Monthly Archives: June 2016

When You Dial 911 and Wall Street Answers

DANIELLE IVORY, BEN PROTESS and KITTY BENNETT | JUNE 25, 2016 | NYT

Since the 2008 financial crisis, private equity firms have increasingly taken over public services like emergency care and firefighting, often with dire effects.

A Tennessee woman slipped into a coma and died after an ambulance company took so long to assemble a crew that one worker had time for a cigarette break.

Paramedics in New York had to covertly swipe medical supplies from a hospital to restock their depleted ambulances after emergency runs.

A man in the suburban South watched a chimney fire burn his house to the ground as he waited for the fire department, which billed him anyway and then sued him for $15,000 when he did not pay.

In each of these cases, someone dialed 911 and Wall Street answered.

The business of driving ambulances and operating fire brigades represents just one facet of a profound shift on Wall Street and Main Street alike, a New York Times investigation has found. Since the 2008 financial crisis, private equity firms, the “corporate raiders” of an earlier era, have increasingly taken over a wide array of civic and financial services that are central to American life.

Today, people interact with private equity when they dial 911, pay their mortgage, play a round of golf or turn on the kitchen tap for a glass of water.

Private equity put a unique stamp on these businesses. Unlike other for-profit companies, which often have years of experience making a product or offering a service, private equity is primarily skilled in making money. And in many of these businesses, The Times found, private equity firms applied a sophisticated moneymaking playbook: a mix of cost cuts, price increases, lobbying and litigation.

Continue reading When You Dial 911 and Wall Street Answers

Hillary Clinton Hints at Giant, Trump-Like Giveaway to Corporate America

The Intercept | June 27 2016 | Mint Press News

It was full of Bernie Sanders-like rhetoric about “outrageous behavior” by business and Wall Street. But it also included a dog whistle that only huge multinational corporations would hear, telling them that she plans to deliver on one of their greatest dreams and slash their longterm taxes by hundreds of billions of dollars.

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Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at a rally at Texas Southern University Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016, in Houston. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)

HILLARY CLINTON GAVE a big speech in Raleigh on her plans for the economy on June 22. It was full of Bernie Sanders-like rhetoric about “outrageous behavior” by business and Wall Street.

But it also included a dog whistle that only huge multinational corporations would hear, telling them that she plans to deliver on one of their greatest dreams and slash their longterm taxes by hundreds of billions of dollars.

Here’s what Clinton said:

Let’s break through the dysfunction in Washington to make the biggest investment in new, good-paying jobs since World War II. … In my first 100 days as president, I will work with both parties to pass a comprehensive plan to create the next generation of good-paying jobs. Now, the heart of my plan will be the biggest investment in American infrastructure in decades, including establishing an infrastructure bank that will bring private sector dollars off the sidelines and put them to work here.

An infrastructure bank to rebuild America’s tattered infrastructure is a reasonable idea, and was also proposed by Barack Obama when he was running for president in 2008. Certainly America’s tattered roads, bridges and sewers desperately need an upgrade.

The question is where the money for it would come from. Republicans would never let it be paid for with borrowed money, and in 2011 they blocked a proposal by Obama to fund it with a surtax of 0.7 percent on incomes over $1 million.

Continue reading Hillary Clinton Hints at Giant, Trump-Like Giveaway to Corporate America

Study: A third of Iowans don’t earn enough to pay for basic living

Kevin Hardy | June 29 2016 | Des Moines Register

To survive in Iowa, it takes an income of about twice the federal poverty rate.

That figure was among the findings of a new United Way report that explored why nearly one in three Iowans struggles to afford basic living expenses.

United Way officials hope the findings will draw attention to Iowans who are above the federal poverty line, yet remain unable to afford basic necessities such as food, rent and medicine.

“That means you’re one flat tire from a financial crisis, because … you’re spending everything you have to survive,” said Elisabeth Buck, chief community impact officer at United Way of Central Iowa. “And these are people in our community. They are not faceless people.”

The findings could add fuel to Polk County’s fiery debate over raising the minimum wage above the state and federal standard of $7.25 an hour.

The United Way ALICE Report for Iowa, released Wednesday, concluded that 31 percent of Iowans are working but do not earn enough to cover the basic costs of living (ALICE is short for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed). The report was commissioned by United Ways of Iowa, an association of the 25 local United Ways that serve more than half of Iowa’s 99 counties.

