Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Who's Lying About the Jobs? How It Is Possible for the Economy To Have Been In Recovery Since June 2009 and There Are 1,277,000 Fewer Jobs Today Than Six Years Ago Prior to the Recession? (The Punishment Cure) The 1% Are The Very Best Destroyers Of Wealth The World Has Ever Seen

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A few words on the latest so-called "improved" unemployment numbers before we start in on the much worse economics/financial developments.

This will probably change your mind about Economics (and mathematics - no not really - it's just simple arithmetic (and who's doing it)).

To delve into the meaning of the numbers produced by the two surveys, keep in mind that payroll jobs can increase simply because the birth-death model used to estimate the numbers of unreported business shutdowns and startups can underestimate the former and overestimate the latter.

The unemployment rate can decline simply because the definition of the work force excludes discouraged workers. Thus, an increase in the number of discouraged workers can lower the measured rate of unemployment.

Before reviewing this, let’s first assume that the story of 203,000 new payroll jobs in November is correct. Where does the BLS say these jobs are? Are these the long-missing New Economy jobs that we were promised in exchange for giving China our well-paid manufacturing jobs and giving India our well-paid professional service jobs?

Unfortunately, no.

According to BLS, the jobs are mainly the same lowly-paid, part-time, nontradable domestic service jobs that I have been reporting for a decade or longer.

. . . The BLS also claims 27,000 jobs in manufacturing. What precisely is being manufactured? Apparently, very little. The manufacturing jobs are spread over about 23 categories.

The manufacture of wood products gained 600 jobs. (Keep in mind that we are talking about a population over 300,000,000, and a participating work force of approximately 155,000,000.) Nonmetallic mineral products experienced, according to the BLS, 2,000 new jobs. Machinery gained 300 new jobs. Computer and electronic products gained 500 new jobs. Electrical equipment and appliances gained 600 jobs. Transportation equipment gained 4,900 jobs. Furniture manufacture gained 2,100 jobs (apparently to fill the foreclosed unoccupied houses). Food manufacturing gained 7,800 jobs. Petroleum and coal products gained 1,600 jobs, chemicals gained 2,200 jobs, and plastics and rubber products gained 1,300 jobs.You can review the remaining categories on the BLS site.

Most the rest of the 203,000 jobs – 152,000 – were in lowly paid domestic nontradable services (nontradable means that the jobs do not produce a service that can be exported), such as retail trade with 22,300 jobs, transportation and warehousing with 30,500 jobs, temporary help services with 16,400 jobs, ambulatory health care services with 26,300 jobs, home health care services with 11,800 jobs, and the old reliable waitresses and bartenders with 17,900 jobs.

This is the jobs profile of the American super economy. It is the profile of India 30 or 40 years ago.

Are even these lowly paid part-time domestic jobs really there? Perhaps not. According to statistician John Williams (, the government shutdown and reopening, the birth-death model, and concurrent-seasonal-adjustment problems can result in misstated jobs.

The unemployment rate is affected by not counting discouraged workers who cannot find employment. No discouraged unemployed worker and no person forced to work in a part-time job because he cannot find full-time employment is counted in the 7.0 unemployment rate (U3).

To be included in the U3 unemployment rate, an unemployed person has to have looked for a job in the past four weeks. Those who have looked for a job until they are blue in the face and have given up looking are not counted in the U3 rate. In November any unemployed workers, discouraged by the absence of jobs, who ceased to look for employment were dropped from the labor force that U3 considers to be the base for the measure of unemployment. Thus, if unemployed workers move into the discouraged category, the rate of unemployment falls even if not a single person finds a job.

The government has a second unemployment rate, U6, about which little is heard. This rate counts workers who have been discouraged for less than one year. This unemployment rate is 13.2%, almost double the reported rate.

 In other words, the U3 measure of unemployment can decline for two different reasons: the economy can create more employment opportunities or people become discouraged and stop looking for jobs. Discouraged workers move into the U6 category where they are counted as unemployed until they have been discouraged for more than one year when they are no longer officially considered to be part of the labor force. The U6 unemployment rate can rise as short-term discouraged workers are dropped out of the U3 measure and moved into the U6 measure, and the U6 rate can fall when the workers become long-term discouraged and are officially removed from the labor force.

