Sunday, December 19, 2010

Fun With Trend Lines !

Doesn't qualify as higher math, but still - not a good trend for the United States. A picture of an economy beginning to sputter on a long-term basis.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Exploitation - The Life Blood of Capitalism

Textile Factory Fire in Bangladesh:

Dozens of workers jumped to their deaths and more than 100 were injured when a fire swept through a Bangladeshi factory that makes clothes for high street retailer Gap today.

Witnesses said the blaze – at the factory just outside Dhaka – engulfed the multistorey building, forcing some of those trapped inside to leap from the windows. The fire comes after repeated warnings about fire safety at factories making clothes for western retailers.

Authorities said that the fire initially broke out on the building's 10th floor, where trousers were stored for shipment, and then spread up to the 11th floor where there was a canteen and a manufacturing facility. At least 27 people died in the blaze while one witness said that he saw 50 to 60 people jumping off the 10th floor to escape.(1)

The UK Guardian also reports that emergency doors were 'closed' forcing people to jump for their lives.

The Triangle Waitshirt Factory Fire:

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City, New York, United States on March 25, 1911, was the deadliest industrial disaster in the history of the city of New York, and resulted in the fourth highest loss of life from an industrial accident in U.S. history. The fire caused the deaths of 146 garment workers, most of them women, who either died from the fire or jumped from the fatal height. Most of the workers could not escape the burning building because the managers locked the doors to the stairwells and exits to keep them from leaving early. People jumped from the eighth, ninth, and tenth floors as the ladders on the existing fire trucks could only reach the sixth floor.(2)

1'Workers jump to their deaths as fire engulfs factory making clothes for Gap' - UK Guardian
2'Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire' - Wikipedia

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Wikileaks : U.S. Admired the Celtic Tiger

James Kenny, the US ambassador to Ireland at the time, also reported that Washington was so impressed by the growth of the Irish economy that the then US treasury secretary, John Snow, visited Ireland. A cable, sent on 24 November 2004, may make painful reading on both sides of the Atlantic after the Irish Republic agreed an €85bn bailout with the EU and the IMF last month.

"The … visit of US Treasury Secretary John W Snow was an opportunity for discussion on the 'secrets' of Ireland's success with policy-makers and businessmen who were the architects of Ireland's Celtic Tiger economy. These key figures noted that while the concepts behind Ireland's reforms had been simple, the political will to carry out the reforms had only come in the context of an economic meltdown in the mid-1980s. They said that good-faith relations with labour, investment in education, and a 'dictatorial' leadership that exposed industries to the full discipline of the market had been key to success.
As a euro-zone member, in fact, Ireland had ceded control of its monetary policy to the European Central Bank. The positive result, said McCarthy, were low interest rates … He believed that if Ireland had remained control of monetary policy, the Government would have been tempted to raise interest rates to slow rapid growth in the late 1990s. Instead, the low rates set by the ECB had been a boon to Ireland's private sector and had lent a sense of stability and consistency to the Irish market for foreign investors."(1)

Again, the current 'new normal' of the U.S. economy is an ideological and intellectual failure every bit as large, and unyielding in the face of fact, as what drove the USSR under.

On Ireland:

-'Boon to private sector' should read, The Mother of All Bubbles.

-'Full discipline of the market' - Haven for Corporate Tax Dodgers

- 'Investment in education' - A Skilled Workforce for Hire Outside of Ireland

-'Dictatorial leadership' - Craven Servants to Banks and Finance

1UK Guardian

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Better Pay Means Better Teachers

So says the OECD's programme for international student assessment:

• High performing school systems tend to prioritise teacher pay over smaller class sizes.

• High performing systems allow schools to design curricula and establish assessment policies but don’t necessarily allow competition for students.

• Public and private schools achieve similar results, after taking account of their home backgrounds.(1)

1'Korea and Finland top OECD’s latest PISA survey of education performance' - OECD

Information Technology and Innovation Foundation Ratings by Country

The U.S. is dead last amongst the developed world in terms of rate of improvement, from 1999-2009.

Sill 6th overall, but that is residual.

There's little to believe this decline is temporary, in fact, the political climate is probably hastening it. Reversing it would require sustained public sector support, something that is not in the political calculus of the U.S. ruling class.

1'The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation'

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Volcker Laments Decline of U.S Hegemony

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, who is chairman of President Barack Obama’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board, said the U.S. dollar is in danger of losing its role as a global benchmark currency.

“The growing question is whether the exceptional role of the dollar can be maintained,” Volcker told a gathering of New York civic leaders at the University Club of New York last night.

The decline of the U.S. economy, political gridlock at home, U.S. involvement in two wars and “festering” geopolitical issues in the Middle East and Asia have undermined the ability of the U.S. to influence global events, Volcker said.(1)

Much of what Volcker says is influenced by his hard money bias, but there's still not much here to disagree with. It also appears that large sections of the U.S. ruling class have given up reclaiming competitiveness in most industries - believing that the U.S. can only be dominant in finance, and then only by leveraging dollar hegemony.

1'Volcker Says Dollar's Role in Danger as U.S. Influence Declines Globally' - Bloomberg

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Marx on Public Debt

The national debt, i.e. the alienation of the state -whether that state is despotic, constitutional or republican - marked the capitalist era with its stamp. The only part of the national wealth that actually enters into the collective possession of a modern nation is -the national debt.
The public debt becomes one of the most powerful levers of primitive accumulation. As with the stroke of an enchanter's wand, it endows unproductive money with the power of creation and thus turns it into capital, without forcing it to expose itself to the troubles and risks inseparable from its employment or even usury. The state's creditors actually give nothing away, for the sum lent is transformed into public bond, easily negotiable, which go on functioning in their hands as so much hard cash would. But furthermore, and quite apart from the class of idle rentiers thus created, the improvised wealth of financiers who play the role of middlemen between the government and the nation, and the tax-farmers, merchants and private manufacturers, for who a good part of every nation loan performs the service of capital fallen from heaven, apart from all these people, the national debt has given rise to joint stock companies, to dealings in negotiable effects of all kinds, and to speculation: in a word, it has given rise to the stock exchange gambling and the modern bankocracy.

The public debt is certainly being used as a lever for increased accumulation, with the demands to drive down living standards by the IMF, ECB, the Deficit Commission, and the like. In other words, the modern bankocracy and its political representatives.

Capital, page 919- (Penguin Ed.)
Emphasis mine.