Wednesday, February 29, 2012

London Youth Down and Out- NY Times

This article makes an interesting reference to the consequences of predatory, profit-maximizing, corporate capitalism, and its contrast with "ordo-liberalism" and social capitalist democracies of Europe.  Recall the European Work Councils post here not long ago.  Does the UK have these EU EWCs?  

For London Youth, Down and Out Is Way of Life

Young and Unemployed: Landon Thomas Jr., a New York Times reporter, looks at the growing problem of long-term unemployment for British youth.
Published: February 15, 2012

LONDON — For almost two years, Nicki Edwards has been looking for work — any type of work. She is 19 years old, well-spoken and self-possessed. But like many young people in Britain, she could not afford to remain at her university, making it impossible to find a job. London’s youth riots last summer have closed even more doors to people like her.
If you are not working, in training or in college, you might as well be a thief — employers just do not take you seriously,” Ms. Edwards said. “At some point, you just say, ‘I’m stuck and I will never find a job.’ ”
Perhaps the most debilitating consequence of the euro zone’s economic downturn and its debt-driven austerity crusade has been the soaring rate of youth unemployment. Spain’s jobless rate for people ages 16 to 24 is approaching 50 percent. Greece’s is 48 percent, and Portugal’s and Italy’s, 30 percent. Here in Britain, the rate is 22.3 percent, the highest since such data began being collected in 1992. (The comparable rate for Americans is 18 percent.)
The lack of opportunity is feeding a mounting alienation and anger among young people across Europe — animus that threatens to poison the aspirations of a generation and has already served as a wellspring for a number of violent protests in European cities from Athens to London. And new economic data on Wednesday, showing much of Europe in the doldrums or recession, does little to bolster hopes for a better jobs picture anytime soon.
Experts say that the majority of those who took to the streets in London last summer were young people who were unemployed, out of school and not participating in a job training program.
Classified by statisticians as NEETs (not in education, employment or training), they number about 1.3 million, or one of every five 16-to-24-year-olds in the country.
While youth unemployment has long been a chronic issue here, experts say the British government’s debt-reduction commitment to rein in social spending appears to be making the problem worse. Insufficient job training and apprenticeship programs, they argue, contribute to the large pool of permanently unemployed young people in Britain.
It is patently wrong for young people to have such a poor start in life, when there is so much more we could be doing,” said Hilary Steedman, an economist at the London School of Economics. “Just because they did not go to university does not mean they don’t want to work.”
Many young people here spend endless months applying for technical jobs for which they do not have adequate training. In many cases, months turn into years, with people remaining on the dole indefinitely. In the most recent fiscal year, the government paid £4.2 billion ($6.6 billion) in benefits to this age group, at least some of which might be better spent on job training, some experts argue.
A well-financed apprenticeship program is an important social investment that can enhance the competitive capacity of an economy,” said John P. Martin, an economist at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris, who studies labor market issues across Europe.
Ms. Steedman, a specialist in vocational training, said that Britain lags far behind countries like Germany, Austria and the Netherlands in its use of training programs to introduce young people to permanent work.
Fewer than one in 10 employers in Britain offered apprenticeships in 2010, she said, compared with at least a quarter of employers in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. And while government financing for such programs has increased in the last few years, Ms. Steedman said that much of the money went to training existing workers 25 years and older rather than building the skills of 18-to-20-year-olds.
It’s completely perverse,” she said, pointing out that 40 percent of the 500,000 or so apprenticeships go to people age 25 or older. “Companies are subsidizing 25-year-olds who already have jobs.”....

for the rest of article see link below

  • tomfrom66
  • Thornton Cleveleys, UK
I wish this article was on every front page in Britain, and on every news channel.

This dystopia is the result of decisions taken by Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s which had the effect of de-industrialising Britain in favour of the City of London.

Mrs Thatcher genuinely believed that Britain could make its way in the world as a financial centre, and a service economy.

A series of ruinous housing bubbles fed the illusion that all was well, but we all know where that ended.

The current government is now requiring unemployed young people to work for the Job Seekers Allowance - workfare - which is having entirely forseeable consequences: Tesco recently advertised for a night worker to work for JSA and expenses.

