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February 15 2013

Ireland - The Star Pupil Of The Euro Fiasco

In a recent talk in London Peer Steinbrück, the SPD candidate for the German Chancellorship, in an otherwise progressive talk referred to Ireland as the "star pupil" among the countries struggling ...


Reposted from02mysoup-aa 02mysoup-aa

November 14 2012

An innovation agenda to help people win the race against the machines

If the country is going to have a serious conversation about innovation, unemployment and job creation, we must talk about our race against the machines. For centuries, we’ve been automating people out of jobs. Today’s combination of big data, automation and artificial intelligence, however, looks like something new, from self-driving cars to e-discovery software to “robojournalism” to financial advisors to medical diagnostics. Last year, venture capitalist Marc Andreessen wrote that “software is eating the world.”

Computers and distributed systems are now demonstrating skills in the real world that we once thought would always be the domain of human beings. “That’s just not the case any more,” said MIT research professor Andrew McAfee, in an interview earlier this year at the Strata Conference in Santa Clara, Calif.:

McAfee and his research partner, MIT economics professor Erik Brynjolfsson, remain fundamentally optimistic about the effect of the digital revolution on the world economy. But the drivers of joblessness that they explore in their book, Race Against The Machine, deserved to have had more discussion in this year’s political campaign. Given the tepid labor market recovery in the United States and a rebound that has stayed flat, the Obama administration, given an opportunity for a second term, should pull some new policy levers.

What could — or should — the new administration do? On Tuesday, I had the pleasure of speaking at a panel at the Center for Technology Innovation at the Brookings Institute to talk about what a “First 100 Days Innovation Agenda” might look like for the new administration. (Full disclosure: earlier this year, I was paid to moderate a workshop that discussed this issue and contributed to the paper on building an innovation economy that was published this week.) The event was live streamed and should be available on-demand in the future.

In the meantime, below are recommendations from the paper and from professors McAfee and Brynjolfsson, followed by the suggestions I made during the forum, drawing from my conversations with people around the United States on this topic over the past two years.

Ideas from Brookings

Quoted below is the executive summary of the recommendations from the Brookings Center for Technology Innovation. The paper itself goes into more detail on each one.

  • We need better metrics for measuring worker productivity in the 21st century economy. Past approaches based on worker hours or total employees in relation to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ignore the transformational nature of digital technology.
  • We should encourage entrepreneurship by expanding Small Business Administration credit for start ups, adding entrepreneurial skills to school curricula, and making changes in immigration policy that encourage entrepreneurs to come to America.
  • We need governments that learn to innovate and collaborate, and develop new approaches to service delivery, transparency, and participation. This includes placing more data online and employing data analytical tools, social media, mobile technology, and search results that improve decision-making.
  • We should strengthen infrastructure by investing in broadband, data centers, and mobile cell towers, and improving access to spectrum for wireless applications.
  • We should protect vital digital assets by updating the Federal Information Security Management Act and developing procedures for monitoring threats to critical infrastructure.
  • We need to improve knowledge transmission through faster adoption of digital textbooks, more widespread use of creative commons licenses for instructional materials developed with taxpayer dollars, and policy changes that speed education innovation.
  • We need to increase technology transfer and the commercialization of knowledge from universities and federal laboratories so that public and private investments translate into jobs and economic activity as well as better health, security, and well-being.
  • We should harmonize cross-border laws to promote global innovation and freedom of expression.

Recommendations from McAfee and Brynjolfsson

“Everything I’ve learned during and after Race Against the Machine has left me incredibly optimistic in all important areas except one,” wrote McAfee in an email earlier this week.

“Digital technologies are increasing our productive capacity and ability to innovate, they’re bringing good things to our lives, and they will continue to do all of the above, probably at accelerating rates. As we wrote in the book, however, as technology races ahead, it is leaving a lot of workers behind. Computers and robots are acquiring human-like skills and abilities, which means that the ‘market share’ of people in the workforce — the areas where they are superior to machines — is going down, and will continue to do so. Dealing with this trend will be one of the main challenges, if not the greatest one, that we face over the next generation.”

What to do? “The cure-all to any economic woe is economic growth,” he said, in our previous interview at Strata. Even if that’s happening, McAfee emphasized, the cohort of mid- to lower-wage knowledge workers whose jobs stand to be automated is still going to be affected.

In response, he recommended that policy makers, schools and universities rethink current educational methods and system.

“We’re turning out industrial-era workers and industrial-era skills,” said McAfee. Instead of fact-based learning methods, he suggests focusing on developing the abilities of students to do problem definition, exploration and solving, working with machines.

“Reskilling and retraining are a big part of the answer,” he said. “We’re putting the wrong skills out there. Let’s rethink that. Let’s bring government, industry, and the educational institutions together and put together a curriculum that will actually deliver valuable skills out there.”

Brynjolfsson and McAfee made a list of 19 recommendations from Race Against The Machine that are worth considering, including: measuring performance in education, extending school hours, encouraging the immigration and retention of skilled workers, teaching entrepreneurship, investing in the country’s communications and transportation infrastructure, reforming the patent system and revisiting a host of tax subsidy and regulatory policies. While not all of these recommendations could be addressed in the first 100 days, they are all worth adding to the discussion about the choices ahead of the new administration and Congress.

