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Richard Mellor / Rising world inequality
« Last post by Richard Mellor on May 16, 2018, 06:00:30 PM »
Rising world inequality

by Michael Roberts

There is a book sweeping the popular media at the moment.  It?s called Factfulness.   It purports to argue that, contrary to the conventional wisdom, the  world is becoming a better place.  Poverty is falling, life expectancy  is rising; health levels are improving; people have more things and  better services.  Even violence and wars are in decline.

This is a hoary old message that has been expounded in the past by  billionaire Bill Gates, among others.  Indeed, he gives this new book  much praise ? as it justifies his view that things are getting better for the majority and with the right policies on health, education, population, climate  change etc, the world can progress without any change in its mode of  production and social structure.

I have taken up this optimistic message in previous posts and my latest book, Marx 200,  discusses the dialectical nature of the development of capitalism ?  something Marx recognised as early as 1848 in the Communist Manifesto.   Yes, capitalism has taken the productive forces forward like no other  mode of production before (slave society, feudalism and Asian despotism)  but it also carries with it a dark side of increased exploitation,  dominance of the market and machine over people?s freedom and  livelihoods; and global wars  and even the destruction of the  planet.

In contrast to the optimistic Factfulness, the latest World Inequality Report is a sobering analysis.  Inequality between rich and poor is widening at an increasing pace.  The authors, the most highly respected experts on inequality of income and wealth globally conclude that the number of billionaires rose by the biggest amount ever in 2017, while over half the world?s population lives on between $2 and $10 a day.  The report shows the share of wealth held by the top 1% of earners in  the US doubled from 10% to 20% between 1980 and 2016, while the bottom  50% fell from 20% to 13% in the same period.

Kofi Annan, former head of the United Nations, called this scale of global economic inequality ?staggering and shaming?.  The authors find that income inequality has increased in nearly all  world regions in recent decades, but at different speeds.  Since 1980,  income inequality has increased rapidly in North America, China, India,  and Russia. Inequality has grown moderately in Europe.

At the global level, inequality has risen sharply since 1980, despite  strong growth in China. The poorest half of the global population has  seen its income grow significantly thanks to high growth in Asia  (particularly in China and India). However, because of high and rising  inequality within countries, the top 1% richest individuals in the world  captured twice as much growth as the bottom 50% individuals since 1980.

When it comes to inequality of wealth as opposed to income, there are some startling findings in the report.  ?Economic  inequality is largely driven by the unequal ownership of capital, which  can be either privately or public owned. We show that since 1980, very  large transfers of public to private wealth occurred in nearly all  countries, whether rich or emerging. While national wealth has  substantially increased, public wealth is now negative or close to zero  in rich countries.?

The authors reckon that the combination of large privatizations and  increasing income inequality within countries has fuelled the rise of  wealth inequality, even if it has not yet returned to its extremely high  early-twentieth-century level in rich countries. The rise in wealth  inequality has nonetheless been very large in the United States, where the  top 1% wealth share rose from 22% in 1980 to 39% in 2014. Most of that  increase in inequality was due to the rise of the top 0.1% wealth  owners.

In my view, inequality of wealth and income is an inherent feature of  class societies, and capitalism is no exception.  But that does not  mean it would rise indefinitely, a point made by the Inequality report.   That depends on dynamics of capital accumulation and policy action by  governments.

Naturally, the authors (or Kofi Annan) do not propose a radical  restructuring of the capitalist system ie its replacement.  Instead,  they look for progressive taxation of incomes; control of tax evasion  and offshore havens for wealth; ?more education? and public investment.   The problem with these worthy policies is that they cannot be  implemented if the interests of capital are to be protected,  particularly when capitalism is struggling to sustain the profitability  of capital precisely by holding down trade union strength (which is an important counter to rising inequality ignored by the authors); maintaining privatisations (not public  investment) and ?deregulating? labour markets ie by increasing the  overall exploitation of labour.

Moreover, recurring crises in capitalist production are not the result of rising inequality (although some leftists argue this); and so the real faultlines of capitalism will not be resolved by reducing inequality.

