Monthly Archives: July 2017

White economic privilege is alive and well

Paul F. Campos New York Times July 29, 2017

Is the white working class losing economic ground because of policies intended to improve the lives of black people? Anxiety and resentment among some white voters about those policies certainly seemed to benefit Donald Trump’s campaign last year, with its populist, ethno-nationalist message. The problem with this belief is that it is false. The income gap between black and white working-class Americans, like the gap between black and white Americans at every income level, remains every bit as extreme as it was five decades ago. (This is also true of the income gap between Hispanic and white Americans.)  Read full opinion.

Comments.  A must-read. A short opinion article that shows through easy-to understand graphs that 50 years after the amelioration of pervasive racism, African-Americans still earn about 2/3 the income of whites, unchanged over the period. Also important is that the median white household has 13 times more wealth than the median black household. He gives several examples of how racism still persists including school segregation and job discrimination,

See the section on barriers to entry on our Harmful Economic Systems page for further discusssion.

Photo caption: A worker votes to ratify the contract. Credit: David Bacon

Indigenous Oaxacan farm workers win themselves a union in the Pacific Northwest

David Bacon Peoples World

Bob’s Burgers and Brew, a hamburger joint at the Cook Road freeway exit on Interstate 5, about two hours north of Seattle, doesn’t look like a place where Pacific Northwest farm workers can change their lives, much less make some history. But on June 16, a half-dozen men in work clothes pulled tables together in Bob’s outdoor seating area. Danny Weeden, general manager of Sakuma Brothers Farms, then joined them.

After exchanging polite greetings, Weeden opened four folders and handed around copies of a labor contract that had taken 16 sessions of negotiations to hammer out. As the signature pages were passed down the tables, each person signed. Weeden collected his copy and drove off; the workers remained long enough to cheer and take pictures with their fists in the air. Then they too left.  See full story.

Photo caption: A worker votes to ratify the contract. Credit: David Bacon

Comments:  This article is worth reading for many different reasons.  For one thing, that the workers were successful and for another, how much time and effort it took on the part of workers and their allies to obtain a union and the first contract–set so they could earn $15 an hour!
We focus on one aspect in this note: the role of low wage foreign workers in lowering wages in the U.S.  Continue reading

Ants Among Elephants: An untouchable family and the making of modern India by Sujatha Gidla

‘Ants Among Elephants,’ a memoir about the persistence of caste

Ants Among Elephants: An untouchable family and the making of modern India
Sujatha Gidla
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Reviewed by Michiko Kakutani
New York Times July 17, 2017

In this unsentimental, deeply poignant book, Sujatha Gidla gives us stories of her family and friends in India — stories she had thought of as “just life,” until she moved to America at the age of 26 and realized that the “terrible reality of caste” did not determine one’s identity in other countries, that being born “an untouchable” did not entail the sort of ritualized restrictions and indignities she took for granted at home  Read the full New York Times review

“I tried to get a better life for my wife and my son, and it backfired.” — Keith Bollinger, a factory manager in Conover, N.C. Credit: Travis Dove for The New York Times

How non-compete clauses keep workers locked in

Conor Dougherty New York Times June 9, 2017

Restrictions once limited to executives are now spreading across the labor landscape — making it tougher for Americans to get a raise.   See full story.

Photo caption:  “I tried to get a better life for my wife and my son, and it backfired.” — Keith Bollinger, a factory manager in Conover, N.C. Credit: Travis Dove for The New York Times

How ordinary people in developing countries are harmed by the political-economic system

Standard economics does not have an adequate conception of harm.  Consequently it does not understand that the political-economic system can be organized for the benefit of a few, and that ordinary people can be harmed by the operation of this system.  This blog post is based on Vested Interests and the Common People in Developing Countries: Understanding Oppressive Societies and Their Effects published in the June 2017 Journal of Economic Issues.

The standard economic model of how economies work is that activities are essentially productive. This is not a correct view of reality. The principal difficulty is that there is economic activity that is unproductive and harmful (from the point of view of those being harmed). This is a central feature of the economic organization of these societies, and creates poverty. Societies are run on this basic set of principles: Take and maintain control of the government and other aspects of society, and use the power of government to obtain income.  Principal ways in which ordinary people are harmed include the following. Continue reading