Friday, April 16, 2010

News from the Network, Vol. 3, No. 15

We read in a Yahoo! news story that America is Back!! Aside from the fact that we were not aware that America had ever left, the article was filled with what can only be described (trying to be as polite and as charitable as possible) as mindless drivel. The article, "America's Back! Let's Just Hope Newsweek Doesn't Jinx the Recovery" (the magazine Newsweek's cover story was rhapsodizing on how great everything has been since it predicted the end of the recession last July) ignored all the critical aspects of a true economic recovery — production and employment — and focused on superficial "indicators" that give no real indication of the health of the economy:

One, the economy was "growing" at the astonishing rate of 5.9%!! This is almost enough to make up for the 6.4% "shrinkage" at the beginning of the year. Of course, much of the "growth" has been in the form of increased government spending and bloated profits of the financial services industry, but, hey, growth is growth . . . isn't it?

Two, the stock market is doing great!! It has passed 11,000 (!!!). This ignores the fact that 1) the stock market is not a good indicator as to the health of the underlying economy, and 2) the gains have a high probability of reflecting the enormous amounts of new money created by the Federal Reserve and plowed into the secondary market by its purchase of $1.2 trillion of questionable "mortgage-backed securities." Massive money creation by the Federal Reserve for speculative purposes and bailouts also serves to inflate so-called "growth" of the economy. The bottom line is that the Dow is now a commodity enjoying government price supports paid out under the delusion that the secondary market is actually the primary market. The rise in the Dow reflects gamblers' confidence that the government will continue to make good any losses they might incur.

Three, 162 thousand jobs were created in March!! These appear to have been government jobs for the Census. The unemployment rate (unofficial, of course) for March reached 17.5%. In percentage terms, this is more than in September 1932, considered to be one of the worst months of the Great Depression. There was even a moderate recovery going on in 1931-32 . . . until the financial system blew out in 1933 because the banks were holding too much in the way of questionable mortgage-backed securities.

Four, productivity is up!! "Productivity" is defined as output per labor hour. All it means is that featherbedding appears to have been reduced in response to the greatly diminished number of jobs. What is really happening is that people are being laid off, and the company is still managing to produce at the same or even lower level than before. It's just that output is divided by fewer labor hours. All things considered, this is actually a bad sign. Workers are being eliminated or replaced with more efficient technology. This decreases effective demand. Within the Keynesian framework, higher "productivity" means that workers are getting less and giving more — and are able to purchase less.

Nevertheless, we continue to work to restore some semblance of sanity to the economy. This week has been pretty full, even considering the fact that at least two-thirds of the most important events haven't even happened yet. We expect to have more in-depth reports written up and appearing on this blog in the near future . . . depending on how well we are able to allocate our scarce "human resources" — a terrible term for people, by the way — to all the tasks that keep cropping us.

That, of course, is a less-than-subtle plug for volunteer help. Objectively speaking, the "core group" of CESJ and the Just Third Way is accomplishing near-miracles, considering the lack of resources. The chief resource, of course, is people, especially door openers and those of us who serve. Consider volunteering your efforts, especially if you can open a door for a member of the core group to meet with a prime mover.

In the meantime, even given our relatively scarce resources, here is what we have been doing over the past week:
• The big news this week (as least as far as the Just Third Way is concerned) was the astonishingly successful series of events planned for yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Yesterday's peaceful rally at the Federal Reserve went very well, and today's Second Social Justice Collaborative is shaping up well. Tomorrow's Annual Celebration looks to be very successful.

• The general consensus was that yesterday's rally at the Federal Reserve was the most successful to date. A great deal of the credit for the greater public interest exhibited should probably go to Rowland Brohawn, who thought up "The Abe Brigade," a number of people wearing Abraham Lincoln's trademark stovepipe hat (and a few with beards) that caught people's eyes. Once their attention was caught, however, quite a number of people seemed quite inspired by Rev. Robert Brantley's remarks as Master of Ceremonies, as well as Keynote Speaker Dr. Norman Kurland's talk that focused on the need to abandon today's outdated economic paradigm and adopt the Just Third Way.

• Earlier in the day, a member of the "Abe Brigade" was almost "busted" for participating in a "man in the street" type interview due to an over-zealous officer who was unaware of an official change in the time for the taping. As soon as we can think up a sufficiently provocative title for the clip, we will post it on YouTube; "Abe Lincoln Busted," while an arresting title, is neither descriptive nor completely accurate.

• A gentleman from Africa has requested a meeting with CESJ to discuss possible application of Just Third Way programs in his country.

• Mr. Chris O'Connor of the Colonel John Fitzgerald Division, Arlington, Virginia, of the Ancient Order of Hibernians in America, sent us an article on Thursday concerning the housing/mortgage crisis in Ireland that appeared in the Irish Independent. A non-for-profit housing authority, Respond!, is protesting a government plan to demolish housing in order to support the price. We sent a brief e-mail suggesting that Respond! might find the proposed Homeowners Equity Corporation ("HEC") and the Citizens Land Cooperative ("CLC") extremely useful in presenting a viable alternative to destroying badly needed housing.

• After a short delay, the CESJ publications program may be shifting into high gear. We expect to be reviewing a number of manuscripts for publication within the next month and a half, especially Dr. Harold G. Moulton's classic The Formation of Capital from 1935.

• Dr. Norman Kurland and Mr. Guy Stevenson of Iowa visited a number of offices on Capitol Hill, later being joined by Mr. Russell Williams of Connecticut as well as other concerned individuals. Remarkably, a number of Congressional and Senatorial aides appeared to be quite impressed with the information, especially Capital Homesteading — which appears to have resonated well with both conservatives and liberals, given that many of them seemed to be expecting a high level of vituperation from members of the TEA Party movement.

• With respect to the TEA Party movement, the rally outside the Federal Reserve on Thursday attracted a number of people whose attention was first drawn to the event by their assumption that it was related to the TEA Party effort. Some left when they found that neither CESJ nor the Global Justice Movement is affiliated with the TEA Party movement, but others were intrigued at the thought that a positive solution is possible.

• At least two "media figures" expressed interest in finding out more about the Just Third Way, especially Capital Homesteading. Dr. Ahmed Mansour, head of the International Quranic Center in Northern Virginia, in addition to giving an inspiring talk at the rally, introduced a media figure to Dr. Kurland and others in the CESJ core group. A representative of a conservative talk radio station just happened to stop by at the beginning of the event, and was sufficiently intrigued to stay for the whole thing. She distributed copies of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution (both of which fit well into the Capital Homesteading message) and took several photographs, mentioning that she would suggest follow-up interviews with Dr. Kurland and others to emphasize the positive possibilities of a solution instead of simple protest.

• As of this morning, we have had visitors from 46 different countries and 49 states and provinces in the United States and Canada to this blog over the past two months. Most visitors are from the United States, Canada, the UK, Australia, and Brazil. People in Venezuela, Guatemala, Maldives, Pakistan and Rwanda spent the most average time on the blog. The most popular posting continues to be "Thomas Hobbes on Private Property," followed by "Kemp Harshman, Soldier of Justice," Guy Stevenson's "Expanded Capital Ownership Now," "The Crash of 1929" in the "Own the Fed" series, and "Full Employment," also in the "Own the Fed" series.
Those are the happenings for this week, at least that we know about. If you have an accomplishment that you think should be listed, send us a note about it at mgreaney [at] cesj [dot] org, and we'll see that it gets into the next "issue." If you have a short (250-400 word) comment on a specific posting, please enter your comments in the blog — do not send them to us to post for you. All comments are moderated anyway, so we'll see it before it goes up.

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