Profiting off hunger: Wall Street makes big gains over food price spikes
January 21, 2013 

Powerful firms like Goldman Sachs have made hundreds of millions of dollars in food future trades. Critics accuse them of profiting off starvation and market manipulation, while traders claim their profits are due to increasing consumption in China.

World food prices tracked by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) have more than doubled in the past 10 years. The FAO’s Food Price Index, which baskets prices for five prime food commodities, peaked in 2008 and 2011, each time rising more than 50 percent from the previous year. The latest price spike was one of the key factors that triggered the series of uprisings in the Arab world resulting in the fall of several governments.

The year 2013 may see another price hike, following the worst draught in the US in 50 years and poor harvests in Russia and Ukraine. The UN has warned that the world may be approaching a major hunger crisis.

At the same time, the industry is bringing millions in profits to those who rushed to invest in food. Goldman Sachs made an estimated $400 million in 2012 from investing its clients’ money in a range of “soft commodities,” from wheat and maize to coffee and sugar, according to an analysis by the World Development Movement (WDM).

"While nearly a billion people go hungry, Goldman Sachs bankers are feeding their own bonuses by betting on the price of food. Financial speculation is fueling food price spikes and Goldman Sachs is the No, 1 culprit," Christine Haigh of the WDM told the British newspaper The Independent.

The London-based organization – along with similar NGOs like Foodwatch, Oxfam, or Weed (World Economy, Ecology and Development) – have for years blamed financiers for inflating food prices, or for at least making the market dangerously volatile.

They argue that the amount of speculative money is too big in proportion to the physical inventories of the commodities. Deregulation in the late 1990s allowed financial institutions to bet on food prices,  resulting in some $200 billion being poured into the market.

For example, hedge fund Armajaro virtually single-handedly sent the global price of cocoa to a 33-year high in July 2010 by buying around 15 percent of global cocoa stocks.

The overall effect of speculation on food prices is an issue of dispute. Influential analysts, such as US economist Paul Krugman, have argued that speculation is a marginal factor compared to rising demand from developing countries, as well as the expanding production of corn and maize for biofuels at the expense of foodstuffs.

A study by the New England Complex Systems Institute last year showed that the Food Price Index should only change if ethanol production had an impact. The study estimated that a 2008 ethanol price hike was largely due to speculation, while a 2011 spike was significantly fueled by investors.

Many financiers dismiss the accusations, and say they will continue bidding against food prices. On Saturday, Deutsche Bank Co-Chief Executive Juergen Fitsche told the Global Forum for Food and Agriculture that Germany’s biggest lender “will continue to offer financial instruments linked to agricultural products.”

"Agricultural futures markets bring numerous advantages to farmers and the food industry," he said.

Others seem to be yielding to pressure. Last year, several German banks, including the second-largest Commerzbank, ceased to speculate on basic food prices for moral reasons.

Source

"A tool of Wall Street, a man who’s decriminalized torture and is still complicit in it, a drone assassin, someone who’s launched an unconstitutional war, supports kidnapping and indefinite detention without trial, and has prosecuted more whistleblowers like myself than all previous presidents put together." - Daniel Ellsberg, anti-war activist & Pentagon Papers whistleblower on President Barack Obama

"A tool of Wall Street, a man who’s decriminalized torture and is still complicit in it, a drone assassin, someone who’s launched an unconstitutional war, supports kidnapping and indefinite detention without trial, and has prosecuted more whistleblowers like myself than all previous presidents put together." - Daniel Ellsberg, anti-war activist & Pentagon Papers whistleblower on President Barack Obama

Join Nation Nurses United as they rally for the Robin Hood Tax H.R. 6411!
Oct. 2 at 11 a.m.163 W. 125th Street, NYC
The Robin Hood Tax is a sales tax on Wall Street trades of stocks, bonds & other financial transactions. The tax of one-half of 1 percent would generate hundreds of billions of dollars each year & could fund 9 million new jobs that would pay an average of $38,844 per year, as well as save 1.7 million homes from foreclosure. 
See you there!

Join Nation Nurses United as they rally for the Robin Hood Tax H.R. 6411!

Oct. 2 at 11 a.m.
163 W. 125th Street, NYC

The Robin Hood Tax is a sales tax on Wall Street trades of stocks, bonds & other financial transactions. The tax of one-half of 1 percent would generate hundreds of billions of dollars each year & could fund 9 million new jobs that would pay an average of $38,844 per year, as well as save 1.7 million homes from foreclosure. 

See you there!

