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Mark Blythe seems to have a very good grasp of the current political and economic situations we now face.  If you want a no bullshit update to the state of the world, watch this.

 

When people talk about how capitalism raises the tide for all boats my skepticism level begins to slowly creep upward.  One must be careful when it comes to describing capitalism as panacea for the world and the world’s poor.   from Counterpunch takes aim at a few of the more atrocious lies that the ardent defender of Capital put forth.

“Neoliberals love to quote the World Bank’s rosy statistics about capitalism lifting hundreds of millions out of poverty. Unfortunately, those statistics are skewed and manipulated to the point of outright prevarication, as Seth Donnelly demonstrates in his new book, “The Lie of Global Prosperity.” He quotes a breathless World Bank press release, “soon 90 percent of the world’s population will live on $1.90 a day or more.” No matter that translated into local currency at local prices, in many places that $1.90 per day purchases the equivalent of 30 cents a day or that $1.90 per day means the pauperization of billions – for as Donnelly shows, a truer metric of avoiding desperate poverty is over $5 per day. If that far more honest measure is applied, 80 percent of South Asians and sub-Saharan Africans are, Donnelly explains, horribly impoverished. Even more disturbing, achieving a 70-year life expectancy requires $7.40 a day, something the world’s cold and pampered capitalists will certainly not shell out or even allow for the billions of wretchedly poor.

Best exemplifying the World Bank’s ideologically biased poverty measures – biased to glorify capitalism – is how it uses statistics about China. “The free health care, education and food that people received in Mao’s China do not enter into the calculation. As a result, Chinese people, who achieved new levels of food security and saw their life expectancy double in this [Mao’s] period were found to be on the whole ‘extremely poor’…the Chinese only ceased to be ‘extremely poor’ once they lost their collective lands, food rations and medical care and began making iphones and other export goods under atrocious conditions.”

   I wasn’t really a part of the economy in the 80’s, but I do seem to remember getting some kick ass savings rates for the filthy lucre stowed away in my junior savings account.   Young me, didn’t realize at the time that to get those 15% returns on a savings account what the banks had to be charging on the loans they made.

With jobership and homeownership and adultship all having occurred – I’m more than a little concerned about an upward trend in the prime interest rate, because things that are affordable at 3%ish interest become much more untenable at 15 or 20% interest.

 

“The Federal Reserve raised its benchmark overnight interest rate by a quarter of a percentage point, which means that the folks who borrow from the Fed (which is kind of like the Bank of Canada, and whose customers are other lenders) will now pay in a range from 0.75 per cent to 1 per cent.

Up until Wednesday, the range was as low as 0.5 per cent.

A quarter of a percentage point? Doesn’t sound like much, so no wonder the announcement got overwhelmed by everything else.

Consider this: the Fed’s rate is now double what it is in Canada. It’s very difficult to believe that the decision there will not have a ripple effect that will eventually hit Canadian mortgages and lending rates — and along with them, people who’ve never lived and owed when rates suddenly jack up.

Fed chair Janet Yellen raised interest rates this week, for only the third time since the financial crisis nine years ago. (Reuters)

But let’s think about the decision, which is only — believe it or not — the third time that the Fed has ever raised a rate since the financial crisis that engulfed the world in 2008. (It is, on the other hand, the second hike in three months.)

On the upside, the hike is generally perceived to be an indication of growing strength and optimism in the American marketplace.

“The simple message,” said Fed chair Janet Yellen, who is expected to step down within a year, “is the economy is doing well.”

But what many people in the finance world are expecting is more of the same; that is, more hikes. Another is expected in June, and the Washington Post used the words “more frequent” to describe what the Fed’s hikes will be like from now on.

The purpose of a rate hike, especially while rates have been (when you think about it) remarkably tiny is to keep inflation in check.

But the other side of that coin is what higher rates can do to ordinary consumers, including those on this side of the border.

Rates are a fraction of what they once were

This is where my head has been lately.

It seems to be we’ve had a full generation of consumers that don’t know the piercing agony that comes when interest rates are high, or who might be inclined to believe that what they’re paying now on, say, their credit card bill is high enough.

Moreover, these consumers may not appreciate to what extent that lending rates have, for almost a decade, have been artificially low. (I’m tempted to call them politically low, too, in light of the 2008 crisis.) 

What would higher interest rates mean for homeowners, and small businesses? In a tight economy, they could be tricky. (Submitted by Kara O’Keefe)

Now, some history, both provincial and personal: In the early Eighties, interest rates were not just in the double digits, they were above 20 per cent. The recession that came with it was harsh, deep and sweeping in its destruction.  

The local impact was crushing, perhaps because there was an ebullient feeling in the wake of the 1979 Hibernia discovery. In 1988, a few years before he died, St. John’s businessman Andrew Crosbie reflected on the wicked boom and bust of the early Eighties. 

“We certainly got caught — but I don’t know if it was in the oil euphoria rather than the interest rate euphoria” that caused so much damage to businesses like his own.”

The idea of being ‘caught’ and forced to make unsavoury financial decisions isn’t particularly appealing – and having one’s future rest on the ‘market’ is distinctly unsettling.  :/

[Source:cbc.ca]

ccb    In the business lexicon I think polite somehow equals naive or stupid.  Neil Macdonald examines some of the hi-jinks our corporate leadership in Canada feels it can get away with.

“A letter arrived last week from TD Bank. “In order to continue to meet your banking needs …” it began.

Try to guess what came next. Hint: I’m a customer at a Canadian bank.

Sure enough, “We sometimes need to adjust our pricing.”

