Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right

Arlie Hochschild, a retired sociology professor at U.C. Berkeley, has spent five years interviewing and becoming friends with Tea Party supporters in Louisiana. As she puts it, she has been trying to climb over the “empathy wall,” to “turn off the alarm bells”, in order to understand how her friends view the world. Her new book, Strangers in Their Own Land, should be essential reading for Democratic politicians from Hillary on down. . . . → Read More: Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right

John Perkins’ New Confessions of an Economic Hit Man

My father retired from the U.S. Foreign Service in 1970, shortly before John Perkins began his career as an economic consultant— “economic hit man”— with the engineering firm, MAIN. Perkins traveled to Indonesia, Panama, Colombia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. His job was to convince leaders to undertake wildly overambitious infrastructure projects that would enrich them and big U.S. engineering firms like Bechtel. In most cases, the projects would fail and leave nations beholden to US banks or the World Bank. Saudi Arabia was a special case; the flood of dollars from the new OPEC cartel would purchase both sophisticated infrastructure like desalinization plants and U.S. military protection against insurgents. Leaders who refused to cooperate with such plans would be picked off by CIA-supported “jackals”. Perkins originally published his story in his 2005 bestseller; he now updates the story with examples from developed countries, such as projects that sucker local governments into building public-private toll roads. Looking back, I realize that my dad knew a lot more about such activities than he let on… . . . → Read More: John Perkins’ New Confessions of an Economic Hit Man

The Monopolists in My Back Yard

When I read David Cay Johnston’s new book, The Fine Print: How Big Companies Use “Plain English” to Rob You Blind, realized that robbery is the least of it. Utility monopolies—a major focus of the book—increasingly cut corners on safety. ne such corner cut is coming to a neighborhood near me: it is a 30-inch high-pressure gas line passing under the Hudson into the West Village and heading north under Tenth Avenue. In December 2010, a 30-inch gas line blew up a block in the San Francisco suburb of San Bruno, excavating a 4-story-deep trench, leveling 35 houses, killing 8 people and injuring 60 more… . . . → Read More: The Monopolists in My Back Yard

Yves Smith on The Finance-led Counterrevolution and the Rush to Destroy the Safety Net

We are in the midst of a finance-led counterrevolution. The long standing effort to roll back New Deal reforms has moved from triumph to triumph. The foundation was laid via increasingly effective public relations efforts to sell the Ayn Randian world view that granting individuals unfettered freedom of action would produce only virtuous outcomes, since the talented would flourish and the rest would deservedly be left in the dust. In fact, societies that have moved strongly in that direction such as Pinochet’s Chile and Russia under Yeltsin, have seen plutocratic land grabs, declining standards of living (and even lifespans), and a rise in authoritarianism or (in the case of Colombia) organized crime. . . . → Read More: Yves Smith on The Finance-led Counterrevolution and the Rush to Destroy the Safety Net

Can Killing Government Prevent Special Interest Capture?

In my last post on meat markets and securities markets, I argued that competitive markets require government oversight to prevent fraud and monopoly. The post drew a response from Libertarian friends: didn’t I know that government regulators would immediately be captured by the regulated industry, resulting in worse fraud and monopoly?

Industry capture? Yes, . . . → Read More: Can Killing Government Prevent Special Interest Capture?

Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and Stick You With the Bill) by David Cay Johnston

Remy Welling, an IRS tax auditor, had a problem. In December 2002, her boss asked her to sign off on an audit that hadn’t yet begun, essentially giving a company an advance free pass. She refused, and began investigating. Pretty soon, she discovered what the company was up to: changing the issue date of options . . . → Read More: Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and Stick You With the Bill) by David Cay Johnston

Death and Hyperinflation in Zimbabwe

After Robert Mugabe drove her and other white Zimbabweans from their farms, Cathy Buckle refused to leave the country of her birth. She writes a weekly column documenting the disintegration of Zimbabwe: the mass starvation in the original breadbasket of Africa; the arbitrary arrests and killings; the collapse of public services; and the regime’s ludicrous . . . → Read More: Death and Hyperinflation in Zimbabwe

The Minimum Wage and the IRS

On January 10, the House voted overwhelmingly to raise the federal minimum wage from $5.15 an hour to $7.25, the increase to be phased in over the next two years. The Senate has yet to vote on the issue.

On January 12, the New York Times published a story by David Cay Johnston that begins, . . . → Read More: The Minimum Wage and the IRS

Benefits of Military Spending

As Kevin Phillips recorded in Wealth and Democracy (2002), war has created the opportunity for many great fortunes. Thus the frenzied looting–and disregard for the lives of both US soldiers and corporate employees–displayed in Robert Greenwald’s new film Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers. One small example: drivers shuttle empty mail trucks up and down . . . → Read More: Benefits of Military Spending

The White Man’s Burden, by William Easterly

“Who got the most standby [credit]s from the IMF over the last half century? The answer is Haiti, with twenty-two. And not just Haiti, but the Duvalier family (Papa Doc and Baby Doc), under whom Haiti got twenty of the twenty-two standbys from 1957 to 1986.”

“The politics were bad, but the Duvaliers made up . . . → Read More: The White Man’s Burden, by William Easterly