Most if not all of the people let go from these companies could be retained, but corporations - and in particular tech companies - have consciously colluded with each other to push a false narrative about how they are the victims of an economy that continues to enrich them. And that’s because their leadership isn’t judged by how well they treat their employees, but rather by how they protect the interests of their shareholders.
And really that’s what’s happening. Everybody is laying people off, and thus it’s an easy time for huge corporations to justify doing so based on vague economic forces. This is a coordinated public relations campaign to trade human capital for working capital. It’s either that or these executives are utterly ignorant of the economic forces affecting their companies.
This isn’t a bug, but rather a feature of modern market capitalism. Tech execs are playing from a rulebook that’s fundamentally devoid of empathy, compassion, and respect for human beings. By the standards of shareholders, they’re doing their job. But from any moral standpoint, they deserve to be kicked into the sun.
Mr. Pichai appears to have plenty of money to have fun with - as all of these CEOs do, because they are being paid so much that they have entirely left the realm of human concerns.
Even if it’s something far more craven - that profits are fine, and they are just using this as an excuse to cut “excess” - layoffs do not work. They make the company less profitable and the remaining employees less effective.
Imagine if a single employee made this big of a screw-up. Would they be retained? Would they survive? No. They would be shitcanned in seconds and told that it was a “difficult decision.”
Here’s an easy decision: fire Sundar Pichai, fire Satya Nadella, fire Doug Herrington, and fire any executive that has to lay off hundreds or thousands of people because they got too excited about making their shareholders money.
Stephen Diehl: The Simple English Argument Against Crypto
A common criticism of my arguments against crypto is that they assume too much knowledge or that my prose is too dense. So a friend challenged me to rewrite ‘The Case Against Crypto’ using mostly the 1500 Simple English words and short sentences version that perhaps a well-read twelve year old could read in a 6th grade history book from the future. About the financial disaster of the 2020s.
The economics of bitcoin were also bad. When people use money they want to buy things with it quickly and they want to know that the price of the thing they want to buy won’t change drastically. Bitcoin is bad at both of these things. Bitcoin was bad at being stable money because the technology was not designed to do that, because it didn’t want to have a central bank. This was unfixable because the entire project was based on a bad idea.
Crypto was a story about giving people new money, but instead it just stole people’s old money and destroyed their lives. Unfortunately the world figured out crypto was a bad idea far too late.
Jeremy Gordon: Is There a Cure for Burnout? (The Nation)
Millennials have been screwed. We’re the first generation to have a worse economic outlook than our parents. We control less than 5 percent of US wealth, despite making up the largest chunk of the workforce, and plenty of millennials won’t make up that difference after their parents die.
“Most burnt-out millennials I know have arrived at that point of calling those expectations into question, but it didn’t happen right away,” she writes. “Instead, it’s taken decades: Even after watching our parents get shut out, fall from, or simply struggle anxiously to maintain the American Dream, we didn’t reject it.”
I want to stress how much I empathize, because I know a political awakening requires more than a list of facts. But as a reader, these types of generalizations are unsatisfying because they rely so heavily on trusting she has had a representative experience. Who are her friends? What’s the work they wanted to do? You don’t have to look far to find a social world of millennials who didn’t require decades to realize the American dream was flawed, internalized that lesson as teenagers and young adults, and adjusted their worldview accordingly. There are plenty of comparably broad observations dredged from specific experience. Referring to Alexandra Robbins’s The Overachievers: The Secret Lives of Driven Kids, a 2006 book about overworked teenagers trying to get into the college of their dreams, Petersen notes, “multiple people told me they read it as a sort of instruction manual.” If I polled the teens I knew in 2006, most of them would have taken it as a warning guide against being too much of a nerd.
It’s her book, but it’s impossible to cultivate a position of objective expertise from such memoiristic subjectivity, especially given her rarefied work trajectory: academia to media, where she has built a sizable brand and audience. (She recently left her job at BuzzFeed to work full-time on her paid Substack newsletter—a choice that only a small fraction of writers could make.) An easy conclusion would be that the millennial experience is too broad to generalize in any direction, beyond pointing to the hard metrics about our average net worth (or lack thereof), consumption patterns, voting habits, and so on, but Petersen’s book, rather than decentering its writer, makes her experience a heuristic and projects her assumptions onto the world.