Help build The People’s Wall
September 7, 2012
On September 17th, exactly one year after the Occupation of Wall Street, the whole world will once again be watching. As part of the morning of actions, people from all walks of life are going to assemble in the streets surrounding the New York Stock Exchange in a historic act of nonviolent civil disobedience. We will form a peaceful sitting wall to deliver a clear message: The 99% will no longer stand for business as usual.
In building this blockade, we will — symbolically and literally — open space for the 99 Revolutions to emerge, and set the stage for the Storm Wall Street convergence. These actions work together, as essential parts of a greater whole.
·         Meet at 7am at one of the intersections marked in dark blue (… or get as close as you can get, staying close to the light blue lines).
·         Try to wear suits or business casual! This will help us blend in and make the job of the police more time-consuming.
·         There will be assemblies and performances: take part, make your voice heard.
·         When the signal comes, sit down.
·         Now the whole world will be watching: Tell them why you are there.
If you can’t be arrested, but still want to help support the People’s Wall:
·         Meet at the assigned intersections or as close as you can get.
·         Stick to the sidewalks.
·         Comply with all police orders, as calmly and slowly as possible.
·         Support your friends and family as they make a statement against Wall Street. Repeat their words via human mic. Take pictures. Take video. Tell the world what you saw.
There will be three public practice sessions:
·         Wednesday, September 12th, 6pm, Liberty Plaza (aka Zuccotti Park)
·         Saturday, September 15th, 4pm, Washington Square Park
·         Sunday, September 16th, 6pm, Foley Square
 
Over the past year, we have repeatedly demonstrated that Wall Street — the system of greed that they prop up, the incentive structures they embody, and the culture of accumulation and exploitation that they require — is at the root of our many crises:
Worker exploitation. Mass Incarceration & The New Jim Crow.
Environmental destruction. The Foreclosure epidemic.
Austerity. Predatory debt. Our corrupt political process.
All of our grievances are connected. If you follow the money… all roads lead to Wall Street.

Help build The People’s Wall

September 7, 2012

On September 17th, exactly one year after the Occupation of Wall Street, the whole world will once again be watching. As part of the morning of actions, people from all walks of life are going to assemble in the streets surrounding the New York Stock Exchange in a historic act of nonviolent civil disobedience. We will form a peaceful sitting wall to deliver a clear message: The 99% will no longer stand for business as usual.

In building this blockade, we will — symbolically and literally — open space for the 99 Revolutions to emerge, and set the stage for the Storm Wall Street convergence. These actions work together, as essential parts of a greater whole.

·         Meet at 7am at one of the intersections marked in dark blue (… or get as close as you can get, staying close to the light blue lines).

·         Try to wear suits or business casual! This will help us blend in and make the job of the police more time-consuming.

·         There will be assemblies and performances: take part, make your voice heard.

·         When the signal comes, sit down.

·         Now the whole world will be watching: Tell them why you are there.

If you can’t be arrested, but still want to help support the People’s Wall:

·         Meet at the assigned intersections or as close as you can get.

·         Stick to the sidewalks.

·         Comply with all police orders, as calmly and slowly as possible.

·         Support your friends and family as they make a statement against Wall Street. Repeat their words via human mic. Take pictures. Take video. Tell the world what you saw.

There will be three public practice sessions:

·         Wednesday, September 12th, 6pm, Liberty Plaza (aka Zuccotti Park)

·         Saturday, September 15th, 4pm, Washington Square Park

·         Sunday, September 16th, 6pm, Foley Square

 

Over the past year, we have repeatedly demonstrated that Wall Street — the system of greed that they prop up, the incentive structures they embody, and the culture of accumulation and exploitation that they require — is at the root of our many crises:

Worker exploitation. Mass Incarceration & The New Jim Crow.

Environmental destruction. The Foreclosure epidemic.

Austerity. Predatory debt. Our corrupt political process.

All of our grievances are connected. If you follow the money… all roads lead to Wall Street.

