robertreich.org — Washington has a way of focusing the nation’s attention on tactical games over partisan maneuvers that are symptoms of a few really big problems. A case in point is what’s now happening in Michigan. In the state where the American labor movement was born – and where, because of labor unions, the American middle class once had the bargaining power to gain a significant portion of the nation’s total income – Republicans and big money are striking back. Connect the dots: As unions have withered, the middle class’s share of total income and wealth has dropped. The decline of the median wage in America over the last three decades correlates exactly with the declining percentage of American workers who are unionized. And as the super-rich have grown even wealthier, they’ve been able to extend their power through the Supreme Court and the Republican Party – advancing a war on the middle class.
slate.com — In terms of practical economic impacts, I think the "right-to-work" controversy set off by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder's decision to undertake a lame duck flip-flop is perhaps overstated. If you compare Montgomery County in labor-friendly Maryland to Fairfax County in right-to-work Virginia, your overwhelming impression will be that these are very similar affluent suburbs of the same city. But apples-to-apple comparisons are hard to find and since union rules are highly correlated with other political indicators it's easy to cherry pick points. The conservative parts of America are generally poorer than the liberal parts, but also faster-growing. So if you want to claim that right-to-work laws are immiserating or growth-friendly, you can help yourself to whatever statistics you like. But what's not murky is the absurd hypocrisy that has to go into making the case for "right-to-work" legislation.
nytimes.com — The American economy is still, by most measures, deeply depressed. But corporate profits are at a record high. How is that possible? It’s simple: profits have surged as a share of national income, while wages and other labor compensation are down. The pie isn’t growing the way it should — but capital is doing fine by grabbing an ever-larger slice, at labor’s expense. Why is this happening? As best as I can tell, there are two plausible explanations, both of which could be true to some extent. One is that technology has taken a turn that places labor at a disadvantage; the other is that we’re looking at the effects of a sharp increase in monopoly power. Think of these two stories as emphasizing robots on one side, robber barons on the other.
prospect.org — To understand why the impending transformation of Michigan into a “right to work” state is so mortifying to labor and its supporters—far worse, even, than what happened in Wisconsin and Ohio—one must consider the totemic status of the United Auto Workers (UAW). This isn’t Wisconsin. It’s worse. It’s Michigan and it’s the UAW. There has been a cold peace between right-to-work and non-right-to-work state. But if Michigan can become a right to work state within a few days, pretty much any state can with a change in government. A specious argument extolling American individualism is camouflaging a power and money grab by the usual suspects, the kind of companies and propagandists that those farm workers and autoworkers fought back in the day. To paraphrase Brecht, these suspects are in heat once more. It is again time to restrain them.
huffingtonpost.com — The discussion we are having about "the fiscal cliff" is really a debate about our fiscal soul. What kind of nation do we want to be? We do need a path to fiscal sustainability, but will it include all of us -- especially the most vulnerable? It's a foundational moral choice for the country, and one with dramatic domestic and deadly global implications. It is the most important principle for the faith community in this debate. I am strongly in favor of restoring previously higher tax rates for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans -- and ending their unfair loopholes and deductions -- but that still won't raise enough revenue to move us toward fiscal sustainability while protecting the poor. We must make other choices in spending cuts and new revenues -- but in clearly morally responsible ways. Here are just a few examples.
nytimes.com — Let’s get one thing straight: America is not facing a fiscal crisis. It is, however, still very much experiencing a job crisis. It’s easy to get confused about the fiscal thing, since everyone’s talking about the “fiscal cliff.” Indeed, one recent poll suggests that a large plurality of the public believes that the budget deficit will go up if we go off that cliff. In fact, of course, it’s just the opposite: The danger is that the deficit will come down too much, too fast. And the reasons that might happen are purely political; we may be about to slash spending and raise taxes not because markets demand it, but because Republicans have been using blackmail as a bargaining strategy, and the president seems ready to call their bluff.
epi.org — A vital goal of economic policy should be to raise the living standards of the millions of American households who have seen their wages and living standards stagnate or decline over the last few decades. Fundamental to this is an economy that produces good, well-paying jobs. The biggest obstacle to this, currently, is the jobs crisis driven by a shortfall in aggregate demand. Additional factors though, written into our current policies, mean that even when the economy does recover, there is no reason to believe that the jobs it produces will actually be well-paying jobs. So what is the point? Better jobs are not projected to materialize out of thin air. Thus, any focus on increased access to good jobs for low-wage workers must be concerned with a range of policy-related issues that affect job quality.
truthdig.com — Hurricane Sandy, if you are poor, is the Katrina of the North. It has exposed the nation’s fragile, dilapidated and shoddy infrastructure, one that crumbles under minimal stress. It has highlighted the inability of utility companies, as well as state and federal agencies, to cope with the looming environmental disasters that because of the climate crisis will soon come in wave after wave. But, most important, it illustrates the depraved mentality of an oligarchic and corporate elite that, as conditions worsen, retreats into self-contained gated communities, guts basic services and abandons the wider population.
thenation.com — Inside the Beltway, the weather has turned cold, trees are mostly bare, and sounds and voices outside are distinct as more and more people remain indoors. On Capitol Hill, conversations are focused on billions and trillions, cliffs and sequestrations, and theories and suppositions about ongoing negotiations. A thankful media cheers on, discovering a new horserace to replace the one just ended. But for too many people—most of whom receive little or no attention in this town—there is nothing vague, abstract, or racy about these budget decisions. Amy Clark is the communications director for the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), a nonprofit organization working to ensure that low-income people have decent, affordable homes. She says that NLIHC staff members now regularly receive anxious emails from people living in public housing, or who have vouchers they use for rental assistance and whose homes are on the line.
economix.blogs.nytimes.com — In addition to the tax increases and broad federal spending cuts (known as “sequestration”) scheduled to take effect at the end of this year, the emergency unemployment benefits system is also expected to come to an end. It doesn’t get as much attention as the defense cuts or the tax increases, but the end of these extended unemployment benefits is expected to affect millions of Americans. More than two million workers now collecting federal unemployment benefits will lose the lifeline after the week ending Dec. 29. By the end of the first quarter of 2013, another one million will run out of state benefits without ever benefiting from Emergency Unemployment Compensation. These extended unemployment benefits serve as a powerful stimulus measure, economists say, because the money dispensed in the form of jobless benefits gets spent very quickly and so moves through the economy quickly. But the other key reason for extending unemployment benefits is, of course, compassion.