Posts tagged with 'naomi klein'

Weekly Mulch: Conservatives and Liberals Remain In Denial About Climate Change

Posted Mar 11, 2011 @ 11:35 am by
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by Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium blogger

Rough Sea Ice At Sunset

The negative impacts of climate change are coming on more quickly than anyone expected. According to a new NASA study, ocean waters are creeping steadily upwards, at rates faster than predicted, Maureen Nandini Mitra reports at Earth Island Journal:

“That ice sheets will dominate future sea level rise is not surprising – they hold a lot more ice mass than mountain glaciers,” Eirc Rignot, the report’s lead author said in a statement emailed by NASA yesterday. “What is surprising is this increased contribution by the ice sheets is already happening.”

This is just the latest warning sign that climate change is happening and that its negative effects will occur more quickly than anyone has prepared for. This will happen despite Republicans’ insistence that there is no hard scientific proof of climate change, and that “just because you might be in the minority doesn’t always mean you’re wrong,” as Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA) put it this week at a House subcommittee hearing on climate science.

Dealing with it

This problem is not going to go away. The economist and blogger Tyler Cowen wrote this week that left-wing economists have a “reluctance to admit how hard the climate change problem will be to solve, for fear of wrecking any emerging political consensus on taking action.” In response, Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum comments, “Actually, liberals spend a ton of time talking about how hard climate change is. Still, there’s something to this. As hard as we say it is, it’s probably even harder than that.”

How hard? On Democracy Now!, Naomi Klein argued this week that progressive environmental groups have been pussy-footing around the scope of the issue entirely. She said:

What I see is that the green groups, a lot of the big green groups, are also in a kind of denial, because they want to pretend that this isn’t about politics and economics, and say, “Well, you can just change your light bulb. And no, it won’t really disrupt. You can have green capitalism.” And they’re not really wrestling with the fact that this is about economic growth. This is about an economic model that needs constant and infinite growth on a finite planet. So we really are talking about some deep transformations of our economy if we’re going to deal with climate change. And we need to talk about it.

That’s a tall order for green groups, however, when they’re having a hard time convincing conservatives that climate change even exists. As Klein says, refusing to believe in climate change has become one way that conservatives define themselves, politically, and the pull of ideological identification outweighs any rational attitude toward the science in question.

The example of agriculture

In many cases, solutions to the problems of climate change are clear. Only habit and political intransigence keep them from being put into action.

Agriculture is a great example of this tangle. Industrial farming pollutes earth, water, and air, while sustainable methods of farming promote global health. What’s more, they create as much, if not more, product than industrial farming techniques. This week the United Nations confirmed these benefits in a report on “eco-farming,” what Americans generally call sustainable agriculture. Inter Press Service reports:

“An urgent transformation to ‘eco-farming’ is the only way to end hunger and face the challenges of climate change and rural poverty,” said Olivier De Schutter, U.N. Special Rapporteur on the right to food. … Yields went up 214 percent in 44 projects in 20 countries in sub-Saharan Africa using agro-ecological farming techniques over a period of 3 to 10 years… far more than any GM [genetically modified] crop has ever done.

Despite this sort of success, the argument that agribusiness is necessary to feed the world is still running rampant. At Grist, Tom Philpott has been picking apart a series of articles from The Economist that explains, as Philpott puts it “how industrial agriculture is the true and only way to feed the 9 billion people who will inhabit the world by 2050.”

But as Philpott notes, sustainable farming can feed the global population and is better for the planet as well. The United Nations, he writes, has:

found that ‘ecological agriculture’ could ‘assist farmers in adapting to climate change’ by making farm fields more resilient to stress. So why isn’t eco-agriculture catching on? The report cites a bevy of obstacles, none of them technological:

“[L]ack of policy support at local, national, regional and international levels, resource and capacity constraints, and a lack of awareness and inadequate information, training and research on ecological agriculture at all levels.”