Think about this for a minute. The BLS admits that the US unemployment rate that includes people who have been discouraged about finding a job for less than one year is 13.2%. The official line is that the US economy has been enjoying a recovery since June 2009. How is there a recovery when 13.2% of the population is unemployed?

This question becomes even more pointed when the long-term – more than one year – discouraged workers who cannot find a job are included in the measure of unemployment. The US government does not provide such a measure. However, John Williams ( does. His estimate produces a 23.2% rate of US unemployment. An increase in the number of long-term discouraged workers is consistent with the drop in the US labor force participation rate from 66% in December 2007 to 63% in November 2013.

There is no such thing as a recovery with 23.2% unemployment.

Keep in mind that many of the new November payroll jobs could reflect seasonal hiring gearing up for the Christmas sales season. Remember, the payroll survey counts one person with two part-time jobs as two jobs.

Economic recovery requires a growth in real median family income and/or an increase in consumer debt, and, except for a rise in student loan debt, there is no sign of either.

US real median household income has declined from $56,189 in 2007 to $51,371 in 2012, a decline of $4,818 or 8.6%. (

. . . I have not seen the establishment’s explanation of how recovery can occur without growth in real purchasing power either from rising real incomes or rising consumer indebtedness.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 1,277,000 fewer seasonally adjusted payroll jobs in November 2013 than in December 2007.

How it is possible for the economy to have been in recovery since June 2009 (according to the National Bureau of Economic Research) and there are 1,277,000 fewer jobs today than existed six years ago prior to the recession?

How has real Gross Domestic Product recovered when jobs and real consumer incomes have not?

These are among the many questions that go unasked and unanswered.

- Paul Craig Roberts

What's funny, odd, depressing, and psychically enervating(?) to almost any of the 99% (okay maybe 95%) is that we used to be a pretty nice country (everybody liked us, remember?). We used to actually believe that we had the best system, that we protected the underdog, that we tried to educate everyone well (after Brown versus Board of Education in 1954 anyway), and that we would always play fair and square with not only our own citizens but also the rest of the world's citizens.

Over the 30-plus years since the devastation visiting upon the country by the Ronald Reagan plague, we've ceased believing in each of these ideas.

We know the Republicans (and many blue-dog Dims) thought they had the cure for what ails our economy, but after a lot of bought-and-paid-for media saturation, it only turned out to be arrogance, cultural/educational pretentiousness, and lots and lots of bombs.

What we failed to see was how punishing they meant it to be to everyone.

Not to mention the whole getting-rid-of-American-democracy meme.

The Punishment Cure

By Paul Krugman

December 8, 2013 416 Comments

Six years have passed since the United States economy entered the Great Recession, four and a half since it officially began to recover, but long-term unemployment remains disastrously high. And Republicans have a theory about why this is happening. Their theory is, as it happens, completely wrong. But they’re sticking to it — and as a result, 1.3 million American workers, many of them in desperate financial straits, are set to lose unemployment benefits at the end of December.

Merry Christmas.

Now, the G.O.P.’s desire to punish the unemployed doesn’t arise solely from bad economics; it’s part of a general pattern of afflicting the afflicted while comforting the comfortable (no to food stamps, yes to farm subsidies). But ideas do matter — as John Maynard Keynes famously wrote, they are “dangerous for good or evil.” And the case of unemployment benefits is an especially clear example of superficially plausible but wrong economic ideas being dangerous for evil. 

Here’s the world as many Republicans see it: Unemployment insurance, which generally pays eligible workers between 40 and 50 percent of their previous pay, reduces the incentive to search for a new job. As a result, the story goes, workers stay unemployed longer. In particular, it’s claimed that the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, which lets workers collect benefits beyond the usual limit of 26 weeks, explains why there are four million long-term unemployed workers in America today, up from just one million in 2007. 

Correspondingly, the G.O.P. answer to the problem of long-term unemployment is to increase the pain of the long-term unemployed: Cut off their benefits, and they’ll go out and find jobs. How, exactly, will they find jobs when there are three times as many job-seekers as job vacancies? Details, details. 

