Indian Government’s Crackdown on NGOs

By Sai Madhurika Mamunuru

Over the past year, the Government of India has revoked the licenses of nearly 9000 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in India. According to the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, 2010, NGOs are expected to report details of donations received from abroad. These organizations, the government claims, failed to comply with the regulations even after being issued a notice.  This “crackdown” by the Indian government comes at a time when other Asian economies (all of them, democracies) are becoming increasingly intolerant of organizations that contest the policies and practices of the State. Read more

Marinaleda in the House

By Jonathan Donald Jenner

Everyone needs housing, and housing is canonized as a human right across many declarations including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man. Yet across the globe, housing is largely distributed to individuals on markets, from private owners to private buyers.  Private owners have their own rights, which include the ability to exclude and the ability to set the rent too damn high. Save for those who profit from ownership of real estate, we’re all hurting. As we work to stop our hurting, we’ve got to recognize the good work of activists and organizations who are helping out those hurt the most.  But we’ve also got to bring ideas for structural change to the table, and expand our imagination beyond only shoring up the egregious offenses of an unjust system.  One shining example of a structural alternative to housing comes from the small village of Marinaleda, Spain.

Live in a three bedroom apartment for $22/month in Marinaleda, Spain. No joke & no gimmicks – just a municipal government that serves its citizens, not landlords.

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To Trade Or Not To Trade

By Matson Boyd

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Pick up a newspaper, ask a member of congress, or worse yet, ask someone on Wall Street, and you’ll hear that the way to stop climate change is to pass cap-and-trade— put a price on carbon and let Wall Street trade in the carbon permits. This understandably has many folks concerned that we’re going to commodify our atmosphere and open the door to Wall Street shenanigans. Our recent history of bubbles and fraud suggests there’s some reason to worry about what Wall Street will do as we tackle climate change. But on closer inspection, capping carbon doesn’t require trading carbon. And the loopholes and fraud that have plagued carbon trading schemes stem from “offsets”, which are not needed at all. So which systems of carbon regulation are vulnerable to Wall Street trickery, and which are resistant to it?

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Talking About Income: Inflation & Median Income

By Luke Pretz

Numbers about income are thrown around recklessly in general conversation about the economy, often to justify the status quo and make people feel ‘lucky’ about their table crumbs. Talking About Income is a series where we peer behind the numbers and explore how income, its distribution, and makeup have evolved and shape our economy today.

Wallets

Forty years ago, according to US Census Bureau data, the median household income was $11,800. Two years ago the median household income was $51,939. At first glance these are some very encouraging numbers giving the impression that incomes are growing a lot.  Those numbers seem to suggest that maybe the capitalism of the last 30 years — a variety that has cut social insurance, crushed unions, minimized taxes for the rich —  was a really beneficial. In the context of an economy that has grown from $5.4 trillion to $16.3 trillion maybe it was  actually the case that growth did trickle down to the working class as proponents of free market capitalism suggest. However, when we apply some simple economic tools to these numbers we uncover the not so surprising truth: the average worker and their family hasn’t  improved their position all that much. The pie has grown, but our share, even in absolute terms, has stayed the same. Read more

Inequality isn’t just bad for the economy — it’s toxic for the environment

By Sue Holmberg

[This is a crosspost from Grist, where staff economist and Roosevelt Institute Research Director Sue Holmberg also writes.] 

The pope’s encyclical on climate change was received with both enormous enthusiasm and criticism, reactions that will only intensify as he continues to lead efforts to solve our climate crisis and generate momentum for the U.N. Climate Conference later this year. His latest move? Inviting Naomi Klein, author most recently of This Changes Everything, to help lead last week’s Vatican conference on climate change.

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Puerto Rico’s Debt Crisis: Where’s Puerto Rico’s Syriza?

By Ricardo R Fuentes-Ramírez

Puerto Rico’s governor recently has said the island cannot pay its $72b debt and is close to defaulting, despite yesterday’s eleventh hour payment of $645.2m to pay its general obligation.  The government has been lobbying US Congress to allow it to file for bankruptcy but it remains unclear if this will actually help. Because of its colonial status, Puerto Rico is operating under a legal, political, and economic straightjacket.  Media outlets within and outside Puerto Rico have been covering the island’s recession since it began in 2006, and the current fiscal crisis since Puerto Rican bond ratings began spiraling down to junk status in 2014. However, most media coverage has discussed the Puerto Rican crisis as the result of a big government that spent too much money. Therefore, the conclusion is that Puerto Rico should follow austerity measures, laying-off public employees, and privatizing as much as possible of the island’s assets. The actual origins of the crisis suggest policy should be moving in the opposite direction.

