Who Broke America’s Jobs Machine? – Barry C. Lynn and Phillip Longman

Every thinking American, and certainly every progressive should read this.  Hell, even some of you vapid wingnuts should read it. You might even realize that things aren’t quite what you were told they were.

Barry Lynn is the author of “Cornered: The New Monopoly Capitalism and the Economics of Destruction,” and much of this article is a simplified glimpse of just some of what he covers in it.  It gets to the heart of what his larger work does: that monopolies are a gruesome monster under our national bed, and we’re doing nothing to slay the beast.

Get your friends and family to read it too.  Perhaps if enough of us grasp just what a beast has taken hold of us, perhaps we can figure out how to break free of it and reverse some of the damage it’s done.

Some excerpts:

But while the mystery of what killed the great American jobs machine has yielded no shortage of debatable answers, one of the more compelling potential explanations has been conspicuously absent from the national conversation: monopolization.

But at least the plethora of different brands vying for your attention on the store shelves suggests a healthy, competitive marketplace, right? Well, let’s take a closer look.

In the health aisle, the vast array of toothpaste options on display is mostly the work of two companies: Colgate-Palmolive and Procter & Gamble, which split nearly 70 percent of the U.S. market and control even such seemingly independent brands as Tom’s of Maine. And in many stores the competition between most brands is mostly choreographed anyway. Under a system known as “category management,” retailers like Wal-Mart and their largest suppliers openly cooperate in determining everything from price to product placement.

Over in the cold case we find an even greater array of beer options, designed to satisfy almost any taste. We can choose among the old standbys like Budweiser, Coors, and Miller Lite. Or from a cornucopia of smaller brands, imports and specialty brews like Stella Artois, Redbridge, Rolling Rock, Beck’s, Blue Moon, and Stone Mill Pale Ale. But all these brands—indeed more than 80 percent of all beers in America—are controlled by two companies, Anheuser-Busch Inbev and MillerCoors.

Another way that monopolization can inhibit the creation of new jobs is the practice of entrenched corporations using their power to buy up, and sometimes stash away, new technologies, rather than building them themselves.

Beginning in Reagan’s first term, antitrust enforcement all but ended. Throughout the 1980s, the opponents of antitrust sometimes buttressed their arguments by stoking fears about the supposed dangers posed to American manufacturers by their Japanese rivals. But for the most part such arguments proved unnecessary, as the government had already largely retired from the field, leaving corporations largely to their own devices. By the time Reagan left office, laissez faire had become conventional wisdom.

There is so much more in this brief work. You will come away knowing a lot more than you knew going in about just how successful radical conservatism has been at changing all of our rules, and breaking most of what had been working in America for rather well. Then the Chicago school and Ronald Reagan broke it.

Read the article

Occupy Wall Street, The 30 Second Commercial

Over ten days ago on Twitter, I was saying that the criticism that the #OccupyWallStreet protest “needed a message” in its early days was nonsense. Americans, nay, most citizens of the world already knew what the message was.  And that message was this:

“The 99% have a very big problem, and the 1% better address that problem soon, or things are going to get pretty ugly for everyone.”

Nope, the problem was definitely not the message. Not then, and not now. This Occupy Wall Street wake-up call to America is really so very clear and simple, this just-released video shows just how easy it is to get that message out. (I  continue below the fold after you’ve watched it.)

See? Messages are easy!

Blog posts, tweets, and videos like this are a snap for anyone who knows the problem.  And there’s a lot of those around, and soon they will be making hundreds if not thousands of such expressive message pieces all over the world. In fact, they probably made 100 of them as I typed this sentence.

And they should. But messaging about the problem is merely messaging about the problem.

Messages about the problem are not messages about the solution

The much bigger hurdle #OWS (and all of us) face is the problem of building bridges between the expressions of the message, and the policies and laws that can be enacted to respond to the messages in a free and still modestly democratic society.  And that is an outcome that most mature citizens that I know still value highly, and would like to see evolve to respond to this challenge. They don’t want to toss the baby of civilization out with the bathwater of global corporatism.

Change is good. Too much change is a Mad Max movie, and not everyone looks good in rich dystopian leather.

The long term solution (and even if the short term, if you get off your asses and drag people to vote-in some real change candidates), is to @OccupyCongress.  Unless you have a better near-term legislative body with it’s own military that we need to hear about, it remains our most immediate path to building a new tomorrow with the tools which our ancestors died building for us yesterday.

And if you think just @OccupyWallSt or even an @OccupyCongress movement can produce lasting revolution and social justice on a broad scale? Well, you might want to look into present day Egypt  for another kind of wake up call.

It’s all pretty easy on paper and via Twitter and Facebook. But making civilization work using actual civilizations is a whole lot trickier.

See Also

We're a Crowd making a list

As the midterm elections approach, there is a need for a list of Obama Achievements that progressives can use for voter and media education efforts. The administration has had far more significant accomplishments than the media have given much notice to, and better information can and will help to motivate and educate voters.

Media perception of the administration has been obscured by an unprecedented number of national disasters and crises, all of which were inherited from the prior administration, or related to 30 years of conservative Republican policy decisions. Despite a hyper-partisan and nearly dysfunctional political climate in one of the most critical time-lines in our history, the administration has still forged an impressive record of positive and progressive legislation and direction. 

