Archive for November, 2013

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I’ll admit I haven’t read the books. And I did enjoy the first Hunger Games more than the second. Not to mention the fact that the filmmakers haven’t quite decided between representing class inequality (of conspicuous consumption at the top and working for a living at the bottom) or a relation of domination between the center of the empire (replete with a coliseum, chariots, and fascist insignia) and the periphery (12 districts, based on various occupations and industries). In either case, the goal of those at the top is to distract the masses from seeing what is actually going on.

But it was interesting watching Hunger Games: Catching Fire in a packed theater and listening to the audience (mostly groups of teenagers) erupt in cheers as the Capitol was being challenged, perhaps for the first time in 75 years, by the Districts.


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Chart of the day

Posted: 28 November 2013 in Uncategorized
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Economist of the day

Posted: 27 November 2013 in Uncategorized
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Dominic Barton, the global managing director at McKinsey & Co, in the Wall Street Journal:

What will be the biggest challenge to capitalism in the next two decades—and what should be done about it?

DOMINIC BARTON: Rising and persistent income inequality. In 2012, the top 1% of earners in the U.S. collected 19.3% of the country’s total household income–an all-time high, according to work by Emmanuel Saez at the University of California at Berkeley. The disparity is growing rapidly as well. Incomes of the top 1% grew by 31.4% from 2009 to 2012, compared to just 0.4% for the remaining 99%. There is still considerable debate among economists on the impact of income inequality on economic growth and the short-term recovery from the recession. However, few would disagree that unchecked increases in inequality will be costly for capitalism in the long-run–due to the divisions that it creates within society and the strain that it puts on social safety nets.

Chart of the day

Posted: 27 November 2013 in Uncategorized
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According to the Washington Post,

American workers are living with unprecedented economic anxiety, four years into a recovery that has left so many of them stuck in place. That anxiety is concentrated heavily among low-income workers. . .

More than six in 10 workers in a recent Washington Post-Miller Center poll worry that they will lose their jobs to the economy, surpassing concerns in more than a dozen surveys dating to the 1970s. Nearly one in three, 32 percent, say they worry “a lot” about losing their jobs, also a record high. . .

Lower-paid workers also worry far more about making ends meet. Fully 85 percent of them fear that their families’ income will not be enough to meet expenses, up 25 points from a 1971 survey asking an identical question. Thirty-two percent say they worry all the time about meeting expenses, a number that has almost tripled since the 1970s.


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Travel days

Posted: 27 November 2013 in Uncategorized
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A few travel days ahead. So, few if any posts until I return. . .


Here is Roman Catholic Pope Francis, in the apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, on the current “economy of exclusion”:

No to an economy of exclusion

53. Just as the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say “thou shalt not” to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.

Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. We have created a “disposable” culture which is now spreading. It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. Exclusion ultimately has to do with what it means to be a part of the society in which we live; those excluded are no longer society’s underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised – they are no longer even a part of it. The excluded are not the “exploited” but the outcast, the “leftovers”.

54. In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting. To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed. Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own. The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase; and in the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us.