Law and Disorder Radio

WBAI Listeners Rundown December 7, 2009


Capitalism Hits the Fan: The Global Economic Meltdown and What to Do About It (THE BOOK)

Today we welcome back Rick Wolff, Professor of Economics at the University of Massachusetts to discuss his new book titled Capitalism Hits the Fan: The Global Economic Meltdown and What to Do About It.  In his book, Rick takes the reader back to 2005 and step by step reveals how policies, economic structures and wage-to-profit systems led to a global economic collapse.

Rick Wolff will give us an update on why the media claims the recession is over, he also tells us if there be another leg down as predicted in the September 21st interview. Another leg down meaning, will the economy continue to drop? This was mentioned because of the way people were investing, investing in a way that expected the market to drop.

Rick Wolff:

  • The origin of the economic crisis goes deep into history. It’s one of the key things that people don’t understand or want to face. Roots of a System’s Crisis
  • We were a country founded by foreigners coming here, they got rid of the indigenous population. They established a mix system. Capitalism on one hand, with employers and employees, and then self employed farmers and small crafts people, and in the Southern US, slavery.
  • When the dust cleared, capitalism came through, it destroyed slavery and suboridinated the self employed to be small and on the margins.
  • For 150 years – 1820-1970 the growth of capital was outrunning the available labor supply. Laborers had options, could go West.
  • For 150 years, the goods and services a person could buy from an hour of their wages kept going up. It produced a strange and unusual notion that you were blessed, if you worked hard you would make more money.
  • That Americans could have a dream like that. . their children could have a better life and deliver on the promise.
  • It drew millions of immigrants from all over the world etc.
  • Then after the 1970s capitalism reminded us that it is not a guarantee that if you work hard you will be rewarded.
  • In the last 30 years wages have not anymore gone up. It’s a sea change in our culture’s history.
  • Wages stayed the same for these reasons:
  • The arrival of the computer that substituted people for machines on a mammoth scale
  • The movement of corporations to other parts of the world to take advantage of cheaper labor.
  • Women and immigrants moving into the paid labor force. This plunged the US economy into a disaster zone.
  • The end of rising wages. Americans today work 20 percent more hours a week, than their counterparts in France, Germany or Italy.  They are exhausted physically. The families are in disarray.
  • Then to consume more, live the American dream, they borrowed on credit, the likes of which no working class in the history of the world has ever done.
  • The average debt  of US family in the 1920s equaled about 1/3 of its annual income. In 2007, the level of debt equaled 125 percent of annual income.  At the same time, the last 30 years have been greatest boom of profitability of American corporations.
  • Where did the money come from to lend unprecedented amounts?  The money came from the boom in profits made possible by there no longer being a rise in wages.  You not only get the profitability of a flat wage situation but you get the added income from the interest that comes from lending.
  • The reforms and regulations we’ve seen, don’t work.  The only thing that got Americans working again after a 10 year depression – 1929-1939, was not economic reform and regulation, it was something called WWII.
  • Corporations used their profits to weaken reform laws, buy politicians, create army of Lobbyists.
  • The American people MUST demand different responses to this crisis than what there was in the past.
  • Handing corporations the citizen’s tax money as bail out is folly.
  • We have 15 million adults looking for work, 10 million more are discouraged and have given up.
  • The first thing this government should do is provide work for the unemployed.
  • Not bailing out the banks. The private sector has failed in the United States.
  • The government should support enterprises that workers run them, form them as their own enterprises in a collective way that is different from capitalist corporations
  • Let workers choose if they want to work for an enterprise run by workers or capitalists. Let us as consumers choose from good and services produced in a non-capitalist way alongside the capitalist.

Guest – Rick Wolff, Professor of Economics at University of Massachusetts at Amherst. In his new book Capitalism Hits the Fan: The Global Economic Meltdown and What to Do About, Rick takes the reader back to 2005 and step by step reveals how policies, economic structures and wage to profit systems led to a global economic collapse.


