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This 2014 excerpt of the Los Angeles Times, May 5, by Amina Khan.
Looks like good news may come in threes. The teenage pregnancy rate, birth rate and abortion rate have all dropped sharply since their respective peaks in the 1990s. Fewer teens are getting pregnant in the first place.
The teenage pregnancy rate dropped 51% between 1990 and 2010. The 2010 rate of 57.4 pregnancies per 1,000 teenage girls and women 15-19 also represents a drop of 15% since 2008 alone.
The teen birthrate also declined by 44%, from its peak in 1991 of 61.8 to 34.4 births per 1,000. The teen abortion rate experienced the steepest drop of 66%, from 43.5 abortions per 1,000 at its 1988 peak to just 14.7 per 1,000.
The declines were seen across racial and ethnic groups, declining 56% among white teenagers (from 86.6 to 37.8 per 1,000), 56% among black teenagers (from 223.8 to 99.5 per 1,000) and 51% among Latino teenagers (from 169.7 to 83.5 per 1,000).
Progress from state to state was uneven. New Mexico had the highest rate, with 80 pregnancies per 1,000, and New Hampshire had the lowest, with 28 per 1,000.
Ed. Notes: Nobody in-the-know knows why today’s teens are not playing Juno, altho’ perhaps a teen does. It amazes me that society can change so much yet sociologists haven’t got a clue, really; maybe it’s not hearing “education” from adults but seeing older sisters lose their fun time.
BTW, if someone could figure why and how society changes, then perhaps they could create the conditions to guide society to make positive changes for the good of all … and if they could predict a fad or fashion, they could probably make a fortune!
Meanwhile, having kids later should be better for the kid, the mom, and the planet which might need a breather from humanitis. More at Progress.org.
This 2014 excerpt of Vox, May 5, is by Matthew Yglesias.
Dentists’ participation in Medicaid means dentists see more publicly insured patients without decreasing the number of visits provided to privately insured patients. Dentists manage to pull this off without increasing the number of hours per week that they work. Dentists don’t do much work in a typical dental visit; dental hygienists are the people who do the vast majority of the work in a dental office — and as a result, more patients increase not dentists’ work time but their incomes.
Waiting times for patients waiting to get in to see a dentist go up modestly. The increased wait times are concentrated in states with relatively restrictive “scope of practice” laws. In some states, hygienists can clean teeth with considerable autonomy from dentists whereas in other states a hygienist can only clean teeth if she’s employed by a dentist.
An essentially parallel situation exists in mainstream medical care. Some states allow certified nurse-practitioners to evaluate patients, diagnose, order and interpret diagnostic tests, initiate and manage treatments. People with serious medical conditions still need to see doctors. But patients with routine care needs can get them taken care of by nurses. Other states, by contrast, create more of a financial windfall for MDs.
Proponents of restrictive licensing say that the issue is patient safety and not greed. But research says otherwise. As Health Affairs has noted, “studies comparing the quality of care provided by physicians and nurse practitioners have found that clinical outcomes are similar” while subjective measures of patient satisfaction indicate that nurse practitioners do better than MDs.
As the number of people with insurance rises thanks to Obamacare, that’s great news for doctors but a much worse result for patients than we could achieve if we changed these laws.
Ed. Notes: Competition among competent providers is one main way that markets are efficient and why they need to be free of statist interference. Let government handle cases of fraud. The law need not create oligopolies and monopolies but instead defend our rights.
Four newspapers last month recommended that the public recover the rental value of land. The reform might lack intuitive appeal — people don’t like taxes and do love land — but it is fair, since site value is generated by the surrounding populace, and it is efficient, since it prompts owners to quit speculating and build. These four 2014 excerpts are from: (1) The Independent, May 4, by Patrick Diamond, a former Downing Street adviser to Tony Blair and Gordon Brown; (2) The Guardian, May 19, by George Monbiot; (3) The Washington Post, May 20, by Emily Badger; (4) The Economist, May 24.
We Need a Radical Reform of the Tax System
Progressives should focus on shifting the burden of tax from incomes to land values, unearned capital receipts, and property.
After 15 years of devolution, Scotland, the nation with the rich world’s greatest concentration of land ownership remains as inequitable as ever.
Fifty per cent of the private land in Scotland is in the hands of 432 people – but who are they? Many of the large estates are registered in the names of made-up companies in the Caribbean.
Landowners seek to justify their grip on the United Kingdom by rebranding themselves as business owners. The Country Landowners’ Association has renamed itself the Country Land and Business Association. So why do they not pay business rates on their land? Tax exemptions inflate the cost of land, making it impossible for communities to buy.
Though the estates pay next to nothing to the exchequer, and though they practice little that resembles farming, they receive millions in farm subsidies.
It should list all the beneficial owners of the land; impose the taxes Westminster refuses to levy.
Investors Make Housing Expensive. OK to Tax Them For It?
Increasingly, the wealthy in Latin America are buying homes in Miami. Canadians are buying homes in Arizona. Seemingly everyone but Londoners is buying a home in London — and then leaving it empty. And the Chinese are flocking to Vancouver (or, at least, their money is). Vancouver’s real-estate market is tightly connected to what happens in the Chinese economy.
