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US Economy Contracted By 1 Percent In First Three Months Of 2014

  • Nearly six years after the 2008 financial meltdown, the US economy remains mired in stagnation and slump. Behind the booming stock market and record corporate profits and CEO pay, daily life for broad sections of the population is dominated by unemployment, falling wages and growing poverty
  • America’s rotting empire

Andre Damon, World Socialist Website

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30 May 2014 | The US economy contracted at an annualized rate of one percent in the first quarter of 2014, the first time the economy shrank since 2011, according to revised figures for the gross domestic product (GDP) published Thursday by the Commerce Department.

The figures reflect the fact that nearly six years after the 2008 financial meltdown, the US economy remains mired in stagnation and slump. Behind the booming stock market and record corporate profits and CEO pay, daily life for broad sections of the population is dominated by unemployment, falling wages and growing poverty.

Andre Damon: national secretary of the International Youth and Students for Social Equality (US)

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Related:

America’s rotting empire, CJ Werleman, AlterNet 

  • Billionaires galore and a crumbling infrastructure
  • More proof we're in rapid decline: Not a single U.S. city currently ranks among the world's most livable
  • We're NOT Number 1: Guess Which Country Now Has a More Affluent Middle Class Than America?
  • 5 Ways American Policies and Attitudes Make Us Lonely, Anxious, and Antisocial

 

The Piketty Panic

It has been amazing to watch conservatives, one after another, denounce Mr. Piketty as a Marxist. Even Mr. Pethokoukis, who is more sophisticated than the rest, calls “Capital” a work of “soft Marxism,” which only makes sense if the mere mention of unequal wealth makes you a Marxist.

Paul Krugman, New York (NY) Times

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jackets/9780674430006.jpg April 24, 2014 | “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” the new book by the French economist Thomas Piketty, is a bona fide phenom-enon. Other books on economics have been best sellers, but Mr. Piketty’s contribution is serious, discourse-changing scholarship in a way most best sellers aren’t. And conservatives are terrified. Thus James Pethokoukis of the American Enterprise Institute warns in National Review that Mr. Piketty’s work must be refuted, because otherwise it “will spread among the clerisy and reshape the political economic landscape on which all future policy battles will be waged.”

Well, good luck with that. The really striking thing about the debate so far is that the right seems unable to mount any kind of substantive counterattack to Mr. Piketty’s thesis. Instead, the response has been all about name-calling — in particular, claims that Mr. Piketty is a Marxist, and so is anyone who considers inequality of income and wealth an important issue.

The Nobel Prize-winning New York Times Op-Ed columnist Paul Krugman comments on economics and politics.

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Related:

How Piketty's Bombshell Book Blows Up Libertarian Fantasies, Lynn Stuart Parramore, AlterNet

Sorry, Ayn Rand. Your fiction has been exposed as, well, fiction.

 

Bernie Sanders Slams Tea Party Idiot Marco Rubio for Voting Against Veterans’ Benefits (Video)

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  • Koch-friend Marco Rubio has long been more of the Courtney “use once and destroy” Love school of thought regarding veterans than most. Rubio, along with the rest of the GOP, have developed a rather stunning habit of pandering to veterans from one hole, and speaking out to block every effort to care for them with the other. Most recently, Rubio was one of 41 Senate Republicans to block the passage of a bill that would have improved veterans’ benefits.
  • Who is to blame for the crisis at the VA?

Richard Rowe, Atlas Left

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Sanders-Rubio-620x330.jpg May 23, 2014 | “It’s not who you are underneath — it’s what you do that defines you.” Of all the recent one-liners in recent movie history, this line from Batman Begins may be the most profound. One of the oldest questions in philosophy is “how do we define ourselves?” Bruce Wayne would say we’re defined by our actions — our observable behavior and impact on the world. Others would say we’re defined by our intentions, because we can’t always know what effect our actions will have. But how much good does the self-definition of intention do in the real world, where material effects matter? Well, we want to answer that question for you. Does that answer your question?