Setting aside the fact that teachers are wildly underpaid, only a workaholic could envision better work as the solution to bad work, despite her calls that a profound restructuring of the economy is crucial for anyone, not just millennials, to have a future. It’s true that a psychic reorganization could ameliorate the cumulative effects of burnout, as “The hell with this—I won’t play by your rules” remains a satisfying way of reclaiming one’s agency within a broken system. But all jobs, not just cool ones, are subject to the ongoing degradations levied by venal politicians and corporations. None of the problems she describes happened by chance; they were all products of specific decisions made over the decades, meant to maximize profits at the expense of people.
But does looking at Instagram really lead to burnout? Is not wanting to take a vacation always a sign of burnout? Or not mowing the lawn? Couldn’t that be just an aversion to yardwork or simply—gasp—laziness? The last decade has seen no shortage of catchy concepts popularized in millennial circles as a shorthand for one’s personality, such as imposter syndrome, the Myers-Briggs test, and adulting. Burnout is positioned here to become another one, and by default, this book makes Petersen a burnout expert, a nice job for someone to have.
It’s not that burnout isn’t real, though its classification as a medical diagnosis should give anyone pause before blithely declaring it’s what ails them. But its credibility dissipates with every enthusiastic invocation and the ingrained belief that many of our problems are either explained by it or lead to it. The insistence on grafting burnout onto every discussed topic transforms a technically informative, unfortunately bland book into an advertisement for the author’s grand theory of life, a theory that, given the evidence, is highly up for critique. Toward the end, Petersen insists she wants to avoid prescribing any solutions, before showing her hand: “Actual substantive change has to come from the public sector—and we must vote en masse to elect politicians who will agitate for it tirelessly.” This isn’t entirely untrue, but coming at the tail end of so many dire anecdotes and data points, it’s as satisfying as a Democratic National Committee talking head reminding us to vote every time Donald Trump opens his mouth.
In some ways, this book’s timing dramatically underscores that lack of political imagination and casts it as one of those self-help books she sought to avoid. Current events can dramatically expose the need for societal reforms: Witness the sudden shift in support for universal health care during the Covid-19 pandemic and for police reform after George Floyd’s killing. Greater investment in local politics or mutual aid or the normalizing of mass protests against unabashed wrongdoing have all emerged as necessary shifts in our collective political thinking, which is why it’s disappointing her book stops short of imagining specific action beyond a broad citation of platitudes and that benign call to vote. Like Petersen, I want things to change, and I also know that change requires broad support across all demographics. I’m just not sure if we should take direction from someone who took this long to put the pieces together, because it means there’s plenty more the person won’t see coming.
Martin Hart-Landsberg: Back to normal is not good enough; we need a new economy (Street Roots)
Rarely mentioned is the fact that our economy was heading into a recession before the coronavirus hit. Or that living and working conditions for the majority of Americans were declining even during the past years of expansion. Or that the share of workers in low-wage jobs was growing over the past 15 years. Or that Americans are facing a retirement crisis. Or that life expectancy fell from 2014 to 2017 because of the rise in mortality among young and middle-aged adults of all racial groups due to drug overdoses, suicides and alcoholism. If existing patterns of ownership and production remain largely unchanged, we face a future of ever greater instability, inequality and poverty.
George Monbiot: Airlines and oil giants are on the brink. No government should offer them a lifeline (The Guardian)
This crisis is a chance to rebuild our economy for the good of humanity. Let’s bail out the living world, not its destroyers, says Guardian columnist George Monbiot.
Governments should provide financial support to company workers while refashioning the economy to provide new jobs in different sectors. They should prop up only those sectors that will help secure the survival of humanity and the rest of the living world.
They should either buy up the dirty industries and turn them towards clean technologies, or do what they often call for but never really want: let the market decide. In other words, allow these companies to fail.
The only meaningful reform is fewer flights. Anything that impedes the contraction of the aviation industry impedes the reduction of its impacts.
In other words, let’s have what many people were calling for long before this disaster hit: a green new deal. But please let’s stop describing it as a stimulus package. We have stimulated consumption too much over the past century, which is why we face environmental disaster. Let us call it a survival package, whose purpose is to provide incomes, distribute wealth and avoid catastrophe, without stoking perpetual economic growth. Bail out the people, not the corporations. Bail out the living world, not its destroyers. Let’s not waste our second chance.
Patrick Sisson: What your landlord thinks about rent right now (Curbed)
The landlord-renter relationship is inherently unjust and part of our completely broken housing situation, but—judgments aside—this is what they’re dealing with.
Property owners juggle a widespread struggle to pay rent with their own mortgage responsibilities.
