Category Archives: Economy

Chart of the day: A political sea change

From Gallup, one reason Bill O’Reilly is getting nastier:

BLOG Redistribution

Chart of the day: Baltic Dry Index record low

A clear sign of troubled times ahead comes in the form of the Baltic Dry Index, a measure of global shipping activity. The really bad news is that the index has hit an all-time low, indicating that global shipping has come to a near-stop, largely because of the growing economic problems in China and China, where imports of raw materials and exports of finished goods are stalled and construction has undergone a dramatic downturn.

First, from Bloomberg, a one-month chart showing Friday’s all-time low:

BLOG Baltic dryy index 2

And from via Business Insider, a graph covering the pre-Great Recession China-fueled high, followed by a precipitous decline, and the ongoing low level of shipping activity the the years since:

BLOG Baltic dry inedx

On the mad utopian dreams of neoliberals

A recent episode of Christ Hedges’s news series for Telesur English features an interview with Canadian intellectual provocateur John Ralston Saul on the twisted origins and pernicious intellectual distortions of neoliberal ideology.

An erudite scholar and ferocious analyst, Saul has relentlessly pilloried the intellectual perversions underlying much of modern economic thought in a series of books [most famously Voltaire’s Bastards: The Dictatorship of Reason in the West] and essays, with his most recent targets being the twisted rationales employed by apologists for an economic order that has given rise to modern plutocracy.

In conversation with Hedges, Saul worries that modern neoliberalism has proven to resemble Beniuto Mussolini’s fascism.

From The Real News Network:

Days of Revolt: Neoliberalism as Utopianism

From the transcript:

SAUL: Right? And what they did, most universities, was they did an intellectual cleansing of the economic historians to remove the possibility of doubt, the possibility of speculation on ideas, leaving these sort of hapless — mainly hapless macroeconomists, who fell quite easily into the hands, frankly, of the ideologues, the neoliberals, neoconservatives, who were — you know, let’s face it. What is this ideology? It’s an ideology of inevitability, an ideology based on self-interest, an ideology in which there is no real memory. And at the end of the day, it really is — it’s about power and money.

HEDGES: It’s about, you write, making every aspect of society conform to the dictates of the marketplace, which, as you point out, there’s nothing — and I think you say something like 2,000 or 5,000 years of human history to justify the absurdity that you should run a society based on —

SAUL: On the marketplace.

HEDGES: — the marketplace.

SAUL: Let me just take a tiny step back as a historical marker, which is the day that I realized that the neos were claiming that Edmund Burke was their godfather or whatever, I realized that we were into both lunacy and the denial of history, ‘cause, of course, in spite of his rather crazy things about Mary Antoinette and the French Revolution, most of his career was about inclusion, standing against slavery, standing for the American Revolution, and of course leading a fight for anti-racism and anti-imperialism in India — amazing democratic [incompr.] a liberal in the terms of the early 19th century. So when you see that these guys were trying to claim him, it’s like lunatics today claiming Christ or Muhammad to do absolutely unacceptable things.

And I think that the fascinating thing is once you get rid of history, once you get rid of memory, which they’ve done with economics, you suddenly start presenting economics as something that it isn’t, and you start saying, well, the market will lead. And these entirely theoretically sophisticated experts are quoting the invisible hand, which is, of course, an entirely low-level religious image–it’s the invisible hand of God, right, running the universe. As soon as you hear that term and they say, oh, that’s what Adam Smith said — but when you talk to them, they haven’t read Adam Smith. Adam Smith isn’t taught in the departments of economics. You get quotes from Adam Smith even when you’re doing an MA or whatever. They don’t know Adam Smith. They don’t know that he actually was a great voice for fairness, incredibly distrustful of businessmen and powerful businessmen, and said never allow them to be alone in a room together or they’ll combine and falsify the market and so on, so that what we’ve seen in the last half-century is this remarkable thing of big sophisticated societies allowing the marketplace to be pushed from, say, third or fourth spot of importance to number one and saying that the whole of society must be in a sense structured and judged and put together through the eyes of the marketplace and the rules of the marketplace. Nobody’s ever done this before.

HEDGES: How did it happen?

SAUL: Well, I mean, I think it happened gradually, partly by this emptying out of the public space, by this gradual —

HEDGES: What do you mean by that?

SAUL: Well, by the advancing of the idea of the technocracy and the gradual reduction of the space of serious political debate and ideas, and with that the rise of kinds of politicians who would be reliant on the technocracy and really were not themselves voices of ideas that would lead somewhere, you know, the humanist tradition, democratic tradition, egalitarian tradition. And we can see this all sort of petering out. And you can like them or dislike them, but you can see when the real idea of debate of ideas and risk on policy starts to peter out with Johnson and suddenly you’re into either populists or technocrats.

Chart of the day: An immigration tide reversal

From the Pew Research Center [PDF], dramatic evidence that the Great Recession saw a reversal of the flow of Mexican immigrants:

BLOG Migration

Chart of the day II: Euro small businesses

From Eurostat [PDF], a country-by-country look at the distribution of very small business employment in Europe:

BLOG Euro small biz

Blood on the newsroom floor. . .

And a whole lot of it.

It’s been a while since we posted a roundup of layoffs and closings in the Fourth Estate, and there’s plenty of the first and some of the second to cover.

First, one of America’s largest newspaper companies just dropped a turkey into the laps of its workers, and just in time for Thanksgiving.

