Economy

Greece: Only the 'No' Can Save the Euro

As Greece prepares for a referendum on its creditors' demands for austerity, the future of Europe hangs in the balance. 

AP Photo/Petros Karadjias
AP Photo/Petros Karadjias Pedestrians walk by posters for the NO vote in the upcoming referendum, in central Athens, on Wednesday, July 1, 2015. G reece is heading toward a referendum on Sunday on which the future of the country and its elected government will depend, and with the fate of the euro and the European Union also in the balance. At present writing, Greece has missed a payment to the IMF, negotiations have broken off, and the great and good are writing off the Greek government and calling for a “Yes” vote, accepting the creditors' terms for “reform,” in order to “save the euro.” In all of these judgments, they are, not for the first time, mistaken. To understand the bitter fight, it helps first to realize that the leaders of today's Europe are shallow, cloistered people, preoccupied with their local politics and unequipped, morally or intellectually, to cope with a continental problem. This is true of Angela Merkel in Germany, of François Hollande in France, and it is true...

Here's How to Make the Fed More Transparent and Accountable

Fed leadership has long been dominated by the 1 percent. The Community Advisory Council could help change that. 

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik
AP Photo/Andrew Harnik The Marriner S. Eccles Federal Reserve Board Building, Friday, June 19, 2015, in Washington. T he Federal Reserve has long faced fierce scrutiny from members of Congress, community leaders, and the press for its lack of transparency. Fed Chair Janet Yellen, still early in her term, has signaled an intention to improve transparency and hold the Fed accountable to the public interest, and she’ll face an important test this month as she starts deciding whom to appoint to the newly formed Community Advisory Council. In the most recent example of Fed’s insular system of governance, Bloomberg Business revealed concerning news about the recent appointment of Patrick Harker as president of the Philadelphia Federal Reserve. Harker had served on the bank’s Board of Directors prior to his appointment, and was even on the search committee interviewing candidates for the presidential slot. Then, in a behind-the-scenes maneuver reminiscent of Dick Cheney’s infamous self-...

Are the Dems Being Sucker-Punched on Trade?

With TPP on the ropes, passage hinges on a paltry worker assistance program. 

Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/AP Images
Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/AP Images House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi conducts her weekly news conference in the Capitol Visitor Center, June 4, 2015. This article originally appeared at The Huffington Post . T hanks to a last-minute deal last Thursday between President Obama and the Republican leadership in Congress, the fast-track bill is still alive. Its passage depends on whether a handful of Senate Democrats can be persuaded to go along. Quick recap: The trade negotiating authority that Obama needs to complete his cherished Trans-Pacific Partnership has been linked to passage of Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA). The House at first voted down assistance in order to kill the whole deal, but then Republicans promised a separate vote on adjustment assistance; and so the House on Thursday narrowly approved fast track, 218-208, with 28 Democrats in support. Now the Senate has to concur. Back in May, when the Senate voted for the package that was rejected by the House, 14...

A Big Test for Janet Yellen

The Fed has a lot of power to hold big banks accountable. A grassroots coalition wants Yellen to use it. 

AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta
AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen speaks during a news conference following a Federal Open Market Committee meeting in Washington, Wednesday, June 17, 2015. A coalition of California community groups and a local legal aid agency have come up with a novel way to hold a major L.A. area bank accountable for the devastation it has caused Southern California communities as a result of its risky and predatory practices. The California Reinvestment Coalition (CRC) and Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County (NLSLA) have asked Janet Yellen—chair of the Federal Reserve, the country’s top bank regulator—to halt a planned takeover of Pasadena-based OneWest Bank by the New Jersey-based CIT Group until these banks pay reparations for the damage they caused. CRC and NLSLA have suggested a price tag of $3 billion to create and preserve affordable housing in Los Angeles County. For a decade up to 2008, banks lived high on the hog as federal regulators looked...

With Oregon's Bill, Paid Sick Leave Gains Momentum

How Oregon became the fourth state to mandate paid sick leave. 

Doug Geisler
Doug Geisler B uilding on a strong and growing level of momentum nationwide, on Friday, the Oregon legislature passed a bill that mandates paid sick leave. Governor Kate Brown, a progressive Democrat, is sure to sign the bill, making Oregon the fourth state to pass mandated paid sick leave. The vote is a significant win for a nationwide movement that’s been quietly gaining steam among cities, states, and presidential candidates in recent years. It’s also coming not a moment too soon. Half of the Oregon’s private sector workers don’t have access to paid sick leave; about 80 percent of the state’s low-wage workers are without it—this legislation will mandate access for somewhere north of 500,000 Oregon workers. The bill mandates that employers with more than 10 workers must offer up to five days of paid sick leave; businesses with less than 10 employees still must provide protected sick leave, though it may be unpaid. Both full-time and part-time workers are covered. The success in...

