Archive for June, 2013

The President’s Climate Action Plan | Executive Office of the President

While no single step can reverse the effects of climate change, we have a moral obligation to future generations to leave them a planet that is not polluted and damaged. Through steady, responsible action to cut carbon pollution, we can protect our children’s health and begin to slow the effects of climate change so that we leave behind a cleaner, more stable environment.

In 2009, President Obama made a pledge that by 2020, America would reduce its greenhouse gas emissions in the range of 17 percent below 2005 levels if all other major economies agreed to limit their emissions as well. Today, the President remains firmly committed to that goal and to building on the progress of his first term to help put us and the world on a sustainable long-term trajectory. Thanks in part to the Administration’s success in doubling America’s use of wind, solar, and geothermal energy and in establishing the toughest fuel economy standards in our history, we are creating new jobs, building new industries, and reducing dangerous carbon pollution which contributes to climate change. In fact, last year, carbon emissions from the energy sector fell to the lowest level in two decades. At the same time, while there is more work to do, we are more energy secure than at any time in recent history. In 2012, America’s net oil imports fell to the lowest level in 20 years and we have become the world’sleading producer of natural gas – the cleanest-burning fossil fuel.

Read the whole plan at whitehouse.gov.

New Legislation Helps Drive the National Cooperative Movement | PR Newswire

WASHINGTON, June 20, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The chief Congressional champion for the national cooperative movement, Congressman Chaka Fattah (D-PA), has introduced H.R. 2437, the Creating Jobs Through Cooperatives Act.

The legislation authorizes $25 million per year through 2017 to create the National Cooperative Development Program within the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. This program will provide assistance in a number of ways including:

  • awarding grants to nonprofit organizations, colleges and universities for technical assistance to cooperatives or groups seeking to form co-ops;
  • providing guidance, best practices and technical assistance to communities seeking to establish cooperatives;
  • creating a revolving loan fund to provide seed capital to groups attempting to form cooperatives; and
  • provide funding to train providers with technical assistance and support existing professional development for organizations engaged in cooperative development.

Read the whole press release at PR Newswire.

Our Broken Social Contract | The New York Times

By Thomas B. Edsall

Many Americans think that their country has lost its way. But when they try to make sense of what’s happening, they disagree about whether the problem is essentially economic or whether it stems from cultural and moral decay.

Charles Murray, the provocative author of “Coming Apart” and “The Bell Curve,” argues that the cultural insurgencies of the 1960s yanked crucial underpinnings out from the social order and undermined traditional norms of self-restraint, responsibility, family, faith and country. Murray’s latest portrayal of America’s social deterioration focuses on the long-term impact of these insurgencies, notably on a typical, though fictional, working-class community he calls Fishtown. Fishtown is made up of whites who “have no academic degree higher than a high school diploma. If they work, their job must be in a blue-collar, service, or low-level white-collar occupation.”

Murray continues:

Now let us return to the relationship of Fishtown’s decline with America’s civic culture. The decline of industriousness among Fishtown males strikes at the heart of the signature of America’s civic culture — the spirit of enterprise, stick-to-it-iveness, and hard work to make a better life for oneself and one’s children. The divergence in marriage and the rise of single-parent homes has cascading effects. The webs of civic engagement in an ordinary community are spun largely by parents who are trying to foster the right environment for their children — lobbying the city council to install four-way stop signs at an intersection where children play, coaching the Little League teams, using the P.T.A. to improve the neighborhood school. For that matter, many of the broader political issues in a town or small city are fought out because of their direct and indirect effects on the environment for raising children. Married fathers are a good source of labor for these tasks. Unmarried fathers are not. Nor can the void be filled by the moms. Single mothers who want to foster the right environment for their children are usually doing double duty already, trying to be the breadwinner and an attentive parent at the same time. Few single mothers have much time or energy to spare for community activities.

An eloquent description of American social dysfunction comes from my colleague David Brooks, writing about Edward Snowden, who leaked information on domestic surveillance. Brooks argues that Snowden is the product of an upbringing lacking “gently gradated authoritative structures: family, neighborhood, religious group, state, nation and world,” who thus became party to a

rising tide of distrust, the corrosive spread of cynicism, the fraying of the social fabric and the rise of people who are so individualistic in their outlook that they have no real understanding of how to knit others together and look after the common good.

A very different assessment of where and how America has lost its ethical and moral moorings comes from Alan Krueger, the chairman of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers. Krueger has argued in two recent appearances, at Oberlin College and more recently at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (of all places) that the uncritical worship of the free market in the 1980s allowed the nation’s corporate elite to abandon longstanding constraints in its treatment of labor, especially in shifting the rewards of rising productivity from employees to the owners of capital.

With the blessing of the new right, Krueger argues, corporate America has abandoned its commitment to the commonweal over the past three decades. It no longer honors norms of fairness and equality. To Krueger, it is in the economic sphere that American integrity has been eroded and its ideals corrupted.

At Oberlin, Krueger put it this way:

In considering reasons for the growing wage gap between the top and everyone else, economists have tended to shy away from considerations of fairness and instead focus on market forces, mainly technological change and globalization. But given the compelling evidence that considerations of fairness matter for wage setting, I would argue that we need to devote more attention to the erosion of the norms, institutions and practices that maintain fairness in the job market. We also need to focus on the policies that can lead to more widely shared – and stronger – economic growth. It is natural to expect that market forces such as globalization would weaken norms and institutions that support fairness in wage setting. Yet I would argue that the erosion of the institutions and practices that support fairness has gone beyond market forces.

As the point man for the Obama administration on economic policy, Krueger has become the leading opponent of those who believe that growing inequality and middle-class stagnation are the inevitable consequences of technological innovation and the disruptive force of globalization.

Read the whole op-ed at The New York Times.

Can co-ops remake America’s economy from the ground up? | Marketplace

Federal Reserve policymakers have generally relied on tweaking interest rates as a strategy for jump staring the economy. But in a country where wages adjusted for inflation have been stuck in place for almost a decade, some scholars think the economy needs a more aggressive overhaul.

Gar Alperovitz is a political economist and historian. His new book, called “What Then Must We Do: Straight Talk About the Next American Revolution”, details systemic changes for the economy. He says co-ops are key to the nation’s recovery.

“Most people don’t realize that changing the ownership of wealth means one person, one vote. That’s what a co-op is. 130 million Americans are already members of co-ops — they are all over the country and people just don’t notice them,” he says. “It’s a different very American, down-home way to begin looking at democratizing ownership, starting at the bottom and working up from the grassroots.”

Listen to the whole interview with Alperovitz at Marketplace.

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