Obvious solutions

Indeed, it can be incredible how simple solutions to seemingly intractable problems can be. For instance, IPS reports, yet another UN report has found one solution to mitigating global hunger: Push back against gender inequality. IPS’s Alan Bojanic and Gustavo Anriquez write:

The UN agency’s report estimates that if women had the same access to agricultural assets, inputs, and services as men they could increase yields on their farms, and this increase could raise total agricultural output in developing countries by roughly 2.5 to 4 percent.

Moreover, such a growth in agricultural production could in turn bring 100 to 150 million people out of hunger – that is about 12 to 17 percent of the 925 million undernourished people that exist in the world according to FAO’s latest estimates.

Dealing with the problems of climate change might be harder than liberals often admit. But some of the simplest solutions haven’t even been tried yet.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Mulch for a complete list of articles on environmental issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Pulse, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

The Mulch: 10 Million Strong, and Growing

Posted Dec 9, 2009 @ 12:31 pm by
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By Alison Hamm, Media Consortium Blogger

It’s one of the largest petitions in history—and the biggest climate-related petition ever delivered. Organized by the TckTckTck campaign, 10 million people called for leaders to sign a fair, ambitious, and legally binding climate treaty at the 15th United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen (Cop15).

After the opening press conference on Monday, young people from around the globe handed the petition to Yvo de Boer, head of the United Nations agency organizing Cop15, and Connie Hedegaard, Danish Climate Minister and President of Cop15. More than 220 leading civil society organizations from environmental, development, labor, and health fields came together for the campaign. (more…)

Weekly Audit: Why the Rich Can’t Afford to Get Richer

Posted Jul 28, 2009 @ 8:33 am by
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by Zach Carter, TMC MediaWire Blogger

If we want our economy to be strong and stable, we have to start thinking about it as a product of community—not a get rich quick scheme. As unemployment escalates and the housing crisis deepens, ordinary people are feeling the economic pinch. In the meantime, corporate executives and shareholders are coasting above the storm. If we want to tear down the useless casino that is Wall Street, our wealthiest citizens will have to pitch in when times get tough.

Salon carries an excellent three-part email exchange between Simon Johnson, former Chief Economist for the International Monetary Fund, and John Talbott, a reformed Goldman Sachs investment banker. Taken together, the emails constitute a thorough, in-depth analysis of the causes of the economic crisis, needed reforms and political hurdles to making policy changes. Johnson’s basic argument is as frightening as it is accurate: Bankers line our elected representatives’ pocketbooks, convincing them to re-write regulations that made big bonuses for bankers and a catastrophe for everyone else.

Some of Talbott’s most interesting observations concern Wall Street’s epic transformaiton. Over the past three decades, our financial sector has morphed from a kind of economic rebar to a wrecking ball. Once upon a time, the financial industry provided loans to businesses and entrepreneurs and funded constructive enterprises. Today, almost all of this activity has been replaced by hedge fund speculation. As a result of excessive deregulation, a wild array of complex transactions called derivatives have developed on Wall Street. Many derivatives, including the credit default swaps that brought down AIG, are intended to provide insurance against losses.

But this readily available “insurance” has removed any sense of risk from the minds of U.S. financiers. All kinds of casino experiments have come in play over the last several years because traders could insure any bet, however crazy, against losses. The whole point of a financial sector is to make sure that good ideas get funding. Instead, we’ve guaranteed that risky ideas gets funding, even when the idea is socially destructive and financially unsound, like, say, subprime lending.

As David Sirota emphasizes in Truthdig, this financial recklessness has only deepened existing economic inequality. The wealthiest 1% of U.S. citizens have the greatest share of the nation’s income since 1929, the onset year of the Great Depression. That’s not just a coincidence. When economic inequality is out of control, the economy itself becomes unstable. If everybody is broke, no one has enough to buy the stuff that makes the economy go-round.

There’s a paradox buried in all the instability. Even though outrageous inequality is bad for business, it’s not necessarily bad for businessmen (Yes, businessmen. Women are still largely excluded from the top tier of corporate decision-making). When the whole economy pays the price for executive excess, the executives themselves don’t actually take the hit. Even when elites lose their jobs, they stay rich. When people who depend on their paychecks for survival get the axe, it’s a life-altering, often devastating, experience.