What is also missing from the report is why wealth inequality has  risen ? it is mainly the result of the increased concentration and  centralisation of productive assets in the capitalist sector.  The real  wealth concentration is expressed in the fact that big capital (finance  and business) controls the investment, employment and financial  decisions of the world.  A dominant core of 147 firms through  interlocking stakes in others together control 40% of the wealth in the  global network according to the Swiss Institute of Technology. A total  of 737 companies control 80% of it all. This is the inequality that  matters for the functioning of capitalism ? the concentrated power of  capital.
Source: Rising world inequality
AlterNet / Trump Makes Clear That His Administration's Real National Security Policy Is China First
« Last post by AlterNet on May 16, 2018, 06:00:22 PM »
Trump Makes Clear That His Administration's Real National Security Policy Is China First

Weird annunciation aside, the president appears to be a huge fan of the nation he bashed on the campaign trail.

The nation's top counterintelligence official warned the Senate Intelligence panel Tuesday that Chinese telecom giant ZTE presents a major national security risk, starting with U.S. consumers. NBC News writes:

Under questioning by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., [Bill] Evanina said U.S. intelligence agencies are on record as assessing that Chinese telecommunication firms are used as a vehicle by the Chinese government to conduct espionage.

And, answering a question from Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., he said he would never use a ZTE phone.

In February, six intelligence chiefs advised U.S. consumers against buying smart phones produced by Chinese companies, including ZTE specifically, and in April, the Pentagon pulled the phones from the shelves at U.S. military bases.

ZTE is the firm Donald Trump has suddenly taken a personal interest in, fretting over its job losses after his own U.S. Treasury Department slapped sanctions on it just weeks ago. Trump now says he and Chinese President Xi Jinping are "working together" to get ZTE "back into business, fast." Meanwhile, the Chinese government is pouring $500 million into a Trump Organization real estate development, which accounts for fully one-half of the development's projected budget.

ZTE's emergence on Trump's radar was no accident?it was part of a list of demands China made as Trump officials enter into a second round of bilateral trade talks with the Chinese government.

The Washington Post's Josh Rogin writes:

The Chinese proposal is entitled, ?Framework Arrangement on Promoting Balanced Development on Bilateral Trade,? and I obtained an English version of the document, which is the Chinese government?s negotiating position heading into the next round of talks. That round begins this week when Xi Jinping?s special economic envoy Liu He returns to town.

Bullet point 5 is entitled, ?Appropriately handling the ZTE case to secure global supply chain.?

?Having noted China?s great concern about the case of ZTE, the U.S. will listen attentively to ZTE?s plea, consider the progress and efforts ZTE has made in compliance management and announce adjustment to the export ban,? the document states.

In negotiating terms, that means Trump is giving away the very leverage point that's putting the squeeze on China in exchange for exactly nothing, except putting U.S. consumers and our country as a whole at risk.

But that $500 million sure is a sweet deal. And in case there was any doubt about Trump's motivations, on Monday he framed it as a "personal" favor to President Xi.



Related Stories

Source: Trump Makes Clear That His Administration's Real National Security Policy Is China First
Richard Mellor / Trump, Kushner, Ivanka. Terror personified.
« Last post by Richard Mellor on May 16, 2018, 06:00:46 AM »
Trump, Kushner, Ivanka. Terror personified.

Israeli drones drop gas canisters on Palestinians
Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

As the spoiled little rich boy Jared Kushner and his wife Ivanka Trump praised the Zionist regime at the opening of the new US embassy in Jerusalem, some 50 miles away 40,000 people protested the move and maintain their demand to be rid of the siege that keeps them contained in the largest outdoor concentration camp in the world and for the right to return to their homes from which they were driven in order to create the European colonial settler state of Israel.

Kushner, another pimp like his father and father in law, blames the violence on the victims like the domestic abuser, "Those provoking problems like we see today in Gaza are part of the problem and not part of the solution," he said. "Provoking problems"? Kushner is an investor in some of the settlements that are the front line in the Zionist regimes ethnic cleansing program. Some 55 people unarmed protesters were killed today by most accounts, many of them terrorists according to Israeli and US media.

Trump caused this, he knew what would happen and did it anyway. Trump, Kushner and the entire US Congress is responsible for this. What a den of thieves and murderers that place is. The American Taleban are calling the events a glorious result of biblical prophecy which claims their god will be landing soon to take some of them to Nirvana.  So much for religion. People that claim to be Jews and Christians dressing themselves up 50 miles away from a scene where civilians, unarmed men, women and children are shot by snipers, many in the back and they get blamed for their own deaths. What scum these people are.