For many of them, property in Vancouver or Seattle is a safer place to put money than property at home.
We expect housing prices to reflect local fundamentals — above all, how much people earn. In a global market, that may not be the case. If there are enough rich people in China who want property in Vancouver, prices can float out of reach of the people who live and work there.
Absentee homeowners can price out people who are actually living in the area.
Urban Planner Andy Yan suggests: Make foreigners pay a premium to buy up local housing. Tax them for the privilege — beyond existing property taxes.
Having risen by 8% in the past year, British house prices are almost back to the double-digit pace that preceded the financial crisis.
Britons are stretching to meet ever-rising prices by borrowing more. Average loan-to-income ratios have passed their 2007 peak. With more pay devoted to mortgage repayments, consumption is bound to fall. That is bad news for firms, and, in turn, workers. Household debt also reduces the funds that could be channelled towards productive investment.
Shifting the burden of tax from income to property would reduce the flood of foreign cash. Taxing land rather than buildings would encourage speculative construction and would push those sitting on large stocks to build or sell up.
Ed. Notes: Three of the four newspapers were British. When will the rest of the world catch up to the United Kingdom? If we’re serious about solving our problems, we need to adopt these good ideas that work right now.
The legal basis for land ownership in the Americas is “Christian Discovery.” This land doctrine derives from the 15th century theology of the Catholic Church. The moral origin of the Vatican’s land doctrine is its old claim of the supremacy of Christianity over all other religions. The “Christian discovery” doctrine is not in the US Constitution, yet it has been adopted by the US government and upheld by the courts.
“Bully’s Justice” by George Zebrowsky, an eye-opening article on Christian Discovery, was published in the June/July 2014 issues of Free Inquiry. Under Christian Discovery, the first Christians to “discover” land previously unknown to the Christian chiefs of state, and held by non-Christians, have a legally legitimate claim to that land. The indigenous and current dwellers have no legal property rights.
A court case in 2005 showed that the Christian Discovery doctrine is still in force. The Onondaga Indian (native American) nation in the State of New York sought federal-court recognition to title of ancestral lands. Also in 2005 the Oneida and Cayuga Indian nations had their land claims dismissed by the US Supreme Court. The Onondaga claim was dismissed in 2010 based on the 2005 Supreme Court decision.
The Supreme Court stated that “Under the doctrine of discovery,” the ownership of “lands occupied by Indians when the colonists arrived became vested in the sovereign, first the discovering European nation and later the original states and the United States.”
There are three moral justifications of land ownership. First is natural moral law, the universal ethic that is inherent in human nature and is a moral imperative for humanity. Second is tradition. Third is force. Natural moral law invalidates both tradition and force as moral rationales.
The laws of the United States derive from English common law, the US Constitution, natural moral law, and the Vatican’s doctrine of land discovery. The US Constitution recognizes the supremacy of natural moral law in its Ninth Amendment, and it also recognizes common law. The US Constitution does not recognize the legality of tradition, force, or the Christian Discovery doctrine, yet the US Supreme Court continues to adhere to Christian Discovery.
As stated in “Bully’s Justice” (p. 28), this Doctrine of Discovery is “one of the rare principles of American law that came not from English common law or from the pen of some Enlightenment philosopher but rather from the Vatican.” The US Supreme Court recognized the doctrine in Johnson v. M’Intosh in 1823 under Chief Justice John Marshall.
The doctrine of Christian Discovery originated in 1455 when Pope Nicholas V issued the papal bull Romanus Pontifex. Without any Biblical justification, this declaration justified the conquest of African lands by the king of Portugal. Pope Alexander VI extended the doctrine to the Spanish conquests in the Americas. The doctrine of Christian Discovery authorized European Christian explorers and their monarchs the rationale to claim lands not occupied by Christians. The doctrine deprived the indigenous inhabitants of any legal land rights.
As ultimate legal owner of the land, the state can then lease land to private tenants, and it can sell or transfer land titles to private persons, but such titles are always secondary to the state as senior and supreme owner, as the state can tax land, control its use, and forcibly buy back title with eminent domain.
The current Pope has expressed concern with global inequalities, but he has not gone to the core cause of inequality and poverty: privileged land tenure and the denial of labor’s self-ownership rights. The Catholic Church would have to confront its old doctrine on the conquest of land, and this it cannot do, and therefore popes must confine their concern about poverty and inequality to laments and exhortations. Now come economists such as Thomas Pikkety calling for massive redistribution to treat the effects of income inequality, but refusing to acknowledge the origins and remedies in land and labor.
The Christian Discovery doctrine is based on supremacism, the belief that one’s religion, culture, and traditions are superior to those of others, justifying the use of force to maintain this supremacy. Such supremacy has been adopted by several religions, but this violates the human equality that is the basis of natural moral law and that has been recognized in declarations of human rights. Such constitutional cognitive dissonance does not seem to bother legal authorities.
