Patterns emerge the looting of the commons rebranded as asuterity continues unchecked, and the momentary stability hailed by the financial press begins to look precarious, while nations rush to embrace policies designed to enrich the few while driving the rest to the bottom.
And yes, it really is that simple, with the bludgeon of debt used as the enforcer.
We begin with the last hint that the Obama administration is set to make a deal once unimaginable to Democrats and, as Eisenhower once noted, too all but a few Texas oil men. From the McClatchy Washington Bureau:
Social Security benefits may be on table in budget talks
With congressional budget negotiations moving behind closed doors, one item apparently on the table is changing the way cost-of-living adjustments are calculated for seniors, veterans and other recipients of government benefits.
From the Los Angeles Times, more tarnish for the Golden State’s luster:
California’s unemployment benefits fund is mired in debt
The fund owes nearly $10 billion to the federal government — so much, the problem won’t fix itself even if disbursements fall to pre-recession levels, the Employment Development Department says.
From The Contributor, Tea Party toll charges:
Gov Perry Refused Medicaid, Now TX Cities Feel the Squeeze
According to a new study, medical expenses hit Texas cities disproportionately hard. If Governor Perry had not refused Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, millions in taxpayer money would have been saved. Millions that could be better spent on jobs or infrastructure projects.
From Bloomberg, damned if you do, damned if you don’t:
Obamacare Deductibles 26% Higher Make Cheap Rates a Risk
Americans seeking cheap insurance on the Obamacare health exchanges may be in for sticker shock if they get sick next year, as consumers trade lower premiums for out-of-pocket costs that can top $6,000 a person.
And a question answered from CNBC:
Who’s smiling through Obamacare blunder? Insurers, of course.
Believe it or not, the “fumble” of the new health-care law has winners—and they’re all publicly traded health-care companies.
Meanwhile BBC News plays ketchup when job axes fall:
Heinz says three North American plants to close
Food maker Heinz has announced the closure of two plants in the United States and one in Canada. The firm says 1,350 jobs will be lost, which adds to the 600 job cuts announced in August.
And another job ax falls, via the Associated Press:
Merck to cease production at Puerto Rico plant
Merck will cease active ingredient production at one of its plants in Puerto Rico in a blow to a city once considered a pharmaceutical hub. The company said Friday that production in Barceloneta will end by late 2014 as part of a global restructuring.
FromThe Contributor, an upbeat story for a change:
Auto Workers Negotiate with VW, Southern GOPers Fear the End of Cheap Labor
Volkswagen says the outcome of negotiations with the Chattanooga, Tennessee, United Auto Workers union will have no bearing on whether or not they will build a new SUV in the United States. Southern politicians are in a tizzy, though, calling any negotiations at all the beginning of the end of cheap labor in the South.
Here in California, another labor action has been announced, reports the Oakland Tribune:
UC graduate students, service workers plan to strike
The University of California service workers union and graduate student union are calling for a system-wide one-day strike on Wednesday.
From The Independent, 21st Century salt mines:
Writing is on the wall for the new slaves: Contributors who work for free for website magazines
Welcome to the post-recession world, where social discourse is subordinated absolutely to advertising and paid work is replaced with “experience”. This is the business model that was pioneered by the Huffington Post and described by Tim Rutten of the Los Angeles Times as “a galley rowed by slaves and commanded by pirates”.
And a parallel tale from Quartz:
Twenty-somethings have incredibly unrealistic expectations for retirement
High youth unemployment, the proliferation of unpaid internships and soaring costs of higher education make it hard for young people to save for retirement, even if they want to. And as fiscal shortfalls and longer lifespans push countries to cut state benefits for retirees, younger generations won’t be able to rely as much on governments to support them as their parents did.
And what about the banksters, you may ask? Well, via Just An Earth-Bound Misfit, I, here’s a delightful CNBC video about what happened after one notorious outfit went to Twitter in hopes of puffery and received something quite different in return.
From ThePuppetsCan HearYou:
#AskJPM tweets performed by voice of American Greed & @PuppetsOH
Someone at JP Morgan said, “Let’s ask the American public what they’d like to say to one of our top bankers on Twitter.” Turns out that wasn’t such a great idea. The tweets generated from #AskJPM range from funny to down-right nasty. So someone at CNBC said, “Let’s have award-winning actor, Stacy Keach…the voice from American Greed read them verbatim.” Almost a brilliant idea. Then they had the good sense to add me… the blue puppet. And BOOM now it’s brilliant.
