Category Archives: Economy

Without Toys R Us, 30,000 jobs, a black hole for toy makers

The demise of Toys R Us will have a ripple effect on everything from toy makers to consumers to landlords.

The 70-year-old retailer is headed toward shuttering its U.S. operations, jeopardizing the jobs of some 30,000 employees while spelling the end for a chain known to generations of children and parents for its sprawling stores and Geoffrey the giraffe mascot.

The closing of the company’s 740 U.S. stores over the coming months will finalize the downfall of the chain that succumbed to heavy debt and relentless trends that undercut its business, from online shopping to mobile games.

And it will force toy makers and landlords who depended on the chain to scramble for alternatives.

CEO David Brandon told employees Wednesday the company’s plan is to liquidate all of its U.S. stores, according to an audio recording of the meeting obtained by The Associated Press.

More from Google News

Posted by Libergirl



4 of the Biggest Myths About the Gender Pay Gap At this rate, the pay gap will not close for 200 years.

The existence of the gender pay gap is a well-documented fact. Respected institutions from the Pew Research Center to the Senate Joint Economic Committee confirm that American women make about 77 cents to the average man’s dollar. For women of color, the disparity is even steeper. Yet conservatives and anti-feminists insist the research is flawed or that it ignores social factors separating men and women. At the current rate at which women’s pay is improving, the World Economic Forum says it will take 200 years to close the gender pay gap worldwide.
This makes it more urgent than ever that we debunk myths about the falsity of the gender pay gap. Here are four of the most common.

1. Myth: Women choose lower-paying work.

Anti-feminists and academic contrarians like to make the case that women are to blame for receiving lower pay because they freely choose lower-paying work. Breitbart likes to push this idea to appease its feminist-hating audience, with headlines like “Data Reveals Women Overwhelmingly Choose Lower-Paying College Majors.” In fact, studies have shown that many women avoid careers in finance and technology that typically pay more because they’ve been socialized to believe that women can’t excel in the sciences or because they lack female role models in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields. Some women even choose majority-female fields to avoid discrimination and sexual harassment in male-dominated workplaces, which the #MeToo movement has shown us still runs rampant.

Christina Hoff Sommers, a controversial scholar and critic of feminism (whom the Southern Poverty Law Center called out earlier this month for emboldening and legitimizing men’s rights groups) advocated this very argument in 2016 for Time. Feminists, in her view, falsely claim that:

“women’s tendency to retreat from the workplace to raise children or to enter fields like early childhood education and psychology, rather than better paying professions like petroleum engineering, is evidence of continued social coercion. Here is the problem: American women are among the best informed and most self-determining human beings in the world. To say that they are manipulated into their life choices by forces beyond their control is divorced from reality and demeaning, to boot.”

Sommers refers to the well-established fact that even today, women still enter lower-paying fields, as a recent Glassdoor study shows that college majors that lead to lower-paying careers are female-dominated, while those that have more male students, like engineering, lead to high-paying jobs. According to Sommers’ line of thought, a woman should choose engineering over nursing, since she could make more money in that career path. She worries about “self-determination,” but doesn’t it limit a woman’s autonomy to suggest she choose a job path just because it is higher-paying, rather than one she is more passionate about? A better solution, many feminists have argued in response, would be to pay nurses, teachers and other largely female workers more money, rather than pressure more women to opt into certain careers just because they pay more.

Women don’t choose certain jobs because they pay less. On the contrary, historical trends show that as more women entered previously male-dominated fields, average salaries dropped in those jobs. As the Harvard Business Review explains, that’s because the jobs became less prestigious as they became female-d


“Researchers have found that the pay gap is not as simple as women being pushed into lower-paying jobs. In effect, it is the other way around: Certain jobs pay less because women take them. Wages in biology and design were higher when the fields were predominantly male; as more women became biologists and designers, pay dropped. The opposite happened in computing, where early programmers were female. Today, that field is one of the most predominantly male — and one of the highest paying.”