Continue reading Study: A third of Iowans don’t earn enough to pay for basic living

America’s One-Party Government

Eric Zuesse | June 27 2016 | Washington’s Blog

INTRODUCTION

Today’s United States is a more realistic version of the type of society that George Orwell fictionally described in his allegorical novel 1984.

Like in 1984, the American public don’t know that they’re merely the tools of some unseen aristocracy who manipulate them by fear of ‘the other’, some ‘enemy’ group — manipulate the public via the media, which the aristocracy controls. But the big failing of Orwell’s model as a portrayal of the (when he wrote it) coming fascist-corporate dystopia was that he misunderstood how and why the public would falsely believe that they live in a democracy. His central character Winston Smith worked in an unrealistically portrayed propaganda-mill. But in some other fundamentals, Orwell had it right. The public don’t know that their real enemy is their own nation’s aristocracy who are mentally holding the public in bondage by lies systematically implanted into their beliefs, by means of ‘news’ media that are controlled by their own nation’s aristocracy, who own those media and/or control the government by bribery (sometimes subtle) of the politicians whom the aristocracy’s media are being paid to promote. In any case, the aristocracy control the public’s mind, to accept the fundamental legitimacy of the regime the aristocrats are imposing. Aristocrats hire the ‘news’ media.

When two nations’ aristocracies are at war against each other, the public in each is deceived to think that, in the other, the rulers are evil and reign over their public by dictatorship, but that in one’s own nation, the rulers are truly representative of the public and therefore in some high sense are legitimate or even a democracy: rule by the public, instead of by any aristocracy at all. In some of these ‘democratic’ dictatorships, it’s called rule by ‘the people’ or ‘the Volk’ (such as in Hitler’s Germany), but in others, it’s called simply ‘democracy’.

In the case of today’s America, “democracy” is the term that’s used, because America had long been a democracy and was founded by people who wanted their nation, which they were creating out of (and leading their Revolution against) a dictatorship by a foreign, British, aristocracy, to free themselves from any and all forms of dictatorship. So: “democracy” sells better as the term to continue applying to what has become America’s dictatorship.

Continue reading America’s One-Party Government

Hillary Clinton’s Message: Yes, the Economy Is Messed Up. But I Can Fix It.

Neil Irwin | June 22 2016 | NYTimes

t has been a year dominated by populist rage, embodied in Bernie Sanders’s calls for a political revolution and Donald J. Trump’s angry assertions that the United States, and its workers, are losing badly in the global economy.

In an economic policy speech on Wednesday, Hillary Clinton gave this message: I alone am the candidate who knows how to turn those underlying frustrations into actual policies that might make things better. She offered herself as someone who would not merely vent voters’ anger, but respond to that anger by pulling the levers of the federal bureaucracy and creating legislation that can be scored by the Congressional Budget Office and just maybe pass a Senate committee.

“It’s not easy to change Washington, or how corporations behave,” Mrs. Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, said before exuberant supporters in Raleigh, N.C., a day after a speech blasting Mr. Trump’s business record, ethics and often-erratic policy positions. “It takes more than stern words or a flashy slogan. It takes a plan, and it takes experience and the ability to work with both parties to get results.”

Continue reading Hillary Clinton’s Message: Yes, the Economy Is Messed Up. But I Can Fix It.

Republicans Stunned After Trump Reveals That His Presidential Campaign Is Broke

Jason Easley | May 28 2016 | PoliticsUSA

When Donald Trump told Republicans that his campaign had money, it was a lie. In meeting with Senate Republicans, Trump’s campaign privately admitted that they have no money and will not be able to run television ads until after the GOP convention in July.

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When Donald Trump told Republicans that his campaign had money, it was a lie. In meeting with Senate Republicans, Trump’s campaign privately admitted that they have no money and will not be able to run television ads until after the GOP convention in July.

The Washington Examiner reported:

Donald Trump’s campaign has alerted Senate Republicans that he won’t have much money to spend fending off attacks from Hillary Clinton over the next couple months.

