The Editorial Board of The New York Times states in Echoes of the Superpredator:
Since the ruling in Miller [v. Alabama], five states have abolished juvenile life without parole in all cases. In March, West Virginia lawmakers passed a bipartisan bill that provides parole review for any juvenile who serves at least 15 years in adult prisons. Similar legislation is pending in Connecticut and Hawaii.Paul Krugman at The New York Times writes that high-frequency stock trading comprises just one element of the financial industry's massive waste of hundreds of billions of dollars each year in his column titled Three Expensive Milliseconds:
But other states keep fighting to prevent their juvenile offenders from ever having the chance to see the light of day. Michigan now gives judges the “choice” of imposing a minimum sentence of 25 to 60 years instead of life without parole. Courts in other states have refused to apply the Supreme Court’s ruling retroactively, stranding many of the more than 2,000 inmates who were sentenced before the Miller decision.
In short, we’re giving huge sums to the financial industry while receiving little or nothing—maybe less than nothing in return. Mr. Philippon puts the waste at 2 percent of G.D.P. Yet even that figure, I’d argue, understates the true cost of our bloated financial industry. For there is a clear correlation between the rise of modern finance and America’s return to Gilded Age levels of inequality.Michael Hiltzik at The Los Angeles Times writes Low-wage workers pay the price of nickel-and-diming by employers:
So never mind the debate about exactly how much damage high-frequency trading does. It’s the whole financial industry, not just that piece, that’s undermining our economy and our society.
The continuing push for higher minimum wages across the country has much to recommend it, but the campaign shouldn't keep us from recognizing a truly insidious practice that impoverishes low-wage workers all the more. It's known as wage theft.More pundit links and excerpts can be found below the fold.
Wage theft, as documented in surveys, regulatory actions and lawsuits from around the country, takes many forms: Forcing hourly employees off the clock by putting them to work before they can clock in or after they clock out. Manipulating their time cards to cheat them of overtime pay. Preventing them from taking legally mandated breaks or shaving down their lunch hours. Disciplining or firing them for filing lawful complaints.
Nickel-and-diming pays well, for the employer.
Adam Matthews and Terry Townsend at The Independent write In contrast to the slow pace of international negotiations to combat climate change, national legislation is advancing at a startling rate:
Today's release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s final working report is a landmark moment. It highlights the case that there remains limited time to reduce global warming of some 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels—the level scientists say we must not breach if we are to avoid the worst risks of climate change. [...]William Hutton at The Guardian sums up the hottest new economic book in Capitalism simply isn't working and here are the reasons why:
Here there is room for encouragement and optimism, although we cannot be complacent. For in contrast to the slow pace of international negotiations to combat climate change, national legislation is advancing at a startling rate, a surprise to those who ascribe to the conventional wisdom that progress has waned.
Remarkably, some 450 climate-related laws since 1997 have been passed in 66 countries covering around 88% of global greenhouse gases released by human activities. This legislative momentum is happening across all continents. Encouragingly, this progress is being led by the big emerging and developing countries, such as China and Mexico, that together will represent 8 billion of the projected 9 billion people on Earth in 2050.
Suddenly, there is a new economist making waves—and he is not on the right. At the conference of the Institute of New Economic Thinking in Toronto last week, Thomas Piketty's book Capital in the Twenty-First Century got at least one mention at every session I attended. You have to go back to the 1970s and Milton Friedman for a single economist to have had such an impact.Whether or not those solutions really are solutions can be argued (and some on the left argue that they aren't). But the problem with Piketty's view is that a vast number of economists today have worked in the opposite direction, helping hoi oligoi make what he sees as solutions to be inconceivable.
Like Friedman, Piketty is a man for the times. For 1970s anxieties about inflation substitute today's concerns about the emergence of the plutocratic rich and their impact on economy and society. Piketty is in no doubt, as he indicates in an interview in today's Observer New Review, that the current level of rising wealth inequality, set to grow still further, now imperils the very future of capitalism. He has proved it. [...]
The solutions—a top income tax rate of up to 80%, effective inheritance tax, proper property taxes and, because the issue is global, a global wealth tax—are currently inconceivable.
But as Piketty says, the task of economists is to make them more conceivable. Capital certainly does that.
