Monday, September 01, 2014

Profits And Prosperity Are Incompatible

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Profits Without Prosperity

 

Five years after the official end of the Great Recession, corporate profits are high, and the stock market is booming. Yet most Americans are not sharing in the recovery. While the top 0.1% of income recipients—which include most of the highest-ranking corporate executives—reap almost all the income gains, good jobs keep disappearing, and new employment opportunities tend to be insecure and underpaid. Corporate profitability is not translating into widespread economic prosperity.
 
The allocation of corporate profits to stock buybacks deserves much of the blame. Consider the 449 companies in the S&P 500 index that were publicly listed from 2003 through 2012. During that period those companies used 54% of their earnings—a total of $2.4 trillion—to buy back their own stock, almost all through purchases on the open market. Dividends absorbed an additional 37% of their earnings. That left very little for investments in productive capabilities or higher incomes for employees.
The buyback wave has gotten so big, in fact, that even shareholders—the presumed beneficiaries of all this corporate largesse—are getting worried. “It concerns us that, in the wake of the financial crisis, many companies have shied away from investing in the future growth of their companies,” Laurence Fink, the chairman and CEO of BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, wrote in an open letter to corporate America in March. “Too many companies have cut capital expenditure and even increased debt to boost dividends and increase share buybacks.”
 
Why are such massive resources being devoted to stock repurchases? Corporate executives give several reasons, which I will discuss later. But none of them has close to the explanatory power of this simple truth: Stock-based instruments make up the majority of their pay, and in the short term buybacks drive up stock prices. In 2012 the 500 highest-paid executives named in proxy statements of U.S. public companies received, on average, $30.3 million each; 42% of their compensation came from stock options and 41% from stock awards. By increasing the demand for a company’s shares, open-market buybacks automatically lift its stock price, even if only temporarily, and can enable the company to hit quarterly earnings per share (EPS) targets.
As a result, the very people we rely on to make investments in the productive capabilities that will increase our shared prosperity are instead devoting most of their companies’ profits to uses that will increase their own prosperity—with unsurprising results. Even when adjusted for inflation, the compensation of top U.S. executives has doubled or tripled since the first half of the 1990s, when it was already widely viewed as excessive. Meanwhile, overall U.S. economic performance has faltered.
 
If the U.S. is to achieve growth that distributes income equitably and provides stable employment, government and business leaders must take steps to bring both stock buybacks and executive pay under control. The nation’s economic health depends on it.
 
From Value Creation to Value Extraction
 
  For three decades I’ve been studying how the resource allocation decisions of major U.S. corporations influence the relationship between value creation and value extraction, and how that relationship affects the U.S. economy. From the end of World War II until the late 1970s, a retain-and-reinvest approach to resource allocation prevailed at major U.S. corporations. They retained earnings and reinvested them in increasing their capabilities, first and foremost in the employees who helped make firms more competitive. They provided workers with higher incomes and greater job security, thus contributing to equitable, stable economic growth—what I call “sustainable prosperity.”
This pattern began to break down in the late 1970s, giving way to a downsize-and-distribute regime of reducing costs and then distributing the freed-up cash to financial interests, particularly shareholders. By favoring value extraction over value creation, this approach has contributed to employment instability and income inequality.

Here ends the free taster written by William Lazonick, a professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, the remainder has to be paid for here. 
As to value creation, value extraction, capital expenditure, sustainable prosperity and other such terms this writer has no intention of attempting to discuss these aspects of the article. What strikes me, a non-academic, are the column inches devoted here and elsewhere, whole books even, to explaining where the profits are being channeled followed by calls for justice and fair pay and conditions for workers, as if it will make a blind bit of difference. What I and many others see quite clearly and simply is that what's happening is working just as it's meant to for those who are benefiting, those at the very top of the pyramid. Workers are disposable. There's a huge reserve of unemployed growing fast. Outsourcing is just another option. Equality will only come to us when the 99.9% decide enough is enough and remove the 0.1% from their perch.
JS
 
 

Shooting the Messenger

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Reuters Reporter Carey Gillam has written about genetic engineering and food for the past 16 years. But Monsanto doesn’t always like what Gillam says, no matter how balanced or well researched.
So the Biotech Bullies recently tried to pressure Reuters into removing Gillam from her beat.
Thankfully, Reuters is standing up to the Biotech Bullies.

As Christina Sarich of InfoWars.com wrote:

What is happening now with journalism, and the scape-goating of Gillam, is no different than what biotech has done in other arenas. Their decades-long history of contaminating this planet and its people with dangerous chemicals is well known, in part due to efforts like those of Gillam, and other writers like myself who are willing to stay staunch when shills and puppets try to take the heat off Monsanto, Dow, Bayer, etc.
       
     
Gillam, no rookie reporter, has been singled out by her peers for her fair and objective reporting. Civil Eats, an award-winning daily news source focusing on food issues, cited Gillam in an article, "24 Women Food and Agriculture Reporters You Should Know About."

But the biotech bullies don’t want good reporters writing about GMOs. They don’t want anybody writing about GMOs—unless those writers are on Monsanto’s payroll.




