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Stop Giving Your Money to Wall St.

Protesters in lower Manhattan this week number in the thousands. And protest is called for: personal income fell in August (from July), the first drop in two years, says the Commerce Dept (but who knows if they correct for inflation), while the top 1% rake in 24% of all US income, their biggest haul in almost a century. Now, if protesters can get as clear about geonomic solutions as they are about economic problems, then this economy of ours -- indeed, of the whole world -- will be on the fast track to recovery and to an even better world beyond.

by General Editor, Jeffery J. Smith, 5 October 2011

While Wall Street does sorely misuse our money, should they have our money in the first place?

Look at what those brokers get. Much of our savings ends up on their ledgers. Most of our pension funds are in their hands. And just about all of society’s debt is Big Bankers’ credit. Yet it need not be that way.

We can stop sending all our surplus cash to Wall Street right now. We can:
* keep our savings in community credit unions;
* use cash or debit cards and credit cards only as a last resort; and
* lobby our local governments to keep our commonwealth at home.

What is the wealth that already belongs to us, which we overlook and upon which Wall Street feasts, empowering itself to lord over everyone else? It's our common inheritance, mainly the worth of Earth, the value of land and resources. It’s all of society’s spending for all the sites and ecosystem services it uses. We pay for land and oil not only when we pay rent or buy gasoline; the value of nature is embedded in the price of everything we buy. This flow of dough is ours, since we all have an equal right to Earth, and it is trillions every year -- the biggest sector by far in the GDP -- that now ends up in the wrong pockets.

How can we recover and share our commonwealth and thereby starve Wall Street? We can get our local governments to levy locations, as Pittsburgh did from 1980-2000, and then to pay dividends, somewhat similar to what Alaska does with oil revenue and Aspen CO does with land revenue. Cut off the flow to Wall Street and you can provide yourself and your neighbors with an extra income from the worth of Earth; at last we’d be able to feel more secure and enjoy life more.

If we were to really get serious about economic equity and closing the income gap, we’d quit taxing wages -- workers have it hard enough as it is -- and quit taxing truly productive companies and cooperatives -- promising startups have it hard enough as it is, too. This “geonomic” tax shift from wages and earnings to the socially-generated value of locations has always helped people prosper,: e.g., in Denmark (1950s) and in Australia (1990s). As long as communities put land dues (or taxes) and “rent” dividends in place -- keeping local values circulating locally -- then people’s material success won’t leak out and gravitate to Wall Street.

Another major piece of the puzzle is to end the Big Banks’ monopoly on creating and issuing new money needed for a growing economy (growing in sustainable ways, one hopes). Rather than allow only the Federal Reserve to expand the money supply -- as when bailing out their Wall Street brethren -- we could return that function to Congress (trusting elections will soon become democratic) and we could extend that power to our communities and allow credit unions and local currencies to issue legal tender, too, trusting our neighbors more than faceless bankers.

While the power to create new money and the tendency of society to create surplus may seem unrelated, they are not. Consider that in the present system, the Federal Reserve makes new money when it buys debt using money that never existed before it buys the debt, and most of private debt is mortgages and the major portion of mortgages is borrowing to buy land. Further, note that historically, the big bankers who founded the Federal Reserve were earlier founded by families who amassed fortunes in oil, which like land, is a natural resource; Chase Bank is a spin-off of the Rockefeller family, the major owners of Exxon.

Those few wealthy entities wield power because they hold privilege. We ordinary citizens wield power because we vastly outnumber them. But our fatal flaw is we lack understanding of how economies work, why they fail, and what we can do about it while the elite enjoy a simple vision of purpose -- keep everyone else paying them for land and resources. To defeat Wall Street today, and to dismantle Wall Street so it can never bully and impoverish us again, we must match their clarity of purpose. Simply put, we must stop feeding the beast. Let us recognize our commonwealth and demand that it be shared equitably. It is a demand we can make in the streets yet must also call for in our meetings, in the media, and our visits to our legislators. Then the next time we take to the streets it will be to celebrate.


Editor Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics.

Also see:

Hong Kong approaches land-value tax ideal

Big Fish Vs. School of Little Fish

Lessons from Old New York and New

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