There’s something we can do about this, Sirota notes. We need to treat the rich like members of a community, rather than an isolated special interest whose demands must be balanced against other special interests. When a community needs to pay for something, the people who can afford to pay pony up. We have real problems right now. There’s nothing wrong with taxing the wealthy to fund them.

But why worry? The bailout is working, and banks on the mend, right? Maybe not so much. The Real News explains how bank profits don’t always equal economic progress. Wells Fargo just booked a massive second-quarter profit, but the numbers are largely divorced from any economically useful activity.

Foreclosures are soaring, and bank lending is way down. Even though the banks are booking big profits, they aren’t putting much money into the economy. How is this possible? Well, banking basically involves two steps. First, the bank borrows money at a low interest rate. Then, it makes a loan at a higher interest rate. The difference is the profit. Right now financing costs for banks are next to nothing, thanks to a host of government programs. Even if you don’t make many loans, it’s hard to lose money when you can borrow it for free.

As Steve Benen emphasizes for The Washington Monthly, using the stock market as as measure of economic vitality has proven pretty silly over the past few years. Back in February, just about every conservative pundit was screaming that the decline in the Dow Jones Industrial Average was purely a result of President Barack Obama’s economic policies.

Obama’s economic record is not perfect. He has continued the Bush administration’s bank bailouts, and his stimulus package wasn’t nearly big enough to fight this recession. But some of Obama’s reform ideas have been very good, and he actually got a stimulus package through a very reluctant Congress. Now that the Dow is back on the ascent, are any of those conservative talking heads cheering Obama’s proposal to create a new financial regulator focused on protecting consumers? Well, no. As it turns out, the stock market is pretty fickle. Its daily and weekly movements can rarely be attributed to individual economic policies. The things that make stocks advance don’t necessarily create new jobs.

That new consumer regulator is by far the best part of Obama’s financial regulatory overhaul. Harvard Professor and bailout watchdog Elizabeth Warren explains why in this video, available at AlterNet. They’ve also published a piece I wrote on the bank lobby’s insane assault on the plan.

But even if the entire crazy bailout actually does work, the solution won’t last without other major economic reforms. In The Progressive, Naomi Klein argues that the surreal boom-and-bust cycle of U.S. capitalism is an awful lot like a Sarah Palin fairy tale, a world in which the most outrageous structural imbalances never result in problems for ordinary people because a new dose of market magic swoops in at the last minute to save the day.

“What Palin was saying is what is built into the very DNA of capitalism: the idea that the world has no limits. She was saying that there is no such thing as consequences, or real-world deficits. Because there will always be another frontier, another Alaska, another bubble. Just move on and discover it. Tomorrow will never come,” Klein writes.

If we want to get away from this predatory cycle, we have to give ordinary citizens more influence over the legislative process. As Talbott noted in Salon, that means demanding our due.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the economy. Visit and for complete lists of articles on the economy, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical health and immigration issues, check out and This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of 50 leading independent media outlets, and was created by NewsLadder.

Botching the Bailout

Posted Nov 18, 2008 @ 10:31 am by
Filed under: Economy     Bookmark and Share

The Bush administration is squandering hundreds of billions of dollars on incompetence again.

In a House Domestic Policy Subcommittee hearing on Friday, Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, took Interim Assistant Treasury Secretary for Financial Stability Neel Kashkari (read: bailout chief) to task over the Treasury’s decision to spend every cent of the first $350 billion in bailout funds buying up preferred stock in Wall Street icons and other banks, while allowing troubled borrowers to fend for themselves.

Kashkari did his best to deflect the outrage, but his task would have been easier had the Treasury’s position been defensible. In a Senate Banking Committee hearing the day before, both consumer-protection advocates and banking executives endorsed an anti-foreclosure initiative devised by FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair that would create strong incentives for the private sector to cut borrowers some slack. Despite the plan’s broad appeal, both Paulson and Kashkari refused to devote any Treasury funds to the program, making the bailout chief sound like, well, a chump, when he insisted that Treasury is doing everything in its power to keep people in their homes.