OWS march rolls through Charlotte ahead of DNCSeptember 2, 2012
Hundreds of people have taken part in the March on Wall Street South event in Charlotte, carrying banners, banging drums and chanting slogans against corporate greed. The protest ahead of the Democratic National Convention proceeded peacefully.
The turnout at the event was lower than organizers had expected, with only about 1,000 activists from dozens of groups marching through the city center on Sunday.
Small groups of protesters made stops along their way to stage sit-ins in front of Bank of America headquarters and power utility Duke Energy.
The march drew people protesting against a variety of causes in addition to corporate collusion with the US government. Along with slogans like "Capitalism is holding back the human race," and "Bail out people, not banks," protesters were bearing signs saying “No war on Iran” and “Obama murders children with drones.”
About 100 police officers walked alongside the protesters, with a helicopter hovering above the crowd. They carried wooden batons, plastic hand ties and gas masks, but did not use them as the event went smoothly.
Only one person was arrested during the march, for intoxication, police said.
The parade route and “free speech” areas were designated by the authorities well in advance. The city also assigned time slots for speaking and marches. 
Official events tied to the official Democratic National Convention begin on Tuesday, but Charlotte authorities bolstered up security well ahead. They introduced new rules, according to which a person can face arrest for carrying water bottles, socks, markers, and other seemingly unthreatening items.
Although the organizers consider the turnout at Sunday’s event to be a success, the movement is likely to grow further over the next few days, drawing larger crowds than those seen in Tampa during the Republican National Convention, historian Gerald Horne told RT.
“I think that Charlotte does not have the problem that Tampa had with regard to an impending hurricane,” he said.“Likewise I think there is a community in North Carolina that is very much interested in raising questions concerning the war in Afghanistan, the US intervention in Syria, the debacle that was effectuated in Libya, and of course what is hanging over us all, an impending attack on Iran that may take place before the first Tuesday of November, that is to say, may take place before the US election.”
SourcePhoto

OWS march rolls through Charlotte ahead of DNC
September 2, 2012

Hundreds of people have taken part in the March on Wall Street South event in Charlotte, carrying banners, banging drums and chanting slogans against corporate greed. The protest ahead of the Democratic National Convention proceeded peacefully.

The turnout at the event was lower than organizers had expected, with only about 1,000 activists from dozens of groups marching through the city center on Sunday.

Small groups of protesters made stops along their way to stage sit-ins in front of Bank of America headquarters and power utility Duke Energy.

The march drew people protesting against a variety of causes in addition to corporate collusion with the US government. Along with slogans like "Capitalism is holding back the human race," and "Bail out people, not banks," protesters were bearing signs saying “No war on Iran” and “Obama murders children with drones.”

About 100 police officers walked alongside the protesters, with a helicopter hovering above the crowd. They carried wooden batons, plastic hand ties and gas masks, but did not use them as the event went smoothly.

Only one person was arrested during the march, for intoxication, police said.

The parade route and “free speech” areas were designated by the authorities well in advance. The city also assigned time slots for speaking and marches. 

Official events tied to the official Democratic National Convention begin on Tuesday, but Charlotte authorities bolstered up security well ahead. They introduced new rules, according to which a person can face arrest for carrying water bottles, socks, markers, and other seemingly unthreatening items.

Although the organizers consider the turnout at Sunday’s event to be a success, the movement is likely to grow further over the next few days, drawing larger crowds than those seen in Tampa during the Republican National Convention, historian Gerald Horne told RT.

“I think that Charlotte does not have the problem that Tampa had with regard to an impending hurricane,” he said.“Likewise I think there is a community in North Carolina that is very much interested in raising questions concerning the war in Afghanistan, the US intervention in Syria, the debacle that was effectuated in Libya, and of course what is hanging over us all, an impending attack on Iran that may take place before the first Tuesday of November, that is to say, may take place before the US election.”