Slaves To Technology? The Logical Conclusion? Get Rid Of Capitalism

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Below is a brief taster of an article with a strong message of the pernicious, deliberate but largely unnoticed effects of 'free-market-capitalism's' stranglehold on all aspects of our lives, stealing our time and our powers of thinking. Andre Vltchek is a novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist who has covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries and is understandably reliant on, if not in love with, various kinds of technology.


I feel challenged, at times dumb. I am constantly behind.
And that is where the multi-nationals want me to be. That is how they want me to feel: a total retard, a failure.
Computers are evolving; smart phones, cameras and recorders are changing their operation systems. They are designed that way: a few months or years and into the garbage with them!


Whenever I buy a new phone, new camera or new computer, I have to spend several weeks or months trying to understand their complex manuals. And these days, many manuals are not even printed – they have to be studied online. And then, once I at least master some basics, it is time to get the next generation of the equipment, to throw the old, obsolete one into the garbage, without fully mastering it.
The way new-era-gadgets are designed is that after just 1-3 years they become obsolete: applications cannot be run or downloaded and everything becomes incompatible. Entire systems demand a periodical overhaul, but even overhauls have time limitation, at some point they cease to ‘be allowed’. And so, eventually, new equipment has to be purchased, and, that happens with increasing frequency.

We all know that this is how the ‘market’ works, that this is how ruthless, self-serving ‘entrepreneurship’ is shagging us. We are all bitching about it, but there seems to be nothing that can be done. We have simply become slaves of those vicious, greedy and twisted capitalist companies. We know that they only care about their profits and nothing about the advancement of society and humanity. They are clearly and determinedly robbing creative people, of both time and resources.

Often it feels that we are defenseless and unprotected.
The more time and money we spend playing their games, satisfying their gluttony by buying and buying, continuously learning absolutely useless new concepts about ‘operating systems’ or electronic menus, the less time and resources we have left for thinking and working on the improvement of life on our planet.
Of course that is most likely one of the essential parts of their grand design.

The logical conclusion of thinking people would be, “Let’s get rid of capitalism, corporatism and market fundamentalism,” if they had more time to read, study, concentrate and analyze the world that surrounds them.
Therefore, they should be kept busy and confused with indigestible manuals, forced to give up their old gear, to buy new and newer things, and kept constantly occupied with form, instead of substance.

The crimes of market fundamentalists are too apparent and so the leaders of the corporate-political mafia are really petrified that one day, more and more people will open their eyes and will begin to shout just like in that old fairytale: “But the Emperor has no clothes!”
And so they want to make us dumb, as quickly and irreversibly as possible.

After many years of research I have come to the conclusion that some parts of the world, particularly Southeast Asia, were being used as guinea pigs in a lab for experiments on human beings. After some horrifying coups and bloodletting, people have been fully indoctrinated with market fundamentalism. The fetish of gadgets was injected with tremendous force, at the same time as hundreds of millions of people were contaminated with the lowest form of pop culture. Those who resisted were murdered or made irrelevant. Thinking and creativity were discouraged and discredited.
It has worked. And now, the same system is being implemented even in the core of the Empire – in the US and Europe.


The model should be studied in depth, because, it is a toxic, horrifying model. And if we do not fight it with determination and courage, it will soon become the future of our humanity!

There is nothing wrong with computers, phones or cameras. But the way capitalism uses them; they are being converted into extremely dangerous psychological weapons of destruction – weapons that are slowing our thinking, diverting us from real issues, making us as busy as possible as we try to figure out an irrelevant multitude of digits and commands on confusing menus.

  - taken from here




Labor Day Greetings

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Labor Day  began in 1882, four years BEFORE Haymarket and eight years BEFORE the first international May Day in 1890.  There are reports of early Labor Day celebrations in Toronto, Canada, in 1872 and in Boston in 1878. The first Labor Day in Australia was celebrated in 1856.

Labor Day brings forth the usual flood of “Labor Day Messages” from all sorts of organizations and individuals but when all is said and done, the workers won’t get much from the Labor Day  sermons and speeches that is all hokus pokus about love of country.

Today, however,  Socialism Or Your Money Back blog celebrates  Labor Day and pledges mutual solidarity fidelity and support to our fellow workers in every battle, economic and political until our fellow worker are free. We are all one— all workers of all lands and climes. We know not color, nor creed, nor sex in the labor movement as we march to the goal where we  will vanquish wage-slavery and humanize the world.

The capitalist world heaps misery upon misery upon backs of the toilers. Capitalism remains what it has been from birth: a system of exploitation of the many for the enrichment of the few. Labor day should remind us of the urgency to move towards socialism.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

A Perfect Example Of A Capitalist Abuser

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"The Coca-Cola Company is, of course, a capitalist company meaning that its goal is to make money virtually any way possible. It’s good at this. Its market cap today is $168.7 billion according to Forbes.  Since it’s founding in the late 1800’s it is now known to be the most recognized product in the world. Its goal of making money is accomplished regardless of the consequences be it environmental degradation, pollution, abuse of and destabilizing water use, worker assassinations, discrimination in the work place, or the health of individuals drinking its product, to name but a few.  Promoting a product that requires purchase by huge numbers of individuals in order to make a profit necessitates deliberate efforts at creating a positive public image. It’s good at that also but it is simultaneously considered by some as one of the most evil corporations in the world – a designation that suits it well."

