Fighting the Wealth Hoarders with Transparency and Taxes

Over the last five years, from my 5th floor apartment window, I’ve watched a blue spire rise in the distance. Fifteen blocks south of me, 225 West 57th Street has just joined Billionaires’ Row in Manhattan. At 1550 feet it’s now the tallest. Apartments in these buildings have been selling for over fifty million dollars per floor. The windows grant a falcon’s eye panorama of New York, but visitors on a windy day report feeling seasick from the swaying. No matter. These apartments aren’t for living;they’re for hoarding wealth. . . . → Read More: Fighting the Wealth Hoarders with Transparency and Taxes

Review of “Liberty from All Masters,” by Barry C. Lynn

Fifty years ago, my husband and I volunteered to work for Ralph Nader. Unwittingly we helped enable the monopolists who rule America today. . . . → Read More: Review of “Liberty from All Masters,” by Barry C. Lynn

Review of Matthew Desmond’s Evicted

Matthew Desmond, a sociologist, lived for two years among poor renters in Milwaukee, first in a south side trailer park occupied mainly by whites, and then in the north side black inner city. In both places, he interviewed and followed several tenants as they moved through the devastating process of eviction, in some cases multiple times. Evicted, Poverty and Profit in an American City (2016), bestseller and Pulitzer Prize winner, tells their personal stories. Desmond’s people, suffering from poverty, mental or physical illness, addiction, and harsh and arbitrary treatment by public authorities, will also be hardest hit by the coronavirus. . . . → Read More: Review of Matthew Desmond’s Evicted

Review of Break ‘Em Up by Zephyr Teachout

It’s tough being a chicken farmer. Three processors, Tyson, Pilgrim’s Pride, and Perdue, have divvied up the American chicken market between them. Chicken farmers must sell to the one who “owns” their geographical area. That processor dictates where they get their chicks, how they build their chicken houses, what feed and medications they give, when they deliver their fattened birds, and what prices they receive on delivery. They are banned, on pain of being cut off, from comparing prices and conditions with other chicken farmers. In short, they lead the lives of medieval serfs, but at least the serfs could complain to each other about the lord! As Zephyr Teachout reports in her chilling new book, Break ‘Em Up, chickenization isn’t just for agriculture; it’s also how giants like Walmart, McDonalds, Uber and Amazon exploit their suppliers and workers. Meanwhile, monopoly profits flow into their dark money political PACs. . . . → Read More: Review of Break ‘Em Up by Zephyr Teachout

Review of Thomas Frank’s “The People, No”

The pundits love to denounce populists. They are the ignorant people who rally to the standards of foreign far-right fascists. In the US, they are Donald Trump’s loyal “deplorables” or Bernie Sanders’s “Bernie Bros.” They’re a major threat to democracy. In The People, No, Thomas Frank proposes that anti-populists are the real threat. . . . → Read More: Review of Thomas Frank’s “The People, No”

Strong Towns: A Bottom-Up Revolution to Rebuild American Prosperity, by Charles Marohn Jr.

Post WW II single family subdivisions have proved a fiscal disaster. At first, they generated substantial tax revenues, making cities eager to encourage and subsidize more of them by extending utilities. But because all the utilities and houses in a subdivision were built at the same time, they all aged at the same rate. After 25 years or so of fiscal surplus, costs began to rise steeply for repairing infrastructure. When city maintenance lagged, those residents who could afford it moved to newer subdivisions further out, leaving shabby houses on crumbling streets inhabited by ever poorer and often minority residents. This happened first in Detroit, where huge areas now lie abandoned. It is now happening in inner suburbs around the nation. Yet as inner suburbs crumble, towns pursue the same old financial fix: subsidizing brand-new subdivisions on raw land. . . . → Read More: Strong Towns: A Bottom-Up Revolution to Rebuild American Prosperity, by Charles Marohn Jr.

The Poverty Industry: How state and local service agencies scam both the federal government and their intended beneficiaries

In The Poverty Industry, Daniel L. Hatcher explains how the austerity following the 2008 financial crisis has induced state and local public service agencies to scam both the federal government and their intended beneficiaries. . . . → Read More: The Poverty Industry: How state and local service agencies scam both the federal government and their intended beneficiaries

Review: A Brief History of Doom by Richard Vague

A Brief History of Doom: Two Hundred Years of Financial Crises is the most important economics publication to come along in years. The author, Richard Vague, a retired banker, documents how a necessary and sufficient explanation for a boom and bust cycle is an episode over several years of excessive private sector lending, typically triggered by an exciting innovation. . . . → Read More: Review: A Brief History of Doom by Richard Vague

How the U.S. Military Protects and Enriches Multinational Speculators

At a 1972 economics conference, at the height of the Vietnam war, Mason Gaffney presented an invited paper blandly entitled “The Benefits of Military Spending.” The paper so shocked the conference organizer that he refused to include it in the conference volume. Gaffney couldn’t find another publisher willing to touch it. Now, only 46 years later, here’s that paper (draft version), updated by Cliff Cobb, and published in the American Journal of Economics and Sociology (March 2018). What so offended the economics establishment? . . . → Read More: How the U.S. Military Protects and Enriches Multinational Speculators

Putting Land and Power Back into Economics

Rethinking the Economics of Land and Housing, by three British economists, puts land and power back into economics, by recognizing–as did the classical economists–that ownership natural resources conveys wealth and political power. It also provides an enlightening history of British postwar housing policy, which has gone from building inexpensive rental housing for the working class, to pumping up property values for the ownership class. . . . → Read More: Putting Land and Power Back into Economics