If we seriously apply natural moral law to the question of land ownership, we need to confront both the false justifications of Christian Doctrine of Discovery and also the aboriginal land claims. As stated by John Locke in his Second Treatise of Government, human moral equality implies that one may fully own land only so long as there is free land of that quality available to others. When such land is scarce and has a price, the analysis of Henry George kicks in, that one may have possession conditional on paying the land rent to the members of the relevant community in equal shares.
Therefore the native American Indians may not take full ownership of their former lands. The land rent belongs not to them but to all humanity. Also, the rental value of land due to civic improvements is a return on the capital goods, not the natural spacial resource.
Justice requires the abolition of the supremacist Doctrine of Discovery and its replacement with natural moral law. Some compensation and restoration of rights of possession are due to the aboriginal inhabitants, but history cannot be erased, and the current residents, users, and title holders, having followed the current rules, also deserve some consideration.
Ed. Notes: Wouldn’t it be nice if outsider critics could improve the performance of those who get criticized? For me, the worst abuse in the US is the cost of housing which is the cost of land. If Americans shared the value of land, life would be so much better in all the aspects noted above.
Everyone is reading Piketty wrong — including Piketty! Want to really shut down the chief engine generating inequality? Forget the author’s solution and do this instead.
This 2014 excerpt of Salon, May 1, is by Jesse Myerson.
Thomas Piketty’s 700-page economics tome “Capital in the 21st Century” is beating out Colton Burpo on Amazon.
He shows that the rate (r) of return (profits, dividends, interest, rents, royalties, etc.), to the people who own capital assets (stocks, bonds, real estate, land, patents, etc.) outpaces the growth of the full economy (g).
The liberal response to this conundrum (including Piketty’s) is to try to grow g through more egalitarian taxation and stimulus and whatnot.
But we can actually solve the conundrum.
It is not necessary for everybody to keep bending over backward to grow the economy, just in order to help one another survive. Instead …
Make sure the people who capture r is: everybody. If the stream of wealth flows to everyone, rather than Donald Trump and Mitt Romney, then the pressure’s off g to keep pace with r.
We can let r exceed g and focus on more meaningful things than sales (which GDP, i.e. “growth,” reflects) – things like availing ourselves of our inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness.
Stocks and bonds can be held by a sovereign wealth fund just as easily as by a hedge, trust, mutual, pension or any other kind of fund. The only difference is that instead of heirs and speculators, the people getting the dividends, profits and interest is everybody.
Rent and real estate value can flow to everyone by taxing (especially urban) land value.
By liberalizing the intellectual property regime (i.e. stopping handing out all these monopolies), and moving to a Creative Commons structure, we can make sure that our society’s ideas and artworks aren’t just a source of cash for pharmaceutical companies, media conglomerates, and litigious vultures.
Ed. Notes: Actually, you don’t have to take over ownership of stocks and bonds if you recover rents (both for nature and for privilege). Most of the value in a corporate stock or bond is not in the factory or product but in the facilities’ locations and in the products’ patents and copyrights. So, if you institute land dues (or land taxes) and charge full market value for monopolies on new ideas (p&c), then you can ignore capital (s&b) and still recover all of society’s surplus — which is plenty of money for paying all citizens a decent dividend.
If people got a share of all the rents we all now pay for the land and government-granted privileges we use, instead of that immense flow going mostly to the 1%, and if the 1% no longer got corporate welfare, and if taxes were removed from our earnings and morphed into fees for pollution and depletion, which would hit the 1%’s dirty and wasteful corporations especially hard, then everybody’s income would be much closer together, the extreme highs and lows would not be so extreme, and the gaps in wealth and income would become of human-scale.
The principle to follow is really quite simple. Respect private property (human-made stocks, buildings, purchases, etc) and don’t tax it. Respect common wealth (the value of nature and privilege, neither one being the result of human exertion) and do share it — land dues in, rent dividends back out. Doing so is not leftist, not rightist, but geoist. And wherever geonomics has been employed, it has worked. Try and top that!
This 2014 excerpt of Business Insider, May 1, is by Bryant Jordan.
Thirty retired generals are urging President Obama to declassify the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on CIA torture, arguing that without accountability and transparency the practice could be resumed.
“After taking office, you showed decisive leadership by issuing an executive order banning torture and other forms of abusive interrogation,” the retirees say in an open letter.
But with former government officials claiming that so-called “enhanced interrogation” techniques were effective, a future president could rescind the ban unless facts in the committee report are known, the generals wrote.
The signees include retired Marine Gens. Joseph Hoar and Charles Krulak, Army Gen. David Maddox and Army Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton. All the signees are part of a larger nonpartisan group of retired generals and admirals who work with the organization to oppose torture and promote prisoner treatment policies consistent with the Geneva Conventions.
“As retired flag officers of the United States Armed Forces, we believe that our nation is on its strongest footing when our defense and security policies adhere to our values and obligations under domestic and international law,” the group said in the letter.
The Senate Intelligence Committee voted in early April to release its abbreviated — nearly 500-page — declassified report on the CIA program. The full report, which is more than 6,000 pages, is being held pending redaction and declassification. That process itself has come under criticism since it is the CIA that would be doing the redacting.