So begins a lengthy article by Heather Gray from here charting the company's 'egregious history' and expansion over the globe with in depth coverage of some of the issues mentioned above and including references to its apartheid connections and examples of its generally 'oppressive, arrogant behaviour.'
If you know someone who doesn't seem to be aware of just some of Coca-Cola's tactics and business practices, then this is the article to send to them - after having read it first yourself, of course.



The Truth About Immigration

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Opening Thought: Everything negative you’ve heard about immigration is true.

In fact, all the talk-talk-talk about lazy parasites pouring over borders to leech off another nation’s resources doesn’t go far enough in explaining the gravity of this ongoing crisis. Scream it from the mountaintops (or at least on your blog):
Immigrants are destroying any and all hope of for planetary survival.
Illegal aliens are Public Enemy #1. 
Foreigners are terrorists.

If you don’t believe me, just ask any sweatshop worker in, say, Vietnam…
The perfidious colonizers I refer to, of course, are the insatiable transnational corporations setting up camp all across the (so-called) Third World. Whether it be Nike, Wal-Mart, Monsanto, or any other taxpayer-subsidized bloodsucker, these crafty illegal aliens can’t be stopped by constructing a mere wall.
They travel with impunity… on the wings of government subvention and cunning, relentless propaganda. Thanks to decades of conditioning, even the victims of these soulless migrants will voluntarily pay for the right to wear a shirt bearing their corporate logo.

One would not be engaging in hyperbole to characterize these illegal invaders as “terrorists.” Forget color-coded alerts, staged arrests, and manufactured scares. Put aside those times you were forced to remove your shoes at the airport. As defined at Dictionary.com, “an overwhelming feeling of fear and anxiety” and/or an “intense, overpowering fear” characterize brand of the terror I speak of.
While the corporate media obscures the real terror and trains its focus on the latest battle between god’s country and ISIS (or whomever the villain of the day is), the primary conflict on the planet remains unchanged: globalization from above vs. globalization from below.

“Immigrants” like the World Trade Organization, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and transnational corporations and “agreements” like the TPP are elements of a mutant form of remote control imperialism. The United States doesn't always have to send armies into other countries. It sends in Disney and McDonalds with the (usually) unspoken threat of military force backing them up.
Closing Thought: Globalization is not intrinsically a bad idea.
In fact, it’d be ideal if -- instead of exploitation, repression, and ecocide -- we were globalizing equity, solidarity, diversity, and environmental balance. As Arundhati Roy once declared: “In the present circumstances, I’d say that the only thing worth globalizing is dissent.”

Mickey Z from here




Nothing Will Change Until We Decide

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The Sun King, Louis XIV of France, was born in September 1638. He dedicated his life to glorious wars against his neighbours.
During his reign two successive famines killed more than two million Frenchmen. The figure is known thanks to the mechanical calculator invented by Blaise Pascal half a century earlier. The cause, too, is known thanks to Voltaire who later wrote, 'Good policy relies on this secret: knowing how to let die of hunger the people who allow the rest of us to live.'

(amended from Eduardo Galeano's 'Children of the Days')

Sad to say that some things are very slow to change. With all the knowledge, science and technology available to us there is little commitment to put a stop to the numerous appalling events resulting in hunger happening around the world on a non-stop basis. Desperate hunger for millions every day, in countries both 'rich' and 'poor'. Although most citizens of the world would want to see an end of this, with governments tied ever tighter to the global capitalist system there is no possibility of reaching the ever-receding humanitarian 'goals' which are cynically updated every few years. 
Nothing will change until we decide, together, that the system must change in order for it to work for us all. That's what socialism is about.
JS

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Farmers - A Dying Breed Heading For Extinction?