The whole thing is beginning to look a little too much like Iraq. Bush administration officials steamroll both chambers of Congress with warnings of a dire emergency and are rewarded for their efforts with unprecedented authority and funding. Shortly afterwards, it becomes clear that the initiative has been squandered on meaningless giveaways to huge corporations without any corresponding social benefits. Naomi Klein of The Nation details the corruption parallels in an illuminating piece for Rolling Stone.

Laissez-faire lunacy

Most depressing is the bailout’s complete impotence with regard to providing broader economic support. Paulson and Kashkari have succeeded in keeping the U.S. financial sector afloat for the time being, but despite an enormous injection of taxpayer funds, banks are not lending money out into the broader economy. One part of the problem is the fact that President Bush & Co. took years to acknowledge that the country was in fact facing disaster (remember Paulson’s 2007 talking point that the subprime mortgage crisis was “contained”?). Now that the Treasury is finally taking action, it is doing so in an environment where there simply are not many good loans to be made. The other roadblock is Paulson’s refusal to require banks who accept public money to put it to use for the public good, as Joshua Holland explains for Alternet.

That desperate attempt to adhere to some kind of free-market principle—not forcing companies to do anything with billions of dollars allocated to partially nationalize them—was on display Friday at a speech Bush gave in New York. It sounds like a sick joke. After demanding $700 billion to save Wall Street, Bush is still warning against the evils of government intervention, claiming that free-market systems have a monopoly on “social justice and human dignity.”

“The greater threat to economic prosperity is not too little government involvement in the market,” he said. “It is too much government involvement in the market.”

Matthew Rothschild skewers this absurdity over at The Progressive.

“You can’t have social justice and human dignity with mass unemployment, rampant foreclosures, high rates of poverty and food insecurity, and a health care system that leaves almost 50 million people uninsured,” Rothschild writes.
Bush did make a few nods to sanity during his speech, arguing that markets need to be “more transparent,” but the claim was a little perplexing amid reports that the Federal Reserve is refusing to disclose who it is granting about $2 trillion in emergency loans.

“Where is the ridicule?” Dean Baker asks in a blog for the American Prospect, arguing that Paulson and Bernanke are looking more like “crony capitalists” every day.

Going green, going global

Bush’s speech was designed to frame the debate surrounding the meeting of leaders from the world’s 20 largest economies to address problems in the global financial architecture. Fortunately, President Bush does not have final authority to sign an agreement for the U.S., that task will be left to Barack Obama in April of next year. Over at, Gary Gardner and Michael Renner note the opportunity not just for a New Deal to refashion the U.S. economy, but to ink a Green Deal that does away with global dependence on fossil fuels and provides for a fairer distribution of wealth across the globe.

At the moment, U.S. economic policy remains dominated by how to handle the bailout. How Democrats seek to proceed with lashing Detroit automakers to that $700 billion debacle will say a great deal about the majority party’s governing intentions heading into the next Congress.

“It’s time to think big,” Andrew Leonard writes for “A Manhattan Project-scale plan to move the U.S. into an energy-sustainable future should start with a complete restructuring of the automotive industry,” according to Leonard.

The sagas of the financial and automobile industries have more in common than meets the eye. Both have lobbied heavily against new regulations for decades, and the lax oversight has left both in dire straits. While conservatives are quick to point to labor union contracts that make workforces at GM, Ford and Chrysler pricier than for foreign manufacturers, the fact is that the Big Three have drastically lost market share in recent years by failing to make cars people actually want to buy. In a video produced for American News Project, Garland McLaurin details how Detroit spent millions lobbying Congress against raising fuel economy standards while failing to develop cars that achieve high gas mileage.

Millions of people could be out of a job if the Big Three go under, but if Democrats hurl money at the companies with no strings attached, they’re no better than the current administration’s set of bailouteers.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the economy. Visit for a complete list of articles on the economy. And for the best progressive reporting on critical immigration and healthcare issues, check out and

This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of 50 leading independent media outlets, and created by NewsLadder.

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