Category Archives: Economy

Chart of the day: Japanese trade recovers


To the U.S., it’s 9/11, but to Japan it’s 3/11, the date of the great magnitude 9.0 Tohoku earthquake that left 18,456 dead and missing and presumed dead while inflicting $300 billion in damage, including those damaged reactors at Fukushima.

No surprise, them, that only now is the Japanese economy finally running a trade surplus, the subject of this graphic from the Yomiuri Shimbun:

BLOG Japan

Conventional Wisdom: Humor & Weimar America


As the GOP convention winds to a close, a video take on the event and the election.

We begin with a brutally frank assessment of the Republican convention from Lewis Black, during a guest sport on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

And he’s got the best idea yet on what to do with the two November contenders:

Lewis Black On The Election: “It’s A Social Experiment”

Program notes:

The comedian and star of “Back in Black” on Broadway suggests that by choosing between two deeply unpopular presidential candidates, voters are participating in a grand social experiment.

The election as emerging fascism fueled by both parties

Next up, a Paul Jay interview with journalist and former Berkeleyan Robert Scheer on the emerging fascism of Weimar America, and the way both parties have worked to bring it about.

From The Real News Network:

Robert Scheer: Neofascist Trump or Corporate Hawk Clinton Are No Choice at All

From the transcript:

JAY: So let’s start with question one. Is this just a kind of eccentric right populist, and another variance of the Republican Party? Or is this something that’s gone further into what you can call a new authoritarianism, developing neofascism, or such?

SCHEER: Well, it’s precisely a neofascism, and I think we should explain, particularly to younger people, what we mean by this. Because it’s not just throwing around some frightening word. But we’ve had this phenomenon. We have it right now in Europe. We have it where you’re–basically what you’re, what you had under the rise of Mussolini and Hitler, in Italy and Germany.

And what you’re really talking about is scapegoating real problems, there are real problems, you don’t get fascist movements taking over, rising to power, without people being in pain. Hurting. The economy in shambles, their aspirations are limited, they’re worried about their future. And we have a situation now in the United States that is increasingly resembling a kind of post-Weimar Germany. It’s neofascism, it’s not fascism. But basically, people are perplexed: why is life not getting better? Why is income disparity more glaring? Why did my $38 an hour job in [inaud.] or mining disappear, and now I have to work for $7, $8, $9 an hour. What about the benefits I thought I had? What about my ability to send my kid to college?

So we have lowered expectations in America. We have a great sense of pain. And it’s not, you know, just one region and one group of people. And it’s in that atmosphere that you can basically have one of two narratives to respond. You had the Bernie Sanders narrative that said yeah, we got real problems, here. Income inequality is getting worse. The good jobs are not there. The benefits are not there. And we’re going to propose a progressive alternative. And that’s why Bernie Sanders, you know, almost knocked Hillary Clinton out of the box, because Hillary Clinton represented the establishment that had enabled this kind of pain out there.

On the Republican side, Trump did something amazing. He wiped out the whole Republican establishment. He did it up from Maine to Alabama. And he was able to do it across the country because people are hurting. They’re not fools, they’re not desperate to back a fool. What they are desperate about is having a good life for their kids, for themselves, and they’re worried. And so this demagogue of the right comes along with a neofascist message, and by that I mean precisely blaming the undocumented worker, you know, blaming people who don’t have your religion, or gay people, or minorities, or something of that sort. Blaming them for the problems that people with power have caused.

And that’s the key ingredient of neofascism, is to distract people from the real origin of the problems, and make them think it’s the undocumented Mexican worker, which is absurd. They’re not the people who have destroyed housing in America. They’re not the people who did the collateralized debt obligations and credit default swaps and all the junk that Goldman Sachs and others did that brought the economy down. And to blame some guy who’s crossed the border, or some woman who’s crossed the border and is trying to clean a house or help raise a kid there for your problems. . .is absurd.

And Michael Moore declares Trump will be the winner

And he gives a plausible rationale for his analysis in this special convention of HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher.

Also featured in Tony Schwartz, the man who really wrote Donald Trump’s The Art of the Deal and who has proclaimed that Trump’s victory in November would herald the end of civilization:

Bill Maher Live RNC Special Edition: July 20

Program notes:

Bill Maher and his guests – Michael Moore, Dan Savage, Joy Reid, and Tony Schwartz – discuss the 2016 Republican National Convention during this special edition of Real Time.