Proponents of this story like to cite academic research — some of it from Democratic-leaning economists — that seemingly confirms the idea that unemployment insurance causes unemployment. They’re not equally fond of pointing out that this research is two or more decades old, has not stood the test of time, and is irrelevant in any case given our current economic situation. 

The view of most labor economists now is that unemployment benefits have only a modest negative effect on job search — and in today’s economy have no negative effect at all on overall employment. On the contrary, unemployment benefits help create jobs, and cutting those benefits would depress the economy as a whole. 

Ask yourself how, exactly, ending unemployment benefits would create more jobs. It’s true that some of the currently unemployed, finding themselves even more desperate than before, might manage to snatch jobs away from those who currently have them. But what would give businesses a reason to employ more workers as opposed to replacing existing workers? 

You might be tempted to argue that more intense competition among workers would lead to lower wages, and that cheap labor would encourage hiring. But that argument involves a fallacy of composition. Cut the wages of some workers relative to those of other workers, and those accepting the wage cuts may gain a competitive edge. Cut everyone’s wages, however, and nobody gains an edge. All that happens is a general fall in income — which, among other things, increases the burden of household debt, and is therefore a net negative for overall employment.

The point is that employment in today’s American economy is limited by demand, not supply. Businesses aren’t failing to hire because they can’t find willing workers; they’re failing to hire because they can’t find enough customers. And slashing unemployment benefits — which would have the side effect of reducing incomes and hence consumer spending — would just make the situation worse.

Still, don’t expect prominent Republicans to change their views, except maybe to come up with additional reasons to punish the unemployed. For example, Senator Rand Paul recently cited research suggesting that the long-term unemployed have a hard time re-entering the work force as a reason to, you guessed it, cut off long-term unemployment benefits. You see, those benefits are actually a “disservice” to the unemployed.

The good news, such as it is, is that the White House and Senate Democrats are trying to make an issue of expiring unemployment benefits. The bad news is that they don’t sound willing to make extending benefits a precondition for a budget deal, which means that they aren’t really willing to make a stand.

So the odds, I’m sorry to say, are that the long-term unemployed will be cut off, thanks to a perfect marriage of callousness — a complete lack of empathy for the unfortunate — with bad economics. But then, hasn’t that been the story of just about everything lately?


  • KHL Pfafftown, NC
So much work in our country is going undone, our infrastructure is rotting beneath us, schools are understaffed with demoralized teachers, an entire industry of renewable energy is waiting to be developed and implemented as we rely primarily on the 19th century combustion engine for transportation. The sick and injured forgo treatment for lack of insurance. There are mountains of work to be done but no one can be paid to do it. Why?

Meanwhile, the financial industry, abetted by an owned and compliant congress, devises increasingly clever and convoluted ways to siphon off our nation's wealth, from complex derivatives to rigged deals. Why is it that municipal pensioners' lives are on the chopping blocks but not the heads of finance whose shoddy deals lead to the debacle in the first place? What universe was being devised by these "masters of the universe" that lead to the housing collapse? Who was it who knowingly sold bad investments to municipalities leading to the underfunding of pensions? Now the "masters" want out of those contracts? What good is any contract these days?

The question is not whether there is work to be done, it is how do we extricate ourselves from the insatiable maw of the financial elites who insist that all the work that shall be done will be done for their sole benefit.  Dec. 9, 2013
  • Karen Garcia  New Paltz, NY
When Democrats said they'd be willing to accept a budget deal without an extension of unemployment benefits, my jaw dropped.

The callousness is bipartisan; only the messaging differs. The GOP Caligula Caucus culls the herd with sadistic gusto, while the Docile Dems offer us "ladders of opportunity" to crawl our way out of the wreckage at some TBA date. So much for the president's promise last week "to do everything in his power" to narrow the gap between rich and poor for the remainder of his term.

Reported terms of the budget deal naturally include restoration of military funding so "we" can stay in Afghanistan for at least another decade. This will be offset by regressive taxes on consumers, including an air travel surcharge, as well as by increased pension contributions from government workers. (Not that jobless people actually have to worry about vacations or pensions.) And before we even have a chance to register our dismay, the politicians will have blown town for more bribe-seeking rounds of golf or après de ski with the ruling class elites who fund their campaigns and dictate the policies.