It is a conflict of interest to allow the CIA to redact a report that alleges its own officials, including some still on the job, “authorized [the] brutal interrogation methods and systematically misled the White House, Congress, Department of Justice, and American people about the facts and consequences of using those methods.”
The “best chance” of avoiding a scenario in which a future president rescinds Obama’s executive order banning torture, the group says, “is for the Intelligence Committee’s report — which calls into question the morality, legality, and effectiveness of the CIA program — to be made public with minimal redactions.”
The Senate report panned the CIA program and said the information gathered through torture could have been gotten through other means from the 20 cases it investigated.
Ed. Notes: Are Americans losing their traditional concept of human rights? Once that goes, will Americans be able to see at all their right to a healthy Earth and a fair share of her worth? Is loss of self-esteem what makes possible the loss of political rights? If so, Americans had better regain some moral fortitude, and demand equal rights for all.
This 2014 excerpt of South China Morning Post, Apr 26, is by their editors.
Law-enforcement bodies are likely to ignore violations if polluters have the right connections. When they do prosecute, fines are capped at a level that is an acceptable cost against gains to be made.
Those caps on penalties are lifted in a sweeping revision passed this week. The amendments, effective on 2015 January 1, are a legal landmark in Beijing’s declared war on pollution and follow a pledge to abandon a growth-at-all-costs economic model that has spoiled much of China’s water, air, and soil.
Toxic, heavy metals contaminate 16.1 per cent of China’s soil and 19.1 per cent of arable land.
The new rules:
introduce an ecological “red line” that will declare certain regions off limits to polluting industries,
loosened a ban on most environmental non-government organisations filing lawsuits against polluters,
ensure that information on environmental monitoring and impact assessments are made public,
formalise a system for assessing local officials on their environmental record, and
give the Ministry for Environmental Protection the authority to take stronger punitive action, such as shutting down persistent or serious polluters and confiscating their assets.
That said, the key still lies in effective enforcement, amid fears that it will still be patchy, and in respect for the environment ministry’s new powers, which need unequivocal backing from the highest level.
This 2014 excerpt of FutureSpeak, Apr 24, is by Futurist Thomas Frey.
China’s WinSun Decoration Design Engineering Company not only printed a house in a day, they completed 10 houses in a single day using a massive printer that was 490 feet long, 33 feet wide, and 20 feet deep.
The ‘ink’ used was made of recycled construction materials, industrial waste and tailings.
Each of these homes cost around $4,800.
These houses can be ground up a second, third, or fourth time, and be reprinted as an entirely new home. They are, in fact, disposable houses.
WinSun also printed its own headquarters building, a 10,000 sq meter facility that was printed a few months earlier and took 30 days to create.
With a little refinement, future houses may be printed in less than an hour, reducing labor costs to almost nothing. With a little engineering work, everything from fixtures, cabinetry, plumbing, electricity, and heating/air conditioning can be modularized and rapidly installed into houses much like the Plug-n-Play hardware systems of the of the PC era. Ductwork, plumbing, and wiring channels can be printed into the structure, and adding water, power, and heaters may become as easy as working with Legos.
Once we are able to remove the transaction costs from housing, our populations become infinitely more fluid. A fluid population is a fickle one, often moving on a whim, rather than the long drawn out process that it is today. City populations will expand and contract in dramatic fashion, often reflecting people’s changing attitudes associated with political decisions, local elections, increased criminal activity, changing tax rates, and much more.
Ed. Notes: Funny how some think they can see the future when they can’t yet see the land. There’s already fast, cheap housing — rammed earth, straw bale, etc — even free housing in places like Detroit and the rest of the Rust Belt. What a 3D printer can not fabricate is a location, and that is the stumbling block to affordable housing.
How do you make locations or land affordable? Counter-intuitively, you tax them or otherwise collect their rental value for public benefit. Levying a tax or deed fee or land dues removes the value of the land from the mortgage and puts it into the public treasury. Thus mortgages for buildings become far more affordable. And poor people are already paying the value of their location in the monthly apartment rent that they pay.
Choosing to build on a cheap location is no solution, either. As other people follow suit, the price goes up. That’s what happens in every city where the hip, artistic young people congregate in a certain neighborhood. Once its reputation gets established, its site values skyrocket. And all the hip people are back to square one. No, there really is no way to avoid paying for land. The best that people can do is pay each other. That is, pay land dues in and get rent dividends back.
This 2014 excerpt of Occupy, Apr 25, is by Ellen Brown.
How to get Wall Street banks before a California jury? How about charging them with common law fraud and breach of contract? That’s what the FDIC just did in its massive 24-count civil suit for damages for LIBOR manipulation, filed in March 2014 against sixteen of the world’s largest banks, including the three largest US banks – JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, and Citigroup.
LIBOR (the London Interbank Offering Rate) is the benchmark rate at which banks themselves can borrow. It is a crucial rate involved in over $400 trillion in derivatives called interest-rate swaps, and it is set by the sixteen private megabanks behind closed doors.
