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Jack Rasmus reviews the continuing collapse of global oil prices and its effect on the emerging recession in Russia, continuing economic stagnation in Europe, and the deepening Depression in the Ukraine economy.   Rasmus discusses how the global oil price collapse may be entering a second phase soon, further impacting not only the major oil commodity producers (Russia, Venezuela, Nigeria, Norway, Mexico, etc.), but now, increasingly, the economies of other non-oil commodity producers (Brazil, Indonesia, India, Turkey, and others).  Additional pressures appear to be building as well on global financial asset markets, especially US and European corporate junk bonds.  How this is related to last week’s US Federal Reserve decision to put off raising US interest rates another 2-3 months, and the subsequent latest surge in the US stock market, is explained. Jack then discusses developments in the Russian economy as it clearly enters recession; the feedback effects of Russia’s recession on Germany and other eastern European economies; and the further feedback effects of both in turn on the deepening Depression in the Ukraine. Jack concludes with a detailed review of the negative effects of the IMF bailout on Ukraine, the recent installation of US and EU citizens as economics and finance ministers in Ukraine’s new government, Poroshenko and Yatsenyuk’s pleading for more aid from the west, and latest hard nose demands by the IMF and G7 for Ukraine to impose even more austerity on its people if it wants more loans in 2015.

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Dr. Jack Rasmus discusses the current global oil price deflation that began in earnest last June and is now accelerating, driving global oil from a prior 2014 high of $115/barrel to a recent low of $59.  Jack explains how the net effect on the global economy will likely prove to b significantly negative overall, and that the price decline could fall as low as $40/barrel in coming months.  The impact on Emerging Market Economies, already seriously slowing or in recession, will also prove significant—causing their currencies to collapse even further and in turn generating capital flight, declining credit availability, slowing investment, rising inflation, and inability of emerging market businesses and governments to finance previous incurred debt. Oil price deflation will almost certainly push Europe and Japan into general deflation and further recession, and toward more QE money injections that will further generate asset price bubbles.  Rasmus predicts China’s current economic slowdown will continue in turn as Europe, Japan and Emerging markets slow their purchases of China exports.  The contrary popular USA notion that lower oil prices mean lower gasoline prices and therefore more spending by USA  consumers and businesses is challenged.  In conclusion, Jack discusses how oil deflation globally could set off another round of financial instability worldwide, and how it will likely mean the ‘shale gas/oil fracking’ boom in the USA will now stall and could potentially set off a ‘junk bond market’ crisis in the USA similar to the subprime market real estate bust of 2007-09.  Will the global oil glut and deflation lead to another ‘Asian Meltdown’, this time even more geographically dispersed;  and, in the USA, will it lead to another ‘oil patch’ crash that occurred in the US southwest in the 1980s—this time affecting North Dakota-Wyoming, Alaska, and Pennsylvania as well as Texas and the southwest?  (Read Dr. Rasmus recent posting on the PRN website, ‘The Economic Consequences of Global Oil Deflation’, for further analyses).

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Dr. Jack Rasmus interviews contingent faculty professors at several colleges in California, who are part of a growing wave in the USA of higher education professionals organizing themselves into unions in order to bargain collectively to change their current ‘second class’ employment citizenship as contingents. With talk of insufficient wage growth in the USA having become a common public topic of discussion in the USA in recent months, Dr. Rasmus focuses on one of the major causes: the explosive growth of contingent (i.e. part time, temporary) professional employment in US colleges and universities. Once only 22% of the entire professorial faculty at colleges, today contingent faculty constitute 70-75% of all professors teaching in higher education.  With lower pay than tenured faculty, often with no benefits, and always no job security, contingent professors are beginning to organize themselves into unions to improve their working conditions.  Dr. Rasmus interviews three contingent professors at California colleges that have just organized, or are organizing, into unions as part of the Service Employees International Union: at St. Marys College, Mills College, and California College of the Arts.  The professors discuss why they and their colleagues chose to unionize, what the process was like, and what they are now doing as they prepare for bargaining with their respective administrations. Guests interviewed include Lain Hart from St. Marys College, Ben Browne from Mills College, and Hugh Behm-Steinberg at California College of the Arts all located in the San Francisco Bay area.

 

Interview Participants:

 

Hugh Behm-Steinberg is a Senior Adjunct Professor at California College of the Arts, where he teaches in the MFA Writing and Undergraduate Writing and Literature Programs. A recipient of Wallace Stegner and NEA creative writing fellowships, and the author of multiple books of poetry, he has taught as an adjunct at CCA for fifteen years. He is a member of the SEIU-CCA contract bargaining team.

 

Dr. R. Ben Brown has a PhD in History from the University of Michigan and a JD from Vanderbilt University.  He teaches U.S. Legal and Constitutional history in the Legal Studies Department at UC Berkeley, where he has a continuing appointment protected by Union contract.  He teaches in the History and Public Policy Departments at Mills college where he is a member of the interim bargaining team.

