There are some whiffs of labor militancy in the crisp autumn air. John Deere workers just rejected a recommended contract from their union leadership by about 9-1, and unless management drastically upgrades their offer it seems a strike is imminent. Mine workers have been on strike for months in Alabama. About 1,400 workers are striking at Kellogg, and every cereal plant in the company is shut down. IATSE film and TV workers are ready to strike if contract negotiations fail. Some 24,000 nurses at Kaiser Permanente are also threatening a strike over brutal hospital conditions. Even the dang Kennedy Center just narrowly avoided a strike.
It is of course hard to see clearly what is going on in the entire country at once. But I have a sneaking suspicion that the next year or two might be the most fertile moment for labor organizing in many decades. On the one hand, the American worker has simply taken it on the chin this last year and a half. Probably well over a million Americans are dead, many of them people who were just working shit jobs in meatpacking, food service, retail, and so on, because they had no choice. And that comes at the end of 40 years of neoliberal hell: chronically high unemployment, deregulation, "free" trade, deindustrialization, a crummy minimum wage, and on and on. Workers are fed up, or dead, and businesses of all kinds report difficulties hiring.
On the other hand, the pandemic has thrown a wrench into the globalized supply chain created by neoliberal dogma. It turns out the ultra-efficient "just-in-time" method of slashing spare capacity to the bone and constantly shifting production around the world to save a nickel an hour on labor costs has created an exquisitely delicate supply system that can't take a punch. Cargo ships are piling up in ports around the world and shortages of commodities of all sorts are chronic.
So workers are in short supply and also have rarely been more needed. It's the kind of leverage that doesn't come around too often – if the international working class can see the opportunity.
Housekeeping items: subscribe to the ole newsletter here, listen to my latest podcast episode on Facebook's disastrous week of news and Kyrsten Sinema's bizarre behavior here, and one last plug for my silly Lord of the Rings video. Onward to articles!
First, my secret formula for how to create a journalism business in 2021:
The overall lesson is that if you're willing to put some work in to develop and maintain a loyal readership — and you'll be satisfied with modest profits and middle-class salaries — it's not impossible to create a profitable media business even in the age of the Google/Facebook ad duopoly. It's even possible to sell ads to more tech-savvy advertisers given Facebook's long record of lying about its internal metrics and its increasingly abysmal reputation. You just have to avoid Ozy-style deceit about imminent mega-profits to swindle rube investors and actually operate the business as a going concern rather than killing it on purpose.
Second, President Biden's decision to abandon the boost to unemployment benefits was a terrible mistake:
But all that is beside the point. The point of super-unemployment was not to create jobs. It was to tide people over until the pandemic passed. That has not happened. At time of writing, the seven-day average of new cases was trending down nationally, but it's still at nearly 100,000 cases and over 1,700 deaths per day. (And those numbers are trending up in some states, including North Dakota, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota.) Given the abysmal vaccination rates in big chunks of the Midwest and Great Plains, I would guess there's at least another half a year to go before anything close to normal conditions return.
That said, his housing agenda is pretty good:
It would assist millions of people who desperately need it. Crucially, it would also create millions of new rental units and homes for purchase so that assistance doesn't simply drive up prices on a fixed housing supply. Protecting and expanding public housing in particular is a sea change in American housing policy. Williams figures homelessness — created above all by excessive housing prices — might be more than halved. More broadly, the plan signals to towns and cities that they should be building more, by hook or by crook, and the federal government will help them in that effort.
The platinum coin is an elegant way out this idiotic legal trap. As economist Rohan Grey explains on the Odd Lots podcast, 31 U.S. Code § 5112 says the Treasury "may mint and issue platinum bullion coins and proof platinum coins in accordance with such specifications, designs, varieties, quantities, denominations, and inscriptions as the Secretary, in the Secretary's discretion, may prescribe from time to time." You couldn't ask for clearer language than that. As Dylan Matthews reported in The Washington Post back in 2013, the co-author of the bill specifically intended this stipulation to be used to make a profit for the government through seignorage (that is, the difference between the face value of currency and what it costs to produce).
Finally, how tax cheating enables right-wing extremism:
All of Putin's allies and affiliates tend to behave like him. Trump (who has been a flagrant tax chiseler his entire life) blatantly used the presidency to line his own pockets. Hungary's President Viktor Orban has rigged virtually the entire Hungarian economy to flow into the pockets of himself and his inner circle. And in the Czech Republic, the Pandora Papers reveal that Prime Minister Babis — who has adopted Trump's political persona wholesale, including a signature trucker hat and a slogan of "make the Czech Republic strong again" slogan — turns out to have "moved $22 million through offshore companies to buy a lavish estate on the French Riviera in 2009 while keeping his ownership secret," reports ICIJ.
See you next week!