The news: A new scientific study from Princeton researchers Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page has finally put some science behind the recently popular argument that the United States isn’t a democracy any more. And they’ve found that in fact, America is basically an oligarchy.
An oligarchy is a system where power is effectively wielded by a small number of individuals defined by their status called oligarchs. Members of the oligarchy are the rich, the well connected and the politically powerful, as well as particularly well placed individuals in institutions like banking and finance or the military.
For their study, Gilens and Page compiled data from roughly 1,800 different policy initiatives in the years between 1981 and 2002. They then compared those policy changes with the expressed opinion of the United State public. Comparing the preferences of the average American at the 50th percentile of income to what those Americans at the 90th percentile preferred, as well as the opinions of major lobbying or business groups, the researchers found out that the government followed the directives set forth by the latter two much more often.
It’s beyond alarming. As Gilens and Page write, “the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.” In other words, their statistics say your opinion literally does not matter.
That might explain why mandatory background checks on gun sales supported by 83% to 91% of Americans aren’t in place, or why Congress has taken no action on greenhouse gas emissions even when such legislation is supported by the vast majority of citizens.
This problem has been steadily escalating for four decades. While there are some limitations to their data set, economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez constructed income statistics based on IRS data that go back to 1913. They found that the gap between the ultra-wealthy and the rest of us is much bigger than you would think…
Humans can survive weeks without food, but only days without water — in some conditions, only hours. It may sound clichéd, but it’s no hyperbole: Water is life. So what happens when private companies control the spigot? Evidence from water privatization projects around the world paints a pretty clear picture — public health is at stake.
In the run-up to its annual spring meeting this month, the World Bank Group, which offers loans, advice and other resources to developing countries, held four days of dialogues in Washington, D.C. Civil society groups from around the world and World Bank Group staff convened to discuss many topics. Water was high on the list.
It’s hard to think of a more important topic. We face a global water crisis, made worse by the warming temperatures of climate change. A quarter of the world’s people don’t have sufficient access to clean drinking water, and more people die every year from waterborne illnesses — such as cholera and typhoid fever — than from all forms of violence, including war, combined. Every hour, the United Nations estimates, 240 babies die from unsafe water.
The World Bank Group pushes privatization as a key solution to the water crisis. It is the largest funder of water management in the developing world, with loans and financing channeled through the group’s International Finance Corporation (IFC). Since the 1980s, the IFC has been promoting these water projects as part of a broader set of privatization policies, with loans and financing tied to enacting austerity measures designed to shrink the state, from the telecom industry to water utilities.
But international advocacy and civil society groups point to the pockmarked record of private-sector water projects and are calling on the World Bank Group to end support for private water.
In the decades since the IFC’s initial push, we have seen the results of water privatization: It doesn’t work. Water is not like telecommunications or transportation. You could tolerate crappy phone service, but have faulty pipes connecting to your municipal water and you’re in real trouble. Water is exceptional.
Right Wing Terrorists A Bigger Threat, But Not According To The Media
Published on Apr 19, 2014
"On Sunday, a man shot and killed a 14-year-old boy and his grandfather at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City and then drove to a nearby Jewish retirement community where he shot and killed a third person. Police arrested a suspect, Frazier Glenn Cross, who shouted "Heil Hitler" after he was taken into custody.
Cross, who also goes by Frazier Glenn Miller, is a well-known right wing extremist who founded the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and the White Patriot Party, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Now let’s do the thought experiment in which instead of shouting “Heil Hitler” after he was arrested, the suspect had shouted “Allahu Akbar.” Only two days before the first anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings, this simple switch of words would surely have greatly increased the extent and type of coverage the incident received.”* The Young Turks host Cenk Uygur breaks it down.
*Read more here from Peter Bergen and David Sterman / CNN:
Are trafficking, slavery and forced labour actually necessary for maintaining liberal capitalism?
Apr. 18 2014
Slavery, trafficking and forced labour are crimes which sit at the far end of the labour exploitation spectrum. As Bridget Anderson observes, they are to “badness” what apple pie and motherhood are to “goodness” - that is, just as we all know that apple pie and motherhood are “good”, so everybody knows that these three are “bad”.
And by any measure, they’re getting worse. Barely a day passes without stories of trafficked women here or child slaves there. Governments all over are passing laws, NGO interest is exploding, films such as 12 Years A Slave are mobilising the media, and more people are either being exploited or are in sufficient precarity to be attuned to that exploitation.
Yet there are major problems with this trend. Although exploitation merits our attention, the contemporary focus on its extreme forms obscures far more than it reveals. By concentrating on extremes which are considered to lie outside of the liberal capitalist system, we are in fact led away from a discussion as to how liberal capitalism is itself responsible for these extremes, and for the wider exploitation and dispossession of which they are but the worst manifestations.
In what follows, I wish to make the case, therefore, not only that we must be more critical when thinking of trafficking, slavery and forced labour; but that, conceptually and politically, we would do well to understand these apparently “outside-of-the-system” extremes as systemically necessary to the maintenance of liberal capitalism itself.
Conservative business school.
Today is Tax Day. Most of us will dutifully pay our taxes to a government that no longer represents us. Policy decisions on nearly every issue, regardless of public opinion, are decided in favor of a select few who can afford to write massive checks,…
Income inequality will continue to rise unless we close the performance pay loophole and curb the growth of executive compensation.