The right wingers rail against the War on Christmas even as they cheer-lead endless wars on the make-believe terror battlefield. They serve Christmas dinner to the troops at the same time they throw kids off food stamps. They get their preening pictures taken in church and demand that God Bless America.

If I were God seeing them pray, I think I would lost my faith. Dec. 8, 2013
  • Rima Regas  Mission Viejo, CA
It's not the guest gardeners and restaurant workers that are keeping millions of long-term unemployed workers from finding jobs. It never was.

The things that have whittled our jobs away are these:

Deregulation of banking
Lowering of corporate taxes to almost nothing
Allowing capital to be parked overseas in tax havens
Skewed trade agreements that favor US companies manufacturing overseas
Skewed trade agreements that hand over the power to dictate to corporations
Money in politics and corrupt politicians on both sides of the aisle
Plutocrats with so much money that they can take over a party and grind government to a halt
A corporate police state that can squash protest movements (Occupy)
After years of attrition, a populace that is too harried and afraid to get involved

Finally, Zach Carter's article on the TPP (TransPacific Trade) agreement. It looks like there isn't much support for it overseas. Here, in the US, few in the media are talking about the secret negotiations on a trade agreement that, if passed by Congress, will be the straw that finally breaks the middle class.


  • Robert Stewart  Chantilly, Virginia
I recently heard the "callousness...with bad economics" story repeated by one of the Republican members of the Virginia House of Delegates. He was explaining to advocates of Medicaid expansion gathered at the Jewish Community Center in Fairfax, Virginia why he would not be able to support the expansion of Medicaid that would cover over 400,000 in Virginia.

He was completely comfortable with the 400,000 being uninsured because the government may not cover 90% of the expansion costs promised after covering the first three years at 100% of the expansion costs. As Ezra Klein noted in his WaPo analysis last summer: "States rejecting the expansion will spend much more, get much, much less, and leave millions of their residents uninsured. That's a lot of self-inflicted pain to make a political point." (

Yes, "callousness...with bad economics" is the GOP modus operandi, and it is the mode of operation prevalent at both the national and state levels. Dec. 8, 2013
    • Jim Zurich
    I don't claim to know the answers to these difficult questions, but I can sure spot hypocrisy when I see it. Every tax loophole achieved through the efforts of well-funded lobbyists is welfare for the rich. Every financial institution bail-out achieved through the efforts of cronies in the Treasury Department is well-fare for the rich.

    So, fine, if the rich, living off their interest and stock dividends, can have their welfare, then, I say, why deny it to the working class unemployed. As one writer put it, America is fast becoming the land of dog-eat-dog capitalism for the working class person, and socialism for the rich.

    And, yes, I've heard all the arguments as to why the super-rich need to be protected and allowed to keep more and more of their money. You see, I took 19th century American History in college. Those self-serving, hypocritical arguments justifying obscene wealth for the few while crushing the many haven't changed, they've just resurfaced. Dec. 9, 2013 
      • Ron Zaudke  Prescott, Wi.
      Republicans since Reagan hate not only unemployment insurance, but also minimum wage legislation, unions, health care reform of any type, all public employees, any consumer or environmental protection of any type. And, of course, they obstruct any fiscal federal stimulous program designed to increase employment. They are strongly in favor of upper end tax cuts, and reduction or elimination of any and all income security programs for those who work for a living.

      In other words, they desire, and have largely succeeded in creating,a fourteen trillion dollar economy run wholely by and for the wealthy. An economy designed to have workers divided against one another, and fighting for sub-poverty wages, while a tiny elite grows ever richer.  Dec. 9, 2013

        I came upon this description of how the politicos have historically related to the financial structure of the United States in (of all places)

        It speaks worlds.