The GOP and its Tea Party core have long defined themselves in terms of support for veterans; a convenient base, if you’re counting on the strength of arms to maintain power. But that self-definition, that intention, has long since given way to the action of selling veterans out at the drop of a dollar. After all, what are veterans if not leeches…wards of the state, welfare queens sucking our nation dry of dollars reserved for precious corporate tax breaks?

Richard Rowe is a full-time freelance writer who doesn't believe in following any one party, group or ideology, and prefers to think about each situation as it comes. 

story_images/soldiers.png Photo Credit: Robert Adrian Hillman/Shutterstock.com

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Related:

Who is to blame for the crisis at the VA? People's World 

The truth is the VA was not equipped to deal with the aftermath of two multi-trillion dollar land wars. To deal with the aftermath properly the agency has to be modernized and beefed up and given far more, not fewer resources.

 

How Republicans became the “stupid” party

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  • Turning right, refusing to recognize facts and change
  • We once had two centrist liberal parties. Here's the story of how the GOP fringes took over the mainstream.
  • Excerpted from "Liberalism: The Life of an Idea"
  • George Monbiot | Right's Stupidity Spreads, Enabled by Too-Polite Left

Edmund Fawcett, Salon

ronald_reagan2-620x412.jpg Ronald Reagan (Credit: AP/Barry Thumma) 

Saturday, May 24, 2014 | In the United States, think tanks played their due part in the Republican realignment of 1980. In Washington, two Catholic conservatives, Edwin Feulner and Paul Weyrich, started the Heritage Foundation (1973), and the following year Murray Rothbard, a libertarian thinker, founded with friends the Cato Institute. Both institutions struck political Washington to begin with as a rest home for aging cranks. Political Washington had soon to think again. Under Ronald Reagan, libertarian economics and conservative moralism entered the pamphlets and speeches of Republicans. Soon libertarians, antigovernment campaigners, and moralizers became the party’s mainstream, pushing moderate Republicans to its fringe or out of the party altogether.

Thatcher attacked the state while using its power to free that of the market. Reagan similarly ran against government so as to run government with like purpose. Whereas Thatcher made government sound selfish or naughty, Reagan made it sound comical. “The nine most terrifying words in the English language,” he used to say, “are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’” The differences ran deeper. In Britain the arguments of the 1970s and 1980s were among liberals. It was a rerun of the old inner-liberal argument, met many times in this liberal story, between more government and less government. Thatcher was right-wing and for all her talk of freedom was overfond of power, but she was still liberal. Despite her party label, Thatcher passed Hayek’s checklist for not being conservative with relative ease. In the United States, matters were more complicated. For the American right had liberal and nonliberal streams.

Edmund Fawcett: Economist correspondent, political observer, and journalist

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Related:

George Monbiot | Right's Stupidity Spreads, Enabled by Too-Polite Left, George Monbiot, Guardian UK

Conservativism may be the refuge of the dim. But the room for rightwing ideas is made by those too timid to properly object.
How these gibbering numbskulls came to dominate Washington
Bright Minds and Dark Attitudes

 

Diminuendo: The dying sound of stewardship among the ruling class

  • The Minnesota Orchestra dispute was a symptom of a larger transition in our culture.
  • The broken circle: What we've learned from the Minnesota Orchestra debacle

Bonnie Blodgett, Minneapolis (MN) Star Tribune

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May 24, 2014 | The tumult over the financial affairs of the Minnesota Orchestra reminds me that Americans once held classical musicians and other artists in high regard. Private philanthropy protected those with exceptional talent and the training required to win a place on the concert hall stage.

How we use that word — exceptional — has changed over the years. The new American exceptionalism is code for individual achievement. We admire winners, not losers, and pity the runners-up. Orchestras demonstrate a different kind of exceptionalism. They embody the outdated idea that the whole is sometimes greater than the sum of its parts.

Bonnie Blodgett is a writer, gardener, and do-it-yourselfer who lives in the land of short summers and long winters, Minnesota, and likes to keep busy.

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Related:

The broken circle: What we've learned from the Minnesota Orchestra debacle, Bill Eddins, MinnPost

Perhaps we should take stock of what we have learned by this debacle. 