 

Lain Hart teaches in the Composition Department of Saint Mary's College of California and is the author of several academic publications, and lives in Oakland, California 

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Dr. Jack Rasmus describes Japan’s latest 2014 recession as yet another example of growing global Capitalist economic contradictions. With its stock markets booming, exports rising, unemployment at a 16 year low, interest rates at zero and massive money injections by its central bank—how is it that Japan’s economy has plunged again the last six months into a severe recession once again?  Is it that it has introduced QE monetary policies too ‘late’, as one wing of mainstream economists argue (i.e. ‘retro classicalists’)?  Or is it because it has not introduced fiscal stimulus government spending, as another wing of economists argue (i.e. ‘hybrid keynesians’)? Jack challenges both explanations. Real wages and real household income continues to decline, and consumption falter in turn, Jack argues, because job growth has been largely ‘contingent’(part time/temp), because Japan QE/monetary policy has depressed its currency by 35% and raise the cost of consumer imports that reduces real wages still further, and because Japan fiscal policy raised consumer taxes and reduced household income still further in turn.  Jack argues Japan is yet another ‘model’ and example of how capitalist monetary policies driving the world economy today bail out wealthy investors, bankers, and multinational companies first and quickly, but result in a failure to boost real investment, jobs and average consumer incomes as well in the process. With little household demand for real goods and services, businesses cut labor costs (wages) instead to boost profit margins and then hoard their cash, or invest it offshore, or divert it to financial asset speculation globally.  Capitalist monetary policies bail out the rich, but simultaneously cause the rest of the global economy to gradually grind to a halt—Japan being but the latest, and most extreme, example of the growing contradictions of global capital today.

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In the wake of the recent midterm elections, Dr. Rasmus describes how the new Republican controlled Congress is about to develop new policies on behalf of Corporate America, many of which represent a resurrection of past policies of the Bush administration—i.e. old wine in new bottles. Rasmus identifies and explains the likely emerging new policy initiatives in the weeks and months immediately ahead: more corporate tax cuts, accelerated push for free trade for pacific rim countries and europe, immigration reform defined as more policing and fences, rollbacks of environmental protection initiatives (Xl pipeline, industrial plant emissions, public lands fracking, EPA funding, international CO2 limits), Affordable Care Act revisions (more business exemptions, cost shifting to consumers, limits on Medicaid), limits on financial regulation under the Dodd-Frank Act, more aggressive foreign policy action (green light for conflicts and funding of proxies in Syria, US troops to Iraq again, Ukraine (US advisers, special ops, money), NATO push into east Europe (Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia), more freedom of action for NSA spying on US citizens and limits on free speech and assembly. Jack explains how the new emerging policy offensive fits in the four decade long current pro-corporate offensive in America by US government and institutions. Jack provides an historical context for it all and  how resistance represents the latest effort in a centuries long struggle by American people to expand and defend their democratic, civil and economic rights since the American revolution period of 1776-1787.

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Jack Rasmus takes a look at why Austerity policies were introduced in 2008-09 and why they continue still today, evolving into new forms, despite their proven negative impact on economic recovery.  Jack challenges liberal economists like Paul Krugman who lament the continuation of such policies, explaining Liberals don’t understand the purpose and function of austerity policies, which are integral to capitalist  recovery strategies since 2008.  Austerity is the complement to a primary focus in advanced capitalist economies on monetary policy as the preferred strategy for economic recovery—i.e. central banks’ bailouts of private banks and investors via QE, zero rates, auctions and forward guidelines. While monetary policy is primary, austerity is a necessary complement, Jack explains, to bank bailouts which produce slow, intermittent, and 5-10 year or more economic recovery trajectories. Jack looks at how Austerity has functioned so far in Europe, USA, Japan and now Ukraine, why it has continued and why it will continue, morphing in to new forms.  Austerity policy is a class policy and integral to capitalists’ view of how recovery should be engineered, Jack explains. That’s why Krugman and others don’t understand why it continues.  (Next week’s show is  ‘Back to the Future’, a detailed look at the new Republican Congress’s 10 priorities for the next two years, that are just a rehash and resurrection of George W. Bush policies in new form going forward).

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Jack Rasmus gives his initial commentary on the Nov. 4 US midterm elections and what comes next in 2015-16.  Prior predictions that Republicans would win at least 7 seats in the Senate have been confirmed (but two more seats, Alaska and Louisiana, most likely to soon go Republican as well.  The roots of the ‘shellacking 2’  on Nov. 4 lay in Obama and Democrat policies adopted in summer 2010, Jack explains in detail, as well as Democrat refusal to act decisively since 2012 on immigration reform, youth jobs and education debt, and on union labor issues---the three key constituencies that gave Obama one more chance in 2012 but abandoned him and Democrats last week. Jack contrasts Obama’s midterm 2010 weak response to help ‘main street’ to Roosevelt’s 1934 midterm election decision to press ahead, despite intense business opposition, with ‘bailing out main street’ with his(FDR’s) New Deal announced in 1934 and launched 1935 after Democrats swept their ‘midterms’ in Nov. 1934. Now emboldened Republicans will go on the offensive in 2015-16, Jack predicts, making their past (2010-14)attitudes appear friendly in comparison. More George W. Bush initiatives now return. High on agenda—corporate tax cuts, free trade, deficit cuts, immigration reform mothballing, more support for wars in middle east, Ukraine, and elsewhere. Will Obama stand up and veto and initiate executive action and orders? Don’t count on it. Jack’s prediction: he’ll turn to Clinton ‘triangulation’ (i.e concessions) politics more likely, as Mr. President ‘Jello’ (i.e. stands in place, makes believe he’s moving but doesn’t) likely becomes a Bill Clinton ‘retread’ in final two years.  In the second half of show, Jack continues his interview with Mark Dudzic, main organizer of the 1993-2007 ‘labor party’ initiative in the USA. Both discuss what are the lessons of that failed labor party effort, can it ever be revived and, if so, how in practical terms?