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91 per cent of all farm households in the US rely on multiple sources of income. No farmer wants his children to take up farming in North America.
This is happening in a country where the Farm Bill 2014 makes a provision for $962 billion of federal subsidy support for agriculture for the next 10 years.
 In Europe, the situation is equally alarming. Despite 40 per cent of the European annual budget being devoted to agriculture, one farmer quits agriculture every minute. In Canada, the National Farmers Union has in a study shown that while the 70-odd agribusiness companies are raking in profits, farmers are the only segment of the food chain incurring losses. As I have been saying for long, more than 80 per cent of the agricultural subsidies in America and Europe actually go to agribusiness corporations.
Farmers are a dying breed. Writing in Newsweek magazine, Max Kutner says: “For decades, farmers across America have been dying by suicide at higher rates than the general population. The exact numbers are hard to determine, mainly because suicides by farmers are under-reported (they may get mislabelled as hunting or tractor accidents, advocates for prevention say) and because the exact definition of a farmer is elusive.” Well, what is happening in America is not an isolated development; farmers are dying across the globe.
According to news reports, nearly 80 per cent of the 2,800,000 rural people who take their own lives every year in China are victims of farm land acquisition. In India, almost 300,000 farmers have ended their lives since 1995. Again, like in the US, farmer suicides are also under-reported in India with some states now trying to hide them by shifting these deaths to some other categories. Even in Europe, which provides massive subsidy support under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), the serial death dance continues unabated. In France, 500 suicides have been reported in a year. In Ireland, UK, Russia, and Australia farmers, are a dying breed.
In India, although we keep on saying that agriculture is the mainstay of the economy, in reality it isn’t. Employing some 52 per cent of the population, the share of agriculture in the country’s GDP has been progressively on the decline. It is less than 14 per cent now. I have been saying for long that small farmers have to get into multiple jobs to keep their chulas burning. Such is the pathetic state of Indian agriculture that some studies point to roughly 58 per cent farmers relying on MNREGA, which provides 100 days guaranteed employment.
Still worse, the people who feed the country actually sleep hungry themselves. More than 60 per cent go to bed hungry every night. Nothing can be a worse illustration of the great tragedy on the farm.
It’s not because of any unexplained natural calamity or the attack of a virus that the farms across the globe are dying. It is part of a global economic design to move farmers out of agriculture, and by doing so to shift food production into the hands of heavily subsidised and environmentally destructive agribusiness companies. It is generally believed that for any country to grow economically, the share of agriculture in the GDP must be brought down. In US, agriculture is only 4 per cent of its GDP. In India, it is less than 14 per cent now. By the end of 2020, I am sure it would be brought down to less than 10 per cent. Small scale agriculture is, therefore, deliberately being strangulated.
Such is the plight of Indian agriculture that in six years — from 2007 to 2012 — 3.2 crore (32 million) farmers have abandoned farming and moved into the cities looking for menial jobs. According to census 2011, every day 2,500 farmers quit agriculture. Some other studies have shown that roughly 50,000 people migrate from a village (and that includes farmers) into a town/city every day. As per a NSSO study, 42 per cent farmers want to quit if given an alternative.
In Punjab, which is the frontline agricultural state in the country, 98 per cent rural households are under debt. Studies have shown that the average outstanding debt per household is about Rs4.5 lakh per year which accounts for 96 per cent of the yearly income. If farming is in such a terrible state in Punjab, the state of affairs in the rest of the country can be well imagined.
In my understanding, the unwritten economic prescription is to make farming non-viable so that farmers are left with no other choice but to quit. In a quest to keep food prices low, which comes in very handy to freeze the minimum support price for farmers the predominant economic thinking supports large agribusiness conglomerates. This is being made much easier by the growing demand for amending the newly enacted land acquisition law. More and more land will now pass on into the hands of industry and real estate, forcing farmers to do menial jobs in the cities. The demise of the farmer therefore is predetermined. It’s only a matter of time before the farmer as a species goes extinct.
Devinda Sharma from here


 

Average Weekly Working Hours Well Over 40

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Adults employed full time in the U.S. report working an average of 47 hours per week, almost a full workday longer than what a standard five-day, 9-to-5 schedule entails. In fact, half of all full-time workers indicate they typically work more than 40 hours, and nearly four in 10 say they work at least 50 hours.

Average Hours Worked by Full-Time U.S. Workers, Aged 18+














The 40-hour workweek is widely regarded as the standard for full-time employment, and many federal employment laws -- including the Affordable Care Act, or "Obamacare" -- use this threshold to define what a full-time employee is. However, barely four in 10 full-time workers in the U.S. indicate they work precisely this much. The hefty proportion who tell Gallup they typically log more than 40 hours each week push the average number of hours worked up to 47. Only 8% of full-time employees claim to work less than 40 hours.

These findings are based on data from Gallup's annual Work and Education Survey. The combined sample for 2013 and 2014 includes 1,271 adults, aged 18 and older, who are employed full time.

While for some workers the number of hours worked may be an indicator of personal gumption, for others it may be a function of their pay structure. Hourly workers can be restricted in the amount they work by employers who don't need or can't afford to pay overtime. By contrast, salaried workers generally don't face this issue. And, perhaps as a result, salaried employees work five hours more per week, on average, than full-time hourly workers (49 vs. 44, respectively), according to the 2014 Work and Education survey.
 

Average Hours Worked by Full-Time U.S. Workers, Aged 18+
















Another factor in lengthening Americans' work week is individuals taking on more than one job. According to past Gallup data, 86% of full-time workers have just one job, 12% have two, and 1% have three or more. However, even by restricting the analysis to full-time workers who have only one job, the average number of hours worked is 46 -- still well over 40.


read more here

Friday, August 29, 2014

Scotland's Referendum: Some Choice

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Some choice

In recent days capitalists in Scotland have been coming out in favour of a YES or a NO in the coming referendum in Scotland. The split is revealing. It's more or less the same as in the UK over the EU, with smaller capitalist concerns catering for the home market favouring breaking away and bigger concerns producing for export favouring staying. From today's Times (29 August):

"Sir Brian Souter, chairman of Stagecoach, Ralph Topping, the former chief executive of William Hill, and Paddy Crerar, the founder of Crerar Hotels, were among those prepared to swing their entrepreneurial weight behind a "yes" vote on September 18.
Their push came just a day after 130 influential businessmen, including Douglas Flint, the chairman of HSBC, and Andrew Mackenzie, who runs BHP Billiton, signed a similarly firm No missive to The Scotsman, warning that the case for independence had still not been made."

