Greek Revolt Against Bad Economics Threatens European Elites

The referendum in Greece refuting the European Union’s unbending insistence on radical austerity as the medicine Greeks must continue to swallow is simply not to be missed for its multiple layers of significance. To put the core take-home first, we are all Greeks as they stand against the neoliberal orthodoxy. Their battle is perfectly of a piece with one that needs to be called by its name and waged in our great country.

The Greek crisis has given us an altogether exposing moment, to put the point another way. It is universal in all that it lays bare about the world’s political economy as it has come to be over the last, say, four decades.

Greek Revolt Against Bad Economics by Lynn Parramore, July 10, 2015

http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/31805-greek-revolt-against-bad-economics-threatens-european-elites

Radical Austerity’s Brutal Lies by Patrick Smith, July 11, 2015

http://www.alternet.org/radical-austeritys-brutal-lies-how-krugman-and-chomsky-saw-through-dehumanizing-neoliberal-spin

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Unlike a chair, an idea can be shared by a whole people

In his BookTV presentation for “The Rise of the Robots. On the Disappearance of Jobs in the Future,” the Silicon Valley software developer Martin Ford predicted that 30% of American jobs could be gone within 20 years. He favors a basic income since work and income are already being uncoupled. He warned that plutocrats or the elite often make the whole subject of unemployment through digitalization disappear. He said he was a capitalist and supported a system where 1000 persons lose their purchasing power so Bill Gates and the 1% can become richer!

The time is right for alternative economics, reducing working hours, shrinking the financial sector and expanding the public sector, redefining work, health, strength, success and happiness, moving from quantitative growth to qualitative growth, becoming storytellers and not gazing at the stories of office buildings (whose profits like the $76 billion from WalMart are in Luxemburg or the Cayman Islands).

Websites like www.openculture.com, www.booktv.org,
www.alternativetrademandate.org, www.kickitover.org, www.steadystate.org and www.storyofstuff.com call us to a digital world of abundance and exchanging roles with access replacing excess and enough replacing more.

Posted in Alternative Economics, Reducing Working Hours | Leave a comment

Video: Rise of the Robots, 1 hr

http://www.c-span.org/video/?326298-1/martin-ford-rise-robots

Book Discussion on Rise of the Robots

Martin Ford talked about his book Rise of Robots: Technology and the Threat of the Jobless Future, in which he discusses the impact of technology on jobs and the economy. Mr. Ford talked about how the increasing use of artificial intelligence could make “good jobs” obsolete. Mr. Ford suggested that many jobs, such as paralegals, physicians, and even computer programmers, were poised to be replaced by robots. May 21, 2015 from BookTV on CSpan

Posted in Reducing Working Hours | Leave a comment

Happy Canada Day! The TPP and Canada

Happy Canada Day! A little inspiration, hope and encouragement from our sister and friend to the North!

The TPP and Canada by Scott Sinclair and Stuart Trew, May 22, 2015, 4 pp

https://www.policyalternatives.ca/sites/default/files/uploads/publications/National%20Office/2015/05/TPP_and_Canada.pdf
This 4-page fact sheet provides readers with background on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a 12-country trade and investment treaty negotiation that began in 2008. The fact sheet outlines some of the issues and consequences of Canada’s involvement in the TPP, as well the kind of restrictions the TTP puts on government policy and regulation. – See more at: https://policyalternatives.ca/publications/reports/tpp-and-canada#sthash.jEbtoYrF.dpuf

more at www.rabble.ca, www.worklessparty.org, www.kickitiover.org, www.openculture.com, www.alternativetrademandate.org and www.citizen.org

Posted in TTIP - Free Trade agreement | Leave a comment

TTIP – Why the World Should Beware, 61 pp

Radical free trade policies did not begin with the birth of NAFTA, nor with the founding of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1995 – both had been in place in over 90 developing and transitional economies for over a decade through structural adjustment programes imposed by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). (Walden Bello)

