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Politicians Abandon American Values, Would Rather Be Greedy
Here is a news update from Taxpayers for Common Sense. TCS is the best organization that monitors excessive government spending, corruption and corporate welfare.
THE HUNT FOR ELECTION-YEAR PORK INTENSIFIES
Note: “pork” is a term for pointless giveaways of taxpayer money. For example, government spending on a needless project in the district of a lawmaker who is facing a tough re-election campaign. The spending assists the politician, but hurts every taxpayer. This kind of pork is un-American.
In the never-ending quest for pork, a merry band of lawmakers, led by Rep. Don Young (R-AK) is attempting to get the House of Representatives to vote next week on a controversial bill to authorize more than $3.4 billion in water projects, with little or no debate.
The Water Resources Development Act of 2002 (WRDA) will be considered under the “suspension of the rules,” a Congressional procedure that allows for quick voice votes without any amendments and is usually reserved for non-controversial bills like renaming post offices and federal buildings. Under the current climate of a growing federal budget deficit, a bill containing billions of dollars of pork barrel spending should be controversial.
This legislation (H.R. 5428) would give the green light for the Army Corps of Engineers, an agency whose own leadership has confessed to massive accountability problems, to waste even more federal tax dollars. The Corps currently has a project backlog that will cost more than $58 billion to complete. At their current annual construction budget of less than $2 billion, the backlog won’t be completed any time prior to 2032. Yet, Young and company propose to grow the backlog and neglect to demonstrate how new projects will be completed in a cost-effective and timely fashion.
The bill adds hundreds of new projects and project modifications that lack guidance or priorities, would authorize projects on which no cost-benefit tests have been performed and would push through a large number of projects that have circumvented the normal planning process. WRDA also exacerbates Corps “mission creep” by promoting projects that lie outside the agency’s mission areas of navigation, flood control and environmental restoration.
There is more pork in this bill than there are pigs in Iowa. It approves $2.4 billion in new projects and programs, and provides more than $200 million in new drinking water and wastewater projects that are duplicative of existing programs at other agencies with the actual mission to construct them. One of the most egregious components of the bill is a billion dollar rollback of Reagan-era cost sharing rules for a handful of the largest water ports in America that would provide New Yorkers alone a $450 million windfall for their multi-billion dollar port project!
WRDA is not about wisely investing in our nation’s water resources. In an act of typical election year pork politics, the bill proponents are attempting to steamroll this bill through Congress so that lawmakers don’t go back to their districts empty-handed. For example, Rep. Don Young’s gift to his constituents is a provision that will primarily benefit Alaskan seaports by allowing the Corps of Engineers to ignore normal rules that require projects’ benefits to outweigh the cost of building the project.
By skirting the normal legislative process, the bill proponents would like to obstruct any efforts to fix the problems in the bill, leaving their opponents — and democracy — out in the cold.
If WRDA were a good bill, its backers wouldn’t be afraid to go through the normal process of legislative checks and balances. Their colleagues need to thwart this shameful attempt to pull the wool over taxpayers’ eyes.
For more information, contact Keith Ashdown at (202)-546-8500 ext. 110 or by email at email@example.com TCS is at www.taxpayer.net
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Before the U.S. went to war against Hawaii, we had a treaty with that nation. Is it still in effect? An unsure Clinton is looking for the Supreme Court to handle this hot potato. Read all about it.
Supreme Court to Review Hawaii Land Rights
By Rob Perez Honolulu Star-Bulletin
President Clinton has waived his right to respond to a U.S. Supreme Court lawsuit brought by an Oahu man claiming the 1850 treaty between the Hawaiian Kingdom and the United States still is in effect.
One legal expert called the development odd because he said Clinton could have successfully asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit.
Clinton, through Solicitor General Seth P. Waxman, on Friday waived his right to respond to the lawsuit filed last month by David Keanu Sai, who believes the kingdom still exists.
Sai, appointed kingdom regent by a group of native Hawaiians, also is co-founder of Perfect Title Co., the controversial title-search firm under investigation by the state. Sai has been indicted on a theft charge in that case.
Acting in his capacity as regent, Sai has asked the justices to compel Clinton to honor the treaty. He is seeking to restore the kingdom government to its status before the 1893 overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy.
Clinton in his one-sentence filing said he would respond to Sai’s petition if requested to do so by the court. A White House spokesman has said Clinton doesn’t comment on pending lawsuits.