Siva Vaidhyanathan: The economy v our lives? It's a false choice – and a deeply stupid one (The Guardian)
Calls to reopen America have disturbing intellectual roots. And the millions of deaths that could ensue would fuel a depression beyond our imagination.
Economism is a belief system that leads people to believe that everything can be simplified to models and curves, and that it’s possible to count and maximize utility in every circumstance. What economism misses includes complexity, historical contingency and the profound, uncountable power of human emotion.
Anywhere in the world, positing this problem as a tradeoff between the economic interests of the young and the lifespan of the old is a terrible error. As the US Centers for Disease Control explains, those vulnerable to serious or fatal cases of the infection include not just the elderly, but anyone who is obese, diabetic, has high blood pressure, is HIV-positive, has undergone cancer treatment, suffers from asthma or smokes. Those factors are more common among poorer Americans as well as older Americans. And poor Americans occupy all age ranges.
Josh Dzieza: Why thousands of Amazon packages converge on a tiny Montana town (The Verge)
Amazon sellers often buy goods from Walmart and Target to resell on the platform, but the products need to be repackaged before being sent in. This has given rise to an industry of Amazon "preppers," often located in no-sales-tax states.
Oliver Corlett: Iran: Wealth and Colonialism (Popula)
If you were a 70 year old who had lived in Iran all your life, you would not be able to remember a time, except for a brief interlude in the early 1980s, when your country was neither (a) occupied by a foreign power, (b) ruled by the puppet of a foreign power, nor (c) prevented from free trade by the sanctions of a foreign power. That is what comes of being what the British imperialist Lord Curzon called in 1892—even before oil became a strategic issue—one of “the pieces on a chessboard upon which is being played out a game for the dominion of the world”. More than a century later, Iran (Persia as it was in Curzon’s day) is still a piece on the board.
Malcolm Harris: ‘Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat’ Is a Marxist Fantasy Come to Life (Eater)
Alienation is not only a feeling of detachment from the world, in Marxism it is a condition of literal theft. Workers exit the day with less than they had when they entered — Americans know this instinctively if not explicitly, which is why our national dream is to “work for myself” before a company “uses me up.” A reality show about the line cooks at a moderately expensive brunch place wouldn’t feel anything like Nosrat’s slow-food explorations; there’s nothing calming or even appetizing about the corner-cutting necessary to cook for someone else’s profit. When it comes to food, industrial efficiency is often gross.
Contrariwise, unalienated labor is sublime. This is virtuosity performed for its own sake, and it’s the truth behind the saying “the best things in life are free.” For example, hallowed above all on fine-dining TV from Top Chef to Chef’s Table is the concept of the “family meal” — the pre-service food that chefs cook for their restaurant staff. Unlike the alienated dinners they’ll serve later, family meal is a place for experimentation and risk. You can’t buy your way in, it’s the workers’ privilege alone. Most creative professions have their version of the family meal, and those of us who work in those jobs are willing to trade a lot for the occasional unalienated moment when we can give and/or receive work directly.
Thread by @eveewing: " LORDT. two black economists i really respect, @SandyDarity and @DarrickHamilton, just published a KILLER report debunking what they call 10 commonly-held myths about the racial wealth gap and how to close it. I'm gonna tweet the hig
Myth 2: The racial homeownership gap is the “driver” of the racial wealth gap.
"Among households that own a home, white households have nearly $140,000 more in net worth than comparable black households. While the wealth ratio between whites & blacks may narrow somewhat among those who own a home, a 6-figure wealth differential remains."
Primarily, Sandy & Darrick seem to take issue with the causal implications here. "By definition, homeownership/home equity is a component of wealth. Hence, the statement that 'homeownership drives wealth' is equivalent to saying that 'wealth drives wealth.'"
"The idea that homeownership creates wealth simply may put the relationship backward. Rather than homeownership creating wealth, having family wealth in the first place leads to homeownership, particularly high equity homeownership."
TL;DR - WE NEED REPARATIONS
Ian Welsh: The Market Fairy will not solve the problems of Uber and Lyft
The market will not miraculously produce a capital replacing living wage. If it does so in any particular market it is happenstance; luck, not social physics.
This is a social action problem; a race to the bottom issue. It makes sense, individually, to race to the bottom. Company execs and investors get rich, consumers get cheaper rides and drivers get money they need. But this isn’t win, win, win. It is win, win, lose over the not very long run.
The cheaper wages paid to drivers, and thus the cheaper rides, also drive business with capital structures which make social sense out of business. They can’t compete with “drive your car into the ground, make less than minimum wage”.
