Tag Archives: neo-liberalism

California – Failure of a State

Nativists blame it on ‘dirty illegal immigrants.’ Economists are quick to point out the crash as part of a larger recessionary period that the global economy is undergoing. Politicians groan that California’s budget crisis is really Prop 13, an anti-tax measure that not only put a cap on property taxes but also requires 66% of the legislature approval to pass a budget.

It’s a little bit more complicated than that when Mark Yudof, the President of the failing University of California system, is compensated over $800K per year while students are forced to pay 33% in fee increases and thousands of teachers lose their jobs. It is a smart play: make a good public education almost unaffordable for the majority of people so when things go from bad to worse, only a few labeled as ‘Marxists’ can really explain why things are so terrible.

Supply-side economics–a neo-liberal experiment now extending to three decades–only works for the supply-side of the equation. Deregulation and privatization of public goods while making deep cuts into the social sector has led us down this path. Corporate tax loopholes are increasing while cuts to the public sector are deepening. Not everyone is suffering equally.

The state of California is not a failure–it is failing to take care of its ‘plebs.’ The rich are still getting richer.

I don’t know how this story ends. Picture abhi baaki hai mere dost.

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The World Economic Forum – The Crisis

Anti-Wef Demo Davos 2009 by JUSO Schweiz.

The ‘leaders’ of the world gathered at the World Economic Forum (WEF) this past weekend to advance the failed and flawed concept of ‘free trade’ to generate economic growth for their respective nations. The forum ended in “we don’t know what to do but we must do something quickly…”
Who elected these guys?

In the next few weeks, governments will follow the good bank / bad bank policy in an effort to get the banking sector under control. That is a short-term fix till the next crisis of capitalism.

Europe is ripe with unrest. The Guardian reports on the following protests and ‘riots’ that may be part of a larger picture of growing resentment against ‘failed states’ (and here we define failed states as those who cannot take care of the basic needs of their constituents):


Upset at the government’s handling of the economic crisis, protesters in PARIS clashed with police last week, throwing bottles and overturning cars
Thousands of protesters held rare rallies throughout RUSSIA on Saturday, calling for the resignation of the government as the country continues to sink deeper into an economic morass
Fuelled by fears of rising job cuts, wildcat strikes against foreign workers spread through oil refineries and other energy facilities in BRITAIN on Saturday
Venting their fury at the way that the political class allowed the
country to slip towards bankruptcy, ICELANDERS all but stormed their Parliament a few days ago
Last week in LATVIA—where growth has been in double-digit figures for years—10,000 people, rioting over the country’s economic troubles, besieged the parliament and threw Molotov cocktails at police
Some 7,000 protesters gathered outside the LITHUANIAN parliament on January 16 to demonstrate against the government’s reforms, forcing the police to fire rubber bullets to dispel the mob

In China, 20 million migrant workers lost their jobs, which threatens social stability since these workers were already displaced from their rural lands due to development.

Crossing over the Pacific and in Brazil, the less publicized but largest gathering of anti-globalization forces called the World Social Forum was held where more than 100,000 people convened to discuss how neo-liberal globalization was destroying itself and and how it was imperative to define the world we want. The forum also concluded with mixed results. Does anyone else see a pattern here?

It sort of reminds me of immigration reform conference calls: a chaotic bunch of good people who have a lot of ideas but little desire to go maverick with implementing them. If we can’t deal with tiny things like immigration reform, there is little chance of dealing with the collapse of the U.S. economy given how incompetent American economists are due to the stifling of heterodox ideas in Economic Departments across the country. The BEST economists are not hired by the U.S. government or businesses — they end up mostly as failed lecturers or professors in the Ivory Tower. That’s part of the reason this country is in a crisis — a failure to listen to solutions outside of the ‘capitalist world order.’

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Filed under Neo-Liberalism

Cricket – Sachin Tendulkar and the Subaltern

I love the contradiction and irony of this.

Source: Times of India

We have the greatest batsman in the history of cricket on the one hand, making history yet again by becoming the highest run-getter in Test Cricket.

Juxtaposing that individual brilliance is the Sensex (Indian Stock Market) dipping below 10 K yesterday thanks to the US-led global financial meltdown.