The notice came when Paul Manafort, Trump’s senior advisor, met with a group of Senate Republican chiefs of staff for lunch last week, sources familiar with the meeting told the Washington Examiner. The admission suggests that Trump will be far more dependent on the GOP brass for money than he has led voters to believe, but it’s consistent with his reliance on the Republican National Committee to provide a ground game in battleground states.

“They know that they’re not going to have enough money to be on TV in June and probably most of July, until they actually accept the nomination and get RNC funds, so they plan to just use earned media to compete on the airwaves,” one GOP source familiar with Manafort’s comments told the Examiner.

Trump is also refusing to use his own money to fund his campaign. In other words, what Donald Trump is telling the voters is completely different from what is happening behind closed doors.

Continue reading Republicans Stunned After Trump Reveals That His Presidential Campaign Is Broke

Leading Antiwar Progressives Speak Favorably of Aspects of Trump’s Foreign Policy

Robert Barsocchini / John V. Walsh | June 23 2016 | Washington’s Blog

Until recently the progressive mind has been resolutely closed and stubbornly frozen in place against all things Trump.

But cracks are appearing in the ice.  With increasing frequency over the last few months some of the most thoughtful left and progressive figures have begun to speak favorably of aspects of Trump’s foreign policy. Let us hear from these heretics, among them William Greider, Glen Ford, John Pilger, Jean Bricmont,Stephen F. Cohen and William Blum.  Their words are not to be construed as “endorsements,” but rather an acknowledgement of Trump’s anti-interventionist views, the impact those views are having and the alternative he poses to Hillary Clinton in the current electoral contest.

First let’s consider the estimable William Greider, a regular contributor to The Nation and author of Secrets of the Temple.  He titled a recent article for the Nation, “Donald Trump Could be The Military Industrial Complex’s Worst Nightmare: The Republican Front Runner is Against Nation Building.  Imagine That.”

Greider’s article is brief, and I recommend reading every precious word of it.  Here is but one quote: “Trump has, in his usual unvarnished manner, kicked open the door to an important and fundamental foreign-policy debate.” And here is a passage from Trump’s interview with the Washington Post:

I watched as we built schools in Iraq and they’d be blown up,’ Trump told the editors.  ‘And we’d build another one and it would get blown up. And we would rebuild it three times. And yet we can’t build a school in Brooklyn.… at what point do you say hey, we have to take care of ourselves. So, you know, I know the outer world exists and I’ll be very cognizant of that but at the same time, our country is disintegrating, large sections of it, especially in the inner cities.

Continue reading Leading Antiwar Progressives Speak Favorably of Aspects of Trump’s Foreign Policy

Beyond Bernie: Still Not With Her

Kshama Sawant | June 24 2016 | Counterpunch

Since the June 7 California primary, the historic upheaval that coalesced around Bernie Sanders’ campaign has continued to defy the demands of the political establishment, but has also increasingly turned into a search for the way forward. After a powerful, year-long mass campaign over the hostile terrain of a rigged primary, our political revolution is at a crossroads.

The post-California period began with a revolt, following the AP’s preemptive anointment of Clinton. In the hours and days after this corporate media assault and the initial ballot results, there was a wave of angry social media reaffirming Sandernistas’ rejection of the establishment’s demands for capitulation. Elizabeth Warren’s full-throated endorsement of Clinton came shortly thereafter, and hundreds of thousands of people un-liked her Facebook page and otherwise registered their disgust online. The petition that Movement4Bernie and I launched two months ago, calling for Sanders to run independent or Green, caught on fire. It tripled its number of signatures in just a few days time, at an initial rate of 1,000 people an hour, and now has over 115,000 total.

A huge debate is unfolding among millions of Bernie’s backers, providing an enormous opportunity for the left to raise the need for a political alternative to the Democratic Party. That’s why Movement4Bernie and Socialist Alternative are organizing a series of forums in dozens of cities across the country titled “Beyond Bernie: We Need a Party for the 99%.” These forums will both mobilize for the largest possible protests at the Democratic National Convention and create space for a broad-based debate on the way forward for the political revolution. My message at the events will be clear: If Bernie refuses to break from the Democratic Party, our movement should back Jill Stein as the strongest left alternative in the presidential election and use 2016 to prepare the ground for building a new movement-based political alternative.