        On frequent occasions, (Bobby) Baker was asked to dispense delicate advice…

        “When Johnson was vice president, he invited me to go with him to Senator Styles Bridges’s [R-N.H.] funeral. … Dolores Bridges was very fond of Vice President Johnson. She said, ‘Lyndon, I need some advice.’ She said, ‘Styles has got $2 million in cash here and I don’t know how to handle it.’ Vice President Johnson, being the true coward, he said, ‘Talk to Bobby.’ So I told her, ‘The banks are the government. If you put it in the bank, you are dead meat. Whatever you do, do not put that money in the bank.’ I don’t know what the hell she did with it.”12

        There's also a lot of documentation of what exactly the politics were during the time of LBJ's running of the U.S. Senate.

        “Any time I had a rich guy in town, my secretary called her to see if she could go out. She told me that of all the people she had met … the nicest one was Congressman Jerry Ford [R-Mich.]. [FBI Director] J. Edgar Hoover could not find out the happenings when the Warren Commission was investigating the killer of President Kennedy. … J. Edgar Hoover could not find out what they were doing. So, he had this tape where Jerry Ford was having oral sex with Ellen Rometsch. You know, his wife had a serious drug problem back then. … Hoover blackmailed … Ford to tell him what they were doing. That’s the reason I don’t like him. It’s just a misuse of authority.”15

        By 1963, Baker’s public and private worlds were beginning to collide. That summer, Attorney General Robert Kennedy became so concerned about the rumors involving President Kennedy and Ellen Rometsch that he had her secretly deported back to Germany. That fall, a rival vending machine operator sued Baker, alleging that he was peddling influence to win contracts for Serv-U.

        The suit drew the attention of journalists, and the Senate Rules Committee, which began an investigation into Baker’s dealings. Baker’s high-flying life came crashing down around him — and everyone he knew, especially Lyndon Johnson. Johnson had not been involved in Baker’s investments, but Baker had helped arrange a life insurance policy for Johnson after his 1955 heart attack — and later, for the gift of a stereo set as a kind of kickback from the broker who wrote the policy.

        Johnson was terrified that he would be tarred by association with Baker, while the Kennedy administration — and senior senators of both parties — worried about being drawn into the Rometsch affair. On Oct. 7, 1963, Baker was set to meet with Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield and Minority Leader Dirksen to review the allegations against him. Instead, hoping to stop the investigation, Baker downed four Tanqueray martinis at the Quorum Club at lunch, and then resigned. He hoped his resignation would end the investigation, but it did not.

        On the afternoon of Nov. 22, 1963, Don Reynolds, the Maryland broker who had written the life insurance policy for Johnson, was telling investigators for the Senate Rules Committee that he had been pressured to buy advertising time on an Austin television station owned by Johnson—even though the insurance salesman was unknown in Texas and could hardly expect to generate business there.

        “And on November 22 … after lunch, in the Senate Rules Committee investigation [of] Bobby Baker, Don Reynolds was going to really spill his guts. But when President Kennedy was killed, it basically killed the Baker investigation. You know, President Johnson acted like he did not know me. … I think the Reynolds testimony plus the absolute hatred of Bobby Kennedy of Johnson [would have forced LBJ off the 1964 Democratic ticket if Kennedy had lived].

        Poor old Walter [Jenkins, one of Johnson’s most trusted aides, who had worked with Reynolds to buy the advertising time on the Johnson station], had President Kennedy not been killed, he either would have had to take the Fifth Amendment and quit, or tell the truth and Vice President Johnson would have definitely been off the ticket in 1964, had it [been] shown that he had really been the party in the back of this.”

        The press furor and Senate investigation of Baker continued in the aftermath of the assassination, and on Feb. 19, 1964, Baker was called to testify. On the advice of his lawyer, the legendary Edward Bennett Williams, he took the Fifth Amendment. In 1966, Baker was indicted on charges of income tax evasion, stemming from financial transactions he had handled for Sen. Robert Kerr, who by then had died.

        Baker was tried and convicted the following year, and his appeal was ultimately rejected. He served 18 months in the federal prison at Allenwood, Pa. before his release in 1972. He and his wife, the former Dorothy Comstock, were married for 27 years, and divorced for 15, but later reconciled and live together today in northern Florida. In 2008, he voted (for Barack Obama) for the first time in more than 40 years, because Florida passed a law restoring the franchise to convicted felons who have served their time.