From the Los Angeles Times, one of the papers affected:

Tribune Publishing has approved buyouts for about 7% of its eligible 7,000 employees across its media portfolio, according to a Thursday filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The SEC filing did not include the specific number of buyouts at each newspaper or the job functions. The Chicago-based company owns 11 major newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and San Diego Union-Tribune, which it acquired in May for $85 million.

The separation plan, which will be funded through salary continuation extending through the first half of 2018, will result in a total charge of approximately $55 million for all related severance, benefits and taxes, the company said. Tribune Publishing will record a charge estimated at $47 million during the fourth quarter related to the buyouts.

Last day for workers who opt out? It’s 25 November, the day before Thanksgiving.

Newspapers & Technology reported 21 October on an earlier downsizing effort by Tribune Media:

The Casey Brown Company acquired The San Diego Union-Tribune’s headquarters in Mission Valley, California for $52 million from former U-T Publisher Doug Manchester.

When Tribune Media Company acquired The Union-Tribune from Manchester, the paper’s printing operations were moved to Los Angeles. The property in Mission Valley was not part of the sale and the paper announced it would be looking for office space downtown.

CBRE will be leasing the 13-acre property, which includes a 170,000-square-foot, five-story office building and a 190,000-square-foot, three-story industrial building, which was the newspaper’s printing plant.

Lots of bad news for the Fourth Estate in Pennsylvania.

First up, this from a 4 November announcement by the Newspaper Guild of Greater Philadelphia:

In an astonishing display of misdirected management, the Company today announced layoffs that decimate what just days ago the new publisher identified as the key to our future – digital reach and our unique print brand

Of the staff of 29, 17 Guild members will be gone as of Dec. 4.

At the Daily News, 10 reporters, including one as senior as 16 years, will be let go. Joining them in unemployment will be six copy editors, leaving one person to copy edit news (other than sports) and features. An editorial assistant that has served this company for 25 years is also among the casualties.

The Inquirer will lose five reporters, six copy editors and desk assistants, including an assigning editor, and one news artist.

More bad Pennsylvania news reported Tuesday by Poynter MediaWire:

Trib Total Media, which owns the Tribune-Review, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and the Valley News Dispatch, announced consolidation and layoffs on Tuesday in a memo.

As part of a strategic growth plan developed by our Board of Directors, we have decided to sharpen our focus through the sale and consolidation of several newspapers. We are consolidating the Tribune-Review, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and the Valley News Dispatch into one paper – the Tribune-Review.

That consolidation includes 153 layoffs, “this is in addition to 68 long-term employees who accepted the buyout offer we made in August.” In addition, the company indicated that if it doesn’t find “suitable buyers in the next 60 days” for two other papers, it will eliminate an additional 91 people. A press release notes that TTM will roll out several digital platforms next year, and that the company has a total of 1,100 full-and-part-time employees.

More bad news from Boston by way of the Daily Free Press, Boston University’s student paper:

When Sarah Roberts started working as a metro correspondent for The Boston Globe in July, she overheard her higher-ups discussing recent buyouts and upcoming layoffs. More recently, Roberts and her colleagues have noticed something different. Desks were cleared of yellowing newspapers, computer monitors were removed and picture frames were pulled from the walls of the copy editing department’s workspace.

In the past month, the Globe laid off nearly two dozen staff members in addition to the 17 who accepted a recent buyout. A majority of the layoffs came from the copy desk, which raises concern over the future of careers in traditional journalism in the landscape of changing media.

Lou Ureneck, a journalism professor in the College of Communication and former deputy managing editor at The Philadelphia Inquirer, said the driving force behind the layoffs was business, not journalism.

If you’re wondering who was going to be filling the space left by those fallen journalists, the answer is corporate public relations spinners.

From a 9 November post by Newspapers & Technology:

The Boston Globe inked its first sponsored content deal with the Rockland Trust Company.

The campaign will run for 18-months and will feature Rockland Trust-sponsored content designed to educate business on how to successfully run, grow and overcome the challenges that arise as they expand. Rockland Trust will also sponsor the Globe’s Talking Points column. The written content will be authored by Boston Globe Media’s new content services business unit.

The sponsorship initiative also includes six business networking events, branded delivery truck wraps, poly bags and honor boxes. New Globe readers who sign up for a digital subscription service will receive a two-week free trial of courtesy of Rockland Trust.

Wednesday brought bad news for Connecticut print journalists. Covered by the New Haven Independent:

Another wave of layoffs has hit the New Haven Register, this time affecting copyeditors and sports staffers, among others.

Unlike in past layoffs, management refused to confirm details of the latest moves. Nor did management hold a newsroom meeting or distribute a companywide memo (another departure from past practice). So no firm numbers of layoffs were available. Register employees were left to sharing rumors and firsthand reports from laid-off coworkers all day Tuesday to gauge how hard their paper was hit this time.

According to people familiar with the layoffs, as many as 30 employees—certainly more than 20—are believed to have lost their jobs in New Haven and at the company’s Torrington daily paper and monthly Connecticut magazine.

There’s a whole lot more after the jump, with imminent newspaper closings in Minnesota, two newspapers folding in Ohio, layoffs in Atlanta and South Carolina, layoffs at a national newspaper, bad news for National Geographic, porn magazine layoffs, Canadian television journalists axed and a Canadian paper outsources, plus some collateral damage. . .all after the jump: Continue reading

Chart of the day: Europe’s stalled half-recovery

From Eurostat [PDF], with the recovery stalled in both the common currency eurozone and the larger 28-nation European Union:

BLOG Eurostalled