Source
Photo

The Screwed Election: Wall Street Can’t Lose, and America Can’t Win
August 11, 2012 - by Joel Kotkin
About two in three Americans do not think what’s good for Wall Street is good for America, according to the 2012 Harris poll, but do think people who work there are less “honest and moral than other people,” and don’t “deserve to make the kind of money they earn.” Confidence in banks is at a record low, according to Gallup, as they’ve suffered the steepest fall in esteem of any American institution over the past decade. And people have put their money where their mouth is, with $171 billion leaving the stock market last year alone, and 80 percent of Wall Street communications executives conceded that public perception of their firms was not good.
Americans are angry at the big-time bankers and brokers, and yet, far from a populist attack on crony capitalism, Wall Street is sitting pretty, looking ahead to a presidential election that it can’t possibly lose. They have bankrolled a nifty choice between President Obama, the largest beneficiary of financial-industry backing in history and Mitt Romney, one of their very own.
One is to the manner born, the other a crafty servant; neither will take on the power.
Think of this: despite taking office in the midst of a massive financial meltdown, Obama’s administration has not prosecuted a single heavy-hitter among those responsible for the financial crisis. To the contrary, he’s staffed his team with big bankers and their allies. Under the Bush-Obama bailouts the big financial institutions have feasted like pigs at the trough, with the six largest banks borrowing almost a half trillion dollars from uncle Ben Bernanke’s printing press. In 2013 the top four banks controlled more than 40 percent of the credit markets in the top 10 states—up by 10 percentage points from 2009 and roughly twice their share in 2000. Meantime, small banks, usually the ones serving Main Street businesses, have taken the hit along with the rest of us with more than 300 folding since the passage of Dodd-Frank, the industry-approved bill to “reform” the industry.
Yet past the occasional election-year bout of symbolic class warfare, the oligarchs have little to fear from an Obama victory.
“Too big to fail,” enshrined in the Dodd-Frank bill, enjoys the full and enthusiastic support of the administration. Obama’s financial tsar on the GM bailout, Steven Rattner, took to The New York Times to stress that Obamians see nothing systemically wrong with the banking system we have now, blaming the 2008 market meltdown on “old-fashioned poor management.”
“In a world of behemoth banks,” he explained to we mere mortals, “it is wrong to think we can shrink ours to a size that eliminates the ‘too big to fail’ problem without emasculating one of our most successful industries.”
But consider the messenger. Rattner, while denying wrongdoing, paid $6.2 million and accepted a two-year ban on associating with any investment adviser or broker-dealer to settle with the SEC over the agency’s claims that he had played a role in a pay-to-play scheme involving a $50,000 contribution to the now-jailed politician who controlled New York State’s $125 billion pension fund. He’s also expressed unlimited admiration for the Chinese economic system, the largest expression of crony capitalism in history. Expect Rattner to be on hand in September, when Democrats gather in Charlotte, the nation’s second-largest banking city, inside the Bank of America Stadium to formally nominate Obama for a second term.
In a sane world, one would expect Republicans to run against this consolidation of power, that has taxpayers propping up banks that invest vast amounts in backing the campaigns of the lawmakers who levy those taxes. The party would appeal to grassroots capitalists, investors, small banks and their customers who feel excluded from the Washington-sanctioned insiders’ game. The popular appeal is there. The Tea Party, of course, began as a response against TARP.
Instead, the partynominated a Wall Street patrician, Mitt Romney, whose idea of populism seems to be donning a well-pressed pair of jeans and a work shirt.
Romney himself is so clueless as to be touting his strong fund-raising with big finance. His top contributors list reads something like a rogue’s gallery from the 2008 crash: Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse, Citicorp, and Barclays. If Obama’s Hollywood friends wanted to find a perfect candidate to play the role of out-of-touch-Wall Street grandee, they could do worse than casting Mitt.
With Romney to work with, David Axelrod’s dog could design the ads right now.
True, some of the finance titans who thought Obama nifty back in 2008 have had their delicate psyches ruffled by the president’s election-year attacks on the “one percent.” But the “progressives,” now tethered to Obama’s chain, are deluding themselves if they think the president’s neo-populist rancor means much of anything. They get to serve as what the Old Bosheviks would have called  “useful idiots,” pawns in the fight between one group of oligopolists and another.
This division can be seen in the financial community as well. For the most part Obama has maintained the loyalty of those financiers, like Rattner, who seek out pension funds to finance their business. Those who underwrite and speculate on public debt have reason to embrace Washington’s free spenders. They are also cozy to financiers like John Corzine, the former Goldman Sachs CEO and governor of New Jersey, whose now-disgraced investment company MF Global is represented by Attorney General Eric Holder’s old firm. 
The big-government wing of the financial elite remains firmly in Obama’s corner, as his bundlers (including Corzine) have already collected close to $20 million from financial interests for the president. Record support has also poured in from Silicon Valley, which has become ever more like a hip Wall Street west. Like its east-coast brethren, Silicon Valley has also increased its dependence on government policy, as well-connected venture capitalists and many in the tech community  have sought to enrich themselves on the administration’s “green” energy schemes.
Romney, on the other hand, has done very well with capital tied to the energy industry, and others who invest in the broad private sector, where government interventions are more often a complication than a means to a fast buck.His broad base of financial support reflects how relatively few businesses have benefited from the current regime.
Who loses in this battle of the oligarchs? Everyone who depends on the markets to accurately give information, and to provide fundamental services, like fairly priced credit.
And who wins? The politically well-situated, who can profit from credit and regulatory policies whether those are implemented by  Republicans or Democrats.
American democracy and the prosperity needed to sustain it are both diminished when Wall Street, the great engineer of the 2008 crash, is all but assured of victory in November.
Source

The Screwed Election: Wall Street Can’t Lose, and America Can’t Win

August 11, 2012 - by Joel Kotkin

About two in three Americans do not think what’s good for Wall Street is good for America, according to the 2012 Harris poll, but do think people who work there are less “honest and moral than other people,” and don’t “deserve to make the kind of money they earn.” Confidence in banks is at a record low, according to Gallup, as they’ve suffered the steepest fall in esteem of any American institution over the past decade. And people have put their money where their mouth is, with $171 billion leaving the stock market last year alone, and 80 percent of Wall Street communications executives conceded that public perception of their firms was not good.