The biggest victims of interest-rate swaps have been local governments, universities, pension funds, and other public entities. The banks have made renegotiating these deals prohibitively expensive, and renegotiation itself is an inadequate remedy. It is the equivalent of the grocer giving you an extra potato when you catch him cheating on the scales. A legal action for fraud is a more fitting and effective remedy. Fraud is grounds both for rescission (calling off the deal) as well as restitution (damages), and in appropriate cases punitive damages.
Banks are estimated to have collected as much as $28 billion in termination fees alone from state and local governments over the past two years. This does not even begin to account for the outsized net payments that state and local governments are now making to the banks…
Interest-rate swaps are sold to parties who have taken out loans at variable interest rates, as insurance against rising rates. The most common swap is one where counterparty A (a university, municipal government, etc.) pays a fixed rate to counterparty B (the bank), while receiving from B a floating rate indexed to a reference rate such as LIBOR.
If interest rates go up, the municipality gets paid more on the swap contract, offsetting its rising borrowing costs. If interest rates go down, the municipality owes money to the bank on the swap, but that extra charge is offset by the falling interest rate on its variable rate loan. The result is to fix borrowing costs at the lower variable rate.
The catch is that the swap is a separate financial agreement – essentially an ongoing bet on interest rates. The borrower owes both the interest on its variable rate loan and what it must pay on its separate swap deal. And the benchmarks for the two rates don’t necessarily track each other. The rate owed on the debt is based on something called the SIFMA municipal bond index. The rate owed by the bank is based on the privately-fixed LIBOR rate.
Public entities wound up paying substantially more than the fixed rate they had bargained for – a failure of consideration constituting breach of contract. Breach of contract is grounds for rescission and damages.
A sampling of swaps within California, involving ten cities and counties, one community college district, one utility district, one transportation authority, and the state itself, the collective tab was $365 million in swap payments annually, with total termination fees exceeding $1 billion.
Requiring UC Davis to pay $9 million in termination fees and other costs to several banks would have covered the tuition and fees of 682 undergraduates for a year.
Why has UC’s management not tried to renegotiate the deals? The revolving door between management and Wall Street. Current and former business and finance executives play a prominent role on the UC Board of Regents.
Why do our state and local governments continue to do business with a corrupt global banking cartel?
They could set up their own publicly-owned banks, on the model of the state-owned Bank of North Dakota.
Ed. Notes: Rather than establish yet another bureaucracy, why not just expand the powers of public treasuries so they can act like banks? Let them accept savers and lend to borrowers.
Bigger picture, why let so much money be concentrated into one entity, whether a big bank or any government? A lot of the money that banks are stealing legally are “rents” or the money that the members of society spend for land and resources and privileges like corporate charters. That spending could be re-directed — using taxes and/or fees — into public treasuries then back out again as dividends to those members of society (a la Alaska’s oil share). Thereby the “rents” would not be left lying around for unscrupulous bankers or politicians.
Further, if you got a Citizen’s Dividend — your share of society’s surplus — then you would not need to save so much for the future, nor would you need to borrow so much or accept investments to start a business. Plus, you’d not need to save or borrow so much if you didn’t have to pay taxes on your earnings, your purchases, and your buildings. Thus, the whole rationale for having a banking “industry” could be reduced to a negligible aspect of the economy and of society.
This 2014 excerpt of Weekly Wastebasket, Apr 25, is by Taxpayers for Common Sense.
The new fighter the Pentagon is buying at nearly $400 billion and rising is the most expensive weapon acquisition in history.
The the F-35, by Lockheed Martin, promises widely divergent missions: air-to-surface, air-to-air, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), Command and Control, and Electronic Attack.
For the fiscal year (FY) 2015, the Administration wants to spend on the F-35 more than $8 billion. This is just the money we could find in the budget that was readily identifiable as going toward the F-35. There probably is more, but it is not readily available in the unclassified portion of the budget.
The Pentagon originally stated that the Air Force version of the plane would be ready to fly and fight in FY05; now it is FY16. For the Marine Corp the date has slipped from FY06 to FY15. For the Navy the date has moved from FY08 to FY18.
The bottom line is that all three services could purchase more, modernized versions of aircraft currently in their inventories and save a lot of money over the currently projected costs of the F-35. And the U.S. would still enjoy air superiority over the rest of the world.
Ed. Notes: Should arming the US military make insiders into millionaires and billionaires? Or should the weaponeers be nonprofits, like Habit for Humanity or another outfit buildings homes for the poor? If war and preparing for war did not make some insiders rich and some engineers comfortable, how receptive to the rationale for war would those people be?
This 2014 excerpt of EUROPP (European Politics and Policy) of the London School of Economics, Apr 24, is by Johannes Wachs.
Hungary faces a greater corruption problem than other states in Central and Eastern Europe, such as the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Corruption is systemic, rather than associated specifically with particular governments or politicians.
EU funds are particularly susceptible to the problem; 33.8 per cent of EU funded projects received only one bid, compared to 29 per cent of those funded with national funds alone. Post-award contract modification was three times more likely when EU funds were involved. Besides the waste and damage corruption brings, the misuse of EU funds exacerbates tensions between Hungary and net-contributor states in the rest of the EU.
