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Pan-Africanism for cementing the continent

 The International Leadership Institute in collaboration with International Alert yesterday organized a day-long seminar with a theme: ”Pan-Africanism in the eyes of Ethiopians.”

Professor Mekonnen Haddis, the 50th Year African Union Golden Jubilee Anniversary Secretariat Office Head, said that Pan-Africanism will continue fostering economic integration.

He said that the value and importance of Pan-Africanism to the 21st century youth has to do with economic progress, democracy and transparency. “The organization of African Union was formed based on the idea of decolonization and anti-apartheid movement . And the Organization of African Unity, governments and people have successfully gotten rid off colonialism and apartheid from Africa. Now, the struggle is for economic freedom and integration,” he added.

According to him, the youth has to focus on economy; how to better living conditions to citizens of Africa; how to benefit from the economic progress of the continent where seven out of 10 of the countries in the world that are really progressing economically are in Africa. “ Hence, the focus for the youth should be economic integration, improvement for the masses of the African people and at the same time transparency and democracy.”

He also said: “Historically, Ethiopia has been really the guiding light of Pan-Africanism. Not only have people of black colour but also those who have struggled for freedom and independence elsewhere have seen Ethiopia to be the guiding light of freedom. This shall continue in terms of economic progress within Africa. Ethiopia is going through tremendous economic progress in the continent. This should also be a guiding light for the rest of Africa.”

According to him, Pan-Africanism is the term and philosophy used in unity. “And African Renaissance also has to be based on unity. Everything that progresses Africa as a people and a continent has to be all rounded in terms of social, economic and political affairs. African renaissance is also tied with Pan-Africanism because Africa would be totally free and economically independent. Whenever you do in unison, you are talking about Pan-Africanism. The original mandate of Pan-Africanism has been accomplished . Now what we have to accomplish is the economic integration, economic independence and transparency for the rest of Africa and I have no doubt it would be done.”

Youth Activist, Eyob Balcha also told this reporter that the main purpose of organizing this seminar is to raise public awareness of Ethiopians about the issues of Pan-Africanism within the Ethiopian historical context by emphasizing the particular role that Ethiopia has played so far.

He also said that Pan-Africanism doesn’t have a single perspective rather it changes along the historical lines. “In the past, it was mainly located on the issues of racial equality, abolishing colonialism and the like. In the recent years, Pan-Africanism is mainly related to the issues of democracy, freedom, equality and development. So, it is all about knowing the main reason that why we are in such a position of not having aspired developmental position. It will help particularly the youth know its past history and its position within the global context and to inform its ideological lines along creating solidarity and brotherhood and fraternity among African youth in particular and also African people in general. It can be used as a glue that unite African youths irrespective of their racial and religious background,”he added.

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The coming age of austerity.

Capitalism’s Two-Step Survival Plan

The Coming Age of Austerity

The coast is clear, the media tells us; economic disaster has been averted. The Euro Zone is finally stable and the U.S. economy is recovering. Whew!

Why, then, are government policies internationally still pursuing extremist measures? In the U.S., a third round of excess money printing —called Quantitative Easing — began recently in which banks are directly profiting by unloading their toxic mortgages on the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet (another backdoor bailout paid by taxpayers).

After the U.S. presidential election, both Democrats and Republicans are committed to different versions of historic cuts to social services, education, Medicare, unemployment benefits, and very likely Social Security. This bi-partisan plan is often referred to as a “grand bargain,” the details of which both parties are still haggling over.

In Europe things are no better. After the Euro Zone central bank promised investors its full backing to bailout all Euro Zone members — by printing money — the world economy sighed a heavy relief. But still the Euro Zone — along with the U.S. — is pursuing a two-pronged solution for an extreme economic crisis: austerity measures and the less-discussed “structural reforms.”

What are these policies? Austerity is simple enough: government cuts to social spending, health care, education, pensions, etc. — to balance heavily indebted public budgets (at the expense of working people, rather than taxing the rich and corporations). Austerity can also be achieved through privatization, where once publicly run programs/facilities are sold cheaply to private firms to make a profit, thus taking the cost off the government’s budget.