Americans are angry at the big-time bankers and brokers, and yet, far from a populist attack on crony capitalism, Wall Street is sitting pretty, looking ahead to a presidential election that it can’t possibly lose. They have bankrolled a nifty choice between President Obama, the largest beneficiary of financial-industry backing in history and Mitt Romney, one of their very own.

One is to the manner born, the other a crafty servant; neither will take on the power.

Think of this: despite taking office in the midst of a massive financial meltdown, Obama’s administration has not prosecuted a single heavy-hitter among those responsible for the financial crisis. To the contrary, he’s staffed his team with big bankers and their allies. Under the Bush-Obama bailouts the big financial institutions have feasted like pigs at the trough, with the six largest banks borrowing almost a half trillion dollars from uncle Ben Bernanke’s printing press. In 2013 the top four banks controlled more than 40 percent of the credit markets in the top 10 states—up by 10 percentage points from 2009 and roughly twice their share in 2000. Meantime, small banks, usually the ones serving Main Street businesses, have taken the hit along with the rest of us with more than 300 folding since the passage of Dodd-Frank, the industry-approved bill to “reform” the industry.

Yet past the occasional election-year bout of symbolic class warfare, the oligarchs have little to fear from an Obama victory.

“Too big to fail,” enshrined in the Dodd-Frank bill, enjoys the full and enthusiastic support of the administration. Obama’s financial tsar on the GM bailout, Steven Rattner, took to The New York Times to stress that Obamians see nothing systemically wrong with the banking system we have now, blaming the 2008 market meltdown on “old-fashioned poor management.”

“In a world of behemoth banks,” he explained to we mere mortals, “it is wrong to think we can shrink ours to a size that eliminates the ‘too big to fail’ problem without emasculating one of our most successful industries.”

But consider the messenger. Rattner, while denying wrongdoing, paid $6.2 million and accepted a two-year ban on associating with any investment adviser or broker-dealer to settle with the SEC over the agency’s claims that he had played a role in a pay-to-play scheme involving a $50,000 contribution to the now-jailed politician who controlled New York State’s $125 billion pension fund. He’s also expressed unlimited admiration for the Chinese economic system, the largest expression of crony capitalism in history. Expect Rattner to be on hand in September, when Democrats gather in Charlotte, the nation’s second-largest banking city, inside the Bank of America Stadium to formally nominate Obama for a second term.

In a sane world, one would expect Republicans to run against this consolidation of power, that has taxpayers propping up banks that invest vast amounts in backing the campaigns of the lawmakers who levy those taxes. The party would appeal to grassroots capitalists, investors, small banks and their customers who feel excluded from the Washington-sanctioned insiders’ game. The popular appeal is there. The Tea Party, of course, began as a response against TARP.

Instead, the partynominated a Wall Street patrician, Mitt Romney, whose idea of populism seems to be donning a well-pressed pair of jeans and a work shirt.

Romney himself is so clueless as to be touting his strong fund-raising with big finance. His top contributors list reads something like a rogue’s gallery from the 2008 crash: Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse, Citicorp, and Barclays. If Obama’s Hollywood friends wanted to find a perfect candidate to play the role of out-of-touch-Wall Street grandee, they could do worse than casting Mitt.

With Romney to work with, David Axelrod’s dog could design the ads right now.

True, some of the finance titans who thought Obama nifty back in 2008 have had their delicate psyches ruffled by the president’s election-year attacks on the “one percent.” But the “progressives,” now tethered to Obama’s chain, are deluding themselves if they think the president’s neo-populist rancor means much of anything. They get to serve as what the Old Bosheviks would have called  “useful idiots,” pawns in the fight between one group of oligopolists and another.

This division can be seen in the financial community as well. For the most part Obama has maintained the loyalty of those financiers, like Rattner, who seek out pension funds to finance their business. Those who underwrite and speculate on public debt have reason to embrace Washington’s free spenders. They are also cozy to financiers like John Corzine, the former Goldman Sachs CEO and governor of New Jersey, whose now-disgraced investment company MF Global is represented by Attorney General Eric Holder’s old firm. 

The big-government wing of the financial elite remains firmly in Obama’s corner, as his bundlers (including Corzine) have already collected close to $20 million from financial interests for the president. Record support has also poured in from Silicon Valley, which has become ever more like a hip Wall Street west. Like its east-coast brethren, Silicon Valley has also increased its dependence on government policy, as well-connected venture capitalists and many in the tech community  have sought to enrich themselves on the administration’s “green” energy schemes.

Romney, on the other hand, has done very well with capital tied to the energy industry, and others who invest in the broad private sector, where government interventions are more often a complication than a means to a fast buck.His broad base of financial support reflects how relatively few businesses have benefited from the current regime.

