Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Tweet of the year

And that's putting it mildly. It really is an extraordinary statement, when you think about it.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Mayor One Percent: Why Rahm Emanuel is the worst mayor in America

Here's my latest Baffler piece. It's about the worst mayor in America, Mayor One Percent himself, Rahm Emanuel. I pivot off recent revelations that an eight-part CNN documentary series about Chicago was virtually scripted and directed by the mayor's office to focus on what has actually been happening to Chicago under Rahm's leadership. It is not a pretty picture. 

While cities from New York to San Francisco are enacting economically populist policies in a trend that's been called "The Rise of the Progressive City," Chicago is stuck in the failed neoliberal policies of the past. The results are having a devastating impact on the city -- among other things, we're struggling with double digit unemployment and an epidemic of gun violence. 

Yet Mayor One Percent keeps on partying like it's 1999. There's much more, but for a taste, here's how I end the piece:
Most tellingly of all, consider the fact that literally one of his best buddies—a man he vacations with, in fact—is Illinois Republican gubernatorial candidate and centimillionaire venture capitalist Bruce Rauner, a Scott Walker type who’s running on a platform of making Illinois a right-to-work state. (Rauner charmingly refers to AFSCME, the public employee union, as “Af-scam-ee). 
They don’t call Rahm Emanuel “Mayor One Percent” for nothing.

Monday, April 28, 2014

How the right (mis)reads Piketty

In my latest piece for The Baffler, I look at conservative responses to Thomas Piketty. There are two major categories of right-wing Piketty reviews. One group of reviewers engages in shameless anti-intellectualism (such as Megan McArdle, who accomplishes the remarkable feat of reviewing the book although she confesses she did not read it) and/or old-school red-baiting (such as Wall Street Journal reviewer Daniel Shuchman, who concludes his review by admonishing Piketty to read Animal Farm and Darkness at Noon).

A second group of conservative reviewers make more serious-sounding criticisms. But if you read them carefully, you'll find that they misread Piketty on certain key points, that they misrepresent some of the evidence (contrary to what they say, consumption inequality is on the rise) and/or are impervious to the implications of there own arguments (if living standards are what matter most, shouldn't we be worried that wages are stagnating for the bottom 90 percent?).

You can read my review of the conservative reviewers clicking here.

Monday, April 21, 2014

My latest Baffler post: forget all the nonsense you've been hearing about "liberal intolerance" on campus and elsewhere. The biggest threat to freedom is at the workplace.

We've heard a lot in recent weeks about alleged "liberal intolerance" -- at Mozilla, where a CEO was forced to resign due to controversy over his donation to an anti-gay marriage campaign, and at Brandeis, where the university revoked a planned honorary degree for anti-Islam activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali. But the "intolerance" charges were bogus. The Mozilla guy was a PR disaster, and Mozilla was within its rights to fire him. Hirsi Ali has herself made many intolerant comments about Islam (such as her statement about the necessity of defeating all forms of Islam -- not just the radical kind).

The Mozilla and Brandeis cases pose no actual danger to free speech. There is a serious threat to freedom of expression in America, but it’s one that conservatives largely remain silent about: the threat posed to employees’ freedom of speech, by their employers, both on and off the job. Read my latest Baffler piece to find out about how, in recent years, employers have been able to legally fire workers for everything from driving a car with a bumper sticker of a candidate they didn't like to wearing a tie of a football team the boss didn't prefer to being a fan of My Little Pony. You can also find out about the growing trends of loss of privacy on the job (employers are demanding jobseekers and employees' Facebook usernames and passwords -- how could that possibly go wrong?) and political coercion at work (I cite examples of employees receiving campaign literature in their pay envelopes, being forced to attend political rallies, and more). Smell the freedom!

Sadly, conservatives rarely complain about the threat to freedom many Americans experience at the workplace. And to be honest, not a lot of liberals do, either. Liberals and conservatives alike tend to focus on cases where elites are affected -- hence the obsession, even on the part of some liberals, with "political correctness" on campus. The concerns of ordinary working people are not deemed as important, unfortunately.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

America is a plutocracy, and social science proves it

In my latest Baffler piece, I review a host of political science studies that show that the preferences of moneyed elites dominate the political process and drive political outcomes. I also look at a study which shows that our government is overwhelmingly dominated by millionaires, and that, yes, this matters -- our elected officials' class backgrounds influence the way they vote, particularly where economic issues are concerned. Can anyone doubt that we're living in a new Gilded Age that would put the old one to shame?

Friday, April 4, 2014

High-frequency trading is minor con. Wall Street is the real scam.

Here's my latest Baffler post. In it, I take a look at Flash Boys, Michael Lewis's new book about high-frequency trading. As I note, I'm puzzled by the parade of notables who have come forward vying for the Captain Reynault Memorial Award to declare how shocked (shocked!) they are about the corrupt practices of the high-frequency trading sector. In fact, these practices are well-known and have been covered in the financial press. 

I argue that the most serious problem isn't high-frequency trading so much as it is more systemic problems with the entire financial sector, which specializes in wealth appropriation, does a crap job at efficiently allocating capital toward investments (allegedly its primary function), and is a huge contributing factor to soaring economic inequality. That said, anti-Wall Street populist outrage is welcome. Let's just hope it doesn't stop there.