Social Articles from 2016
Let’s make attending Davos as shameful as running a sweatshop
by Steve Hilton
Posted January 24, 2016
Davos has just finished. You know, the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum. What, didn’t you get your invitation? Oh dear, looks like you don’t really matter. Sorry about that.
It’s easy to mock Davos – so I will. It’s the annual schmooze fest where rich white men debate inequality and diversity. Where fleets of carbon-gushing private jets fly in philanthropists to pontificate about climate change. Where the world’s biggest corporations earnestly set out footling “strategies” and “action plans” to give the impression they’re addressing the social and environmental problems that they caused in the first place. More…
What’s Eroding the Middle Class?
by Charles Hugh Smith
Posted January 19, 2016
This erosion of a self-employed, independent middle class was an important pre-condition for the collapse of Rome and the French Revolution. I have devoted many blog posts to the erosion of the middle class, for the specific reason that when the middle class–the layers of the economy between the Power Elites and landless laborers/state dependents–erodes away, the nation/empire is destabilized and descends into crisis.
A society without a functioning middle layer of economic and social activity is not stable, though repression can mask this for a time. Economies constructed of a supremely wealthy elite, a thin layer of independent artisans and small farmers, and a great mass of laborers with no assets has no shared sense of identity or purpose; those at the bottom have little in common with those at the top, and the thin middle that is scraping by has little affinity with either the elite above or the poverty-stricken below. More…
How Debt Conquered America
by Jada Thacker
Posted January 15, 2016
America presents itself to the world as “the land of the free” but – for the vast majority – it is a place of enslaving indebtedness, a reality for much of “the 99%” that has deep historical roots hidden or “lost” from our history. To view the conquest of North America as the triumphant flowering of democratic liberty and affluence over bestial savagery and abject poverty is so factually vacant, so morally and economically perverse, as to be considered hallucinatory.
Native people literally had no words to describe the cataclysm that had destroyed them. It was left to follow-on generations of “necessitous men” to learn the vocabulary of servitude needed to describe their economic lives.
Here is only a part of the terminology “necessitous men” needed to learn: poverty level, payday loans, food stamps, interest rate, surcharges, eviction, unemployment rates, lock-outs, foreclosure, bankruptcy, credit scores, down payment, damage deposits, credit limit, collection agency, mortgages, user fees, closing costs, title loans, bail outs, insolvency, title insurance, origination fee, installment plans, tax levy, deed restrictions, market crashes, illiquidity, non-sufficient funds, minimum payment due, late fees, lay-offs, property lien, pawn tickets, collateral, tax withholding, service fees, forfeiture, inflation, deflation, stagflation…
Is this the vocabulary of free people? More…
10 companies profiting the most from war
by Samuel Weigley
Posted January 7, 2016
The business of war is profitable. In 2011, the 100 largest contractors sold $410 billion in arms and military services. Just 10 of those companies sold over $208 billion. Based on a list of the top 100 arms-producing and military services companies in 2011 compiled by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the 10 companies with the most military sales worldwide.
These companies have benefited tremendously from the growth in military spending in the U.S., which by far has the largest military budget in the world. In 2000, the U.S. defense budget was approximately $312 billion. By 2011, the figure had grown to $712 billion. Arm sales grew alongside general defense spending growth. SIPRI noted that between 2002 and 2011, arms sales among the top 100 companies grew by 51%. More…
For the Wealthiest, a Private Tax System That Saves Them Billions
By Noam Scheiber and Patricia Cohen
Posted January 4, 2016
The very richest are able to quietly shape tax policy that will allow them to shield billions in income. With inequality at its highest levels in nearly a century and public debate rising over whether the government should respond to it through higher taxes on the wealthy, the very richest Americans have financed a sophisticated and astonishingly effective apparatus for shielding their fortunes. Some call it the “income defense industry,” consisting of a high-priced phalanx of lawyers, estate planners, lobbyists and anti-tax activists who exploit and defend a dizzying array of tax maneuvers, virtually none of them available to taxpayers of more modest means.
In recent years, this apparatus has become one of the most powerful avenues of influence for wealthy Americans of all political stripes, including Mr. Loeb and Mr. Cohen, who give heavily to Republicans, and the liberal billionaire George Soros, who has called for higher levies on the rich while at the same time using tax loopholes to bolster his own fortune. More…
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