Sommers’ argument is also white-centric, ignoring the fact that poor women of color often do not have the same information or access to options that white women do. It is not “demeaning,” as she says, to assert that such women’s career choices are limited by their circumstances. It’s just the reality of American poverty.

2. Myth: Women choose to work fewer hours and select more part-time work than men do.

This argument has appeared in mainstream outlets such as Forbes, but it only tells part of the story of women’s employment in the U.S.

While it’s true that 31 percent of women work part-time compared to 18 percent of men, this can be largely attributed to the fact that the U.S. still lacks federally mandated family leave, unlike countries like Canada, Germany and the U.K. Without this job protection or flexibility, many women must choose part-time work over full-time. In many households, men are able to earn higher salaries than women, so lots of couples still choose to have the woman remain at home with the children while men go to work. According to a 2013 survey by the Pew Research Center, “more than half of the respondents thought children were better off if the mother stayed home” while “34 percent believed they’d be as well off if she worked. Only 8 percent said they’d be better off if the father stayed home.” This commonly held belief isn’t based in fact—stay-at-home-dads can raise kids just as successfully as stay-at-home-moms. In many families, these parenting gender biases and financial factors mean that women still sacrifice their careers to raise children.

3. Myth: Women choose jobs with flexibility over high pay so they can care for families.

Heejung Chung, a sociologist at the University of Kent who studies gender pay gap myths, investigated this subject last year. She found that, despite the popularity of telecommuting and remote work, this myth does not reflect the reality of most workplaces in 2018. The jobs women generally choose often do not provide the flexibility some economists think they prioritize over higher pay. Chung writes in Slate: “working in female-dominated workplaces such as care work, primary education, or places where the work tends to be largely clerical meant you were only half as likely to have access to flexitime compared to other workplaces.”

4. Myth: More women are getting college degrees than men, so the gap will close on its own.

Not true. As explained above, existing sexist social pressures will mean that women will continue to choose college majors that lead to lower-paying jobs. As the Washington Post explains, though the pay gap between younger and more educated men and women is narrower than for older Americans, male college graduates in their 20s still earn more than women the same age.

Credit: The Washington Post

Just because women today have more autonomy in decision-making when it comes to their careers than previous generations doesn’t mean we’ve finished our work in evening out the playing field. As long as male-dominated careers are seen as more prestigious; as long as girls are not encouraged to pursue higher-paying fields early on in life; and as long as working full-time as a mom continues to be a taboo, women will continue to wind up in jobs that pay less.

By Liz Posner/AlterNet

Posted by the NON-Conformist

Charles Koch blasts Trump’s steel and aluminum tariff plan

Billionaire conservative megadonor Charles Koch slammed President Donald Trump’s announced plans to impose fresh tariffs on steel and aluminum imports in a Washington Post op-ed, arguing that such policies would do far more harm than good for the U.S., both economically and culturally.

Image: Bo Rader/The Wichita Eagle via AP Photo

“Just as the United States benefits from the ideas and skills that opportunity-seeking immigrants bring with them, free trade has been essential to our society’s prosperity and to people improving their lives,” Koch wrote in his op-ed, published online Wednesday night. “Countries with the freest trade have tended to not only be the wealthiest but also the most tolerant. Conversely, the restriction of trade — whether through tariffs, quotas or other means — has hurt the economy and pitted people against each other.

“Without a doubt, those who can least afford it will be harmed the most. Having just helped consumers keep more of their money by passing tax reform, it makes little sense to take it away via higher costs,” Koch wrote.

More from Politico

Posted by Libergirl

Get Me Out of Wakanda!

I finally got around to seeing the “Black Panther” movie Tuesday. I’ve been black nearly seven decades. My blackness does not require affirmation from the Disney/Marvel Comics Universe, where Tony Stark is a greedy Pentagon contractor, where Captain America is a genetically modified organism, where the Wakandan king and the wannabe king both work with/for the CIA, and where Daredevil’s pals (season 1 episode 4) note that investigative reporting on “teachers union scandals” is as personally perilous as crossing the Mafia.