Unfortunately, Bernie’s livestream speech a week after California pointed in a different direction. While Bernie refused to formally concede and reaffirmed his intention to continue the political revolution into the Democratic National Convention, he also sent the message that he was beginning to retire his campaign. His plan to contest the nomination in Philadelphia was left aside, while he took further steps toward Hillary in saying he looked forward to working with her to change the Democratic Party.

It was one part political revolution, one part concession, and five parts Democratic Party reform. Speeches by Bernie since then have further developed this changed approach. This has helped kick off a process that, no doubt, has some Sandernistas beginning to second guess their commitment to not support Wall Street’s favored candidate, Hillary Clinton.

But the rebellion is far from subdued. A Bloomberg Politics poll on June 14 showed that barely half of Sanders supporters are prepared to vote for Hillary.

Continue reading Beyond Bernie: Still Not With Her

U.S. Economy is Shrinking: Unemployment Goes up, Wages Go Down, Living Standards Decline

Counterpunch | June 23 2016

The Slow Crash: When Global Economies are Run by Banks

I’m Bonnie Faulkner. Today on Guns and Butter, Dr. Michael Hudson. Today’s show: The Slow Crash. Dr. Hudson is a financial economist and historian. He is President of the Institute for the Study of Long-Term Economic Trends, a Wall Street financial analyst and Distinguished Research Professor of Economics at the University of Missouri, Kansas City, as well as at Peking University. His 1972 book, Super-Imperialism: The Economic Strategy of American Empire, is a critique of how the United States exploited foreign economies through the IMF and World Bank. His latest book isKilling the Host: How Financial Parasites and Debt Destroy the Global Economy. Due out soon, “J Is for Junk Economics.” Today we discuss in detail the concept of debt deflation; housing, student loan and automobile debt; the oil market; the stock market; negative interest rates; currencies; and the shrinking real economy.

Bonnie Faulkner: Michael Hudson, welcome.

Michael Hudson: It’s good to be here again, Bonnie.

Bonnie Faulkner: You have indicated that as a result of United States and European debt deflation, there is an economic slowdown. First of all, how would you define deflation?

Michael Hudson: There are two definitions of deflation. Most people think of it simply as prices going down. But debt deflation is what happens when people have to spend more and more of their income to carry the debts that they’ve run up – to pay their mortgage debt, to pay the credit card debt, to pay student loans.

Today, people are having to spend so much of their money, to acquire a house and to get an education that they don’t have enough to spend on goods and services, except by running into yet more debt on their credit cards and other borrowings.

The result is that markets are slowing down. Deflation means a slowdown of income growth. Markets shrink, new capital investment and employment also taper off, so wages decline. That is what’s happening as deliberate policy in Europe and the United States. Falling or stagnant prices are simply the result of having less income to spend.

Bonnie Faulkner: Well, thank you for that, because that is confusing, because I think a lot of people consider deflation simply a decrease in price. Does that have anything to do with it?

Michael Hudson: The price decline is a result of having to pay debts. That drains income from the circular flow between production and consumption – that is, between what people are paid when they go to work, and the things that they buy. Deflation is a leakage from this circular flow, to pay banks and the real estate, called the FIRE sector – finance, insurance and real estate. These transfer payments leave less and less of the paycheck to be spent on goods and services, so markets shrink. Some prices for some products go down when people can’t afford to buy them anymore. There are more sales, there’s shrinkage, but especially incomes go down. Real incomes in the United States have been drifting down for 30 years because there is slower and slower market demand.

That’s why Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are getting so many votes. When Hillary Clinton said she’s going to do just what Obama does and we’re going to continue to recover, most people know that we’re not recovering at all. We’re shrinking.

Bonnie Faulkner: So then, deflation has more to do with disposable income than it does with prices.

Michael Hudson: That’s correct, and that’s what is rarely pointed out. People tend to think that paying a debt is like going out and buying a car, buying more food or buying more clothes. But it really isn’t. When you pay a debt to the bank, the banks use this money to lend out to somebody else or to yourself. The interest charges to carry this debt go up and up as debt grows. As you have to pay more interest and amortization on what you owe, you’re left with less and less money to buy goods and services – unless you borrow even more and go further into debt.

Continue reading U.S. Economy is Shrinking: Unemployment Goes up, Wages Go Down, Living Standards Decline