Since its announcement, the POA has been touted as putting an end to five years of brutal structural adjustment. For instance, Natalie Jaresko, executive director of the unelected Financial Oversight Board that has dictated Puerto Rico’s finances since 2016, celebrated the POA as a “new chapter in Puerto Rico’s history.” Gov. Pedro Pierluisi suggested that while the POA is “not perfect,” it ultimately protects Puerto Rico’s vulnerable public sector. In contrast, a multisectoral coalition of teachers, labor, pensioners, students and activists expressed immediate rejection of what they call the “plan del tumbe” (the shakedown plan). These groups have long been demanding a comprehensive debt audit, calling attention to the POA’s everyday implications, and resisting its confirmation by mobilizing online, in the streets, the legislature and the courts.Continue reading
Túmin: The Alternative Currency Rebuilding Community In Mexico
Above Photo: Túmin notes from Chiapas, Mexico. (Clara Haizlett).
People across Mexico are increasingly using Túmin to support local businesses and challenge monopoly capitalists.
In southern Mexico, Itzel Castro sits behind the counter at a small artisanal store tucked along a colorful side street. She welcomes customers as they browse shelves stacked full of food, books and accessories. When the customers check out, Castro offers them change – not in pesos, but in Túmin.
Túmin is an alternative currency that emerged in Veracruz, Mexico in 2010. About the size of a credit card, Túmin notes are printed with vibrant illustrations that vary from state to state. Each Túmin note is equivalent to one peso, one minute of work or even one US dollar. It is both a unit of exchange and a currency that comes in 1, 5, 10, and 20 denominated notes.
Castro works at Túmin Tienda in San Cristobal de las Casas, in the state of Chiapas. It’s a space dedicated to supporting local producers and cultivating awareness about the currency. Castro sells her homemade flour and cheeses at the store. She is one of ten Túministas who opened the space last month – making her one of more than 350 vendors using the currency in the town, of around 2,500 nationwide.
Communities around Mexico are increasingly turning to the fringe currency to foster solidarity amid economic instability and inflation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is now present in 24 of Mexico’s 32 states – with 723 vendors in the eastern coastal state of Veracruz and 567 in Oaxaca.
As the currency isn’t accepted by large companies, Túmin encourages consumers to purchase local products. And since banks don’t recognize it, it can’t accrue interest, so users are incentivized to circulate the currency rather than accumulate it.
“This community currency will not go to large transnational stores never to return, but will remain circulating and prevent scarcity in the community,” explained academic and Túmin activist Juan Castro (no relation to Itzel).
“The objective is to satisfy the needs of communities by allowing products and services to be paid for with Túmin. In this way, the economy is diversified and official money, which is now less necessary, is disempowered.”
The currency – usually, but not always, used alongside the peso in transactions (for example, paying half in each currency or receiving 20% change in Túmin) – was the brainchild of researchers from the Intercultural University of Veracruz, who were conducting a project on rural communities. They observed that the growth of local markets in Veracruz state was being hampered by their inability to compete with large companies.
Fruit and vegetable producers from the Veracruz town of El Espinal, home to around 25,000 mostly indigenous people, soon came together to print and use Túmin to tackle local cash shortages and rising prices.
They also sought to stimulate sales through lower costs. Túministas generally sell at cheaper prices when accepting Túmin as a gesture of solidarity with consumers.
Currency Against Capitalism
Ultimately, however, the currency’s creators wanted to make a stand against the type of capitalism that extracts and hoards wealth. Unsurprisingly, the country’s central bank, the Bank of Mexico, pushed back, arguing that Túmin was unconstitutional since the state has a monopoly on minting currency and issuing bank notes.
But the Túministas maintained that they were protected by rights allowing indigenous people and communities autonomy to shape their economies, and that the currency did not seek to replace the peso. The furor blew over.
Now, in some municipalities, such as El Espinal or Papantla, it has been reported that rent, water and other bills can be paid – at least in part – in Túmin.
The desire that Túmin be used to help build a social fabric that favors barter and interest-free loans, especially in the face of the growth of electronic banking that came with the pandemic, is central to its creators.
“When you start using Túmin, you stop being clients and become partners,” Castro explained. “When this happens, the entire capitalist dynamic collapses.”
He added that the currency presents a problem for the Mexican government as taxes cannot be levied on profits made in Túmin. The paper-based currency offers an alternative to centralized debt-based economic models and represents something of a return to pre-capitalist methods of barter and exchange.
“It is an alternative market that only works communally in the spirit of one for all and all for one,” Castro said. “It is just one part of a new culture that is increasingly developing autonomous social structures outside government control.”
He told Mexican newspaper Proceso: “This project cannot repeat the schemes of capitalism; it is not a coin to profit, nor to speculate. It is not to generate wealth or create poverty: it is a currency that supports people, but it does not solve everything. You have to be realistic, it is not an ideal currency.”
