The contemporary capitalist economic system has an extraordinary component to it. That is the connection between the government, and the financial sector, the big banks. What banks? The Big 5 are JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, and Citigroup. Their assets are in the trillions of dollars. The economic and political implications of capital resources of that magnitude are enormous. Regulations have been relaxed creating the way for another financial meltdown. But if the banks do get into trouble the state is there to bail them out as it did in the crash of 2007-2008. Some are calling for the breakup of the big banks. That will be a tough task as the state/finance nexus is so tight, but it is an issue that must be addressed. There is also an alternative model, publicly-owned banks as in the case of North Dakota.
David Harvey is the Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and Geography at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He is the author of many books, including The Limits to Capital, A Brief History of Neoliberalism, Spaces of Global Capitalism, A Companion to Marx’s Capital, Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism and The Ways of the World. He is among the top twenty most-cited authors in the humanities and is the world’s most cited academic geographer.
(Photo: Courtesy of Alternative Radio)
Amazon, the retail behemoth, is named after the giant river in South America. The company began in the Seattle area in 1994. Since then it has not just grown and expanded but has transformed marketing. Consumers are attracted to lower prices, but overwhelmingly it’s the sheer convenience of online shopping and home delivery. But all is not rosy for Amazon’s hundreds of thousands of workers. They are pushing back, demanding better wages, working conditions and benefits. Again, as we see elsewhere in the corporate world, the lack of a union to back up worker needs is glaring. Labor organizing is difficult, and management likes it that way. Some politicians are saying Amazon is too big and too powerful and needs to be either broken up or more carefully regulated.
Joe Allen is a Chicago-based writer and activist in peace and social justice movements.
(Photo via Alternative Radio)
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Around the world, democracy is in trouble. Autocrats have come to power. In the U.S. democracy is compromised by a political system awash in money, gerrymandering, voter suppression, and that absurd relic, the electoral college. One of the principal designers of the U.S. system of governance was James Madison. He said the main task of government is “to protect the opulent minority against the majority.” The latter being me and you. And pretty much that’s been the orientation of the state. Here and there a Progressive Era, a New Deal, or a Great Society occur but basically rulers try and keep the donor and landed gentry class happy. Democracy is more like a plutocracy. It is still alive but not at all healthy. It needs fixing. Only an informed and mobilized citizenry can reverse the ominous trajectory we are on.
Caroline Fredrickson is the president of the American Constitution Society and the author of Under the Bus: How Working Women Are Being Run Over and The Democracy Fix: How to Win the Fight for Fair Rules, Fair Courts, and Fair Elections. She has been widely published on a range of legal and constitutional issues. She has served as the director of the ACLU’s Washington legislative office and as general counsel and legal director of NARAL Pro-Choice America.
(Photo courtesy of Alternative Radio)
Warren Buffett, the much-admired genius investor and one of the world’s richest men said, “There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.” And who are the losers? The working class, people who work for an hourly wage or are salaried. The ruling class has driven down wages and benefits, smashed unions, and cut programs that protect the disadvantaged. All of this at a time when income and wealth inequality has reached historic extremes. Who’s to blame? In a classic example of divide and rule immigrants are demonized and scapegoated. It’s all their fault. Not the bosses and CEOs who make oodles of money. Can the working class, long taken for granted by the Democratic Party, be a force for positive progressive change? How might it overcome its own internal divisions and contradictions?
Michael Yates is Editorial Director of the Monthly Review Press. He was a labor educator for more than three decades. He is the author of The Great Inequality, Why Unions Matter and Can the Working Class Change the World?
(Photo: Michael Yates – Courtesy of Alternative Radio)