Rodney Durham stopped working in 1991, declared bankruptcy and lives on Social Security. Nonetheless, Wells Fargo lent him $15,197 to buy a used Mitsubishi sedan. “I am not sure how I got the loan,” Mr. Durham, age 60, said.
Mr. Durham’s application said that he made $35,000 as a technician at Lourdes Hospital in Binghamton, N.Y., according to a copy of the loan document. But he says he told the dealer he hadn’t worked at the hospital for more than three decades. Now, after months of Wells Fargo pressing him over missed payments, the bank has repossessed his car
The thermometer showed a 103.5-degree fever, and her 10-year-old’s asthma was flaring up. Mary Bolender, who lives in Las Vegas, needed to get her daughter to an emergency room, but her 2005 Chrysler van would not start. The cause
was not a mechanical problem — it was her lender
This is the face of the new subprime boom. [more inside]
According to the philosopher Anselm Jappe, who has come to Lisbon to give a talk at the Teatro Maria Matos, in capitalism we are defined by our relation to labor. But the system is a “house of cards that is beginning to collapse”. It is time to rethink the concept of labor.
What happened to pay toilets in the USA? In the early 1900s, when railroads connected America’s biggest cities with rural outposts, train stations were sometimes the only place in town with modern plumbing. To keep locals from freely using the bathrooms, railroad companies installed locks on the stall doors—only to be unlocked by railroad employees for ticketed passengers. Eventually, coin-operated locks were introduced, making the practice both more convenient and more profitable. Pay toilets then sprung up in the nation’s airports, bus stations, and highway rest stops. By 1970, America had over 50,000 pay toilets.
By 1980, there were almost none.
According to the Annual BMO Rainy Day Survey
released today, "the percentage of Canadians that have enough savings to only cover one month or fewer has climbed to 27% - up 8 percentage points [since 2012]. For those who have one month or fewer in savings, the average fund is only $2,051. …. Three-in-ten Canadians are living paycheque to paycheque or spending more than they earn". The Huffington Post Canada reports that "[t]his comes at a time when Canada's support structures for the unemployed are growing thinner.
Recent estimates show that little more than a third of Canadians who lose their jobs now qualify for Employment Insurance."
Advice on how to survive late capitalism
: "Your life is sold to serve an economy that does not serve your life. You don’t seem to be entertained, Bank-robbin’; your white-hot rage festers. It probably doesn’t help that you live in Brooklyn—this place where in the last ten years rent has spiked 77 percent while real median income has dropped, where the rich (the top 10 percent of earners who, as is well known, control 80 percent of the wealth) and their children live right on top of some of the worst poverty known to this country, while 20 percent of Brooklynites survive somehow below the poverty level, such that the widening income and wealth gap becomes achingly visible here. I could advise you to leave Brooklyn. But I don’t want you to leave Brooklyn."
Now, on the downslope of parenting, I have misgivings about my decision to stay home. It would be far too strong a word to say I have regrets. I don’t know any parent who regrets time spent with their kids, especially kids who have moved on to their own lives. Although I am fully aware that being a stay at home mom was certainly a luxury, staring at an empty nest and very diminished prospects of employment, I have real remorse.
The Guardian on the decline of America's shopping malls.
"Dying shopping malls are speckled across the United States, often in middle-class suburbs wrestling with socioeconomic shifts. Some, like Rolling Acres
, have already succumbed. Estimates on the share that might close or be repurposed in coming decades range from 15 to 50%. Americans are returning downtown; online shopping is taking a 6% bite out of brick-and-mortar sales; and to many iPhone-clutching, city-dwelling and frequently jobless young people, the culture that spawned satire like Mallrats
seems increasingly dated, even cartoonish.
The trend is especially noticeable in the Midwest, a former blue-collar bastion where ailing malls have begun dotting suburban landscapes. Outside of Chicago, Lakehurst Mall
was levelled in 2004 and the half-vacant Lincoln Mall
is costing its host village millions in botched redevelopment plans. Dixie Square
Mall sat vacant for more than 30 years after serving as the backdrop for the iconic chase scene in the 1980 film The Blues Brothers. It was finally demolished in 2012. Many others will similarly lie dormant as they wait for the wrecking ball."
This PewResearch animation
graphically shows the growing polarization among US voters during the past 15 years. Part of a 121 page pdf
. Pew doesn't address why polarization is happening, but the pundits will try: "Voters are becoming angrier because living standards are falling and the middle class is shriveling."
Democrats blame corporations, Republicans blame the government and the Dallas Fed blames robots
. [more inside]
K. Mike Merrill at BigThink has some ideas on how to modernize Monopoly
while helping players better understand the nature of our financial system.
's latest book
looks at the internal contradictions within the flow of capital that have precipitated recent crises and "why this economic engine should be replaced, and with what."
