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A few well-written words can convey a wealth of information, particularly when there is no lag time between when they are written and when they are read. The IPS blog gives you an opportunity to hear directly from IPS scholars and staff on ideas large and small and for us to hear back from you.

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Entries tagged "new economy"

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From Arab Spring to Wisconsin to Wall Street to October 12

October 6, 2011 ·

Today, the occupation of Wall Street spreads to Washington, where it's gaining momentum. These occupations are focusing the nation's attention on confronting the giant corporations that have grabbed too much economic and political power after decades of deregulation, subsidies, tax avoidance, and bailouts. In cities across the country, other occupations are beginning with the message that we must shift from a speculative Wall Street economy to a green Main Street economy and address extreme wealth inequality.

The roots of this new social movement reach deep into the soil of Egypt and Wisconsin, where hundreds of thousands of people made the statement with their bodies that they would be present until governments that were oppressing their basic rights were changed. Occupy Wall Street and Occupy DC are aiming their sights on both a rapacious Wall Street and a corrupt Washington. They are demanding that jobs come before cuts, and that Wall Street, corporations, and the wealthy pay for those jobs.

This week, IPSers Chuck Collins and Sarah Anderson joined courageous lawmakers Bernie Sanders and Barbara Lee to release a new study on tax dodging corporations at the "Take Back the American Dream" conference hosted by our board member, Robert Borosage. Our "America Loses" study exposes 58 "built-to-loot" firms that reaped billions from a 2004 "tax holiday" and then proceeded to slash nearly 600,000 jobs. Many of these corporate giants are now lobbying for another "tax holiday." We urge you to add your voice to those saying no.

And as we say no to Wall Street, we say yes to honoring today's heroes. We invite you to join us Wednesday, October 12 at the National Press Club for the 35th annual Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights awards reception and ceremony as we pay tribute to the leaders of the progressive Wisconsin struggle and a valiant Mexican group that protects the rights of migrants. Don't miss out on one of DC's must-attend events for progressives. Buy your tickets today.

Please join the youth-led movements on the streets and donate to help the Institute's efforts to do the work that provides the facts, figures, and analysis that will help these movements win.

Sign up to receive the Institute's Unconventional Wisdom newsletter every Thursday.

Will Obama's Push for Jobs Lead to a New Economy?

September 9, 2011 ·

It is wonderful to be back full-time at IPS – 15 months is a long time to be away. I'm deeply indebted to the Institutes' staff, board, and supporters like you for keeping IPS vibrant.

I want to thank Joy Zarembka in particular for guiding IPS during my sabbatical. Joy brought wisdom beyond her years to the helm, and we're stronger because of it. We're also greatly pleased that Joy will stay at the Institute, moving into the position of Associate Director. You'll see both of us writing for Unconventional Wisdom and sharing leadership as IPS confronts the greatest social and political challenges of the day.

Tonight, President Obama will address one of those challenges in a critical speech on his plan to create jobs. IPS has argued that any plan must build a new economy by shifting resources from speculative Wall Street firms to green Main Street firms. Central to this are revenue-raising measures aimed at reducing our country's immense inequality. Last week, we deepened our analysis with the release of our report, Executive Excess 2011: The Massive CEO Rewards for Tax Dodging. It was perhaps our best media day ever, garnering coverage in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Nation, The Hill, Politico, CNN, the Chicago Tribune, and hundreds of other outlets.

The report found that corporate tax dodging has gotten so out of control that 25 major U.S. corporations last year paid their chief executive more than they paid Uncle Sam in federal income taxes. And these people – the nation's CEOs – are reaping awesomely lavish rewards for the tax dodging they have their corporations do. Obama would do well to urge Congress in his address to pass the Stop Tax Havens Abuse Act as one small step to curb corporate tax dodgers. Tune in to our blog and twitter stream tonight to get our breaking reactions to the speech.

As our country reflects upon the 9/11 terrorist attacks, many commentators are focusing on the role of the United States. But the past decade of fighting apparently endless wars confirms that Washington lacks the power and responsibility to serve as the global cop. As IPS expert John Feffer explains, "The problem isn't out there. It's right here, in the minds of those who believe that the United States is essential to managing these conflicts."

