You are browsing the archive for 2013 March 21.

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America's Problem: Private Sector Parasites

March 21, 2013 in Blogs

By Michael Lind, Salon



You don’t have to be a Tea Party conservative to believe that the economy is threatened when there are too many “takers” and not enough “makers.” The “takers” who threaten the dynamism and fairness of industrial capitalism the most in the 21st century are not the welfare-dependent poor — the villains of Tea Party propaganda — but the rent-extracting, unproductive rich.

The term “rent” in this context refers to more than payments to your landlords. As Mike Konczal and many others have argued, profits should be distinguished from rents. “Profits” from the sale of goods or services in a free market are different from “rents” extracted from the public by monopolists in various kinds. Unlike profits, rents tend to be based on recurrent fees rather than sales to ever-changing consumers. While productive capitalists — “industrialists,” to use the old-fashioned term — need to be active and entrepreneurial in order to keep ahead of the competition, “rentiers” (the term for people whose income comes from rents, rather than profits) can enjoy a perpetual stream of income even if they are completely passive.

Rents come in as many kinds as there are rentier interests. Land or apartment or rental-house rents flow to landlords. Royalty payments for energy or mineral extraction flow to landowners. Interest payments on loans flow to bankers and other lenders. Royalty payments on patents and copyrights flow to inventors.  Professions and guilds and unions can also extract rents from the rest of society, by creating artificial labor cartels to raise wages or professional fees. Tolls are rents paid to the owners of necessary transportation and communications infrastructure. Last but not least, taxes are rents paid to territorial governments for essential public services, including military and police protection.

All of these goods or services are necessary to make or distribute the goods and services generated by productive industry (which can be government-owned or nonprofit, as well as for-profit). If one or more of the sectors providing inputs or infrastructure to productive industry charges excessive rents, then industry can be strangled.  Industry cannot flourish if too much rent is paid to landlords, if credit is too …read more
Source: ALTERNET

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Obamacare: More Vulnerable than Supporters Care to Admit

March 21, 2013 in Economics

By Michael F. Cannon

Michael F. Cannon

Three years ago today, the House of Representatives passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, ensuring that President Obama’s signature domestic initiative would become law. Yet “Obamacare” faced intense public opposition from the start, and its numbers have not improved with time.

Since taking control of the House in 2011, Republicans have voted 33 times to repeal some or all of the law. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) promises to hold another repeal vote in the coming months. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) again included repeal in his latest budget blueprint. Freshman Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is leading the charge for defunding and repealing the law in the Senate. Supporters deride these efforts as futile. After all, Democrats control both the Senate and the White House.

Even so, this law remains more vulnerable than supporters care to admit. Later this year, discontent with the law could push even vulnerable Democratic senators to call for repeal or major revisions, rather than watch their careers go down with Obamacare.

This year, millions of Americans will experience sticker shock when they see how Obamacare will impact their health insurance premiums in 2014. Sticker shock is what caused seniors to rebel against the Medicare Catastrophic Act of 1988. Congress repealed that law in 1989.

Neutral observers and even supporters of the law project some individuals and small businesses will see their premiums double. A survey of insurers reports some consumers will see their premiums triple. Supporters believe tax credits and subsidies will leave consumers numb to these higher premiums. But the American Academy of Actuaries estimates millions of Americans — including 80 percent of twentysomethings and a third of those 30 and older who purchase their own coverage — will pay more even after the subsidies. The insurance industry has launched a public relations effort to convey these premium hikes are the law’s fault, not theirs. Even supporters like Democratic strategist Donna Brazile have experienced a rude awakening.

Nor will consumers be happy when they go to purchase their mandatory insurance later this year.

In theory, Obamacare creates a new entitlement program where tens of millions of Americans can choose a taxpayer-subsidized health plan through the website of a government agency called an “exchange.”

Earlier this month, however, HHS admitted it is developing contingency plans because exchanges may not be functional by the October 1 deadline. One HHS official told an industry gathering, “We are under …read more
Source: OP-EDS

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PAUL: Trust but verify to reform immigration