My suggestions

Where do I sit? To unlock more innovation in the economy, the administration should consider:

  • Making evidence-based investments in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education and experiential learning programs, with measurements against which teaching methods are working and where. Continue to embrace the maker movement.
  • Focusing on skills matching between millions of open jobs and coordination with industry to determine the training needed to fill them and community colleges and grad programs to create curricula that are relevant.
  • Continuing to invest in basic research and development, particularly in biotechnology, nanotechnology, materials science and alternative energy.
  • Pushing through immigration reform that enables the best and brightest entrepreneurs and researchers to come to the United States to build businesses, study and to stay here after graduation. Make the political compromise to get that engine moving quickly. Simplify visa applications, in accordance with the digital government strategy, so that innovators can build better civic interfaces to provide expedited e-services.
  • Creating more access to early seed-stage capital for startups and small businesses. That means pushing the Security and Exchange Commission to finalize the crowdfunding rules from the JOBS Act.
  • Releasing more open government data from regulators and federal agencies, particularly high-value datasets that are in demand from startups. Catalyze the growing data economy by engaging entrepreneurs and venture capitalists — and respond to their feedback about quality, availability and standards. Collaborate with states and cities on creating open standards for urban data.
  • Putting more code, research and other intellectual property created with taxpayer dollars into the public domain.
  • Using the power of government procurement to encourage small business, once Project RFPEZ is completed.
  • Releasing more spectrum and creating incentives for “last mile” broadband access to enable more participants in the innovation economy.
  • Making libraries digital hubs for communities, enabling them to provide job training, broadband access, open data curation and even as maker spaces.

Your ideas?

When I asked for feedback online before the panel, Robert Bole, director of innovation for the U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors, commented that the administration should make “block grants of digital services and open data to states.”

Additionally, suggested Bole, the administration should “expand Code for America and Presidential Innovation Fellows. Reform Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR), adoption of RFP-EZ (and ilk). Reform of Universal Service fund for broadband infrastructure expansion. Improve libraries and schools to provide media literacy skills. Investment of career STEM at community colleges. Aggressive restructure & auction of spectrum (with smart public use requirements).”

After she commented during the Brookings forum, I asked Gwynne Kostin what the real issues are for innovation in the federal government. Kostin, who serves as the Director of the Digital Services Innovation Center in the Office of Citizen Services & Innovative Technologies at the U.S General Services Administration, responded by putting at least some of the onus on Congress:

Imagine, for a moment, that President Obama is up late in the White House in the next month and comes across this post when he’s reading his iPad.

What change(s), policy or other action would you recommend to him in these first 100 days? Would you support any of the items from the list above? Why? Or make other ones? If you have ideas, please add them below in the comments.

July 21 2012

Overfocus on tech skills could exclude the best candidates for jobs

At the second RailsConf, David Heinemeier Hansson told the audience about a recruiter trying to hire with “5 years of experience with Ruby on Rails.” DHH told him “Sorry; I’ve only got 4 years.” We all laughed (I don’t think there’s anyone in the technical world who hasn’t dealt with a clueless recruiter), but little did we know this was the shape of things to come.

Last week, a startup in a relatively specialized area advertised a new engineering position for which they expected job candidates to have used their API. That raised a few eyebrows, not the least because it’s a sad commentary on the current jobs situation.

On one hand, we have high unemployment. But on the other hand, at least in the computing industry, there’s no shortage of jobs. I know many companies that are hiring, and all of them are saying they can’t find the people they want. I’m only familiar with the computer industry, which is often out of synch with the rest of the economy. Certainly, in Silicon Valley where you can’t throw a stone without hitting a newly-funded startup, we’d expect a chronic shortage of software developers. But a quick Google search will show you that the complaint is widespread: trucking, nursing, manufacturing, teaching, you’ll see the “lack of qualified applicants” complaint everywhere you look.

Is the problem that there are no qualified people? Or is the problem with the qualifications themselves?

There certainly have been structural changes in the economy, for better or for worse: many jobs have been shipped offshore, or eliminated through automation. And employers are trying to move some jobs back onshore for which the skills no longer exist in the US workforce. But I don’t believe that’s the whole story. A number of articles recently have suggested that the problem with jobs isn’t the workforce, it’s the employers: companies that are only willing to hire people who will drop in perfectly to the position that’s open. Hence, a startup requiring that applicants have developed code using their API.

It goes further: many employers are apparently using automated rejection services which (among other things) don’t give applicants the opportunity to make their case: there’s no human involved. There’s just a resume or an application form matched against a list of requirements that may be grossly out of touch with reality, generated by an HR department that probably doesn’t understand what they’re looking for, and that will never talk to the candidates they reject.

I suppose it’s a natural extension of data science to think that hiring can be automated. In the future, perhaps it will be. Even without automated application processing, it’s altogether too easy for an administrative assistant to match resumes against a checklist of “requirements” and turn everyone down: especially easy when the stack of resumes is deep. If there are lots of applications, and nobody fits the requirements, it must be the applicants’ fault, right? But at this point, rigidly matching candidates against inflexible job requirements isn’t a way to go forward.

Even for a senior position, if a startup is only willing to hire people who have already used its API, it is needlessly narrowing its applicant pool to a very small group. The candidates who survive may know the API already, but what else do they know? Are the best candidates in that group?