Who loses in this battle of the oligarchs? Everyone who depends on the markets to accurately give information, and to provide fundamental services, like fairly priced credit.

And who wins? The politically well-situated, who can profit from credit and regulatory policies whether those are implemented by  Republicans or Democrats.

American democracy and the prosperity needed to sustain it are both diminished when Wall Street, the great engineer of the 2008 crash, is all but assured of victory in November.

Source

We’re close to raising our Kickstarter goal, but we only have 40 more hours to raise the last $800.
Please give what you can. We’ll only get the money that has been pledged if we raise the full amount of $2600. Right now we’ve raised about $1900.
Your card will only be charged if we raise the full amount. Everything from $1+ helps! Thank you so much to those who have generously given so far & I genuinely hope we can get this done & pull out a successful campaign.
Also, we’ve made some big changes to our plans that we’ve been waiting to announce. We’re actually reversing our direction, starting on the east coast in D.C. at the beginning of September and moving up the coast to New York for the one-year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street. So, if you’re in D.C. or NY or Montreal or Philadelphia or Baltimore or Boston, hit us up, let’s do a tumblr meet up in the next few months.
Here’s our Kickstarter in case you are interested in helping us make this happen! PLUS: Did you see the awesome prizes we have for our backers??
Thanks again!

We’re close to raising our Kickstarter goal, but we only have 40 more hours to raise the last $800.

Please give what you can. We’ll only get the money that has been pledged if we raise the full amount of $2600. Right now we’ve raised about $1900.

Your card will only be charged if we raise the full amount. Everything from $1+ helps! Thank you so much to those who have generously given so far & I genuinely hope we can get this done & pull out a successful campaign.

Also, we’ve made some big changes to our plans that we’ve been waiting to announce. We’re actually reversing our direction, starting on the east coast in D.C. at the beginning of September and moving up the coast to New York for the one-year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street. So, if you’re in D.C. or NY or Montreal or Philadelphia or Baltimore or Boston, hit us up, let’s do a tumblr meet up in the next few months.

Here’s our Kickstarter in case you are interested in helping us make this happen! PLUS: Did you see the awesome prizes we have for our backers??

Thanks again!

