Terrance Heath

Wingnut Week In Review: The Ferguson Edition

For most of America, the shooting of yet another unarmed, young black man laid bare the way that racism and inequality play out in our streets. For wingnuts, it was another chance to appeal to the basest of the GOP base. This week, the worst of wingnuttia is all about the killing of yet another unarmed young black man – 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was killed by a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo.

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Sharon Davies

Ferguson Commentary: If We Bend Not Our Energies

“. . . the hands of none of us are clean if we bend not our energies to righting these great wrongs.”  –W.E.B. DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk The nation’s focus on the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown in  Ferguson, Missouri confers yet another opportunity for deeper racial understanding, but like other (too many other) teachable moments arising from the tragic loss of young Black life, the opportunity is fleeting and frail.  To make the most of it, the nation will need to embrace decades of research about how unconscious biases continue to shape how Black males are perceived in public, and impede their access to opportunity and even threaten their lives.

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Dave Johnson

Austerity Has Made Europe’s Depression Longer Than In The 1930s

Europe’s economic depression has now lasted longer than the Great Depression of the 1930s. Meanwhile, America’s “Great Recession” also drags on thanks to cutbacks in government spending since the stimulus. Europe’s leaders somehow were convinced that austerity – “deficit reduction” through cutbacks in government – would somehow lead them out of their economic doldrums. They believed that taking money out of the economy would help the economy. The result has been terrible.

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Eileen Appelbaum

UPDATE: The Bain and Blackstone IPO for Michael’s Stores

Michael’s Stores was taken private in a leveraged buyout on October 31, 2006. At the time of LBO, Highfields Capital Partners, which owned shares in the specialty retailer, was allowed to retain its interest – worth about $200 million. Funds of two private equity firms, Bain and Blackstone, purchased the remaining shares for $5.8 billion (PitchBook Michael’s Stores company profile 7-1-14 behind a paywall). Michael’s Stores had very little long-term debt at the time it was acquired. The specialty retail chain had an enterprise value (EV) of $6.025 billion. Michael’s Stores had 2005 earnings (EBITDA) of about $550 million. The multiple at which it was acquired (EV/EBITDA) was 11. Nearly eight years later on June 27, 2014, Michael’s Stores (now The Michaels Companies) was returned to the public market via an IPO.

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Dave Johnson

A Simple Plan To Balance Trade And Bring Back All Those Jobs

We have an enormous, humongous and ongoing trade deficit. This means we buy more from other countries than they buy from us and we do this every year. Trade is supposed to be balanced. Instead we have been running continuing trade deficits since the late 1970s. A trade deficit drains our economy and forces consumers, businesses and government to borrow, just to keep going. This means that jobs, factories, entire industries and literal boatloads of money have been leaving the country – it really adds up because we do this every single year. We have to do something about this. The “Buffett Plan” In May’s post, Balancing Trade – Remember The “Buffett Plan” I described the 2003 “Buffett Plan” proposed by Warren Buffett, who was very concerned about the damage done to our economy and unemployment caused by our ongoing trade deficit.

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Lynne Stuart Parramore

The Dirty Little Secret of How CEOs Enrich Themselves at Your Expense

Image via Rene Walter @ Flickr. Everyone from Warren Buffett to Robert Reich is talking about a favorite Wall Street trick called stock buybacks. But what are they and what do they mean to you? William Lazonick is a leading expert on the history of the American business corporation. A professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, where he directs the Center for Industrial Competitiveness, he has long been watching a trend that has only recently been attracting media attention and forcing many to reassess the nasty form of capitalism that has been unleashed on us in recent decades. In an email interview with Lazonick, I asked him about how the widespread and little-understood obsession with stock buybacks among American executives is driving inequality and pushing prosperity further away from everyone except those at the very top.

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Richard Eskow

Robots Are People, Too

“This is an economic revolution,” a new online video says about automation. The premise of “Humans Need Not Apply” is that human work will soon be all but obsolete. “You may think we’ve been here before, but we haven’t,” says CGP Grey, the video’s creator. “This time is different.” The video has gone viral, with nearly two million YouTube views in one week. But is it true? Joshua Gans of “Digitopoly” is skeptical and offers some cautionary thoughts. So does the Econospeak blog, which addresses the issue of economic agency and observes that: “… the alleged automaton, is an illusion — at worst a hoax — that distracts from the scale of human intervention required make the automaton’s motion appear autonomous.