As someone from Edinburgh University's School of Business explained:

"Professor MacKay said that his research suggested that business attitudes towards independence tended to be dictated by where their customers were primarily located."

So it's buses, hotels and betting shops versus international banks and mining companies. Consumer goods industries v producer goods industries. Big capitalists v smaller capitalists. Marx's Dept I v Dept II. Some choice.

Best for workers to abstain and leave the capitalists to settle the matter amongst themselves.








The World's Biggest 'Democracy' - Home To 28.5% Living In Destitution

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The 2014 global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) by researchers at the University of Oxford covers 108 countries: 
31 Low-Income Countries, 67 Middle-Income Countries and 10 High-Income Countries. These countries have a total population of  5.4 billion people , some 78% of the world's population. 

The MPI assesses poverty at the individual level.  If someone is deprived in a third or more of ten weighted indicators, the global index identifies them as ‘MPI poor' , and  the extent – or intensity – of their poverty is measured by the number of deprivations they are experiencing . Those indicators are based on health, education and living standards and comprise the following factors: years of schooling, school attendance, levels of nutrition, child mortality, access to cooking fuel, sanitation (open defecation, for example), access to water, ownership of assets, access to electricity and flooring material (eg, dirt). 

Based on a rural-urban analysis,  of the 1.6 billion people identified as MPI poor, 85% live in rural areas . This is significantly higher than estimates of 70-75% in poverty, where income is used as the basis for determining poverty.
Poverty reduction is not necessarily uniform across all poor people in a country or across population subgroups. An overall improvement may leave the poorest of the poor behind.  The highest levels of inequality are to be found in 15 Sub-Saharan African countries and in  Pakistan ,  India ,  Afghanistan ,  Yemen  and  Somalia . 

The researchers have paid special attention to the situation of the destitute, or what they term the  poorest of the poor .  Over half of the world's poor are classed as destitute .    
Countries which have reduced MPI poverty and destitution the most in absolute terms were mostly Low Income and Least Developed Countries, with Nepal making the fastest progress. 

The situation in India
Eradicating poverty in India requires every person having access to safe drinking water, sanitation, housing, nutrition, health and education. According to the MPI, out of its 1.2 billion-plus population, India  is home to over 340 million destitute people  and is the second poorest country in South Asia after war-torn Afghanistan. Some 640 million poor people live in India (40% of the world's poor), mostly in rural areas, meaning an individual is deprived in one-third or more of the ten indicators mentioned above (malnutrition, child deaths, defecating in the open).
In South Asia, Afghanistan has the highest level of destitution at 38%. This is followed by India at 28.5%. Bangladesh and Pakistan have much lower levels. The study placed Afghanistan as the poorest country in South Asia, followed by India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal. 
 
taken from an excellent article here by Colin Todhunter

Certainly GDP has been soaring in recent years but that says nothing about the lives, livelihoods and living conditions of the vast majority of the country. It is a statistic relevant only to capitalists thinking of the bottom line and investment opportunities.




Workers Of The World - 2

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Who Is The Real Enemy?

Here is a much condensed tale of farmers, family farmers growing soy beans, from the US and Brazil. It's taken from a long chapter in Raj Patel's 'Stuffed and Starved' about the many questions pertaining to a very contentious issue, that of agribusiness's role in the production of soy and the manufacture and distribution of the resultant products.

One family farmer from the US, Emelie Peine, who farms 400 acres in Up State New York took time out to visit farmers of similar or smaller sized farms in Brazil and subsequently discussed her findings with Patel. He summarises her observations thus 'the misconceptions of realities on both sides of the Panama Canal, north and south, seem systematic. US farmers find it easy to believe that all Brazilians are socially and ecologically corrupt slave drivers and Brazilian farmers believe their US counterparts to be suckled on taxpayer dollars' drawing attention to 'countless articles in farming periodicals of the US Midwest and Great Plains - - -and likewise fuelled in Brazil.'

The chapter reveals differences in approach in Brazil between the small family farmers who care about their land and want to have something to leave their children and the mega farms run by giant corporations. But, to home in on the Brazilian misconception about US farmers reaping big payouts from government subsidies, 'since the 1996 farm bill, rich farmers and corporations systematically received more than the majority of US farmers. The trend has continued: from 1996 to 2010 the top 10% of farms received 75% of total farm subsidy payments. The average annual payment to the top 10% is $30,751, while the bottom 80% receive only $587 per year and nearly two thirds of American farmers collected no subsidy payments at all in 2010.

