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June 26, 2012

This Day in Labor History: The Pullman Strike of 1894

In which the railroads see their profits shrinking and decide to dramatically cut the wages of their employees while still requiring them to live in expensive company towns. And when the employees went on strike, the federal government sent in the military who fired on American citizens, killing dozens and wounding many more. This Day in Labor History: June 26, 1894 - Lawyers, Guns & Money : Lawyers, Guns & Money
On this day in 1894, the American Railway Union, headed by Eugene Debs, called a nationwide boycott in solidarity with their striking members at Pullman, Illinois. This action turned a small strike into one of the largest labor actions in the nation to that date, led to the pioneering use of the injunction to crush labor unions, and ended with President Grover Cleveland calling in the U.S. military to serve as a private army for the railroads, ending the strike. The railroad-caused Panic of 1893 was not only emblematic of how corrupt railroads controlled the American economy in the Gilded Age, but how plutocrats expected the poor to sacrifice during hard times. George Pullman, owner of the Pullman Palace Car Company, which made sleeper cars for the railroads, created his own company town, south of Chicago. He provided workers everything they would need–housing, schools, stores. He also charged them high rates to live there, would not employ someone if they did not rent from him, and would evict them if they left his employment. When the Panic of 1893 hit, Pullman began losing money. His response was to lower wages by 25% while keeping the rent for his housing unchanged. In protest against this, as well as against working days that sometimes reached 16 hours, Pullman workers attempted to meet with the big boss, but Pullman refused to talk to them and fired three of the leaders. . . .

June 25, 2012

34 Congressfolk used private corporate briefing to engage in insider trading

Which Congress *also* ruled was totally legal for them to do. So there. 34 Lawmakers Changed Their Investments After Receiving Private Briefings About 2008 Economic Crisis | ThinkProgress
However, the problem may go far beyond just Bachus. As the Washington Post reported on Monday, 34 lawmakers — including Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) — shuffled their investment portfolios during the financial crisis, after speaking to high-ranking economic officials: Boehner is one of 34 members of Congress who took steps to recast their financial portfolios during the financial crisis after phone calls or meetings with [Treasury Secretary Hank] Paulson; his successor, Timothy F. Geithner; or Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke, according to a Washington Post examination of appointment calendars and congressional disclosure forms. The lawmakers, many of whom held leadership positions and committee chairmanships in the House and Senate, changed portions of their portfolios a total of 166 times within two business days of speaking or meeting with the administration officials. The party affiliation of the lawmakers was about evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, 19 to 15. After speaking with Paulson, Boehner shifted $50,000 to $100,000 out of a risky mutual fund, and spent tens of thousands of dollars more on a less-risky fund. Other lawmakers who were making investment decisions after receiving private information at the time included Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE). The lawmakers contend that their investments are overseen by outside advisers and that the private information had no bearing on their portfolio moves.

Paul Krugman: No one who has the power to prevent economic disaster is willing to step up

The Great Abdication - NYTimes.com
But now I’m hearing more and more about an even more fateful year. Suddenly normally calm economists are talking about 1931, the year everything fell apart. It started with a banking crisis in a small European country (Austria). Austria tried to step in with a bank rescue — but the spiraling cost of the rescue put the government’s own solvency in doubt. Austria’s troubles shouldn’t have been big enough to have large effects on the world economy, but in practice they created a panic that spread around the world. Sound familiar? The really crucial lesson of 1931, however, was about the dangers of policy abdication. Stronger European governments could have helped Austria manage its problems. Central banks, notably the Bank of France and the Federal Reserve, could have done much more to limit the damage. But nobody with the power to contain the crisis stepped up to the plate; everyone who could and should have acted declared that it was someone else’s responsibility. And it’s happening again, both in Europe and in America. . . .

June 22, 2012

Try to visualize the wealth disparity in America

(23) Wall Photos