Congratulations to the Master Blaster for succeeding where neo-liberal markets have failed; after all markets are not for ‘uniting’ peoples or nations, and building solidarity. However, employing the legend of Sachin Tendulkar is a win-win game for global capitalism even if the Sensex does not show it.

Such is the strength of the human spirit and national pride, that the Indian media called Sachin Tendulkar ‘King of the World’ and announced that 1 BILLION Indians are celebrating this proud moment. It was a moment of ‘national unity’ maybe even Pan-Indian unity, in the midst of a financial crisis that has bankrupted businesses, left thousands jobless and worried about their future. I can only speak for myself; sick, hungry and fasting all the way in the United States but up at 2am to see the historic moment.

I don’t know how the subaltern feels about Sachin Tendulkar and this historic moment. Tendulkar is the Mahatma Gandhi of Indian cricket — his story, his legend perpetuates the Indian space as a universal solvent or solution for caste divisions, religious differences and communalism. From an industrialized-nation standpoint, cricket is considered a ‘subaltern sport’ and mistakenly-so.

We can hardly call it subaltern in the world of corporate sponsorship and ownership. Cricket was part of the colonial seduction, the colonial paraphernalia of the British Raj and co-option by Indians was of the utmost importance to British empire. It was only through making Indians part of the game, making them consumers of yet another colonial product that an elitist sport, considerably a ‘gentleman’s game’ like cricket instead of kabaddi or gulli danda, became a national sport, a site for national glory.

As a legacy of British colonialism, cricket presents a strong critique of the term ‘post-colonialism.’ After all, how post-colonial can India be as a country if it has simply adapted a British sport and turned it into the national sport of India?
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Filed under Desi, Neo-Liberalism, Sports

Feminization of Migrant Labor – Situating Migrant Women in a more Global Context

There is no doubt that women bear the brunt of the toughest and lowest-paying jobs (not to mention UNPAID housework). From sewing garments in sweltering factories to changing dirty diapers to wiping counters to doing the dishes to serving as “sex slaves” — the overwhelming majority of workers in these occupations are women.

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Take a look at the recent ICE raid at the Houston Action Rags USA plant–in effect a sweatshop rag factory where migrant workers–mostly women–would sort through used clothes that would later by exported to “Third World” countries. ICE officials said of the 166 workers they detained, 130 were females, including 10 who were pregnant.

The Houston Chronicle picked up on the gender disparity here:

Juana Maria Olvera, 35, was one of those detained at Action Rags USA and released because she is expecting a child.

”There are a lot of undocumented women working here, and a lot are single women who are working to support their families,” said Olvera. ”What is happening is a lot of the men come here and don’t go back to Mexico. They either bring their women, or find someone here.”

When ICE cracks down on migrant women workers, they devastate the mainstay of the family unit. But we need to situate the random detention of migrant women workers by the ICE in a more global context, as a global oppression of women. It is ironic that these migrant women were working in a “First World” rag-factory to produce clothes for “Third World” countries–countries that they have fled due to “First World” (neo-liberal) policies. For the most part, they would probably do the same jobs at home if the multi-national corporations came to them. Capital will go where it can seek the most profits–and what is more profitable than earning millions on the backs of women who have very little institutional support? Multi-national corporations like DKNY, Levi Strauss, Jessica McClintock to name just a few, have a mutable gendered labor workforce.

In coming to the United States, there is no hunt for the ‘American dream’ but sheer desperation for dollars. As Cynthia Enloe eloquently states in her seminal work Bananas, Beaches and Bases: Making Feminist Sense of International Politics, women who travel are not creatures of comfort or privileged. These migrant female underclass of workers do not get institutional support, work in increasingly deplorable conditions and are more susceptible to sexual harassment and abuse. Just take a look at this story about an Ecuadorean family suing a bakery over working conditions–

Antonio DiBenedetto [the employer] groped the female immigrants and pushed one woman into an office where he tried to take off her clothes and sexually assault her, but the woman escaped by calling for the help of a co-worker, the lawsuit alleges.

