What's Left 2015-08-16 Volume 24

| August 17, 2015


There are only a few macro-level measures that mainstream economists obsess over. These go in and out of style depending on the state of the global economy, and the crises currently at play. Currently, productivity is all the rage in the pages of political and economic journals and the finance press.


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“FEATURE”

Productivity is all the rage for economists

There are only a few macro-level measures that mainstream economists obsess over. These go in and out of style depending on the state of the global economy, and the crises currently at play. Currently, productivity is all the rage in the pages of political and economic journals and the finance press.

Productivity is a major component of economic growth in capitalism and the distribution of its benefits have been a major source of increased inequality. Quantifying productivity is done by measuring the inputs versus the outputs of work and it is an important part of global economic growth. Technological development has driven huge gains in productivity in the past (the production line, the modern robotic production line, the more modern digital production line), but recently western economies are not seeing growth in the productivity of workers.

It used to be that capitalists would point to productivity gains under capitalism as part of the promise that, as productivity increases, the number of hours spent working would decrease, and people would be paid the same while working less. This benefit has never been realized as union power has declined. Any gains in productivity have gone directly to CEO wages and company profits. In fact, the main drive in automation has been to reduce the dependence of “costly” human workers.

Understanding the impacts that technology and work have on each other is important for left-wing governments. Being opposed to technological development and productivity increases is not the answer, and neither is embracing any and all technologies that promise greater productivity. Understanding how new technologies will influence systems of production and worker benefits is paramount.

More: Forced to Love the Grind

More: The great productivity slowdown


“IN OTHER NEWS”

The Intercept shows AT&T helping NSA for decades

This is further proof that the NSA and other government agencies a) depend on the cooperation of private internet companies to spy on their own citizens and b) get that cooperation with little reservation on the part of these multinational corporations.

More: A Trail of Evidence Leading to AT&T’s Partnership with the NSA

Right-wing Brazilians seize on judicial investigations to spark protests

The Brazilian right-wing press have seized on national political fissures in an attempt to unseat the ruling party. They are calling for mass protests against government corruption and the current sitting president. And while some have termed it a referendum, it is anything but. The judicial branch of the state has emboldened this opposition with its accusations that the national oil company and government-aligned private sector building conglomerates have been pursuing pet projects throughout Latin America. Not much has been proven in terms of corruption, but allegations fly easily.

Two years ago, Citizens' Press was reporting on Brazil’s unprecedented national protests in Porto Alegre. Back then it was identified that the newly-formed Free Brazil Movement would make it their mission to harass left-wing political parties. Their goal was to prevent a crystallization of a progressive popular program before the federal election. This was one of the reasons the election was so close. The ruling left-wing party is making efforts to re-engage and deepen its relationship with social movements and civil society in the face of these right-wing protest groups. This is the only long-term sustainable strategy for left-wing parties in Brazil.

More: 2013 CP article: Student Assemblies in Porto Alegre

More: Brazil Girds for Protests as Rousseff Faces Impeachment Risk

Majority of Americans want normalized relations with Cuba

The number of US citizens who support normalized relations with Cuba is up nearly 10 percent since last year. It now sits at 73% for the general population and is actually at 59% among Republicans.

More: The Revolutionary Dream of Justice and Equality

More: [[https://citizenspress.us10.list-manage.com/track/click?u=27d7d00e19a37005743125d7e&id=4188d4dbac&e=580a6e5d4b][As U.S. Embassy Reopens in Havana, a Reflection on Cuban Relations with America, Africa and the African Diaspora]]

China’s currency falters, causing global concern

China’s economy is massive and when it changes, it has significant global implications. The Chinese government is continuing to move its economy towards a more open market system. The recent depreciation of the Chinese currency has put more pressure on the global economy and raised a lot of concern and discussion by economists around the world. This move by China has been welcomed by the IMF and is part of a move to make the Renminbi a global currency. Combine this with the capitalist financial market experimentation in China and you might have the ingredients for another global recession.

More: Why Is China Letting the Yuan Fall?

UK Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn in cross-hairs of corporate press for all the right reasons

The vitriol being spewed by the mainstream corporate press should cement any question about whether Jeremy Corbyn will mount an effective opposition to the Conservatives' program. The New Statesman outlines exactly why the hatred runs so deep. For all who think Thatcher’s program produced nothing but pain for working people, understand that Corbyn – far from being an irrational lefty – is the anti-Thatcher. It does not take much to get a glimpse of the effect Corbyn is already having. In the pages of finance capital’s favourite news agencies is an ongoing debate about the impact that Corbyn’s economic program could have on the UK. Even they agree that there is no indication that it would be negative. Socialist mainstream policies such as re-nationalized rail and “People’s QE” (giving publicly funded jobs to people instead of using central banks to buy-back debt from banks) have supporters – even among capitalists.

More: Owen Jones: if Jeremy Corbyn wins, prepare for a firestorm

Puerto Rico’s debt a result of U.S. exploitation

For those following the global discussion of state-level debt and insolvency, a new article from Monthly Review Magazine has some detailed analysis of the road-blocks to Puerto Rico’s recovery. The short version: US companies extract huge profits from the island, but give little back.

More: [[http://citizenspress.us10.list-manage1.com/track/click?u=27d7d00e19a37005743125d7e&id=353e639f19&e=580a6e5d4b][Behind Puerto Rico’s Debt, Corporations That Drain Profits from the Island]]

More: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: U.S. Territories

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