TTIP – Why the World Should Beware by Manuel Perez-Rocha, Rosa Luxemburg foundation, May 2015, 61 pp

http://www.rosalux.de/fileadmin/rls\_uploads/pdfs/engl/TTIP-BEWARE-june2015.pdf
contents
Foreword by Susan George 5
Introduction by Walden Bello: TTIP in historical perspective 9
Executive summary 13
Main concerns about TTIP 19
1. Establishing a new “economic NATO” 20
2. Imposing global standards on trade, investment,
services and intellectual property rights 21
3. Regulatory cooperation: creating a
world parliament for big business\? 24
4. Us versus them: so-called EU and US “common values”
imply that others may not share them 26
5. Reacting to the emergence of the BRICS and undermining
multilateral trade negotiations worldwide 29
6. Leveraging US and EU in their bilateral and
inter-regional negotiations 30
7. Contradicting EU pro-development rhetoric and
global efforts to overcome poverty 32
8. Weakening “local barriers to trade” measures,
local development and “subsidiarity” 34
9. State owned enterprises and other government-controlled
entities under attack 36
10. Limiting EU and US market access for non-TTIP countries 37
11. Threatening global food safety standards and
struggles for food sovereignty 41
12. Efforts to tackle climate change at risk 43
13. Undermining international treaties on human rights 45
Preliminary conclusions 49
Endnotes 50

TTIP is a direct blow against democracy, but not just for the countries where it will
apply. The ‘overseeing and accelerating’ and the ‘integrating’ of the two economies are
ominous for the rest of the world as well. Clearly, the largest corporations in the world
expect to make the rules for the most powerful economic bloc ever conceived and – once
this bloc is well under control – to impose those same rules on everyone.

Let us also remember that, if this treaty passes, and if the United States also manages to
complete the negotiations on the TransPacific Partnership (TPP) with 11 Latin American
and Asia-Pacific nations, including Japan and Australia, it will occupy the central global
pole position representing a bloc of almost two-thirds of world GDP and nearly three-quarters
of world trade. The two agreements – assuming both are signed – will contain
identical or very similar provisions. Such a coup would allow the US to advance its ‘contain
China’ strategy considerably, but also to confront all the BRICS and other developing
countries. The message would be clear: sign on for the same clauses, provisions and
rules, or you will be marginalized in world trade. TTIP is not just about investment and
deregulation, although it is deeply engaged in both: it’s a blunt instrument to dictate
standards established by and for the business brass of the developed countries, on the
whole world, whether the world likes it or not.

One can expect that smaller and weaker states will be the first forced to give in, but
ultimately corporate rules will apply not just to trade of all products made or processed
anywhere but to the so-called ‘non-trade barriers’ that govern all aspects of ordinary
peoples’ lives, from food to pharmaceuticals, labor laws to environmental degradation
and much, much more.

One particularly frightening example is the planned replacement of the judiciary by
private arbitration tribunals: this aspect of TTIP has angered opposition forces perhaps
more than any other, and for good reasons. The tribunals are not just private, employing
private lawyers and arbitrator-judges from top – mostly British or US – law firms. They
are also both anti-democratic and costly. After the proceedings, which are kept secret,
if the state loses the case to the investor, citizens of that country will be obliged to pay
the compensation awarded through their taxes. The provision is unilateral – states can’t
complain against investors – and there is no recourse or process of appeal. In the cases
decided so far by such tribunals operating under bilateral investment treaty law, states
have been obliged to pay something to the corporations in 63\% of cases, either because
of the arbitrators’ decision or because they preferred to make a settlement directly with
the investor suing them outside of court. (Susan George)

Posted in TTIP - Free Trade agreement | Leave a comment

The obscure legal system that lets corporations sue countries

to read the article by Claire Provost and Matt Kennard published in The Guardian, June 10, 2015, click on

http://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/jun/10/obscure-legal-system-lets-corportations-sue-states-ttip-icsid

Fifty years ago, an international legal system was created to protect the rights of foreign investors. Today, as companies win billions in damages, insiders say it has got dangerously out of control.