A senior position is likely to require a broad range of knowledge and experience, including software architecture, development methodologies, programming languages and frameworks. You don’t want to exclude most of the candidates by imposing extraneous requirements, even if those requirements make superficial sense. Does the requirement that candidates have worked with the API seem logical to an unseasoned executive or non-technical HR person? Yes, but it’s as wrong as you can get, even for a startup that expects new hires to hit the ground running.

The reports about dropping enrollments in computer science programs could give some justification to the claim that there’s a shortage of good software developers. But the ranks of software developers have never been filled by people with computer science degrees. In the early 80s, a friend of mine (a successful software developer) lamented that he was probably the last person to get a job in computing without a CS degree.

At the time, that seemed plausible, but in retrospect, it was completely wrong. I still see many people who build successful careers after dropping out of college, not completing high school, or majoring in something completely unrelated to computing. I don’t believe that they are the exceptions, nor should they be. The best way to become a top-notch software developer may well be to do a challenging programming-intensive degree program in some other discipline. But if the current trend towards overly specific job requirements and automated rejections continues, my friend will be proven correct, just about 30 years early.

A data science skills gap?

What about new areas like “data science”, where there’s a projected shortage of 1.5 million “managers and analysts”?

Well, there will most certainly be a shortage if you limit yourselves to people who have some kind of degree in data science, or a data science certification. (There are some degree programs, and no certifications that I’m aware of, though the related fields of Statistics and Business Intelligence are lousy with certifications). If you’re a pointy-haired boss who needs a degree or a certificate to tell you that a potential hire knows something in an area where you’re incompetent, you’re going to see a huge shortage of talent.

But as DJ Patil said in “Building Data Science Teams,” the best data scientists are not statisticians; they come from a wide range of scientific disciplines, including (but not limited to) physics, biology, medicine, and meteorology. Data science teams are full of physicists. The chief scientist of Kaggle, Jeremy Howard, has a degree in philosophy. The key job requirement in data science (as it is in many technical fields) isn’t demonstrated expertise in some narrow set of tools, but curiousity, flexibility, and willingness to learn. And the key obligation of the employer is to give its new hires the tools they need to succeed.

At this year’s Velocity conference, Jay Parikh talked about Facebook’s boot camp for bringing new engineers up to speed (this segment starts at about 3:30). New hires are expected to produce shippable code in the first week. There’s no question that they’re expected to come up to speed fast. But what struck me was that boot camp is that it’s a 6 week program (plus a couple additional weeks if you’re hired into operations) designed to surround new hires with the help they need to be successful. That includes mentors to help them work with the code base, review their code, integrate them into Facebook culture, and more. They aren’t expected to “hit the ground running.” They’re expected to get up to speed fast, and given a lot of help to do so successfully.

Facebook has high standards for whom they hire, but boot camp demonstrates that they understand that successful hiring isn’t about finding the perfect applicant: it’s about what happens after the new employee shows up.

Last Saturday, I had coffee with Nathan Milford, US Operations manager for Outbrain. We discussed these issues, along with synthetic biology, hardware hacking, and many other subjects. He said “when I’m hiring someone, I look for an applicant that fits the culture, who is bright, and who is excited and wants to learn. That’s it. I’m not going to require that they come with prior experience in every component of our stack. Anyone who wants to learn can pick that up on the job.”

That’s the attitude we clearly need if we’re going to make progress.

February 22 2012

02mydafsoup-01

[...]

Karl Marx zufolge wiederholt sich Geschichte bisweilen als Farce, wofür die Tatsache spricht, dass Peter Hartz einen Namensvetter hatte, der in der Weimarer Republik als Kritiker des Wohlfahrtsstaates hervortrat, die Leistungsfähigkeit des bestehenden Sozialsystems anzweifelte und mehr Privatinitiative forderte. Gustav Hartz war 1924 für ein paar Monate DNVP-Reichstagsabgeordneter. 1928 erschien sein Buch „Irrwege der deutschen Sozialpolitik und der Weg zur sozialen Freiheit“, in dem Gustav Hartz viele gegenwärtig aktuelle Fragen stellte, auch wenn er noch nicht dieselben Antworten (z.B. Einführung der Praxisgebühr) gab: „Geht man nicht bedenkenlos ein dutzendmal zum Arzt, wenn einmal genügte – nur weil es die Kasse bezahlt?“

Überall sah Gustav Hartz „Faulenzer und Drückeberger“ den Sozialstaat plündern, für die „kein denkender Arbeiter einen Pfennig Arbeitslosenbeiträge bezahlen“ wolle. Um „den Mißbrauch der ungerechten und unnötigen Inanspruchnahme“ unterbinden zu können bzw. „asoziale Elemente“ nicht mehr „auf allgemeine Unkosten reisen“ zu lassen, wollte Hartz die Hilfe auf tatsächlich Bedürftige konzentrieren, was er sozialdarwinistisch begründete: „Eine soziale Politik darf nicht mit der Sorge um die Kranken, Invaliden, Witwen, Waisen und Arbeitslosen die Förderung der Lebenstüchtigen, Leistungsfähigen und Arbeitenden vergessen.“ Wer würde da nicht an die Parole „Leistung muss sich wieder lohnen“ denken, die heutige Neoliberale im Munde führen?