The reality of the government's Work Programme is the undermining of the Minimum Wage.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Activism on Oil Tax Breaks etc

End Unfair Tax Breaks for Big Oil

Oil companies benefit from massive tax breaks that cost the U.S. billions in lost revenue.
An overwhelming majority of Americans want the oil industry, which posts staggeringly high profits, to pay its fair share.
But every attempt to close tax loopholes for Big Oil is met with ramped-up, industry-led lobbying efforts in Congress and million-dollar PR campaigns to scare the public into thinking a repeal of oil subsidies means higher gas prices.
Support President Barack Obama’s plan to raise $38.7 billion in additional taxes from the oil and gas industry over the next 10 years.


Dear Mark --
Big spending in our elections is out of control.

Super PACs have already raised nearly $100 million to support Republican presidential candidates.[1] That money has come from wealthy individual donors and shell corporations, set up purely to obscure the donor's identity.

The First Amendment is meant to protect our right to free speech. But since the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, it seems like only billionaires are getting heard.

Join the growing call for a Constitutional Amendment to overturn Citizens United today!

Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson just announced he'll spend as much as $100 million to prop up Newt Gingrich's flailing presidential campaign - enough to make a Hollywood movie like Mission: Impossible.[2]

Tea Party supporter David Koch has spent $700,000 supporting Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who is facing a recall. That's as much as NBA superstar Jeremy Lin will earn this year. And Koch says he won't stop there: "We've spent a lot of money in Wisconsin.
We're going to spend more."[3]
Working FAmilies Party

Great news this week from across our green-economy programs…
First off, our Better Paper program director, Frank Locantore, tells me that eight new magazines -- Publishers Weekly, Phi Kappa Tau, Bicycle Times, Dirt Rag, Experience Life, Greenability, Stanford Social Innovation Review, and WellFed -- have started using our Better Paper Eco-Label to clearly show their commitment to using recycled paper. Look for it when you buy magazines, and see below for more from our Better Paper program on our latest award winners.
And what a difference recycled paper makes! If the entire North American magazine industry included a minimum of 30 percent post-consumer recycled paper in their publications, it would save approximately 10 million trees a year – along with delivering big energy, water, and landfill savings.
Second, our Fair Trade director, Elizabeth O'Connell, reports that her trip last week to Hershey, Pennsylvania was a sweet success. On Valentine's Day, Elizabeth joined with our allies at the New York Labor Religion Coalition to personally deliver thousands petition signatures and hundreds of valentines -- made by schoolchildren opposed to child labor -- to members of the Hershey Trust, demanding greater action to get child labor out of Hershey's cocoa supply chain.
Finally, our policy director Fran Teplitz reports that efforts by Green America and dozens of allies working on energy and climate issues succeeded in gathering more than 800,000 signatures last week against a new effort to stop Congress from reviving the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline – a polluting tar-sands pipeline project halted last month by President Obama.
Our work together continues on each of these projects, as we push for a more eco-friendly magazine industry, a more socially just cocoa industry, and a cleaner energy policy for the United States.
Here's to a greener America,
Alisa (signature)
Alisa Gravitz,
Executive Director,
Green America

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Two Articles on Co-ops has loads of interesting posts to my taste, and two recent ones discuss co-operatives.  Jim Hightower is a writer who I learned about through Mother Jones magazine years ago.  Richard Wolff's an economist I learned about through a friend and colleague who heard him on WBAI, 95.5 New York, and Gar Alperovitz I learned about only recently through his op-ed in the New York Times, the latter truly a remarkable piece in my view. 

Co-operatives over Corporations  by Jim Hightower

....Yet, tightly clutching their wealth, the wizards retort that the only alternative is the hellish horror of government control, screeching "socialist" at all critics to scare off any real change.
But wait. The choices for our country's rising forces of economic and political democracy are not limited to corporate or government control. There's another, much better way of organizing America's economic strength: The Cooperative Way.
Cooperatives can (and do) provide a deeply democratic, locally controlled, highly productive, efficient percolate up capitalism. Co-ops are wholly in step with the values, character, spirit and history of the American people.
While socialism has been cast by the corporatists as a destroyer of our sainted free-enterprise system, the cooperative approach is not an -ism at all, but a democratic structure that literally frees the enterprise of the great majority of Americans -- which is why the co-op movement is fast spreading throughout our country.
While it's rarely mentioned by the conventional media, completely missing in the political discourse, not considered by economic planners and chambers of commerce and not known by most of the public, there are 30,000 cooperatives in America (with 73,000 places of business). A 2009 survey by the University of Wisconsin's Center for Cooperatives ( found that these energetic enterprises have 130 million members, registering $653 billion in sales and employing more than 2 million people.