For those of us aiming to build a better world, this movie is nothing short of enemy propaganda.


In the “Black Panther” movie, all the Wakandan players are royalty, their counselors, their advisers or their rivals. All the strikingly beautiful and capable Wakandan women take orders from men. The only unambiguous good guy is the Frodo-looking CIA agent. The homicidal Killmonger character is calculated to sully the very notion of black rebellion against unjust authority, while Pan Africanism and humanism are defecated upon from multiple angles. Cinematic bar fights, car chases and battle scenes are a dime a dozen, and worst of all, Wakanda isn’t even rendered in any visually inspiring way.


The movie disrespects its audience and is a standing insult to science fiction and afro-futurism. As Dr. Jared Ball points out, we can’t just go make and market another movie to compete with this one. Disney/Marvel Studios put tens of millions into the promotion of this thing alone, and for now, millions of people are buying their message. That’s called cultural hegemony.

Those who would drink from this nasty water for “affirmation” and “black joy” must be deeply, desperately thirsty. And evidently, thirst confuses before it kills.

The only good thing I got from this movie was the motivation to look for and find some real, respectful, challenging and innovative science fiction and afro-futurism, preferably written by some black women to wash the rancid taste of Marvel’s superhero-industrial complex from the inside of my head.


I wasn’t going to record this commentary for Black Agenda Radio. Originally it was a Facebook post, but it generated such a response that it deserved a life outside of corporate social media.

Because Black Agenda Report is equally critical of Republicans and Democrats, because as black leftists we consistently oppose capital, patriarchy, empire, the black political class and the bipartisan war machine we are the only black-oriented media outfit alleged by The Washington Post and Prop Or Not to be under the evil influence of the Russians. Google and other corporate social media have targeted Black Agenda Report in order to restrict your access to our content. If I, Glen Ford or Margaret Kimberley or Ajamu Baraka or Black Agenda Report was temporarily or permanently banned from Facebook, all our posts and their comments would disappear. Facebook claims all posts as its private property. And even if they don’t ban us, it can be extremely difficult to find a Facebook post or a tweet more than a day or two old.

So I’m posting this at BlackAgendaReport.Com and at Black Agenda Radio Commentaries on SoundCloud where you can easily find it from now on. Please follow and share our stuff from those places on all your favorite social media. And please visit BlackAgendaReport.Com to subscribe to our direct and free weekly email of each week’s new content. Email is called dark social media because Google, Facebook, Twitter cannot track or block it.

By Bruce A. Dixon/BlackAgendaReport

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Income Inequality in the U.S. Is Even Worse Than You’ve Been Led to Believe Data show the country is failing its lower and middle-income earners miserably.

The more the ultra-rich prosper, the less they’re burdened with taxes, the greater the benefits for society as a whole. If you’re familiar with Republican economic theory of the past 40 years, you’ve probably heard this line of reasoning. In fact, just the opposite is true.

Take it from the world’s third richest man, Warren Buffett, who recently noted that between 1982 and 2017, “the wealth of the 400 [richest people in America] increased 29-fold—from $93 billion to $2.7 trillion—while many millions of hardworking citizens remained stuck on an economic treadmill. During this period, the tsunami of wealth didn’t trickle down. It surged upward.”

The reality is the United States is now home to some of the worst income inequality in the developed world, and thanks to the recent passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, this wealth gap will grow exponentially wider.

Lowering the corporate tax rate from 35 to 21 percent, the GOP’s massive overhaul of U.S. tax law exemplifies trickle-down economics at its worst. Trump supporters insist that corporations will generously share their gains with employees, but according to economist Robert Reich, “almost all the extra money is going into stock buybacks” rather than wage increases. Because the richest 10 percent now own 84 percent of stock shares in the U.S., he emphasizes, this will do little to nothing to improve the prospects of most Americans.