Resisting the Greek capitulation to the banksters


Greek’s have seen austerity at its worst, inflicted by the joint powers of the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund.

The austerians are acting in the interest of the banks of Germany and France, lending institutions that bankrolled arms deals that profited the military/industrial complexes of the lender nations.

While Greek official corruption was clearly involved in some of the deals, the bribe payments came from German companies eager for profits from the sale of weapon systems, warships, and other materiel necessary for the new Cold War.

A succession of Greek governments signed off on massive cuts in public salaries and pensions, restrictions on the national public health system, and the sell-off of ports, railroads, islands, and other public assets.

Finally, the Greek people said “Enough!,” and in and in January 2015, they voted in a new government headed by a previously marginal party, a coalition of the Left named Syriza [previously], swept to power on a platform calling for an end of the payments.

With party leader Alexis Tsipras becoming chancellor, Syriza seemed on track to mount the first real resistance to the ave of austerity programs imposed on nations of Ireland and Southern Europe in the wake of the crash caused by the institutional corruption of Wall Street and the City of London.

Seven months after taking power, Syriza called a referendum on the issue of whether or not Greece should accept the latest austerity mandates from the Troika. When the votes were tallied, 61 percent of the Greek electorate declared no to further austerity.

Two months later the leaders of the anti-austerity movement were gone, and Tsipras was ready to surrender once again.

In this interview with The Real News Network, one of those leaders talks about those critical events, and the launch of a new party to continue the resistance to the money lord of the North:

Odious Debt and the Betrayal of the Popular Will in Greece

From the transcript:

DIMITRI LASCARIS, TRNN: This is Dimitri Lascaris reporting from Lesbos, Greece, for The Real News.

This week, The Real News is in Lesbos to cover the Crossing Borders Conference on the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean.

This afternoon we’re joined by Zoe Konstantopoulou. Zoe Konstantopoulou is the former speaker of the Greek Parliament. She was elected to that position in February of last year with a record number of votes from her fellow MPs, including, surprisingly, the support of the right-wing New Democracy Party. But her tenure as speaker of the Greek Parliament was short-lived. Her position was vacated in October of last year after the SYRIZA government decided to implement an austerity program that was even more severe than [the one that] over 60 percent of the population of Greece had rejected in a referendum in July of last year.

>snip<

LASCARIS: Now, last year, after the referendum in which over 60 percent of the Greek population effectively voted to reject an austerity program that was even less severe than what was ultimately implemented, the prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, called a snap election and there was a rebellion of the left wing of the SYRIZA party, and they formed another party called Popular Unity, which I understand you supported in the election that was held in September.

KONSTANTOPOULOU: I cooperated as an independent candidate with Popular Unity.

There’s more, after the jump. . . Continue reading

Obama pushes world closer to nuclear war


While a lot of folks are worried about the bellicose personalities of both major party presidential candidates, don’t forget the current incumbent, who has been busily pushing the world ever-closer to the brink of nuclear war through his Game of Zones plays in Asia and Europe.

While the Obama Administration’s “Asian pivot” has resulted in the first U.S. arms sales to Vietnam since the American humiliation four decades ago and Obama has relentlessly pushed Japan into the imminent scrapping of the pacifistic provisions of that country’s constitution, provisions imposed by the U.S. 60 years ago.

And now the Obama administration is beefing up U.S. forces on the Russian border, bring the threat of nuclear war to its highest level since the peak of the Cold War according to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

The latest moves in Europe have even upset governments in Western Europe, who see Russian more as a trading partner than as a military threat, says University of Missouri-Kansas City economist and European historian Michael Hudson in this interview with Jessica Desverieux of The Real News Network:

US-NATO Border Confrontation with Russia Risks Nuclear War and Loss of European Partners 

From the transcript:

DESVARIEUX: So, Michael, we just heard President Obama pledging his allegiance to protecting Europe. Does Europe really need protecting, though?