EU payments to Hungary in the 2007-2013 budget cycle amounted to a positive balance of 24 billion euros, or above 3 per cent of the country’s GDP every year. Given the anemic growth of the Hungarian economy in the last decade and low levels of investment, these funds are critical to Hungary’s development.
Bribes and similar interactions between lower level bureaucrats and private level individuals are rare. Instead there is an unspoken culture of ‘legal corruption’, a common understanding in the bureaucracy that connected firms should receive preference.
Many contracts are handed out by manipulation of the procurement process, and without competition. For example, an unattractive contract may be modified after a friendly firm secures the deal. Alternatively, limited advertisement or a short submission deadline can exclude firms that are out of the loop.
Groups of business elites connected to different political factions thrive or struggle based on who is in power. Prior to the 2010 Hungarian election, market leaders lost about 25-30 per cent of their market share, and were replaced by a new group of companies that saw a comparable increase in market share following the change of government. A high profile example is the success of Közgép Zrt, a construction company with many personal connections to the government.
Political capture of the bureaucracy because of incumbency is a serious problem in the region. Moreover, the increasing role of the state and domestic actors in the banking and utility sectors also raises the potential for new areas of corruption to emerge.
Ed. Notes: Most people all over the world suffer from the corruption of the well-connected. Only a few societies have managed to curb corruption. How did they do it? However they did it, can corrupt societies copy what worked elsewhere? To learn what works, political reformers might want to study sociology as well.
Personally, I think ordinary people must demand a Citizen’s Dividend just as boldly as insiders demand a huge slice of the action. It’s ironic normal citizens have a harder time demanding this fundamental justice than greedy insiders have demanding more than a fair share. But we can’t leave so much wealth on the table and expect the innately grasping to walk away from it.
We must capture and share society’s surplus so it won’t tempt the unscrupulous. Further, we must demand an end to taxation, replacing them with dues, and thereby elevate people from mere taxpayers — peons — to respected members of society with equal rights. Geonomics is how to do it.
The US Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN) reports that sexual assaults and harassment continue to occur “at alarming rates.” Sexual violence has long-lasting effects, and the many years of Pentagon studies and Congressional hearings have not ended it. There were 5,061 sex assault reports in the 2013 fiscal year.
As stated well by SWAN, sexual assaults in the military reduce the strength of the US armed forces and threaten national security. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has vowed to prevent these assaults, but we need more than vows and speeches.
An effective tool in preventing such assaults would be to declare that any assault by a soldier against another soldier is treason. Attacks of any sort against a member of the armed forces aids the enemy by weakening defense against external enemies. The assaults and harassment reduce recruitment and the retention of skilled personnel. It is outrageous that the military that is supposed to protect the country cannot protect its own members.
A declaration that assaults within the military are crimes of treason would make a stark impression. This declaration should be buttressed with posters and repeated in military news media. The troops should be ordered to say out lout in unison, “Assault is Treason!”
The punishment for proven assaults, after a trial, should include public shaming. The best preventative is internal, the feeling that such acts are shameful and odious.
Some generals and Pentagon officials say that actions to reduce and investigate assaults should remain within the military, to avoid breaking up the chains of command. But they have had many years to deal with this. It seems that the civilian practice of hiring attorneys and bringing the matter to court with representatives chosen by the victims provides better assurance of justice. Moreover, the victims should have the common-law right to sue those who assault them for damages. Such lawsuits would be most effective if the victim had the legal ability to sell the tort claim to those who would have a better ability to prosecute the case.
All Americans should support the idea that assaults among the military are treasonous acts. An assault on a fellow soldier is not only an attack against that person, but an attack on the whole military and an attack on the whole nation.
Treason is not to be treated lightly, and neither should sexual attacks in the military.
Charges for renting the land on which wind farms are built is up to 10 times that of coal-fired power stations.
Wind turbine owners pay private land owners between €35,000 and €50,000 ground rent a year per turbine for contracts of between 15 and 20 years. This takes the total ground rent over the full contract to around €1m.
Millions of euros in government subsidies are disappearing into the pockets of land owners, forcing up the price of wind energy.
Currently just 4% of Dutch energy comes from sustainable sources.
The amount of solar power generated in the Netherlands by companies and private households has almost doubled over the past year.
Ed. Notes: Should we even have any economic policy? Politicians don’t know the first thing about economics. They don’t know that subsidies do very little in the way of benefitting the needy new industry (or whatever) and do very much in the way of benefitting whoever owns the land that the needy need. Long ago Winston Churchill pointed this out with his story about the do-gooders of his day who got the tolls for using bridge reduced — which resulted in the rent for apartments going up by the same amount.
Better than letting politicians subsidize anything, even good things like clean energy, is to instead pay everyone a dividend from society’s surplus, which is society’s spending for the land and nature it uses. Better than letting politicians tax anything, even bad things like pollution, is to instead charge everyone a fee or fine or rent for the values they take (doing that is what would redirect our spending for land, etc, into the public treasury).
If government made polluters pay, there’d be no supposed need to let non-polluters take handouts. And economies could operate as efficiently as nature designed them to. And politicians? They’d have to amuse themselves some other way.