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Jeff Bryant

Back To Schools White People Cannot See

As the season for new school openings rolls out, there are reasons for a new consciousness-raising about those schools – the kind of consciousness-raising that can be brought about when there’s a shock to the system like Ferguson, Mo. Of the many heartfelt, well thought-out, and clearly written responses to the ongoing travesty happening in Ferguson, one of the most insightful was “Dear White People: The Race You Can’t See Is Your Own” that appeared on Blue Nation Review. Written by author and communications consultant Anat Shenker-Osorio, the post delved into the issue of race and perceptions of race – the starting point for understanding not only what caused events in Ferguson but also what conditions the different ways people have responded to those events. From a scientific perspective, Shenker-Osorio explained, people “formulate judgments by race.

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Isaiah J. Poole

The Fed Should Be Meeting In Ferguson, Not Jackson Hole

Finally, residents in Ferguson, Mo., this morning are waking up to a violence-free night, 13 days after the shooting death of Michael Brown sparked days and nights of demonstrations and rage. Meanwhile, members of the Federal Reserve and other global central bank leaders are also waking up from a peaceful night’s sleep in Jackson Hole, Wyo., where two days of meetings about U.S. and world economic conditions are scheduled to begin. The central bankers and the Ferguson residents would do well to switch places. Ferguson is actually a much better place from which to understand the consequences of the past six years of economic policies. If Federal Reserve members were there, they would hear first-hand about the economic desperation that provided some of the kindling for the fires that erupted when a white police officer gunned down an unarmed 18-year-old.

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Dave Johnson

GOP Vows To Dismantle Or Shut Down Government If They Win Senate

A Politico story being promoted by the Drudge Report, “McConnell’s plan to shut down Obama,” makes it clear that if Republicans capture the Senate this fall they will, as the Drudge Report puts it, “play chicken” and shut down the government if President Obama vetoes their legislation to dismantle the government. From the Politico interview, a threat, “We’re going to pass spending bills, and they’re going to have a lot of restrictions on the activities of the bureaucracy,” McConnell said in an interview aboard his campaign bus traveling through Western Kentucky coal country. “That’s something he won’t like, but that will be done.

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Jim Hightower

Ferguson Exposes the Creeping Militarization of Police Forces

The tragedies unfolding in Ferguson, Missouri, are doubly infuriating.First, there is the obvious outrage of yet another unarmed black teenager being stopped by one of the town’s white police officers as he was walking to his grandmother’s home. Racism Goes Postal, an OtherWords cartoon by Khalil Bendib. A scuffle ensued, and officer Darren Wilson fatally shot Michael Brown (six times, including twice in the head, according to an autopsy report). The young man’s corpse was then left lying in the street for hours, during which time the police didn’t even bother to notify his family. Understandably, furious citizens have erupted in protest.Outrage No. 2 is that Ferguson’s police, practically all of whom are white in a town that’s two-thirds black, responded to the public outcry like an occupying army.

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Dean Baker

Public Pressure Can Influence The Federal Reserve

The Washington Post had an article on grassroots efforts to try to influence the Federal Reserve Board’s decisions on monetary policy. It would have been helpful if the piece provided more background on the Fed’s institutional structure and decision-making process. The Fed’s decisions on monetary policy (e.g. raising or lowering interest rates and quantitative easing) are made by the 19-member Federal Reserve Open Market Committee (FOMC). This committee includes seven governors who are appointed by the president and approved by Congress. The term is 14 years, although governors rarely serve out a full term. The chair is one of the seven governors, although their term as chair is just four years. The other 12 members of the FOMC are the presidents of the district banks. These presidents are essentially appointed by the banks within the district.

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Dave Johnson

Are American Corporations Really Less Competitive Because Of Taxes?

Corporate tax rates used to top out at 52.8 percent. Later rates were lowered to 48 percent and then 46 percent. Then in 1986 corporations complained that this (lowered) rate made them “uncompetitive” and demanded “corporate tax reform.” Because job creators. So the rate was lowered to 35 percent. Now in 2014 corporations are complaining that this (lowered) rate makes them “uncompetitive” and are demanding “corporate tax reform.” Because job creators – or something. This time they threaten to – or do – renounce their U.S. citizenship, saying it is because of too-high tax rates. So, here we are again. They want rates lowered even more.

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Dean Baker

What Does The Fed Have To Do With Social Security? Plenty.

