Posts Tagged ‘crisis’


Special mention

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Well, with the help of my research assistant, I was finally able to update the crisis representations and unequal representations pages of the blog. I hope readers find the charts, graphs, and maps useful. I’ve included the sources for most of them. (For the rest, either I created the charts or the sources are now lost in time.)

We’ve made it back to Fall of last year. More to come as time permits. . .

I can’t say I have a good explanation for it. But, more than five years into the recovery from the most recent global financial crash, the specter of Marx continues to haunt contemporary capitalism.

For example, the Reuters’ John Lloyd is convinced “communism is again haunting Europe.” I suppose that was inevitable, given the landslide victory of Syriza in Greece. The irony, of course, is that Alexis Tsipras, Yanis Varoufakis, and the other members of the new government have promised nothing more than to create some breathing room (by renegotiating the external debt), ameliorate the worst effects of the previous government’s austerity policies (by providing food aid to the poor and rehiring some government workers), and modernize the state (by making it more difficult for the oligarchy to avoid paying its taxes). The fact that such proposed changes are actually haunting contemporary Europe should give us some pause.

Which reminds me of an earlier piece, by , in the Guardian, who argues that, for many in his generation, the “ideological underpinnings of capitalism have been undermined.”

Marxism in America needs to be more than an intellectual tool for mainstream commentators befuddled by our changing world. It needs to be a political tool to change that world. Spoken, not just written, for mass consumption, peddling a vision of leisure, abundance, and democracy even more real than what the capitalism’s prophets offered in 1939.

And then there’s the fact that I’ve been invited this spring to present a university-wide lecture on “Utopia and Critique: A Marxian Perspective.”

Yes, indeed, there seems to be a whole helluva lotta Marx goin’ on out there. . .


Special mention

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One of the persistent narratives about the 2008 financial crash is that low-income people (with help from the government) took out mortgages to buy homes they couldn’t afford. And when they inevitably defaulted on their mortgage payments (and government-sponsored lending agencies were declared bankrupt), the entire financial system came tumbling down. In other words, poor people  caused the crash.

Uh, no!

New research by Manuel Adelino, Antoinette Schoar, and Felipe Severino serves to bury that myth. According to the authors,

The large majority of mortgage dollars originated between 2002 and 2006 are obtained by middle income and high income borrowers (not the poor). While there was a rapid expansion in overall mortgage origination during this time period, the fraction of new mortgage dollars going to each income group was stable. In other words, the poor did not represent a higher fraction of the mortgage loans originated over the period. In addition, borrowers in the middle and top of the distribution are the ones that contributed most significantly to the increase in mortgages in default after 2007.

In other words, the mortgage crisis that provoked the crash was not caused by poor people “living beyond their means.”

So, let’s stop blaming poor people for a crisis that originated elsewhere—among lenders and borrowers at the other end of the distribution of income whose “irrational exuberance” led them to get caught up in a spiral of increasing levels of mortgage debt premised on an unsustainable increase in housing prices that served as the basis of an intricate web of financial derivatives.

A bubble, which had nothing to do with poor people, that inevitably burst.


Special mention

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Chart of the day

Posted: 7 January 2015 in Uncategorized
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Folks who found my inequality presentations useful (which I haven’t updated since 2010) can now turn to the Powerpoint presentation recently assembled by Jared Bernstein and Ben Spielberg. They have slides on income inequality, wealth inequality, the consequences of economic inequality, and measures that can be taken to lessen the degree of economic inequality in the United States.

My own plan in the new year is to update both additional pages on this blog: Crisis Representations and Unequal Representations.