This project will document those achievements in a crowd-sourced public list built solely with volunteer collaborators.  It will be authoritative, and not just limited to only  laws and executive orders. It will also include the initiatives and intangible gains the administration has made in changing the tone, substance, and effectiveness of the presidency on behalf of all the American People, and not just the richest 1%.

The list will assist politicians, analysts, strategists, campaign mangers, GOTV workers, and volunteers in their many efforts from now until the November elections—and beyond to 2012. With strong wins in an always challenging midterm, we can work to move the Obama administration toward a more productive second half that isn't crippled by a contentious Republican majority in the house.

How you can help

Give us just 10 minutes a week for the next month, making just one edit (or citation source) for just one entry. This alone is a huge help. And if 20 others do one or more, we get the work down quickly, and with an economy of effort for everyone (except the project admins).

Just visit the public landing page here:      http://bit.ly/obamawiki

Once you're granted access to the Google group  (you'll be notified by email) to both the Wiki site and our authoring document (on GoogleDocs), you can help anywhere you choose.

 


List example

The actual list (in a Google document) is not yet public, but here's a preview of a single category from it. Notice we try to keep it simple and readable, with any sources appended via short, simple Ref links. In this example, many entries still need rewriting, and the all important source. That's were you come in.

     Banking & Financial Reform

  1. Troubled Asset Relief Plan (TARP) —  a program to purchase assets and equity from financial institutions to strengthen its financial sector. Ref
     *  Banks have already repaid 75% of Federal TARP Loans (a.k.a. Bailout), bringing cost down to only $89 billion by April, 2010   Ref
  2. Closed offshore tax safe havens Ref
  3. Negotiated deal with Swiss banks to permit US government to gain access to records of tax evaders and criminals
  4. Ended the previous policy of offering tax benefits to corporations who outsource American jobs; the new policy is to promote in-sourcing to bring jobs back
  5. Ended the previous practice of protecting credit card companies; in place of it are new consumer protections from credit card industry's predatory practices

 

 

* A primary source is a document, speech, or other sort of evidence written, created or otherwise produced during the time under study. Primary sources offer an inside view of a particular event. In this case, a good primary source would be a speech written by Obama or a piece of legislation. By traditional definition, newspaper articles if written at the time of study are considered primary sources, but for our purposes they are 2nd choice sources because they are not from the horse's mouth so-to-speak. Even so, they are acceptable here.  In many cases, citing both types of Ref is ideal, but never required.

"We can have democracy, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both." Justice Louis Brandeis

Without actually coming out and saying it, In "A flawed American political model aids China," Harold Meyerson suggests that we may soon be admitting that our current dysfunctionalism may be endemic within capitalism itself. After all, it's not like its modern variant has run for a very long time.

Today, China has emerged as a global economic powerhouse and political competitor. Unlike the Soviet Union, it does not seek to remake the world in its image, but neither is it a friend of democracy. Its booming economy — in contrast to those of the wheezing West — may be viewed as validating state industrial policy, which can help build national prosperity, but China also sees it as an endorsement of authoritarian efficiency.

All but the most fervent John Galtists, and other fictionally-assisted cheerleaders of our system's presumed strengths are starting to ask, "Does this capitalism thing really work?" What is the goal of any economic system, but to provide the basic goods, services and welfare of its people?  If the system fails in that aim, what good is the maximization of personal freedom and wealth?  Freedom to do what?  Wealth to buy what? A hedonist's nirvana at the expense of virtually everyone else? This thing is working damn well for the upper 20%.  But most everyone else is hurting, about to be hurt, or living so on the edge, that "quality of life" has now become synonymous with "net worth." And if you haven't got any of that, it's "quality of credit rating." If you lack both of those, you just don't matter.

Where's the science that says boom and bust cycles can go on for more than 140 years, or so, before the system is reduced to the very monopolistic, plutocratic, crony-capitalist manifestations that Marx predicted would be among the forces that consumed it. While we struggle to legislate the most basic economic fixes for a massively troubled system, China, now owning most of our debt and enjoying a massive economic boom, is able to show-off the benefits of their planned economy. Even when that planning is far from perfect, it's still able to make corrections and tweaks that we seem unable to even discuss, let alone implement.  And looking at the current political morass, and the complicity of the media and our governing classes in maintaining the status quo, coupled with the rapacious acidity of the social conservative and Tea Party movements, it is entirely possible that we may never fix any of it. But we sure seem destined to break it more.

Could some form of family-friendly, moderately benign autocracy, governed by some intrinsic or manufactured traditions of social justice and responsibility, without any pretense of complete freedom, actually fare better in the long run?  Might theirs, or some other form of  "social capitalism" emerge that yields a more viable and sustainable long term middle class; one in which the spirit and achievements of the all mighty individual still thrive? I've already met a few a rugged individualist entrepreneurs from China. With all that human raw material to work with, you can bet there's a lot more where they came from.

China thinks a right-leaning system that aspires to be more left, is better than a left-leaning system that is now careening to the right. Given their success, a huge number of their citizens do too. I am pretty sure that we will be pondering this question more and more, as China continues going boom, while we seem to be inventing ways to go bust.

Read Story

 

'The Big Short' By Michael Lewis

Probably The 'Best Piece Of Financial Journalism Ever Written'— Felix Salmon

Even if you have no intention of reading this important book by this brilliant writer, see the video of Michael Lewis appearing on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart below. See it, and then get angry about this shit. Because if you don't, they're going to do it again. And soon.

Reviews

Appearances by Michael Lewis

Related