Most international investment treaties and free-trade deals grant foreign investors the right to activate this system, known as investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), if they want to challenge government decisions affecting their investments. In Europe, this system has become a sticking point in negotiations over the controversial Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) deal proposed between the European Union and the US, which would massively extend its scope and power and make it harder to challenge in the future. Both France and Germany have said that they want access to investor-state dispute settlement removed from the TTIP treaty currently under discussion.

Investors have used this system not only to sue for compensation for alleged expropriation of land and factories, but also over a huge range of government measures, including environmental and social regulations, which they say infringe on their rights. Multinationals have sued to recover money they have already invested, but also for alleged lost profits and “expected future profits”. The number of suits filed against countries at the ICSID is now around 500 – and that figure is growing at an average rate of one case a week.

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TPP – Investment Chapter, WikiLeaks, 56 pp

TPP Investment Chapter for all 12 nations, WikiLeaks release March 25, 2015, 56 pp

https://wikileaks.org/tpp-investment/WikiLeaks-TPP-Investment-Chapter.pdf
more at www.alternativetrademandate.org and www.citizen.org

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The Lie of the Weak State and Less Work is More

The good condition of German labor markets is in reality in a catastrophic state. Unemployment is an “act of violence” against every individual unemployed person. At the same time unemployment represents an enormous waste for society as a whole. From 2001 to 2013, mass unemployment in Germany entailed almost a trillion Euros in fiscal costs. These costs contrast with zero benefits…

The state still has a strong power position unlike the thesis believed by many that the state is weak today and only capable of small steps while leading its citizens by the nose with trivialities

Heinz J. Bontrup is a German economist with the Alternative Economic Policy study group in Bremen. To read his two articles from 2014 and 2015, click on

http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2015/06/429942.shtml

Posted in Alternative Economics, Neoliberalism | Leave a comment

Risks and Opportunities for Consumer Welfare in the TTIP, 56 pp

Frank Bsirske Of the German Verdi service union said the TTIP is a “black box” transferring sovereignty from states and communities to corporations. Labor and environmental regulations can be chilled or invalidated as “takings” or “indirect expropriations.” Public interest legislation can be annulled as violations of the “human right to profit.”
Risks and Opportunities for Consumer Welfare Arising from the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), Friedrich Ebert foundation, February 2015, 56 pp

http://library.fes.de/pdf-files/wiso/11208.pdf

TTIP represents a crisis for democracy and the constitutional state. A parallel private arbitration system allows three corporate lawyers to serve as judges making irrevocable decisions. Philip Morris is suing Australia and Uruguay for lost profits because of warnings on cigarette packages. Vattenfall is suing Germany for 4 billion euros for closing two nuclear reactors. Veolea, a French company and owner of an Egyptian waste disposal company, is suing Egypt for losses from a higher Egyptian minimum wage.

Richard Trumka of the AFL-CIA describes the TTIP as “secret tribunals” where only “foreign investors” can sue. Frank Bsirske Of the German Verdi service union said the TTIP is a “black box” transferring sovereignty from states and communities to corporations. Labor and environmental regulations can be chilled or invalidated as “takings” or “indirect expropriations.” Public interest legislation can be annulled as violations of the “human right to profit.”

more at www.alternativetrademandate.org, www.citizen.org and www.kickitover.org

and from economist Prof. Martin Hart-Landsberg, Lewis and Clark College at a recent AFL-CIO event:

Reports from the Economic Front

http://blogs.lclark.edu/hart-landsberg/2015/05/25/oppose-fast-track-and-the-tpp/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ReportsFromTheEconomicFront+%28Reports+from+the+Economic+Front%29

Oppose Fast Track And The TPP

“Reports From The Economic Front” is moving. For a short time it will appear at both its current location and future home. Those of you receiving it by email will need to re-enter your email address at the new site.