Most of the people who closely follow the Federal Reserve Board’s decisions on monetary policy are investors trying to get a jump on any moves that will affect financial markets. Very few of the people involved in the debate over the future of Social Security pay much attention to the Fed. That’s unfortunate because the connections are much more direct than is generally recognized. The basic story of Social Security’s finances is that, while the program is entirely sound for the near future, the program is projected to face a shortfall in the decade of the thirties. Under current law, at that point it would be necessary to reduce benefits from their scheduled level, unless additional revenue can be raised. Of course the answer from those on the right is to cut benefits, and the sooner the better.

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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

The Coming Race War Won’t Be About Race

You probably have heard of the Kent State shootings: on May 4, 1970, the Ohio National Guard opened fire on student protesters at Kent State University. During those 13 seconds of gunfire, four students were killed and nine were wounded, one of whom was permanently paralyzed. The shock and outcry resulted in a nationwide strike of 4 million students that closed more than 450 campuses. Five days after the shooting, 100,000 protestors gathered in Washington, D.C. And the nation’s youth was energetically mobilized to end the Vietnam War, racism, sexism, and mindless faith in the political establishment. You probably haven’t heard of the Jackson State shootings.

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Dave Johnson

Polling Shows Democrats Should Campaign On Corporate Patriotism

You may have heard about corporations renouncing their US “citizenship” in order to avoid paying taxes for the infrastructure, courts, police and military protection on which they rely, the schools which their employees send their kids — even the food stamps and other government assistance which some of their extremely-low-wage employees receive. Polling shows that the public is outraged. The President and Democrats should use this as a top campaign issue this fall. Corporations are using a gimmicky tax loophole with the technical name “inversions” to abandon their US citizenship. They buy or merge with a company in a tax-haven country and then pretend that company is now the owner of them.

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Terrance Heath

Ferguson And The “War On Whites”

Rep. Mo Brooks (R, Alabama) recently accused Democrats of waging a “war on whites.” In Ferguson, Missouri, where Michael Brown — an unarmed, 18-year-old, young black man —  was shot and killed by a police officer, there is no question against whom war is being waged. If there is a “war” on, whites are winning. Whites earn more. In 2012, the median income for white households was $67,000, compared to about $40,000 for blacks and Latinos. Whites have more wealth. Median net worth for white households is more than $90,000 — ten times that of black and Latino households. The racial wealth gap has grown steadily, nearly tripling between 1984 and 2009. By 2010, whites held about 88 percent of the nation’s wealth. Blacks held just 2.7 percent. Whites fared better in the recession.

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Digby

Why Hasn’t President Obama Fixed The Problem Of Race In This Country?

The Village wants to know now. In many ways, Obama’s difficulty in navigating matters of race as president mirrors his struggles in other areas. He has repeatedly and eloquently spoken about race — and his experiences in making his way in the world as the son of a white mother and a Kenyan father — over the past decade. But those words have done little to heal the racial wounds in the country. Perhaps it’s too much to expect any one individual, even the president, to help finally close such a deep and long-standing gash on the country’s conscience. But such is the historic nature of Obama’s presidency that many people, both white and black, expect him to do just that. Today at least, Obama’s vision of a post-racial America looks even further away than it did that night a decade ago in Boston.

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Richard Eskow

One Nation Under Siege: “Counterinsurgency Cops” in Ferguson – and on TV

The transfer of used military equipment from the armed forces to police departments around the country has been accompanied, at least to a certain extent, by a shift in public thinking. The news media have played a critical part in that shift, both in its coverage and in what it chooses not to cover.  How often do we hear, for example, do we hear statistics like these? From 1993 to 2012, overall violent victimization declined from a rate of 79.8 per 1,000 persons age 12 or older to 26.1 per 1,000. From 1993 to 2011, the rate of homicide declined 48%, from 9.9 to 5.1 homicides per 100,000 persons. These figures are from the most recent Justice Department report on “criminal victimization,” but we seldom hear them.

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Bill Scher

Bush vs. Obama on the Economy. In 3 Simple Charts.

In the most recent CBS News poll, the public was split on which party will do a “better job” on the economy, with Democrats at 42% and Republicans at 41%. This should help break the tie. Who to hold accountable for the economy is complicated by the fact that for the last three-and-a-half years government is at a bipartisan stalemate. President Obama and the Democrats can’t invest as much as they like in infrastructure, energy and education. Republicans can’t slash spending as deep as they would like or deregulate corporations at all. Still, the totality of the Obama presidency tilts in a Keynesian direction, thanks to the Recovery Act (the “stimulus”) and the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”).

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