Category Archives: Wealth

Charts of the day III: European glass ceilings


A just published European managerial structure focusing on data from 2014 reveals that glass ceilings remain the rule in the European Union, along with pay inequality, both opportunities and more equitable pay are found in some countries, most notably those of Eastern Europe.

Release of the report was timed for International Women’s Day.

From Eurostat [click on the images to enlarge]:

Nearly 7.3 million persons hold managerial positions in enterprises with 10 employees or more located in the European Union (EU): 4.7 million men (65% of all managers) and 2.6 million women (35%). In other words, although representing approximately half of all employed persons in the EU, women continue to be under-represented amongst managers.

In addition, those women in managerial positions in the EU earn 23.4% less on average than men, meaning that female managers earn on average 77 cents for every euro a male manager makes per hour.

This pattern at EU level masks significant discrepancies between Member States regarding both positions and pay.

Managers are mostly women only in Latvia

The largest share of women among managerial positions is recorded in Latvia, the only Member State where women are a majority (53%) in this occupation. It is followed by Bulgaria and Poland (both 44%), Ireland (43%), Estonia (42%), Lithuania, Hungary and Romania (all 41%) as well as France and Sweden (both 40%).

At the opposite end of the scale, women account for less than a quarter of managers in Germany, Italy and Cyprus (all 22%), Belgium and Austria (both 23%) as well as Luxembourg (24%). At EU level, about a third (35%) of managers are women.

Lowest gender pay gap for managers in Romania, largest in Hungary and Italy

Differences between women and men in managerial positions also concern wages. In every EU Member State, male managers earn more than female managers, albeit in different proportions.

The gender pay gap in managerial positions is the narrowest in Romania (5.0%), ahead of Slovenia (12.4%), Belgium (13.6%) and Bulgaria (15.0%). In contrast, a female manager earns about a third less than her male counterpart in Hungary (33.7%), Italy (33.5%) as well as the Czech Republic (29.7%), and about a quarter less in Slovakia (28.3%), Poland (27.7%), Austria (26.9%), Germany (26.8%), Portugal (25.9%), Estonia (25.6%) and the United Kingdom (25.1%).

It should be noted that the gender pay gap, as defined in this news release, is linked to a number of legal, social and economic factors which go far beyond the single issue of equal pay for equal
work.

Charts of the day: A look at the Greek debt burden


We have two charts from the just-published edition of The Greek Economy, a monthly update from the Hellenic Statistical Authority.

Of the many charts in the document, we picked these two because they depict to loss of national financial sovereignty in a dramatic way.

Our first chart is straightforward, showing the dramatic rise in the ratio of Greek debt to the national GDP:

The second graph charts the radical change in the nature of Greece’s debt, a changed mandated by the financial overlords of the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank, and the European Central Bank — the Troika — as a condition of financial aid.

In the chart, debt in the form of securities such as government bonds is represented by the broken blue line, while second broken line represents debt in the form of outright loans. The radical shift was the result of the Troika’s demands on becoming the nation’s financial overlords.

The third and constant line in the graph represents debt in the form of cash and cash deposits:

Homophobia, inequality, religion, and the law


Imperial revanchism is integral to rising tide of authoritarian movements of the extreme right, a hunger to return to the glories of an imagined past.

The ISIS slogan might as well be Make the Caliphate Great Again, given their claims to be the modern reincarnation of an empire that once stretched from India and the islands of the Asian seas to Modern Spain and Portugal.

Here in the U.S., many hard-core Republicans dream of a return to the 17th Century, with patriarchy enshrined, divorce impossible to obtain, schools mandated to teach an established religion to ensure orthodoxy.

As noted in an earlier post, they want to muzzle the press and [as another posted noted] impose draconian curbs limiting and even abolishing the right to peaceably assemble

Authoritarian regimes play to social reactionaries by fanning the flames of deeply buried resentments, then directing the collective rage at hapless and helpless targets named as the villains who brought down the ancien régime.

Common to almost all such regimes is suppression of anything considered sexually deviant, most notably in the criminalization of homosexuality.

An academic seeks correlates

Amy Adamczyk serves as Professor of Sociology and Criminal Justice at City University of New York, where her work focuses on how personal religious beliefs and social groups [from micro to macro] shape the way we attitudes about criminality, social deviance, and health-re;ated behaviors.

Her most recent book is Cross-National Public Opinion about Homosexuality, a look at attitudes in this and other countries.

What follows is Why do some countries disapprove of homosexuality? Money, democracy and religion, an essay written for The Conversation, a plain language open source academic journal:

With Trump’s removal of federal protections for transgender students, debate over LGBTQ rights rage again across the U.S.

Despite these disagreements, Americans are relatively liberal compared to countries across the world, where the consequences for gay or transgender citizens are far more dire.