Moshe Marvit at In These Times The Paycheck Fairness Act Would Have Helped All Workers, Not Just Women:
Though the act was framed as a way to fight the enduring discrepancy in wages among genders, in reality, it would have helped work toward better conditions for all workers. [...]Mike Konczal at The New Republic Don't Be Fooled: The Fed's New Rule Lets Banks Off Easy—The hike in capital requirements isn't nearly enough:
Prohibiting employer retaliation against workers for discussing their wages is an important protection, and it’s one that is already enshrined in federal law. Under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), it is a violation to retaliate against employees for discussing their wages. The core section of the NLRA, Section 7, states that “employees shall have the right … to engage in other concerted activity for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.” And there is perhaps no more basic form of concerted activity than discussing one’s wages and terms of employment.
The problem is that employees’ labor rights, as articulated in the NLRA, have notoriously weak penalties.
Officials at the Federal Reserve released a new requirement for banks to hold more capital this week. From the headlines and coverage, you’d think the regulators punished the beleaguered financial industry with serious reform. The banks “just can’t catch a break” according to Marketwatch. “Steep Leverage Ratio Requirements Will Force Banks To Rethink Their Capital Plans” warned Fortune.Amy Goodman at TruthDig writesFrom Kabul to Cairo, the Killing and Jailing of Journalists Continues:
Though a step in the right direction, we should be careful about taking a victory lap or declaring Mission Accomplished when it comes to these capital rules. The new rule, while important, isn’t where it needs to be in order to work properly. And there are still two major battles coming up this year when it comes to capital requirements, which is the amount of money regulators require a bank to hold. These battles will prove equally consequential, and ultimately determine whether or not the problem of Too Big To Fail is fixed.
Journalism is not a crime. This is the rallying cry in demanding the release of four Al-Jazeera journalists imprisoned in Egypt. Three of them—Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed—have just passed their hundredth day of incarceration. The fourth, Abdullah al-Shami, has been in jail for more than six months. They have been charged with “spreading lies harmful to state security and joining a terrorist organization.” Of course, the only thing they were doing was their job.Leonard Pitts Jr. at The Miami Herald says what half the world must be thinking in About that missing plane: Give it a rest!:
Anja Niedringhaus also was doing her job as a photographer for The Associated Press when she was murdered last week in Khost, Afghanistan. She was covering the preparations for Afghanistan’s national election, and was sitting in her car with AP reporter Kathy Gannon when an Afghan police officer opened fire, killing Niedringhaus and wounding Gannon. [...]
Niedringhaus is one of too many journalists killed while performing a critical public service: journalism.
Please, for the love of Cronkite: Give us a break from the missing plane. Yes, we all wonder what happened to it. Yes, our hearts go out to the families seeking resolution. But really, CNN ... enough. Put your hands up and step away from the story.Tim Barker at The Nation has some problems with the Cesar Chavez biopic, as he writes in The new film turns decades of organized struggle into the inspiring tale of one man.:
I’m in the doctor’s office the other day, right? I’m waiting for my missus and the TV is on and I’m half watching, half reading and you’re covering the plane. And time passes. And you’re covering the plane. And commercials intervene and you come back and you’re covering the plane. And my wife comes out and it’s time to go and it’s been a solid hour and you’re still covering the plane. Nothing but the plane.
Some aspects of the film’s politics are commendable. It’s gratifying to see a pro-labor film that does not flinch at vilifying the rich or portraying their deadly violence against striking workers. In a few respects the film is admirably nuanced, managing, for example, to concisely present the arcana of labor law and secondary boycotts. Against the reduction of the UFW to its Mexican-American majority, the film reminds viewers that Chavez was drawn into his first big strike by Filipino workers and organizers, rather than vice versa. [...]
The problem is that the producers, eager for a hero and obeisant to the Cesar Chavez estate (which controls the rights to his “name, voice, image, and likeness, speeches and writings”), transform the collective struggle of tens of thousands of workers (and, to a lesser degree, millions of boycotters) into the moral journey of a single man. Such telescoping is endemic to the genre, and it would be unfair to expect a film to capture decades of history and thousands of lives in a hundred minutes. Yet the objection is worth stressing in the case of Cesar Chavez. The film’s hagiography is not just generic but a carbon copy of Chavez’s own press strategy, which was so dependent on messianic tropes and visual media that it almost constituted the rough draft of a biopic. Thus, the film does not even aspire to create a mythology but only to entrench a familiar one.