Gustav Hartz klagte über „die Bleigewichte des Bürokratismus“ und forderte eine Abkehr von dem Glauben, „daß der Staat alles selber machen muß.“ Einer seiner Lieblingsbegriffe hieß damals schon „Reform“. Als möglicher Ausweg erschien Hartz der Aufbau individuell-familiärer Vorsorge, gekoppelt an die Pflicht zur „eigenverantwortlichen Selbsthilfe“. Von den Erwerbslosen sprach Gustav Hartz – in gewisser Weise entsprechende Überlegungen seines bekannteren Namensvetters vorwegnehmend – als „Kunden“ (noch in Anführungszeichen), die sich nach ihrer Entlassung „sofort bei der Arbeitsvermittlung zu melden“ hätten, damit diese sie kennen lerne und „die beste Kontrolle“ habe.

Die „staatliche Zwangsversicherung“ wollte Gustav Hartz abschaffen und ein System der privaten Vorsorge errichten, das auf individuelles Zwangssparen hinauslief. Hiervon versprach er sich einen Mentalitätswandel, der die Beschäftigten mit dem bestehenden Wirtschaftssystem aussöhnen sollte: „Es erscheint mir fraglos, daß eine ganz andere Auffassung bei den Arbeitnehmern über den Wert des Kapitals und bezüglich der Verantwortung für seinen Verbrauch und seine Mehrung entstehen muß, wenn jeder das Wachsen seines Kapitals täglich bzw. wöchentlich vor Augen hat.“

An die Stelle der gesetzlichen Sozialversicherung wollte Gustav Hartz „soziale Gemeinschaften“ (Gewerkschaften, Arbeitgeberverbände, Genossenschaften, Religionsgemeinschaften usw.) mit von ihnen betriebenen „Sozialsparkassen“ treten lassen. Arbeitgeberbeiträge, die zwar noch nicht als „Lohnnebenkosten“ und „Standortnachteil“ dämonisiert wurden, den etablierten Parteien aber schon damals ein Dorn im Auge waren, sollten dem Bruttolohn zugeschlagen und 15 Prozent davon als Sparbetrag abgeführt werden. Um ihrer Sparpflicht nachkommen und genügend Kapital im Rahmen der Sozialkassen ansparen zu können, sollten die Arbeitnehmer/innen täglich mindestens neun Stunden im Büro oder Betrieb verbringen: „Eine Stunde Mehrarbeit am Tage, als Sparstunde genützt, würde weit sozialer wirken, als der Achtstundentag je an sozialer Wirkung zeitigen kann.“

[...]

Kein Grund zum Feiern: 10 Jahre Hartz-Kommission | NachDenkSeiten – 2012-02-22

January 07 2012

02mydafsoup-01
Play fullscreen
Arbeitskrise und Grundeinkommen

Für anständige Arbeit scheint heute einfach kein Geld mehr da zu sein, hinfällig wohl auch die Sozialsysteme, welche sich durch den Arbeitsmarkt finanzieren sollen?! Dieser kurze Animationsfilm lädt ein, die Krise unserer Gesellschaft von einer neuen Seite zu sehen. Dem technischen Fortschritt muss ein gesellschaftlicher folgen. In diesem Sinne stellt der Film mit dem bedingungslosen Grundeinkommen einen ebenso ungewöhlichen, wie kontrovers diskutierten Reformvorschlag. Freilich kann dies nur eine kleine Einführung sein, aber es zeigt sich schnell, wie radikal die Veränderung schon im Denken und im gegenwärtigen Menschenbild ansetzen muss, damit eine soziale Vision wie diese vorstellbar oder gar realisierbar wird.

weitere Infos zum Film und vorallem zum Thema unter 
http://www.jooki.de/grundeinkommen

Reposted frommurdelta murdelta

November 24 2011

02mydafsoup-01

[...]

So will die BA nach Informationen der Berliner Zeitung die Ausgaben für die Arbeitsförderung dieses Jahr um 26 Prozent senken. Die Einschnitte treffen Leistungen der beruflichen Weiterbildung und andere Instrumente der Beschäftigungsförderung, auf die Arbeitslose keinen Rechtsanspruch haben, die aber den Weg zurück in eine Beschäftigung ebnen können.

[...]

--------------------------

// oAnth:

Was man angesichts einer ganz Europa bevormundenden Austeritäts-Rhetorik aus dem Kanzleramt letztendlich absehen konnte. Ich fürchte, da werden begleitend hierzu noch repressive Rechtsvorschriften erlassen, die den endgültigen Ausstieg aus dem gesellschaftlichen Sozialverband einer bisher zumindest als Anspruch vorhandenen Rechtsgleichheit für die hilfsbedürftige Gruppe ohne größeren Argumentations-Aufwand gegenüber einer zu Apathie und sozialer Ausgrenzung neigenden Öffentlichkeit besiegeln.
Hartz IV: Deutschland spart beherzt - bei den Arbeitslosen | Arbeit & Soziales - Frankfurter Rundschau - 2011-11-24 (via Diapsora* - nicht öffentlicher Eintrag)

October 05 2011

Play fullscreen
Egyptian Workers Denounce Military Regime

Jihan Hafiz: Egyptian workers say military trying to reconstitute old regime without Mubarak


Reposted byiranelection iranelection

September 04 2011

Why Inequality is the Real Cause of Our Ongoing Terrible Economy | robertreich.org - 2011-09-04

THE 5 percent of Americans with the highest incomes now account for 37 percent of all consumer purchases, according to the latest research from Moody’s Analytics. That should come as no surprise. Our society has become more and more unequal.

