…An important economics lesson in less than 6 minutes by a rich capitalist caught telling the truth.
The rise of machines is in part to blame for growing income inequality, according to Paul Krugman.
The Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist said in an interview with Business Insider that companies’ preference for investing in machines instead of workers is partially to blame for income inequality in the 21st century. That’s a shift from the last two decades of the 20th century when income inequality was mostly about the differences between high-skill and low-skill workers.
“Technology has shifted in a way that really favors capital over labor,” Krugman said. “That makes it possible to replace people with machines.”
The AP's High-Impact Three-Part Series on Joblessness and Stalled Recovery
By Associated Press
NEW YORK, Jan 25 2013 — Five years after the start of the Great Recession, the toll is terrifyingly clear: Millions of middle-class jobs have been lost in developed countries the world over.
And the situation is even worse than it appears.
Most of the jobs will never return, and millions more are likely to vanish as well, say experts who study the labor market. What’s more, these jobs aren’t just being lost to China and other developing countries, and they aren’t just factory work. Increasingly, jobs are disappearing in the service sector, home to two-thirds of all workers.
They’re being obliterated by technology.
Year after year, the software that runs computers and an array of other machines and devices becomes more sophisticated and powerful and capable of doing more efficiently tasks that humans have always done. For decades, science fiction warned of a future when we would be architects of our own obsolescence, replaced by our machines; an Associated Press analysis finds that the future has arrived.
“The jobs that are going away aren’t coming back,” says Andrew McAfee, principal research scientist at the Center for Digital Business at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and co-author of “Race Against the Machine.” ‘’I have never seen a period where computers demonstrated as many skills and abilities as they have over the past seven years.”
The global economy is being reshaped by machines that generate and analyze vast amounts of data; by devices such as smartphones and tablet computers that let people work just about anywhere, even when they’re on the move; by smarter, nimbler robots; and by services that let businesses rent computing power when they need it, instead of installing expensive equipment and hiring IT staffs to run it. Whole employment categories, from secretaries to travel agents, are starting to disappear.
“There’s no sector of the economy that’s going to get a pass,” says Martin Ford, who runs a software company and wrote “The Lights in the Tunnel,” a book predicting widespread job losses. “It’s everywhere.”
The numbers startle even labor economists. In the United States, half the 7.5 million jobs lost during the Great Recession were in industries that pay middle-class wages, ranging from $38,000 to $68,000. But only 2 percent of the 3.5 million jobs gained since the recession ended in June 2009 are in midpay industries. Nearly 70 percent are in low-pay industries, 29 percent in industries that pay well.(more...)
By Danny Kennedy
SolidarityEconomy.net via Berrett-Koeler Publishers
Dec 29, 2012 - The following is an excerpt from 'Rooftop Revolution: How Solar Power Can Save Our Economy -- and Planet' -- from Dirty Energy . Copyright © 2012 by Danny Kennedy. Reprinted with permission of Berrett-Koehler Publishers, San Francisco, CA.
There’s an epic struggle afoot for the head and the heart of America. And the fat cats in Dirty Energy who feed off our addiction to fossil fuel have an obvious motivation—profits—to keep us in denial about our bad habit.
They don’t want us to dwell on our energy addiction and the damage it does to ourselves, our planet, and our children’s future. So Dirty Energy dips into its very deep pockets to tout its brand of power in the news and keep America in the dark about cleaner, smarter, more-affordable options out there. But as a growing number of Americans are finding out, they do have options.
Although change is difficult and requires traction, it’s easier when someone shines a light on the path ahead, and this is what the solar-power movement is doing: providing a solution, an alternative to business as usual, while the coal, oil, nuke, and gas giants continue their fight for the status quo. Not to be too highfalutin, but when the colonial Americans were frustrated by heavy taxation without government representation, it wasn’t until they saw a new direction—inspired by the French Republic’s demand for liberty—that forces of change pushed them to have their own revolution.
