Election Results

Imagine this scenario. We are in Russia, and voting is conducted by handing your ballot through a curtain. You are not allowed to look behind the curtain. You are never allowed to see the stack of ballots that was handed through the curtain. Then at the end of the day the ballots are destroyed and Putin comes out and announces who won.

Are you going to take Putin’s word for it?

This is exactly the scenario of our current computerized voting systems. If you have a voting machine and do not have a paper ballot that can be counted with independent observers verifying the count, you are really just trusting Putin to look behind the curtain and then tell you who won.

If you have a voting machine with a “paper trail” but not one compares the paper trail to the reported count you are still trusting Putin behind the curtain to tell you who won.

Even if you have paper ballots but they are counted by computers, and no one conducts an independent audit to test if the marks on the ballots match the reported results, you are still trusting Putin behind the curtain to tell you who won.

You should not trust any election unless the system allows anyone including you yourself to count the ballots. That is transparency. If you or someone you trust cannot examine the ballots you can’t trust it and why should you? No other system can be trusted. Billions and trillions are at stake in our elections so there are interests that will go to great lengths to make sure the elections go their way — if they an get away with it.

The question to ask about any election result is, was the process transparent and verifiable and if so DID someone verify it? Otherwise it’s Putin and curtain.

Larry Summers Gets This Right: We Really Need An Infrastructure Decade

Here we are in “Infrastructure Week” and here we are with a new argument for a massive infrastructure investment project – worldwide.

Last week Peter Coy wrote at Bloomberg, in “How to Pull the World Economy Out of Its Rut,” about economist Larry Summers’ argument that we need massive public investment. Coy writes that Summers has been “jetting around the world” trying to convince central bankers “to reach out to the governments they work for … and insist on strong fiscal stimulus in the form of infrastructure spending and the like.” (i.e. “Public investment”.)

The case for this is very, very strong. Never mind that around the world infrastructure is crumbling. Just doing the basic job of government and making sure that things like infrastructure are up to par has fallen out of favor among the world’s elites, because “government spending.” Summers makes a different argument about why public investment – government spending on things countries and people and economies need – is essential to keep the world’s economy going.

Coy writes, “Summers’s deeper argument is that world growth is stuck in a rut because there’s a chronic shortage of demand for goods and services and a concomitant excess of desired savings.”

This Is Extremely Important And Summers Is Exactly Right

This is extremely important and Summers is exactly right on this. Too many people don’t have enough income, while a few people have lots of savings. But the few with lots of savings don’t have safe places to invest it because too many people don’t have enough income. In other words, the world faces a “chronic shortage of demand” and a “concomitant excess of desired savings.”

Capitalist economies necessarily move toward concentration of wealth, so over time a few people end up with lots of savings while most people get poorer. (Economist Piketty: “r > g” where ‘r’ is the rate of return on capital and ‘g’ is the rate of growth in the economy.) Since regular people participate in the economy by using money to demand goods and services, demand decreases as they get poorer.

Without something stepping in to break this cycle more and more of the resources end up in fewer and fewer hands, and after a while the entire system breaks down. Therefore in a capitalist economy government action is needed to redistribute “money” (resources and savings) away from the concentration at the top, back to more of “the people” so that they can again participate in the economy (demand).

This circle of money flowing around – demand gives savings good places to invest to meet that demand – shows why government redistribution is essential to keeping capitalist economies going. Taxing those who have a lot and using the money to build a sidewalk is redistribution because even poor people get to walk on the sidewalk. But even for those who hate the idea of redistribution, those sidewalks and roads and bridges and the rest are absolutely essential to economies. Even more essential, the jobs that are created to do the work building those things creates essential consumer demand.

The whole world is stuck in a rut because there is too much money at the top chasing insufficient demand.

Too Much Money At The Top Chasing Insufficient Demand

Wealth has concentrated. Inequality is extreme worldwide. The result is a worldwide “savings glut.” There is very little consumer demand so investment in things consumers/the private economy might buy is not bringing much of a return. This means there is too much money floating around the world looking for a safe investment that will bring a return. With few investments promising a safe return investors don’t want to risk investing.