You might be surprised to learn that such national brand names as ACE Hardware, Best Western Hotels, Organic Valley, REI and True Value Hardware are organized as co-ops, rather than as corporations. The strength of the movement, however, is in the limitless number of local cooperatives flowering all across the country.  ….

Economic Alternatives to Capitalism   Interview of Gar Alerpovitz by Richard Wolff

.... Wolff: No, the inequality is stunning.

Alperovitz: And particularly in capital ownership, the structure of the ownership. So these institutions willy-nilly are beginning to change the ownership of capital in a way that people understand in very practical terms...They’re “talking prose” and don’t know that there’s something very important happening there. So partly, we have to make manifest, make available to people what they already are beginning to do. And there’s a building up, people are learning from this. The most interesting development is something that’s going on in Cleveland, where there’s a complex, in part based on the Mondragon experience in the Basque country of Spain, a big, very successful cooperative effort--100,000 people, roughly. But in Cleveland, there are 3, 4, 5 linked worker co-ops; they’re building a whole complex of worker-owned companies, and these are not little co-ops. For instance, there is a large-scale industrial laundry, there is a hydroponic greenhouse, capable of producing something of the order of 3 million heads of lettuce a year. There’s a solar installation company. And they’re building a complex which is linked together throughout the community through a non-profit corporation.
So it’s not just worker-ownership, it’s community building and includes a revolving fund to help build more of these entities. Well, that structure in turn is building on things people have learned over the last 30 years particularly in Ohio, beginning with the decay of the steel mills in that state. It’s also using the purchasing power of public and quasi public institutions like hospitals and universities that are buying from the co-ops in ways that also help to stabilize the market. And that’s a really important principle—in part stabilizing (but not subsidizing) the “market” through public or quasi public purchases.
The important point is that there are many, many things that are developing that the press simply doesn’t cover. I wrote America Beyond Capitalism partly to give focus to the idea of what can be done in this phase of development--and hopefully building beyond that to much more interesting things once we learn more about how to do real things on the ground.

Wolff: Yes, I can add a little example of my own about the importance of books like yours and programs like this and other efforts to get the word out. Before we even sketch alternatives that are better, to even make the American people aware of what they themselves have accomplished in this area. I taught for many years at the University of Massachusetts. Just a few miles up the road from the small city of Holyoke, MA.
Holyoke has a public power company, and the public power company services the people of Holyoke. And it provides them with two benefits: lower rates for electricity than are paid by the surrounding communities that don’t have public power, a power operated by the community. And not only does it give them electricity for lower rates, but even at the lower rates, it makes a profit which it contributes to the city’s treasury, thereby lowering the taxes these people have to pay. A double benefit of public over private power, that they would save on electric rates and lower their taxes compared to what their neighbors a few miles down the road have to do with the big utility company.
And yet, when I had students from Holyoke, they were the ones whose eyes opened the widest when the learned of this, because they had grown up for 20 years in a community that never had explained to them in any school room or any kind of public way what they had and how it differed from the normal businesses in the United States.....

My comment at the site-
I agree with wonderinwhy that the personal attack is unnecessary, although the feeling of frustration that this basic issue of existing alternative capitalisms is missing in almost all US activism is also a pressing one.
As a longtime US-based activist, I worked for a food co-op for years in relative ignorance simply of the larger existing networks. As I explored Fair Trade while volunteering with a non-profit advocate group, I began to connect the dots, along with finally reading William Greider´s The Soul of Capitalism.
Stakeholder capitalism had come to my attention, but then while pursuing my master´s was I, albeit unaided by any direct support, able to stumble upon Co-determination in Europe, and the historical development of European Workers Councils. I found several books discussing the subject, such as Lecher, W., B. Nagel, and H-W. Platzer et al. The Establishment of European Works Councils: From Information Committee to Social Actor.
While I am glad to recognize some apparent accomplishments of social capitalism in Europe, one commentator at least mentions the definite limits of the Co-determination system. Another source discusses the presence of corporate lobbyists in the European parliament. The ability of Europeans to represent their alternative in a strong and enlightened way also remains to be seen. Denmark´s history with wind power is an example, since their development was seriously compromised due to neoliberal policymakers. Germany is a major representative of this view, but efforts could be combined from several Northern European countries especially, although the EWC´s have been pan-European since 1992 and the Maastricht Treaty, if I recall correctly.