When so much income goes to the top, the middle class doesn’t have enough purchasing power to keep the economy going without sinking ever more deeply into debt — which, as we’ve seen, ends badly. An economy so dependent on the spending of a few is also prone to great booms and busts. The rich splurge and speculate when their savings are doing well. But when the values of their assets tumble, they pull back. That can lead to wild gyrations. Sound familiar?

The economy won’t really bounce back until America’s surge toward inequality is reversed. Even if by some miracle President Obama gets support for a second big stimulus while Ben S. Bernanke’s Fed keeps interest rates near zero, neither will do the trick without a middle class capable of spending. Pump-priming works only when a well contains enough water.

Look back over the last hundred years and you’ll see the pattern. During periods when the very rich took home a much smaller proportion of total income — as in the Great Prosperity between 1947 and 1977 — the nation as a whole grew faster and median wages surged. We created a virtuous cycle in which an ever growing middle class had the ability to consume more goods and services, which created more and better jobs, thereby stoking demand. The rising tide did in fact lift all boats.

During periods when the very rich took home a larger proportion — as between 1918 and 1933, and in the Great Regression from 1981 to the present day — growth slowed, median wages stagnated and we suffered giant downturns. It’s no mere coincidence that over the last century the top earners’ share of the nation’s total income peaked in 1928 and 2007 — the two years just preceding the biggest downturns.

Starting in the late 1970s, the middle class began to weaken. Although productivity continued to grow and the economy continued to expand, wages began flattening in the 1970s because new technologies — container ships, satellite communications, eventually computers and the Internet — started to undermine any American job that could be automated or done more cheaply abroad. The same technologies bestowed ever larger rewards on people who could use them to innovate and solve problems. Some were product entrepreneurs; a growing number were financial entrepreneurs. The pay of graduates of prestigious colleges and M.B.A. programs — the “talent” who reached the pinnacles of power in executive suites and on Wall Street — soared.

The middle class nonetheless continued to spend, at first enabled by the flow of women into the work force. (In the 1960s only 12 percent of married women with young children were working for pay; by the late 1990s, 55 percent were.) When that way of life stopped generating enough income, Americans went deeper into debt. From the late 1990s to 2007, the typical household debt grew by a third. As long as housing values continued to rise it seemed a painless way to get additional money.

Eventually, of course, the bubble burst. That ended the middle class’s remarkable ability to keep spending in the face of near stagnant wages. The puzzle is why so little has been done in the last 40 years to help deal with the subversion of the economic power of the middle class. With the continued gains from economic growth, the nation could have enabled more people to become problem solvers and innovators — through early childhood education, better public schools, expanded access to higher education and more efficient public transportation.

We might have enlarged safety nets — by having unemployment insurance cover part-time work, by giving transition assistance to move to new jobs in new locations, by creating insurance for communities that lost a major employer. And we could have made Medicare available to anyone.

Big companies could have been required to pay severance to American workers they let go and train them for new jobs. The minimum wage could have been pegged at half the median wage, and we could have insisted that the foreign nations we trade with do the same, so that all citizens could share in gains from trade.

We could have raised taxes on the rich and cut them for poorer Americans.

But starting in the late 1970s, and with increasing fervor over the next three decades, government did just the opposite. It deregulated and privatized. It cut spending on infrastructure as a percentage of the national economy and shifted more of the costs of public higher education to families. It shredded safety nets. (Only 27 percent of the unemployed are covered by unemployment insurance.) And it allowed companies to bust unions and threaten employees who tried to organize. Fewer than 8 percent of private-sector workers are unionized.

More generally, it stood by as big American companies became global companies with no more loyalty to the United States than a GPS satellite. Meanwhile, the top income tax rate was halved to 35 percent and many of the nation’s richest were allowed to treat their income as capital gains subject to no more than 15 percent tax. Inheritance taxes that affected only the topmost 1.5 percent of earners were sliced. Yet at the same time sales and payroll taxes — both taking a bigger chunk out of modest paychecks — were increased.

Most telling of all, Washington deregulated Wall Street while insuring it against major losses. In so doing, it allowed finance — which until then had been the servant of American industry — to become its master, demanding short-term profits over long-term growth and raking in an ever larger portion of the nation’s profits. By 2007, financial companies accounted for over 40 percent of American corporate profits and almost as great a percentage of pay, up from 10 percent during the Great Prosperity.

Some say the regressive lurch occurred because Americans lost confidence in government. But this argument has cause and effect backward. The tax revolts that thundered across America starting in the late 1970s were not so much ideological revolts against government — Americans still wanted all the government services they had before, and then some — as against paying more taxes on incomes that had stagnated. Inevitably, government services deteriorated and government deficits exploded, confirming the public’s growing cynicism about government’s doing anything right.

Some say we couldn’t have reversed the consequences of globalization and technological change. Yet the experiences of other nations, like Germany, suggest otherwise. Germany has grown faster than the United States for the last 15 years, and the gains have been more widely spread. While Americans’ average hourly pay has risen only 6 percent since 1985, adjusted for inflation, German workers’ pay has risen almost 30 percent. At the same time, the top 1 percent of German households now take home about 11 percent of all income — about the same as in 1970. And although in the last months Germany has been hit by the debt crisis of its neighbors, its unemployment is still below where it was when the financial crisis started in 2007.