It’s time for a new revolution, an energy revolution, our revolution—a Rooftop Revolution. The movement worldwide to go solar—to usurp the powers that be in our existing electricity grids and put power in the hands of those in the developing world who don’t have it—is creating a space for as profound a change. Breaking up monopolies, spreading benefits to the poorest, making consumers producers, and getting polluters to pay and thus using market forces to get them to participate in building a clean economy—this is what the Rooftop Revolution is all about. And that’s why it’s not surprising that King CONG [coal, oil, nuclear, gas] is fighting back.
In 2012 oil barons such as the Koch brothers will spend many millions on TV ad campaigns to tar President Barack Obama with the same brush they used on Solyndra. Those who have the most to lose, the opponents of solar, will come out with fists flying—as the US Chamber of Commerce did in the 2010 election cycle. The massive business lobby outspent the Republican and Democratic National Committees combined to further its official policy of digging up every last ounce of fuel in the ground and burning it as soon as possible.(more...)
By Paul Krugman
SolidarityEconomy.net via NYTimes
Dec. 8, 2012 - Catherine Rampell and Nick Wingfield write about the growing evidence for "reshoring" of manufacturing to the United States. They cite several reasons: rising wages in Asia; lower energy costs here; higher transportation costs. In a followup piece, however, Rampell cites another factor: robots.
The most valuable part of each computer, a motherboard loaded with microprocessors and memory, is already largely made with robots, according to my colleague Quentin Hardy. People do things like fitting in batteries and snapping on screens.
As more robots are built, largely by other robots, "assembly can be done here as well as anywhere else," said Rob Enderle, an analyst based in San Jose, Calif., who has been following the computer electronics industry for a quarter-century. "That will replace most of the workers, though you will need a few people to manage the robots."
Robots mean that labor costs don't matter much, so you might as well locate in advanced countries with large markets and good infrastructure (which may soon not include us, but that's another issue). On the other hand, it's not good news for workers!
This is an old concern in economics; it's "capital-biased technological change", which tends to shift the distribution of income away from workers to the owners of capital.
Twenty years ago, when I was writing about globalization and inequality, capital bias didn't look like a big issue; the major changes in income distribution had been among workers (when you include hedge fund managers and CEOs among the workers), rather than between labor and capital. So the academic literature focused almost exclusively on "skill bias", supposedly explaining the rising college premium.
But the college premium hasn't risen for a while. What has happened, on the other hand, is a notable shift in income away from labor:
If this is the wave of the future, it makes nonsense of just about all the conventional wisdom on reducing inequality. Better education won't do much to reduce inequality if the big rewards simply go to those with the most assets. Creating an "opportunity society", or whatever it is the likes of Paul Ryan etc. are selling this week, won't do much if the most important asset you can have in life is, well, lots of assets inherited from your parents. And so on.
I think our eyes have been averted from the capital/labor dimension of inequality, for several reasons. It didn't seem crucial back in the 1990s, and not enough people (me included!) have looked up to notice that things have changed. It has echoes of old-fashioned Marxism -- which shouldn't be a reason to ignore facts, but too often is. And it has really uncomfortable implications.
But I think we'd better start paying attention to those implications.
BY REBECCA KHEEL
SolidarityEconomy.net via Bakersfield Californian staff writer
An extension to a tax credit for the wind industry has been lumped into the so-called year-end "fiscal cliff," and industry leaders in Kern County are urging politicians to put aside partisan bickering and renew the credit that has helped the wind industry grow for the past 20 years.
"We have no idea whether the federal incentive will continue," said Greg Wetstone, vice president of government affairs for Terra-Gen Power, a renewable energy company with wind turbines in Tehachapi. "We're hopeful there will be a deal as part of the fiscal cliff, but we don't know."
The federal Wind Production Tax Credit is set to expire on Dec. 31. First passed in 1992, the credit knocks off 2.2 cents per kilowatt hour of wind energy produced from a business' tax bill. It has been extended every one or two years since 1992, with one exception in 2004 when it was allowed to lapse.
At an editorial board meeting at The Californian on Wednesday, supporters for the credit spoke about how wind energy benefits Kern County and what negative effects the credit's expiration would have.