HUDSON: Well, as soon as Obama made those words, there was a fury of European statements saying that Obama and NATO was making Europe less secure. The French prime minister, Francois Hollande, says that we don’t need NATO. NATO has no role to play in our Russian relations. That leaders of the two major German parties, both the Social Democrats and the Christian Democrats, said that NATO was warmongering. Gorbachev came out and said the world has never been closer to nuclear war than it is at present. William Perry, the former head of the Pentagon in the mid-90s, said that NATO was threatening and trying to provoke atomic war in Europe.

And one of Russia’s leading military strategists said here’s what the problem is: NATO wants to move bombers and atomic weapons right up to the border of Russia. That means that if they launch over us, we have only a few seconds to retaliate. President Putin a little while ago had given a speech saying that Russia doesn’t really have a land army. In fact, today, no country in the world, in the Northern Hemisphere, at least, has a land army that can invade anywhere. Try to imagine America being invaded by Canada, or by Mexico on its borders. You can’t imagine it. Impossible. No democracy can afford a land army anymore because the costs are so high that the costs of mounting a land war will just impoverish the economy.

As a matter of fact, what NATO is trying to do is to goad Russia into building up an army so it can undercut its economy by diverting more and more resources away from the economy towards the military. Russia’s not falling for it. Putin said that Russia has no intention of mounting a land army. It is unthinkable that it could even want to invade the Baltics or Poland. But Putin did say we have one means of retaliation, and that’s atomic bombs. Atomic weapons are basically defensive. They’re saying, we don’t need an army anymore. Nor does any country need an army if they have an atomic weapon, because if you attack us we’ll wipe you out. And we’ll be wiped out, too, but you’re never going to be able to conquer us. And no country, really, can conquer any other country. Russia can’t conquer Europe.

So the effect, Putin and the Russian leaders have said, look, if they suppose that an American plane goes a little bit off, like, you know, the ships try to provoke things, we don’t know whether it’s an atomic attack at all. We can’t take a risk. If there’s a little bit of a movement against us, we’re going to launch the hydrogen bombs, and there goes Berlin, Frankfurt, London, Manchester, Brussels. That’s why you’re having all of these warnings. And Europe is absolutely terrified that Obama is going to destabilize. And even more terrified of Hillary getting in, who’s indicated she’s going to appoint a superhawk, the Cheney protege Flournoy, as Secretary of Defense, and appoint Nuland, Victoria Nuland, as Secretary of State.

And all throughout Europe — I’ve been in Germany twice in the last two months, and they’re really worried that somehow America is telling Europe, let’s you and Russia fight. And basically it’s a crisis.

Income inequality linked to unwed parents


The American conservative is a creature who demands marriage before babies, but new research reveals the economic policies espoused by Republicans [and, it must be added, neoliberal democrats] are almost precisely crafted to encourage women to have children without benefit of clergy.

From Johns Hopkins University:

Rising income inequality, and the resulting scarcity of certain types of jobs, is a key reason a growing number of young Americans are having babies before getting married.

A study led by Johns Hopkins University sociologist Andrew J. Cherlin is the first to trace how the income gap, a large-scale societal trend, is affecting individual people’s personal choices about starting a family. The greater the income inequality in an area, the less likely young men and women are to marry before having a first child, concluded the study, which will be published online July 14 and will appear in the August issue of the American Sociological Review.

“Does income inequality affect a young adult’s decision about getting married and starting a family?” asked Cherlin, the Benjamin H. Griswold III Professor of Public Policy in the Krieger School of Arts and Science. “We think the answer is yes for those who don’t graduate from college. Places with higher income inequality have fewer good jobs for those young adults. They don’t foresee ever having the kinds of well-paying careers that could support a marriage and a family. But they are unwilling to forgo having children. So with good jobs in limited supply and successful marriage looking unlikely, young women and men without college degrees may go ahead and have a child without marrying first.”

Cherlin and his fellow authors found that areas with high levels of income inequality have a shortage of jobs available in the middle of the job market. These are jobs available to those without college degrees that pay wages that would keep a family out of poverty — like office clerks, factory workers, and security guards.

Without access to this sort of work, young men can’t make an adequate living. They don’t see themselves as good marriage material, and their partners agree. Couples like this might live together and have a child, but they are reluctant to make the long-term commitment to marriage, according to Cherlin.