Structural reforms on the other hand are meant to boost economic (corporate) growth, by government intervention in commodity markets — most commonly the labor market. It’s called structural reform because markets are usually relatively stable. For example, the labor market is deep-rooted in powerful social forces — wages, benefits, and working conditions are heavily influenced by unions, who use their organization and strike threat to pressure corporations and governments to pay living wages. Non-union workers benefit directly by the unions’ ability to alter the national labor market, since non-union companies have to compete with union companies for workers, who naturally go where wages are higher. Professional, higher-paid workers benefit too, since society expects them to get higher wages than, say a carpenter.

In Europe, structural reforms targeting the labor market — alongside austerity measures — are rousing the unions and broader community into the streets with massive demonstrations: Spain, Portugal, Greece, and other countries are fighting reforms that politicians are euphemistically calling “labor market flexibility.” This simply means that unions will be undermined by their inability to protect workers’ jobs, making firing easier (“flexibility”), which results in compelling workers into accepting lower wages and benefits.

The pro-corporate Economist magazine reports about Portugal:

“With his decision to finance a reduction in company [corporate] costs through a sharp cut in workers’ take-home pay, Pedro Passos Coelho, Portugal’s prime minister, appears to have taken reform past the limit of what is deemed acceptable by large sections of the electorate.”

And France:

“… [President] Hollande has given union leaders and bosses until December to negotiate [anti-union] labor-market changes. On the table are various options, including making it possible for firms [corporations] to reduce hours and salaries in a downturn against a guarantee of job security, along the lines introduced by [Germany’s prime minister]… in 2003.”

And Spain:

“… the new [labor] law makes it easier and cheaper to lay off workers. For most firms, maximum lay-off payments [unemployment benefits] will be reduced from 42 months’ pay to 12 months… it will hugely boost business confidence.”

Reducing unemployment benefits is a very popular labor market structural reform for the 1%, since it makes workers more desperate for work, and thus more accepting of low-wage jobs — consequently lowering workers’ power in the labor market overall, as wages are lowered nationally.

And while Europe’s austerity and structural reforms are on the front page of international media — due to the giant protests and general strikes against them —  the exact same policies have been pursued by the U.S. with barely a murmur. Were it not for the labor upsurges in Wisconsin and more recently Chicago, these policies would be completely off the public’s radar.

The Wisconsin uprising was in response to a labor-market structural reform pursued by Republicans, denying unions bargaining rights — effectively destroying the union.  Democrats, however, are pursuing anti-labor structural reforms — weakening unions — as national policy also, though less directly, by demanding that unions across the country take massive concessions in wages and benefits — a slower, yet more effective form of labor market restructuring.

The teachers in Chicago went on strike against another form of anti-labor structural reform pursued by both Democrats and Republicans. The media-hype around “firing bad teachers” is really a labor-market reform in disguise; the real intention is to bust unions, who are only able to stay strong by their ability to protect the jobs of their members (of course there already exists ways to fire bad teachers).

Teacher merit pay is yet another labor reform measure aimed to weaken unions, since it effectively lowers wages by preventing raises (there is zero evidence that merit pay raises education standards, or that charter schools outperform public schools). It means that every teacher’s salary is negotiated individually, and it allows management to punish its critics by denying them merit pay raises.

The teachers are especially targeted in the U.S. because they are the strongest union in the country, due to their numbers, organization, and connections to the community. If they are forced to give “structural” concessions, other unions will be heavily pressured to do so, and thus the labor market will be altered to the benefit of the corporations.

The labor reform attacks — combined with austerity budget cuts — are happening in different forms on a city, state, and federal level with the full backing of the Democrats and Republicans (there is no “debate” in the presidential election about education policy). Thus, if not for the Wisconsin and Chicago struggles, there would be little social consciousness around these issues.