University of Hawaii law professor Jon Van Dyke, an expert on constitutional law, said Clinton could have easily derailed the lawsuit by saying the United States doesn’t recognize the kingdom as a foreign nation.
Sai filed the lawsuit with the Supreme Court and not a lower court, citing a rule that gives the High Court “original jurisdiction” in cases involving foreign ambassadors.
But in questions involving foreign policy – especially those related to which governments are recognized by the United States – the court historically has deferred to the executive branch, Van Dyke said.
“By (Clinton) saying nothing, it does require the court to make its own evaluation of the issue,” Van Dyke said.
A court spokesman said the nine justices now must decide whether they will hear the case. A five-vote majority is required to get the case heard in the current court session. A decision may be made next month.
Sai called the latest development significant because Clinton didn’t try to get the lawsuit dismissed as frivolous – a criticism many in Hawaii’s legal community have voiced.
Several local judges at the state and federal level have deemed as frivolous similar arguments Sai has used in Perfect Title cases.
The company has caused a stir in the real estate industry by using 19th-century Hawaiian kingdom law to claim existing land titles in Hawaii are invalid.
“If this is so frivolous, they (Clinton representatives) could have sought to have the case dismissed,” Sai said.
Van Dyke said the Clinton administration may have determined the case was so frivolous it opted not to provide a response, believing the court would dispose of it.
Or it could have decided for political reasons not to take a position that could have upset people, Van Dyke said.
Sai is representing himself in the lawsuit. But he now has the help of an international law expert. Francis A. Boyle, a University of Illinois professor of international law, yesterday said he is advising Sai on an unpaid basis. Boyle in 1993 was a consultant to a Hawaii commission formed to explore sovereignty options for Native Hawaiians.
The fact that Sai, who isn’t an attorney, has succeeded in getting the nation’s highest court to consider the case says something about Sai’s arguments, Boyle said.
“I don’t think he would’ve gotten this far unless there’s some merit to his complaint,” Boyle said.
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Site values can vary tremendously. Site values are, by far, the most important portion of the cost of a home.
Here are portions of a report that originally appeared at CBS.Marketwatch.com.
by Steve Kerch
Suppose a middle manager is transferred from one region to another and buys the same house.
The typical home that a transferred middle manager might buy varies in cost by more than $1.1 million depending on its neighborhood — of the country.
The most expensive market for relocating managers is Palo Alto, Calif., with an average price of $1.26 million. The least expensive is Yankton, S.D., at just $101,062.
On average, a typical transferee home costs $291,097, up 8 percent from 2001, according to the Coldwell Banker Real Estate Corp.’s annual Home Price Comparison Index.
The index compares matched sold listings in typical, mid-management transferee neighborhoods in 317 markets across the U.S. and Canada.
Of the markets studied, 206 saw home-prices rise from 2001 and 114 posted double-digit gains.
“Residential real estate has been one of the only bright spots in the U.S. economy,” Coldwell Banker Chief Executive Alex Perriello said. “The sector should stay fundamentally strong because of attractive mortgage rates and the increase of home ownership rates among key demographics such as single-parent families, the baby-boom and echo-boom generations, minorities and immigrants.”
Following Palo Alto, the most expensive markets were Beverly Hills, Calif., at $1.05 million; La Jolla, Calif., $920,500; San Francisco, $891,000; Newport Beach, Calif., $858,750; Westport, Conn., $843,000; San Mateo, Calif., $821,800; Manhattan Beach, Calif., $813,125; Wellesley, Mass., $795,000; and New Canaan, Conn., $793,750.
The most affordable markets behind Yankton were Minot, N.D., with an average price of $114,000; Oklahoma City, $114,875; Billings, Mont., $124,433; Topeka/Shawnee County, Kansas, $124,475; Chattanooga, Tenn., $124,975; Parkersburg, W.V., $127,166; Fayetteville, N.C., $129,625; Pensacola, Fla., $130,875; and Omaha, $131,975.
Among other highlights of the study:
American markets closest to the national average sales prices are Conshohocken/Montgomery County, Penn., at $291,250, and Naperville, Ill., at $289,937.
Idaho has the least price variance among intrastate cities, with just $3,200 separating the most expensive, Boise at $173,500, and the most affordable, Coeur d’Alene at $170,300.
California has the greatest variance, $1,049,125, between Palo Alto $1,263,250 and Fresno $214,125.