Available online are the Prologue
, the last two chapters
, and video & audio for his April 2nd talk at the London School of Economics
Somaliland is an odd land. In global limbo
since its birth, it continues to develop economically and socially
in a reasonably stable and secure
environment. Recently, the British town of Sheffield was the first to recognize its very existence
as an independent country. In the meantime, the capital Hargeisa city, which has only one paved road, recently installed streetlights
for the first time, and an enterprising entrepreneur returned home from Australia to start a familiar city service
- the yellow cab. Investors
and businesses have started paying attention
while the major powers still prefer to pretend
it doesn't exist. Even while experts debate whether their model can be utilized
in far more volatile Somalia, Hargeisa's residents want you to know
they are Happy.
Photojournal of Spain's new squatters: families, young professionals, degree-holders, single mothers, the elderly. "I have grandchildren," she says. "When I die I would like to be able to say to myself that they will have jobs, homes and a happy life. The corralas are important. They set an example to people who are struggling. They show that we can help ourselves and each other. I don't know what the future will hold for any of us, but one way or another I believe that this will be a successful fight. I have to, otherwise I wouldn't be able to sleep at night." [more inside]
There is much talk today of a financial and economic crisis comparable to the 1930s. With the threat of a currency war and the euro’s collapse looming, the specter of the Great Depression’s bloody aftermath has returned with a vengeance. Several versions of how to make human beings and build society co-existed during the Cold War, when much of the world won independence from colonial empire. Yet, discussion of humanity’s growing interdependence is today limited to a one-world capitalism driven by finance. What have anthropologists to say about that? It would seem very little. But a positive case can be made for the discipline’s contribution to public debate. We make such a case here. We review recent developments in the anthropology of money and finance, listing its achievements, shortcomings and prospects, while referring back to the discipline’s founders a century ago. Economic anthropologists have tended to restrict themselves to niche fields and marginal debates since the 1960s. We hope to reverse this trend by focusing on money’s role in shaping global society and bringing world history into a more active dialogue with ethnography. Money and finance: For an anthropology of globalization by Keith Hart and Horacio Ortiz
It's time for Americans to gather around the dinner table, eat too much, and argue about politics! A new genre of Thanksgiving-themed web pages seems to be taking off this year, that being the "How to argue with your [opposite political party] family members at Thanksgiving" genre. From the left side of the political spectrum, the Democratic National Committee has launched "The Democrat's Guide to Talking Politics with Your Republican Uncle
", and The Huffington Post chimed in with "Here's Every Argument You'll Need To Win Your Obamacare Debate This Thanksgiving
". Not to be outdone, conservatives have responded with cheat sheets of their own, including RedState.com's "Thanksgiving dinner with your liberal relatives
" and The Washington Examiner's "The Thanksgiving guide to making conservative arguments liberals can understand
". [more inside]
Over the past few years, the zombie apocalypse has come to represent an alternative to neoliberalism – an ideology that admits no alternatives.
The Political Economy of Zombies
by John Powers
Bonus: What Terrifies Teens In Today's Young Adult Novels? The Economy
To a Chinese Scrap-Metal Hunter, America's Trash Is Treasure:
Johnson Zeng is a Chinese trader who travels across the U.S. in search of scrap metal. By his estimate, there are at least 100 others like him driving from scrap yard to scrap yard, right now, in search of what Americans won’t or can’t be bothered to recycle. His favorite product: wires, cables, and other kinds of copper. His purchases, millions of pounds of metal worth millions of dollars, will eventually be shipped to China. [more inside]
With mass layoffs still taboo in Japan, senior workers who refuse to resign are sent to "chasing-out rooms"
instead of being allowed to work. (SL NYTimes)
"They call it '9 to 5.'
It's never 9 to 5, there's no free lunch break at those places, in fact, at many of them in order to keep your job you don't take lunch."
Ripping Off Young America: The College-Loan Scandal.
"The federal government has made it easier than ever to borrow money for higher education - saddling a generation with crushing debts and inflating a bubble that could bring down the economy."
In 2003, the New York Times published a lengthy article by Lisa Belkin about women who were choosing to leave the workforce to be stay-at-home moms: The Opt-Out Generation
. In the the last ten years, the article's conclusions regarding upper-middle-class women's choices about work and motherhood have been debated
, and defended
. It's been noted
by many that "most mothers have to work to make ends meet but the press writes mostly about the elite few who don’t
." Ms. Belkin's piece also never mentioned what what a disaster divorce or the death of a spouse can create
for dependent women in such situations. After a decade, the Times is revisiting the topic: The Opt-Out Generation Wants Back In
This Atlantic article
about the EPI Family Budget Calculator
tries to calculate the required income to live a comfortable yet modest lifestyle in various parts of the US.