Like us: www.facebook.com/ThePuppetsCanHearYou
From the San Francisco Chronicle, another war on drugs, Berkeley style:
Berkeley’s next smoking ban may hit home
Berkeley, where residents take pride in exercising their personal freedoms and resisting government intrusion, is the site these days of a much different kind of movement – one to ban cigarette smoking from single-family homes.
For our last domestic item, we turn to Gawker:
Rich Man Buys House Next to Ex-Wife, Erects Giant Middle Finger Outside
A Michigan man has reportedly gone to Internet-ready lengths in order to troll his ex-wife with a daily reminder of his feelings towards her.
Next, to Canada and an inflating bubble with CBC News:
Average house price in Canada rises 8% to $391,820
CREA says number of homes sold also increased
From CBC News again, vanishing choices:
Retirement not by choice for 41% of Canadians, survey says
Although most affluent Canadians approaching retirement believe they will get to pick the day they step away from their careers, in reality 41 per cent of retirees report they didn’t leave their jobs by choice, according to a new report from Royal Bank.
Off to Europe, first with the London Telegraph:
Eurozone inflation at four year low, data confirm
Talk of deflation continues, despite European Central Bank rate cut last week
From EUobserver, doubts raised:
Eurozone economy still in troubled waters
The eurozone economy grew by a meagre 0.1 percent in the last three months, showing that optimism about recovery from the crisis may be premature, according to data from the bloc’s statistical office Eurostat published on Thursday.
Troubled? Maybe more than that, if one considers this from the World Economic Forum via the London Telegraph:
Youth unemployment could tear Europe apart, warns WEF
Crime rates will soar, economies will stagnate and Europe’s social fabric will deteriorate if policymakers do not act to address youth unemployment, World Economic Forum report warns
But Spiegel sees through rose-colored specs:
Euro Crisis Reprieve: End to Bailout Programs Signals Recovery
Some four years after the euro crisis began, Ireland and Spain are set to graduate from their bailout programs, with Dublin planning to begin financing itself again early next year. It’s a positive sign, but economists warn against premature optimism.
Reuters covers a backstop:
EU ministers agree euro zone bailout fund can be used as ultimate backstop for banks
European Union finance ministers agreed on Friday that, as a last resort, the euro zone ESM bailout fund will be able to buy stakes in banks that need rescuing if neither investors nor the government are able to provide funds.
More from New Europe:
Barnier warns all member-states will now have to make compromises
ECOFIN: ESM can be used as backstop for failing banks
And the eruobanksters both give and take. Via Reuters:
Banks to repay 3.6 billion euros of crisis loans: ECB
Banks will next week return 3.59 billion euros ($4.8 billion) of crisis loans early to the European Central Bank, the ECB said on Friday, a lower than expected total as a recent rate cut makes it more attractive to hold on to the funds for now.
The ECB cut its main refinancing rate to a record low of 0.25 percent, automatically reducing the interest rate banks have to pay on the three-year loans.
From BBC News, a dressing down:
EU warns Spain and Italy over their budget plans
It also said French and Dutch plans only just passed muster.
More, including a telling detail, from the London Telegraph:
EU uses new budget powers to demand more austerity in Italy and Spain
Spain and Italy have been warned that their budgets for 2014 are in breach of European Union rules as Brussels uses new powers to force governments to revise spending plans before national parliaments vote on them.
France was also cautioned that plans for painful economic reforms represent only “limited progress” as the European Commission exercised new eurozone powers in a historic shift of sovereignty away from elected governments.
And Deutsche Welle covers a failure to launch:
EU still wrangling over banking union
Ireland is about to leave Europe’s bailout program – that’s the good news from the latest meeting of EU finance ministers in Brussels. The bad news: No progress was made on a banking union.
From the Corporate Europe Observatory [CEO], round and round they go:
Mythbusting: the Commission and the revolving door
CEO responds to the Commission’s positive picture of its handling of revolving doors cases and conflicts of interest. Can the Commission afford to be quite so complacent?