Squashed: It’s My Fault. I Didn‘t Read the Fine Print
The point isn’t that all the boilerplate should be inherently unenforceable. Most of it is pretty benign. “This is the address to which you should address your billing dispute.” “We really can’t promise that our network is so robust you can run a hospital or nuclear submarine on it. So please don’t try.” “In case for some reason you were confused, the trademark ‘Verizon’ is not yours, even though it’s stamped on your phone.” But sometimes there’s something nasty in there. Forced arbitration clauses. Class action waivers. Undisclosed charges (or whatever it is that makes AT&T think it can just tack on a few dollars in extra charges every month to pad its bottom line). There’s really nothing an individual consumer can do about any of this.
Anyway, two points.
1. The Consumer Financial Protectin Bureau is really important to curb the worst of these abuses.
2. Let’s not blame people for “agreeing” to things that they didn’t actually agree to in any meaningful way.
Alina Simone: The End of Quiet Music (NYTimes.com)
We’ve placed the entire onus of changing-with-the-times on musicians, but why can’t the educational, cultural and governmental institutions that support the arts adapt as well, extending the same opportunities to those whose music provides the soundtrack to our lives? If they don’t, Darwinism will probably ensure that only the musical entrepreneurs survive. I can’t say if the world of music will be better or worse off if that happens, but it will certainly be a lot louder.
Paul Ford: The Lease They Can Do: What the Fight Over 'Used' Music Reveals About Online Media (Businessweek)
There are all kinds of files. A song is just a file, as is a book, and so is a movie. People have been pointing this out for years, usually to explain piracy. For a long time, folks were gnashing their teeth and wailing that no one would pay for anything on the Internet ever; it was just too easy to steal. They went from renting their garments to renting out music. As solutions emerge, and marketplaces for licenses emerge, you have to wonder if new kinds of media will remain part of the free, “remix” culture of the Internet, or if they’ll want to participate in a for-pay market. Maybe the reason so much great creative work on the Internet is free is that it’s been too hard to charge. A Pandora, but for podcasts! A Spotify for funny animal videos! Once the framework is in place, the pitches will come. Then the licensing can start. After all, they’re just files.
Eric Harvey: Bob Dylan's Great White Wonder: The Story of the World's First Album Leak (Pitchfork)
On one basic level, what happened in 1969 with Wonder—and what happens every day with mp3 leaks—illuminates a very basic economic fact: Official markets will always lead to unsanctioned ones that feed off of the legit products—and often operate much more efficiently. Consumer desire has never automatically limited itself to strictly legal operations, particularly when fans can convince themselves (often rightly) that they’re doing no harm to the artists.
Andrew Ross Sorkin: Occupy Wall Street: A Frenzy That Fizzled (NYTimes.com)
Has the debate over breaking up the banks that were too big to fail, save for a change of heart by the former chairman of Citigroup, Sanford I. Weill, really changed or picked up steam as a result of Occupy Wall Street? No. Have any new regulations for banks or businesses been enacted as a result of Occupy Wall Street? No. Has there been any new meaningful push to put Wall Street executives behind bars as a result of Occupy Wall Street? No.
And even on the issues of economic inequality and upward mobility — perhaps Occupy Wall Street’s strongest themes — has the movement changed the debate over executive compensation or education reform? It is not even a close call.
VersoBooks.com: Slavoj Žižek at Occupy Wall Street
‘Slavoj Žižek visited Liberty Plaza to speak to Occupy Wall Street protesters. Here is the full transcript of his speech.’
“So do not blame people and their attitudes: the problem is not corruption or greed, the problem is the system that pushes you to be corrupt. The solution is not “Main street, not Wall street,” but to change the system where main street cannot function without Wall street. Beware not only of enemies, but also of false friends who pretend to support us, but are already working hard to dilute our protest.”
The Daily Beast: The Dish: Who Is Behind Occupy Wall Street?
‘Protests should do three things: they should express anger, through marches and targeted civil disobedience, at a particular political or social situation. They should give people the opportunity to see that other people, even people different from themselves, share that anger. And they should provide a vision of how life would be better if the world were different. Occupy Wall Street is doing all three of those things.’
Grantland: Hua Hsu on Kanye and Jay-Z's Watch the Throne
“What makes hip-hop such a durable form is its capacity to scramble fiction and fact; the artifice and the realities that art conceals or amplifies become one. In this way, Watch the Throne feels astonishingly different. It captures two artists who no longer need dreams; art cannot possibly prophesy a better future for either of them.”