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Jack Rasmus gives his view and analysis of the likely outcome of next week’s US midterm elections, providing reasons why the Democrats will lose the Senate this time around.  The 2014 midterms should be viewed as a continuation of the 2010 midterms he argues: in 2010 the Democrats lost the House of Representatives largely because of failure to address the major economic problems of that preceding summer—with job losses rising, 300,000 monthly housing foreclosures, and falling middle class incomes in 2010 on the eve of the 2010 midterms.  Jack argues that, notwithstanding recent reports in the US mainstream press, jobs, housing and incomes have not recovered much today in 2014.  6 million official new hires have been offset by 8 million leaving the labor force; 76% of the new jobs have been part time and temp; and low wage growth has been the norm, as housing has stalled after only half recovery and working incomes continue to decline.  The key constituencies that put Obama and Democrats back in office are more discontent today as well: Hispanic and latino voters, students and youth, and union labor in the Midwest have all been greatly disappointed, Rasmus argues. More deportations, rising student debt and poor job prospects for youth, and betrayals of union workers by the administration—coupled with continuing economic stress—will lead to Republican Senate control next week. The key constituencies won’t vote Republican; they will simply stay home and not vote Democrat. Loss of the Senate will lead to new aggressive right wing economic, domestic, and more military oriented foreign policy proposals by the new Republican-Right Wing controlled US Congress, Rasmus notes. (See Rasmus’ recent article, ‘USA Midterm Elections: Past and Present’, posted on the PRN website for more detailed analysis).

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Jack Rasmus invites one of the key organizers of the union effort to launch a USA labor party in the 1990s, Mark Dudzic, in the Alternative Vision show’s third weekly show focusing on strategies and tactics for initiating independent political action.  Dudzic describes the initial strategy employed by union activists in the early 1990s to launch a bonafide third party in the USA based on the trade union movement. Dudzic describes how the initial ‘labor party advocates’ of 82 union activists and local union officers and staffers launched in Chicago in the early 1990s evolved into the Labor Party Founding Convention in Cleveland in 1996 attended by 1400 delegates. The specific strategies and tactics to form and build a labor party at the time are described by Dudzic, as well as the initial organizational forms of the movement. How those strategies, tactics and organization evolved over time are addressed, as well as how they differ from a ‘Fusion’ party approach used by the ‘working families party’ in New York today. Dudzic also describes how the labor party fared with alliances and running local candidates, what broad social forces initially supported the movement for a labor party in the 1990s, and then changed, leading to its decline beginning in 2000 and after until the official disbanding of the labor party initiative nationwide in 2007. The Labor Party experience raises the question: is a third party, organized from ‘within the union movement’, based upon and relying primarily on support from top union leadership, a viable strategy today for launching independent political action?  Subsequent shows in the series will consider more deeply the ‘lessons of the Labor Party’ experience, as well as the experiences of other parties challenging the one Corporate Party (aka Democrat-Republican) in America today. Next Week: interviews and discussions with candidates of successful grass roots local independent elections.

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Jack Rasmus invites presidential candidate of the Green Party, Jill Stein, to discuss the second in the series of shows on ‘which way for independent political action’.  Jill provides her party’s view of what strategies and tactics are on the agenda today in the USA to engage in independent political action, and how the Green Party’s approach differs from other progressive parties and other approaches that reject a political party form of organization for engaging in independent politics.  Jill explains how the Green Party’s strategy is both electoral and orientation toward mass movements, which are expanding and growing on a number of ‘fronts’ in the USA—immigrants, low wage workers, community protests against fracking, anti-police repression, and so forth. The focus of the discussion is not on what’s wrong with the mainstream Republican-Democrat parties. That is assumed to be evident. The focus of today’s show is a discussion  on ‘how best to engage in independent political action’—and what strategies, tactics and organizational forms are today most relevant to building independent politics. Next week’s third interview in the 4 part series on independent politics in the runup to the November elections will welcome former lead organizer for the Labor Party initiative that was launched by the AFLCIO in the 1990s, Mark Dudzic. Dudzic will discuss the history of that effort, its successes and eventual failure and whether another Labor Party initiative is on the agenda.

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