According to the firm Birinyi Associates, a record $170.8 billion worth of buybacks and counting have been announced since the president signed these tax cuts into law. Reich has denounced the legislation for creating greater inequality in a country that is already radically unequal.

In 2017, the World Bank’s Gini index, which measures inequality country by country, cited Haiti, South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and the Central African Republic as the world’s five most unequal countries. (The most economically balanced nations include Norway, Ukraine, Slovenia, the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic.) Gini data also show that measured against other developed countries, the United States is failing its lower and middle-income earners miserably.

Citing the 2015 Gini data of 34 countries, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development recently found that the top 10 percent in the United States earned 18.8 times more than the bottom 10 percent. By comparison, the wealthiest 10 percent of Danes, Fins, Belgians, Germans and Australians earned 5.2, 5.5, 5.9, 6.6 and 8.8 times more than the bottom 10 percent respectively. In Mexico, the most economically unequal country in the OECD’s report, the rich earned 30.5 times more than their poorest compatriots.

The 2018 World Inequality Report, compiled by Thomas Piketty and other economists and released in December, also paints a troubling picture of the United States’ wealth distribution. According to the study, the top 1 percent of wage earners went from owning 11 percent of the national income in 1980 to 20 percent in 2016. The bottom 50 percent’s share of the national income dropped from 21 to 13 percent over the same time period. In Western Europe, the 1 percent’s control of national incomes has risen from 10 to 12 percent, while the bottom 50 percent’s share has held steady at 23 percent—undesirable, perhaps, but decidedly more equal.

Although the U.S. remains the largest economy in the world, it is hardly the most inclusive. While Wall Street and Silicon Valley are thriving, OECD data indicate we not only suffer from harsh inequality but some of the highest rates of poverty in the developed world. In 2014, according to organization’s findings, the United States’ poverty rate was 17.2 percent compared to 10.4 percent in the U.K, 9.1 percent in Germany, 9 in Austria, 8.9 percent in the Republic of Ireland, 8.8 percent in Sweden, and 8.6 percent in Switzerland. Even in Greece, perhaps the European country hit hardest by the Great Recession, poverty was slightly lower than the U.S. in 2014, with a rate of 15.1 percent.

As a Republican candidate for president, Trump railed against out-of-touch elites, vowing to “make America great again” and revitalize the American Dream. Yet his administration’s proposed federal budget includes draconian cuts to a long list of social programs, including food stamps, housing and heating assistance. On the campaign trail, Trump insisted he would not touch Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security, but his budget would defund Medicare by $266 billion, Medicaid by $1.1 trillion and Social Security by $72 billion.

What’s more, Trump has opposed raising the national minimum wage significantly, if at all. And by eliminating the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will cause 13 million Americans to lose their health insurance by 2027 and increase premiums by 10 percent, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. Covered California, an ACA exchange program, has estimated that premiums could increase by as much as 30 percent in the Golden State in 2019.

The Trump administration has done everything possible to exacerbate inequality in the U.S. and undermine what little remains of the New Deal’s progressive policies. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has even praised Trump and Republicans in Congress for making “a great effort to break out of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt model.” If the U.S. remains on its current economic trajectory, there won’t be an economic safety net left to shred.

By Alex Henderson/Alternet

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Taxpayers—Not Big Pharma—Have Funded the Research Behind Every New Drug Since 2010 A sweeping new study challenges our understanding of medical breakthroughs.

Something odd happened when the Trump administration submitted the original version of its latest pro-corporate budget: Big Pharma didn’t like it.

The problem wasn’t a tax hike or new regulations: the problem was that the budget included deep cuts to the budget of the National Institutes of Health.

If those cuts had gone through, they would have exposed one of the biggest lies told about Big Pharma: that the current system of patents and price-gouging is just an unfortunate necessity to cover the cost of all their brave and noble R&D work Trump’s original spending proposal for fiscal year 2019, released last month, included major cuts to not just to the NIH, but the National Science Foundation as well. It is those two publicly funded entities—not Big Pharma—that support the bulk of the country’s basic research into diseases and pathways to new treatments.

