Archive for Corporatocracy

Naomi Klein contemplates the struggle between climate change and the globalization juggernaut. It is a struggle she once left to environmentalists. But having struggled with infertility and having covered the Gulf oil spill, her perspective changed. “It’s not that I got in touch with my inner Earth Mother,” Klein writes, “it’s that I started to notice that if the Earth is indeed our mother, then she is a mother facing a great many fertility challenges of her own.”

That climate change is linked to our lifestyle and our economy – and our attempts to deal with planetary warming without changing either – is the crux of Klein’s long piece in the Guardian:

“What is wrong with us? I think the answer is far more simple than many have led us to believe: we have not done the things needed to cut emissions because those things fundamentally conflict with deregulated capitalism, the reigning ideology for the entire period we have struggled to find a way out of this crisis. We are stuck, because the actions that would give us the best chance of averting catastrophe – and benefit the vast majority – are threatening to an elite minority with a stranglehold over our economy, political process and media.”

Read: Billionaires with good intentions, flashy pronouncements, and market-driven solutions have failed to curb emissions. Much of the piece focuses on Richard Branson’s failed, but much ballyhooed efforts to apply a the same business savvy that made him rich to save the planet.

The idea that only capitalism can save the world from a crisis it created is no longer an abstract theory; it’s a hypothesis that has been tested in the real world. We can now take a hard look at the results: at the green products shunted to the back of the supermarket shelves at the first signs of recession; at the venture capitalists who were meant to bankroll a parade of innovation but have come up far short; at the fraud-infested, boom-and-bust carbon market that has failed to cut emissions. And, most of all, at the billionaires who were going to invent a new form of enlightened capitalism but decided, on second thoughts, that the old one was just too profitable to surrender.

Post-Reagan, deregulated capitalism has long looked like something out of Mary Shelley or science-fiction films, a creature we created, but no longer control. Billionaires and their acolytes see only its benefits, but as Jeff Goldblum’s Dr. Ian Malcolm says in The Lost World: Jurassic Park, “Oh, yeah. Oooh, ahhh, that’s how it always starts. Then later there’s running, and then screaming.” Where once We the People held capitalism’s leash, now we wear the collar.

Whether it’s turning your child’s education from a shared public cost into a corporate profit center; or turning the principle of one-man, one-vote into one-dollar, one-vote; or carbon tax credits and accounting tricks for addressing rising sea levels; questioning the universal application of a business approach to any human need or problem often prompts the challenge, “Do you have something against making a profit?” A more subtle form of red-baiting, this ploy is supposed to be a conversation stopper. Yes? You’re a commie. Game over.

Maybe it’s time our billionaire problem-solvers got over themselves.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

Jul
19

People At Risk, Water A Weapon

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Michigan has Rick Snyder. North Carolina has Pat McCrory. Here in Detroit for Netroots Nation, it is clear that Michigan is facing some of the same issues with GOP governance as North Carolina. The Koch brothers’ influence is palpable to these people. And where North Carolina has Art Pope, Michigan has the DeVos family.

With twenty percent of the world’s fresh water in the Great Lakes and flowing past our hotel, Detroit faces water privatization. It was not lost on those in Asheville that when Michigan’s governor appointed an emergency manager for Detroit — superseding local democracy and local governance — about the first public asset that went on the auction block was its water and sewer.

Sound familiar?

Over and over again this weekend, stories being told at Netroots echo what we are experiencing in North Carolina. The same destructive agenda is being acted out across the country. Other states are worse off, having enacted budgets like Gov. Sam Brownback’s in Kansas ahead of Pat McCrory’s in North Carolina. But the results will be the same in the Old North State. We are only now seeing the leading edge.

As we sit here, a panel of local activists is discussing the privatization of Detroit’s water system and Michigan’s public schools. In actions described by activist Maureen Taylor as “beyond demonic,” thousands of poor residents are having their water cut off in Detroit. Some going without running water for over a year. Mothers with children. The United Nations

It is not encouraging to see how widespread the assault is on public institutions, but it is good to know we are not alone in the fight.

At Naked Capitalism, catch this interview with Prof. Michael Hudson. Listen to the audio here.

G: What I think is really interesting as well is that we’ve seen a separation in capitalism. There is the traditional capitalism of the worker and the factory owner, but now what we’ve seen is the rise of a financial class, which is even harmful to the traditional capitalists themselves.

Prof. H: That’s right. Instead of industrial capitalism, if you look at writers from the 19th century, everybody from Marx to business school professors expected the destiny of industrial capitalism to be to bring finance out of the medieval period into the modern period. The idea was to make banks serve the industrial system. That’s what the Saint Simonians advocated in France. They were the idealists of the 19th century. They developed the idea of investment banking that the Reichsbank and the large German banks did most effectively. It’s what Japan did after WW2, simply because they didn’t have any other source of money except by their ability to create their own credit through industrial banking.

Nobody expected that finance capitalism would dominate and ultimately stifle industrial capitalism. But that’s what’s happening.

All the futurists, even socialists, were optimists about capitalism. They thought it was going to evolve naturally into socialism, with an increasing government role in the economy to provide infrastructure, including banking. Instead, you have governments being carved up. That’s what neoliberalism is. It’s really neofeudalism. It’s a dismantling of democracy in favor of a financial oligarchy, to rule by appointing proconsuls and technocrats such as you have in Italy under Monti or in Greece under Papademos. You have a rolling back of history, and of the Enlightenment. If your college curriculum, your religion and the popular press doesn’t even talk about the enlightenment and about the history of economic thought, you’re not going to realize that what’s happening is a rolling back of the last 500 years.