Emelie Peine: 'It's not just that there are some farmers who need to understand each other better. But farmers need to understand why they're competing with each other. The thing that made me realize this most is that Cargill is not only the largest exporter of US soybeans but also the biggest exporter of Brazilian soybeans. So then what's the conflict of trade rules about? Farmers need to understand that every independent producer of tradable commodities in every country is being squeezed by the same companies – and that the root of the problem is the corporate structure of the global agricultural economy, not one country's subsidies or another's environmental practices.'

Some salient soy facts:
  • Brazil's biggest soy producer is Blairo Maggi, former governor of Mato Grosso, with a 'family farm' of 350,000 acres, half of it under soy and with plans to triple its size by now.
  • ILO estimates numbers of workers in conditions of slavery in Brazil as between 25,000-40,000, (Maggi's farm having been found to be one of them)
  • Cargill, ADM and Bunge finance 60% of Brazilian soy production and own ¾ of all European processing facilities for whole bean exports from Brazil.


Although we recognise the realities of the huge problems faced by workers and the public in general from the enormous power wielded by multinational corporations, this is only one of many ongoing world problems and regular readers will be fully aware of SOYMB's position on who the real enemy is and that is the capitalist system itself.



Thursday, August 28, 2014

Wealth Concentration - US

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Access to wealth in the U.S. is very unequal, as recent protest movements such as Occupy Wall Street (OWS) reminded us. Wealth can be measured as:
1. net worth: total assets less total debts; or
2. financial wealth: non-housing wealth such as stocks, bonds, retirement accounts, savings accounts.

In 2010:
1. the top 1% of wealth owners held more than 34% of net worth;
2. the top 1% of financial asset owners held more than 35% of financial wealth.
Wealth and Income
To better understand wealth concentration, it can be helpful to compare income and wealth ownership. In contrast to wealth (defined above), income refers to flows of money into the household as in wages, salaries, government transfer payments, and gifts.
An individual's religious participation and affiliation can have both direct and indirect effects on asset ownership and wealth accumulation. Cultural patterns that accompany religious participation often produce behaviors that in turn have consequences for wealth inequality.

from here


Figure 1: Religion and Median Net Worth

Data comes from the NLSY 1979 Cohort. Median 2007 net worth by childhood religion

from here

Searches for above sectors by % of total population show less than 3% Jewish.

 

For-Profit Universities Lack Advantage

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For-profit universities lure students in with promises of an education.

However, it turns out most of them only deliver higher debt and worthless degrees. A new study by the organization CALDER found that graduates of for-profit universities have no better chance at getting an interview than people who never even went to college.
The researchers sent out about 9,000 fake resumes to businesses and found "little evidence of a benefit to listing a for-profit college relative to no college at all." Community college grads actually fared a little better off, but the authors of the study said that the difference was too small to draw a conclusion. However, these for-profit universities often charge students much higher tuition, and use private funding that excludes students from federal repayment assistance programs.

from here

The Ruling Elite

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As if we needed to be told that our society is class-based.

Small elites, educated at independent schools and Oxbridge, still dominate top roles, suggests the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission study. Britain is "deeply elitist" because people educated at public school and Oxbridge have in effect created a "closed shop at the top". Elitism was so embedded in Britain "that it could be called 'social engineering'".


Those who had attended fee-paying or independent schools included:
71% of senior judges
62% of senior armed forces officers
55% of permanent secretaries (the most senior civil servants)
53% of senior diplomats.
50% of the House of Lords
45% of chairmen and women of public bodies
44% of the Sunday Times Rich List
43% of newspaper columnists
36% of the Cabinet
33% of MPs
26% of BBC executives
22% of the Shadow Cabinet

In sport, 35% of the England, Scotland and Wales rugby teams and 33% of the England cricket team also went to private schools.

This compares with 7% of the UK population as a whole.

Those who went to Oxford and Cambridge:
75% of senior judges
59% of the Cabinet
57% of permanent secretaries
50% of diplomats
47% of newspaper columnists
38% of the House of Lords
33% of the shadow cabinet
24% of MPs

Less than 1% of the whole population are Oxbridge graduates while 62% did not attend any university.

From here  

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Crime And Punishment

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Many of us who work in the criminal justice system have come to understand the profound connection between poverty and mass incarceration.  Put simply, individuals with criminal histories – even minor ones – find it exceedingly difficult to enter the workforce and provide for their families.  One pragmatic response to this problem is to incarcerate fewer people, particularly in local jails.

While much of the public debate and academic discourse focuses on the challenges of reducing federal and state prison enrollments, mass incarceration is a problem with a significant local dimension too.  As of June 30, 2013, an estimated 731,208 persons in the U.S. were confined in local jails; a much larger total of 11.7 million persons were imprisoned in local jails at some point over the preceding year.