March 21, 2013 in Politics & Elections

A few weeks ago in this column, I expressed my support and outlined some of my ideas in the immigration reform area. I am committed to the idea that we should be doing something. I titled that essay ‘Trust but Verify,’ alluding to the old Reagan doctrine that if you are going to make a deal, you have to make sure both ends of the bargain are upheld.
Most attempts at comprehensive immigration reform have failed in the past, not because conservatives refused to assimilate those who came here illegally into the country. In fact, in the 1986 plan signed by President Reagan, nearly 2.7 million illegal immigrants were allowed to stay in the country. In the proposed 2007 plan, George W. Bush and many congressional Republicans were prepared to accept millions more.
No, the reason many conservatives are justifiably wary of calls for reform is this: The promised border security has never become reality. So today I will discuss the ‘verify’ element essential to any deal on immigration reform.
As a matter of both national security and immigration policy, it is absolutely essential that we both secure our border and modernize our visa system so we know who comes and who goes on travel, student and other temporary visas.
Right now, we basically have no idea: No idea who crosses our border; no idea who overstays a student visa; no idea whether or not a migrant worker leaves as scheduled. In fact, we don’t even know how many migrant workers use the temporary guest worker program, because it is such a mess that very few actually even try.
If our party needs to be honest with ourselves – it is physically impossible and probably more than a little morally wrong to say you will deport 12 million people – then the other party must be honest with themselves too. It is just as wrong is to ask for those 12 million to be assimilated while allowing another 12 million or more to line up to cause the same problem over the next few years. …read more
Source: RAND PAUL

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Ethan Nadelmann: The White House Experiments With Weed

March 21, 2013 in PERSONAL LIBERTY

By drosenfeld

Ethan Nadelmann, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance, explains that recent marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington isn't simple. The Federal response (or lack thereof) will determine how the policy is actualized.

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Source: DRUG POLICY

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Are Your Clothes Made in a Sweatshop?

March 21, 2013 in Blogs

By Jake Blumgart, Salon



 

It’s been 16 years since Charles Kernaghan made Kathie Lee Gifford cry on national television, revealing that her Wal-Mart-sold clothing line was produced by Honduran children working 20-hour shifts. It was an essential moment in bringing labor conditions in the developing world — specifically in the garment industry — to the attention of the American public.

But not that much has changed. Looking back on the movement and its achievements in an interview, Kernaghan sounds defeated, even as he reels off the list of horrific factories exposed by his Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights.

Kernaghan’s gloomy mood stems from the report he is writing now on a recent trip to Northern Bengal, where the Institute secretly met with workers from the Rosita and Megatex factories to follow up on a previous exposé. The two factories produce expensive sweaters for an array of European apparel companies, companies which assure their customers that the workers are guaranteed the core rights established by the International Labor Organization (ILO), including freedom of association and the elimination of child labor.

Well, that turns out not to exactly be the case. And it turns out that most Americans still likely know very little about the conditions under which the clothes they wear were produced.

“It was ridiculous. In fact it was one of the worst factories we’ve seen,” says Kernaghan. “There was child labor, people were being beaten, cheated of their wages — and wages were very, very low. Male supervisors would constantly press young women to have sex with them.”

The Institute followed every development: The presidents of the workers’ committee (not even a legally recognized union) were both threatened with assassination. There was every reason to take these murderous threats seriously: the Bangladeshi Export Processing Zone Authority, which runs the free trade zone where the factories are located, is run by former military operatives. Police stations are located right outside the factory, and police cars stud the surrounding blocks, but not for the protection of the employees. When workers demonstrated for their rights, hundreds were beaten by the police and then fired. The committee presidents at the time were beaten, tortured, fired and …read more
Source: ALTERNET

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Sen. Rand Paul's Immigration Reform Speech at U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce – 3/19/13

March 21, 2013 in Politics & Elections

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Source: RAND PAUL

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Chris Christie Undecided on Pseudo-'Therapy' Practices that Electrocute Gay Children

March 21, 2013 in Blogs

By Steven Hsieh, AlterNet



New Jersey Governor Chris Christie says he’s undecided on legislation that would ban the pseudo-science known as “gay conversion therapy” in his state.

“I'm of two minds just on this stuff in general,” the Republican governor said in a news conference in reference to bills “that restrict parents' ability to make decisions on how to care for their children.” The child-rearing practice in question involves labeling gay children as mentally ill and forcing them to endure “therapies” that, according to the World Health Organization, can cause “severe harm to mental and physical health.”

Gay conversion therapy rests on the discredited assumption that homosexuality is a mental disorder, curable through a slew of archaic tactics that have received overwhelming condemnation from the medical and psychologist communities.

Governor Christie’s uncertainty puts him at odds with the American Academy of Pediatrics [pdf], which concludes, “Therapy directed specifically at changing sexual orientation is contraindicated, since it can provoke guilt and anxiety while having little or no potential for achieving changes in orientation.” In addition, the American Medical Association rejects the practice on grounds that it assumes individuals should change their sexual orientation.

On Monday, the New Jersey Senate Health committee approved a bill to ban the “therapy” for minors after hearing witnesses describe painful childhood experiences with the practice, NewJersey.com reported. One witness, Brielle Sophia Goldani, recalled her parents forcing her to a gay conversion camp where she was hooked up to electrodes and I.V. machines. The administrators showed Goldani pictures depicting gay men while electrocuting her “like a dog.” “They would hook me up to an I.V. to make me sick and show me a series of unacceptable images,” Goldani recounted. “I would try to time it so I had an empty stomach on those days, but it didn’t work.”