That’s why the cuts were especially unwelcome in the executive suites of drug and biotech companies. Their business models depend on Washington subsidizing expensive, high-risk basic research, mostly through the vast laboratory network funded by the NIH.

Just how important is our publicly funded research to Big Pharma and Biotech? According to a new study by a small, partly industry-funded think tank called the Center for Integration of Science and Industry (CISI), it is existentially important. No NIH funds, no new drugs, no patents, no profits, no industry.

The CISI study, underwritten by the National Biomedical Research Foundation, mapped the relationship between NIH-funded research and every new drug approved by the FDA between 2010 and 2016. The authors found that each of the 210 medicines approved for market came out of research supported by the NIH. Of the $100 billion it spent nationally during this period, more than half of it—$64 billion—ended up helping the development of 84 first-in-class drugs.

But the NIH doesn’t get to use the profits from these drugs to fund more research, the way it might under a model based on developing needed drugs and curing the sick, as opposed to serving Wall Street. Instead, publicly funded labs conduct years of basic research to get to a breakthrough, which is then snatched up, tweaked, and patented (privatized) by companies who turn around and reap billions with 1,000-times-cost mark-ups on drugs developed with taxpayer money.

Those companies then spend the profits on executive bonuses and share buybacks, and lavish mass marketing campaigns to increase sales of amphetamines, benzos, opioids, and dick pills.

And with what’s left over, they lobby to keep threats to this massive scam at bay, all while scooping up more NIH-funded breakthroughs and starting the process anew.

This scam is worth a lot of money and is not easily messed with, as sacred as federal research benefiting military contractors. After Trump reversed his proposed research cuts last month, Bloomberg published an investor-soothing excuse article with the title, “The NIH appears Trump-proof.” The reporter, Max Nisen, explained, “NIH funds [are] a backbone of the research ecosystem on which [biotech and drug companies] depend. The better the NIH does, the better they do.”

The new CISI study was actually designed and written to reinforce this status quo: By showing federal research to be crucial to the current drug-pipeline, its authors hoped to provide ballast against Trump’s proposed cuts, which threatened the development of new drugs.

The study stops there, but for those not committed to the current system of patents and profit, its findings provide a leaping-off point to bigger questions. Such as:

If government-funded science is doing such a great job at basic research, why not provide additional funding for the development and testing of drugs?

If private industry isn’t doing basic research, and continues to gut long-flat-lined R&D budgets, what the hell are they spending their money on? (That one has an answer; see graph below.)

Why are we allowing drug companies to gain proprietary control over taxpayer-funded research, then turn around and price-gouge those same taxpayers to literal death?

These are the questions driving a growing Drug Access movement that seeks to replace the current monopoly-patent paradigm with open science collaborations, generic license regimes, and a “NASA for drugs” focused on developing critical, life-saving medicines and ensuring they remain affordable.

A pie chart showing the main areas where Big Pharma spends its money. It shows that the vast majority goes to promotional activities. The slice for clinical trials is so small you can barely see it.
You think this looks bad? Imagine if they hadn’t differentiated between types of marketing. 

For advocates of this new paradigm, the CISI data amplifies what they’ve been saying for years.

“The CISI study is further evidence of a broken system where taxpayers fund the riskier part of drug development, then once the medicines show promise, they are often privatized under patent monopolies that lock in exorbitant prices for 20 years or longer,” says Bryn Gay, Hepatitis C Project Co-Director at the Treatment Action Group.

As an example, Gay points to new hepatitis C drugs that have become a global rallying cry for an end to drug patent monopolies. After the NIH funded $62.4 million for the basic science behind the breakthrough drug sofosbuvir, it was purchased by the firm Gilead for $11 billion. Gilead then turned around and priced it up to six figures, even though a 12-week treatment course of costs less than $100 to produce.

