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28 Nov

Corporations Increase Their Profit Skim

By Walter

If the US economy is in a recovery, where is it being felt? By the 1 percent occupying the corporate boardrooms. At the depth of the Great Recession, corporate profits never declined below 5 percent of gross domestic product. And since then, have hit historic highs. According to figures released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis, in the second quarter of this year corporate profits were at an annual rate of 10.1 percent. And what happened in the third quarter? The corporate profit skim increased to 10.3 percent, for an annual rate of $1.56 trillion, after taxes, which amounts to nearly $5,000 for every man, woman and child. With this enormous skim off the top of the American economy it is strange that 

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30 Oct

The Accelerating Pace of Change

By Walter

By the time I finished writing TCGC, at the beginning of this year, I had only three examples to offer of what I believed to be the game-changing power of modern communication technology: the use of mobile phones to foment and organize unrest in Iran (population 75 million) and Moldova (population 4 million), and the use of the Internet to elect Barack Obama to the most powerful political office on the planet. Since then

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01 Oct

Here Comes the American Autumn

By Walter

Finally, on the 14th day of the Occupy Wall Street demonstration and rally, the NY Times has acknowledged its existence on its front page this morning. What must eventually become clear is that this is a global movement that cannot be stopped, and the fact that it has now landed on the doorstep of the center of world finance signals that this is the beginning of the end of capitalism. So far, the one missing piece is an alternative. This website offers the Whole Earth Design Project as a platform

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05 Sep

No One Knows What To Do

By Walter | 1 comment

1

Last week, reporting on the latest meeting of the US Federal Reserve Bank, NY Times reporter, Catherine Rampell, opened her story with this line: “No one knows what to do to fix the economy.”

How frightening is that? The US and the rest of the world are being sucked into a vortex of political, economic and social chaos and no one knows what to do!

In his NY Times column this morning, the liberal Nobel economist, Paul Krugman, noted that

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26 Aug

Masters of War

By Walter

Dick Cheney, the warmonger, has now written his version of events, IN MY TIME, in which he proudly recounts his role in some of the more egregious activities of the Bush administration. For conservatives, who are quick to call for law and order when people begin to get a little restless over injustices, it is quite astonishing that they are then more than willing to overlook crimes when justified in the name of national security. Torture, for one. Eaves-dropping on private conversations without warrants, for another. Going to war without Congressional approval, on false pretenses, resulting in the deaths of thousands of American military and well more than 100,000 innocent Iraqi citizens. What is needed here is a war crimes trial. But don’t hold your breath. Of course, the fact that Cheney and his cohorts

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25 Aug

How Capitalism Is Like a Ponzi Scheme

By Walter

In the Ponzi and Madoff schemes, participants were promised a generous monetary return on their monetary investments. In the capitalist version, the investment is not money, but labor. As individuals invest their labor in the production and distribution of goods and services, they are paid wages that enable them to purchase and consume the goods and services they themselves produce. Fair enough. This sounds like the standard description of the bedrock elements of an economic system. And it is the promise of a bountiful return on the investment of honest labor, presented in glorious high-definition color and high-fidelity Dolby sound, that drives the capitalist dream machine. In reality, however, the dream has become a nightmare.

The defenders of the capitalist Ponzi scheme can turn themselves inside out in an effort to explain and defend the indefensible, but in the end, the essence of the scam comes down to the following: The capitalist schemers who pay wages to the workers when they are producers are the same schemers who charge the workers when they become consumers, and they charge them more when they consume a product than they pay them when they produce the same product, the difference being a little something called profit.

In 2009, gross domestic product in the United States was valued at $14.5 trillion. Of that amount, $13 trillion, or 90 per cent, went to the workers who created it, while corporations who produced nothing of value themselves racked up profits of $1.5 trillion, or 10 per cent. Workers are paid $9 to make a widget and then charged $10 to buy it. It doesn’t take rocket science to see the flaw in this arrangement. With corporations annually skimming 10 per cent off the top, an amount equal to $5,000 for every man, woman and child, or $13,000 for the average American family, it should be obvious that a game based on such a formula would have a limited life expectancy. As time goes by, workers must inevitably fall further and further behind.

Sooner or later, underpaid workers/overcharged consumers will find it impossible to keep buying what they produce, thus setting in motion a downward spiral in economic activity. If the demand for automobiles declines, so does the need for workers to make them. The result: unemployment, leading to a further decline in sales, then more unemployment, and so on.
Such a situation represents a serious challenge to a system that, like Ponzi’s and Madoff’s schemes, requires continuous and endless growth. Like all Ponzi schemes, the capitalist scheme must grow or it too will collapse. There is no provision for a sustainable equilibrium. That is why the slightest decrease in the growth rate of gross domestic product evokes a panicked hysteria on the part of the schemers, raising the fear that the economic engine might actually slow to a halt and then start to drift backward into a recession.

Under those circumstances, what are the capitalist schemers to do? How do they keep the economic cycle going forward when individuals, as well as entire countries, begin to run short of money and can no longer maintain an ever-increasing level of spending?

Credit.

Without the concept of credit, which, like money, has been around a long time, this capitalist Ponzi scheme would have collapsed a long time ago.

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25 Aug

What Is Money?

By Walter | 1 comment

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The concept of money is as pervasive as the air we breathe. It governs every aspect of our lives: where we work, where we live, how we live, how long we live. It consumes our thoughts, focuses our ambitions, colors our dreams, sparks our disputes, and stokes our anxieties. It’s here, there and everywhere. No wonder it is viewed with the same degree of inevitability and blind acceptance as a force of nature. Such as gravity.

Money, however, is not a force of nature. It is a concept, an idea, a figment of the human imagination. And it is real only to the extent that we allow it to rule our lives and our relationships with one another.

Money, which has been around at least as long as recorded history, is most commonly and simply defined as a “medium of exchange.” And its utility is often illustrated by such examples as the ease with which it permits a shoemaker to exchange his labor for bread without having to search for a baker in need of shoes. On this simplistic level, the concept of money undoubtedly did serve some useful purpose in times past.

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