Opponents of the tax credit have said that after 20 years, the wind industry no longer needs the credit to survive. They have also said it costs too much, pointing to Congress' Joint Committee on Taxation estimate that a one-year extension will cost taxpayers $12.1 billion.(more...)
By Bill Ivey
SolidarityEconomy.net via Alternet.org / Nov 28, 20102
The following is an excerpt from Handmaking America: A Back-to-Basics Pathway to a Revitalized American Democracy by Bill Ivey.
The Perpetual Workday
Jill Andresky Fraser’s book ‘White-Collar Sweatshop’ details the movement of factory floor, scientific-management-style techniques into the office.
Overall real wages scarcely budged in the 1990s, and earnings for college-educated workers actually declined by more than 6 percent. We might surmise that the lack of salary increases were offset, in part, by noncash benefits, but these too were extracted from the compensation package. “Lunch hour? An anachronism. Commuting time? A good chance to return phone calls. Sleep? Never mind if you were up until 2am on the phone with a client across the globe. Be at the office at eight.
"These days, workers are expected to be on call 24/7—24 hours per day, seven days per week,” writes Fraser. Seen in this light, innovations like flex time or working from home are in fact strategies to bring new sorts of workers—think women—into the job market and to subject them to a new set of (frequently electronic) rules and controls.
Think about it. Fifteen years ago, would you have taken a job if you had to be available every day, respond to messages from your boss late at night, and maintain contact with the office while on vacation? You would probably have taken a pass. But today just about any job, especially the good ones, exhibit precisely this oppressive 24/7 character.
It’s a corrosive double whammy: At the same time as technology has redefined labor by converting craft occupations into assembly line piecework, new gadgets have allowed our less inviting piecework tasks to follow us home, invading our bedrooms, filling family time, distracting us on holiday. This change in the character of work took place very quickly. As technology critic Jaron Lanier observed, “It’s as if you kneel to plant the seed of a tree and it grows so fast that it swallows your whole village before you can even rise to your feet.”
Americans are suckers for new technologies. We cheerfully purchased the Sony Walkman (how quickly we forget!) and embraced digital cameras, cell phones, plasma TVs, smart phones, and now iPads. Just as we’ve consumed high-tech gadgets at home, we welcome electronic devices in the workplace; won’t they save precious time by making us more efficient? Our enthusiasm for innovative machines obscures the truth that all they do is bind us more tightly to our jobs while forcing us to work longer hours.
For centuries, work has been the arena of accomplishment in which learning and insight combined skills of mind and hand to solve problems, bringing forward something useful, beautiful, or both. Back when women entered the workforce in big numbers at every level, it seemed the importance of labor as a source of meaning and identity only increased. But the financial collapse of 2008 produced profound, perhaps lasting, changes in American labor markets. As Clive Crook argues, there exists a real “likelihood that lengthening spells of unemployment [will] become self-perpetuating, as skills erode or grow irrelevant.” State governments are attempting to balance budgets by sacking teachers, nurses, and police officers, and underwater mortgages have made it impossible for millions of workers to sell houses to relocate in search of new jobs. As Tyler Cowen writes, “We need to be prepared for the possibility that the growth slowdown could continue once the immediate recession is over.”
We know that real wages have been flat for more than two decades. Technology-enabled productivity increased, but that hasn’t helped workers. Productivity per person-hour increased by 5 percent between 2009 and 2010—postrecession—but productivity went up because the number of hours worked went down. So for the past 10 years, workers substituted charge cards and home equity loans for stagnant wages to maintain what seemed to be a middle-class lifestyle. That era of self-delusion is over and has been replaced by doubt, disappointment, pessimism, and a deep suspicion of financial and political power. In an unprecedented development, millions of newly minted college graduates are moving directly from the classroom to the unemployment lines and sometimes to the encampments of Occupy Wall Street. American workers now compete in the much-touted global market; it is a distinct irony that not Marxists but corporate leaders urge the workers of the world to unite in a drive toward efficiency—efficiency that can be best defined as low wages.
