representation ought to reflect the opinions of all voters. The Center for Voting and Democracy describes the many ways such "full" representation has been and can be implemented.

[Also see "Is Mandatory Voting a Good Idea?"]

Is Mandatory Voting a Good Idea?

From Letters, November 13, 2011, The New York Times:

To the Editor:

William A. Galston (“Telling Americans to Vote, or Else,” Sunday Review, Nov. 6) might have it backward regarding the cause and effect between low voter turnout and political polarization.

Many countries have fiercely polarized politics along with high voter turnout. The difference that Mr. Galston missed is that the American system inevitably ensures both polarization and low participation.

Without a parliamentary system, our winner-take-all politics means that most votes are indeed meaningless. For most people, voting does not lead to a greater sense of participation in government, but rather reminds them — over and over — that their voices are not represented.

The problem is not voter turnout. It is a system of government that can never be responsive to the majority of its citizens.

Hartland, Vt., Nov. 6, 2011

[Note:  Rob Richie, Executive Director of FairVote, notes that a parliamentary system, e.g., in Canada, can be based on winner-takes-all results and is therefore not necessarily proportional. The U.S system is both nonparliamentary and nonproportional.]

[See "Basic Steps of Election Reform"]

November 13, 2011

We Are The Many, by Makana

We occupy the streets
We occupy the courts
We occupy the offices of you
Till you do
The bidding of the many, not the few

1,027:1; and right-wing health care reform

The New York Times Magazine cover story today is about "how a single Israeli came to be worth 1,027 Palestinians". The use of the word "worth" is offensive enough. It echoes the usual Israeli/U.S. perspective and aggrandizes Israeli vanity, and it utterly misses the obvious reason such a swap is acceptable.

Gilad Shalit was a legitimately captured prisoner of war, his imprisonment a consequence of Israel's attack on Gaza starting in late December 2008 to kill well over 1,027 Palestinians, including hundreds of children. Almost all of the Palestinians in Israeli prisons are there for nothing. They are there for being Palestinian.

The more appropriate interpretation of the numerical disproportion of the prisoner swap is that it is the legitimacy of the imprisonment of so many Palestinians that is not worth that of this one Israeli soldier.

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Also in recent news, Obama's requirement to enrich private health insurers won another district court appeal and may soon be going to the supreme court. One story today echoes the usual reporting, noting that the latest, like many others, judge to support Obama's law is "conservative".

The implication is that this is a sign of reason, based on the assumption that Obama's law is "liberal". In the same vein, liberal supporters of Obama's reforms to enrich private health insurers have crowed over these court wins. For example, Think Progress tweeted: "FACT: The right-wing legal argument against health care reform is so weak they couldn't convince a very conservative Reagan appointee."

REALITY: Obamacare is not health care reform. It is a pathetically modest set of new regulations for private insurers in return for making it illegal not to buy private insurance. It is in fact a very right-wing, even fascist, law: Enrich private insurers or go to jail.

November 6, 2011

This Is Green Energy?

Blasting and clearing of the Lowell Mountain Ridge in Vermont for wind turbine erections by Green Mountain Power (Gaz Metro) and Kingdom Community Wind.

Also read (here) about Senator Bernie Sanders' angry defense of corporate destruction of Vermont's ridgeline ecosystems to "save the world".

wind power, wind energy, wind turbines, wind farms, environment, environmentalism, human rights, animal rights, Vermont