Daily Archives: May 10, 2014

Crude oil brings boom times and safety concerns to North Dakota

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Canadians Protest Against Pipelines, Climate Change Policy

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Now That’s Rich – Paul Krugman

MAY 8, 2014   Paul Krugman
Institutional Investor’s latest “rich list” in its Alpha magazine, its survey of the 25 highest-paid hedge fund managers, is out — and it turns out that these guys make a lot of money. Surprise!

Yet before we dismiss the report as nothing new, let’s think about what it means that these 25 men (yes, they’re all men) made a combined $21 billion in 2013. In particular, let’s think about how their good fortune refutes several popular myths about income inequality in America.Portland, Ore.

Now where did I put those the hedge shears?

First, modern inequality isn’t about graduates. It’s about oligarchs. Apologists for soaring inequality almost always try to disguise the gigantic incomes of the truly rich by hiding them in a crowd of the merely affluent. Instead of talking about the 1 percent or the 0.1 percent, they talk about the rising incomes of college graduates, or maybe the top 5 percent. The goal of this misdirection is to soften the picture, to make it seem as if we’re talking about ordinary white-collar professionals who get ahead through education and hard work.

But many Americans are well-educated and work hard. For example, schoolteachers. Yet they don’t get the big bucks. Last year, those 25 hedge fund managers made more than twice as much as all the kindergarten teachers in America combined. And, no, it wasn’t always thus: The vast gulf that now exists between the upper-middle-class and the truly rich didn’t emerge until the Reagan years.

Second, ignore the rhetoric about “job creators” and all that. Conservatives want you to believe that the big rewards in modern America go to innovators and entrepreneurs, people who build businesses and push technology forward. But that’s not what those hedge fund managers do for a living; they’re in the business of financial speculation, which John Maynard Keynes characterized as “anticipating what average opinion expects the average opinion to be.” Or since they make much of their income from fees, they’re actually in the business of convincing other people that they can anticipate average opinion about average opinion.

…(read more)

Global Climate Change
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Ann Jones, How to Lose Friends and Influence No One (The State Department Way)

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Environment Ethics

Why a Book on Growing Inequality Is Taking America by Storm

The translator of Piketty’s ‘Capital In the 21st Century’ discusses inequality and the book’s huge success.

May 9, 2014 |

A book as important as Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century deserved a translator of formidable intellect with an acute sensitivity to language. That is who it got in the form of Arthur Goldhammer, a mathematician-turned-man-of-letters who has translated 130 books from the French, including Tocqueville’s Democracy in America. Goldhammer chairs the seminar for visiting scholars at Harvard’s Center for European Studies and is a member of the editorial board of French Politics, Culture, and Society. He even has his own blog, French Politics. We caught up with Goldhammer to find out what he thinks of the book’s phenomenal success and whether it will bring lasting change to the way Americans think about the economy and the growing crisis of inequality.

Lynn Parramore: Even those ideologically disposed towards unregulated markets are finding that they cannot dismiss Capital in the 21st Century out of hand. What is it about the book that forces people to take it seriously from all points on the economic and political spectrums?

Arthur Goldhammer: First, there is the huge amount of data that Piketty and his collaborators collected before the book could even be conceived. This was not simply a matter of compiling figures that already existed. In order to provide consistent data series cover many countries over a very long time span, they had to devise clever methods of interpreting the available sources, which vary widely in quality.

Second, Piketty has taken great care to present his data in a clearly accessible form. Much of it is displayed in easily interpreted graphs. And he has described in plain language, without arcane mathematical formulas, how he thinks the data should be read. For the more technically inclined, there are numerous papers cited in the online appendix in support of the methods and conclusions. So there is something for everyone to sink their teeth into, experts as well as general readers.

LP: Do you think that the book could spark a lasting change in how we think about economics, either on the part of the public or the academy? Or does it reflect a sea change that was already underway?

…(read more).

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