Here’s a graphic depiction of CEO’s take on the reality, more evidence for which may be found at their Revolving Door Watch:
And if you need something more to ponder, there’s this from EUobserver:
Gazprom warns EU of winter ‘catastrophe’
Gazprom has warned that Ukraine might not have enough gas to feed EU transit customers in the coming winter.
Britain next, with The Independent covering democracy in peril:
Apathy? Alienation? How ‘disengaged’ four in ten voters reject ALL parties
Young adults are even more “disengaged” from the party system, with 46 per cent of under-30s saying “none of the above” when presented with a list of the parties. Although the polling does not mean people are apathetic about politics, the anti-sleaze watchdog which commissioned it believes the findings pose worrying questions about the future of democracy in Britain.
Sky News brings us the fatuous endorsing the cynical:
Simon Cowell Slammed Over ‘Get Lucky’ Remark
The Education Secretary blasts the X Factor boss for joking that children do not need to work hard, they should just get “lucky”.
From The Independent, austerian accounting:
Nearly a million under-25s still unemployed despite growth
Young people in Britain are experiencing a “jobless recovery” as unemployment among them rises while older people find work, according to a study published today.
And those slightly more fortunate from the London Telegraph:
White-collar workers to become ‘new poor’ as computers take over
Employees such as legal clerks and local government administrators will see their wages collapse as new technology makes their skills less valuable, just like manual workers have, Alan Milburn says
Ireland have officially bailed out of the bailout regime, but there’s a catch. From the Irish Times:
Ireland faces two annual post-bailout inspections
Coalition pledges to press on with reform agenda
Germany next, with anxiety from Deutsche Welle:
German DAX heavyweights increasingly worried about strong euro
More than half of all firms listed in Germany’s blue-chip DAX 30 index have reported shrinking third-quarter turnover and many also declining operating profits. A study says the current strength of the euro is to blame.
Brussels accepts Dutch 2014 budget despite lack of margin for error
The European Commission has accepted the Dutch government’s spending plans for 2014 even though there is no margin for error in cutting the budget deficit to 3%.
DutchNews.nl again, cultivating interest:
Two in three large councils back organised marijuana cultivation
In total, 26 of the Netherlands’ 38 largest local authority areas support some form of government legalised or organised marijuana production, Nos television says.
Spain next, with a new austerian mandate from El País:
Brussels asks Spain for more fiscal adjustment to meet deficit obligations
Commission believes additional measures worth €35bn will be required over next three years
The Brussels announcement dims Thursday’s announcement, reported by thinkSPAIN:
Spain’s bank bail-out and supervision to end in January, says Eurogroup
SPAIN’S banks will come out of their ‘bail-out period’ in January without the need for any further European Union funding.
Consider another report from Friday’s El País:
Bank of Spain may revise incompatibility criteria
Decision follows row over nomination of former central bank director general to a private financial sector institution
And then there’s this, also from El País:
Outstanding Spanish public debt hits new record high in September
Obligations were equivalent to 93.4 percent of GDP, just under government target for full year
Italy next, with BBC News covering an anti-austerian outburst:
Italy: protesting students clash with police in Bologna and Rome
Thousands of students protesting against government austerity measures clashed with police in cities throughout Italy on Friday. In Bologna and Rome they marched in the streets of the city centre holding banners. Refering to their uncertain future, they chanted: “you’ll pay for it, for job insecurity, for misery and grief.”
Corriere della Sera covers the latest lament of Silvio, Baron of Bunga Bunga:
Berlusconi and the Tribulations of the PDL
“If I had my passport, I’d be off to Antigua”. Former PM forced to mediate with rivals at lunches, dinners and all-nighters]
And Italy delivers its own warning, via EUbusiness:
EU spurs eurosceptics with debt warning: Italy PM
Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta accused Brussels of playing into the hands of eurosceptics on Friday in a sharp rebuke to a European Commission warning on Italy’s high debt levels.
Greek meltdown, Venezuelan action, Indian woes, Chinese neoliberalism running rampant, Japanese economic woes, more environmental alarms, and the latest Fukushimapocalypse Now! after the jump. . . Continue reading