Every holiday season, the Center for a New American Dream encourages people to spend and consume less by thinking differently about gift giving.
It turns out that corporations are like people. When they feel threatened, they'll do anything to get back at their perceived nemeses. The instinct to survive can bring out the worst in people – and, it seems, corporations, too.
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- A Festival of Dangerous Ideas
- A Tribute to Nelson Mandela by Pulitzer Winner David Turnley
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- Jackpine Mine will destroy wetlands and wildlife, First Nations say
- White House Triples Agency Renewable Energy Mandates
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The nature of business is changing. Rather than one-way production lines that deliver goods to consumers, future-proof enterprises offer platforms for users to co-create products and services with them.
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- Eric Sprott Interview
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We mourn the passing of one of the greatest and most courageous men of the past century, but the ideals that Nelson Mandela espoused and the work that he started must be continued by those of us who remain.
Lest we forget, Nelson Mandela was persecuted and opposed, not only by the Apartheid government in South Africa, but by the global power elite, generally, especially those who call themselves conservative. You may want to read this excellent article from the Think Progress website:
Here are some highlights:
1. Mandela blasted the Iraq War and American imperialism.
2. Mandela called freedom from poverty a “fundamental human right.”
3. Mandela criticized the “War on Terror” and the labeling of individuals as terrorists without due process.
4. Mandela called out racism in America.
5. Mandela embraced some of America’s biggest political enemies.
6. Mandela was a die-hard supporter of labor unions.
The article also catalogs some of the prominent America politicians and journalists who over the years denounced Mandela.
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In this week's podcast, Chris asks Gail Tverberg to assess the merits of the shale oil "revolution". Does it usher in a new Golden Age of American oil independence?
With her actuarial eyeshade firmly in place, Gail quickly begins discounting the underlying economics behind the shale model:
- Disappointment in Successors to Nelson Mandela, a Revered Father of a Nation
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- Another Batch of Wall Street Villains Freed on Technicality
- Guest Post: Obamacare Is A Catastrophe That Cannot Be Fixed
- Potentially damaging Jackpine oilsands mine expansion OK'd by Ottawa
- Widespread looting and Anarchy in Cordoba, Argentina
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- Thievery, Fraud, Fistfights and Weed: The Other Side of Community Gardens
2 weeks ago Bill Still, producer of 'Money Masters' and veteran of monetary reform, likened the cryptocurrencies to the myriad depression era scrip currencies, saying the situation with the US dollar is so bad that people are taking matters into their own hands, and that these tools are the best we have for now. I took this as my cue to diversify from Bitcoin and dived in.
The cryptocurrency exchanges are pretty exciting places to be. They work just like conventional exchange web sites.
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Western central banks have tried to shake off the constraints of gold for a long time, which has created enormous difficulties for them. They have generally succeeded in managing opinion in the developed nations but been demonstrably unsuccessful in the lesser-developed world, particularly in Asia. It is the growing wealth earned by these nations that has fuelled demand for gold since the late 1960s. There is precious little bullion left in the West today to supply rapidly increasing Asian demand. It is important to understand how little there is and the dangers this poses for financial stability.
- Central planning are colluding – but failing – to diminish world demand for bullion
- The BRICS are planning a future of less dependence on the West, and gold will play a role
- The East sees gold as "on sale" at today's prices
- Analysis shows they're right; gold is much cheaper than it should be compared to pre-QE levels
In Part I, I went through the history of Asian demand for gold, starting with the Arabs’ need to find a home for increasing quantities of petrodollars from the late 1960s onwards. My conclusion was that there is very little bullion in private ownership left in the West, there is an unmanageable short position in the unallocated gold accounts held with the bullion banks, and the bulk of accessible monetary gold controlled by central banks is already leased and has been sold into the market to satisfy Asian demand.