Investment in the private sector has become too risky because of insufficient demand. So instead of finding private-sector investments, people are “parking” their money in government bonds. Governments that are safe are getting those savings to hold instead, sometimes even being paid (negative interest rates) to hold it.

Using different words, this shows there is a huge demand for government debt. That’s why the price has gotten so high (low interest rates mean there is a high price for a bond). Supply and demand: there is too much demand and too little supply of government debt.

Coy words it this way, “The interest rate, like any price, reflects supply and demand. It’s fallen because the demand for loans is weak and the supply of loans from savers, who have extra cash to deploy, is strong.”

The Things Governments Do Creates Demand In The Private Economy

The things governments do creates demand in the private economy when the private economy is not creating enough by itself. Infrastructure, investment in the people, education, job training, science and research, etc. are the underpinnings of the private economy later, but they wear out. Roads and bridges wear out, laid-off workers lose skills and well-educated people eventually get older and you need to do the next round of public investment. Our last round started drying up with the “Reagan era” ideology of “starve the beast” by killing government’s ability to spend.

When the private economy is doing well, savings finds places to invest. When savings is already thus engaged, interests rates rise. High interest rates mean government gets less when it sells its bonds. These higher rates are the market signal that government debt is not so much in demand, and governments need to borrow (and invest) less to keep the economy going. And because the private sector is going well people need fewer public services so governments don’t need to borrow to get the money to provide them…

The Markets Are Demanding That Governments Issue More Debt

Right now interest rates are extremely low – even negative in some countries. This high price for government debt means the markets are demanding that governments issue more debt. This is the law of supply and demand. Again: money markets are demanding more supply of government debt.

What should governments do with the money they get from selling more bonds? They should do what governments do with money. By definition this is “public investment.” Build roads, educate, feed people, etc. But instead of responding to the demands of markets, the anti-government ideology in control is forcing governments to do less, get smaller, need less money, issue fewer bonds.

For decades governments have been trying to follow the “less government” ideological mantra. But economics (and markets) says there is an essential role for government and public investment or economies don’t work. As governments withdraw from their role, economies stop working. Demand dries up, those with lots of money have nowhere to put it… and here we are. Secular stagnation.

So government cutbacks lead to low economy demand. The cycle is necessary, taxing the rich and using the money for government investment both creates demand at the time though spending and jobs, and the things it invests IN create demand later.

So the same thing has now been said about a dozen different and redundant ways here. People and the markets are demanding that governments around the world open up the spending spigot, invest in infrastructure and education and services other things governments do to make people’s lives better. The markets are demanding it and the proof is low interest rates on government debt. Not just here but worldwide.

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary and/or for the Progress Breakfast.

How Free Trade Agreements Hurt Agriculture

From The Coalition for a Prosperous America

“There is no doubt that we are being destroyed by stupid “free trade” agreements. Trade deals have harmed most American industries, including agriculture. The US share of global market in livestock and poultry declined from 2011 to 2015 despite more trade deals. America’s ranch and red meat industry has in fact, worse trade performance with the 20 trade agreement countries than with the rest of the world. Watch this video and learn more about how “free trade” is actually rigged trade. “

Is This The Return Of US ‘Gunboat Diplomacy’ Serving Corporations?

Colombia is allowing local production of a generic form of a cancer drug that is ultraexpensive because of a government-granted monopoly handed to a giant, multinational pharmaceutical corporation. The U.S. government is stepping in on the corporation’s side with a modern form of “gunboat diplomacy” — even though the giant corporation isn’t even “American.”

In November 2014, a group of public health advocacy organizations called on the Colombian government to declare that the public interest warrants that the country can produce a generic version of the ultraexpensive cancer drug Gleevec, produced by the “Swiss” giant Novartis. According to a March, 2015 report in Intellectual Property Watch, “Colombia Asked To Declare Excessive Price For Cancer Drug Contrary To Public Interest, Grounds For Compulsory License“:

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Does Moving Jobs Out Of The Country Affect What People Here Get Paid?