It is looking increasing likely that the U.S. Congress is going to approve a Fast Track mechanism which will be used to pass the Transpacific Partnership (TPP) agreement. This is not good. What follows is the text of a talk I gave at an April 2015 Oregon AFL-CIO sponsored event on the TPP.

I don’t have much time so I am going to try and make my points as quickly but as clearly as I can.

First, globalization is a process that is shaped by power and current globalization dynamics reflect corporate interests. Sadly, these dynamics have produced a globalization process that is harmful to workers in all the countries involved.

Many U.S. companies have globalized their production because it enables them to lower labor and environmental costs and greatly increase their profits. Since they no longer need to engage in production in this country they have not used their profits to fund investment or job creation in this country. Rather they have channeled them into dividends or stock by-backs, both of which enrich their owners and managers. The consequence for working people is quite different. The resulting low growth and intensified competition between workers for jobs has left us with weak job creation and employment conditions that are increasingly precarious.

Second, the essence of these globalization dynamics is perhaps best revealed through an examination of our various free trade agreements. These agreements, and the Transpacific Partnership agreement (TPP) is no different, are called free trade agreements because the government believes that we all think free trade is good and so by calling them free trade agreements it hopes we will uncritically support them.

The fact is that these agreements are about far more than trade. For example, they normally have some 20 chapters, most having nothing to do with trade as we understand it. The US-Korea agreement had 24 chapters, for example. The TPP apparently has 29 chapters. Now, we don’t know precisely what the TPP or the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, another agreement being pushed by the current government, will include because they are being negotiated primarily in secret. But we have seen enough agreements signed that we know the US trade negotiator’s play book and there have been enough leaks about the TPP that we can be confident of what many of the chapters will include.

Let me highlight two of its chapters:

We know the TPP has an investment chapter because of a recent leak. Ostensibly this chapter is supposed to protect foreign investors, defined broadly, from nationalization or expropriation, but it does much more. For example, the chapter blocks governments from putting performance requirements on foreign investment. More problematic, it also grants foreign corporations protection from direct or – and here is the kicker – indirect expropriation or nationalization.

So, what is an indirect expropriation or nationalization you might ask? According to the leaked chapter, one of the factors that might signal an indirect expropriation is “the extent to which the government action interferes with distinct, reasonable investment-backed expectations.” Another is “the character of the government action.” This last factor becomes clearer from a reading of the terms of the Investment Chapter in the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement. There it is stated that one of the factors to be considered in determining whether a foreign investor has suffered an indirect expropriation is “whether the government action imposes a special sacrifice on the particular investor or investment that exceeds what the investor or investment should be expected to endure for the public interest.”

Moreover, the chapter also allows an investor that feels like it has been wronged to sue the offending level of government in a special tribunal, whose judges are primarily corporate lawyers who will earn millions of dollars regardless of who wins. In fact many of these lawyers actively encourage corporations to sue in one period, making millions representing them, and then sit on a tribunal judging a government in another time period and again making millions.

The number of corporations suing governments under investment chapters, which are in most FTAs, is rising sharply. Here are a few cases:

Philip Morris is suing Uruguay and Australia, because these countries want tobacco products sold in plain packaging with large health warnings. The company is suing Uruguay for $2 billion.
Vatterfall, a Swiss company, is suing Germany because the country has decided to decommission nuclear power plants.
Lone Star, a U.S. based company, is suing Canada because the province of Quebec has decided to ban fracking.
Veolia, a French company, Egypt because the government mandated increase in the minimum wage has reduced the profitability of it waste management operation.

Another leaked chapter, this one designed to protect the intellectual property rights of our large companies, seeks, among other things, to extend the length of patents enjoyed by big drug makers. It does that in several ways. For example, it protects “evergreening” in which drug companies can obtain patent extensions by making minor changes to their patented formula or by promoting a secondary use for the drug. It also limits the criteria a product must fulfill in order to be eligible for a patent, thereby making it easier for companies to patent new products. An earlier version of the chapter—it is not sure where things currently stand—even tried to secure patents for particular methods of performing surgery.