This 2014 excerpt of Undernews, Apr 23, is by Sam Smith.
The Walton family owns the majority of Walmart stock and is the richest family in the country. At the same time, taxpayers help pad Walmart — by at least $7.8 billion annually — and the Walton family’s profits.
Walmart employees are so poorly paid, they need food stamps, section 8 housing, and medicaid to make ends meet. Those programs for the poor constitute a subsidy to companies paying poverty wages. Not only does Walmart not need these subsidies, but the company could afford to raise salaries, more than half of whom made less than $25,000 last year.
Walmart is the largest private employer in the United States, with 1.4 million employees. The company, which is number one on the Fortune 500 in 2013 and number two on the Global 500, had $16 billion in profits last year on revenues of $473 billion. The Walton family reaps billions in annual dividends from the company. The six Walton heirs, with a net worth of $148.8 billion, have more wealth than 49 million American families combined.
Ed. Notes: Is the obvious solution — pay employees more — the best or only solution? What about some company stock to employees so they’d get the dividends now going to owners such as the Walton family? And bigger picture, what about geonomics?
What about paying citizens a dividend from our common wealth, from our society’s surplus, which is the value of land and resources? What about de-taxing wages? Once we increase the income to everyone including working people and decrease their costs — such as taxation and inflation — then they’ll be in the position where they’ll have the leverage to negotiate higher, fairer wages without politicians butting in.
Further, what about ending direct subsidies to corporations, such as the road to Walmart HQ paid for with public tax dollars? Then corporations won’t be so filthy rich … and taxists won’t be so envious. Critics point out the end result — an amassed fortune — but turn a blind eye to the ways that the insiders hog the common wealth for themselves.
what you do when you see economies as part of the ecosystem, following feedback loops and storing up energy. Surplus energy – fat or profit – enables us to produce and reproduce. To recycle society’s surplus, the commonwealth, geonomics would replace taxes with land dues (charged to users of sites and resources, in-cluding the EM spectrum, and extra to polluters), and replace subsidies with rent dividends to citizens (a la Alaska’s oil dividend). Without taxes and subsidies to distort them, prices become precise, reflect accurately our costs and values; then, motivated by no more than the bottom line, both producers and consumers make sustainable choices. While no place uses geonomics in its entirety, some places use parts of it, most notably a shift of the property tax off buildings, onto locations. Shifting the property tax drives efficient use of land, in-fills cities, improves the housing stock, makes homes affordable, engenders jobs and investment opportunities, lowers crime, raises civic participation, etc – overall it makes cities more livable. Geonomics – a way to share the bounty of nature and society – is something we can work for locally, globally, and in between.
a new field of study offered in place of economics, as astronomy replaced astrology and chemistry replaced alchemy. Conventional economics, in which GNP can do well while people suffer, is a bit too superstitious for my renaissance upbringing. If I’m to propitiate unseen forces, it won’t be inflation or “the market”; let it be theEgyptian cat goddess. At least then we’d have fewer rats. Meanwhile, believing in reason leads to a new policy, also christened geonomics. That’s the proposal to share (a kind of management, the “nomics” part) the worth of Mother Earth (the “geo” part). If our economies are to work right, people need to see prices that tell the truth. Now taxes and subsidies distort prices, tricking people into squandering the planet. Using land dues and rent dividends instead lets prices be precise, guiding people to get more from less and thereby shrink their workweek. More free time ought to make us happy enough to evolve beyond economics, except when nostalgic for superstition.
a scientific look at how we divvy up the work and the wealth, how some of us end up with too much or too little effort or reward. That’s partly due to Ricardo’s Law of Rent, showing how wasteful use of Earth cuts wages. And it’s partly due to how a society’s elite runs government around like water boys, dishing out subsidies and tax breaks. While geonomists look political reality right in the eye, without blinking, conventional economists flinch. When Paul Volcker, ex-chief of the Federal Reserve, moved on to a cushy professorship at Princeton cum book contract, the crush of deadlines bore down. So Volcker asked a junior associate to help with the book. The guy refused, explaining that giving serious consideration to policy would ruin his academic career. The ex-Fed chief couldn’t believe it and asked the department chair if truly that were the case. That head honcho pondered the question then replied no, not if he only does it once. And economics was AKA political economy!
a neologism for sharing “rent” or “social surplus” – the money we spend on the nature we use. When we buy land, such as the land beneath a home, we typically pay the wrong person – the homeowner. Instead, since land cost us nothing to make and is the common heri-tage of us all, rather than pay the owner, we should pay ourselves, our neighbors, our community. That is, we should all pay land dues to the public treasury, then our government would pay us land dividends from this collected revenue. It’s similar to the Alaska oil dividend, almost $2,000 last year. Indeed, the annual rental value of land, oil, all other natural resources, including the broadcast spectrum and other government-granted permits such as corporate charters, totals several trillion dollars each year. It’s so much that some could be spent on basic social services, the rest parceled out as a divi-dend, as Tom Paine suggested, and taxes (except any on natural rents) could be abolished, as Thomas Jeffer-son suggested. Were we sharing Earth by sharing her worth, territorial disputes would be fewer, less intense, and more resolvable.
