I often think of the two main competing metaphors regarding the economy as this: Do we want a jungle or a garden? Many conservatives and libertarians insist we should just get out of the way and let amazing things happen. That is not my experience.
I would add that the rigged free market has brought us marvels like the invasion of Iraq, where the American fossil fuel industry and the military industrial complex hijacked the American decision-making process. Corrupted government at its best, and the American media has moved on, as though that illegal war was a success.
The Washington Post reports on the Pope’s recent writing on economic policy:
In the first lengthy writing of his papacy — also known as an “apostolic exhortation” — Francis says such economic theories naively rely on the goodness of those in charge and create a “tyranny” of the markets.
“In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world,” the pope wrote. “This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting.”
The more I hear about “quantitative easing,” the more it is clear that it amounts to fucking with our nation’s currency in a dangerous way. It’s making me queasy, and like many things, there’s very little straight talk in the mainstream media.
I’ve recently run across a few things that amount to some straight talk. Here’s one, and here’s the other:
Based on the work of Robert Sapolsky, the dominance of society by alphas cause the have-nots to suffer stressed-induced deteriorating health. When those alphas died off due to eating tainted meat, the entire troupe benefited, becoming more social and gentle. Fascinating findings that appear to apply to humans too.
Are rich people jerks? We need to be careful before generalizing, but some recent studies suggest that being monied tends correlate with insensitivity to the needs of others. There are many exceptions to the rules, of course. Many wealthy people dedicate their lives to helping the poor or the politically oppressed. The tendency is the opposite, however. Another caveat is the direction of causation: Is it that the money corrupts or is it that the type of people who obsess about their own material cravings tend to accumulate more money. Here’s an excerpt from an article by Joshua Holland at Moyers & Company (A Plutocracy Ruled by Self-Centered Jerks?”):
In one telling experiment, the researchers observed a busy intersection, and found that drivers of luxury cars were more likely to cut off other drivers and less likely to stop for pedestrians crossing the street than those behind the wheels of more modest vehicles. “In our crosswalk study, none of the cars in the beater-car category drove through the crosswalk,” Piff told The New York Times. “But you see this huge boost in a driver’s likelihood to commit infractions in more expensive cars.” He added: “BMW drivers are the worst.”
Summing up previous research on the topic, Piff notes that upper-class individuals also “showed reduced sensitivity to others’ suffering” as compared with working- and middle-class people.
Lower-class individuals are more likely to spend time taking care of others, and they are more embedded in social networks that depend on mutual aid. By contrast, upper-class individuals prioritize independence from others: They are less motivated than lower-class individuals to build social relationships and instead seek to differentiate themselves from others.
A patient Senator Elizabeth Warren puts up with snarky and ignorant questions about the need to reenact Glass Steagall.
At Reader Supported News, Bernie Sanders notes that Denmark and the United States are very different countries, but insists that there are lessons the U.S. can learn from Denmark:
While it is difficult to become very rich in Denmark no one is allowed to be poor.
Health care in Denmark is universal, free of charge and high quality. . . . They spend about 11 percent of their GDP on health care. We spend almost 18 percent.
Danes understand that the first few years of a person’s life are the most important in terms of intellectual and emotional development. . . [M]others get four weeks of paid leave before giving birth. They get another 14 weeks afterward. . . . [B]oth parents have the right to 32 more weeks of leave during the first nine years of a child’s life. The state covers three-quarters of the cost of child care, more for lower-income workers.
[V]irtually all higher education in Denmark is free.
In Denmark, adequate leisure and family time are considered an important part of having a good life. Every worker in Denmark is entitled to five weeks of paid vacation plus 11 paid holidays. The United States is the only major country that does not guarantee its workers paid vacation time. The result is that fewer than half of lower-paid hourly wage workers in our country receive any paid vacation days.
According to Pogo, here are 10 basic questions about tax expenditures and the economy for which there are no meaningful answers. Here are the first 5 questions–the answers are all “we don’t know”:
1. How many federal dollars are spent in my community?
2. What small businesses in my community are receiving federal dollars?
3. How many jobs were created with federal spending?
4. How much fraud is there in federal spending?
5. What happens to the federal spending that falls through the cracks?