Finally, I invite you to join IPS as we remember two of our colleagues killed in the first act of foreign terrorism on U.S. soil – the assassination of Orlando Letelier and Ronni Karpen Moffitt at Sheridan Circle on September 18 and at the Letelier-Moffit Human Rights Awards on October 12.

Unconventional Wisdom is a biweekly newsletter published by the Institute for Policy Studies. To receive Unconventional Wisdom or other IPS newsletters in your inbox, sign up here.

Reality TV's "Stories of Stuff"

September 8, 2011 ·

Watch out Annie Leonard and the “The Story of Stuff!” Reality TV is on the stuff beat.

If you’ve missed reality shows like Pawn Stars, Storage Wars, and American Pickers, then you’ve missed a fascinating front in the expanding “new economy.”

These reality shows are an unwitting window in to the new green economy, showing just how cool and profitable it is to reuse and repurpose old stuff. Environmentalists know that reusing creates a “closed loop” in the production process, saving all the upstream inputs and keeping things out of landfills and incinerators. (For the full explanation, watch Annie Leonard’s excellent original Story of Stuff.) 

The Gold & Silver Pawn Shop in Las Vegas teaches lessons on repurposing through the hit show "Pawn Stars." CC photo by Pocheco.No one on these reality shows offers platitudes to saving the earth or utters an ecological thought. But the shows offer important lessons about both the dark side of accumulation and the ingenuity of those who are repurposing stuff and earning a living while doing it. 

Unfortunately, we must start our reality TV tour with the hoarders. Hoarding: Buried Alive and Hoarders dramatize the folks who compulsively fill their homes with stuff until health and human services professionals are called in. Stuff crams these homes from floor to ceiling. These shows baldly expose a convergence of dysfunctions: addiction, debt, overconsumption, and isolation. They’re truly gut-wrenching, and the only appropriate response seems to be a quick prayer and a click of the remote. It is impossible to watch without feeling like a horrible voyeur.

But moving on from the hoarders we meet the “pickers.” On Americans Pickers, two men drive around the country in a big van and knock on doors where they see houses overflowing with stuff. They wheel and deal and ultimately cart off a few choice items from these homes, leaving the homeowner a bit richer but still, usually, drowning in stuff.

The most riveting show is Storage Wars. Here, three men plus a husband-and-wife team bid on items in “foreclosed” storage units after glimpsing the contents for only a few minutes. Why only a few minutes, you might ask? One can only assume that storage warriors prefer a bit of drama and mystery built into their business model. (NPR’s This American Life also did a story on this phenomenon a few years ago.) 

What goes largely unlamented on Storage Wars are the people losing the storage units. Who are they, and why did they stop paying the rent on the unit? Why were they storing this stuff in the first place, instead of keeping it in their homes? The  “signs of the times” are invisible but present: was it a lost job, a foreclosed home? Was it a case of over-consumption, and the stuff just wouldn’t fit?

The tragedies of the old debt-based consumption economy stare us in the face as each unit’s yawning door is pulled open. But even as we lament this, the storage warriors zip into the opening like zealous entrepreneurs. They’re full of new life for old stuff.

These programs are just the tip of the iceberg wh>en it comes to stuff-based reality TV. There’s also Pawn Stars (the most popular show, featuring the colorful owners and customers of Gold & Silver Pawn Shop in Las Vegas), Hardcore Pawn (about Detroit's biggest pawn shop) and Picker Sisters (Lifetime’s answer to the male American Pickers, it’s about two women who travel the country looking for things to repurpose for their funky home décor shop).

What can we make of the fact that livelihoods based on reusing and repurposing have risen to such prominence in American pop culture that they merit multiple reality TV shows?

For one thing, it’s encouraging that so many people who appear not to give a fig for the environment are on the cutting edge of reusing, recycling and repurposing. The transition to a new economy won’t get far if we can’t make our livelihoods in it. The good news is that there’s money to be made by keeping stuff out of landfills – and even money to be made by featuring this on TV!

We could also speculate that a robust secondary market means that we’re all a little less obsessed with the shiny and the new. Or, perhaps this is a  temporary blip – and most folks are secretly dying to get back into the mall.

Oh America, you have woven a truly rich story of stuff. And now as we try to back out of over-consumptive madness into something more sustainable and healthy, we need everyone on board. Advocates for the new economy have something to learn from all the pickers, storage warriors, and pawn stars leading the way, and making a buck while doing it.

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