More than 6 out of 10 of those jailed in the U.S. have yet to be convicted of any crime.  Indeed, many of those held in pretrial detention are actually eligible for release yet they cannot afford to post bail – often nominal amounts of money.  And contrary to popular thinking, the overwhelming majority of criminal prosecutions concern relatively minor offenses.  In New York City, three out of four cases that make it to criminal court are misdemeanors – a total of more than 235,000 cases in 2012.

read more here


What is dirty is cheap

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"Worldwide, we've built more coal-burning power plants in the past decade than in any previous decade, and closures of old plants aren't keeping pace with this expansion," said  Prof Steven Davis at University of California, Irvine. "Far from solving the climate change problem, we're investing heavily in technologies that make the problem worse," he said. 

Almost the entire developing world is looking to coal as the power plant fuel of choice on the road to industrialisation.

The climate impacts of the world's fossil-fuelled power plants are being underestimated because of poor accounting, say researchers. Researchers calculated that the new coal and gas plants built in 2012 with an expected production life of 40 years, would in total, produce around 19bn tonnes of CO2. This is significantly more than the 14bn tonnes produced by all the existing fossil fuel plants in the world in the same year. All the existing fossil fuel plants in world will contribute 300bn tonnes of CO2 over their lifetimes.

"We've been hiding things from ourselves," said  Prof Robert Socolow from Princeton university.

Divide and Rule

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from Paul Jamiol here


082614

The World Wide Web Of Living

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The web of life – everything linked and interdependent. From the tiniest particle of soil to the African elephant; from plankton to whales and consumers of sea food; from the rice seeds germinating in Asian paddy fields to the plates on western tables. It's easy to recognise the links in the chain, links which if broken can disrupt the natural order and create problems throughout the web.
On a purely physiological level what, to be a part of this web of life, does humankind require?
Sun. Air. Water. Food. The fundamentals for sustaining life of all forms. As far as shelter is required organisms have evolved and developed according to climate and discrete circumstances. Molluscs and turtles have shells, many animal species dig holes in the ground or make nests of varying intricacy and humankind gradually developed structures until we reached the current wide variety of living spaces found today.

Considering the many centuries that humankind has existed on this planet (how long?) it is within a relatively short period of time that these four basic needs – sun, air, water, food – have come to have a very different emphasis, have come to be seen as something other than a basic necessity for all, even though being deprived of any of them puts life in general at great risk.
Since developing beyond the early form when all lived 'close to the earth' to where humanity is now somehow it has come to be accepted in certain circles that these four basics are not to be assumed to be freely available to all who require them. The need for life's basics has become limited by the ability to access them. We are not expected to take them for granted and are being separated from the very basics of the commons without our consent.
This can be seen most clearly where food deprivation is concerned. Malnutrition and hunger are widespread and include millions. Subsistence farmers around the world have been forcibly removed from their land and livelihoods in their hundreds of thousands by agribusinesses and compliant governments. Wars, too, have seen millions uprooted and displaced. Water deprivation and pollution is affecting millions of individuals and thousands of communities negatively. Air pollution is a serious and growing health problem for the whole world's population.
(These three areas have been covered extensively in many articles – posted on this blog and published in Socialist Standard in print and online here )
As for the sun, who knows what plans lie ahead to restrict our access to that shared resource?

Let's turn now to a 'web of living' and see how our communities, both local and global, are linked and interdependent in ways similar to the 'web of life' by looking beyond the purely physiological level to how we might choose to organise our lives for the benefit of all – in stark contrast to how everything is ordered now which is to benefit the few and restrict or deny the majority.

Assuming that we prioritise the four basic necessities and also have some basic accommodation for the time being how can we envisage a 'web of living' within our smaller, local communities and also within and between our much larger regional and global communities that will amply satisfy the multiplicity of our wants, incorporating everything to give a well-balanced and healthy life for all without fear or favour?

Starter List:
Basic services – electricity, energy, water, sewage, communications, transport
Health care - lifelong
Food supply and Distribution - from farm to table
General Supply and Distribution-
Infrastructure – planning, roads, transport,
Manufacturing – local, regional, global,
Building – planning, housing, community facilities,
Sports and Training Facilities -
Entertainment -
Arts facilities- galleries, concert halls,
Environmental care and services-
Administration – included in and linked to all above, incorporating organisation, communication systems, logistics,

This is far from a complete list but is there to be added to. The point being is how we access the services of any of the agencies or individuals above currently. If a trades person's services are required we ask around for recommendations or look online. Problems with one of the utilities ? Make a phone call. We shop in town or online, register with a gym, a health centre or golf club. We eat at home or get a take-away and now and then go to a favourite restaurant.
Who are the people we have contact with in these various activities or transactions? - People who are specifically engaged in the area of work or expertise we are looking for. People not much different from ourselves, who go out on a regular basis to what we call work, or job or profession. Who runs these places of work, manages the transport system, deals with patients on a daily basis, stocks the shelves of the shops, entertains us at the theatre, draws the designs and plans for new housing and then builds them and fits them out, fixes the electrical grid in a storm, takes out that sore tooth, picks the tomatoes or potatoes, collects the trash, cuts your hair, services the car, delivers the post? People like us. We do. We are the ones who keep the whole thing running. Between us we manage the whole affair from start to finish. - And we have access to all of this and more but only if we have the magic password.