        “When I see my Negro friends, I tell them, ‘You go say a little prayer for LBJ.’ Because I said, ‘The Voting Rights Act made us all equal.’ The only way in hell that Senator Obama ever got elected president was because of the Voting Rights Act. I said, ‘It’s the greatest thing that’s happened to our country.’

        I’ll tell you, the people who disliked me are dead and I’m still alive. Had I not had trouble … you cannot work seven days a week, 18 hours a day, and drink as much and eat the wrong foods. It saved my life. Now I wait till 5 o’clock to take a drink, take two drinks and I’m through. I attribute it to my troubles. Had I not had it, I’d been dead a long time ago…. You cannot believe the amount of ill press I received for about 10 years. But time is a great healer. So when you walk down the street and meet 100 people and you say, ‘Do you know who Bobby Baker is?’ they don’t have a clue.”

        Todd S. Purdum is senior writer at Politico and contributing editor at Vanity Fair.

        Read more here.

        The 1% Are The Very Best Destroyers Of Wealth The World Has Ever Seen

        Our common treasury in the last 30 years has been captured by industrial psychopaths. That's why we're nearly bankrupt
        By George Monbiot
        November 28, 2013

        The Guardian" - If wealth was the inevitable result of hard work and enterprise, every woman in Africa would be a millionaire. The claims that the ultra-rich 1% make for themselves – that they are possessed of unique intelligence or creativity or drive – are examples of the self-attribution fallacy. This means crediting yourself with outcomes for which you weren't responsible. Many of those who are rich today got there because they were able to capture certain jobs. This capture owes less to talent and intelligence than to a combination of the ruthless exploitation of others and accidents of birth, as such jobs are taken disproportionately by people born in certain places and into certain classes.

        The findings of the psychologist Daniel Kahneman, winner of a Nobel economics prize, are devastating to the beliefs that financial high-fliers entertain about themselves. He discovered that their apparent success is a cognitive illusion. For example, he studied the results achieved by 25 wealth advisers across eight years. He found that the consistency of their performance was zero. "The results resembled what you would expect from a dice-rolling contest, not a game of skill." Those who received the biggest bonuses had simply got lucky.

        Such results have been widely replicated. They show that traders and fund managers throughout Wall Street receive their massive remuneration for doing no better than would a chimpanzee flipping a coin. When Kahneman tried to point this out, they blanked him. "The illusion of skill … is deeply ingrained in their culture."

        So much for the financial sector and its super-educated analysts. As for other kinds of business, you tell me. Is your boss possessed of judgment, vision and management skills superior to those of anyone else in the firm, or did he or she get there through bluff, bullshit and bullying?

        In a study published by the journal Psychology, Crime and Law, Belinda Board and Katarina Fritzon tested 39 senior managers and chief executives from leading British businesses. They compared the results to the same tests on patients at Broadmoor special hospital, where people who have been convicted of serious crimes are incarcerated. On certain indicators of psychopathy, the bosses's scores either matched or exceeded those of the patients. In fact, on these criteria, they beat even the subset of patients who had been diagnosed with psychopathic personality disorders.

        The psychopathic traits on which the bosses scored so highly, Board and Fritzon point out, closely resemble the characteristics that companies look for. Those who have these traits often possess great skill in flattering and manipulating powerful people. Egocentricity, a strong sense of entitlement, a readiness to exploit others and a lack of empathy and conscience are also unlikely to damage their prospects in many corporations.

        In their book Snakes in Suits, Paul Babiak and Robert Hare point out that as the old corporate bureaucracies have been replaced by flexible, ever-changing structures, and as team players are deemed less valuable than competitive risk-takers, psychopathic traits are more likely to be selected and rewarded. Reading their work, it seems to me that if you have psychopathic tendencies and are born to a poor family, you're likely to go to prison. If you have psychopathic tendencies and are born to a rich family, you're likely to go to business school.

        This is not to suggest that all executives are psychopaths. It is to suggest that the economy has been rewarding the wrong skills. As the bosses have shaken off the trade unions and captured both regulators and tax authorities, the distinction between the productive and rentier upper classes has broken down. Chief executives now behave like dukes, extracting from their financial estates sums out of all proportion to the work they do or the value they generate, sums that sometimes exhaust the businesses they parasitise. They are no more deserving of the share of wealth they've captured than oil sheikhs.