the policy that the earth’s natural patterns suggests. Use the eco-system’s self-regulating feedback loops as a model. What then needs changing? Basically, the flow of money spent to own or use Earth (both sites and resources) must visit each of us. Our agent, government, exists to collect this natural rent via fees and to disburse the collected revenue via dividends. Doing this, we could forgo taxes on homes and earnings and subsidies of either the needy or the greedy. For more, see our web site, our pamphlet of the title above, or any of our other lit pieces; ask for our literature list.
the annoying habit of seeing the hand of land in almost all transactions. In geonomics we maintain the distinction between the items bearing exchange value that come into being via human effort — wealth — and those that don’t — land. Keeping this distinction in the forefront makes it obvious that speculating in land drives sprawl, that hoarding land retards Third World development, that borrowing to buy land plus buildings engorges banks, that much so-called “interest” is quasi-rent, that the cost of land inflates faster than the price of produced goods and services, that over half of corporate profit is from real estate (Urban Land Institute, 1999). Summing up these analyses, geonomists offer a Grand Unifying Theory, that the flow of rent pulls all other indicators in its wake. Geonomics differs from economics as chemistry from alchemy, as astronomy from astrology.
a way to connect the dots. Making the cyber rounds is “The Cavernous Divide” by Scott Klinger, from AlterNet (posted March 21): “As the number of billionaires in the world expands, so does the number of those in poverty.” Duh. The yawning income gap is not news. Nearly every issue of our quarterly digest carries a similar quote. Yet the connection was worked out long ago by one of America’s greatest thinkers, Henry George, who labeled his masterpiece, Progress and Poverty. Techno- and socio-advances always enrich few and impoverish many. Yet progress also pushes up location values – the geonomic insight (is Silicon Valley cheaper now or more expensive?). Instead of taxing income, sales, or buildings, society could collect those values of sites, resources, EM spectrum, and ecosystem services via fees and dues, which would lower the income ceiling, and instead of lavishing corporate welfare, pay out the recovered revenue via dividends, which would jack up the income floor. Dots connected.
in part the Great Green Tax Shift maxed out. Economically, taxing pollution and depletion does reduce pollutants and extracts – and thus the tax base; plus such taxes are regressive, requiring a safety net. On the other hand, collecting site rent is progressive and generates a revenue surplus payable as a dividend to residents, which can serve as the safety net. Environmentally, taxes on waste and extraction do not drive efficient use of land, as does getting site rent.
a study of Earth’s economic worth, of the money we spend on the nature we use, trillions of dollars each year. We spend most to be with our own kind; land value follows population density. Besides nearness to downtowns, we also pay for proximity to good schools, lovely views, soil fertility, etc. These advantages, sellers did not create. So we pay the wrong people for land. Instead, we should pay our neighbors. They generate land’s value and deserve compensation for keeping off ours, as they’d pay us for keeping off theirs. It’s mutual compensation: we’d replace taxes with land dues – a bit like Hong Kong does – and replace subsidies with “rent” dividends to area residents – a bit like Alaska does with oil revenue. Both taxes and subsidies – however fair or not – are costly and distort the prices of the goods taxed and the services subsidized. By replacing them and letting prices become precise, we reveal the real costs of output, the real values of consumers. Then, just by following the bottom line, people can choose to conserve and prosper automatically. A community could start by shifting its property tax off buildings, onto land – a bit like a score of towns in Pennsylvania do; every place that has done it has benefited.
a manual. The world did not come without a way for people to prosper, and the planet to heal and stay well; that way is geonomics. Economies are part of the ecosystem. Both generate surpluses and follow self-regulating feedback loops. A cycle like the Law of Supply and Demand is one of the economy’s on/off loops. Our spending for land and resources – things that nobody made and everybody needs – constitutes our society’s surplus. Those profits without production (remember, nobody produced Earth) can become our commonwealth. To share it, we could pay land dues in to the public treasury (wouldn’t oil companies love that?) and get rent dividends back, a la Alaska’s oil dividend. Doing so let’s us axe taxes and jettison subsidies. Taxes and subsidies distort price (the DNA of exchange), violate quid pro quo by benefiting the well-connected more than anyone else, reinforce hierarchy of state over citizen, and are costly to administer (you don’t really need so much bureaucracy, do you?). Conversely, land dues motivate people to not waste sites, resources, and the ecosystem while rent dividends motivate people to not waste themselves. Receiving this income supplement – a Citizens Dividend – people can invest in their favorite technology or outgrow being “economan” and shrink their overbearing workweek in order to enjoy more time with family, friends, community, and nature. Then in all that free time, maybe we could figure out just what we are here for.
Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.
To believe with certainty we must begin with doubting.
One should be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise. This philosophy fitted on to my early adult life, when I saw the improbable, the implausible, often the “impossible,” come true.
F. Scott Fitzgerald
The secret of getting ahead is getting started.
Life is an adventure in forgiveness.
Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Love does not dominate; it cultivates.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.
We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.