And based on what’s happening in North Carolina, you thought we were only rolling things back 50 years.

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Nov
16

TPP: Corporate Coup Coup Ca Choo

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Wikileaks press release this week on the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks and its Intellectual Property provisions draft:

Today, 13 November 2013, WikiLeaks released the secret negotiated draft text for the entire TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) Intellectual Property Rights Chapter. The TPP is the largest-ever economic treaty, encompassing nations representing more than 40 per cent of the world’s GDP. The WikiLeaks release of the text comes ahead of the decisive TPP Chief Negotiators summit in Salt Lake City, Utah, on 19-24 November 2013. The chapter published by WikiLeaks is perhaps the most controversial chapter of the TPP due to its wide-ranging effects on medicines, publishers, internet services, civil liberties and biological patents. Significantly, the released text includes the negotiation positions and disagreements between all 12 prospective member states…

In the words of WikiLeaks’ Editor-in-Chief Julian Assange, “If instituted, the TPP’s IP regime would trample over individual rights and free expression, as well as ride roughshod over the intellectual and creative commons. If you read, write, publish, think, listen, dance, sing or invent; if you farm or consume food; if you’re ill now or might one day be ill, the TPP has you in its crosshairs.”

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“This is a textbook case of how corporations attempt to influence our democracy, election after election. No. Seriously. They have a textbook.”

If we can help Boulder succeed, whose town gets helped next?

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From your friends at Upworthy:

 

May
25

Understanding the iScam

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Melissa Harris Perry’s panel analyzes corporate taxes and overseas tax havens. Tech and pharma leeching off the American taxpayer’s largesse.

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

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Apr
29

Monday Readaround

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Screenshot 2013-04-29 at 8.18.08 AMKudos to the doggedly determined Tom Burnet, who’s been pushing for an improvement to Beecham’s Curve for going on ten years. The weird 90-degree on Haywood Road has been a confunction for as long as anyone can remember, and it’ll soon be home to a great little traffic light. Without Burnet’s efforts, NCDOT wouldn’t have had a plan ready to go.

Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx will be appointed by President Obama to be the next US Secretary of Transportation. I’m guessing this’ll change the way the NC General Assembly approaches seizing Charlotte’s airport. If all goes well, it may affect the way our own airport situation unfolds. Due to shoddy bill drafting, the transfer of the asset from Asheville to an independent authority is held up by the Federal Aviation Administration. Some would like to blame Asheville for “foot dragging”, but the fault lies in a poorly written piece of legislation. Secretary Foxx might want to have a look at it.

Speaking of transportation, that guy who’s been holding out on selling land to connect French Broad River Park with Carrier Park has finally struck a deal with the city. This is an important connection, and it brings us one step closer to the multimodal transportation network we need in order to provide affordable transportation options as well as economic development. Y’all know the Swamp Rabbit Trail down in Greenville? “A scholarly study in 2012 estimated that more than 350,000 people annually used the trail and that area businesses increased their sales from 30 to 85%”.

As we await Art Pope’s tax plan for North Carolina, keep this in mind: “Families with moderate and low incomes pay more sales and property taxes, as a share of their incomes, than higher-income families because they spend a higher proportion of their earnings on taxable goods and housing.  Thus, increased sales and property taxes would shift a larger share of the responsibility for paying for schools, health care, and other services onto those with relatively less ability to afford it.”

Massive rollback of environmental regulations is in the pipeline for North Carolina.

We’re also moving toward the end of public education as we know it, with your tax dollars funding the shift.

“Senate Bill 337 and a parallel bill in the House would strip the State Board of Education of its responsibility for overseeing charter schools and set up an 11-member governing board mostly of charter school advocates appointed by the governor and the legislature.”

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Since the board would not be bound by conflict of interest laws, members would include profit-making charter school operators who would then be in a position to shape policies favoring their own private economic interests, including the blocking of applications from potential competitors.

The legislation would allow charters to hire fewer teachers with professional credentials – scoffing at the concept of teacher professionalism that has been a point of pride among successful charter schools. It would further jeopardize the status of teachers who, thanks to the Republican legislature, are already staring at the loss of tenure, shorter contracts and fewer teaching assistants.

In addition to disenfranchising college students, the elderly, and minorities, the NCGOP’s voter suppression efforts will also smack NC’s transgendered citizens in the face: “Some transgender citizens might present poll workers with IDs that do not match their current gender, and poll workers could decide that the ID does not pass muster. Those citizens would not have their votes counted.”

North Carolina’s Big Government Conservatives.

In the aftermath of the Bangladesh garment factory disaster, Matthew Yglesias caught a world of criticism for these comments in Slate:

It’s very plausible that one reason American workplaces have gotten safer over the decades is that we now tend to outsource a lot of factory-explosion-risk to places like Bangladesh where 87 people just died in a building collapse.* This kind of consideration leads Erik Loomis to the conclusion that we need a unified global standard for safety

I think that’s wrong. Bangladesh may or may not need tougher workplace safety rules, but it’s entirely appropriate for Bangladesh to have different—and, indeed, lower—workplace safety standards than the United States.

The reason is that while having a safe job is good, money is also good [and] in a free society it’s good that different people are able to make different choices on the risk–reward spectrum.

Yglesias ignited a firestorm. But targeting him or any individual actor for similar comments misses a larger point.

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“How many billions of dollars do you have to launder for drug lords and how many economic sanctions do you have to violate before someone will consider shutting down a financial institution like this … What does it take to get you to move towards even a hearing? Even considering shutting down banking operations for money laundering?”

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Where is the line? Sorry, that’s Justice. Treasury will not even speculate. Treasury has no opinion. Not their job to even have one.

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