Consumers can use the automated indexing formula to calculate what their own home could be worth in another market by clicking here, then clicking on the Resource Center. [The Progress Report says -- try this! It is fun to see where the site values are highest and lowest.]
Funny how the Proposition 13 state, California, is by far the worst when it comes to housing affordability. Could there be a connection? If residential land was no longer attractive to speculators, what effect would that have on housing prices? Tell your views to The Progress Report!
After September 11, Corporate Welfare Handouts Rise
POST-9/11 ECONOMIC WINDFALLS FOR ARMS MANUFACTURERS
We are pleased to bring you this article, made available through the news service of Foreign Policy in Focus. Foreign Policy in Focus has kindly granted us permission to share top articles with the readers of the Progress Report.
by Michelle Ciarrocca, Arms Trade Resource Center
(for a longer version of this analysis, click here)
Despite a slowing economy and Bush’s $1.35 trillion tax cut, notions of fiscal conservatism have been brushed aside to fund the fight against terrorism. Boeing Vice Chairman Harry Stonecipher got to the heart of the matter when he told The Wall Street Journal that “the purse is now open,” so the Pentagon will no longer have to make “hard choices” among competing weapons projects. Unfortunately, no hard choices were being made in the first place. The highly anticipated Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), an assessment of the nation’s defense needs mandated by Congress, was released September 30, 2001. But as Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) quickly noted, the QDR “seems to me to be full of decisions deferred.” None of the weapons systems mentioned as a candidate for elimination during the Bush campaign were canceled. Instead, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld set the stage for major increases in military spending, arguing that “the loss of life and damage to our economy from the attack of September 11, 2001, should give us a new perspective on the question of what this country can afford for its defense.”
Military spending for FY 2002 totaled $343.2 billion, a $32.6 billion increase above 2001 levels. Congress is currently debating Bush’s $396 billion FY 2003 military budget request, a $52.8 billion increase. Long-term plans envision the national defense budget increasing to $469 billion in FY 2007, 11% higher than the Cold War average.
The failure of policymakers and military officials to cancel unnecessary weapons programs is, in large part, due to the undue influence exerted by the top military contractors. More than any administration in history, the Bush team has relied on the expertise of former weapons contractors to outline U.S. defense needs. Thirty-two major Bush appointees are former executives, consultants, or major shareholders of top weapons contractors. Seventeen administration appointees had ties to major defense contractors Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, or Raytheon prior to joining the Bush team. These include former Lockheed Chief Operating Officer Peter B. Teets, now undersecretary of the Air Force and director of the National Reconnaissance Office; Secretary of the Air Force James Roche, a former Northrop Grumman vice president; and Secretary of the Navy Gordon England, a former General Dynamics vice president.
The theory behind Rumsfeld’s reliance on former corporate executives is that they would be more willing to cut costs and try new approaches than the average Pentagon bureaucrat! However, that clearly has not been the case.
The geopolitical reach of the military megafirms is reinforced by millions of dollars in campaign cash. In 2000 the top six military companies spent over $6.5 million in contributions to candidates and political parties. In addition to these hefty campaign donations, defense contractors spent an astonishing $60 million on lobbying in 2000, the most recent year for which full statistics are available.
Michelle Ciarrocca is an analyst with the Arms Trade Resource Center who writes for Foreign Policy In Focus.
After September 11, what lessons have been learned? Become less dependent on foreign oil? Nope. Become better educated about the world? Nope. Increase federal budget deficits? Yep. Increase corporate welfare? Yep. Is this the very best that Bush can think up? Do Americans deserve nothing better? Tell your views to The Progress Report!
We have one. She is effective. Our church is growing in every department. I have no doubt we will retain her for as long as the earthly powers that be will allow.
I wonder what she thinks about the debate that is raging on the topic of women leading congregations. I’m not going to ask her. She is far too busy leading us to take time out for a question like that. In fact the question might even be considered insulting, though she would be too polite to say so. More importantly, she wouldn’t run the risk of alienating someone who might otherwise come to know God through her service. Besides, I expect any woman who undertakes to go through the difficult process of becoming a pastor examines the question thoroughly early on.
And what of the experiences of the people who are touched by God through these women? Are they to believe that what has happened is somehow invalid because they were guided by a woman?
