Ask Prof. Wolff

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Professor Wolff receives hundreds of questions per week covering a wide array of topics, from economics and politics, to historical movements and current events. While Professor Wolff does his best to reply to some questions on Economic Update with Richard D. Wolff, he's received more questions than can be answered individually. Prof. Wolff will now provide video answers to his favorite questions on this page.
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wage crisis

Professor Wolff, Could you please address this issue that came to my attention via The Real News Network. Here is link regarding the study by the Nation Low Income Housing Coalition. I believe this is the beginning of the end of The American Dream. Thank you. Sincerely, Demian

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What factors determine the strength of a currency?

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Roland Bernard interview - who 'owns' the world

Worth a look, if you have not already seen it. It's in Dutch with subtitles, so I watched with the sound off.

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News content for EU

Here is an article that details how capitalism killed a 62 year old woman 8 days before retirement:

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What would a worker-owned coal mine look like in 2017?

I live and work in China for a local company providing startup services. Long-time student of environmental sciences. I also have been providing consulting as a co-founder of a CSA program here (so far pro-bono). I am enthralled with Prof. Wolff's news updates and in-depth analysis of the current economic paradigm. I have a few questions and another topic suggestion. 1. The good professor has gone through some hypothetical scenarios to illustrate how worker-owned cooperatives would make decisions that are better for workers, better for the sustainability of the company, and better for the communities in which they operate. If (hypothetically) a coal mining company was worker owned and operated, what decisions would they make in terms of operation, and what executive decisions would they make in 2017 - the economic outlook for coal being what it is. 2. What resources are there for companies that have decided to either convert, or initially found a company as worker-owned cooperatives? How can we find advisors/allies to help kick-start such an effort. Comment: I would really like to hear a segment focusing on local food, CSAs and/or agricultural cooperatives. I would like to suggest reaching out to Joel Salitan of Polyface Farms (as seen on Food Inc. and What's With Wheat) for such a segment (or Michael Pollan as an alternative that would be equally illuminating but perhaps less charming than the "nudist buddhist farmer"). I've read his (Joel's) books and think it would be great for listeners to know more about how FDA regulations (as they are skewed to favor big business and industrialized food systems) are onerous for small farmers, and the misalignment of agricultural subsidies in the U.S. of A. Many thanks to Prof. Wolff for his timeless insights and timely updates!

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How can we avoid the pitfalls of past experiments in "industrial socialism"?

I was listening to a NPR Planet Money podcast all about the Oneida Commune in upstate New York. During the program, the NPR reporters comment on the Oneida Commune representing "responsible" or "conscious" capitalism. I believe the Oneida Commune's experience is a very telling one about the pitfalls of "communal / cooperative" capitalism. Given your understanding of the cultural / historical / political contexts Oneida found itself in over the course of its 150+ year run, what should the take away be for those of us interested in developing and enhancing communal / cooperative relations in the enterprise? What do you think we can learn from the Oneida Company's communal / cooperative experience (and others in this country, I'm sure)? What is the proper perspective to take on the demoralizing, dispiriting downfall that beset the Oneida Company? Thank you in advance for your time and attention to this post...

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UK politics

I'm eager to hear your next Monthly Update.... I hope you can give mention to the phenomenon that has happened in the UK - Bernie Sanders comments about the Labour leader and the movement and the parallels he draws to his efforts in the US and the internal conflicts that attempt to hold back and vilify the labour leader.

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Will you please discuss the debt held by the public in the next economic update?

Its composition, its history, its plausibility of default and what the consequences would be...

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Student Loan Repayment Schemes

Dr Wolff, In a recent Economic Update you discussed problems in the Student Loan market. You mentioned a scheme to realign student loan repayments so they’re valued against the ability of the borrower to pay (a percentage of eventual income, I believe) rather than the traditional practice of adding accrued interest to the repayment amount every month. You seem to be opposed to the idea behind this scheme, but I don’t quite understand your reasoning in this. In this ‘percentage of income’ approach, capitalist excesses can be minimised if 1) student loan rates are controlled through regulation, and 2) the students have a clear idea of how their repayment burden would affect them in different earnings scenarios. While lenders might seem to be making out like bandits in good economic times, isn’t it true that during tough times, there is an aspect of mercy in this approach by saying that your repayment amount this month is zero since you earned zero this month? Isn’t this ‘forgiveness mechanism’ a concept we need to be grappling with at both the personal and state level in public discourse? Or am I just missing the public discourse where these things are grappled with?