We are restricted in our choices by lack of the necessary cash or credit. And the vast majority of the world's population falls into this category – highly restricted choice for severe lack of money.
In the system currently are many inequalities of access both within local communities and between different areas of the world. This manifests itself in many ways and one would need to be both blind and deaf to be unaware of much of it. Money has come to be an essential part of life, in fact of mere existence. Without it you can do almost nothing. It is not a physiological necessity but a false 'need', a manufactured need adding an unnecessary layer to our everyday and lifelong transactions.

There is no way that the current system, capitalism, can be inclusive and offer equal access to all. Full employment and 'fair' wages are a hopeless cause which must surely be widely recognised. Nationalism and its call for manufacturing to stay at home won't fix the problem. Calls like these are red herrings which serve to stop us focussing on the real problem, the elephant in the room, which is the system. The system of profit before people or planet that runs very well for those few at the top of the pyramid. For the rest of us, the ones running the show all around the world, why don't we just expand operations to include all those who currently find themselves surplus to requirements and get on with our organising and managing and doing, - without the money?

Object
The establishment of a system of society based upon the common ownership and democratic control of the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth by and in the interest of the whole community.
http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/our-object-and-declaration-principles


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

THE PIFFLE OF DE PFEFFEL! (poem)

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THE PIFFLE OF DE PFEFFEL!

Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson says that he will seek a return to Parliament.

It’s Boris for P.M. it’s said,
In some kind of pathetic joke;
Imagine our great country led,
By a posh Bullingdon Club bloke! (1)                                                                      
But Boris isn’t quite the clown,
That often he pretends to be;
These Eton chaps from Henley town, (2)
Play bumbling fatheads to a tee.

Make no mistake, Bo-Jo is no,
Buffoon or loon upon a bike;
There’s plenty gormless Tories though,
That he is setting out to psych.
The man who brought us Barclay bikes, (3)
And banned the bulky bendy-bus;
Announces through the mikes he likes,
The razzmatazz and all the fuss!

And now he’s bored with London’s grime,
The adoration that he craves;
Will only be fed by a climb,
Up to the Cabinet of Knaves.
For under that blonde mane above,
That’s coiffured oh-so artfully;
Lies one who shows no greater love,
For Boris Johnson more than he!

(1) Prominent members include David Cameron and George Osborne and deceased member, Prince Yusupov, the assassin of Grigori Rasputin.
(2) Johnson was previously M.P. for Henley.
(3) Barclays are withdrawing from the scheme having paid less than half of the original £50m --the tab will be picked up by the taxpayer.

© Richard Layton       

Inequality By Numbers

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Wealth distribution, 2000-2011 





The True Threat Of Entitlement

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Americans constantly hear about the threat of "entitlements," which in the case of Social Security and Medicare are more properly defined as "earned benefits." The real threat is the array of entitlements demanded by the very rich. The following annual numbers may help to put our country's expenses and benefits in perspective.

$220 Billion: Teacher Salaries

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics there are just over four million preschool, primary, secondary, and special education school teachers in the U.S., earning an average of $54,740.


$246 Billion: State and Local Pensions

Census data shows a total annual (2012) payout of about $246 billion. Only about $100 billion of this came from state and local governments, with the remainder funded by employee contributions and investment earnings. A recent Pew study showed a little over $100 billion in annual state contributions to pensions, health care, and non-pension benefits.


$398 Billion: Safety Net

The 2013 safety net (non-medical) included the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), WIC (Women, Infants, Children), Child Nutrition, Earned Income Tax Credit, Supplemental Security Income, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Education & Training, and Housing.


$863 Billion: Social Security

Social Security is the major source of income for most of the elderly, and it is an earned benefit. As of 2010, according to the Urban Institute, the average two-earner couple making average wages throughout their lifetimes receive less in Social Security benefits than they paid in.


$2,200 Billion: Tax Avoidance

That's $2.2 trillion in tax expenditures, tax underpayments, tax havens, and corporate nonpayment. It is estimated that two-thirds of tax breaks accrue to the top quintile of taxpayers.


$5,000 Billion: Investment Wealth

That's $5 trillion dollars a year, the annual amount gained in U.S. wealth from the end of 2008 to the middle of 2013. Even though the whole country continued to grow in productivity, most of the new wealth went to the very richest people. According to Oxfam, the wealthiest one percent captured 95 percent of post-financial crisis growth since 2009, while the bottom 90 percent became poorer.


Another View: Annual Per Capita Numbers

The following are averages, which are skewed in the case of tax breaks and investment income, as a result of the excessive takings of the .1% and the .01%. Details of the calculations can be found here.

$8,600 for each of the Safety Net recipients

$14,600 for each of the Social Security recipients

$27,333 for each of the Pension recipients

$54,740 for each of the Teachers

$200,000 for each of the Tax Break recipients among the richest 1%

$500,000 for each of the Investment Income recipients among the richest 1%

The super-rich feel they deserve all the tax breaks and the accumulation of wealth from the productivity of others.

This is the true threat of entitlement.


by Paul Buchheit from here