Ask Prof. Wolff

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Have a question for Professor Wolff? Want to suggest a topic or article? Post it here! Professor Wolff receives hundreds of questions per week covering a wide array of topics, from economics and socialism, to historical movements and current events. While Professor Wolff does his best to reply to some questions on Economic Updatewe receive more questions than we can handle! Ask Prof. Wolff allows his fans to ask questions publicly and also vote and respond to others questions.
 
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Drug prices?

Professor Wolff, Here's something weird. When my wife and I return to the US from Mexico every couple of years we check-in with doctors. (Medicare doesn't cover you when you are outside of the US.) The doc prescribed generic Flow Maxx. ( At your age you may already know what this is for.) So as I was dealing with the paperwork on the way out I saw a little sign and a stack of cards about something called GOODRx which advised me to take a card and take it to my pharmacy when I had my prescription filled and I would save some money. So I did. I don't usually fall for stuff like this but in this case I was glad I did. To make a long story short, before I mentioned the card at the drug store the charge for my prescription was $86. But after consulting with someone or something online the clerk reduced the cost to $27. Anyone who didn't know about this would have paid the full $86 and known no better. Furthermore, after I checked out the GOODRx app I learned that at another nearby pharmacy I could have gotten the same quantity of the same drug for $15! What the hell is going on? I'm sure CVS is still making a nice profit at $27. If you have time look into it. Thanks for your hard and diligent work. Keep it up! Kenneth Hunt

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Marginal product of labor?

Mr. Wolff, Capitalist critiques often refer to laborers as wage slaves. That is, producing X units for some arbitrary wage which is not dependent upon what is actually produced. In this system, do we have any kind of ratio that tells us an average MPL for the capitalist owner? If I earn a wage of $500 per week, can we estimate how much I have actually economically produced for my company's owners?

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The Capitalist Papers

Hello Mr. Wolff, Now, I understand that you are a busy man, but I have found a compilation of essays that purport to have refuted Marxism as a whole. They seem to have misinterpreted Marx on many levels, but, however, I am not as proficient in Marxian economics as you are. So, my request is this, will you perhaps analyze and make a response to these essays? -Thomas https://docs.google.com/document/d/1N8opNE-3Nj5W_7w_2vx6grfvoidmcMsTWli2EBXcZsM

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MMT. clarify, compare and contrast, your position on MMT. .

I really love your presentations. I am in the early stages of learning MMT. Your recent show stirred up some heated discussion in Modern Monetary Theory for Real Progressives on Facebook. I would love it if you could clarify, compare and contrast, your position on MMT.

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Is there any validity to claims that the New Deal prolonged the Great Depression?

I've recently read several free market economists who claim that FDR, in implementing New Deal policies, actually hurt the economically vulnerable and prolonged the depression by several years. A typical report making this claim, like one from the Cato Institute, references "mounting evidence" that enterprising free market scholars have uncovered, with the assumption seeming to be that they've finally rid the subject of ideology and come out with an objective analysis. I'm wary of economists making these kinds of assertions. I'm a young and budding scholar of music history and not of economics, so I'd like some guidance on how to navigate this complex topic. Information and suggested reading on this would be very helpful. Thanks! https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/how-fdrs-new-deal-harmed-millions-poor-people

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How can local action groups fight established Public Private Partnerships?

I live in Northwest Indiana, and local action groups are working to stop deportations out of our Gary Airport, which has been in a PPP for over a decade. We are also in the Master Plan session, but the process that has been established is structured to have no public input. I have found suggestions on how to prevent a PPP, but what is the best option when trying to dismantle an already established economic development disaster? Even if ending deportations is successful, the airport is still a drain on the working class in the area while wealthy people in NWI and Chicago use it as a private jet parking garage (on tax payers' dime).

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Will comer.org lawsuit in Canada inspire people to take action?

https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2015/03/23/rocco-galati-in-court-to-challenge-how-bank-of-canada-does-business.html https://www.thestar.com/news/2008/05/17/toronto_revolutionary_93_girds_for_one_more_battle.html http://www.comer.org/

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Where is the oversight in higher education expenditure?

Professor Wolff I was wondering if you could address in more detail the funding crisis of public universities, or at least the way the universities spin this crisis. I was a graduate student at the University of Texas, a school with a very handsome endowment, and was shocked at how poor the quality of education and services were for students at all levels. For example, as a student in biomedical research, my lab was stationed in the Dell Pediatric Research Institute, a newer building near the UT campus but on the other side of I-35. A bus that shuttled students from the main campus, where graduate students like myself were to teach and take courses, to the DPRI was cut due to a lack of funds and so-called low ridership. Because the university already cut graduate student parking years ago, there are only a few parking places available in the early morning hours at the main campus. This means for graduate students doing research at the DPRI, leaving to attend classes and/or teach undergraduates on the main campus have no way to get there except by bike, not a fun prospect to cross a major highway in 108 degree heat only to show up drenched in sweat to teach undergraduates. Of course none of this even addresses the tremendous loss of time for a graduate student who is under pressure to produce data to have even the prospect of a career. I find it awfully fishy that there is always money for large-scale construction projects that do not necessarily benefit students while the most basic services that could improve students’ success are completely ignored if not slashed altogether. Where is the oversight in higher education expenditure? That students put up with this is shocking. How is this even legal? Is there any oversight at all on how funds are spent at universities? The students are certainly not benefiting from the way funds are allocated. They aren’t even given the quality lab materials necessary to complete a successful experiment, nor are they given the quality training they need to know how to do a proper experiment. The quality of education is deteriorating in spite of the new shiny buildings, pools, gyms, etc.