Bad Faith

Why real debt relief is not on the table for Greece. 

Sipa via AP Images
Sipa via AP Images Angela Merkel, German chancellor, and Greece Primer Minister Alexis Tsipras give a joint press conference, after the meeting, at the German chancellery on March 23, 2015, in Berlin. R eaders of the financial press may be forgiven for thinking that the negotiations between Greece and Europe have one feckless partner—the new government of Greece—and one responsible partner, a common front of major governments and creditor institutions, high-minded in their pursuit of rational policies and the common European interest. The view from Athens is different. On June 11, I attended the hearing of a Greek parliamentary commission investigating the Greek debt. Phillipe Legrain, former adviser to the then-EU President José Manuel Barroso, testified. Legrain is a technocrat, an economist, and a very reserved individual. He spoke in measured tones. The original crime in the Greek affair, Legrain said, was committed in May 2010, when it became clear that the country was insolvent...

The Real Meaning of Obama's Trade Defeat

Labor is just part of the story. 

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster
AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster President Barack Obama walks with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, right and House Minority Assistant Leader James Clyburn of South Carolina, as he visits Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, June 12, 2015, for a meeting with House Democrats. This article originally appeared at The Huffington Post . T he labor movement won big in the defeat of the trade package Friday. But a lot of the commentators are somewhat mystified. After all, the labor movement is a smaller fraction of the workforce than it was when NAFTA was approved over labor's opposition in 1993. And the industrial workforce today is a much smaller percentage of the total. How could this have happened? Noam Scheiber, writing ( an excellent piece ) in The New York Times , quotes a puzzled John Murphy, senior vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which suffered a big loss when the trade deal went down. Murphy wondered why service sector unions were part of the opposition. "...

What is Reform? The Strange Case of Greece and Europe

Why creditors' demands would only prolong Greece's crisis. 

AP Photo/Yorgos Karahalis
AP Photo/Yorgos Karahalis Ruined EU and Greek flags fly in tatters from a flag pole at a beach at Anavissos village, southwest of Athens, on Monday, March 16, 2015. O n our way back from Berlin on Tuesday, Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis remarked to me that current usage of the word “reform” has its origins in the middle period of the Soviet Union, notably under Khrushchev, when modernizing academics sought to introduce elements of decentralization and market process into a sclerotic planning system. In those years when the American struggle was for rights and some young Europeans still dreamed of revolution, “reform” was not much used in the West. Today, in an odd twist of convergence, it has become the watchword of the ruling class. The word, reform, has now become central to the tug of war between Greece and its creditors. New debt relief might be possible—but only if the Greeks agree to “reforms.” But what reforms and to what end? The press has generally tossed around the...

Derailment on the Fast Track

Passing TPP just became a lot more difficult.

AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais President Barack Obama speaks during his meeting with leaders of the Trans-Pacific Partnership countries on the sidelines of the APEC summit, Monday, November 10, 2014 in Beijing. Editor's Note: On the afternoon of June 12, the House defeated Trade Adjustment Assistance , 302 to 126 with only 40 Democrats voting in favor. Although House Speaker John Boehner vows to hold another vote on TAA next week following the House's passage of trade promotion authority, also on June 12, the vote puts the larger Trans-Pacific Partnership into serious jeopardy. I t’s now looking increasingly like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will go down to defeat. The first hurdle is the House vote scheduled for Friday on trade promotion authority, popularly known as fast-track, giving the executive branch an up-or-down vote in Congress on its Pacific trade deal. In recent days, as President Obama turned up the heat on about a dozen House Democrats, it looked as if...

What Made the Difference at Gawker? The Boss

Management at Gawker has been open to workers' new push to organize a union. That's far from the norm. 

D oes the union victory at Gawker portend a new day for American unions? I wish. No question that the vote of three-quarters of the online media site’s employees to have the Writers’ Guild of America represent them in bargaining with Gawker management is a big deal. The victory marked a breakthrough for unions in one of those new sectors of the American economy from which organized labor has been totally absent. And the importance of the victory was magnified by the pro-union case that Gawker writers made to their readers. But did this victory among Gawker’s largely young and self-consciously hip employees signal that hitherto union-free millennials are now turning to unions? Actually, no—because every recent poll makes clear that a decisive majority of union-free millennials already support unions. Gawker’s writers and editors were simply able to do what millions of millennials would like to do. The crucial difference at Gawker was that their boss let them do it. Every year, both...

Why Voluntary Standards Won't Make the Global Garment Industry Safer

After voluntary codes of conduct failed to prevent the Rana Plaza disaster, garment companies pass the blame. 