Age of Ignorance

  • What we have in this country is the rebellion of dull minds against the intellect. That’s why they love politicians who rail against teachers indoctrinating children against their parents’ values and resent the ones who show ability to think seriously and independently. Despite their bravado, these fools can always be counted on to vote against their self-interest. 
  • Human Stupidity Is Destroying the World
  • George Monbiot | Right's Stupidity Spreads, Enabled by Too-Polite Left

Charles Simic, New York Review of Books

Submitted by Evergreene Digest Contributing Editor Lydia Howell

Fairgoers cheer for Sarah Palin while she appears on the Sean Hannity Show at the Iowa State Fair, August 12, 2011 Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

March 20, 2012 | Widespread ignorance bordering on idiocy is our new national goal. It’s no use pretending otherwise and telling us, as Thomas Friedman did in the Times a few days ago, that educated people are the nation’s most valuable resources. Sure, they are, but do we still want them? It doesn’t look to me as if we do. The ideal citizen of a politically corrupt state, such as the one we now have, is a gullible dolt unable to tell truth from bullshit.

An educated, well-informed population, the kind that a functioning democracy requires, would be difficult to lie to, and could not be led by the nose by the various vested interests running amok in this country. Most of our politicians and their political advisers and lobbyists would find themselves unemployed, and so would the gasbags who pass themselves off as our opinion makers. Luckily for them, nothing so catastrophic, even though perfectly well-deserved and widely-welcome, has a remote chance of occurring any time soon. For starters, there’s more money to be made from the ignorant than the enlightened, and deceiving Americans is one of the few growing home industries we still have in this country. A truly educated populace would be bad, both for politicians and for business.

Charles Simic is a poet, essayist, and translator. He has published some twenty collections of poetry, six books of essays, a memoir, and numerous translations. He is the recipient of many awards, including the Pulitzer Prize, the Griffin Prize, and a MacArthur Fellowship. 

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Related:

Human Stupidity Is Destroying the World, Mark Morford, San Francisco (CA) Chronicle / AlterNet

  • 37 Percent of People Don't Have A Clue What's Going On.
  • But who's more naive -- the ignorant, or the educated who can't deal with the idea that there are ignorant people in the world?

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George Monbiot | Right's Stupidity Spreads, Enabled by Too-Polite Left, George Monbiot, The Guardian (UK)

Yes, conservatism thrives on low intelligence and poor information. But the liberals in politics on both sides of the Atlantic continue to back off, yielding to the supremacy of the stupid. It's turkeys all the way down.

 

 

America’s rotting empire

  • Billionaires galore and a crumbling infrastructure
  • More proof we're in rapid decline: Not a single U.S. city currently ranks among the world's most livable
  • We're NOT Number 1: Guess Which Country Now Has a More Affluent Middle Class Than America?
  • 5 Ways American Policies and Attitudes Make Us Lonely, Anxious, and Antisocial

CJ Werleman, AlterNet 

shutterstock_177265289.jpg Shutterstock

Thursday, May 8, 2014 | “The game is rigged,” writes Senator Elizabeth Warren in her new book A Fighting Chance. It’s rigged because the rich and their lobbyists have rigged the rules of the game to their favor. The rules are reflected in a tax code and bankruptcy laws that have seen the greatest transfer of wealth from the middle class to the rich in U.S. history.

The result?

America has the most billionaires in the world, but not a single U.S. city ranks among the world’s most livable cities. Not a single U.S. airport is among the top 100 airports in the world. Our bridges, road and rail are falling apart, and our middle class is being guttered out thanks to three decades of stagnant wages, while the top 1 percent enjoys 95 percent of all economic gains.

CJ Werleman is the author of Crucifying America, and God Hates You. Hate Him Back. 

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Related:

We're NOT Number 1: Guess Which Country Now Has a More Affluent Middle Class Than America? Lynn Stuart Parramore, AlterNet

America's rich are surging ahead, but the rest are falling behind. What happened?

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5 Ways American Policies and Attitudes Make Us Lonely, Anxious, and Antisocial, Lynn Stuart Parramore, AlterNet

At each stage of life, we are being stunted as human beings.

 

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