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Joe Rogan podcast

You should really consider trying to get on the Joe Rogan podcast, he really doesn't have a real understanding of Socialism and has guests on constantly that give him lies about Socialism. He gets around 10 million downloads a podcast on iTunes, it would be a great platform for you. Many thanks!

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not a question, a poem of mine to share with you

“As we fade" So the USA chooses to no longer be the world leader, as we pass that over to others now. Our research and invention relinquished to others to make from our inventive spark except that is for the art and tools of active war Our home infrastructure crumbles as we build infrastructure in the nations that we destroy while our lower classes are in growing despair and rapidly growing in numbers Our research is hobbled So our wealth classes taxes can be ever lower as we slide into a Spanish style 3rd world nation Our teachers are reviled , Our scientist's harassed Our public workers are demeaned Union workers rights infringed Those without work are blamed for their plight as their jobs are shifted to others willing to toil for vastly less OR turned over to machines and programs designed to remove them from their contribution and wage while what little wealth the truly poor have is siphoned off for other’s bottom lines then they blame them for their poverty and sympathy is found in their hearts only for friends, family and peers It seems self seeking in all they know we elect charlatans making empty promises forever unkept who manipulate the rules and laws for the benefit of their backers a decades long class war being overwhelmingly won by the moneyed class they've made Our Judgeships their political playground to serve their self centered desires if they leave so little for the rest of us to survive we may realize they are so unnecessary to our needs whereas if they leave enought for the rest to be comfortable we will tolerate their drain upon us enlightened self interest I believe it's called. they will still posses vastly more than any others ever have ©2016 R.Kane Richard Kane [I love listening to your radio show]

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How to understand nature and drivers of modern-day income inequality?

What causes the recent sharp increases in income inequality? How are these causes and effects the same as, and different from, the race-to-the-bottom economic policies and dynamics of the 1980s, that famously drove the activities of corporate raiders like Carl Icahn, while sending Michael Milliken to jail (only temporarily, of course)? While recognizing that inequality is endemic to capitalism, it seems that there is intensified pressure on major corps. to slash services, employees, etc., in the interest of shareholder value/driving up stock price. These trends have serious consequences for public health, and I think motivated some voters to support Trump, who pretended that NAFTA was the key problem; Dems have virtually nothing to say about this ($15/hr. minimum wage did not send people to the barricades, or the voting booth). (I've read Les Leopold, Thos. Piketty, who describe the trends in income inequality, but don't explain its course/etiology; now reading Pasquale Tridico, who looks like he may come closer, in "Inequality in Financial Capitalism." Appreciate comments, illumination.

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Labor Unions

Dr. Wolff, One of the nuggets of wisdom I've heard you mention in your lectures on the evils of Capitalism, is that the Communists, and the Socialists were liquidated post FDR's New Deal, by the rich and the right-wing (due to FDR's taxing them to get our asses out of the Great Depression, and that they didn't want that to happen again), and that Labor Union memberships have been reduced steadily in the last 50 years, leaving Americans with little to no representation in the work-place. Granted. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, "The union membership rate--the percent of wage and salary workers who were members of unions--was 10.7 percent in 2016, down 0.4 percentage point from 2015. The number of wage and salary workers belonging to unions, at 14.6 million in 2016, declined by 240,000 from 2015. In 1983, the first year for which comparable union data are available, the union membership rate was 20.1 percent, and there were 17.7 million union workers." OK, so, as Trump is already getting himself in trouble just being the poster-boy for the Russians, I wouldn't recommend a resurgence of anything that even sounds like Communism or Bolshevism, but, Socialism appears to be catching on again, and...the Labor Unions. Why can't we strengthen the Labor Unions again? I realize membership has reduced steadily, but what's the history behind that? Can't we reverse that trend, which would allow Americans to have representation again? You yourself have said that Socialism and Communism are dead in many American's *minds* due to the brainwashing against those ideas over the last 70 years. Again, granted. However, since it will obviously take time to get to "democratize the workplace" in this country, wouldn't it seem we could make head-ways, with Labor Unions, while we're working on the former?

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