DiBenedetto also forced female employees to watch him undress and walked around naked in front of them, the lawsuit alleges. He was also accused of telling the female employees that he would loan them money or not charge them rent if they engaged in sex.

This is a rare example of an undocumented immigrant family coming out of the shadows to jot down abuses in the workplace. For the most part, women who are sexually abused, harassed or treated inhumanely, simply stay quiet and stay in the shadows. Sometimes they are compelled to do so in order to protect their families and keep nurturing their young, no matter what the costs. And with the ICE, IMF, World Bank, workforce and exportation laws, it is harder for female workers to unite and unionize.

What is the main point of this blog post? Any movement for the advancement of women’s rights or gender equality, MUST address the needs of women who are victims of neo-liberal globalization.

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Filed under Gender, Human Rights, Immigration, Racism

When Sanctuary equals shooting self in the foot – Protecting undocumented juvenile "crack dealers"

Disclaimer – I LOVE SAN FRANCISCO

The experiment was a noble one — Instead of complying with federal immigration law, city officials in San Francisco would take on the cost of flying juveniles convicted of drug crimes to their countries. That would prevent federal deportation and criminal proceedings against these youth, giving them a clean slate and fresh start.

I have to give it up for San Francisco. It was a truly progressive, forward-thinking idea until 8 Honduran youth escaped from the Southern California group homes where they were being housed prior to their flights back to Honduras. Now, the city is the laughing stock of the country.

These are the kind of stories that annoy even progressive-minded Americans. Local San Franciscans are angry. Why are their tax dollars being used to fly these youth to their countries when they can be simply handed over to the federal government to prosecute? Well, the city has a sanctuary policy of not complying with federal immigration laws and harboring undocumented residents. Also, law enforcement in San Francisco and Berkeley are generally much more relaxed about drug laws than other places in the country. As a result, we start abusing our SANCTUARY CITY policy to harbor and protect juvenile crack cocaine dealers.

Yes, the alternative is worse from a human rights point of view–we are talking about juveniles after all who probably have no other means of subsistence. The problem is that the battle lines have been drawn and there is no middle ground in our restrictive immigration system. So when stories like these break out, it is tough to defend the “undocumented immigrant” or sanctuary city policies since we are no longer talking about undocumented students, hard-working immigrants who stay out of trouble, or migrant women slaving away in used-clothing factories (re:Houston).

Given by the comments at the SF Chronicle, an overwhelming majority of San Franciscans think the city is absolutely absurd for this sort of behavior. This one is actually in-line with how the city could be more forward-thinking:

Dear Gavin – Please just release them prior to booking, and save us some money. Love, the Taxpayers

Another way of looking at it: Since the 8 Honduran teens escaped the homes, they are now saving taxpayers money by being “productive members of society.”

The problem is not with small-time drug-dealers on the streets; it is with the bigger administration of criminalizing drug use and not attacking the source of the problem. By the same token, the problem does not lie with undocumented juvenile drug offenders, but a neo-liberal globalization that has created dire-enough conditions to perpetuate poverty, crime, hopelessness in many undeveloped and developing regions of the world.

I cannot sit and defend the behavior of the Honduran youth or city officials by providing rationales or excuses. Yet, this does not mean I support federal immigration or drug laws.

What I can do is grin at the goofy policies of San Francisco city officials, some of which have led to great social movements and progress for this state and country.

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Filed under Human Rights, Immigration

Truths and (then some more truths) – Immigration and Neo-Liberalism

I found this written as a letter to the New York Times. Lets put my intellectual disagreement with grand truths and meta narratives aside for the moment.

Truths: (1) The United States cannot support the rest of the world.

(2) One cannot blame the United States for trying to limit the influx of people across its borders.

(3) One can blame the United States for having allowed illegals to cross its borders illegally in the first place.

(4) One can blame the United States for applying inhumane methods of returning illegals to their countries, but

(5) One cannot blame the United States for trying to return those people who are within its borders illegally.

I think what this ‘blame’ game misses is a double consciousness to the problem of undocumented migration. These so-called ‘truths’ offer a skewed perspective and are quite incomplete.

