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Krugman: Egos and Immorality ›

Once upon a time, this fairy tale tells us, America was a land of lazy managers and slacker workers. Productivity languished, and American industry was fading away in the face of foreign competition.

Then square-jawed, tough-minded buyout kings like Mitt Romney and the fictional Gordon Gekko came to the rescue, imposing financial and work discipline. Sure, some people didn’t like it, and, sure, they made a lot of money for themselves along the way. But the result was a great economic revival, whose benefits trickled down to everyone.

You can see why Wall Street likes this story. But none of it — except the bit about the Gekkos and the Romneys making lots of money — is true.

For the alleged productivity surge never actually happened. In fact, overall business productivity in America grew faster in the postwar generation, an era in which banks were tightly regulated and private equity barely existed, than it has since our political system decided that greed was good.

What about international competition? We now think of America as a nation doomed to perpetual trade deficits, but it was not always thus. From the 1950s through the 1970s, we generally had more or less balanced trade, exporting about as much as we imported. The big trade deficits only started in the Reagan years, that is, during the era of runaway finance.

And what about that trickle-down? It never took place. There have been significant productivity gains these past three decades, although not on the scale that Wall Street’s self-serving legend would have you believe. However, only a small part of those gains got passed on to American workers.

So, no, financial wheeling and dealing did not do wonders for the American economy, and there are real questions about why, exactly, the wheeler-dealers have made so much money while generating such dubious results.

Those are, however, questions that the wheeler-dealers don’t want asked — and not, I think, just because they want to defend their tax breaks and other privileges. It’s also an ego thing. Vast wealth isn’t enough; they want deference, too, and they’re doing their best to buy it. It has been amazing to read about erstwhile Democrats on Wall Street going all in for Mitt Romney, not because they believe that he has good policy ideas, but because they’re taking President Obama’s very mild criticism of financial excesses as a personal insult.

And it has been especially sad to see some Democratic politicians with ties to Wall Street, like Newark’s mayor, Cory Booker, dutifully rise to the defense of their friends’ surprisingly fragile egos.

As I said at the beginning, in a way Wall Street’s self-centered, self-absorbed behavior has been kind of funny. But while this behavior may be funny, it is also deeply immoral.


Classic picture of the Eritrean people taken in 1982.

Free at LAST!

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Nicaraguan guerrinna sister breast feeding her baby during the Contra War. Orlando Valenzuela’s photography captures the femininity of revolutionary Sandinista women so beautifully.

“I have learned that a woman can be a fighter, a freedom fighter, a political activist, and that she can fall in love and be loved. She can be married, have children, be a mother. Revolution must mean life also; every aspect of life.” Leila Khaled

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progressivefriends: Police in Frankfurt, Germany take off their badges & helmets to join protesters on an anti-capitalist march and defend them against military ordered to use force to disperse the demonstration.

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Ronald Reagan, who had assumed the American presidency in January 1981, accused the Sandinistas of importing Cuban-style socialism and aiding leftist guerrillas in El Salvador.On 4 January 1982, Reagan signed the top secret National Security Decision Directive 17 (NSDD-17),[32] giving the CIA the authority to recruit and support the contras with $19 million in military aid. The effort to support the contras was one component of the Reagan Doctrine, which called for providing military support to movements opposing Soviet-supported, communist governments.

By December 1981, however, the U.S. had already begun to support armed opponents of the Sandinista regime.[33] From the beginning, the CIA was in charge.[34] To arm, clothe, feed, and supervise the contras[35] would become the most ambitious paramilitary and political action operation mounted by the agency in nearly a decade.[36]

In the fiscal year 1984, the U.S. congress approved $24 million in contra aid.[37] However, since the contras failed to win widespread popular support or military victories within Nicaragua,[38] since opinion polls indicated that a majority of the U.S. public was not supportive of the contras,[39] and since the Reagan administration lost much of its support regarding its contra policy within Congress after disclosure of CIA mining of Nicaraguan ports,[40] Congress cut off all funds for the contras in 1985 by the third Boland Amendment.[37] The Boland Amendment had first been passed by Congress in December 1982. At this time, it only outlawed U.S. assistance to the contras for the purpose of overthrowing the Nicaraguan government, while allowing assistance for other purposes.[41] In October 1984, it was amended to forbid action by not only the Defense Department and the Central Intelligence Agency but all U.S. government agencies.

The case for support of the contras, however, continued to be made in Washington, D.C. by both the Reagan administration and the Heritage Foundation, which argued that support for the contras would counter Soviet influence in Nicaragua - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contras


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arial view of Montreal demonstration now…(via Instagram)

The 100th day of Quebec’s student strikes.

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The Two Souls of Socialism - Hal Draper ›


Socialism’s crisis today is a crisis in the meaning of socialism. For the first time in the history of the world, very likely a majority of its people label themselves “socialist” in one sense or another; but there has never been a time when the label was less informative. The nearest thing to a common content of the various “socialisms” is a negative: anti-capitalism. On the positive side, the range of conflicting and incompatible ideas that call themselves socialist is wider than the spread of ideas within the bourgeois world.

Even anti-capitalism holds less and less as a common factor. In one part of the spectrum, a number of social democratic parties have virtually eliminated any specifically socialist demands from their programs, promising to maintain private enterprise wherever possible. The most prominent example is the German social-democracy. (“As an idea, a philosophy, and a social movement, socialism in Germany is no longer represented by a political party,” sums up D.A. Chalmers’ recent book The Social Democratic Party of Germany.) These parties have defined socialism out of existence, but the tendency which they have formalized is that of the entire reformist social democracy. In what sense are these parties still “socialist”?

In another part of the world picture, there are the Communist states, whose claim to being “socialist” is based on a negative: the abolition of the capitalist private-profit system, and the fact that the class which rules does not consist of private owners of property. On the positive side, however, the socio-economic system which has replaced capitalism there would not be recognizable to Karl Marx. The state owns the means of production – but who “owns” the state? Certainly not the mass of workers, who are exploited, unfree, and alienated from all levers of social and political control. A new class rules, the bureaucratic bosses; it rules over a collectivist system – a bureaucratic collectivism. Unless statification is mechanically equated with “socialism,” in what sense are these societies “socialist”?


Photo’s from the NATO protest. This is what a police state looks like

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