AmericaBlog’s John Aravosis several other techniques reportedly used during “conversion therapy,” including, but not limited to: forcing male “patients” to play sports and female “patients” to wear lipstick, homoerotic hugging between therapist and “patients,” and asking “patients” to beat a pillow, representing his or her mother, with a tennis racket.

Jacob Rudolph, a teen who …read more
Source: ALTERNET

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AERC Lectures Broadcasting Now!

March 21, 2013 in Economics

By Mises Updates

Authors Forum with Hoppe, Thornton, DiLorezno, and more!

Streaming live video by Ustream

…read more
Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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CVS to Penalize Workers Who Don't Fork Over Personal Health Information

March 21, 2013 in Blogs

By Steven Hsieh, AlterNet



CVS Pharmacy announced a plan to coerce employees into handing over personal health information in an effort to offset rising healthcare costs. The nationwide chain says employees have until May 1, 2014 to dish out their weight, body fat, blood pressure, glucose levels and other private details to the company—or else face a $600 annual fine.

Privacy advocates say the policy is inhumane, adding that this could lead CVS, which employs 200,000 Americans, to fire less healthy workers to minimize costs related to health insurance. Patient Privacy Rights founder Dr. Deborah Peel called it “technology-enhanced discrimination on steroids” in an interview with ABC News.

“The approach they’re taking is based on the assumption that somehow these people need a whip, they need to be penalized in order to make themselves healthy,” Patient Privacy Rights founder Dr. Deborah Peel told ABC News.

CVS said no one from the company would see its employees’ private information. Instead, a third party will review health reports and offer recommendations to the pharmacy giant. That doesn’t satisfy consumer Michelle Garcia, who told Dallas’ CBS affiliate that she “would be upset with that because you’re kind of forced to give them personal information about yourself and about your lifestyle and about how you choose to live your life.”

“Our benefits program is evolving to help our colleagues engage more actively to improve their health and manage health-associated costs,” CVS spokesman Michael DeAngelis said in a statement, “An initial step to accomplish this goal is a health screening and wellness review so that colleagues know their key health metrics in order to take action to improve their overall health, if necessary.”

But others have pointed out that CVS has put its low-wage workers in a bind, forced to choose between health privacy and a hefty chunk of their salary. The $600 annual fine, or $50 a month, will hit especially hard for CVS’ low-income workforce. As Think Progress’ Annie-Rose Strasser notes:

A minimum wage worker putting in a 40-hour workweek makes about $1,160 a month. A fine of $50 a month is a huge amount for a minimum wage CVS employee …read more
Source: ALTERNET

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Lessons from Iraq We Haven't All Heard Before

March 21, 2013 in Economics

By Benjamin H. Friedman

Benjamin H. Friedman

Because you read stuff like this, you are probably all for learning and reflection about war, but bored to tears by the Lessons of Iraq, especially when they come in a media-driven festival of official reflection centered, for no good reason, on an anniversary. You likely agree that invading Iraq was a mistake, that the Bush Administration sold the war dishonestly, and that more pre-war media skepticism about smoking guns and nexuses would have been useful. If you do not agree with that, you probably never will. So here are some less tired takeaways from the war that might still be usefully debated.

1. Power is perilous. The U.S. invasion of Iraq demonstrates Thucydides famous line: the strong do what they will, and the weak endure what they must. Iraq’s problem was more that it was weak than that it was the great danger the Bush administration saw. Among the nations the United States labeled as threats, Iraq was the easiest to conquer. It lacked nuclear weapons to deter us. American troops were stationed nearby and more were easily added. Of course, it took more than that to cause war, but ease was a necessary condition. There’s a reason no one cares about Bolivian designs on Japanese islands.

The war did prove far more expensive than administration officials predicted. But although they low-balled estimates to maximize support for invasion, they also miscalculated. The costs—human and financial—ultimately endangered Bush’s reelection and lost the Republicans their Congressional majority. It took a lot of failure, but democracy eventually  provided a Kantian check. A true accounting might have prevented Bush from starting the war. It surely would have awoken more Democratic opposition and improved debate.

Here are some less tired takeaways from the war that might still be usefully debated.”

Decision-making in democracies works poorly when a policy’s cost seem low. We do not debate drone strikes in Somalia like we debated health care reform for the same reason you think less about buying a song on iTunes than about buying a car. High costs endanger politicians’ reelection and threaten other programs they defend. Part of the problem is uncertainly, which is not fixable. But there are ways to make war’s known costs more politically important. One partial remedy is to prevent deficits from funding wars—Congress could require they are paid for annually with an <a target=_blank …read more
Source: OP-EDS