“Companies have raked in profits of over $70 billion from hep C medicines, yet companies like Gilead and Janssen have walked away from additional hep C research, such as for a preventative vaccine,” says Gay. “The impact of NIH-funded research again demonstrates that we need

to increase government funding for infectious and neglected diseases. We can’t rely on Pharma to set R&D agendas shaped by how much profit can be generated.”

Dean Baker, an economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, believes a publicly funded system is possible. A start-to-finish government drug pipeline, he estimates, would result in an 80 percent drop in the $450 billion Americans currently spend on prescription drugs. He estimates that the government could fund the development and testing of new drugs for an additional $50 and $80 billion a year—roughly the amount of money drug corporations have made from the hep C treatment alone.

“The industry wants us to believe the government can fund good basic research, but is incapable of developing and testing new drugs,” says Baker. That is, of course, not true. “[The CISI] analysis shows the enormously important government role in developing new drugs. We should start asking questions about how the government can see the process through so [new drugs] could be sold at generic prices the day they are approved by the FDA.”

Baker also notes a government-run drug pipeline would likely result in safer drugs as well as cheaper drugs, as all clinical tests would be made fully public as a condition of funding.

The lords of the current paradigm fear rigorous and transparent clinical trials almost as much as paying for their own R&D. Last year, when the industry and its political allies drafted the 21st Century Cures Act, everybody cheered its cancer “moonshot” funding, but few noticed the section weakening the rules and regulatory oversight around clinical trials.

In other words, the same people getting rich off your taxes are willing to risk your life and a slap on the regulatory wrist for a slightly faster route from NIH-funded science to the bank.

By Alexander Zaitchik/AlterNet

Posted by The NON-Confomist

Georgia Lt. Gov. To Delta: No NRA Discounts, No Corporate Welfare Is this a blow against free speech or a win for free markets?

Casey Cagle—Georgia’s lieutenant governor and Republican gubernatorial candidate—says he will not support any more corporate welfare for Delta Airlines until the company starts giving National Rifle Association members discounts again.

“I will kill any tax legislation that benefits Delta unless the company changes its position and fully reinstates its relationship with NRA,” Cagle said on Twitter today. “Corporations cannot attack conservatives and expect us not to fight back.”

The Atlanta-headquartered Delta had previously extended a group travel discount of 2 to 10 percent to NRA members traveling to the organization’s national conference to be held in Dallas in May.

On Saturday, Delta said via Twitter that it would be ending these discounts and asking the NRA to remove any information about Delta and its travel programs from its website.

Several corporations, including United Airlines and Enterprise Rent-A-Car, have likewise pulled special discounts they have given to NRA members in response to pressure from activists demanding companies cut ties with the organization following its adamant pro–Second Amendment stance in the wake of the Parkland, Florida, shooting.

The revocation of these discounts provoked a bevy of criticism from right-wing media. Breitbart has spread calls for boycotts of Enterprise, while Fox News writer Todd Starnes livetweeted his call with Delta customer service to see if he, as an NRA member, could still fly with the airline.

Currently the Georgia state legislature is considering a large tax cut bill that includes an exemption for jet fuel from state and local taxes. The provision is reported to save all airlines $50 million, $40 million of which would accrue to Delta.

The Georgia House of Representatives easily passed the bill last week. The measure is now being considered by the state Senate, where Cagle—by virtue of his position as lieutenant governor—serves as president. Should the 56-member state Senate have a tie on the tax cuts, Cagle would get to cast the deciding vote.

The lieutenant governor’s threat has provoked a range of reactions on Twitter. Some have offered criticism of Cagle for threatening to punish a company through the withholding of state benefits solely because of their political expression.

Others have spotted a free-market silver lining. Business Insider‘s Josh Barro tweeted:

Libertarians would not be remiss for being split on the matter. One the one hand, a politician refusing to back a special tax break because of his pro–Second Amendment views sounds pretty good. On the other hand, making opposition to corporate welfare contingent on whether businesses themselves hand out special deals to favored interest groups sounds less appealing.

By Christian Britschgi/reason click link to read the tweets

Posted by The NON-Conformist