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FDR knew that high wages are good… and we should too.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

By Stirling Newberry
Firedoglake

You might be hearing from the right wing about how breaking the unions and letting wages fall is the solution to our problems. We've heard this before. Let me tell you where.

In the late 1920's and early 1930's the global economy as it then was constituted, suffered a series of moments of crisis. In truth it had never gotten back to balance since the "Great War." The responses to these crisis points made the situation. Orthodoxy of the age brought disaster, and that orthodoxy was returning to an international gold standard that was really only a recent innovation. As Bordo and Eichengreen put it: "a system which relied on inelastically supplied precious metal and elastically supplied foreign exchange to meet the the world economy's demand for reserves was intrinsically fragile, prone to confidence problems, and a transmission belt for policy mistakes."

It's a nice way of saying that the Gold Standard was unsafe at any speed.

When the crisis arrived, there were three responses. One was to try and stick it out with the old system. This lead to falling wages and high unemployment under persistent deflation. The other two responses involved "casting off the fetters of gold." However, once this was done there was still a choice: keep wages high and the industrial system functioning, or let wages fall all the way to the floor, and employ people by the state.

In the US, under the New Deal, dealing with deflation was deemed to be important, and keeping wages high enough so that people could buy the products of industry was part of FDR's policy. It meant higher unemployment, but a growing sphere of a new economy, one that would eventually cover the nation with the excuse of World War II to bring everyone into the new world of internal combustion, telephones, electricity and broadcast. The argument was that it was easier to provide a safety net for people who had fallen out of the old economy, and to give them work and relief, than to raise wages that had fallen.

There was another choice, as Peter Temin, MIT economist, pointed out that the Nazi's "socialized human beings," and they "destroyed the unions within a few months of taking power," and "also introduced compulsory labor service," as well as using tax incentives and propaganda to convince women to leave the labor force." The result was a recovery to full employment "At the cost of their personal liberty and higher wages," You can read all this on page 115 of his book on lessons from the Great Depression. On page 9 you can see him rip Lionel Robbins for prescribing wage deflation as a "fundamental misconception."...(Click for remainder)

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Iraq Withdrawal Agreement is Typical Bushit

By Bob Fertik

Democrats.com

Juan Cole:

McClatchy reports that the Bush administration had deliberately not released the official English version of the security agreement it is negotiating with Iraq, fearing that extensive public debate on it in the US press might throw up criticisms that would be taken up by Iraqi parliamentarians, causing it to be rejected.

It is quite remarkable that this agreement, on which the fate of tens of thousands of American troops depends, has not been officially available to the American public or to Congress!

Actually Congress may have seen the agreement - they're just not saying. 

The McClatchy story makes it clear that the exact wording of some articles appears to have continued to be negotiated right up until the moment, though even agreement on wording has not produced agreement on the meaning of the words. (Iraqis should have been warned about Bush's 'signing statements,' in which he attempts to reverse the intent of the laws that Congress passes and he signs, just by appending a commentary in Bushspeak.)

Exactly right.

McClatchy adds:

'The Bush administration has adopted a much looser interpretation than the Iraqi government of several key provisions of the pending U.S.-Iraq security agreement, U.S. officials said Tuesday — just hours before the Iraqi parliament was to hold its historic vote. These include a provision that bans the launch of attacks on other countries from Iraq, a requirement to notify the Iraqis in advance of U.S. military operations and the question of Iraqi legal jurisdiction over American troops and military contractors.'

In other words, the Pentagon will studiedly ignore the more important provisions of the agreement, if Bush has his way.

In other words, much of the "agreement" is complete bullshit as far as Bush is concerned. Happily Bush won't be in office to break it....(Click for remainder).

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Milk -- We Need Him Now More Than Ever

By Matt Budd
Huffington Post

"I am Harvey Milk and I'm here to recruit you," screams Sean Penn into a bullhorn while playing the slain San Francisco City Supervisor. Those words still resonate today. If Harvey Milk were alive today, Proposition 8 would never have seen the light of day. Harvey Milk inspired hundreds of thousands of gay people in his lifetime and now with Gus Van Sant's new film Milk, he has the opportunity to reach millions more in death.

Milk begins with a collage of black and white news footage of mostly men being rounded up, handcuffed and piled into paddy wagons. Shot after shot show people burying their faces in their hands dodging the harsh lights of the news crew. One customer even throws his drink at the camera. This was the closeted life of a gay man in the late 60s/early 70s. This was a life of fear and a life without power. It's in response to that life without power that Harvey Milk finds his voice.

We first see Sean Penn as Harvey Milk as he records his thoughts to tape in the event that he is ever assassinated while in office. He begins to look back at his life and we meet him again earlier in his life. He's a closeted gay man living in New York City turning 40 and after picking up James Franco in the subway he tells him that he hasn't accomplished anything in his life. "I need to make a change," he says. He and Franco move to San Francisco to drop out and there he does begin to change. He first becomes a business owner by opening up Castro Camera and then becomes inspired to run for City Supervisor several times until he finally wins.

Sean Penn plays his part with subtle brilliance. He's completely inspiring in moments and he captures the spirit of a masterful politician. James Franco, Josh Brolin and Emile Hirsch are also terrific, as is Allison Pill as his lesbian campaign manager. Gus Van Sant does an amazing job with this film. There are a few over-the-top sentimental moments, but overall Milk packs a wallop. I think what really struck me the most is how what happened in 1978 still resonates today. We've come a long way baby, or maybe not....(Click for remainder).

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