America is stumbling into the abyss of unheard-of income and wealth disparity. The lack of jobs and the offensive distance between the wealth of Wall Street and the plight of the 99 percent are pressing down on a workforce that includes both displaced industrial labor and unemployed educated professionals who still feel entitled to lucrative posts in what Richard Florida calls “an idea-driven knowledge economy that runs more on brains than on brawn.” We’re learning that while this “knowledge economy” exists, in reality it’s present for only the few who can serve the esoteric and rapidly changing demands of high-tech industries. Facebook might ultimately be valued at $50 billion, but it makes no product and employs only a few thousand workers. As Richard Waters wrote in the Financial Times, “While the jobs of the future have yet to be revealed, the job losses and disruption to working lives from accelerating technological change are already apparent.”
Reconfiguring Work in Democracy
It is tempting to imagine—even to recommend—changes in the character of labor and the workplace that would restore satisfying, meaningful work as a central part of life: the way Ruskin, Marx and Morris envisioned it a century and a half ago. But that would be naive. As historian Jackson Lears said in a recent interview, “Whatever the color of your collar, your job may still be ‘proletarian’ to the extent that management controls the pace, process, and output of your work.”
Lears is right, and I think the march of management efficiencies in the direction of increased productivity cannot be rolled back. Apart from a handful of artistic careers, the sad truth is that deeply satisfying work for pay is squeezed-out toothpaste that can’t be coaxed back into its tube.
My suggestion is this: that Americans recover the satisfaction of artisanship by stepping to the side, building the kind of meaning found in craft work outside the office, classroom, or factory. More than anything, the pursuit of meaning in the contemporary market-defined environment requires time. Technology in the workplace holds out the promise of more time, but as we have seen, increased productivity— more output; fewer hours—benefits only the bottom lines of corporate profits wrung from the decreased cost of labor. Unions and concerned, engaged citizens must press for public policies that enable workers to capture time, benefiting from efficiencies generated by piecework and automated devices. But I don’t believe our modern workplace can be reconfigured from the outside, and the corporate world has exhibited little interest in resisting global pressures on hours and wages to give American labor a better quality of life.
Here’s an alternative: A properly configured and fairly implemented four-day workweek would shift at least some of the time-saving benefits of high-tech devices to workers. And given an imaginatively assembled array of possibilities, the extra time attached to a weekend will offer a pathway to a life of quality and meaning.
Where the four-day workweek has been tried in the United States, results have actually been encouraging. Utah launched a four-day, 10-hour-day week for state employees in 2008. Seventy percent of workers liked it, mostly because the extended personal time facilitated volunteer work and closer contact within families. Although the statewide program ended in the fall of 2011 (anticipated savings on energy never materialized), cities such as Provo retained the policy. Google has established a four-day week for some engineers, specifically to enable opportunity for creative thought.
It’s important to remember that experiments with short workweeks have to date been advanced only as money-saving strategies. (Are you surprised?) However, given the acceptance of these early efforts, it seems certain that a four-day workweek (perhaps featuring nine-hour days) focused not on cost cutting but on enriching quality of life would be even more welcome. And it’s important to a handmade America; extra time in which to connect with politics, new knowledge, community heritage, religion, and family will lay the foundation for an American lifestyle less slavishly ensnared in consuming and debt.
Technology and Education
Our ability to live well in a progressive, handmade society depends on what we know and believe; much of that knowledge must be applied to placing the transformational impact of technology in perspective.
True, Americans have enthusiastically welcomed new devices at home and at work. But today technology is generating powerful imbalances in society and government, transforming the place of Americans in a global economy. We have both a right and an obligation to challenge the effect of automation, software, robotics, and the Internet on how we labor and live.
Former U.S. labor secretary Robert Reich gets one thing absolutely right: “Modern technologies allow us to shop in real time, often worldwide, for the lowest prices, highest quality, and best returns.” Unfortunately, “these great deals come at the expense of our jobs and wages, and widening inequality.”