In Europe and here in the Americas, only a minority of people believe that homosexuality is never justified. The percentage increases in places like Russia, India and China. In Africa, the Middle East and parts of Southeast Asia, attitudes become even more conservative.

blog-h-attitudes

Why are there such big differences in public opinion about homosexuality? My book, “Cross-National Public Opinion about Homosexuality,” shows that a key part of the answer comes in understanding how national characteristics shape individuals’ attitudes.

Within countries, a similar set of demographic characteristics tend to influence how people feel about homosexuality. For example, women tend to be more liberal than men. Older people tend to be more conservative than younger ones. Muslims are more likely to disapprove of homosexuality than Catholics, Jews and mainline Protestants.

Just like people, countries too have particular characteristics that can sway residents’ attitudes about homosexuality. I have analyzed data from over 80 nations from the last three waves of the World Values Survey, the oldest noncommercial, cross-national examination of individuals’ attitudes, values and beliefs over time. It is the only academic survey to include people from both very rich and poor countries, in all of the world’s major cultural zones. It now has surveys from almost 400,000 respondents.

My analysis shows that differences in attitudes between nations can largely be explained by three factors: economic development, democracy and religion.

Money matters

Sweden, Switzerland and the Netherlands are some of the richest nations in the world. They are also some of the most tolerant. In sharp contrast, countries like Uganda and Nigeria are quite poor and the vast majority of residents disapprove.

blog-h-econ

How does the amount of money a country has shape attitudes? In very poor countries, people are likely to be more concerned about basic survival. Parents may worry about how to obtain clean water and food for their children. Residents may feel that if they stick together and work closely with friends, family and community members, they will lead a more predictable and stable life. In this way, social scientists have found that a group mentality may develop, encouraging people to think in similar ways and discouraging individual differences.

Because of the focus on group loyalty and tradition, many residents from poorer countries are likely to view homosexuality as highly problematic. It violates traditional sensibilities. Many people may feel that LGBTQ individuals should conform to dominant heterosexual and traditional family norms.

Conversely, residents from richer nations are less dependent on the group and less concerned about basic survival. They have more freedom to choose their partners and lifestyle. Even in relatively rich countries like the United States, some people will still find homosexuality problematic. But, many will also be supportive.

Regardless of how much money they make, most people living in poorer countries are likely to be affected by cultural norms that focus on survival and group loyalty, leading to more disapproval.

Freedom of speech

The type of government also matters. People living in more democratic countries tend to be more supportive of homosexuality.

blog-h-views

Democracy increases tolerance by exposing residents to new perspectives. Democracy also encourages people to respect individuals’ rights, regardless of whether they personally like the people being protected.

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When lawmakers buy stock, the price rises


It really is the best Congress money can buy, one might reasonably conclude from the findings of a new academic study.

Yep, it seems to be one of those mysterious laws of the universe that when a member of Congress buys stock in a company, the value of that stock soon rises.

Oh, and when a member of Congress buys into a company, the business cuts back on lobbying because, presumably, their interests are financially merged.

More from the University of Arkansas [emphasis added]:

From 2005 to 2010, the average S&P 500 firm had seven members of Congress who owned stock in the firm, and some companies had closer to 100 members owning stock, according to a new study co-authored by a management professor at the University of Arkansas.

The study also found that firms in which a greater percentage of lawmakers invest in a given year performed significantly better the subsequent year.

“Each percentage of congressional membership owning stock was worth about a 1 percent improvement in return on assets,” said Jason Ridge, assistant professor of management in Sam M. Walton College of Business. “We think this suggests that it’s possible that members of Congress use their influence to benefit firms in which they invest.”

Ridge and co-authors Aaron Hill, associate professor at Oklahoma State University, and Amy Ingram, assistant professor at Clemson University, discussed these findings in a Harvard Business Review article [$36 for non-subscribers] published last week. The article was based on “The Signaling Role of Politician Stock Ownership: Effects of Lobbying Intensity,” their study that was published in the Journal of Management.

Ridge, Hill and Ingram confirmed previous research that members of Congress, on both sides of the political aisle, have substantial stock holdings in firms that are affected by their legislative actions. Ridge, Hill and Ingram wanted to understand how this works at the company level. To do this, they compared a sample of S&P 500 performance data from 2005 to 2010 with public disclosure information about Congress members’ stock holdings as compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Firms are possibly using required public disclosure laws as a new way to influence lawmakers, Ridge said. For example, he and his co-authors found that firms, armed with knowledge of which members of Congress hold stock in their companies, scale back the intensity of their lobbying efforts with lawmakers, presumably because the companies assume that owning stock aligns the interests of firms with those of stock-holding lawmakers.

Ridge’s research focuses on executive leadership, compensation and political strategy.