The reasons that austerity and structural adjustment have not produced a Europe-like movement yet is because most labor unions have increasingly accepted these concessions without putting up a real fight. Many labor leaders would simply rather accept these policies, since fighting them would put them in conflict with their “friends,” the Democratic politicians pursuing these anti-labor policies.

Hopefully, the post-Occupy movement can show the labor movement the way forward. On November 3rd there will be  protest demonstrations against austerity in a number of cities across the country. These protests are targeting the ongoing state by state cuts — and federal post-election cuts — to education, transportation, health care, social programs, and public-sector workers. The protests are challenging the very concept of austerity, as working people refuse to pay for the crisis created by the rich and corporations. There is a potential for these protest demonstrations to teach the American public the word “austerity,” assuming they are large enough and connect with the broader community that directly experiences these policies.

Regardless of the results of November 3, demonstrations about the austerity issue in the U.S. will inevitably continue, since even mainstream economists mostly agree that there will be no return to the pre-recession economy. The policies of austerity and structural reform — along with war — are long-term survival strategies of capitalism, which is evolving to survive a global-wide crisis of corporate growth rates by creating a “new normal” of social expectations: lower wages and fewer social programs.

The first step in fighting these measures is mobilizing working people and the broader community in massive Europe-like demonstrations. This tactic educates the whole nation about the issues, which would otherwise remain in the dark. Once the 99% is in the streets together screaming collective demands with a united voice, the movement will decide how best to act, whether it be the general strikes or new political parties that have emerged in Europe.

The U.S. post-election austerity surprises will give new opportunities for millions of people to get into the streets. They will no longer be able or willing to remain ignorant about the nation’s new normal.

Shamus Cooke

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Corporations Run the Economy.

Corporations Run the Economy

by RALPH NADER

Here is an open letter that Barack Obama should write to Mitt Romney – pronto!

Dear Mr. Romney:

Not a day goes by without you blaming me for every slumping or stagnant economic indicator. Unemployment, increases in the number of food stamp recipients, government borrowing, and spending, home foreclosures, economic uncertainty for businesses, trade deficits – you name it. Only for droughts and hurricanes have you absolved me from responsibility.

I won’t go into what was inherited from your Republican party’s years in office. Deregulation, non-enforcement, non-disclosure by the financial industry, and subsidies and bailouts were that period’s hallmarks. But if I were to be held responsible for the state of the American economy, there would have to be a “command and control” economy enforced by the White House. You know full well that is not the case for several reasons.

First, our economy is dominated by corporations that make their own investment and hiring decisions. Two-thirds of the tens of millions of low-wage workers are employed by fifty large corporations, such as Walmart and McDonald’s. Thirty million American workers are laboring between the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour and what the minimum wage, adjusted for inflation from 1968, should be now – about $10 per hour. These companies are successfully opposing in Congress any increase in the minimum wage to such catch up with 1968. By the way, you favored an inflation-adjusted minimum wage for years. During the Republican primaries earlier this year, you changed your long-standing position and now oppose raising the minimum wage.

Moreover, many companies are sitting on more than $2 trillion in inactive cash reserves. I have no power to get more of that capital invested, other than to appeal to their USA corporate patriotism. I could also use that patriotic appeal to urge them to increase their dividends to shareholders which would pump tens of billions of dollars into our consumer economy to encourage much-needed spending. Some of these successful companies like Google, EMC and others offer no dividends at all to their owners. Those exhortations are just exhortations. CEOs can do what they want.

Second, I am not the Federal Reserve. The Fed has kept interest rates very low which has limited the return on savings. Tens of millions of middle and lower income people could spend those interest payments on the necessities of life. But the Fed is its own ruler, and its catering to the capital investment community don’t seem to be boosting the economy.

Third, there is the Congress and the oppositional unanimity by Republicans to block any economic, job-producing measures due to their priority of using a recessionary economy to help you defeat me in November. Remember Senate Republican leader, Senator Mitch McConnell’s oft-repeated words about that being their number-one priority?