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Dear Prof. Wolff:

I live in Brasil. We are facing a huge recession since 2015 and a coup since 2016. There is a plastic artifacts factory in the State of São Paulo, named Flasko, that was occupied by the workers when it got into bankruptcy 12 years ago. This factory was recovered by them and the eletricity bill worth on 1,5 mi. Reais ( almost US $ 500.000) was payed by them. But as the economic situation is very bad they accumulated more debt. In the region much bigger companies are also in debt with the eletricity company, but the only one that had an eletricity cut was Flasko. So they can't work any more. I want to help them and don't know what to do. Do you have any idea? I thought of a loan or a croudfunding to raise the money, but I don't know what to do.I even know people that are being threatned when trying to help. How can they get help?

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Dear Prof. Wolff:

I live in Brasil. We are facing a huge recession since 2015 and a coup since 2016. There is a plastic artifacts factory in the State of São Paulo, named Flasko, that was occupied by the workers when it got into bankruptcy 12 years ago. This factory was recovered by them and the eletricity bill worth on 1,5 mi. Reais ( almost US $ 500.000) was payed by them. But as the economic situation is very bad they accumulated more debt. In the region much bigger companies are also in debt with the eletricity company, but the only one that had an eletricity cut was Flasko. So they can't work any more. I want to help them and don't know what to do. Do you have any idea? I thought of a loan or a croudfunding to raise the money, but I don't know what to do.I even know people that are being threatned when trying to help. How can they get help?

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From the GoFundMe team for the girl who got assaulted in the Berkeley protests

Questions for professor Wolff: 1) Has "western Marxist" theory veered away from traditional class analysis, what has the effect been on the labor movement and might that have had anything to do with its origins working with American intelligence agencies post-ww2? Particularly the Frankfurt School. 2) Would you talk about little bit about the antagonisms between the working classes and the unemployed in their respective points of conflict and how we might bridge them in pursuit of a new labor movement? Also, if our gofundme collective could get a mention on the next economic update, it would be greatly appreciated. https://www.gofundme.com/3nj1iqg Thank you for your time!

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There is an element of Student Loans missing from your analysis.

In order to apply for a student loan independently, the student must be at least 25 years old. So the vast majority of students had someone cosign on their loans(parents usually). Now these same students are required to work underpaid full-time jobs while their cosigners livelihoods are held hostage. This prevents them from being able to organize and protest without deeply effecting the people who they care about most. For this reason there were portions of your interview with Mr. Annunziato that were upsetting. The aspect of the segment where you were discussing the importance of youth involvement and leadership in rebuilding the labor movement seemed to imply that the responsibility for change falls on the younger generation. Far too much of the conversation focused on how the older generation had to step back and pass on the torch. In many aspects you were both correct. There does need to be a powerful youth movement and we do need youthful leaders, but it is not up to young people to shoulder the entire burden of fixing the world. Millennials did not experience the civil rights movement. We did not experience Vietnam. Half of us were too young to be involved in Occupy. We do not know how to organize a peaceful resistance. We need both of you, for your charisma and your education and your experience, to help cultivate the youthful leaders and organizations we need to move forward. It is dangerous and misguided to think otherwise. This has to be a cross-generational effort or it will never be accomplished. Nor does the youth of this time have the economic liberty of the past(at least not from what I've seen). We have more debts and a different set of responsibilities. These differences must be recognized and the resistance must adapt to these circumstances. In my view, this means we must distribute the labor of the labor movement in such a way that it does not direct responsibility based on age, generation or any other discriminatory fashion. I believe that you are doing your part to raise awareness and to facilitate the discussions we so desperately need. But should a movement begin we need all of the academic forces we can muster to make this succeed. If you are counting on us to organize and operate without the guidance of knowledge, wisdom and experience, then you will be disappointed.

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Making the left an organized affair centered around reclamation of the workplace again.

Dear Professor Wolff, I have 2 questions and was hoping you would answer one or the other, if not both (one can only dream). 1) Has "western Marxist" theory veered away from traditional class analysis, what has the effect been on the labor movement and might that have had anything to do with American intelligence agencies post-ww2 anti-soviet activity, or the influence of the Frankfurt school on the western left, as it too veered towards anti-soviet discourse priming over the importance of anti-capitalism? I ask this because of the known and documented ties between founding member fo the Frankfurt school and the upper echelons of the OSS which as you probably know, got the name change and charter to become the CIA in 1947- 2) Would you talk about little bit about the antagonisms between the working classes and the unemployed in their respective points of conflict and how we might bridge them in pursuit of a new labor movement? Sincerely, Josquin Dejean from Class Action Praxis, the collective behind the currently running "Anti-Trump Girl Takes Punch For Labor" GoFundMe campaign. https://www.facebook.com/ClassActionPraxis/ https://www.gofundme.com/3nj1iqg http://www.socialmatter.net/2016/08/25/frankfurt-school-not-cause-progressivism/ https://nithgrim.wordpress.com/2016/05/19/marcuse-and-the-deep-state/

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Comparing universal income with part-time work?

No matter what solution we chose, I cannot see any way to escape the fact that the population growth and automation will eventually produce a situation where there's simply not enough jobs for everyone who want to work. And then what? If we move everyone to universal income, what influence would it have on production of goods and the circulation of money? In other words, if a large part of the population doesn't work, where will the money come from? If we move everyone to part-time work, how would we earn enough to maintain our current lifestyle? After all, we cannot expect employers to pay full wages for part-time work. Wouldn't we require some sort of government support anyway then, just to survive?

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