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Why the Only Answer is to Break Up Wall Street's Biggest Banks

June 2, 2018 in Blogs

By Robert Reich, AlterNet

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Why should banks ever be permitted to use peoples’ bank deposits – insured by the federal government – to place risky bets on the banks’ own behalf?


On Wednesday, Federal bank regulators proposed to allow Wall Street more freedom to make riskier bets with federally-insured bank deposits – such as the money in your checking and savings accounts.

The proposal waters down the so-called “Volcker Rule” (named after former Fed chair Paul Volcker, who proposed it). The Volcker Rule was part of the Dodd-Frank Act, passed after the near meltdown of Wall Street in 2008 in order to prevent future near meltdowns.

The Volcker Rule was itself a watered-down version of the 1930s Glass-Steagall Act, enacted in response to the Great Crash of 1929. Glass-Steagall forced banks to choose between being commercial banks, taking in regular deposits and lending them out, or being investment banks that traded on their own capital.

Glass-Steagall’s key principle was to keep risky assets away from insured deposits. It worked well for more than half century. Then Wall Street saw opportunities to make lots of money by betting on stocks, bonds, and derivatives (bets on bets) – and in 1999 persuaded Bill Clinton and a Republican congress to repeal it.

Nine years later, Wall Street had to be bailed out, and millions of Americans lost their savings, their jobs, and their homes.

Why didn’t America simply reinstate Glass-Steagall after the last financial crisis? Because too much money was at stake. Wall Street was intent on keeping the door open to making bets with commercial deposits. So instead of Glass-Steagall, we got the Volcker Rule – almost 300 pages of regulatory mumbo-jumbo, riddled with exemptions and loopholes.

Now those loopholes and exemptions are about to get even bigger, until they swallow up the Volcker Rule …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Trump Supports Another Racist March

June 2, 2018 in Blogs

By Kelly Hayes , Truthout

'Very fine people' indeed.


Donald Trump recently tweeted his support for the Chicago police who marched on May 23 in protest outside Chicago’s City Hall, saying, “The Chicago Police have every right to legally protest against the mayor and an administration that won’t let them do their job.” Trump claimed that killings are occurring at a record pace in Chicago, and that “tough police work” would restore order quickly, if only Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel would allow it. In reality, 198 people have been killed in Chicago in 2018 — which amounts to 46 fewer murders than the city had seen by the same date last year. But while the country may be accustomed to Trump firing off falsehoods with abandon, some may be surprised to hear that the Chicago police, whose high-profile brutality has launched countless protests, have themselves become protesters. So, what was going on in Chicago? And what exactly was President Trump endorsing when he sent that tweet?

A Day of Tension and Protest

It was clear the night before that Wednesday, May 23, would be an intense day at Chicago’s City Hall. Local organizers, led by a coalition of Black youth, were planning to make their presence felt at a general meeting of the Chicago City Council after being prevented from offering public comment at a Budget Committee hearing the previous day. The youth had attended the budget meeting on May 22 to voice their opposition to Rahm Emanuel’s plan to spend $95 million on a new police academy. That night, word spread that Chicago police issued their own call to action, with the Fraternal Order of Police calling on “all members to attend the general City Council meeting” to protest the city’s decision “to put Officer Robert Rialmo in a no-pay status for a 2015 fatal shooting that was deemed ‘unjustified’ by COPA [the Civilian Office of Police Accountability].”

In 2015, Officer Robert Rialmo gunned down Quintonio LeGrier, a 19-year-old Black man who was experiencing a mental health crisis, and 55-year-old Bettie Jones, a Black woman who was killed as she stood in her building’s …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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In Praise of Doing Nothing

June 2, 2018 in Blogs

By The Conversation

Technology has made many aspects of daily life much easier. So why do we still feel so overwhelmed?


In the 1950s, scholars worried that, thanks to technological innovations, Americans wouldn’t know what to do with all of their leisure time.

Yet today, as sociologist Juliet Schor notes, Americans are overworked, putting in more hours than at any time since the Depression and more than in any other in Western society.

It’s probably not unrelated to the fact that instant and constant access has become de rigueur, and our devices constantly expose us to a barrage of colliding and clamoring messages: “Urgent,” “Breaking News,” “For immediate release,” “Answer needed ASAP.”

It disturbs our leisure time, our family time – even our consciousness.

Over the past decade, I’ve tried to understand the social and psychological effects of our growing interactions with new information and communication technologies, a topic I examine in my book “The Terminal Self: Everyday Life in Hypermodern Times.”

In this 24/7, “always on” age, the prospect of doing nothing might sound unrealistic and unreasonable.

But it’s never been more important.