There’s more, after the jump. . . Continue reading

Austerity on the march in Portugal and Brazil


The austerians, the folks who impose a “new fiscal order” on nation-states in order to assure the ongoing profits of banksters and corporateers, are exercising their reign across the globe, forcing governments to public abandon healthcare systems, public spaces, public sector pensions, and other institutions that had characterized the post-World War II political and social landscapes.

The rhetoric the austerians use is inevitably pretentious and portentous, declaring, in effect, that the plight of the poor in developed in late-stage developing nations is essentially their own fault, and that programs designed to lift them from poverty are really sloth-inducing handouts.

The bottom line, of course, is the bottom line. Not the bottom line of the social contract, but the bottom line on corporate and banksters spreadsheets.

Austerianism, in short, makes the world save for corporatocracy.

Two classic examples can be found in events unfolding in two nations an ocean apart, yet united by a common language.

Austerity on the march in Portugal

Portugal, one of the PIIGS nations [along with Italy, Ireland, Greece, and Spain] of post-Bush crash Europe, has never recovered from the crash, and state financing has been critical to keeping the country viable.

But enough is enough, the austerians have decreed.

From United Press International:

European Union finance ministers supported sanctioning Spain and Portugal for breaking targeted budget deficits Tuesday.

The EU’s economic and financial affairs council decided Spain and Portugal should be sanctioned for breaking rules that countries’ budget deficits must remain within 3 percent of gross domestic product.
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“The Council found that Portugal and Spain had not taken effective action in response to its recommendations on measures to correct their excessive deficits” the European Council said in a statement on its website on Tuesday. The Council’s decisions will trigger sanctions under the excessive deficit procedure.”

According to the EU, Portugal and Spain have 10 days to appeal the decision. And the commission has 20 days to recommend fines that could amount to 0.2 percent of GDP.

But top EU officials have indicated the sanctions are likely to be symbolically set at zero, according to the Wall Street Journal.

In other words, Portugal has just been served notice.

Austerians and the Brazilian coup

The government of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, while less than perfect, had been struggling to keep the social contract alive, but that didn’t suit the Brazilian plutocracy, the spiritual descendants of the colonial land and cattle barons who exploited the native population and were the largest buyers of African slaves, outstripping the American South by far.

They used their bought-and-paid-for legislators to oust Rousseff through a vote of impeachment for crimes that, events have subsequently made clear, could be more rightly charged to them than to Rousseff.

And now, challenged with potential criminal charges for their own looting, they are busily engaged in the sell-off of the Brazilian commons, opening up endangered landscapes for industrial agriculture, displacing native populations, and generally grabbing up as much as they can whilst the sun still shines.

The latest grab, via teleSUR English:

Brazil’s unelected interim President Michel Temer said his government is considering the privatization of two of the country’s busiest airports in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.

“It is possible that we will privatize Congonhas and Santos Dumont, which should give a good sum” of money, Temer said in an interview with the Folha de S.Paulo website, referring to Congonhas airport in Sao Paulo and Santos Dumont in Rio de Janeiro.

The interim government, imposed by the Brazilian Senate, is considering two options for privatizing the airports: one would keeping the government airport authority Infraero as a minority partner while giving most control to private companies, while the other would keep Infraero as the biggest stockholder with 51 percent of shares while private companies would manage the airports.

In both cases such moves would lead to thousands of people losing their jobs, as private contractors would seek to bring in new staff with new contracts and less oversight by the state.

Temer said the sale of state assets and major privatization plans is meant to generate sufficient revenues to meet the fiscal target for 2017, which foresees  a deficit of around US$42 Billion.

So who are the Brazilian lootocrats?

Glenn Greenwald has conducted a fascinating interview with U.S.-born Portuguese-speaking journalist Alex Cuadros, who covered the Brazilian plutocracy for Bloomberg.

Author of the just-published Brazillionaires: Wealth, Power, Decadence, and Hope in an American Country, a book on Brazil’s financial elite, he describe the relevance of the Brazilian experience for folks in the U.S.

From the Intercept:

[T]he relationship between Brazil and its billionaires is relevant to an American reader. There was something about studying this relationship in a country that’s not my own, where I don’t have nearly as much baggage, that made it easier to see how it works. But really it’s a relationship that exists in most countries today. In the end I think that the Brazilian billionaire tradition is simply an extreme version of a natural relationship between wealth and political power.

