Up On Carmon Creek; Why Keystone Is More Than Just Symbolism

By Matson Boyd

The Keystone XL pipeline is dead. The usual parade of writers have come out to argue that the anti-Keystone activists were wasting their time, that Keystone was actually benign for the climate. In the Washington Post, Stephen Stromberg derided the “stunning lack of substance behind the anti-Keystone XL movement.” Even defenders of the activists feel compelled to agree that Keystone was symbolic. It doesn’t really mean that much for the climate, they argue, because the oil will just come out some other way. Keystone undoubtedly has great symbolic power, but the defenders of the activists are missing that the fight is already helping to keep fossil fuels in the ground.

Tar Sands Before & After. Photo from Northern Rockies Rising Tide.
Tar Sands Before & After. Photo from Northern Rockies Rising Tide.

Read more

“Reasonable White Man” Confronts “Stupid Kids Wanting Free Shit”

By Matson Boyd

The right-wing side of the internet is ablaze right now with self-righteous condemnation of young radicals and their supposed inability to do math. Here, Fox Business Channel’s Neil Cavuto confronts Million Student March activist Keely Mullen. On closer inspection, it is Cavuto, a very responsible seeming man wearing a very nice suit, who has a serious math problem. My comments bolded:

MULLEN: The Million Student March is a movement for a more equitable and fair system of education as opposed to the really corporate model that we have right now. So the three core demands of the national day of action are free public college, a cancellation of student debt and a $15 an hour minimum wage for people who work on campus.

CAVUTO: How’s that going to be paid?

MULLEN: Great question. I’m not sure if you’re talking about on a national level or at particular schools, but I can touch on both —

CAVUTO: Well, you want all that stuff. Someone has to pick up the tab. Who would that be?

MULLEN: The one-percent of people in society that are hoarding the wealth and kind of causing the catastrophe students are facing…

CAVUTO: Alright, Keely, so if the one-percent just had their taxes raised a few years ago back to almost forty-percent, then to pay for the healthcare law had them raised another few percentage points, then they had their deductions raised another couple points depending on the state or locality — they’re pushing about fifty-percent in taxes — how much higher do you think, how much more do you think they should pay?

This is a great moment to point out that the 50% total tax rate that Cavuto mentions is still well below the tax rates the rich paid in the era of the highest U.S. growth, in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Then the rich paid as much as 90% of their income in taxes. Cavuto makes it seem like 50% is communism, but we aren’t talking about communism here, we are talking about taking tax rates part way back to the Golden Era of U.S. growth.

Read more

Economic Crisis, Self-Blame, & The Dangerous Underbelly Of The American Dream

By Jonathan Donald Jenner

The American Dream, by attributing success to personal attributes like hard work and trumpeting the idea of a ‘level playing field,’ also causes people to blame themselves when they experience economic difficulty. This occurs even when the hardship is clearly not caused by the actions of individuals, but from the structural failures of capitalism[i].  This misplaced blame has dangerous effects on our health, affects our ability to mount viable responses to the structural failures of capitalism, and worse, allows snake-oil salesmen to direct that blame outwards – on immigrants, the poor, and other marginalized groups.

The American Dream has such a hold on the American imagination, in part, because it’s our great equalizer. Though some of us are poor and a few of us are rich, we can all still work hard. And we live in a structure, so the Dream goes, where hard work can make you at least not poor. Never mind that the Dream is substantially untrue, or that whatever elements of truth it may have had are eroded by the day: substantial amounts of Americans still believe it! The hold on America’s collective imagination has been weakened by the Great Recession, but it’s still there – last year, according to the NY Times, 64% of American’s believed that hard work can make one rich, down from 72% at the beginning of the Great Recession. Another poll though, by the Public Religion Research Institute, found that only half of Americans believe in the American Dream[ii].

‘Despair,’ from Zoja Trofimiuk’s Raw Emotion Series, 2012.

Read more

What’s Really Going On With The Trans-Pacific Partnership?

By Devika Dutt

On October 5, leaders from 12 countries- Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam, and the United States- reached agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which had been in the works since 2008. The TPP, like other agreements for trade liberalization, seeks to lower tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade between countries. Reports suggest that the agreement includes the elimination of more than 18,000 taxes. Understandably, the agreement on the TPP has been welcomed in several quarters of the business press. Negotiations in trade deals can go on forever, indeed the Doha round of WTO trade negotiations that began in 2001 has still not been concluded! So it is no small feat that a deal has been passed that is expected to boost trade in goods and services between the signatory countries, which can provide an impetus to the anemic recovery from the financial crisis.

