Opinion

The Great Debate

Self Help is no help for inequality

For all the howls of rage from plutocrats like Tom Perkins and Ken Langone over possible tax rate increases, there has been relatively little public anger about the increasing wealth disparity in the United States — especially compared to the past.

During the Progressive era in the early 20th century and the Great Depression, we saw violent strikes and marches on Washington. These days, we have an army of sometimes-intemperate bloggers and a labor movement so bereft the United Auto Workers union recently failed to mobilize workers in a Volkswagen factory in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Occupy Wall Street, meanwhile, is now a distant memory, even as more than half of all Americans say they believe the nation remains in an economic recession.

So what changed? Kathleen Geier speculates in the Washington Monthly that the mainstream media no longer reflects the values of the working class. That’s true, but it’s more complicated than that. In fact, the media reflects our values all too well.

We’re a nation founded on the Protestant work ethic. Our forefathers came to America with the idea that diligent efforts and thrift demonstrated both godliness and virtue — and would result in worldly success.

The self-help industry is the modern secular version of our grounding myth. It’s a $10 billion annual business that sells its services by claiming there is almost no problem — from weight loss to financial struggles — that can’t be overcome with grit, determination and willpower.

from Bethany McLean:

How Ralph Nader learned to love Fannie and Freddie

Corrects story issued February 18 in third-to-last paragraph regarding efforts to contact Ralph  Nader.

“It is time for [government-sponsored enterprises] to give up ties to the federal government that have made them poster children for corporate welfare. Most of all, Congress needs to look more to the protection of the taxpayers and less to the hyperbole of the GSE lobbyists. –Ralph Nader, testimony before the House Committee on Banking and Financial Services, June 15, 2000

“Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac should be relisted on the NYSE and their conservatorships should, over time, be terminated. –Ralph Nader, letter to Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, May 23, 2013

Despite stimulus, middle class still struggles

Five years ago Monday, President Barack Obama signed the signature economic proposal of his presidency, saying that the passage of the $787 billion economic stimulus package heralded the “the beginning of the end” of the Great Recession.

The president told a Denver audience that he was “keeping the American Dream alive in our time.” But for millions of Americans, he made things worse.

It is now clear that bold White House predictions about stimulus jobs “saved and created” were just a prelude to later pledges about keeping your doctors and falling premiums.

Why public debt is not like credit card debt

One big part of the well-financed campaign for economic austerity is the contention that the public debt is like a national credit card. If we keep charging on it, the argument goes, we’ll get overwhelmed with interest costs, suffer a reduced standard of living and, pretty soon, go bankrupt.

As David Walker, a prominent budget hawk and the former head of the billion-dollar Peter G. Peterson Foundation, has contended, “Both Republicans and Democrats in Washington have charged everything to the nation’s credit card, including tax cuts and spending increases, without paying for them.”

The Peterson Foundation is the leading sponsor of this brand of bogus economics. It is a spurious metaphor on so many levels that it’s hard to know where to begin.

Looking back on my 2011 projections

By Don Tapscott
The opinions expressed are his own.


One thing pundits rarely do is review their own prognostications.  A year ago I published “10 big themes for 2011” – related to how the digital revolution changes business and society.  It’s helpful to review what actually occurred.  Below are my projections and some 20-20 hindsight editorializing.

1. “The crisis deepens. Rather than just an economic downturn, more people will recognize that we’re entering an era of profound change. The industrial economy and many of its institutions are reaching the end of their lifecycles — from newspapers and old models of financial services to our energy grid, transportation systems and institutions for global cooperation and problem solving.”

What happened? I think I called that one. A year ago many were saying that we had come out of the global slump and that we were in full recovery, even if it was a “jobless” one. I detest the term “jobless recovery” as an oxymoron. There is no recovery unless it’s inclusive. As the for global crisis, anyone want to debate with me that it’s getting deeper and that we need to rebuild most institutions and industries, like, say, government?

It’s time for a wider European policy debate

AUSTRALIA/By Mohamed El-Erian
The opinions expressed are the author’s own.

It is safe to say that there is broad agreement on what is most desirable for solving the Irish crisis — namely a mix of domestic policies and external financing finely calibrated to enable the country to grow strongly, create jobs, stabilize the banks, and overcome large and mounting indebtedness.

Unfortunately, what is most desirable is not feasible given the path Europe is embarked on; and, to make things even more complicated, what appears feasible to Europe is not necessarily desirable. As a result, Ireland finds itself stuck in an unstable muddled-middle. It can’t get ahead of the crisis; it is far from a first best solution; and it confronts choices that are painful to implement and uncertain in outcome.

What is evolving in Ireland today resembles what was done in Greece six months ago. Expect the Irish government to commit to even greater budgetary austerity, its European neighbors and the IMF to provide massive funding, and the banks to receive liquidity, capital injections and other unconventional forms of support.

Goldman needs to lose Gekko image

jon_ford

– Jonathan Ford is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own –

So, Goldman Sachs has a “Gordon Gekko feel to it” according to an executive at Brand Asset Consulting. In a survey of leading U.S. brands, the market research firm has reached the conclusion that the investment bank’s stature has been diminished in the eyes of the public by recent events.

Somehow, this fails to do justice to the emotions the name Goldman stirs in the breast of the average American.

from The Great Debate UK:

“Green growth” strategy viable for African economy

michael_keating -Michael Keating is director of the Africa Progress Panel. The opinions expressed are his own.-

After a decade of solid progress Africa is now facing the daunting task - at a time of economic crisis - of maintaining stability, economic growth and employment, addressing food security and combating climate change. No country on the continent is escaping the impact of volatile fuel and commodity prices, the drop in global demand and trade.

The global economic crisis, however, is serving as a wake-up call for both African leaders and their international partners. The Africa Progress Panel’s 2009 report, launched Wednesday in Cape Town by panel members Kofi Annan, Graca Machel and Linah Mohohlo, argues just this.

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