The result is that merely suppressing the gold price to enhance credibility of the dollar as a reserve currency is no longer the problem. The problem is now one of crisis management. Western central banks have done everything they can, even persuading the Reserve Bank of India to suppress India’s gold imports. We know this is most probably the case because the Indian authorities have already learned the lesson that gold imports could not be controlled, which is why the Gold Control Act was abolished in 1990. Furthermore, the newly-appointed RBI Governor, Raghuram Rajan is an ex-IMF chief economist, has spent a significant part of his career in the U.S., and is therefore likely to be fully sympathetic with Western central bank objectives. He appears to be the West’s place-man.
Other than the question of Indian demand, there are two possible reasons for the flows of gold from West to East: geo-political, whereby one or more Asian nations are deliberately creating a potential crisis for the West, and different valuation criteria. Both are true and...
The Pathology of the Rich - Chris Hedges on Reality Asserts Itself pt1
On RAI with Paul Jay, Chris Hedges discusses the psychology of the super rich; their sense of entitlement, the dehumanization of workers, and mistaken belief that their wealth will insulate them from the coming storms
Editor's note: The author of this piece has worked as an organizer for the 10-to-1 wage ratio campaign at St. Mary's College.
On Sunday, November 24, Swiss voters rejected an initiative that would have capped executive pay at 12 times that of their companies' lowest-paid employees.
Although the initiative failed, discomfort with high executive pay remains.
Some companies in the United States have tried to address the problem with a salary cap similar to the Swiss initiative. The Ben & Jerry's ice cream company used to have a 5-to-1 salary ratio. Later it was expanded to 17-to-1, before transnational food company Unilever purchased Ben & Jerry's and made its salary structure a secret.
Tens of thousands of people have signed a petition demanding that Congress cap the salaries of corporate CEOs, which can be up to 500 times what their companies' lowest paid-employees receive.
At St. Mary's College, a small school in southern Maryland, faculty, staff, and students have launched a wage ratio proposal of their own. For them, the magic ratio is 10-to-1.By capping high-level administrative pay, the authors say, the school will eventually save money and be able to rein in tuition hikes.
While the lowest paid staff at St. Mary's make $24,500 per year, the highest paid employee, the president, makes over $300,000. Furthermore, according to faculty calculations, most employees are seeing their income lose value over time. Campaigners say if the school truly valued social responsibility, respect, and community maintenance, as it claims to do on its website, the wage structure would be different.
St. Mary's is not the only college with a living wage campaign. Others include Johns Hopkins University, Miami University, and the University of Virginia. Some campaigns, including those at Swarthmore and Harvard, have resulted in higher wages for the lowest paid workers on campus—as did the original incarnation of one at St. Mary's.
That campaign, now known as "St. Mary's Wages, the St. Mary's Way," began in 2002 when staff passed a unanimous resolution to institute a living wage on campus. By 2004, the lowest salary on campus had risen from $15,700 to $20,000. In 2006, frustrated by stalled salary negotiations and what they saw as the poor treatment of the lowest-paid workers on campus, 13 students participated in a 147-hour sit-in at the office of then-president Jane Margaret O'Brien. The occupying students included one former and four current senators from the Student Government Association.
Current students still cite the sit-in as a major turning point in staff and student negotiating power. Afterwards, management went into negotiations with the staff union and agreed to increase the salaries of the lowest-paid staff at St. Mary's to $24,500. Then the living wage campaign was quiet until fall of 2011, when, spurred by staff testimony about financial difficulties, students and a few faculty members launched the 10-to-1 initiative.
The 10-to-1 wage plan would cap the salary of the highest-paid full-time college employee at 10 times that of the lowest-paid ones, and the salaries of the remaining employees would be spread out incrementally between the two. By capping high-level administrative pay, the authors say, the school will eventually save money and be able to rein in tuition hikes.
The campaign gained momentum in 2011 when students learned that high-level administrators earned raises during a statewide wage freeze. Most college employees went without raises that year, but a loophole allowed staff deemed "essential" by the state of Maryland—including the president and members of his cabinet—to earn thousands of dollars in bonuses.