Back in San Cristobal de las Casas, taxi driver Laura Mendoza has been accepting Túmin for almost a year. However, just a handful of clients regularly pay her in Túmin. Most of them don’t know anything about the currency. This isn’t uncommon. Despite the numbers of vendors now using it, outside Veracruz, Túministas have generally struggled to get working people to embrace it, as it is perversely considered a foreign and even slightly bourgeois concept. Detractors also suggest that it would be easier to counterfeit Túmin than Mexican banknotes.
“I tell them I can offer change in Túmin but a lot of people don’t want it,” she said. “They’re afraid of something different. Or they think that I’m trying to swindle them.”
But when people are interested, she is happy to explain how the system works and give them change in Túmin. As a consumer, she tries to do her shopping in places which accept Túmin or by directly contacting other Túministas.
“We have a big group on WhatsApp in San Cris,” she said. “I can ask there if someone is offering a particular service or if someone is selling fruit or vegetables.”
With interest growing, she is intrigued by the potential of the currency – not dissimilar to other models used and experimented with across the world – to strengthen the local economy and society.
“People are always talking about the remittances that come into Mexico, but they don’t talk about the huge quantities of money leaving the country through big stores like Walmart,” Mendoza said. “Túmin is a necessity if we wish to reinvest in our community.”
How We Broke The Supply Chain
Breadlines, the Big Book of Capitalism assured us, could not happen in a market economy. Supply would always rise to meet demand, as long as there’s money to be made. Only deviating from free-market fundamentalism—giving everyone health care, for example—could lead to shortages. Otherwise, capitalism has your every desire covered.
Yet we have breadlines in America today, or at least just off our coasts. They consist of dozens of ships with billions of dollars of cargo, idling outside the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the docks through which 40 percent of all U.S. seaborne imports flow. “Ships” barely conveys the scale of these giants, which are more like floating Empire State Buildings, stacked high with multicolored containers filled to the brim with toys and clothes and electronics, produced mostly in Asia.Continue reading
Union Membership Resumes Its Fall
Union membership fell by almost 2% in 2021 as employment rose by over 3%. That took union density—the share of the workforce belonging to unions—down from 10.8% in 2020 to 10.3% last year, where it was in 2019. Density rose in 2020 because more nonunion workers lost their jobs in the covid crisis than their unionized counterparts, but 2021’s return to employment undid that.
For the private sector, just 6.1% of workers were unionized last year, down from 6.3% in 2020, an all-time low for a series that goes back to 1900. (Official numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics began in 1983; I’ve assembled figures for earlier years from various sources.) Public sector density also fell, from 34.8% to 33.9%, not quite a record low. But the number of government workers organized in unions fell by 2.7%, almost four times as much as private sector members. The full history is graphed below.Continue reading
Financial Superbubble Meets Political Dystopia
Because only fools believe they can predict the short-term fluctuations of the economy, let’s follow in the style of Descartes and just retreat to the most basic possible prediction that we are certain will come true. Which is: The current boom in asset prices — high prices not just in one asset, but in stocks, financial assets, real estate, luxury goods, crypto, NFTs and any other hastily invented place where money can flow — will come to an end. Whether that end comes tomorrow or in six months or in a year or in five years is impossible to know for sure, but we do know that the economy moves in cycles, and the current cycle is (very far) on the upside. And what goes up will, inevitably, come down.Continue reading
Unions Have The Potential And Responsibility To Advance A ‘Just Transition’
The idea of a “just transition” has emerged as an absolute requirement for any progress toward a clean energy future. An energy transformation will impact workers in the fossil fuel industry but will also affect regions and communities differently. A just transition must be designed to ensure that the benefits of greening the economy are shared widely and that no worker is left behind.Continue reading
Student Leaders Call On Biden To Cancel Student Loan Debt
We, the undersigned 111 student government leaders representing over 1.4 million students, write to urge you to exercise your executive authority, as designated by the Higher Education Act of 1965, to cancel all federal student loan debt immediately.
As student leaders, we have seen the harrowing financial, social, and mental health impacts that the crushing weight of student loan debt imposes upon students and alumni by exacerbating the financial insecurity, social inequities, and economic stagnation which impacts over 44 million borrowers in the United States. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government recognized the burden of such debt on borrowers, pausing student loan repayments and lowering the interest rate to 0%.Continue reading
‘Smoking Gun’ Analysis: US Sanctions Produce ‘War Time’ Economy
Red Lines Host Anya Parampil Speaks With Francisco R. Rodríguez, The Executive Of Oil For Venezuela, About A Study He Recently Published Which Analyzed The Impact Of US Sanctions On Venezuela’s Economy.