There are some differences. In Brazil, partly because the state has always had a large presence in the economy, a lot of wealthy families owe their fortunes to personal connections to the government or even outright corruption. This clashes with the American ideal of the self-made man who gets rich thanks only to his own talent and hard work.

But of course, if you look at the richest people and companies in the U.S., they tend to defend their fortunes by putting their money to work in the political system, swaying the rules in their favor through lobbying, campaign donations, and other, less transparent contributions. Obviously there’s a difference between outright graft and legal forms of influence, but the desire and the effect are often similar: to allow the very rich to claim a larger piece of the economic pie without necessarily making the pie larger.

Trump or Clinton: To Mexico, they’re all the same


John Ackerman is one of the leading legal lights of Mexico, serving as professor at the Institute for Legal Research at the National Autonomous University of Mexico [UNAM] and as editor-in-chief of the Mexican Law Review. He is also a columnist for Proceso magazine, source of some of the finest investigative reporting in North America, and for the La Jornada newspaper.

He is also a relentless critic of the corruption of the government of President President Enrique Peña Nieto.

In a recent essay for the Dallas Morning News, he attacked his government’s role in the investigation of the 26 September 2014 disappearance [previously] of the 43 students, still missing and presumed dead, from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero.

The [Inter-American Human Rights Commission] panel has discovered that many of the key witnesses in the case were tortured, key evidence was likely planted on the scene of the crime, and the government’s story about what happened to the students (their bodies were supposedly incinerated at a garbage dump) is scientifically impossible.

Significantly, the panel also has discovered the complicity of federal forces with the disappearances. During the night of Sept. 26, the Federal Police and the Army, which has two large military bases in the vicinity, were constantly tracking the students’ movements in real time and even made themselves physically present on various occasions.

The evidence points to an intentional act of aggression by government forces — local, state and federal — against the group of student dissidents. Just as occurred frequently during the “dirty war” of the 1970s, the government took advantage of the relative isolation of the mountains of Guerrero to eliminate its political opponents. The good news is that this time someone was watching.

In the light of government repression and cover-ups like this one, it should come as no surprise that the public approval ratings for Peña Nieto have reached the lowest point for any Mexican president in recent history. Only 30 percent approve of his performance and only 13 percent believe that Mexico is today “on the right track,” according to a recent independent poll.

Regardless, the U.S. government irresponsibly continues to cover the back of the Peña Nieto administration. In its most recent Human Rights Report, the State Department claims that during 2015 “there were no reports of political prisoners or detainees” and that the Mexican government “generally respected” freedom of speech and the press. Congress also continues to funnel millions of dollars of support to Mexican law enforcement through the Merida Initiative.

Ackerman argues that it may make little difference who is elected president in the United States, since both politicians favor policies that can only bring more harm to his country.

Instead, he calls for a Mexico/U.S.-disconnect, given that the corruption in Mexico is aided, abetted, and even created by U.S. neoliberal politicians and their corporate sponsors.

Similarly, the Trans-Pacific Partnership will only deeply the wounds already inflicted on Mexico by NAFTA.

The TPP contains the same provisions as NAFTA for a establishing a secret tribunal where corporations can sue nation states for policies created to protect their citizens. Currently Mexico is being sued for blocking radioactive waste dumps, a measure that interferes with corporate profit potential.

And those panels work only in one direction: Nations can use them to sue corporations for harming their citizens.

But there are signs of hope.

Ackerman outlines his views in this very important interview from the Keiser Report, and it’s well worth your time.

From RT:

Keiser Report: US, Mexico & walls

Program notes:

In this special episode of the 2016 Summer Solutions series of the Keiser Report, Max and Stacy talk to John Ackerman, professor, columnist and the Mexican Law Review’s editor-in-chief, about the economic relationship between Mexico and the United States. Ackerman has a plan to cut off the flow of funds from America to the Mexican government and he also responds to Donald Trump’s wall. Like Trump, however, Ackerman believes Nafta has been devastating… both to the American worker and to the population in Mexico. They conclude with solutions to the consequences of neoliberal capitalism and dodgy trade deals.