I tried to promote a major public works construction and repair program in Congress. The Republicans in the House blocked it under the aegis of Representatives John Boehner and Eric Cantor. This program would have produced well-paying jobs, with multiplier effects, that could not be exported to China. Our communities have trillions of dollars in deferred maintenance afflicting schools, clinics, public transit systems, highways, bridges, dams, and water and sewage systems. I cannot make this happen without the Republicans in Congress. You and your running mate, Paul Ryan, have not exactly urged them to take up this jobs initiative.

You have declared that “Washington has become an impediment to economic growth.” Why then don’t you be specific, name and support an end to the vast array of corporate subsidies, handouts, bailouts and inflated government contracts, especially from the defense industry? Imagine what your friends on Wall Street and in Houston would think of you after that burst of candor.

See how many jobs disappear with the end of what conservatives call crony capitalism, the end of the huge, historic outpourings of government research and development monies that substantially built and help maintain innovations in the aerospace, biotech, pharmaceutical, computer, telecommunications and containerization industries – to name a few. And if you think taxpayer investment in public works all over the country is an “impediment to economic growth,” say so forthrightly, as you campaign battleground states.

I look forward to our first debate on October 3 in Denver and shall observe your struggle with consistency. While you’re at it, kindly bring your pre-2010 tax returns, so we can learn more about what you mean when you talk about your policy of tax cuts.

In solidarity for America,

Barack Obama, President

By greedily  running the economy the corporations are creating a hopeless citizenry. A wonderful article. Thanks, Mr. Nader.

Professor Mekonen Haddis

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Raising Taxes on the Rich Seen as Good for the Economy, Fairness

According to Pew Research Center, by two-to-one (44% to 22%), the public says that raising taxes on incomes above $250,00o would help the economy rather than hurt it, while 24% say this would not make a difference. Moreover, an identical percentage (44%) says a tax increase on higher incomes would make the tax system more fair, while just 21% say it would make the system less fair.

Professor Mekonen Haddis

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Out of Work, Out of Mind

Jobs Crisis Denial

Before any problem can be fixed it must first be acknowledged. The jobs crisis stays in the shadows, out of mind, and consequently unaddressed. This is allowed to happen because those in power – Republicans and Democrats – both have political reasons to remain silent.

When the jobs crisis is discussed, the word “crisis” is seldom used, and the conversation is conducted with hushed tones and minimizing vocabulary. Therefore, when the monthly national jobs report was announced for June, there was quiet grumbling instead of passionate oratory; passivity instead of mobilization and action.

In the last three months the country added an average of 75,000 jobs a month. But job creation per month must be over 100,000 to keep up with young workers entering the workforce; therefore the real number of unemployed has steadily increased, on top of the mountain of already long-term unemployed.

The ”real” unemployment rate – which includes those who gave up looking for work and those who want full-time work – rose to 14.9 percent in June, a total of 23 million people.

President Obama actually had the nerve to claim that the June jobs report was a “step in the right direction.” His election campaign chooses not to be interrupted by facts.

But the real story that the numbers tell in the jobs report is the trend that promises more unemployment. The economy has stalled, and threatens to slide backward again into recession. The “jobless recovery” that we have now is likely to evolve into a full-fledged depression.

Corporations already know this, which is why they refuse to hire more workers and are content sitting on their mountains of cash: why invest money in hiring or adding new machines if you think the economy may tank, spoiling the investment? Indeed, corporations have every right to believe the economy is headed downward. The New York Times explains:

“… ill [economic] winds are blowing in from both a contracting [recessionary] Europe [the biggest trading partner of the U.S.] and slowing growth in emerging markets [China, India]. Also, domestic lawmakers’ inaction on the upcoming ‘fiscal cliff’ creates uncertainty that is not conducive to hiring.”