In response, students organized multiple forums, crowded into meetings of the Board of Trustees, marched across campus, and rallied in front of the president's office. Spurred in part by frustrations with the administration, faculty made moves to propel the 10-to-1 proposal through formal channels. The plan was officially launched in September 2013, along with a website detailing the campaign's history.Thinking through the implications
But wages are a touchy subject. Many economists argue that capping them will negatively affect labor markets, sending talent elsewhere. As St. Mary's College economics professor Alan Dillingham told the Baltimore Sun, "You can get a [university] president for probably $150,000, but that might not be the kind of person you want."
Even without the implementation of a wage cap, some say a similar dynamic is already playing out on campus.The school is already making moves to address some salary concerns.
"I have a computer scientist who has been … programming here for six years and he makes around $55,000," said Chris Burch, associate director of enterprise systems and web services at St. Mary's. "A fresh-out-of-college … computer science major could go to [Patuxent River Naval Air] base and make $65,000 right out of the gate, and with good ratings, will be around $81,000 in three years. I can’t pay fair wages for the type and background of work that we need."
However, Burch says he supports the proposal. "I love this idea," he says. "We have an increasing gap between rich and poor as a national issue."
On the Frequently Asked Questions page at the campaign's website, the organizers advocate developing administrators internally—that is, promoting employees who understand the institution and its goals instead of plucking workers from other institutions with promises of high pay.
"While there is some risk of higher turnover by instituting a cap," the page explains, "we should note that paying market wages is no guarantee of getting excellent (or even competent) executives."
The wage cap would not change the $300,000 salary that the president currently makes, which is well within the norm for public schools. Instead, it would increase the pay of the lowest-paid workers to $30,000 and prevent further increases to the president's salary.School of hard knocks
For some, the question of securing quality administrators is second to more immediate concerns. Student organizers say that most of the schools' lowest-paid workers live in poverty and aren't respected for their work.
"The administration treats them like they're expendable, replaceable—some have even said so explicitly," said John Mumby, a former campaign organizer. "And that's not the St. Mary's way.”
In 2011, staff submitted anonymous letters to faculty detailing their economic hardships, which were then posted to a campaign Facebook page. One worker described living "paycheck to paycheck" and said she often needed to borrow money to send her children on school field trips.
The school is already making moves to address some salary concerns. Beginning in 2013, the school instituted a temporary salary reduction for its highest-paid workers. Those making $150,000 and above saw their pay decrease by 5 percent; those making less than that retained their full salaries. Temporary reductions to salaries elsewhere on the pay scale ranged from 0.75 to 2.5 percent.
The school would need about $270,000 to pay for the 10-to-1 proposal. The money is available: enrollment numbers were lower than expected, so the school required all departments to make budget cuts for the 2013 fiscal year. According to the St. Mary's Wages website, the requested cuts left an unexpected surplus approximately equal to the $270,000 needed for the proposal.
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In order to be implemented, the plan needs to be approved by the St. Mary's Board of Trustees.
Gail Harman, the chair of the board of trustees, said that the proposal has never come before the board, so its members haven't spoken about it. Chip Jackson, vice president of business and finance, also said the proposal's authors had not reached out to him. The president's office was contacted for comment but did not return the call.
Meanwhile, the proposal's organizers say they are preparing their next steps. Staff, students, and faculty are submitting proposals to their respective governing bodies, including the Faculty Senate and the Student Government Association. If ratified there, these proposals will be brought before the Board of Trustees.
Meanwhile, the school is conducting a search for a new president. Organizers say they're hoping the new executive will be willing to accept a salary cap and push for the proposal's implementation.
Caroline Selle wrote this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas with practical actions. A 2012 graduate of St. Mary's College, Caroline wrote her senior thesis on the Keystone XL pipeline. She blogs about her experiments in ethical living at www.zerowastegirl.com.
The Role of Cooperatives in Societal Transition
“The question of which system is desirable, in detail, is quite important. Unfortunately we cannot determine in abstract which system will work best and what problems will develop, though we can make guesses. To fully understand the consequences of an economic system can only be decided experimental...
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In this week's Off the Cuff podcast, Chris and Mish discuss:
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- Europe's misguided approach to its woes
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A wonderful list of recipes and ideas for making you own cough and sore throat remedies and healing aides.