Our March/April 2022 issue is at the printer and the digital version is about to be sent to e-subscribers. We published John Miller’s cover story, “The Fed’s New Tools,” yesterday, and Bob Pollin’s commentary, “Solving the climate crisis with nuclear power won’t work,” a few days ago. . Here is Fr. 2 editorial notes for the issue:
Is there an alternative?
As John Miller explains in the cover story of this issue, the standard teaching on monetary policy in an introductory macroeconomics course has always been misleading, but since the financial crisis of 2008-2009 it has become alarmingly exceeded. The economic crisis that resulted from the pandemic confirms this. Moreover, the new tools that the Federal Reserve has adopted to regulate interest rates have widened the gap between rich and poor. The Fed now appears poised to “tighten the monetary tap,” which, as Miller notes, “would slow the economy and cost workers their jobs.” Miller offers an alternative to such monetary austerity: tax the wealth of people who have earned so much from the Fed’s pro-stock market policies and use the proceeds for government spending that “will make growth more equitable and sustainable.”
Alternatives to the status quo – austerity and free market solutions that serve the rich and hurt ordinary people and the planet – are a theme of this issue of Dollars and senses. Two articles quote British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s saying that “There is no alternative” (TINA) to neoliberalism. James M. Cypher’s report on Chile under its new president, Gabriel Boric, traces the history of the ideological alliance between Thatcher and Augusto Pinochet, who ruled Chile for 17 years, and the dominance of TINA in the administrations neoliberals who followed his regime. The massive protests of 2019 and 2020 demanded an alternative; Boric is about to hand him over – if the powers that be allow him. And Henry Williams, a participant in the D&S Writing Workshop, mentions TINA in her review of Anne Case and Angus Deaton The Dead of Despair and the Future of Capitalism. Case and Deaton document the devastating effects of free market capitalism, but their blind spot – excluding the possibility of an alternative to free market capitalism – means they are unable to identify free market capitalism as the cause of these ailments.
Naomi Oreskes and Jeff Nesbit explain “How ‘Big Oil’ Makes the System Work and Keeps Winning.” Over the years, oil companies have successfully outwitted (or captured) regulators to continue making profits, even in today’s era of climate catastrophe where converting to renewable energy sources is imperative. . The stranglehold of the industry is even more evident after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The need to boycott Russian oil and gas should reinforce the alternative that climate change should have already highlighted: the urgent need to switch to renewable energy. But fossil fuel companies have such a grip on policymakers that the Biden administration is instead looking to figure out how to supply different sources of oil and gas to wean Western Europe off Russian imports.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is also a lesson for the viability of nuclear energy, as Robert Pollin shows in his Commentary for this issue. It is not surprising that interest groups such as the nuclear industry want to make nuclear energy a solution to the climate crisis. And some reputable people, including some leftist commentators, support a nuclear alternative. As Pollin explains, the invasion of Ukraine and the threat of disaster at the Chernobyl and Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plants remind us of the risks that would come with the massive expansion of new reactors if nuclear energy were to be part of a climate solution. But there is an alternative: “a high-efficiency, renewables-dominated energy infrastructure can generate a global zero-emissions economy within 30 years”.
Also in this issue: Labor researcher Robert Ovetz shows how, even if the strikes expected by many observers for last fall did not materialize, if we count the credible strike threats, which were effective in obtaining from employers’ concessions, we can get a better picture of workers’ power. And Arthur MacEwan, aka “Dr. Dollar,” shows how corporations wield their power to secure low effective tax rates. The alternative to business-friendly tax policies has always been obvious. alternative, writes MacEwan, is the same as always: “political organizing – through unions, community groups, student organizations and the like – to defeat the great power that big business wields in our Political system”.