Economists are still arguing over whether moving our jobs out of the country affects what the people still here get paid. Yes, really.

For example, Jared Bernstein in The Washington Post looks at different studies of the effect of moving jobs out of the country. One study, by economists David Autor, David Dorn and Gordon Hanson (referred to by Bernstein as “ADH”), was published in January by the National Bureau of Economic Research. The other, by economist Josh Bivens at the Economic Policy Institute, was published in 2013. Both found that moving jobs out of the country hurt the wages of not just the affected workers but everyone in the surrounding area. The question is, does this wage-depressing effect spread outside the local area?

Bernstein writes, “The analytic question is twofold. First, are American workers really hurt by trade competition, and second, if so, are there spillovers to those not directly in competition with imports?”

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New Rules On Corporate Secrecy Have Glaring Loopholes

Last week the Treasury Department released a new rule and several proposals they said are intended to address the problem of corruption and dirty money in secret U.S. shell companies. A White House press release claimed, “Today, the Administration announced several important steps to combat money laundering, corruption, and tax evasion, and called upon Congress to take additional action to address these critical issues.” (A White House fact sheet is available here.)

The new rules initially appeared to be strong. But after examining the details several watchdog groups are warning that the new regulations and proposals leave open several glaring loopholes, and even practically provide instructions for how to get around the regulations.

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Clinton Commits: No TPP, Fundamentally Rethink Trade Policies

Going into the West Virginia primary, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has come out in opposition to a “lame duck” vote on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). This takes her beyond her previous statements mildly opposing TPP. Clinton also made a strong statement criticizing our country’s trade agreements in general.

As reported in The Hill, in “Clinton opposes TPP vote in the lame-duck session,” Clinton replied to a questionnaire from the Oregon Fair Trade Campaign, which consists of more than 25 labor, environmental and human rights organizations. When asked, “If elected President, would you oppose holding a vote on the TPP during the ‘lame duck’ session before you take office?” she replied, “I have said I oppose the TPP agreement — and that means before and after the election.”

There has been concern that TPP will come up for a vote in the lame-duck session of Congress after the election, and before the next Congress is sworn in. This special session enables votes with little accountability to the public. Members who have been voted out can vote in ways that help them get lobbying jobs and members who were re-elected with corporate money can reward their donors.

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Thursday Day Of Action To Support Verizon Workers — And Each Other

Thursday has been declared a Verizon Strike National Day of Action.

There are 39,000 Verizon workers on strike right now. They are not just striking for better pay and conditions from Verizon; this is also about how all of the giant corporations are treating all of us, their workers and customers. It’s just that the workers at Verizon have a union that is still strong enough to carry out this fight for the rest of us.

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Another Secret ‘Trade’ Deal Leaks, Shows Corporations Still Control Trade Process

“”There are no red lines which would clearly protect environment and health.” – Jorgo Riss, director of Greenpeace EU

There has been a major leak concerning another “trade” agreement that is currently being negotiated in secret. This time it is the TTIP and it was leaked by Greenpeace.

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Are Fair Trade Policies “Extreme?” Is Clinton Ready For Trump On Trade?

Is it really “extreme” to think we should have fair trade policies?

The New York Times on Tuesday published a story by Nelson D. Schwartz and Quoctrung Bui, “Where Jobs Are Squeezed by Chinese Trade, Voters Seek Extremes,” reporting that, “research to be unveiled this week by four leading academic economists suggests that the damage to manufacturing jobs from a sharp acceleration in globalization since the turn of the century has contributed heavily to the nation’s bitter political divide.”

By “sharp acceleration in globalization since the turn of the century” they mean millions and millions of manufacturing jobs, and more than 60,000 factories, all moved to China since 2000 to take advantage of China’s non-democracy that allows exploitation of workers and the environment. (But China doesn’t really “trade” with us by buying things, resulting in a record $365.7 billion trade deficit with China just last year.)

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