They demand from the victim complete submission just as the domestic abuser does of theirs. Don't resist or I'll hurt you more. I'll kill your children, just accept your fate. And the working classes of the main forces involved, the US as the driver and its sycophants in Westminster----where are you on this? There should be organized blacking of all Israeli goods. No Israeli product should be touched by dockworkers, no ship or plane unloaded, no train driven that carries Israeli goods to the stores. Workers in stores should  be organized to refuse handling of any Israeli products. This is what should have been done with regard to the South African Apartheid state,  workers in all industries refuse to handle goods of the offending country.

The people celebrating in Jerusalem have lost the right to even be classified as animals, that is an insult to all animal life, including humans. They reflect the decaying rotten flesh of a social organization that has reached the end of its historical shelf life.

We either put an end to this system or it will put an end to us.
Source: Trump, Kushner, Ivanka. Terror personified.
Infoshop News / #REDFORED ? Teacher Strikes Show Social Movements the Way Forward
« Last post by Alternative Media Project on May 16, 2018, 06:00:44 AM »
#REDFORED ? Teacher Strikes Show Social Movements the Way Forward

There have been growing calls for electoral participation in the wake of the Trump presidential victory and the horrendous political and social climate that have come in its wake.
Source: #REDFORED ? Teacher Strikes Show Social Movements the Way Forward
Here's How White House Staffers Are Defying a West Wing?s Phone Ban to Leak About The President


The administration installed lockers for cell phones, and two men conduct surprise sweeps for unauthorized devices ? but staffers still leak.


As a candidate, Donald Trump loved leaks?once even invoking the self-described ?transparency? site WikiLeaks in an effort to find dirt on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (?no collusion?). As president, leaks?which have come from top White House aides and even Trump himself?are less impressive; in a tweet Monday, he likened leakers who speak with reporters to ?traitors.?

As CNN?s Kaitlan Collins reported Tuesday, the Trump administration is trying to frame the latest White House leak scandal, which features a top official joking about the death of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), as a ?leaking problem? as opposed to a character void in the West Wing.

?Over the last 16 months, the Trump administration has gone to great lengths to stop these leaks from happening to no avail,? Collins reports. ?One of those efforts is from the chief of staff, John Kelly, who instituted this personal cell phone ban back in January.?

Collins explained the White House has ?installed lockers at entrances into the West Wing where staffers put their phone in a locker, lock it up and leave it there, for the remainder of the day.? Referring to ?sources inside the White House,? Collins said staffers are often ?huddled around the lockers, checking their phones and when the staffers aren't there, these lockers are constantly buzzing and chirping with alerts from the staffers' cell phones.?

?This is not a ban based on the honor system,? Collins continued. ?They have two men dressed in suits who periodically will go throughout West Wing, conducting a sweep to find unauthorized nongovernment issued phones throughout the West Wing.?

Collins said the men go ?from room to room to room,? using ?largely accurate? devices that can even detect ?what kind of cell phone[s]? are in the room.

?Stopping the use of personal cell phones in the West Weng is not stopping staffers from telling reporters what is going on behind closed doors,? Collins added.

?So the White House is framing this as a leaking problem, but the bottom line is dozens of senior White House officials who work in this White House behind me talk to reporters throughout the day,? she said. ?The president himself even talks to reporters and it is a way that reporters find out what's going on behind closed doors in the west wing to tell the American people.?

Watch the report below:

Source: Here's How White House Staffers Are Defying a West Wing?s Phone Ban to Leak About The President
Richard Mellor / Israel the Victim.
« Last post by Richard Mellor on May 15, 2018, 06:00:41 PM »
Israel the Victim.

Reprinted from Mondoweiss

Israel distorts timeline of events to play victim in the dangerous escalation with Iran and Syria


Here?s the actual order of events:

* Just one hour after Donald Trump violated the Iran  nuclear deal on May 8, Israel launched missiles against targets south  of Damascus, Syria, reportedly killing 15 people, at least 8 of them  Iranians.

* In response, Iran early this morning  apparently struck back with 20 rockets aimed at the Golan Heights,  (which is occupied by Israel since 1967 but is still legally part of  Syria).

* Hours later, Israeli warplanes attacked dozens of allegedly Iranian targets in Syria.

