The OB Media Rundown for 6/3/12

The price of a do-nothing Congress – Government layoffs, budget cuts making matters worse

The latest employment data indicate that the U.S. job market is in a holding pattern – the price we pay for a do-nothing Congress focused more on austerity than job creation.

Our economy added 69,000 new jobs in May, for an average of 96,000 over the past three months, with a downward revision of 49,000 for March and April’s data. While this pace of job creation is fast enough to keep unemployment from rising, it remains well below that necessary to bring our economy back to full employment anytime in the near future.

Look no further than Congress for the reasons why this is the case. Last year, Congress refused to put in place the American Jobs Act, which would have helped to reduce unemployment and create jobs. By not acting Congress and the states are instead cutting off the long-term unemployed from any additional benefits and shrinking government spending. While the private sector has been adding jobs for 27 months, for a total of 4.3 million jobs since February 2010, state and local governments have been shedding workers in most months since the fall of 2008, for a total loss 660,000 jobs. These layoffs are pro-cyclical, meaning that they are dragging down economic growth.

Is income inequality stalling the US economy?

Austerity in the US came in a different form. We passed a massive stimulus bill (40 per cent of which was a middle-class tax cut). But by last summer, the debate over budgets and deficits rose to a fevered pitch. Since then, we have been stuck on and off in phony debates over taxes (which are historically low), “entitlements” (which are not going broke), regulation (which is also weak) and debt (which is a canard). It all seems like an attempt to redirect our attention from measures that could help all of us to measures that would help only some of us – meaning debt and regulation and taxes are the obsessions of the rich, not the rest of us poor bastards trying to get on in life. Last week, President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney were competing for the title of Mr Austerity. But it’s all campaign rhetoric, as it has been since this silly debate began.

Even Republicans, most of whom have pledged to shrink government down to a size suitable for drowning in a bathtub, know increased spending is better for the economy in the short term. Last week, just in case the GOP’s radical wing continued resisting, our non-partisan congressional budget office released a frightening reminder.

Liars abound as greed gains a bit more luster

It’s been five years since the global financial crisis first shook the foundations of the world economy. One spin-off from the crisis has been intense scrutiny of the ethics of the wealthy. At first it was the reckless and indifferent Wall Street bankers that were the focus of attention. Then the Occupy movement started to ask bigger questions about the privileges and influence enjoyed by the ”1 per cent”.

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, tensions over wealth and class have been exposed by the European debt crisis. Even here in Australia the actions and motivations of some vocal billionaires have been in the spotlight.

Against this background, a team of researchers, led by Paul Piff from the University of California, Berkeley, posed a controversial question for investigation. Who are more likely to behave ethically: the privileged or the disadvantaged?

Student Debt Rises by 8% as College Tuitions Climb

Americans are borrowing more to pay for college while reducing other debt as a weak job market prompts more people to go to school and tuition keeps climbing, new Federal Reserve Bank of New York data show.

Americans owed $904 billion in student loans at the end of March, nearly 8% more than a year ago, the New York Fed said Thursday in a quarterly report on consumer credit. That compares with the $679 billion they owed on credit cards at the end of the first quarter.

Between the fourth quarter of 2008, when credit-card debt peaked, and the first quarter of 2012, this borrowing fell by $187 billion, or 21.6%, the Fed said. Over the same period, student-loan debt rose by 41.4%, or $264 billion.

When anti-violence backfires

[Author] The prison nation, which is a broader concept than the prison industrial complex, for me represents the combination of both incarceration in the literal sense – an influx of people into the criminal legal system in all of its apparatus: jails, prisons, detention centers, etc. … [It is an] increase in arrest and removal of people from their communities into facilities, but it also represents the ideological shift and policy changes that use criminalization and punishment as a response to a whole range of social problems. Not just crime, but also things like policing people who are on welfare, using the child protective services system to control families, the ways that schools have become militarized. So it’s a broad notion of using the arm of the law to control people, especially people who are disadvantaged and come from disadvantaged communities.

Tampa Bay Occupy groups start planning for RNC

When an estimated 15,000 protesters descend upon the Republican National Convention this August, don’t expect Occupy Tampa activists in the center of things.