8 Ways America is Headed Back to the Robber-Baron Gilded Age
July 05, 2012We are recreating the Gilded Age, a period when corporations ruled this nation, buying politicians, using violence against unions and engaging in open corruption.
1. Unregulated Corporate Capitalism Creates Economic Collapse
In the late 19th century, corrupt railroad capitalists created the Panic of 1873 and Panic of 1893 through lying about their business activities, buying off politicians and siphoning off capital into their own pockets. Railroad corporations set up phony corporations that allowed them to embezzle money from the railroad into their bank accounts. When exposed, the entire economy collapsed as banks failed around the country. The Panic of 1893 lasted five years, created 25% unemployment, and was the worst economic crisis in American history before the Great Depression.
In the early 21st century, the poorly regulated financial industry plunged the nation into the longest economic downturn since the Depression. Like in the Gilded Age, none of the culprits have served a day in prison.
2. Union Busting
In the Gilded Age, business used the power of the state to crush labor unions. President Hayes called in the Army to break the Great Railroad Strike of 1877; President Cleveland did the same against the Pullman strikers in 1894.
Today’s corporations don’t have to use such blunt force to destroy unions, but like in the past, they convince the government to do their bidding. Whether it is holding up FAA renewal in order to make it harder for airline employees to unionize, Republican members of the National Labor Relations Board leaking material on cases to Republican insiders, or governors Scott Walker and John Kasich seeking to bust their states’ public sector unions, not since before the Great Depression has the government attacked unions with such force.
3. Income Inequality
Today, we have the highest levels of income inequality since the 1920s and the gap is widening to late 19th century levels with great speed. In those days, individuals like John D. Rockefeller had more money than the federal government, while the majority of Americans lived in squalor, poverty and disease.
In the Progressive Era, we started creating laws like the federal income tax, child labor laws and workers’ compensation to begin giving workers a fair share of the pie. For decades, labor fought to increase their share and by the 1970s, had turned much of the working class into the middle class. Today, that middle class is under attack by a new generation of plutocrats who wish to recreate the massive fortunes of the Gilded Age.
4. Open Purchase of Elections
In 1890, copper magnate William Clark paid Montana lawmakers $140,000 to elect him to the U.S. Senate. While most plutocrats did not share Clark’s interest in being politicians, they ensured their lackeys would serve in office, often by offering corporate stock to politicians. Disgusted by this corruption, America in the Progressive Era of the early 20th century created a number of reforms, including the 17th Amendment that created direct elections of senators, as well as a 1912 Montana state law limiting corporate expenditures in politics.
5. Supreme Court Partisanship
In the Gilded Age, the Supreme Court interpreted laws not as to the intent of the lawmakers, but to promote business interests. It refused to enforce the 14th Amendment to stop segregation, but it did create the idea that a corporation was a person with rights. The Sherman Anti-Trust Act of 1890 was intended to moderate monopolies; the Supreme Court only enforced it against unions since organized labor “unfairly restrained trade.”
Today’s Supreme Court has resorted to this aggressively partisan stance. The Court is fine with the open flouting of the 4th Amendment, allowing strip searches of middle-school girls if they’re suspected to be carrying drugs, but creates a grotesque expansion of the 14th Amendment in the Citizens United decision. Meanwhile, Antonin Scalia just took the opportunity in a Supreme Court dissent to lambast his colleagues for striking down much of the Arizona anti-immigration law by approvingly citing 19th-century laws in the South that limited the movement of African Americans.
6. Violations of Civil Liberties
In the late 19th century, civil and military authorities looked down upon protesting citizens. Widespread violations of civil liberties took place when Americans protested for almost any reasons, whether it was labor unions, political gatherings in Washington, D.C., or African Americans organizing to protect themselves from white supremacists. Police shot strikers and thugs and mobs murdered organizers.
Today we are seeing a growing recreation of this society with no respect for civil liberties. The use of police violence against Occupy protesters, like the pepper-spraying of nonviolent activists at the University of California-Davis did spawn some outrage. But in the aftermath of the PATRIOT Act, the authorities have tremendous power to suppress protest and are not afraid to use it against peaceful citizens.
7. Voter Repression
The Gilded Age saw the rolling back of Reconstruction, with black people unable to vote in the South due to the grandfather clause, poll taxes, literacy tests, and threat of violence. Conservative extremists have chafed at black people voting ever since the civil rights movement ended segregation.
Today, voter ID laws and voter roll-purging seek to limit black voting again. Florida Governor Rick Scott hopes to purge enough black people from the voting rolls to swing the Sunshine State to Mitt Romney this fall, while a lawmaker in Pennsylvania openly said the Keystone State’s recently passed voter ID law would do the same. Even more shocking, the recently released Texas Republican Party platform has a plank calling for the repeal of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, passed in the wake of police beatings of civil rights protestors in Selma, Alabama.
8. Anti-Immigration Fervor
In the Gilded Age, Americans feared the millions of people coming from eastern and southern Europe, the Middle East and Asia to work in the nation’s growing economy. Fearing these immigrants would never assimilate, Americans looked to bar their entry. Beginning with the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882 and continuing through the Immigration Act of 1924, the country slowly closed its doors to the world’s tired and hungry.
Today’s immigrants face an increasingly militarized border, states like Arizona trying to usurp federal immigration policy, and increased numbers of deportations. Conservatives fear the changes Latinos could bring to the United States and talk about English-only laws and the evils of bilingual education. They also recognize the likelihood of Latinos voting for the Democratic Party in coming decades and thus use the same kind of voter repression strategies that target black voters.
Source

8 Ways America is Headed Back to the Robber-Baron Gilded Age

July 05, 2012

We are recreating the Gilded Age, a period when corporations ruled this nation, buying politicians, using violence against unions and engaging in open corruption.

1. Unregulated Corporate Capitalism Creates Economic Collapse

In the late 19th century, corrupt railroad capitalists created the Panic of 1873 and Panic of 1893 through lying about their business activities, buying off politicians and siphoning off capital into their own pockets. Railroad corporations set up phony corporations that allowed them to embezzle money from the railroad into their bank accounts. When exposed, the entire economy collapsed as banks failed around the country. The Panic of 1893 lasted five years, created 25% unemployment, and was the worst economic crisis in American history before the Great Depression.

In the early 21st century, the poorly regulated financial industry plunged the nation into the longest economic downturn since the Depression. Like in the Gilded Age, none of the culprits have served a day in prison.

2. Union Busting

In the Gilded Age, business used the power of the state to crush labor unions. President Hayes called in the Army to break the Great Railroad Strike of 1877; President Cleveland did the same against the Pullman strikers in 1894.

Today’s corporations don’t have to use such blunt force to destroy unions, but like in the past, they convince the government to do their bidding. Whether it is holding up FAA renewal in order to make it harder for airline employees to unionize, Republican members of the National Labor Relations Board leaking material on cases to Republican insiders, or governors Scott Walker and John Kasich seeking to bust their states’ public sector unions, not since before the Great Depression has the government attacked unions with such force.