The mainstream Western media is falling into  Israel?s propaganda trap. Most reports are treating the Iranian rockets  as the original provocation, and framing Israel?s massive air strikes as  the (understandable) response. Unusually, the New York Times coverage was actually moderately less biased than other outlets, such as the Washington Post and the BBC. The Times at least noted ? down in paragraph 12 ? that Israel had first attacked Syria right after Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Iran deal.

Nor, so far, are the major media connecting Benjamin  Netanyahu?s belligerence to his desperate need to distract from the  multiple domestic corruption investigations against him and his wife ?  an angle some of the Israeli press is not too squeamish to note. In the  excellent online publication, +972, Dahlia Scheindlin notes today that Netanyahu?s strategy is working; he ?appears to have inoculated  himself against looming corruption charges due to the dramatic  developments on the security front.? She adds that the latest Israeli  opinion polls show Netanyahu?s Likud party with its highest level of  support in a decade.

Larry Derfner, the American-turned-Israeli who is  one of that country?s most experienced reporters, is hammering away at  the truth on his Facebook page:
I?ve been arguing all day against  Israel?s policy of continually bombing Syria, Lebanon and Iran, pointing  out that they?re not bombing us, we?re bombing them, which means we?re  not acting in self defense, we?re the aggressors. . . For [people with  the opposing opinion] it doesn?t matter how many times Israel bombs the  enemy and the enemy doesn?t bomb back ? Israel is still bombing in  self-defense and the other side is still the aggressor. Why? Because  Israel is Israel and Iran/Syria/Lebanon is Iran/Syria/Lebanon. Israel is  right because it is good and they are wrong because they are bad. . .

Source: Israel the Victim.
Republican Efforts to Unify the Party After Painful Senate Primaries Are Going Quite Terribly

This party is not getting it together ahead of the midterms.

Sure, if you look at the calendar, Republicans hosted their first set of Senate primaries last week. But that election was just a technicality, because the intra-party warring that dominated all three races has continued to blaze unabated.

The most uncontrolled fire rages in West Virginia. There, ex-con Don Blankenship, who spent millions of his own money to run lunatic racist ads attacking ?Cocaine Mitch? McConnell and ?China people,? is eager to light the man who beat him in the GOP primary aflame (so sayeth Blankenship?s campaign manager):

?I think the one thing he is going to make sure doesn?t happen is that Patrick Morrisey becomes a U.S. senator.?

Blankenship wasn?t the only loser in the Mountain State last week. As a result of his defeat, Rep. Evan Jenkins saw his congressional career careen to an early end, and he could barely choke out words of encouragement to his own party?s nominee. In a terse statement, Jenkins congratulated the winners of all four federal primaries in his state, making sure to list Morrisey last?after the House victors.

Don?t imagine, though, that Blankenship is alone in his vituperation. Over in Indiana, Rep. Todd Rokita did nothing to soften his well-deserved image as a raving a-hole when he decided to use his concession speech to do the gracious thing and attack primary winner Mike Braun:

"Not every fight is fair. Not every candidate can stroke a personal $6 million check. But that's life. I hope he [Braun] will rise to the occasion and truly fight for this state. I know he has it in him, and not just wage an expensive media campaign to buy a Senate seat, only to keep Washington at the status quo. We can't afford it."

Rokita may have indulged in public whining, but it was the other loser, Rep. Luke Messer, whose behavior reached true levels of childish petulance. Two days after the primary, none other than Donald Trump flew into town (along with local boy Mike Pence) to headline a rally for Braun. Who, despite having just nominated Trump for a Nobel peace prize (gag), was a very visible no-show? Messer, of course.

Finally, there?s Ohio, nestled right in there between West by God and the Hoosier State, and this one might be the most intriguing of all. Shortly before the primary, businessman Mike Gibbons filed a $1 million defamation lawsuit against the eventual winner, Rep. Jim Renacci, so you know this story isn?t going to end pleasantly. In a tweet over the weekend, Gibbons told his supporters that ?this is not the end? and then asked:

If you have a Gibbons sign, please hold on to it & stay tuned in the coming months.

Seeing as those yard signs have the words ?U.S. Senate? printed on them, they won?t be very useful, will they, unless Gibbons is planning, say, an independent bid this fall? Boy, we can only hope.

So what accounts for the fact that, a week later, Republicans are still at each others? throats? Here?s a thought: All this rancor is the inevitable by-product of a Trump-worshipping Republican Party that has curdled into a vehicle of pure hatred. Republicans gleefully deploy cruel attacks on Democrats, but when that cruelty is turned against themselves, suddenly they no longer have the stomach for it.