What is this “fiscal cliff” that politicians and CEO’s talk about behind closed doors but rarely discuss on TV?  The New York Times continues:

“…the end of 2012 [the fiscal cliff] will also bring a torrent of federal tax increases [reducing consumer spending]… The government is also scheduled to lop off a huge chunk of federal spending [$500 billion in annual cuts] because of measures set in motion [the infamous “trigger cuts”] by Congress’s inability last December to come up with plans for longer-term fiscal restructuring.”

The reason these cuts are not being discussed – and the reason they are referred to as the “fiscal cliff” – is because after these measures are implemented, the already-stammering economy will be pushed “over the cliff” into recession.

Both parties are not talking about the fiscal cliff because they share the exact same solution: austerity -cuts to social programs (education, health care, safety net), government layoffs, and other measures to make working people pay for the nation’s debt instead of the rich and corporations.

The real state of the economy is also revealed by Wall Street’s clamoring for the Federal Reserve to again start printing massive amounts of money, called quantitative easing. This desperate move would never be considered in times of “relative stability” of the economy and threatens to create massive inflation at home and abroad.

Both Democrats and Republicans are aligned with the free market model of job creation, which amounts to massive state intervention to provide banks and corporations with bailouts, ultra-cheap/printed money, subsides, tax breaks, etc., in the hopes that these corporations will hire people. These ideas have already been thoroughly disproved by events, yet nobody in power can put forth an alternative, since doing so would change the landscape of American politics.

What America needs is what was done during the last depression: a massive dose of state intervention against these corporations and the wealthy, by demanding that their taxes be dramatically increased to fund a federal jobs program.

Until labor and community groups detach themselves from Obama’s election campaign, they will remain mum on this issue and will be forced to support a so-called corporate jobs creation plan that promises more unemployment. The reason that labor organizations are not fighting for a real jobs campaign is because they have opted to tape their mouths shut and campaign for the Democrats instead, a fact that exposes them in front of their membership, who will in turn demand a new policy from their leaders. If the leaders fail to respond positively, their membership will demand a new policy and a new leadership.

Shamus Cooke 

Reprinted with the author’s permission.

Professor Mekonen Haddis

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Turning America In to a Giant Casino

Turning America In to a Giant Casino

Anyone who says you can get rich through gambling is a fool or a knave. Multiply the size of the prize by your chance of winning it and you’ll always get a number far lower than what you put into the pot. The only sure winners are the organizers – casino owners, state lotteries, and con artists of all kinds.

Organized gambling is a scam. And it particularly preys upon people with lower incomes – who assume they can’t make it big any other way, who often find it hardest to assess the odds, and whose families can least afford to lose the money.

Yet America is now opening the floodgates.

In December, the Department of Justice announced it was reversing its position that all Internet gambling was illegal. That decision is about to create a boom in online gambling. Expect high-stakes poker to be available on every work desk and mobile phone.

Meanwhile, states are increasingly dependent on revenues from casinos, lotteries, and the “Mega Millions” game (in which 42 states pool their grand prize) to partly refill state coffers.

Given who plays, this is one of the most regressive taxes in the nation. In the most recent Mega Millions game – whose winning tickets were drawn last week and whose jackpot rose to $640 million – lottery ticket buyers shelled out some $1.5 billion, most of which went to state governments.

And then there’s the “Jumpstart Our Business Startups” or “JOBS” Act, which President Obama is expected to sign into law Thursday. It allows so-called “crowd funding” by which people whose net worth is less than $100,000 can gamble away (invest) up to 5 percent of their annual incomes in any get-rich-quick scam (start-up) that any huckster (entrepreneur) may sell them.

Forget the usual investor disclosures or other protections. In the interest of “streamlining,” Congress has streamlined the way to fraud. Although start-ups will have to market themselves through third-party portals approved by the Securities and Exchange Commission, this is like limiting Bernie Madoff to making pitches over the radio. The SEC can barely keep track of Wall Street let alone thousands of Internet portals. Small wonder SEC Chair Mary Schapiro has been one of most outspoken critics of bill.