Yet another update on the ongoing Greek Crisis


Greece, the European nation hardest hit by the Great Recession, continues to struggle, weighed down by massive loan debt, accumulated during the pre-crash boom and amplified by bailouts in the years since.

Much of the Greek debt is held by vulture funds, specializing in swooping in toe feed off the cheaply priced debt of stricken economies, then demand payment in full as the national economy struggles to recover.

Much of the Greek debt is held any Germans backs which financed Greek military purchases from German munitions companies — many of them induced by bribes from the German corporateers.

The Troika — the coalition of the European Central Bank, the European Commission, and the International Monetary Fund have insisted on full repayment, with the price of rebellion being the education of Greece from the common currency, a move that would force Greece to drop the Euro and go back to the drachma.

And while Germany booms, Greeks are subjected to pay and pension cuts healthcare reductions, and sell off of national power and transportation grids, as well as the sale of ports and islands.

The resulting deprivation has distorted the Greek economy, evident in these two charts from the Hellenic Statistical Authority.

First, a chart of the ten top-selling industrial products manufactured in Greece [click on the images to enlarge]:

blog-greeceNext, the top-sellers for the European Union as a whole:

blog-greece-2But more misery lies ahead, , ,

We begin with this from China Daily:

Greece will likely need a fourth bailout program, according to Cypriot economist and 2010 Nobel laureate Christoforos Pissarides.

“I am afraid there will be a fourth memorandum,” 69-year-old Pissarides said in an interview with local SKAI television’s program “Weekend with Action”.

“The crisis and austerity will end when Greece will be able to return to international financial markets,” Pissarides said, adding that in his view it was rather unlikely to happen before the end of the current bailout in August 2018.

The expert called for more reforms with no delays to attract investment in order to exit the seven-year debt crisis.

And Germany won’t stand for debt relief

There’s no relief in sight for the Greeks, as Germany, the dominant economic power in the European Union and chief player in the central bank, insists that all loans be paid in full.

From Kathimerini:

Greece must not be granted a “bail-in” that would involve creditors taking a loss on their loans, Germany’s deputy finance minister said in an interview broadcast on Sunday, reiterating the German government’s opposition to debt relief for Athens.

“There must not be a bail-in,” Jens Spahn told German broadcaster Deutschlandfunk, according to a written transcript of the interview.

“We think it is very, very likely that we will come to an agreement with the International Monetary Fund that does not require a haircut,” he said, referring to losses that Greece’s creditors would have to take if debt was written off.

The IMF has called for Greece to be granted substantial debt relief, but this is opposed by Germany, which makes the largest contribution to the budget of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), the eurozone’s bailout fund.

Greece and its creditors agreed on February 20 to further reforms by Athens to ease a logjam in talks with creditors that has held up additional funding for the troubled eurozone country.

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Chart of the day: Trump want billions for defense


More precisely $54 billion, a ten percent boost in current defense spending a a boon to that military/industrial complex Dwight Eisenhower warned us about in his presidential farewell address.

Which brings us to out chart from BBC News:

blog-military

More from the accompanying story:

If he wants to boost the defence budget by $54bn without adding to the deficit, that money will have to come from somewhere – and mandatory spending on welfare and debt interest takes nearly 70% of the budget off the table.

Early reports are that the Environmental Protection Agency is facing sharp cuts, but its total annual budget is just over $8bn – a drop in the bucket.

The State Department has also been singled out as a source for the needed funds, and its $50bn annually (including $22bn in direct aid) makes it a fatter target.

The lion’s share of humanitarian assistance goes to rebuilding efforts in Afghanistan and Aids treatment in Sub-Saharan Africa, however, which will be difficult to touch. Also unlikely to get the axe is military support, dominated by $3.1 bn annually to Israel.

There’s a reason the Trump administration announced the military budget number before revealing where the money will come from. Spending is easy; cutting is hard.

Greek misery continues, no crash recovery yet


We begin with a dramatic graphic from Kathimerini, dramatic evidence that despite three rounds of bailout loans an ever-harsher austerity measures, the European economy hardest hit by the Great Recession is showing no signs of recovery as yet still more austerity is demanded:

blog-greece

The Greeks were left holding the string when the bubble popped, unable to pay loans to foreign banksters a lot of them in Germany. And the lenders wanted their money, even though the economy had crashed, unemployment skyrocketed, and the Greek industrial machine had ground to a halt.

To enable Greece pay the loans back, a Troika formed of the European Central Bank, th European Commission, and the International Monetary Fund imposed harsh austerity measures perfectly designed to ensure that the Greek people were reduced to serfs, sacrificing layoffs, pay, pension, and healthcare cuts for those lucky enough to keep their jobs.

Then there was the massive selloff of national assets, ranging from transit and power grids to ports and islands.

And still the troika wants more in exchange for another round of bailout loans.