1. Of course the United States cannot support the rest of the world — THE UNITED STATES IS SUPPORTED BY THE REST OF THE WORLD! We are 5% of the world’s population but consume one-quarter of the global available energy and produce one-third of global waste. Our trade-deficit is project in billions–China and Japan are supporting our heavy consumption at the moment. Multi-national corporations headquartered in the United States exploit cheap labor sources in foreign countries, buying up farm land for private production, thus rendering millions of workers landless. In the meanwhile, we continue to fight so-called just wars as a way to steal the precious commodities of other countries like oil. Who do we blame when our foreign policies have created dire-enough conditions that force people to leave everything they know to take a chance at life in a foreign land?

Sure, we cannot blame the United States for trying to limit the influx of workers crossing the border or returning them home but we can certainly hold the United States accountable for a CAPITAL WITHOUT BORDERS. By not regulating capital flight, regulating the movement of migrant bodies and encouraging the intrusion of neo-liberal policies into developing and underdeveloped countries, the United States–with 85% of the voting power on the IMF–gives capital and corporations a major advantage over workers. Who do we blame when capital sneaks across borders, rapes, pillages and plunders lives, and destroys debt-ridden countries struggling with SAPs, hence forcing people to migrate North as a way to survive and start over?

And true to #5, Can you really blame a country for trying to get rid of unwanted and undesirables like multi-national corporations? After all, the corporation is a person–we must hold them accountable to the same standards, laws and moral codes. Next time a country goes ‘socialist,’ tries to institute capital flight controls, form a counter-hegemonic economic bloc against the G-8, I hope we would get a manifesto of truths such as:

1. be it resolved, that for every ten people the G-8 displace from their lands, the G-8 should provide for ‘resettlement’

2. be it resolved, that for every job or public services ‘entitlement’ lost to structural adjustment programs, the G-8 would provide ‘relief’

3. be it resolved, that for every precious commodity stolen and drained from countries rich in resources, leading to the DEVELOPMENT OF UNDERDEVELOPMENT–the G-8 shall pardon all ‘debts’ and instead, start paying back to the economies they ruined.

4. be it resolved, that the illegal migrants of Europeans–the unwanted and undesirables–now all over the world who slaughtered natives and indigenous peoples to make a future for themselves in foreign countries (especially the criminal convicts in Australia), shall compromise and welcome immigrants with open arms as they themselves were welcomed.

5. be it resolved, that no human being can be illegal–it is not a permanent immutable characteristic. Lets stop criminalizing the natural and age-old phenomenon of human migration.

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Filed under Human Rights, Immigration, Nationalism, Neo-Liberalism, Political Theory

Globalization Linked to 'Illegal Immigration'

The Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy at the University of Arizona has just published a report on the main causes of illegal immigration. Global economic change tops the list, followed by an inadequacy of proper legal for migration and lack of employer sanctions for hiring ‘illegal aliens.’ (See the report here).

When we speak of global economic change, we are referring to the current era of global integration and economic realignment, of neo-liberal trade policies that have contributed to the creation of a vast pool of low-skilled workers in developing countries. As these countries move from manufacturing to knowledge-based economies, low-skilled workers find themselves out of jobs and migrating to better their lives. Moreover, due to the ease and fluency of transportation, labor is more fluid and free to move around than ever before.

The United States the primary initiator and benefactor of neoliberalism is left to deal with one of the less appealing effects of this rapid global economic change: ‘illegal immigration.’ We can either choose to deal with the main push factor of immigration poverty, or change our immigration laws to handle the impact of neo-liberalism on the lives of low-skilled workers. The latter being easier and less radical to  implement, it would be highly advisable to develop a ‘guest worker’ or ‘temporary worker’ authorization program so that people are encouraged to legally migrate.

It should be painfully obvious that building border fences, strictly enforcing immigration laws, putting people in detention centers, limiting student visas, calling for all illegals to be ‘deported now’ does not deter ‘illegal immigration.’ Being stubborn and ‘staying the course’ does NOT win the war. Unfortunately, that ‘one-size fits all’ tunnel vision mentality has proliferated all dimensions of our policy-making from foreign policy to economics to matters of social concern.

We need change. Yes, we do. And, yes we can.

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Filed under Human Rights, Immigration