Acceleration for the sake of acceleration

In an age of incredible advancements that can enhance our human potential and planetary health, why does daily life seem so overwhelming and anxiety-inducing?

Why aren’t things easier?

It’s a complex question, but one way to explain this irrational state of affairs is something called the force of acceleration.

According to German critical theorist Hartmut Rosa, accelerated technological developments have driven the acceleration in the pace of change in social institutions.

We see this on factory floors, where “just-in-time” manufacturing demands maximum efficiency and the ability to nimbly respond to market forces, and in university classrooms, where computer software instructs teachers how to “move students quickly” through the material. Whether it’s in the grocery store or in the airport, procedures are implemented, for better or for worse, with one goal in mind: speed.

Noticeable acceleration began more than two centuries ago, during the Industrial Revolution. But this acceleration has itself … accelerated. Guided by neither logical objectives nor agreed-upon rationale, propelled by its own momentum, and encountering little resistance, …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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How Young People Are Leading a Growing Movement Against Low Pay and Precarious Work

June 2, 2018 in Blogs

By The Conversation

Far from the stereotype of the apathetic youth, the young workers involved on the picket lines are passionate and well informed.


Strikes have taken place at McDonald’s and TGI Friday’s restaurants across the UK in recent months. These strikes are the first of their kind in the UK, instigated by a new generation of trade union members fighting for better pay and fairer working conditions.

At the Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research, Data and Methods (WISERD for short), we’ve been following these strikes on social media and at the picket lines, to discover what’s driving this fledgling movement, and how it differs to those that went before.

Most young people in the workforce have experience with low pay and zero hours contracts. At TGI Friday’s, table staff were told earlier this year, with two days’ notice, that 40% of their tips from card gratuities would be taken and redistributed among kitchen staff, as part of the move towards a central pool of tips called a “tronc”. We heard from workers in London that this amounts to wage losses of around £60 a week – or £3,000 a year.

McDonald’s has also drawn criticism previously, for its use of zero hours contracts. Last year the company reported it would offer 115,000 of its workers employed in this way the chance to switch to minimum hours contracts – though 80% of those asked chose to remain on flexible contracts. Nevertheless, critics have attacked these arrangements as exploitative, and workers have responded with sustained collective action to fight for better wages and more secure employment around the world – most notably with the Fight for $15 in the US.

Building a movement

Although staff at both chains vary in age, it is the younger generations who are represented the most on the picket lines. This may just be a product of the low average age of service sector employees. But it may also signal that young people are becoming more inclined to organise and campaign for their rights.

Trade unions are capitalising on the appetite …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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San Francisco’s Progressive Mayoral Candidate Jane Kim has Tech Millionaires Running Scared

June 2, 2018 in Blogs

By Keith A. Spencer, Salon

In an exclusive interview, Supervisor Kim talked earnestly about the need for returning to New Deal–esque politics


A good rule of thumb for figuring out who is the most progressive candidate in any race is to see who the rich people are the most afraid of. In San Francisco’s underreported mayoral race, happening next Tuesday, there is a clear frontrunner for the candidate who haunts the ruling class: Supervisor Jane Kim, who currently represents some of the city’s most impoverished districts, including the Tenderloin and South of Market. Multimillionaire tech investor Ron Conway, a widely loathed figure and essentially the local equivalent of the Koch brothers, has been pouring money into the coffers of the neoliberal mayoral frontrunner, London Breed; meanwhile, Conway and his wife have been funding SuperPACs devoted to smearing Kim and her legacy.

That is unsurprising given that Kim champions a particularly effective form of redistributive tax policies that have improved the lives of many San Franciscans. Unlike many Democrats, Kim is deeply skeptical of trickle-down economics or so-called neoliberal reforms; rather, she has had great success with taxing the rich and using the money to pay for things like free city community college, improved bathroom access for the homeless, affordable housing, childcare and guaranteed paid sick leave. “I really think that health care, housing, public transportation and public education are the four things that government should be focused on,” Kim told me.

Likewise, she was skeptical of “market solutions,” à la those championed by Reagan and many neoliberal civic leaders, for said problems. “The market simply will never take care of housing the poor and working class,” she told Salon. “It doesn’t pencil out. Why would you go into a business that’s not profitable?” Accordingly, Senator Bernie Sanders is among her fans; the beloved progressive senator flew to San Francisco to celebrate the free community college program Kim helped create, and Sanders’ progressive political action committee, Our Revolution, has endorsed Kim.

For progressives, Supervisor Kim is a beacon of hope for a beleaguered city plagued by income inequality and the social wrecking ball of a self-serving tech industry. A civil rights lawyer …read more

Source: ALTERNET