They’ve got other plans.

“We are not actively going to participate in the event zone,” said Christopher Kuleci, a member of the group’s media team. “There are plenty of other places where delegates are going to be, where our messages will better be heard.”

In an attempt to avoid possible mass arrests, the group is working on specific ways of being effective outside the official protest zone, he said.

Occupy Milwaukee: Keep it in the Streets June 6

Occupy Milwaukee says to vote Governor Scott Walker out June 5, then “Keep it in the Streets” June 6. Occupy chapters from around the state will be joining with several unions and dozens of community organizations to hold a mass rally and march the day after the historic June 5 recall election. The message is catching on as hundreds pledge to march, regardless of who wins the recall.

“We might be depressed or we might be celebrating June 5, but regardless, we’re going out there June 6 to let everyone know this recall is one battle within a much larger conflict against the 1% and we’re gonna keep on fighting,” stated Occupy Milwaukee activist Daniel Ginsberg.

Police Brace For Violence, Instead End Up With A Song From Occupy MN

Minneapolis police were braced for a violent confrontation with Occupy Minnesota activists intent on reclaiming a home the police had seized. Instead, the police were peacefully serenaded while a pastor from across the street led the crowd in prayer.
. . .

Pastor Todd Mathison of Ebenezer Lutheran Church led a prayer for justice for the Cruz family and a swift return to their home. Remarks by a few were followed by singing, “We Shall Not Be Moved.” When they left to return to a barbecue in the church parking lot they chanted, “We’ll Be Back.”

“The ongoing waste of thousands of public dollars by Mayor Rybak and his police to serve as taxpayer-funded private security for Freddie Mac shows that our city is more concerned with protecting banks than keeping families in their homes,” said Martha Ockenfels-Martinez, an organizer with Occupy Homes MN.

“If you look at the people protecting the Cruz home, it’s average everyday people. It’s regular folks who share a common interest in doing the right thing. The house has been occupied for weeks and they were quiet and respectful. It wasn’t until the police arrived en masse that the problems started.” Said neighbor Sasha Lindquist. “Everybody knows somebody who’s going through this foreclosure mess, it’s an epidemic.”

Greek Left Prepares Nationalization of Energy/Telecom Industries, Key Infrastructure

What happens with a society’s social contract collapses? That question is being posed in Greece right now. Often what happens is that so-called “swamp things”, like the Greek neo-Nazi group Golden Dawn, emerge. Often, the left begins articulating a genuine alternative vision. And the corrupt rotted center calls in every chip it can, hoping to preserve patronage and corruption. Right now, much of the Euro-elite, when not panicking about Spanish borrowing costs, is watching the anti-bailout Greek left (Syriza) and the pro-bailout center right (New Democracy) running neck and neck in the polls. If Greece goes anti-bailout, it’s going to create tremendous political uncertainty. With much of the left in Europe looking to Greece, a win by Syriza in mid-June could spark similar anti-bailout left-wing alternatives, much as the Arab Spring ignited the Occupy movement.

Sinn Fein emerges as the only Honest and Economically Literate Irish Party

Sinn Fein is now the only significant Irish party with a sensible economic philosophy and policies. The other major parties have championed the suicidal and vicious economic policies of austerity plus the war on working class wages. The Irish government employs the nastiest form of austerity – Pro-austerian greed; anti-need (PAGAN). They raise taxes on the working class, seek to reduce taxes on the wealthy (the “greed” component), and cut public services for the needy.

Austerity has made recessions worse throughout the euro zone, including Ireland, but Ireland’s ruling coalition demands more of the same and have terrified a majority of the Irish people (if polls are accurate) into continuing choose suicide and increasing inequality. But the Irish electorate is fractured and the only place an Irish voter can go if he or she opposes suicidal austerity and attacks on the working class is to vote for Sinn Fein. As a result, the same polls show that Sinn Fein may become the second largest Irish party. Berlin’s insane economic policies and Sinn Fein’s willingness to change and reject the long-discredited neo-liberal nostrums have combined to make Sinn Fein a normal and far stronger party. It is the only major Irish party with an economically literate policy for an Irish recovery and an inclusive Ireland in which equality increases.

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