"So long as you stop thinking in terms of crafts and aim to practice a trade instead, there is more work for humans than people realize... When people talk about saving work or jobs, they mostly talk about saving sexy, income-generating conspicuous production packaged as creative work, in a debt-fueled de facto leisure society."
Writer and speaker Venkatesh Rao weighs in on the difference between "Sexy Jobs and Schlub Jobs,"
and what it means for the future of work. For a slightly different take, see The Death of the 'Prestige Economy'
In "Can We Stop Worrying About Millennials Yet?
", editorial cartoonist Matt Bors highlights the absurdity of blaming millennials for inheriting a lousy economy.
Rafael Vicente Correa Delgado
was first elected president of Ecuador in Nov. 2006 and most recently for his third presidential term in Feb. 2013. Ecuador is sometimes identified as joining the Latin American leftist "pink tide"
movement by electing Correa, and Correa in turn joined the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA)
economic bloc in 2009, which also includes the countries of Venezuela, Cuba and Bolivia, and which was explicitly conceived by Hugo Chavez as an alternative to US-lead economic partnerships in the region
. [more inside]
The last mystery of the financial crisis.
It's long been suspected that ratings agencies like Moody's and Standard & Poor's helped trigger the meltdown. A new trove of embarrassing documents shows how they did it. by Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone.
The Austerity Delusion: Why a Bad Idea Won Over the West.
"Austerity is a seductive idea because of the simplicity of its core claim -- that you can’t cure debt with more debt. This is true as far as it goes, but it does not go far enough. Three less obvious factors undermine the simple argument that countries in the red need to stop spending.
The first factor is distributional, since the effects of austerity are felt differently across different levels of society. The second factor is compositional; everybody cannot cut their way to growth at the same time. The third factor is logical; the notion that slashing government spending boosts investor confidence does not stand up to scrutiny."
Everything Is Rigged: The Biggest Price-Fixing Scandal Ever
The Illuminati were amateurs. The second huge financial scandal of the year reveals the real international conspiracy: There's no price the big banks can't fix
Wall Street begins playing again with the same matches that burned the economy in 2008
From the New York Times: "The banks that created risky amalgams of mortgages and loans during the boom — the kind that went so wrong during the bust — are busily reviving the same types of investments that many thought were gone for good. Once more, arcane-sounding financial products like collateralized debt obligations are being minted on Wall Street. "
(View article on a single page) [more inside]
"[a]ll I can hope
is that future historians note that one of the core empirical points providing the intellectual foundation for the global move to austerity in the early 2010s was based on someone accidentally not updating a row formula in Excel
." [more inside]
"Trusting your child with someone else is one of the hardest things that a parent has to do — and in the United States, it’s harder still, because American day care is a mess.
About 8.2 million kids—about 40 percent of children under five — spend at least part of their week in the care of somebody other than a parent. Most of them are in centers, although a sizable minority attend home day cares.... In other countries, such services are subsidized and well-regulated. In the United States, despite the fact that work and family life has changed profoundly in recent decades, we lack anything resembling an actual child care system. Excellent day cares are available, of course, if you have the money to pay for them and the luck to secure a spot. But the overall quality is wildly uneven and barely monitored, and at the lower end, it’s Dickensian."
There is a curious feeling of power you get when you drop a couple of twenties without a trace of critical thinking.
"Here in the West, a lifestyle of unnecessary spending has been deliberately cultivated and nurtured in the public by big business." [more inside]
The Locust Economy
I was picking the brain of a restauranteur for insight into things like Groupon. He confirmed what we all understand in the abstract: that these deals are terrible for the businesses that offer them; that they draw in nomadic deal hunters from a vast surrounding region who are unlikely to ever return; that most deal-hunters carefully ensure that they spend just the deal amount or slightly more; that a badly designed offer can bankrupt a small business.
He added one little factoid I did not know: offering a Groupon deal is by now so strongly associated with a desperate, dying restaurant that professional food critics tend to write off any restaurant that offers one without even trying it. [more inside]
Tom Roeser was unhappy about the decline of his town, Carpentersville, IL. So he decided to do something about it. Roeser bought some foreclosed properties, renovated them, and then rented them out for below market value.
International aid projects come under the microscope Clinical-research techniques deployed to assess effectiveness of aid initiatives.
"Of the top 100 Swiss companies, 49 give shareholders a consulting vote on the pay of executives. A few other countries, including the United States and Germany, have introduced advisory "say on pay" votes in response to the anger over inequality and corporate excess that drove the Occupy Wall Street movement. Britain is also planning to implement rules in late 2013 that will give shareholders a binding vote on pay and "exit payments" at least every three years. Minder's initiative goes further
, forcing all listed companies to have binding votes on compensation for company managers and directors, and ban golden handshakes and parachutes. It would also ban bonus payments to managers if their companies are taken over, and impose severe penalties — including possible jail sentences and fines — for breaches of these new rules."