Unsurprisingly, the prices being adjusted were not being adjusted downward.

As of March, the bank’s “non-TD ATM fee” is being raised 33 per cent.

Fees for cancelling an Interac e-transfer and for holding a post-dated cheque at a branch are going from free to $5. And the fee for transferring a tax-free savings account to another bank is going from free to $75.

These are huge increases, far in excess of growth or individual spending power.

Now, it’s important to understand TD’s position. The bank’s profits were $8.02 billion last year, up only slightly from $7.88 billion the year before.”

Our banks do this sorta shit all the time.  Hmm..bottom line looking a bit thin? Let’s put the screw to our customers, they’ll smile and say ‘thank-you’.

“It’s worth noting, though, that in the U.S., where TD is now a serious player, with more branches than in Canada, the bank plans to impose no fee increases on customers come March.

“Totally different environment,” a TD spokeswoman told me.

Translation: There’s a lot more competition there, and if TD tried charging the sorts of fees it imposes on the bank’s supine Canadian flock, some other U.S. bank would be in there siphoning off business before you could say “special offer.”

Up here in Canada, TD’s letter advises customers that if they don’t want to accept the fee hikes, they are free to close their accounts, “without cost or penalty.”

Generous, that.”

It is really as simple as that?  Because we in Canada don’t allow the wild west capitalism that typifies our good neighbours to the south we have to accept the fact that the fox is in charge of the henhouse?

“It’s all part of being Canadian. The equation is simple: Canadian consumers and workers are protected from certain free-market excesses, but that coddled security comes with a price: oligopolies, in which a few firms dominate, and all the behaviour that flows from that.”

If this is the price we have to pay to be able to weather the financial shit-storms that brew in the US, I might be able to accept that – but I think that the cost benefit analysis is still up for debate.

“If you want a really depressing bit of Canadian reading, go look at the Canadian Competition Bureau’s policy on “price maintenance,” something most of us know as “price-fixing.” 

Certain companies, especially in the luxury trade, try to see to it that their products never go on sale. Rolex is one. Canada Goose, the world-famous Canadian parka-maker, is another.

This offends capitalism: in a free market, one of the few responsibilities of government is to monitor and punish efforts to deaden competition”

Looking at you telecoms :/

“In fact, “price maintenance behaviour” was a criminal act in Canada, until Stephen Harper’s Conservatives changed the law in 2009 (though some forms of price-fixing still remain a crime).

The new law reduced price maintenance to a non-criminal offence, and even at that, it now has to be proven that “price maintenance conduct has had, is having or is likely to have an adverse effect on competition in a market.”

In other words, the government has to prove that price fixing results in fixed prices.”

Another gifted poison pill from our beloved former conservative government. It is shit like this that ruins their airs toward being business friendly and being friends of the market and all of the other hooey they exude from their weaselly mouths.  They lay down on market policy that hugely distorts the market – and in the end makes Canadians pay more – and then have the audacity to make ‘sad face’ and shrug their shoulders laying the blame on the ‘free market’.  Conservative economic policy is made of pure unadulterated rannygazoo from top to bottom.

“After trying to make sense of the gibberish on its website, I asked the Competition Bureau how many times it’s gone after companies for what it calls price maintenance since it issued its new “enforcement guidelines” in 2014.

The answer: None. Zero.

“Nevertheless,” said a spokeswoman in an email, Canadians should rest assured the bureau remains vigilant: “The Competition Bureau will not hesitate to take appropriate action where it believes price maintenance has occurred.”

Okay. Good to know.”

*sigh* – WTG Competition Bureau.  :/

[Source: cbc.ca]

And yet, many corporate members of society do their utmost to avoid doing so.  Funny how so much has been intoned by corporations about ethical obligations, yet so many fail this one basic test.

 

  This piece from Linda Tirado – describes her experience of what it is like to be poor and how that works into your life and your goals… go read the full article at Alternet.org.

“I make a lot of poor financial decisions. None of them matter, in the long term. I will never not be poor, so what does it matter if I don’t pay a thing and a half this week instead of just one thing? It’s not like the sacrifice will result in improved circumstances; the thing holding me back isn’t that I blow five bucks at Wendy’s. It’s that now that I have proven that I am a Poor Person that is all that I am or ever will be. It is not worth it to me to live a bleak life devoid of small pleasures so that one day I can make a single large purchase. I will never have large pleasures to hold on to. There’s a certain pull to live what bits of life you can while there’s money in your pocket, because no matter how responsible you are you will be broke in three days anyway. When you never have enough money it ceases to have meaning. I imagine having a lot of it is the same thing.

Poverty is bleak and cuts off your long-term brain. It’s why you see people with four different babydaddies instead of one. You grab a bit of connection wherever you can to survive. You have no idea how strong the pull to feel worthwhile is. It’s more basic than food. You go to these people who make you feel lovely for an hour that one time, and that’s all you get. You’re probably not compatible with them for anything long-term, but right this minute they can make you feel powerful and valuable. It does not matter what will happen in a month. Whatever happens in a month is probably going to be just about as indifferent as whatever happened today or last week. None of it matters. We don’t plan long-term because if we do we’ll just get our hearts broken. It’s best not to hope. You just take what you can get as you spot it.”

But what kills me, after reading article is going to the crowd sourced funding page and looking at the comments.  I stopped after the first 40 because of the accusations and the scrutiny.  People are horrible and inhumane, especially so when they think that a poor person might be scamming the system.  If they only held the actual scammers (Wall Street et al.) in such high contempt…

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