Rodríguez shares data which prove sanctions have directly contributed to a major economic contraction in Venezuela, driven mainly by a significant drop in the country’s oil production as a result of the measures. Rodríguez also addresses common arguments made by individuals who seek to obscure the impact US sanctions have had on Venezuela’s economy. Read the study: https://sanctionsandsecurity.org/publications/sanctions-economic-statecraft-and-venezuelas-crisis/Continue reading
A Program For A Future Society That We Will Build In The Present
In October 2021, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) released a report that received barely any attention: the Global Multidimensional Poverty Index 2021, notably subtitled Unmasking disparities by ethnicity, caste, and gender. ‘Multidimensional poverty’ is a much more precise measurement of poverty than the international poverty line of $1.90 per day. It looks at ten indicators divided along three axes: health (nutrition, child mortality), education (years of schooling, school attendance), and standard of living (cooking fuel, sanitation, drinking water, electricity, housing, assets). The team studied multidimensional poverty across 109 countries, looking at the living conditions of 5.9 billion people.Continue reading
We Know The Silver Bullet To Ending Poverty And Destitution
Here’s how the world should operate in simple terms: A certain country or region or city or township or Hobbit hole tries something in order to help their society or group or hovel — if it works, other places then do it. If it doesn’t work, other places don’t do it. It’s like when you were a kid and you saw your brother slide down the banister and rack himself on the newel post — You then thought, “Maybe that activity is not for me.” But if he didn’t nail himself in the jewels, you probably thought, “I think I’ll try that.”
That’s how the United States government should work, but it doesn’t. For-profit healthcare, corporate personhood, the drug war, funding terrorists overseas that we call “moderate rebels,” etc. — all of these things have been tried, they fuckin’ suck every time, and we keep doing them.Continue reading
Despite Historic Minimum Wage Increases, The South Still Trails Behind
2022 marks 10 years since fast food workers in New York first went on strike to demand higher wages, better working conditions, and the right to unionize — sparking the Fight For $15 movement. Since that time, the movement has gained traction, with California raising its minimum wage to $15 an hour and several other states passing legislation that will gradually do so.
As the ongoing global pandemic has drawn attention to the fact that the people who keep the country running are overworked and underpaid, workers have continued to strike for higher wages and union rights. In many cases, their demands are being met.
Showing the tremendous strides made by Fight for $15, a record number of states and localities are raising their wages this year.Continue reading
Is A Program To Foster Sustainable Farming Leaving Out Small-Scale Growers Of Color?
Even when there are funds available, the soils program can be difficult for farmers who grow many crops, as well as immigrant farmers who may not speak English fluently, to access or make use of. It’s also hard for lower-income growers who lease their land year to year to successfully complete an application, because the program requires a three-year commitment for all who participate. And HSP takes a largely prescriptive approach—requiring that one practice be applied to the same plot of land for the entire time. But smaller operations tend to grow a diverse range of crops that require intricate rotation and the ability to swap out crops due to weather, water availability and other factors.Continue reading
Capitalist Bonanza: Share Buybacks Reached Record High In 2021
The coronavirus pandemic continued to wreak havoc in 2021, with the Omicron and Delta variants, supply chain disruptions, and inflation battering the global working class. In the United States, companies continued to put profits before worker well-being while the Biden administration refused to provide relief like continuing the child tax credit. Amid much bad news for workers last year emerged a key victor: wealthy shareholders.
Share buybacks hit a record high last year. Companies in the S&P 500 — a market index which tracks the stock prices of 500 leading U.S. companies — repurchased shares worth over $245 billion in the third quarter alone. These exorbitant buybacks helped U.S. stock market indices reach record peaks: the S&P 500 broke 67 records in 2021 and increased its value by 25 percent.Continue reading
The Cruel Failure Of Welfare Reform In The Southwest
ProPublica has taken this moment to examine the present state of cash assistance in the U.S., focusing on the Southwest, where massive population growth and a surging cost of living for low-income parents have collided with the region’s libertarian attitude toward government help for the poor.
What ProPublica discovered is an abundance of overlooked stories of bizarre — and mean-spirited — practices on the part of state governments, which were handed near-complete responsibility for welfare under the 1996 law.Continue reading
Raises From Coast To Coast In 2022
In 2022, a record number of states and localities will increase their minimum wages—10 years after fast-food workers first went on strike to demand $15 and a union. These record increases are the result of underpaid workers organizing, demanding, and winning higher wages. This movement has not only led to the adoption of higher state and local minimum wages but has helped seed new worker activism and mobilization across our economy.
On January 1, 2022 (December 31, 2021 for workers in New York), the minimum wage will increase in 21 states and 35 cities and counties. In 33 of those jurisdictions, the wage floor will reach or exceed $15 per hour for some or all employers.
Later in 2022, four additional states and 22 local jurisdictions will also lift their wage floors—17 of them to $15 or more.Continue reading