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Smart Cities Must Serve People, Not Profits

By Sai Madhurika Mamunuru

Last week, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the Smart Cities Mission, wherein the Indian government promises to select, invest in, and build a hundred smart cities across the country over a period of five years. Though various definitions of a “smart city” can be rather nebulous, the concept essentially involves the efficient use of information and communication technology (ICT) and big data to provide improved services to people living in urban areas.

It is important to understand, however, the structure that underlies this initiative. Who pays for the Smart Cities Mission? Who benefits? Are the benefits felt by everyone? Does the plan reduce urban inequality? How does it redefine the urban experience and urbanization?

Illustration: Prathap Ravishankar

Illustration by Prathap Ravishankar for The Hindu

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Don’t Privatize India’s Banks. Democratize Them.

By Devika Dutt

The competition for unimaginative ideas (that just so happen to privilege the power of private capital) has a new winner: the business press in India, and their calls for privatizing India’s public sector banks. Last month, Raghuram Rajan, the Governor of the India’s Central Bank the Reserve Bank of India expressed concern about a rise in the proportion of Non-performing assets in the Indian banking system. Non-performing assets (NPAs) are loans that have gone bad, are not being paid back, or are in need of restructuring. In real talk, these loans are in default. A large proportion of these NPAs are held by banks in which the majority shareholder is the government. Predictably, this has spurred a slew of articles in the business press, and many of these articles prescribe the obvious answer to all our prayers, Douglas Adam’s 42 to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything:  privatization.

RBI to withdraw all pre-2005 currency notes from March 31

Picture from the Press Trust of India

This kind of editorializing pulls from distorted narratives about the inefficiencies of the public sector, but more fundamentally, it misunderstands the point of state involvement in the financial sector. Read more

Political Neutrality and the Cooperative Movement: An Interview with Carl Ratner

By Jonathan Jenner

Carl Ratner is an adjunct social psychologist at the Autonomous University of Morelos in Morelos, Mexico, the director of the Institute for Cultural Research and Education, and the author of several books, including The Politics of Cooperation and Co-ops, and Cooperation, Community, and Co-Ops in a Global Era. He’s been both an active and critical member of cooperatives, and the cooperative movement, for many years.  CPE staff economist Jonathan Jenner interviewed Carl recently about the political position of the cooperative movement today, and what we can do about it.

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Jonathan Donald Jenner: A central claim in your new book is that cooperatives have bought into the idea of political neutrality, which has made cooperatives fairly conservative with respect to taking on the big problems of capitalism. Where did this position come from, and how did it develop? Read more

Water Exposes Our Absurd Economic Logic & Priorities

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By Jonathan Jenner

Today in America, there’s not water for everyone who needs it. At a rally last year in Detroit, two children held up signs connecting the city’s water shutoffs to convention medical wisdom: “kids need water to be healthy,” and “kids without water don’t brush their teeth.” Meanwhile Steve Yuhas, of El Rancho California, is also suffering and fuming:  “[people] should not be forced to live on property with brown lawns, golf on brown courses or apologize for wanting their gardens to be beautiful” and continues: “We pay significant property taxes based on where we live…and we’re not all equal when it comes to water.”

The context: most of California is in a long state of either ‘extreme’ or ‘exceptional’ drought.  And while a small sliver of Michigan, from the thumb to the wrist of the mitten, is in a short period of being ‘abnormally dry,’ Detroit is fine. But in both places authorities cutting back on water usage.  Across California, a series of measures has tried to cut back water usage by 25%, starting from advisories to more recent enforceable acts, including banning (home) car washing, eliminating surface water extraction rights from farmers, and advising that water only be served in restaurants “if people ask for it.”  In Detroit, utility companies and police show up to cut off water to residents and arrest thirsty people (businesses, who are also overdue on their water bills, have not been cut off), and up to 40% of the population has either had (or threatened to have) their water shut off.  Water Man Photomanipulation by Zenk01

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