Stated most simply, high-tech machines enable fewer workers to do more while transforming complex artisanal tasks into piecework. Americans love to shop for bargain commodities, of course, but corporations also shop for labor, and modern technology and communication force workers to compete with lower-paid counterparts in Singapore, India, and China. Even here in the United States, an auto assembly job that pays $28 an hour in Michigan will pay half that in South Carolina.
It’s obvious that the average “working Joe” needs a better understanding of how the workplace is being transformed by technologies deployed by corporations in the pursuit of efficiencies, increased productivity, and increased profit. A couple years ago, New York Times columnist David Brooks worried about these effects in a piece cleverly and accurately titled “The Outsourced Brain.” What does it mean for society if we don’t know where we are, where we should eat, or whether or not it’s raining without looking at our telephones? And it’s a special problem in the workplace; a cab driver who can navigate only with a GPS is a qualitatively different professional than the London artisan cabbie who’s memorized streets from Paddington to Elephant and Castle. In addition, “Productivity Hits All-Time High” may be a mogul-pleasing headline, but less-in/more-out is scarcely good news for workers. And as we’ve seen, automation, digital devices, and software-driven menus not only displace jobs but change the very character of work itself.
Of course, technological change has been a feature of civilization since before the printing press, and the destruction of the old has always accompanied progress; illuminated calligraphy is pretty much a thing of the distant past. However, the digital age is unusual, if not unique, in that it has been advanced by the tag team of powerful corporate interests aided by massive advertising campaigns, supported by a cohort of intellectual apologists who praise every new device and vigorously attack any Luddite bold enough to question the real value of the newest netbook, iPhone, or online music service. This combination—big advertising supported by reasonably big minds—is something new, and it’s enabled digital advocates to pretty much have their way in the workplace and at home. Who has critiqued computers in the classroom? Evidence of helpful results is scarce, but as one ex-marine teacher put it, “This technology is being thrown on us. It’s being thrown on parents and thrown on kids.” Americans need a general understanding of the way efficient technologies affect the availability of jobs and the meaning of labor, and an understanding that society can rightly use the levers of government to blunt the most troublesome transformations in a defining human activity—work.
So here’s the second, and more specific, point: American education must better address the needs of our present-day economy. Early in 2012, I heard an NPR All Things Considered piece on the burgeoning Montana firearms industry. The segment interviewed the president of Montana Rifleman, a small manufacturing firm that, responding to a U.S. firearms boom, was then shipping up to 1,000 rifle barrels per day. He indicated that there “are plenty of workers, but he still struggles to fill certain jobs,” adding, “Finding skilled machinists is one of the hardest things for us to do right now.” This problem is widespread.
Tyler Cowen has identified a “fundamental skills mismatch” in the relationship between school and the workplace. American secondary education has drifted toward precollege for all, an objective memorialized in a commitment to standardized testing. Yes, we need mathematicians and good readers, but we need high school graduates skilled in information technology, high-end machining, and a range of other technical manufacturing skills that fit the new economy. This is not rocket science; it’s not test taking either.
President Obama has underscored the role of community colleges in providing high-end workplace skills. On its face, this seems a good idea; community colleges are affordable, are open to just about anyone, and are often hardwired into the demands of a local economy. But as
Thomas Bailey has written in the American Prospect, community institutions are filled with first-generation college students who often work full-time while attending school at night. Their preparation for college work is frequently subpar; it’s no surprise that graduation or certification rates after six years are well below 40 percent. Community colleges are also especially dependent on state funding and despite increased federal support are suffering as states slash budgets in this postrecession decade. Rethinking the high school curriculum may be smarter, more affordable, and more effective than a buck-pass to two-year colleges.
I do believe there’s a need for a better match between secondary education and the apparent needs of the workplace. But to be honest, I’m uncomfortable with arguments that talk about improving education— especially public education—entirely within the context of the economy and America’s workforce. The values and needs of corporations have thoroughly invaded the conversation about education, and you don’t have to scratch the surface of most reforms very hard before a narrow agenda shows up: math plus reading plus multiple-choice tests produces graduates perfectly suited to technology-enabled, rule-following piecework.