However, is there really much to celebrate? Due to several trade agreements in the first decade of the century, tariffs are already at an all-time low. A study by David Rosnick at the Center for Economic Policy Research showed that the impact on the US GDP as a result of the TPP is likely to be very small: 0.13 percent of the GDP by 2025.  Several other studies have shown that, at best, trade would increase by 0.4 percent of the GDP of the 12 countries over several years: hardly something to write home about.

Read more

Beefing Up Intolerance In India

By Sai Madhurika Mamunuru

On 28th September, 2015, a 50 year old man named Mohammad Akhlaq was brutally beaten and killed by a mob in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh, for allegedly storing and consuming beef at home. The slaughter of cows is banned in 11 states in India, with Maharashtra and Haryana among the most recent to join the list. The bill in Maharashtra received Presidential assent after being stalled at different stages of legislation for 20 years. The punishment for consumption of beef could go up to 10,000 Indian Rupees and five years in jail.

Read more

The National Pharmaceutical Development Administration (NPDA) Doesn’t Exist, but It Should

By Jonathan Donald Jenner

Publicly funded research should yield publicly owned drugs which are available to the public at the cost of the production. 

In the capitalism of today, the pharmaceutical industry, whose research is guided the whims of the market, and whose ability to price gouge under the pretense of research-incentivizing, government granted monopoly power, kills us. (See our own Brian Callaci’s great piece ‘Maximizing Shareholder Value Is (Literally) Killing Us’).  But we don’t have to pay for and develop new drugs the way we do. A (hypothetical) National Pharmaceutical Development Administration (NPDA), funded by taxpayers, could develop drugs that would then be owned by taxpayers, who, for obvious reasons, wouldn’t price gouge themselves.  Moreover, research priorities would be set publicly for research for diseases where we need them the most.


Dr. Jonas Salk found the cure for polio and made the cure freely available, refusing to patent the drug, and helping millions around the globe. And yet, his research is the exception, not the rule, in biomedical research. Why don’t we make it the norm?

Read more

Don’t Believe the Hype: Neoliberalism Has Failed Pakistan

Recent slum clearance in Islamabad

By Danish Khan

The processes of economic development across different countries and different times are uneven, multi-faceted, and even counteracting. In recent history, as the global South industrialized and urbanized, manufacturing jobs moved from the global North to the global South. But such structural changes to the global economy didn’t just happen; they were cajoled by a policy package that included policies of free trade, deregulation of financial markets, de-unionization of the work place and a reduction of the state’s role in an economy.  When advocates of these neoliberal policies are confronted in the US about the dismal outcome(s) of their prescribed policies (see: the Rust Belt), they argue that these policies are helping the world’s poor by generating employment in developing countries. If neoliberal policies are simply transferring jobs from the developed world to the developing world, their argument goes, these policies would be regarded as progressive and redistributive. Who, with an eye to global equity between rich and poor countries, could oppose such policies?

Read more

The Journal knows only costs, not values

By Gerald Friedman

The Wall Street Journal cited Gerald Friedman’s research on single-payer healthcare in it’s recent hit piece on Bernie Sanders. The Journal made great mention of the $15 Trillion dollar price tag for single payer health care, and omitted Friedman’s finding that single-payer health care would replace $20 Trillion dollars in private health care spending, for a net savings of $5 Trillion dollars.


It is said of Economists that they know the cost of everything but the value of nothing.  In the case of the article “Price Tag of Bernie Sanders’s Proposals: $18 Trillion,” this accusation is a better fit for the Wall Street Journal that published it.  The WSJ correctly puts the additional federal spending for health care under HR 676 (a single payer health plan) at $15 trillion over ten years.  It neglects to add, however, that, by spending these vast sums, we would, as a country, save nearly $5 trillion over ten years in reduced administrative waste, lower pharmaceutical and device prices, and by lowering the rate of medical inflation.

These financial savings would be felt by businesses and by state and local governments who would no longer be paying for health insurance for their employees; and by retirees and working Americans who would no longer have to pay for their health insurance or for copayments and deductibles.  Beyond these financial savings, HR 676 would also save thousands of lives a year by expanding access to health care for the uninsured and the underinsured.

Read more

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

« Older Entries