From the London Telegraph:

Greece will need a fourth bailout as its debts remain utterly unsustainable despite years of austerity and attempted reforms, according to George Papaconstantinou, a former Greek finance minister.

A “radical liberalisation of the economy” is also necessary as the country needs to attract foreign investment because Greece lacks the domestic resources needed to grow its industries, he told an audience at the London School of Economics.

“Pretty much everyone agrees that Greek debt is not sustainable,” he said. “Is there a prospect of a fourth bailout? Yes. Even in the best case… I doubt that Greece will be able to stand on its own feet.”

Mr Papaconstantinou, who was Greece’s finance minister from 2009 to 2011, said that these measures have to be accompanied by serious economic reforms.

“Radical liberalization of the economy”?

Translate that as “more misery for the average Greek.”

The IMF lays down the law

Before taking the helm at the IMF, Lagarde served as Finance Minister for French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

In December a French court found her guilty of criminal negligence in her old job for arranging a payout of more than $400 million for businessman Bernard Tapie’s share of Addidas under questionable circumstances — though the court declined to impose either a jail sentence or a fine, rendering the guilt verdict moot.

The affair didn’t seem to bother either the French government or the IMF, so Lagarde kept her job.

More on her stance on the latest Greek bailout round from Bloomberg:

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde signaled that Greek debt restructuring can wait and the country should focus on overhauling its economy for the duration of its latest bailout, which expires in 2018.

Speaking in a German television interview after meeting Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, Lagarde said “the volume of restructuring will clearly depend on how much reform, how much progress, how strong the Greek economy is” when the aid program ends.

What will probably be needed is a “significant” extension of maturities on Greek bailout loans and a “significant interest rate capping,” Lagarde told ARD television on Wednesday. “That will have to be discussed in greater detail later on” and “implementation of the debt restructuring will have to take place at the end of the program.”

The Washington-based fund is demanding additional debt relief measures as a condition for participating in the Greek bailout. Its participation, in turn, is a condition set by Germany when it agreed to help underwrite the latest aid package in 2015.

So who benefits?

Therein lies the rub.

Because much of the money won’t go to the banks who lent it to Greece.

Any of those lenders sold off their delinquent funds at a deep discount to that unique breed of banksters called “vulture funds,” speculators who buy up sovereign debt, then set about collecting it using all the ruthless ploys they can martial.

From the Committee for the Abolition of Illegitimate Debt:

The experience of the Greek debt restructuring of 2012 serves as a good example to show how vulture funds operate and the costs they can impose in a country and its population. The Greek case is quite interesting as not only involved the first major debt restructuring in Europe since 1953 but also it was the largest operation of its kind. The remarkable aspect of this episode is that the country decided to continue paying holdout creditors, and specifically vulture funds, in full. This was the case even though the process was organized with the support of the official creditors of the country. In this regard, it created yet another damaging precedent regarding the viability of the profits by litigation strategy followed by vulture funds.

>snip<

Just a month after the debt restructuring was completed, the government made an initial payment of 436 million Euros to a group of holdout investors led by Dart Management. This hedge fund, which had a long story of suing governments to get paid in full going back to the Brady plan in Latin America in the late 1980s, made a massive profit as it had bought the bonds on prices estimated between 60 to 70 cents on the Euro. By making that initial payment, the Greek government set a negative precedent as the rest of the holdouts were now able to use that decision to claim for equal treatment under a foreign court. The payments to holdouts continued uninterrupted afterwards parallel to the implementation of harsh austerity measures. For example, during 2013 the country paid a total of 1.7 billion Euros to holdout creditors. To date, most of the holdout claims have been paid in full by Greece. It is estimated that private investors currently have a total of 36 billion euros in government bonds that were either issued under the debt exchange of 2012 or in the debt issuance that took place in 2014.

As the Greek population continues to struggle under the imposition of harsh austerity measures and the debt burden of the country remains “highly unsustainable”, as the IMF characterizes it, it is evident that the decision to continue paying the holdouts was a mistake. It represented nothing short of rewarding dangerous speculators while transferring the costs of their actions on to the Greek people. Even more troublesome is the fact that the relationship between Greece and the vulture has not ended yet. In the aftermath of the debt restructuring of 2012, it is estimated that hedge funds have bought nearly 15 billion Euros in government bonds. As a new debt restructuring, or even unilateral default, is simply a matter of time is worth nothing that the country can still set a precedent against the actions of vulture funds. The country could begin by enacting a law, similar to that adopted in Belgium in 2015, to limit the actions of vulture funds. Furthermore, given the dire social situation in the country, it should declare the non-application of the 3rd memorandum and non-payment of all illegal, odious, illegitimate and unsustainable debts. After all it is never too late to state that sovereignty and the respect of human rights will always precede debt.

So the troika is really all about making sure predatory speculators collect their pound of flesh.