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Economics & consequences - Feb 23

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Zbigniew Brzezinski warns of class warfare and riots
(Video)
Morning Joe, MSNBC
Jimmy Carter’s former National Security Adviser expressed his concern about the possibility of riots on Morning Joe a couple days ago. To stave them off, he proposes the creation of a voluntary National Solidarity Fund, whose contributors would be those who made out very well in recent times.

... JOE SCARBOROUGH: You also talked about the possibility of class conflict.

ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI: I was worrying about it because we’re going to have millions and millions of unemployed, people really facing dire straits. And we’re going to be having that for some period of time before things hopefully improve. And at the same time there is public awareness of this extraordinary wealth that was transferred to a few individuals at levels without historical precedent in America . . . And you sort of say to yourself: what’s going to happen in this society when these people are without jobs, when their families hurt, when they lose their homes, and so forth?

We have the government trying to repair: repair the banking system, to bail the housing out. But what about the rich guys? Where is it? [What are they] doing?

It sort of struck me, that in 1907, when we had a massive banking crisis, when banks were beginning to collapse, there were going to be riots in the streets. Some financiers, led by J.P. Morgan, got together. He locked them in his library at one point. He wouldn’t let them out until 4:45 AM, until they all kicked in and gave some money to stabilize the banks: there was no Federal Reserve at the time.

Where is the monied class today? Why aren’t they doing something: the people who made billions, millions. I’m sort of thinking of Paulson, of Rubin. Why don’t they get together, and why don’t they organize a National Solidarity Fund in which they call on all of those who made these extraordinary amounts of money to kick some back in to [a] National Solidarity Fund?

[discussion on the polarization of US society between rich and "the rest of us"]

... BRZEZINSKI: And if we don’t get some sort of voluntary National Solidarity Fund, at some point there’ll be such political pressure that Congress will start getting in the act, there’s going to be growing conflict between the classes and if people are unemployed and really hurting, hell, there could be even riots.
(17 February 2009)
The quotes begin at about 45 seconds into the video segment. Mike Barnicle and conservative Pat Buchanan is also part of the interview. Transcript from Daily Newscaster.

Noted by multiple bloggers across the political spectrum:
James Pethokoukis blogging at US News & World Report
Iran Press TV
Global Research
Mark Finkelstein (conservative)



Huge protest over Irish economy

BBC News
About 100,000 people have taken part in protests in Dublin city centre to vent their anger at the Irish government's handling of the country's recession.

They oppose plans to impose a pension levy on 350,000 public sector workers.

Trade union organisers of the march said workers did not cause the economic crisis but were having to pay for it.

In a statement, the Irish government said it recognised that the measures it was taking were "difficult and in some cases painful".

The pension levy was "reasonable", the government said.

It reflected "the reality that we are not in a position to continue to meet the public service pay bill in the circumstances of declining revenue", it added.

Reports say the plan could cost the 350,000 public sector workers between 1,500 euros and 2,800 euros (£2,500) a year.
(20 February 2009)
BBC video on the Irish march (via YouTube)

Latest at Irish Times: Up to 120,000 people march in national protest.




Latvia’s Government Falls on Economic Toll

David L. Stern, New York Times
Latvia’s center-right coalition government collapsed Friday, a victim of the country’s growing economic and political turmoil. It was the second European government, after Iceland, to disintegrate because of the international financial crisis.

The government in Riga, faced with forecasts of a severe drop in the economy this year, was the first in Eastern Europe to succumb to turmoil caused by the crisis. Its collapse rounded out a week in which worries about feeble investment and output and shaky banks in Central and Eastern Europe coursed through international markets.

Latvia has had a history of revolving-door politics and complex coalitions since pulling free of the Soviet Union in 1991.
(20 February 2009)


In Parched Argentina, Worries Over Economy Grow

Alexei Barrionuevo, New York Times
BUENOS AIRES — Cows are dying by the thousands in the baking sun, and crops are being lost before their seeds even break the soil.

Argentina’s worst drought in more than 50 years is magnifying the country’s chances of suffering another economic crisis, and the lost farming revenue will complicate the government’s efforts to meet more than $18 billion in debt obligations this year, economists said.
(20 February 2009)



Britain faces summer of rage - police

Paul Lewis, The Guardian,
Middle-class anger at economic crisis could erupt into violence on streets
---
Police are preparing for a "summer of rage" as victims of the economic downturn take to the streets to demonstrate against financial institutions, the Guardian has learned.

Britain's most senior police officer with responsibility for public order raised the spectre of a return of the riots of the 1980s, with people who have lost their jobs, homes or savings becoming "footsoldiers" in a wave of potentially violent mass protests.

Superintendent David Hartshorn, who heads the Metropolitan police's public order branch, told the Guardian that middle-class individuals who would never have considered joining demonstrations may now seek to vent their anger through protests this year.

He said that banks, particularly those that still pay large bonuses despite receiving billions in taxpayer money, had become "viable targets". So too had the headquarters of multinational companies and other financial institutions in the City which are being blamed for the financial crisis.
(23 February 2009)



Jobless, restless China: 20 million and growing

Mark Mackinnon, Globe & Mail
... Call it the Long Ride, a modernized and peaceful version of the Long March retreat staged by Mao Zedong's Communist army 75 years ago. Only the current retreat is being staged by China's army of suddenly jobless migrant workers — an estimated 20 million of them and counting, a number larger than the combined populations of Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia. For years they were the fuel that fed China's booming economy, but this restless mass now poses a huge challenge for Beijing, which is openly fretting about the possibility of wide-scale unrest.

... In addition to the estimated 20 million, another 5 or 6 million migrant workers could lose their jobs in the month to come. Some argue that even those numbers underestimate the scope of what is happening.

As the months go by and the number of jobless mounts, there are rising concerns that desperation could turn into anger. Scarcely a day has gone by recently without a new warning from the government in Beijing about the possibility of growing social unrest.

In the short term, organized action seems unlikely, largely because independent trade unions are banned in China, leaving workers with nothing to rally around in these hard times. While workers are involved every year in tens of thousands of "mass incidents" (the official terminology for strikes and protests; there were 87,000 in 2005, the last year they were reported), nearly all have been isolated incidents that were quickly brought under control by authorities.

For now, many migrants, such as Mr. Pu and his family, have returned to their homes in the countryside, hoping to scrape by farming their tiny state-assigned plots of land, just as they did before the boom times.

... What Beijing apparently fears is that the anger will manifest somehow into a political force. Sun Chunlan, vice-chairman of the government-backed All-China Federation of Trade Unions, claimed this week that police task forces had been "rushed" to China's regions to ensure stability. "Hostile forces within and outside China [are] using the difficulties of some enterprises to infiltrate and bring trouble to rural migrant workers," he charged.

... What makes the layoffs so difficult to accept for China's migrant labourers is that they have almost nothing to fall back on. Few Chinese have unemployment insurance, health insurance or a pension of any kind. For migrant workers, their social safety net was supposed to be their farmland, though many are finding it hard to readjust to their old life.
(20 February 2009)

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