How has Germany done it? Mainly by focusing like a laser on education (German math scores continue to extend their lead over American), and by maintaining strong labor unions.

THE real reason for America’s Great Regression was political. As income and wealth became more concentrated in fewer hands, American politics reverted to what Marriner S. Eccles, a former chairman of the Federal Reserve, described in the 1920s, when people “with great economic power had an undue influence in making the rules of the economic game.” With hefty campaign contributions and platoons of lobbyists and public relations spinners, America’s executive class has gained lower tax rates while resisting reforms that would spread the gains from growth.

Yet the rich are now being bitten by their own success. Those at the top would be better off with a smaller share of a rapidly growing economy than a large share of one that’s almost dead in the water.

The economy cannot possibly get out of its current doldrums without a strategy to revive the purchasing power of America’s vast middle class. The spending of the richest 5 percent alone will not lead to a virtuous cycle of more jobs and higher living standards. Nor can we rely on exports to fill the gap. It is impossible for every large economy, including the United States, to become a net exporter.

Reviving the middle class requires that we reverse the nation’s decades-long trend toward widening inequality. This is possible notwithstanding the political power of the executive class. So many people are now being hit by job losses, sagging incomes and declining home values that Americans could be mobilized.

Moreover, an economy is not a zero-sum game. Even the executive class has an enlightened self-interest in reversing the trend; just as a rising tide lifts all boats, the ebbing tide is now threatening to beach many of the yachts. The question is whether, and when, we will summon the political will. We have summoned it before in even bleaker times.

As the historian James Truslow Adams defined the American Dream when he coined the term at the depths of the Great Depression, what we seek is “a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone.”

That dream is still within our grasp.

[I wrote this for today’s New York Times]

Reposted from02myEcon-01 02myEcon-01

July 08 2011

May 13 2011

02mydafsoup-01
02mydafsoup-01

Fascist pogroms in Athens, one migrant stabbed to death, 17 hospitalized | clandestinenglish.wordpress.com 2011-05-13

In the early hours of May 12th a 21-year old Bangladeshi migrant was stabbed to death in the Kato Patisia district of Athens. The victim was lethally stabbed almost certainly by fascist thugs who have launched a series of attacks in the centre of Athens following the murder of a Greek man on Tuesday night, on the corner of Ipirou and Tritis Septemvriou Street. Eye witnesses report that the murderers of the 21-year old man chased him around the neighbourhood and spoke Greek. On Wednesday night alone fascist thugs roamed  through a number of districts of central Athens, injuring many migrants, 17 of them were hospitalised.

Video from the pogrom

Greece: Wave of racist attacks on immigrants in Athens

In the past days, right-wing extremists in Athens, Greece have launched pogrom-like attacks on immigrants in the downtown Athens area. It began on May 10, 2011, one day after a 44-year old escorting his pregnant wife to the hospital was mugged and stabbed to death. There is no evidence as to the identity of the killers, but racist gangs have gone on something like vengeance spree on immigrants -or even foreign-looking Greeks- who they hold generally responsible for rising crime and unemployment in Greece.

A protest against the killing of the expectant father on May 10, in the same location where the mugging happened, drew a crowd of hundreds that eventually led to the attacks.

A man injured in racist attack after protest in Athens, 12 May 2011 - Photo by Epoca Libera, copyright Demotix

Dozens of people have been injured in the past days, and there has also been one death, which is still being investigated for motive. There has been a marked increase in incidents of violence against immigrants and asylum-seekers in Greece in recent years, but this degree of openly racist violence in the streets is unprecedented.

Twitter has erupted with reactions from citizens.

Media reports

Media professional @doleross provided live news coverage of the attacks on immigrants following the protest around 18:00 on May 10.

@doleross: Σε “κυνηγητό” κατά μεταναστώνστην 3η Σεπτεμβρίου έχουν επιδοθεί οι συγκεντρωμένοι για την δολοφονία του 44χρονου.Εμφανίστηκαν τα ΜΑΤ #rbnews

@doleross: Demonstrators against killing of 44-year old are on immigrant “manhunt” on September III Street. Riot police appeared.

@doleross: MEGA τώρα: Ακροδεξιοί στην 3η Σεπετεμβρ. δέρνουν και κυνηγούν μέχρι μέσα στα σπίτια τους αλλοδαπούς. Η αστυνομία δεν επεμβαίνει. #rbnews

@doleross: MEGA TV now: Right wing extremists on September III Street, beating and chasing immigrants, even into their homes. Police not intervening.

@doleross: Πληροφορίες αναφέρουν ότι ομάδες “τιμωρών” έχουν βγει κ σε άλλες περιοχές της Αθήνας κ άλλων δήμων, “αναζητώντας” αλλοδαπούς.#rbnews

@doleross: Reports that “vigilante” squads are scouring areas of Athens and other municipalities, “seeking” immigrants.

Greek expats summarized the distressing news. Film producer Yanni Koutsomytis tweeted in English:

@YanniKouts: Racial violence erupts in downtown Athens following killing of a 44-yr Greek man. Ultra-right groups indiscriminately attack immigrants now

Greek new media theorist Nikos Smyrnaios observed in French:

@smykos: Grèce, une société au bord de l'implosion: un homme assassiné sauvagement à Athènes => des extrémistes racistes pourchassent des immigrés.

