The OB Media Rundown for 6/24/12

Corporate Profits Just Hit An All-Time High, Wages Just Hit An All-Time Low


In short, our current system and philosophy is creating a country of a few million overlords and 300+ million serfs.

That’s not what has made America a great country. It’s also not what most people think America is supposed to be about.

So we might want to rethink that.

America’s long slope down

A broad swath of official economic data shows that America and its people are in much worse shape than when we paid higher taxes, higher interest rates and made more of the manufactured goods we use.

The numbers since the turn of the millennium point to even worse times ahead if we stay the course. Let’s look at the official numbers in today’s dollars and then what can be done to change course.

Census Bureau Report Shows Shared Households Increased 11.4 Percent from 2007 to 2010

“Although reasons for household sharing are not discernible from the survey, our analysis suggests that adults and families coped with challenging economic circumstances over the course of the recession by joining households or combining households with other individuals or families,” said Laryssa Mykyta, an analyst in the Census Bureau’s Poverty Statistics Branch and one of the authors of the report.

The report compares official poverty rates to personal and household poverty rates. Official poverty rates compare total family income with a threshold that varies with family size and composition. Household poverty rates compare household income with the relevant threshold.  Personal poverty rates compare the income of the individual, couple or subfamily with the relevant threshold.

Barrio Defense: How Arizona’s Immigrants are Standing Up to SB 1070

Shortly after the 2010 passage of SB 1070, Arizona’s notorious immigration bill, 20,000 people gathered in Phoenix for a May Day march to protest the new law. Instead of ending with speakers or a formal program, as political marches often do, organizers broke the crowd into small groups and asked them two questions:

How will the new law impact you and your neighbors? What can you do about it?

And with that, a new phase of the migrant rights movement, based on an age-old model of community organizing, was born.

Genetically modified grass blamed for mass cattle deaths in Texas

A form of genetically modified grass is being cited as the likely culprit in the sudden death of a herd of cattle in Central Texas, according to CBS News.

Preliminary tests revealed that the grass, an altered form of Bermuda grass known as Tifton 85, had mysteriously begun producing cyanide gas. Scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture are conducting further tests to determine if some sort of mutation caused the grass to suddenly begin giving off the deadly gas.

Why America’s Extreme Politics Will Likely Get Even Worse

Just when you thought political incivility and partisan gridlock couldn’t get any worse, get ready for more of the same or worse next year.

In state capitals, the triple-impact of term limits, 2010’s political swing to the Tea Party right and the scourge of redistricting are poised to take a devastating toll, leaving state legislatures filled with the largest class of inexperienced ideological lawmakers in years. Nationwide, one-half or more are projected to have less than two years experience.

Moreover, as lawmakers are forced to step away from their severe campaign rhetoric and start governing, many will turn to the people with the longest institutional memories: lobbyists who are aligned with their partisan viewpoints.

Have the Global Wealthy Become Less Wealthy?

“The rich got poorer in 2011.”

That headline did have some data behind it. The world’s “dollar millionaires” – those affluents who hold at least $1 million in assets above and beyond the value of their primary residence, collectibles, and consumer durables – did end 2011 with about $700 million less net worth than they held the year before, a 1.7 percent loss.

But these numbers distort the real world wealth story. Last year amounts to a blip on the world wealth radar screen. Since 2008, the year the Great Recession went full blast, the world’s rich have substantially increased their total net worth.

The wealth of the world’s wealthy, the figures from the new World Wealth Report show, increased a whopping 18.9 percent in 2009 and another 9.7 percent in 2010. Even with the 2011 dip, the world’s millionaires have upped their assets by over $9 trillion the last three years.

Louisiana leading way in prison privatization, rest of US catching up

A few weeks ago, we wondered if Louisiana had seceded from the Union or had been left to fend for itself, given that it has the highest infant mortality rate, the fifth-highest maternal mortality rate, the fourth-worst life expectancy rate, the fifth-highest violent crime rate, the second-highest poverty rate, and the fifth-highest obesity rate in the country, and on top of it all, seems to be eradicating public education. But nope, Louisiana, as it turns out, is as American as apple pie, running a gargantuan for-profit prison industrial complex that imprisons more people per capita than any other state in the country.

All told, Louisiana spends $182 million a year to house inmates in local (overwhelmingly private) prisons, because private [anything] is better than public [anything] duh. Louisiana is divided into 64 parishes, and when all is said and done, the state spends anywhere between $200,000-$1,000,000 on prisons per parish depending on the scope and size of  operations.

Why Latvia’s Austerity Model Can’t Be Exported

Austerity’s advocates depict Latvia as a plucky country that can show Europe the way out of its financial dilemma – by “internal devaluation”, or slashing wages. Yet few of the enthusiastic commentators have spent enough time in Latvia to understand what happened. Its government has chosen austerity, its people have not. Finding no acceptable alternative, much of the labour force has elected to emigrate. This is a major factor holding down its unemployment rate to “just” 15 per cent today.

Latvia is not a model for austerity in Greece, or anywhere else. Both the impression that neoliberal policy has been a success and the claim that Latvians have voted to support this failed model are incorrect.

Latvia’s one year of solid economic growth since its economy plunged by 25 per cent in 2008-10 is billed as a success. Then, unemployment soared above 20 per cent as the shutdown of foreign capital inflows (mainly Swedish mortgage loans to inflate its real estate bubble) left Latvia with a deep current account deficit. It had to choose between devaluation or maintaining the euro peg.

Malaysia protests Australia rare-earth mine with “funeral” demonstration

Hundreds of Malaysian demonstrators took to the streets with funeral banners and signs demanding the government revoke a decision earlier this week to allow Australia’s Lynas’ rare-earths mine to go forward.

The Occupy Balok-Gebeng event started with the group’s chairman Wong Tack delivering a fiery speech before a crowd of hundreds.

“Today is the beginning. Today, we galvanise our forces from all across the nation. We occupy Balok and then the whole nation,” he said at the launch of the event early Saturday in Kuantan.

‘Occupy-Singur’ call from CPM rebel leader (India)

Taking a step ahead of his party that is busy explaining how its views were vindicated in the high court judgement on the state Singur law, rebel CPM leader and former land and reforms minister Abdur Rezzak Mollah on Saturday called upon citizens to come out of the legal battle and launch an ‘Occupy Singur’ stir on the lines of the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement that took off from New York in 2011.

Mollah floated this proposal in response to a reference to OWS at a seminar on democracy under the neoliberal regime held at Student Hall. The former minister was of the view that there was no reason discussing the worldwide stir unless the Left activists took up the burning issue close to their homes. “Why refer to Occupy Wall Street stir when you have Singur close by? Let us start a similar movement – Occupy Singur – if we are committed to the cause of peasants,” Mollah said in presence of other Left representatives including the CPI(M-L).

The rebel CPM leader aired his difference on taking over of farmland from poor peasants. “I don’t subscribe the view that industry is the answer to all our problems. I am not opposed to industry. But there is a difference between the neo-liberal idea of development and what the Left believe as class development. These two concepts are often at loggerheads, as is evident from the displacement of poor and marginal farmers,” Mollah said.

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