They couldn?t deserve it more.



Related Stories

Source: Republican Efforts to Unify the Party After Painful Senate Primaries Are Going Quite Terribly
White House Edits Transcript of Jared Kushner Calling Protestors in Gaza ?Part of the Problem?


The White House tried to quietly edit Jared Kushner's controversial comment ? but reporters have the receipts.

The White House on Monday released an official transcript of President Donald Trump?s son-in-law Jared Kushner addressing the opening ceremony for the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. In the version submitted to reporters, however, the administration neglected to include an important?and controversial?line from the top Trump aide.

"As we have seen from the protests of the last month and even today, those provoking violence are part of the problem and not part of the solution,? Kushner said during his remarks in Jerusalem. At least 52 Palestinians were killed on Monday in Gaza by Israeli security forces.

It?s not the first time the White House has been caught airbrushing official transcripts. In January, after Trump told a bipartisan immigration meeting the would ?like? to support a clean DACA bill, the White House removed the president?s comment from the recorded statement. According to theWashington Post, a White House official defended the omission, calling it ?unintentional? but true to the ?context of the conversation.? 

And last year, when onetime communications director Anthony Scaramucci commended the president?s ability to sink ?three-foot putts? while golfing, the White House transcript conveniently edited his remarks to commend Trump?s ?30-foot putts.?

You can watch the video of Kushner?s remarks below:

Source: White House Edits Transcript of Jared Kushner Calling Protestors in Gaza ?Part of the Problem?
Inter Press Service - Labour / We Need a Gender Shift to save Our Girls from the Jaws of Extremism
« Last post by Inter Press Service on May 15, 2018, 06:00:53 AM »
We Need a Gender Shift to save Our Girls from the Jaws of Extremism

Ambassador Amina Mohamed EGH, CAV is the Cabinet Secretary for Education in the Government of Kenya and co-chair of High Level Platform for Girls Education. Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

The post We Need a Gender Shift to save Our Girls from the Jaws of Extremism appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Source: We Need a Gender Shift to save Our Girls from the Jaws of Extremism
AlterNet / WATCH: Mike Pence Says More Americans Believe in God Now That Trump is President
« Last post by AlterNet on May 14, 2018, 06:01:11 PM »
WATCH: Mike Pence Says More Americans Believe in God Now That Trump is President

"Facts are facts," Pence also insisted.

Vice President Mike Pence delivered the commencement address to graduating students at a small, private, ultra-conservative Christian college in Michigan Saturday afternoon. Many consider the former Indiana governor a devout Catholic, and his speech certainly supported that perception.

The Vice President told the Hillsdale College graduating class that because Donald Trump is now president, more Americans believe in God.

"Faith in America is rising again because President Trump and our entire administration have been advancing the very principles that you learned here in the halls of Hillsdale College," Pence said. "The principles that have always been the source of America's greatness and strength."

"Facts are facts," Pence also insisted. "Faith is rising across America."

Hillsdale happens to have major ties to the family of Betsy DeVos. The  college "considers itself a trustee of our Western philosophical and theological inheritance," according to its website. The Education Secretary and her brother, Erik Prince, are graduates of the school. Prince, the founder of the Blackwater security services company, sits on its board. He has been questioned by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Pence also made other questionable claims ? even claims that seemed to be at with with other remarks in his own speech.

"Faith has always been the wellspring of hope for millions of Americans, and from our Founding, faith has been the foundation of our freedom, and religion essential to our republic," the Vice President said.

"The percentage of Americans who live out their religion on a weekly basis ? by praying, going to church, and reading and believing in the Bible ? has remained remarkably consistent over the decades, even as the population of the United States has grown by leaps and bounds," he claimed.

That's actually false, as this Gallup study shows.

Pence also told the students that on a per capita basis, Americans are four times as religious as they were when the country was founded.Aside from being able to get Vice President Pence as its commencement address speaker, Hillsdale college is famous another, albeit less distinguished reason. Last December Republicans tried to exempt the school from a tax on university endowments. The amendment was craftily worded to exclude from having to pay the tax an college or university that does not accept any federal funds. Hillsdale is the only college or university that does not accept any federal funds.

Democrats were able to defeat the handout.


Source: WATCH: Mike Pence Says More Americans Believe in God Now That Trump is President
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