3. Income Inequality

Today, we have the highest levels of income inequality since the 1920s and the gap is widening to late 19th century levels with great speed. In those days, individuals like John D. Rockefeller had more money than the federal government, while the majority of Americans lived in squalor, poverty and disease.

In the Progressive Era, we started creating laws like the federal income tax, child labor laws and workers’ compensation to begin giving workers a fair share of the pie. For decades, labor fought to increase their share and by the 1970s, had turned much of the working class into the middle class. Today, that middle class is under attack by a new generation of plutocrats who wish to recreate the massive fortunes of the Gilded Age.

4. Open Purchase of Elections

In 1890, copper magnate William Clark paid Montana lawmakers $140,000 to elect him to the U.S. Senate. While most plutocrats did not share Clark’s interest in being politicians, they ensured their lackeys would serve in office, often by offering corporate stock to politicians. Disgusted by this corruption, America in the Progressive Era of the early 20th century created a number of reforms, including the 17th Amendment that created direct elections of senators, as well as a 1912 Montana state law limiting corporate expenditures in politics.

5. Supreme Court Partisanship

In the Gilded Age, the Supreme Court interpreted laws not as to the intent of the lawmakers, but to promote business interests. It refused to enforce the 14th Amendment to stop segregation, but it did create the idea that a corporation was a person with rights. The Sherman Anti-Trust Act of 1890 was intended to moderate monopolies; the Supreme Court only enforced it against unions since organized labor “unfairly restrained trade.”

Today’s Supreme Court has resorted to this aggressively partisan stance. The Court is fine with the open flouting of the 4th Amendment, allowing strip searches of middle-school girls if they’re suspected to be carrying drugs, but creates a grotesque expansion of the 14th Amendment in the Citizens United decision. Meanwhile, Antonin Scalia just took the opportunity in a Supreme Court dissent to lambast his colleagues for striking down much of the Arizona anti-immigration law by approvingly citing 19th-century laws in the South that limited the movement of African Americans.

6. Violations of Civil Liberties

In the late 19th century, civil and military authorities looked down upon protesting citizens. Widespread violations of civil liberties took place when Americans protested for almost any reasons, whether it was labor unions, political gatherings in Washington, D.C., or African Americans organizing to protect themselves from white supremacists. Police shot strikers and thugs and mobs murdered organizers.

Today we are seeing a growing recreation of this society with no respect for civil liberties. The use of police violence against Occupy protesters, like the pepper-spraying of nonviolent activists at the University of California-Davis did spawn some outrage. But in the aftermath of the PATRIOT Act, the authorities have tremendous power to suppress protest and are not afraid to use it against peaceful citizens.

7. Voter Repression

The Gilded Age saw the rolling back of Reconstruction, with black people unable to vote in the South due to the grandfather clause, poll taxes, literacy tests, and threat of violence. Conservative extremists have chafed at black people voting ever since the civil rights movement ended segregation.

Today, voter ID laws and voter roll-purging seek to limit black voting again. Florida Governor Rick Scott hopes to purge enough black people from the voting rolls to swing the Sunshine State to Mitt Romney this fall, while a lawmaker in Pennsylvania openly said the Keystone State’s recently passed voter ID law would do the same. Even more shocking, the recently released Texas Republican Party platform has a plank calling for the repeal of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, passed in the wake of police beatings of civil rights protestors in Selma, Alabama.

8. Anti-Immigration Fervor

In the Gilded Age, Americans feared the millions of people coming from eastern and southern Europe, the Middle East and Asia to work in the nation’s growing economy. Fearing these immigrants would never assimilate, Americans looked to bar their entry. Beginning with the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882 and continuing through the Immigration Act of 1924, the country slowly closed its doors to the world’s tired and hungry.

Today’s immigrants face an increasingly militarized border, states like Arizona trying to usurp federal immigration policy, and increased numbers of deportations. Conservatives fear the changes Latinos could bring to the United States and talk about English-only laws and the evils of bilingual education. They also recognize the likelihood of Latinos voting for the Democratic Party in coming decades and thus use the same kind of voter repression strategies that target black voters.

Source

Occupy Wall Street demonstrators participating in a street-theater production wear signs around their neck representing their student debt during a protest against the rising national student debt in Union Square, in New York, April 25, 2012. The protest eventually marched to Wall Street; two people were arrested during the protest. REUTERS/Andrew Burton

Occupy Wall Street demonstrators participating in a street-theater production wear signs around their neck representing their student debt during a protest against the rising national student debt in Union Square, in New York, April 25, 2012. The protest eventually marched to Wall Street; two people were arrested during the protest. REUTERS/Andrew Burton