Despite the desires of corporate oligarchs, education can’t be only about popping out capable worker bees. Our very democracy depends on the maintenance of a citizenry capable of critical engagement with technology and change, society and democracy; an engagement with context and precedent—an understanding of history, society, finance, and power—sufficient to permit smart choices. We do not get the wise citizens we need if schools do nothing but train workers for our voracious corporate maw.
It’s clear that we went too far back in the 1960s, when experts determined that every student should experience some version of a college preparatory curriculum. When I attended Calumet High School a half century ago, the program offered three tracks: academic, vocational, commercial. “Academic” was pretty much what secondary education looks like today. “Commercial” trained secretaries and bookkeepers; my recollection is that the commercial track was mostly populated by girls. “Vocational” was as distinctly male, its trainees spending half days sequestered in noisy wood and machine shops in the basement of the school. But vocational training at Calumet High was dead serious; the program was hardwired into the Calumet and Hecla Mining Company, and graduates could anticipate immediate employment in the (admittedly fading) multifaceted corporation that dominated northern Michigan’s copper mining industry back then.
Now, Calumet’s old three-track system was rife with real and potential inequity. Lip service was applied to the way eighth-graders were slotted according to test scores and individual aptitude and ambition, but there existed plenty of room for ethnic and sexual stereotyping, for making nonacademic tracks way stations for kids who just didn’t fit in. Once placed, nobody ever “got out” by making the transition from commercial or vocational into the (somewhat) exclusive and (slightly) refined reaches of the academic path. But despite obvious flaws, the system wasn’t entirely without value. While academic students were pointed toward college (and an inevitable extension of adolescence), our vocational and commercial peers were destined to grasp their diplomas and immediately head off to work.(more...)
BY JEFFREY BAUSCH
Boston-based company Rethink Robotics has unveiled a new “human-like” robot that they believe will help improve domestic production for U.S. manufacturers.
Robot is specially designed to be highly efficient at performing simple manufacturing tasks. (Via: technologyreview.com)
“It’s aimed at making it more competitive to do low-cost goods in the U.S., rather than outsourcing them to China,” company co-founder Rodney Brooks said. “That was my motivation.”
The robot, named “Baxter”, offers tremendous flexibility in terms of the range of production-related jobs it can perform.
Baxter has two arms — each equipped with a two-finger gripper — and can be used to do all sorts of repetitive tasks. When it comes to programming the bot to do the job, its face doubles as a computer screen to make setting things up quick and easy.
An up-close view of the Baxter robot.
“Ordinary factory workers can program it to do a task in a few minutes without any training themselves,” Brooks said. “The idea here is to bring to the factory floor the ease of use that we have been putting in our personal computers and our smart phones and iPads, which we haven’t brought to industrial equipment.”(more...)
By Justin Sink
SolidarityEconomy.net via The Hill
August 3, 2012 - President Obama's campaign released a Web video Friday profiling the owner of a small Michigan wind farming business, arguing the president's push for alternative energy programs has stimulated job growth.
The video comes as some of Iowa's top Republicans expressed confusion over rival Mitt Romney's opposition to extending wind energy tax credits, slated to expire at the end of the year. Iowa Gov. Terry Brandstad and Sen. Chuck Grassley — both Republicans — suggested that campaign aides must have mistakingly signaled that they did not support the extension of the credit, which has been a major economic boon for the Hawkeye State.
But the Romney campaign, in a statement on Friday, reiterated that they would "allow the wind credit to expire, end the stimulus boondoggles, and create a level playing field on which all sources of energy can compete on their merits."
The Obama team sees an opportunity in the swing state, cutting a Web ad to pounce on the flap.
In the ad, Steve Smiley, a wind energy businessman in Michigan, credits the president's green energy loan program for allowing him to hire new workers and invest in infrastructure.
"The policies that President Obama has put forward have been a great benefit to a small business like mine," Smiley says.
"The loan we've got helped us sustain 8 to 10 people plus probably half a dozen sub-suppliers," he adds.
In a statement accompanying the release of the video, the Obama campaign argues Romney's plan would "put American jobs at risk and jeopardize our energy strategy."
