Monday, November 28, 2011

Some interesting observations on unemployment

Today I read the article below and thought the author made some interesting observations about the current problem with jobs in America. See what you is an excerpt:

Yes, it's huge. But only 50 people work there.

Optimists argue that the solution to the US's sky-high unemployment and income inequality is more companies like Apple--the resurgent tech company that has revolutionized the digital industry and become one of the most valuable companies in the world.

Apple has not not only created amazing, beloved products. It has created enormous profits, vast shareholder wealth, and more than 60,000 jobs.

If only America produced more companies like Apple (and Amazon, and Google, and Facebook, et al), the story goes, the country's problems will be fixed. America can retrain its vast, idle construction-and-manufacturing workforce, and our unemployment and inequality problems will be solved.

And it is true that having more companies like Apple would certainly help the US.

But we would need a lot more companies like Apple to make a dent in our unemployment and inequality problems.


Thursday, November 03, 2011

The Network of Global Corporate Control

To go along with the preceding post, here is a fascinating scholarly paper brought to my attention by my colleague Greg Leffel. The article offers a very detailed accounting of how a very small number of transnational corporations exert tremendous control over the sum total of decision making capacity in the global economy. The bulk of the article is very highly technical, but has enough plain text to convey the central points. So, just try to look past all the mathematics (as I did!), and focus on the text. Here is a short excerpt from the beginning of the paper:

"The structure of the control network of transnational corporations affects global market competition and financial stability. So far, only small national samples were studied and there was no appropriate methodology to assess control globally. We present the first investigation of the architecture of the international ownership network, along with the computation of the control held by each global player. We find that transnational corporations form a giant bow-tie structure and that a large portion of control flows to a small tightly-knit core of financial institutions. This core can be seen as an economic “super-entity” that raises new important issues both for researchers and policy makers."

Poorest of the poor: Now 1 in 15 Americans

Though sobering and disheartening, this is a nice summary article on the deepening demographic realities of poverty in America. Here are a couple of excerpts:

"New census data paint a stark portrait of the nation's haves and have-nots at a time when unemployment remains persistently high. It comes a week before the government releases first-ever economic data that will show more Hispanics, elderly and working-age poor have fallen into poverty.

In all, the numbers underscore the breadth and scope by which the downturn has reached further into mainstream America."

"For the first time, the share of Hispanics living in poverty is expected to surpass that of African-Americans based on the new measure, reflecting in part the lower participation of immigrants and non-English speakers in government aid programs such as housing and food stamps. The 2009 census estimates show 27.6 percent of all Hispanics living in poverty, compared with 23.4 percent for blacks.

Alba Alvarez, 52, a nanny who chatted recently in Miami, said she is lucky because her employer rents an apartment to her and her husband at a low rate in a comfortable neighborhood on the bay. But her adult children, who followed her to the U.S. from Honduras, are having a tougher time.

They initially found work in a regional wholesale fruit and vegetable market that supplies many local supermarkets. But her youngest son recently lost his job, and since he has no legal status, he cannot get any help from the government.

"As a mother, I feel so horrible. There's this sense of powerlessness. I wanted things to be better for them in this country," Alvarez said. "I (recently) suggested my youngest go back to Honduras. It's easier for me to help him there than here, where rent and everything is so expensive."