@smykos: Greece, a society about to implode: a man savagely assassinated in Athens => racist extremists chase immigrants.

Eyewitness reports

"This is Greece" - Twitpic photo by Nektarios Sylligardakis

Eyewitness reports of attacks on immigrants between 19:00 and 21:00 were sparse, but dramatic:

Share photos on twitter with twitpic

@nsyll: Κυνηγούν ποιον είναι λίγο μελαψός http://twitpic.com/4vypvc

@nsyll: They're chasing everyone a bit dark http://twitpic.com/4vypvc

@potmos: Σπάνε 1-2 καταστήματα “ξένων” τώρα Αχαρνών

@potmos:They're smashing 1-2 shops of “foreigners” now, in Acharnon Street

@bezesteni: Καμμια 50ρια φασίστες και περίεργοι μεσήλικες Ηπείρου και Γ´ Σεπτεμβρίου. Αρκετοί νεαροί με μαυροκόκκινα στην Αχαρνών και τα γύρω στενά.

@bezesteni: About 50 fascists and middle-aged onlookers, Ipirou and September III Street. Several youths wearing red and black in Acharnon Street and adjacent alleys

@zairacat: damage control: μαθαίνω ότι υπάρχουν πολλοί μετανάστες χτυπημένοι στα εφημερεύοντα νοσοκομεία.

@zairacat: damage control: have been told many beaten immigrants admitted to hospitals on call.

The wave of racist attacks in Athens continued the following days, with one killing of an immigrant man possibly linked to racial motives [el], arson attacks [el] and a second anti-migrant pogrom following a protest [el].

Reactions on Twitter

Sharply divided, the Greek twittersphere reacted to the news of he lethal mugging and the racist violence that followed with a mixture of outrage, apprehension and resignation.

The media were also blamed by many for inflaming racial hatred.

@doleross: Λάδι στην φωτιά ρίχνουν ανεύθυνα δημοσιεύματα από “ενηνερωτικά” πορταλς με τίτλους όπως: «Φόβοι για νέα “Δεκεμβριανά”» #rbnews

@doleross: Irresponsible articles by “news” portals fanning the flames, with titles like “Fears of new ‘December riots'”

@radicalalchemist: ΣΚΑΙ: “Απο τις κάμερες φαίνεται οτι είναι μαροκινής ή αλγερινής καταγωγής” Κάμερες που κάνουν και ταυτοποίηση στοιχείων φαντάζομαι έ?

@radicalalchemist: SKAI (TV channel): “CCTV footage shows assailants are Moroccans or Algerians” Cameras identifying people now?

@Cyberela: Θα το ρίξουν στο μεταναστευτικό κύμα των λαών της Νότιας Αφρικής και της Μέσης Ανατολής.

@Cyberela: They'll now blame it on the migration wave from Middle East and North Africa

A distressing allegation was made by Constantinos Alexacos:

@constantnos: Εδώ και μήνες υπάρχουν blogs φερόμενων αστυνομικών και ακροδεξιών που λένε ότι θα κάνουνε πολιτοφυλακή. Ουδείς ίδρωσε…

@constantnos: Alleged police and right-wing blogs have been warning for months about setting up militias. No one cared…

Some Twitter users pointed out core issues engendering violence in the city center. The demographics of entire housing blocks have changed, as right-wing groups have mounted more anti-immigrant campaigns.

@Anastasialadiab: Πόσο ανόητοι όσοι πιστεύουν ότι για την εξαθλίωση του κέντρουτης Αθήνας φταίνε οι μετανάστες κ όχι αυτοί που έδιωξαν τους Μόνιμους Κατοικους

@Anastasialadiab: How foolish are those who believe that immigrants are to blame for the degradation of Athens downtown, and not those who drove away the permanent residents.

and urged authorities to react to the growing humanitarian crisis facing Athens:

@mao_tse_tung: η τραγικότητα του σημερινού εγκλήματος μπορεί να γίνει εξαιρετική αφορμή για ν αρχίσει η προσπάθεια να αλλάξει η κατάσταση. Δήμαρχε ξύπνα!

@mao_tse_tung: today's tragic crime can provide excellent motivation in an attempt to change things. Wake up, Mayor!

while others mused on the self-perpetuating nature of violence:

@nsyll: όταν απαντάς στην βία με βία σίγουρα έχεις χάσεις κάθε δικαίωμα να ζητάς ανθρωπιά

@nsyll: when you answer violence with violence, you've surely lost all rights of recourse to humanity

As interest on Twitter abruptly moved on to other things for the night, like the popular Eurovision song contest, Helena Chari offered a damning deadpan:

@helena_chari: ελλαδα: ουτε euro, ουτε vision, μονο eurovision

@helena_chari: Greece: no euro, no vision, just Eurovision

May 01 2011

02mydafsoup-01

David Harvey - Nice day for a revolution: Why May Day should be a date to stand up and change the system | World Politics, World - The Independent - 2011-04-29

[...]

While decolonisation throughout the rest of the world proceeded apace, the spread and, in some cases, imposition of economic development projects brought much of the globe into a tense relation with capitalist forms of development and underdevelopment (prompting a wave of revolutionary movements in the late 1960s into the 1970s, from Portugal to Mozambique). These movements were resolutely resisted, undermined and eventually rolled back through a combination of local elite power supported by US covert actions, coups and co-optations.