"President Obama’s policies have allowed businesses in the energy industry to grow — and a loan supported by the President has directly helped Heron Wind produce two to three wind turbines," the statement says. "President Obama’s all-of-the-above energy strategy is making America more energy independent by reducing our dependence on foreign oil and investing in renewable oil."
By Wayne Ellwood
SolidarityEconomy.net via The New Internationalist
In the eyes of the mainstream media and the high priests of the free market, Argentina just doesn’t get it.
This past May, the country was savaged by the international business press for nationalizing the Spanish-owned oil company, YPF. Scarcely mentioned was the fact that Argentina’s oil and gas industry was only ‘privatized’ in the late-1990s under pressure from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other hardline enforcers of then fashionable neoliberal economic policies. Like many countries around the world, Argentina’s oil industry used to be state-owned.
Back in 2001, the knives were out again. After years of enforced austerity and ‘structural adjustment’ the resource-rich South American country was awash in debt, crippling inflation, staggering unemployment and negative economic growth. (Notice any parallels with present day Greece and Spain?)
The IMF’s prescription for setting the economy right – ‘flexible’ labour conditions, deregulation, loosening of capital controls, privatization of state-owned assets, devaluation of the national currency – only made things worse.
With inflation raging and tens of thousands of workers on the streets, the government finally called it quits, defaulting on its debt and devaluing its currency. Predictably, the kingpins of global finance went ballistic, warning that Argentina would sink into penury and chaos.
It didn’t happen. Over the next decade the country’s GDP grew by nearly 90 per cent, the fastest in Latin America. Poverty fell and employment rose steadily while government spending on social services slowly increased.
Many factors contributed to this astounding turnaround, including the determination of Argentineans to strike an independent economic course not reliant on the whims of foreign capital.
But a significant part of its success is rooted in Argentina’s rich history of co-operatives. Waves of Jewish and Italian immigrants brought the co-operative vision with them during the early 20th century. Co-ops were well established, especially in agriculture, prior to the financial and political meltdown in 2001. According to the International Co-operative Association (ICA), nearly a quarter of the South American country’s 40 million people are linked directly or indirectly to co-operatives and mutual societies.(more...)
By Suzy Khimm
The Washington Post
WASHINGTON, May 29, 2012 -- As the nation amasses more than $1 trillion in student loans, education experts say a vexing new problem has emerged: A growing number of young people have a mountain of debt but no degree to show for it.
Nearly 30 percent of college students who took out loans dropped out of school, up from less than a quarter of students a decade ago, according to an analysis of government data earlier this year by think tank Education Sector. College dropouts are also among the most likely to default on their loans, falling behind at a rate four times that of graduates.
That is raising new questions about the wisdom of decades of public policy that focused on increasing access to higher learning but paid less attention to what happens once students arrive on campus. And some education experts have begun to argue that starting college -- and going into debt to pay for it -- without a clear plan for a diploma is a recipe for disaster.
"They have the economic burden of the debt but they do not get the benefit of higher income and higher levels of employment that one gets with a college degree," said Jack Remondi, chief operating officer at Sallie Mae, the nation's largest private student lender.(more...)
By Michelle Chen
SolidarityEconomy.net via The New Press
‘What Labor Looks Like: From Wisconsin to Cairo, Youth Hold a Mirror to History of Workers' Struggles’ originally appeared in Labor Rising: The Past and Future of Working People in America edited by Daniel Katz and Richard A. Greenwald, published by The New Press. Reprinted here with permission.
May 23, 2012 - Every revolution needs two essential ingredients: young people, who are willing to dream, and poor people, who have nothing to lose.
Yet the social forces that make movements strong also incline them toward self-destruction. Hence, over the past few decades, uneasy intergenerational alliances have melted away as impatient young radicals bridle against the old guard of incumbent left movements.
At the same time, when it comes to organizing, without patronizing, poor folks, activists continually struggle just to find the right language to talk about systemic poverty in a sanitized political arena that has largely been wrung dry of real class consciousness.(more...)
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