I could go on but you get the idea—these and other chapters are designed to promote corporate power and profits by limiting public policies that might regulate their investment or production decisions. This freedom would come at our expense and, I would add, the overall health of our economy.

Third, what about the trade part. We hear over and over again from economists how wonderful free trade is for all countries involved. However, realize that this conclusion is largely based on Ricardo’s theory of comparative advantage, a theory which rested on a few key assumptions. The most important were: full employment, balanced trade, and a lack of capital mobility. Now you might think that this theory and its assumptions is just another example of the fantasy world that economists live in, and no one, especially policy-makers, would take its conclusions seriously. Well, every time you read or hear an economist or government official tell you how much such and such free trade agreement is going to raise GDP or boost trade you can be sure that they got that number from something called a Computable General Equilibrium Model. And those models, believe it or not, use the very same assumptions. They have to make those assumptions if their models are to produce numerical estimates. But think of what that means. We worry about unemployment, trade deficits, and capital flight. Economists, the ones that our government relies on, assume those worries away, by assumption.

Even granting them their assumptions, their predictions for gains are still incredibly small. The most common estimates, using the method noted above, find that the TPP will boost U.S. GDP by 0.38 percent in 2025. That is a predicted gain of approximately $80 billion, really a rounding error in a $18 trillion economy. And then remember all the chapters that we know will do us harm. For example, the extra cost for medical care from extending and promoting patients will clearly swamp predicted benefits from trade.

Nevertheless U.S. officials have been endlessly quoting that the agreement will boost jobs—most often they cite a gain of 650,000 jobs. However, it is unclear where this number comes from. The studies themselves do no actual job forecasting. All they do is predict, subject to the assumptions noted, growth in GDP and exports and imports.

So, where does the administration get its estimate? No one knows for certain, but here is a good guess: The model predicts that the TPP will increase exports by $124 billion by 2025. The Commerce Department estimates that about 5,500 jobs are supported by every $1 billion in exports, so, if you do the math you get an increase of approximately 650,000 jobs. There is one big problem with this calculation—it leaves out imports. The model actually predicts an increase of approximately the same dollar value of imports—so there goes the increase in jobs.

In short, we are being lied to—about the nature of this and other agreements.

The fact is that the government doesn’t have the slightest idea of what this agreement will do for our GDP or employment. What it knows is that it will greatly increase corporate profits and power and that is what it cares most about. The rest is all salesmanship.

So, the takeaway: these agreements have been harmful—we have the history of past agreements to show us that. We need to oppose them. The government knows that the more people know about these agreements the less they will like them so they want to fast track them. They want a procedure that will allow a simple and quick up or down vote. Unfortunately many of our politicians depend on corporate funds and so they also want fast track because it allows them to do what they want without drawing too much public heat. We cannot let that happen. We need to educate others about what these agreements are really about and we need to pressure Congress not to approve a fast track procedure for approving them.

Things are bad enough in this economy we certainly don’t need to implement agreements that will only worsen them.

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Fast Track, TPP and TTIP Should Be Scrapped!

TTIP represents a crisis for democracy and the constitutional state. A parallel private arbitration system allows three corporate lawyers to serve as judges making irrevocable decisions. Philip Morris is suing Australia and Uruguay for lost profits because of warnings on cigarette packages. Vattenfall is suing Germany for 4 billion euros for closing two nuclear reactors. Veolea, a French company and owner of an Egyptian waste disposal company, is suing Egypt for losses from a higher Egyptian minimum wage.

Richard Trumka of the AFL-CIA describes the TTIP as “secret tribunals” where only “foreign investors” can sue. Frank Bsirske Of the German Verdi service union said the TTIP is a “black box” transferring sovereignty from states and communities to corporations. Labor and environmental regulations can be chilled or invalidated as “takings” or “indirect expropriations.” Public interest legislation can be annulled as violations of the “human right to profit.”

more at www.alternativetrademandate.org and www.citizen.org

Posted in TTIP - Free Trade agreement | Leave a comment