Quote of the day

John Stanton wrote:

The USA and European Union (EU) continue on their downward trajectory in the 14th year of 21st Century. The perpetual state of war against terror, drugs, immigrants, the press and whistle-blowers moves on uninhibited. Another war, this time named Austerity, is being waged by USA and EU leaders against the middle and lower classes. Youth are particularly hard hit with the average unemployment rate in the EU at 23 percent. In the USA the figure is 17 percent according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But never mind that.

Cutting benefits, or, rather, throwing people away, will reduce the unemployment rate and that’s good for the economy. Such is the mindset of the financier class as reflected in the comments of Joe LaVorgna, chief economist at Deutsch Bank. He noted that in the USA,  23 percent of the 1.5 million who are losing their unemployment benefits will simply exit the work force, and another 850,000, at the state level, would give up on trying to find employment. LaVorgna stated that the unemployment will drop to 6.7 percent. Yippie!

Stanton here seeming channels thoughts previously explored by Zygmunt Baumann and Loïc Wacquant. Bauman wrote (2003, p. 5) that:

The production of ‘human waste’, or more correctly wasted humans (the ‘excessive’ and ‘redundant’, that is population of those who either could not or were not wished to be recognized or allowed to stay) is an inevitable outcome of modernization, and an inescapable accompaniment of modernity. It is an inescapable side-effect of order building (each order casts some parts of the extant population as ‘out of place’, ‘unfit’ or ‘undesirable’) and economic progress (that cannot proceed without degrading and devaluating the previously effective modes of ‘making a living’ and therefore cannot but deprive their practitioners of their livelihood).

Wacquant wrote (2009, p. 303)

Punishing the Poor contends that it is not the generic “risks and anxieties” of “the open, porous, mobile society of strangers that is late modernity” that have fostered retaliation against lower-class categories perceived as undeserving and deviant types seen as irrecuperable, but the specific social insecurity generated by the fragmentation of wage labor, the hardening of class divisions, the erosion of the established ethnoracial hierarchy guaranteeing an effective monopoly over collective honor to whites in the United States (and to nationals in the European Union). The sudden expansion and consensual exaltation of the penal state after the mid-1970s is not a culturally reactionary reading of “late modernity,’ but a ruling-class response aiming to redefine the perimeter and missions of Leviathan, so as to establish a new economic regime based on capital hypermobility and labor flexibility and to curb the social turmoil generated at the foot of the urban order by the public policies of market deregulation and social welfare retrenchment that are the core building blocks of neoliberalism.

The jobless poor, the masterless men and women who live in slums, basements, shelters, tent cities and, of course, on the streets of many cities, are fated to confront a bitter death as ‘freemen’ and ‘women’ or as prisoners within the vast prison apparatus that has grown these last 50 years. They are, however, artifacts produced by capital. As such, they also comprise signs that point to the barbarism of the age. The goal of our governors: To remove them from a shared everyday life and render to them faceless.

Quote of the day

The Guardian reports that:

The White House is stepping up pressure on Congress to approve emergency measures that would reinstate payments to more than 1.3 million long-term unemployed Americans who saw their benefits cut three days after Christmas.

President Barack Obama’s chief internal economics adviser appeared on two Sunday talkshows to warn against failing to reintroduce payments for those who have been out of work for more than six months – while also indicating that the benefits programme could legitimately end when unemployment rates return to “normal”.

But, what if a 7% U-3 rate reflects a new norm? What if an austerity politics combines with long-term stagnation to produce a high-unemployment economy? Will America’s natural aristocrats move to secure the well-being of those Americans less fortunate than they are? Will they reinvigorate America’s welfare state?

I would not recommend holding one’s breath waiting for the aristocrats to move on this matter.

Emigrate young men and women

Yves Smith of Naked Capitalism points out that a better personal future for some Americans can be found elsewhere. Her conclusion:

In other words, America’s continuing push to treat workers as disposable [commodities] puts US companies at a disadvantage relative to employers in economies where for legal and cultural reasons, employees are treated better than in US. Now admittedly, this trend is taking place only in certain job categories, but twenty years ago, you would have been laughed out of the room if you had suggested that laborers like electricians and plumbers would have a better financial future if they left the US. And with college costs skyrocketing, you can expect to see more American students get their degrees overseas and that will increase the odds that some of them will wind up working abroad. American exceptionalism allows America’s leaders to keep pretending we are number one and use that as an excuse for inaction, when the evidence on the ground calls that into question.

Well, there is another explanation for the lack of concern on this matter by the leaders of the free and prosperous world: They don’t care about the ‘lesser people’ (Alan Simpson).

V.J. Prashad interview on the Occupy Movement’s first anniversary

Looking for work?

Look harder. For many Americans, the labor market remains a cemetery composed of dead hopes and dreams:

Re: The State of the Union

There are so many nits to pick, foolish claims to debunk, neoliberal hooey to ridicule…. I shall limit myself to three points the President failed to address last night:

  • Weakening the dollar
  • Dismantling America’s empire
  • Planned reindustrialization

A strong dollar cheapens the price of America’s imports. It also feeds Wall Street with foreign capital. It is, in other words, the chief reason the United States has a service economy dominated by the FIRE sector.

America’s empire absorbs capital and labor power, it wastes both on non-consumable goods, it drives the growth of the security-surveillance apparatus, it directly and indirectly undermines the Constitution and it creates political and military debacles which produce blowback. It must go as quickly as it can be safely dismantled.

Education and training will do Americans little good if they fail to find jobs which make use of their cultural capital. In fact, an educated and trained work force that fails to make good on its talents is one that wastes resources. To avoid wasting these resources, the United States ought to institute an industrial planning agency with the capital resources and legal means to develop an ecologically sound industrial sector. It makes no sense to demand a low rate of employment for a well-educated workforce when those workers will work at service sector jobs that pay little.

These reforms are radical with respect to the social system now in place. If achieved,they would decisively change the identity of that system. But they are not comprehensive and do not touch on so many related problems that would also need to be addressed. These include reforming the tax code, making it strongly progressive; developing public transportation; reforming the campaign-finance laws; etc. But the three points listed above would be one place to start.

Sha na na na, sha na na na na….

Mark Weisbrot shows that the America’s recovery from the Great Depression was hardly a recovery at all:

The U.S. recession officially ended in June of 2009, but most Americans don’t feel like we are in a recovery. That’s because it’s been a weak recovery, with the size of the economy barely bigger today than it was four years ago, when the recession started.

Since America is a rich country, it is not growth itself that matters most but employment and, of course, the distribution of income. And the employment numbers are just terrible.

The simplest measure is the percentage of the working-age population that is employed. That peaked at 63.4 percent in December 2006. It plummeted to a low of 58.2 percent last July and is hardly different now — 58.5 percent in the latest figures.

What this means is that we need about 10 million jobs to get back to full employment. There was a lot of happy talk earlier this month when the December job numbers were released. They showed 200,000 payroll jobs added in December, and the unemployment rate falling to 8.5 percent. Adding even 200,000 jobs a month is not very good for an economy that needs at least 90,000-100,000 jobs a month just to keep up with the growth of the working-age population.

And as my colleague Dean Baker pointed out, the latest jobs numbers have probably been over-optimistic. Realistically, he notes, at present trends of job growth we will not hit full employment until 2028. This would be an economic failure of disastrous proportions.

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