        The rest of us are invited, by governments and by fawning interviews in the press, to subscribe to their myth of election: the belief that they are possessed of superhuman talents. The very rich are often described as wealth creators. But they have preyed on the earth's natural wealth and their workers' labour and creativity, impoverishing both people and planet. Now they have almost bankrupted us. The wealth creators of neoliberal mythology are some of the most effective wealth destroyers the world has ever seen.

        What has happened over the past 30 years is the capture of the world's common treasury by a handful of people, assisted by neoliberal policies which were first imposed on rich nations by Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. I am now going to bombard you with figures. I'm sorry about that, but these numbers need to be tattooed on our minds. Between 1947 and 1979, productivity in the US rose by 119%, while the income of the bottom fifth of the population rose by 122%. But from 1979 to 2009, productivity rose by 80%, while the income of the bottom fifth fell by 4%. In roughly the same period, the income of the top 1% rose by 270%.

        In the UK, the money earned by the poorest tenth fell by 12% between 1999 and 2009, while the money made by the richest 10th rose by 37%. The Gini coefficient, which measures income inequality, climbed in this country from 26 in 1979 to 40 in 2009.

        In his book The Haves and the Have Nots, Branko Milanovic tries to discover who was the richest person who has ever lived. Beginning with the loaded Roman triumvir Marcus Crassus, he measures wealth according to the quantity of his compatriots' labour a rich man could buy. It appears that the richest man to have lived in the past 2,000 years is alive today. Carlos Slim could buy the labour of 440,000 average Mexicans. This makes him 14 times as rich as Crassus, nine times as rich as Carnegie and four times as rich as Rockefeller.

        Until recently, we were mesmerised by the bosses' self-attribution. Their acolytes, in academia, the media, thinktanks and government, created an extensive infrastructure of junk economics and flattery to justify their seizure of other people's wealth. So immersed in this nonsense did we become that we seldom challenged its veracity.

        This is now changing. On Sunday evening I witnessed a remarkable thing: a debate on the steps of St Paul's Cathedral between Stuart Fraser, chairman of the Corporation of the City of London, another official from the corporation, the turbulent priest Father William Taylor, John Christensen of the Tax Justice Network and the people of Occupy London. It had something of the flavour of the Putney debates of 1647. For the first time in decades – and all credit to the corporation officials for turning up – financial power was obliged to answer directly to the people.

        It felt like history being made. The undeserving rich are now in the frame, and the rest of us want our money back.

        A fully referenced version of this article can be found at

        Robert Reich | JP Morgan Chase, the Foreign Corrupt Practice Act and the Corruption of America

        Robert Reich, Op-Ed: The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act is important, and JP Morgan should be nailed for bribing Chinese officials. But, if you’ll pardon me for asking, why isn’t there a Domestic Corrupt Practices Act? Never before has so much U.S. corporate and Wall Street money poured into our nation’s capital, as well as into our state capitals. Never before have so many Washington officials taken jobs in corporations, lobbying firms, trade associations, and on the Street immediately after leaving office.

        Measuring Fukushima’s Impact: How Geeks and Hackers Got Geiger Counters to the Masses

        Erika Lundahl, News Report: In March 2011, an unknown amount of radiation was released into the atmosphere after a powerful tsunami slammed into the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors on the Pacific coast in Japan. The situation at Fukushima has received limited coverage in the Western media, but many scientists have grave concerns about the health and safety ramifications of the procedure—which has never been tried before—should something go wrong.

        BLS's 7 Percent Jobless Rate for November is Nothing to Cheer About

        Dave Lindorff, Op-Ed:

        The White House, and most headline writers around the country, are crowing that the November jobless rate of 7 percent, reported Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is the lowest since 2009 when President Obama took office, when it was 7.3 percent and rising. But is this number really something worth cheering? Not if you look behind it. That 7 percent number is the BLS’s so-called U3 figure, which is the percentage of the labor force currently unemployed and it is significantly lower than the figure for November 2012.

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