Sunday, March 30, 2014

Check out my new gig: weekly blog posts at The Baffler

Readers, I'm excited to announce a new writing gig. The other week, I began blogging for The Baffler. I've been a huge Baffler fan since forever and I'm thrilled that they're publishing my work. My first post skewered recent comments Bill Gates made about how to end economic inequality. My second piece, which appeared Friday, takes a look at a fascinating wage-fixing case in Silicon Valley. I hope you enjoy what I've written so far. Look for my weekly posts to appear on Thursdays from now on.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Dark satanic mills

Scenes from the of history of capitalism: ever wonder where the phrase "to have been through the mill" came from? I just read an LRB review of a new book about memoirs from the Industrial Revolution. It includes an excerpt from one autobiography by a man named J.R. Clynes,, who'd been a child laborer in the Lancashire mills:
When I was a young man the term ‘to have been through the mill’ had a grim meaning. We accept it now as a slang addition to the English language, indicating a knocked-about and hard-worn appearance. In 1890 it described a mill worker whose childhood had been ruined by hard labour and little sleep, and who, in manhood, looked shrunken and white-faced.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

In praise of Thomas Piketty's utopianism

In my latest Nation post, I take another look at the big new Piketty book on inequality. There's a lot to like about it. Here's something else to add to the list: the dude's giant brass clanking balls. He tackles a huge topic, and he's honest enough to admit that dealing with it successfully will require bold -- even utopian -- solutions. Fiddling with the tax code on the margins, or throwing a few crumbs at the poor -- remember midnight basketball? -- is not going to do it. Give the man some, I say!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Latin America's surprising success story: how economic populism is transforming the most unequal region of the globe

Across the U.S. and Europe, economic inequality continues to soar. But there's one place in the world where economic inequality is declining significantly: Latin America. Attention must be paid, for several important reasons. Latin America has long been the most unequal region in the world, so what's behind the decline? As I explain in my most recent Nation post, economic growth has something to do with it. But more important than the growth has been the wave of  economic populism that's been been sweeping the region over the past decade, leading to redistribution, a sharp decrease in the poverty rate, and higher standards of living for working people throughout Latin America. These forms of populism take different forms, but one thing they they all share in common is a rejection the neoliberalism that marked the "lost decade" of the 1980s.

"Let them eat start-ups!" Why tech sector neoliberalism won't solve America's inequality problem

Recently, Google billionaire Eric Schmidt gave a talk at SXSW, in which he shared his Deep Thoughts about how to cure America's raging economic inequality. His main idea involves getting the feds to fork over more subsidies to the tech sector. Um, no. I explain why in my latest post for The Nation.

My new post at Blog of the Century: why we need to bring back ye olde progressive taxes

Here's my first post for Blog of the Century, the blog of The Century Foundation. It looks at a new paper in the current issue of the American Economic Journal: Economic Policy co-authored by Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez, and Stefanie Stantcheva. Piketty and company examined data from a number of OECD countries over a period of 50 years to determine the optimal marginal tax rate on the highest incomes.

According to them, that rate should be -- wait for it -- 83 percent! They find that tax cuts for the rich are associated with increased inequality and also that there's no evidence that raising tax rates on the rich slows growth.  

In my piece, I argue that dramatic increases in the tax rates on the highest earners are one of the most important items on the anti-inequality agenda. Not only that, "confiscatory" taxes -- very steep progressive taxes with a purpose not so much of raising revenue, but of discouraging bad economic behavior -- are as American as apple pie. As I point out in the the piece, America invented confiscatory taxes, for heaven's sake. Read the entire post for more.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Happy International Women's Day!

Happy International Women's Day! My latest Nation post discusses the radical history of International Women's Day, which was invented and promoted by commie firebrand types like Clara Zetkin and Alexandra Kollontai. The purpose of the original International Women's Day celebrations was to bring together two great political movements, feminism and socialism, and to pay tribute women’s revolutionary potential.

Nowadays, the celebration often seems like just another opportunity to sell cheap pink crap. But as a sobering new report reveals, women around the globe continue to trail behind men by every economic measure. One hundred years after the first International Women's Day, we need a feminism that fights gender inequality and economic inequality as much as we ever did.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Now they tell us! The IMF admits that inequality slows growth

My latest for The Nation concerns the a stunning reversal by the IMF. Last week, IMF researchers finally 'fessed up to something that leading economists such as Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz have been arguing for some time now: that inequality slows economic growth. That they finally admitted this is progress -- even though it doesn't begin to undo the decades of damage that IMF austerity policies have inflicted across the globe. The real question is: will this admission cause them to reverse course and adopt the kinds of anti-inequality, pro-growth economic politics that have been so successful in countries like Bolivia? We shall see.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

My first post at The Nation is up: a review of The Killing Fields of Inequality

I can't tell you how honored and thrilled I am to announce that today, I've published my first piece for The Nation. Not only that, I get to review a fascinating new book about the issue I'm most passionate about: economic inequality. The book, which is titled The Killing Fields of Inequality, is by the eminent Swedish sociologist Göran Therborn. You can find my review here.

Me in The Nation -- I didn't think it would get any better than that today. Then I tweeted a link to my piece. And guess who the very first person who retweeted my tweet was? Branko Milanovic, that's who! Yes, that Branko Milanovic, bitchez!

Okay, obviously I need to get over myself. I'll be guest blogging at The Nation for the remainder of this week and next. You can find my stuff here. I'll be posting links to my pieces on this blog as well.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Recent inequality-related posts

Readers, please accept my deepest apologies for my neglect of this blog of late. The exigencies of making a living have messed with my best-laid plans, and for a while I was working one full-time job, one part-time consulting job, plus the weekend blogging and some deadline-driven writing assignments. For weeks, I was either too exhausted or too busy to attend to this blog. Fortunately, I now have a chance to catch my breath.

I'm thrilled to announce landed an exciting short-term gig that involves writing about inequality. Details will follow in a separate post. In the meantime, here are links to my recent Washington Monthly writings about inequality-related issues:

-- The solution to inequality in San Francisco -- and America? It's the taxes, stupid!

-- Your bummer read of the day: how Amazon's labor policies are worse than Walmart's

-- Opinion piece of the day: Rosa Brooks on why workers need to "Lean Out"

-- Study: Republican presidents are associated with higher infant mortality rates

-- After a scientist makes some inconvenient discoveries, agribusiness plots to destroy him (This should be read in relation my earlier post about What Obama Left Out of His Inequality Speech: Regulation).

-- The ACA makes it possible for workers to quit jobs they hate. This is awesome.

-- Could the ACA help the millions Americans drowning in debt? A new study of Massachusetts health care reform offers some clues.

-- On the Raiders' cheerleaders wage theft suit: no pay for practices, unreimbursed expenses, and $125 per 10-hour work day

-- Conference that promises to "reset the agenda for women in the workplace" invites CEOs and Hollywood types aplenty -- but snubs unions

-- Walmart's holiday profits are way down. Food stamp cuts are a big part of the reason.