AP Photo/A.M. Ahad
AP Photo/A.M. Ahad In this Monday, April 20, 2015 photo, Mahamudul Hasan Ridoy, 27, who worked at Rana Plaza, the garment factory building that collapsed, walks with the help of a crutch at the site of the accident in Savar, near Dhaka, Bangladesh. O n Monday, June 1, police in Bangladesh filed murder and other charges against the owners of the Rana Plaza building, the landlord of the factories that collapsed two years ago, killing at least 1,138 workers and injuring about 2,500. The collapse was a spectacular moment in a sordid history of fires and collapses in the Bangladesh and global garment industry. The cutthroat competition of that industry is a furnace that fuels thousands of deaths and injuries. Last weekend, by coincidence, a conference was held at Harvard, called Transformation Challenges and Opportunities for the Bangladesh Garment Industry. Attending were Bangladesh cabinet members and the heads of two major safety initiatives—The “Accord” and the “Alliance”—as well as...

The Tenure Conundrum

Higher education is under attack, but defending tenure is just half the battle. 

AP Photo/Gerry Broome
AP Photo/Gerry Broome Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker delivers remarks during the North Carolina Republican Party convention in Raleigh, Friday, June 5, 2015. This article orginally appeared at The Huffington Post . R epublican presidential hopeful Scott Walker, the governor of Wisconsin, thinks he's hit political pay dirt with his proposal to gut faculty tenure protections at his state's public universities, notably the flagship University of Wisconsin, long one of the nation's best state universities. His idea is to remove tenure protection from state law, and leave the actual policy to the Board of Regents, his political appointees. For Walker, this is a three-fer. It's another attack on a public institution, in the wake of his successful campaign to weaken collective bargaining rights for Wisconsin public employees. It is a thinly disguised assault on a university perceived as a hotbed of liberals and liberalism. And it continues Walker's faux-populist theme by seemingly going...

Graduating to an Unequal Economy

The job market is improving, but prospects remain sharply divided by race. 

AP Photo/The Orange County Register, Mark Felix
AP Photo/The Orange County Register, Mark Felix T his is the time of year when thousands of college students receive their hard-won degrees after years of difficult work. What awaits them is commonly referred to as the “real world” where young people are expected to thrive and survive. But between high unemployment rates and the harsh reality of student loan debt, today’s graduate is still facing an uphill battle—especially the graduate of color. The economy is looking better today than in the dark days of 2009 when the overall unemployment rate reached a staggering 10.2 percent in the month of October. Job prospects for recent college graduates were dismal; the effects of the recession would reverberate through each graduating class for years to come. Today, the unemployment rate is a much lower 5.4 percent and the job market is looking better for college graduates—but only for some. According to a new report published by the Economic Policy Institute titled The Class of 2015 , the...

How the GOP Plans to Cut Affordable Housing (Again)

A 2008 program to help tens of thousands on housing waitlists is finally set to be funded, but House Republicans have other plans.

(Photo: AP/Bloomington Herald-Times/Jeremy Hogan)
(Photo: AP/Bloomington Herald-Times/Jeremy Hogan) Seekers of Section 8 housing line up in Bloomington, Indiana, in 2011. The National Housing Trust Fund, created in 2008, is set to finally be funded in 2016, but House Appropriations Committee Republicans just last month passed a housing and transportation bill that strips the fund to cover cuts in other housing programs, and prohibits any funding in the future. I n almost every part of the country, families struggling to pay rent and seek help find themselves at the end of a very long line. In California, I spoke to a woman who told me she was assigned a number higher than 57,000 on the waiting list when she applied for a subsidized apartment. In the suburbs of Denver, Colorado, where the lottery opens every few years for Section 8, which gives recipients money to pay rent and is the biggest of the programs, only 30 or 40 of about 2,500 applicants will receive vouchers. And that’s just when local agencies are even accepting...

Gawker Changed the Internet. Can It Change Workplace Organizing?

What the site's very public union drive means for the future of digital journalism. 

Scott Beale / Laughing Squid
Scott Beale / Laughing Squid Gawker Media offices in New York City. A round 100 editorial staffers will vote next week on whether to unionize the workplace behind Gawker.com. The secret online vote, set for June 3, is a first among digital native outlets like Gawker that have dramatically recast the world of online journalism in recent years. The decision marks a new chapter for the company, and for a media landscape still grappling with the complex realities of a digital future. The union drive at Gawker began as you might expect: loudly. Six weeks ago senior writer Hamilton Nolan announced at Gawker.com that the editorial staff was in the early stages of organizing a union with the Writers Guild of America, East. The bold announcement sent shockwaves throughout the Internet for a number of reasons—primarily because it involved Gawker and people like Gawker. It also turned on its head the traditional organizing strategy of not going public until the organizing is near completion...

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