EFFPatriotAct EFF-logo

Will The Sun Set On Surveillance? Patriot Act Reform

Recently, the House of Representatives introduced their own USA Patriot Act reform bill, responding to the Patriot Act renewal bill approved by tthe Senate Judiciary Committee. The Electronic Frontier Foundation says it’s a significant improvement over the earlier Senate bill that gave more authority to government spying power. The renewal bill was introduced by House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr. and others including Civil Liberties Subcommittee Chairman Jerrold Nadler; and Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security Subcommittee Chairman Bobby Scott. These bills are proposals that could pave the way to dismantle the broad surveillance and overreaching executive power currently intact.

Kevin Bankston:

  • Patriot passed after 9/11/2001 – a lot of the provisions were set to expire in 2005, most of those were renewed, but there were 3 provisions left to expire in the end of 2009.
  • Provisions that expanded the government’s power to get orders from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court or any tangible thing, mostly business records. They’re mostly called section 215 orders, under the Patriot Act section 215.
  • Roving wiretaps, more accurately roving “john doe” wiretaps. One that doesn’t name target, or address of target. (These sound the like the warrants our founders rebeled against)
  • Lone Wolf authority, whereby the government can get wiretapping authorities from the FISA court for people who are unrelated to any foreign power but are suspect to engage in or preparing to engage in crimes related to terrorism.
  • The Lone Wolf authority begins to un-moor from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court – it looks to be unconstitutional under the fourth amendment. Most in Obama Administration want this to expire.
  • Those are the 3 set to expire. Though worrisome, more worrisome is the National Security Letter Authority, whereby the FBI can write a letter to the court, without suspicion of terrorism, and get bank, telephone and internet records.
  • The Justice Act – Senator Feingold / Durman – reform patriot act authorities- including FISA surveillance act passed last summer, which allows foreign surveillance of Americans.
  • Also, repealing telecom immunity – Reforming the Patriot Act without addressing FISA is like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.
  • Unfortunately, Senator Leheay, instead of sponsoring Feingold’s Justice Act reform bill, came out with his own bill that didn’t address the FISA amendment acts at all. That was the bill the Judiciary Committee considered 6 weeks ago.
  • The Republicans offered to remove reforms to the already watered down bill, and the Republicans say they got their reforms from the Obama Administration.  The Obama Administration is not only falling down on its promise to reform the Patriot Act, it is working through Republicans to make these bills even worse.
  • So that’s when the USA Patriot Act reform bill, responding to the Patriot Act renewal bill approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee was proposed.
  • We have 2 lawsuits, the first was brought against AT&T in early 2006 based on news reports and whistle blower evidence based on an AT&T technician info, that the NSA had backdoor access to key domestic communication switches.
  • Whereby the NSA was sucking up millions upon millions of communications and then sorting out the stuff they were interesting in.
  • If the telecom companies aren’t willing to say “NO” when the government secretly comes to them and asks them to break the law, then all of our privacy is in big trouble.
  • We sued AT&T and then Congress passed this Telecom Immunity last summer, and our case along with others were dismissed. If the Repealing of the Telecom Immunity passes, our cases will be revived.
  • Obama can end the Telcom Immunity right now, and have Attorney General Holder withdraw the certification on which the immunity is based.

Guest –  Kevin Bankston, senior staff attorney specializing in free speech and privacy law, was the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Equal Justice Works/Bruce J. Ennis Fellow for 2003-05. His fellowship project focused on the impact of post-9/11 anti-terrorism laws and surveillance initiatives on online privacy and free expression. Before joining EFF, Kevin was the Justice William J. Brennan First Amendment Fellow for the American Civil Liberties Union in New York City. At the ACLU, Kevin litigated Internet-related free speech cases, including First Amendment challenges to both the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (Edelman v. N2H2, Inc.) and a federal statute regulating Internet speech in public libraries (American Library Association v. U.S.). Kevin received his J.D. in 2001 from the University of Southern California Law Center, and received his undergraduate degree from the University of Texas in Austin.


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