The bill was sold to Congress as a way to promote jobs (note the acronym) on the supposition that small start-ups create huge numbers of them. Wrong. That assumption comes from research by the Kauffman Foundation, which counted as a “start-up job” every laid-off worker who morphed into an independent contractor.

I’m all in favor of more entrepreneurship, and it’s good to give investors another way to participate in emerging companies. But this bill doesn’t do nearly enough to protect the vulnerable.

America’s capital market was already a giant casino. Why now turn the rest of America into one?

Robert Reich

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The Money Delusion

The Money Delusion

The headlines are full of crises because Government is apparently short of money. From the City of Stockton’s impending bankruptcy to the Federal budget deficit, we hear government is “broke.”

But this “shortage” is as delusional as the belief that the sun revolves around the earth. Deficits cannot possibly overwhelm any government with a sovereign currency.

When government is not constrained by a treaty–as the euro is–or a fixed exchange rate and when dollars are not backed by commodities like gold or silver, then our government can issue money at will.

And the U.S. central bank–”The Fed”–knows this perfectly well. Its recent, first-ever audit, sponsored by the congressional odd couple, democratic socialist Bernie Sanders and libertarian Ron Paul, disclosed that the Fed issued $16 – $29 trillion to bail out the Finance / Insurance / Real Estate (FIRE) sector of the economy in the wake of Lehman’s failure in 2007.

But why does FIRE, whose frauds caused the current economic meltdown, get trillions at the drop of a hat, and social safety net programs and revenue sharing with states, whose needs are far more modest, get the “one-finger salute”? Because dismantling these social programs, not “fiscal responsibility,”  is the point of this deficit frenzy. The really newsworthy fact is that destroying social programs is not the result of some natural shortage. It’s the product of political scheming and nothing else.

The observation that governments can issue infinite amounts of sovereign fiat money seems at once obvious and suspicious. No matter how much we know it’s true, it doesn’t seem trustworthy, based on our experience. We want government to be like something familiar–a household that has to tighten its belt in tough economic times, for example. But government is not like that. Unlike households, Government is an issuer, not a consumer of money.

But won’t creating lots of dollars be inflationary? It can be, but the scary historical examples of hyperinflation–Zimbabwe and Weimar Germany–originated with constrained production, not out-of-control mints. Despite the trillions given FIRE, the U.S. economy’s current economic problem is idle productive capacity and deflation, not inflation. The bond market confirms this by continuing to support record low interest rates. It’s worth mentioning that deflation also promotes the current Banana-Republic income divide between rich and poor, favoring creditors over debtors.

In any case, losses stemming from unused capacity–in both factories and human capital–are much greater than any hypothetical inflation’s cost. So don’t buy the B.S. about deficits.

Finally, for all the gold-bug monetarists who remain skeptical, this is not a theory, or a plea to print infinite money. It’s an observation about what has already occurred and a request that we put money to work for ordinary people suffering in the bankster-caused downturn, instead of bailing out the banksters themselves.

Despite this disclaimer, and the lower cost than these bailouts to help social programs,  some will still insist that inflation is the inevitable product of issuing sovereign, fiat money. Say such skeptics: “Governments manipulate data so core inflation appears lower than it really is. Look at the price of gas [and not the price of homes]!”

 

Such people can look at shadowstats.com for a serious attempt to eliminate any such politically-motivated manipulation. Shadowstats offers alternatives to government statistics, but it still reports no massive shift in inflation because of the multi-trillions issued by the Fed. The Fed’s intervention exceeds an entire year’s GDP so why isn’t inflation higher than official figures or even Shadowstat’s modest report? Answer: Because people are paying off debt and hoarding dollars — all symptoms of deflation.

Of course, this will not convince the unconvince-able. To them I say: if you really believe all the value has actually been inflated out of those dollars, and creditors cannot count on being repaid if they accept dollars, please mail those useless dollars to me in care of this publication. I look forward to hearing from you.

Mark Dempsey

 

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