The crisis years of the 1970s forged another radical paradigm shift in economic thinking: neoliberalism came to town. There were frontal attacks on organised labour accompanied by a savage politics of wage repression. State involvement in the economy (particularly with respect to welfare provision and labour law) were radically rethought by Reagan and Thatcher. There were huge concessions to big capital and the result was that the rich got vastly richer and the poor relatively poorer. But, interestingly, aggregate growth rates remained low even as the consolidation of plutocratic power proceeded apace.

An entirely different world then emerged, totally hostile to organised labour and resting more and more on precarious, temporary and dis- organised labour spread-eagled across the earth. The proletariat became increasingly feminine.

The crisis of 2007-9 sparked a brief global attempt to stabilise the world's financial system using Keynesian tools. But after that the world split into two camps: one, based in North America and Europe, sees the crisis as an opportunity to complete the end-game of a vicious neoliberal project of class domination: the other cultivates Keynesian nostalgia, as if the postwar growth history of the United States can be repeated in China and in other emerging markets.

The Chinese, blessed with huge foreign exchange reserves, launched a vast stimulus programme building infrastructures, whole new cities and productive capacities to absorb labour and compensate for the crash of export markets. The state-controlled banks lent furiously to innumerable local projects. The growth rate surged to above 10 per cent and millions were put back to work. This was followed by a tepid attempt to put in motion the other pinion of a Keynesian programme: raising wages and social expenditures to bolster the internal market.

China's growth has had spillover effects. Raw material suppliers, such as Australia and Chile and much of the rest of Latin America have resumed strong growth.

The problems that attach to such a Keynesian programme are well-known. Asset bubbles, particularly in the "hot" property market in China, are forming all over the place and inflation is accelerating in classic fashion to suggest a different kind of crisis may be imminent. But also the environmental consequences are generally acknowledged, even by the Chinese government, to be disastrous, while labour and social unrest is escalating.

China contrasts markedly with the politics of austerity being visited upon the populations of North America and Europe. The neoliberal formula established in the Mexican debt crisis of 1982, is here being repeated. When the US Treasury and the IMF ...

[...]

Permalink | Leave a comment  »

April 30 2011

Johann Hari: The British Royal Wedding Frenzy Should Embarrass Us All (Democracy Now!) Part 1 of 2

DemocracyNow.org - Up to two billion people around the world tuned in to watch the British royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, a story which has dominated TV news for weeks. The wedding buzz, however, provides an interesting time to look at the monarchy, Britain's domestic policy, and how its colonial legacy around the word affects foreign affairs today. While all eyes were on the wedding procession and the first kiss, Democracy Now! talked instead with Johann Hari, a columnist at The Independent of London, who says that royal wedding frenzy should be an embarrassment to us all. Watch Part 2: www.youtube.com For the video/audio podcast, transcript, to sign up for the daily news digest, and for our complete news archive, visit www.democracynow.org Read Johann Hari's article in The Independent of London www.johannhari.com FOLLOW US: Facebook: www.facebook.com Twitter: @democracynow Please consider supporting independent media by making a donation to Democracy Now! today, visit www.democracynow.org
Views: 190
19 ratings
Time: 13:42 More in News & Politics
Reposted fromVideosDemocracy VideosDemocracy

Johann Hari: The British Royal Wedding Frenzy Should Embarrass Us All (Democracy Now!) Part 2 of 2

DemocracyNow.org - Up to two billion people around the world tuned in to watch the British royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, a story which has dominated TV news for weeks. The wedding buzz, however, provides an interesting time to look at the monarchy, Britain's domestic policy, and how its colonial legacy around the word affects foreign affairs today. While all eyes were on the wedding procession and the first kiss, Democracy Now! talked instead with Johann Hari, a columnist at The Independent of London, who says that royal wedding frenzy should be an embarrassment to us all. Watch Part 1: www.youtube.com For the video/audio podcast, transcript, to sign up for the daily news digest, and for our complete news archive, visit www.democracynow.org Read Johann Hari's article in The Independent of London www.johannhari.com FOLLOW US: Facebook: www.facebook.com Twitter: @democracynow Please consider supporting independent media by making a donation to Democracy Now! today, visit www.democracynow.org
Views: 166
4 ratings
Time: 08:08 More in News & Politics
Reposted fromVideosDemocracy VideosDemocracy
02mydafsoup-01
Nice day for a revolution: Why May Day should be a date to stand up and change the system http://ind.pn/iqQs4j #mayday

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// a greater excerpt of the article is also available on soup.io - permalink

  
Twitter / David Harvey: Nice day for a revolution: ... | 2011-04-29
It’s no coincidence that as genuine social mobility in broken Britain is eroded, so commoners turn to the National Lottery, The X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent. Winning them represents the only chance real people have to change their circumstances significantly. It could be you. And, like some giant illuminated penis flying over the rooftops of suburban homes and frothing at random passing women, William has pointed himself at Kate Middleton, the Susan Boyle of social mobility. In declaring her his princess, he brings hope of real change to millions of people denied a decent education and the means to better themselves, to millions of tiny babies denied even books, that one day they too could be randomly rewarded with untold wealth and privilege.
Stewart Lee
Reposted fromjhnbrssndn jhnbrssndn
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