Over the years our church budget has not allowed us to hire a “fulltime” minister. We have made do very well with a succession of student pastors, all attending college while serving our congregation. Up until now all have been men. This last go ’round we had only one candidate who offered to fill the position — the lady in question. We have been advised that at least in the Methodist church, more and more women are in the pipeline. I will credit our Administrative Board with being thankful that we had someone to fill the position, not bemoaning the fact that we didn’t have a range of choices and especially for not playing the gender card. What a slap in the face this would have been to the group of wonderful young ladies who are developing as servants of God and leaders of men and women right in our own congregation. God has given them along with their talents into our care. To support, advise and encourage. Who are we to say … this far and no further?
The bible is presented as the word of God. I believe it … but I don’t understand every word of it and I recognize conflicts in it that I have not been able to reconcile. I also don’t believe that God fell silent when the last period was placed at the end of the last word in the Book of Revelations. He is still speaking and offering examples for our consideration. I don’t think he would mind if we looked up from the printed page and saw the lesson that is being taught today.
Often we are asked to have faith in something we cannot prove. This is pretty basic to many forms of religion and gives great comfort to many. Every now and then something comes along that does not require so much of us. Something tangible. Something we can see and hear. The “women pastors” question falls in this category. One may be able to argue against the appropriateness of women leading congregations using a selection of scripture. Just as surely someone will counter … also using scripture. But the fact is, women are pastors, they lead congregations and as a certain country comic might say “They gonna bring more with ‘em.”
— Warren Faulk Smarr, Georgia
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Animal Testing Ban Sure to Shock Anti-Consumer WTO
European Parliament Takes a Moral Position, Stunning the WTO
In a major slap to the WTO, the European Parliament has voted to ban cosmetic products tested on animals. A ban of this sort is likely to be overturned by the WTO in a secret, undemocratic meeting — the WTO has already ruled against governments’ right to label dolphin-safe tuna, and against their right not to deal with terrorists or the mafia. In other words, the WTO gives the appearance of being a pro-terrorist, pro-mafia, anti-information, anti-consumer, anti-democracy, anti-free market group.
Here is a short summary of the latest action that the WTO will attempt to crush.
by Constant Brand
The European Parliament has voted to ban sales of all new cosmetic products tested on animals, including makeup, shampoos and shower gels.
Pending approval from the 15 European Union member nations, the legislation would immediately prohibit cosmetics for which alternative testing exists. By January 2005, the ban also would apply to all new cosmetics using animal-tested ingredients, even if alternative tests have not been developed.
“Those products should no longer be sold,” said German member Dagmar Roth-Behrendt, who wrote the bill.
The ban also would apply to imported products. The 8,000 animal-tested cosmetic ingredients already on the market would not be affected.
The 626-member European Union assembly meeting in Strasbourg, France, easily approved about 30 amendments to strengthen EU rules on cosmetics. The Parliament also passed an amendment to label animal-tested products rather than those using alternative methods such as clinical cell or bacterial testing.
The European Parliament and the European Commission have been wrangling over the issue since they postponed a 1998 plan to ban animal-tested products because companies lacked alternative methods.
The only EU countries that ban cosmetic animal testing are Britain, Austria and the Netherlands. Most of Europe’s cosmetic testing is done in France and Italy.
The European cosmetic industry, with annual sales around $39 billion, has opposed the ban, admitting that they are still dragging their heels on finding alternatives to animal testing.
In the past number of months, the Lebanese government has begun construction on a water-pumping project near the village of Adeisa, the object of which is to pump 25% of the water that flows in the Wazzani, which is one of the tributaries of the Hasbani. This means that if these works are not stopped there are good chances that the waters of the Hasbani next summer will be turbid, and that Israel will lose tens of millions of cubic meters of fresh water every year.
The Lebanese began with this pumping business some two years ago with a small, four-inch pipe. At the time the Israelis ranted and raved, but quickly calmed down because the amounts of water being pumped were small. The pipe then grew to eight inches, and now work is underway to expand the project so as to enable the introduction of a 20-inch pipe. If this work is not stopped immediately, the pumping will begin next summer. And no one can guarantee that they wont begin to use even bigger pipes in the future. A blow to the State of Israels fresh water supply — that is a causus belli. The issue was raised in discussions in the Prime Minsiters Office, and a number of meetings were held by the Defense Ministry. For the time being Israel has been applying pressure on the Lebanese government, which is responsible for diverting the water. But if that does not help and this project is not stopped, then the seeds of war are being planted there right now.
In response to the Yedioth Ahronoth article cited above, the Lebanese government expressed its determination to continue pumping water from the Wazzani Springs to villages near the border with Israel. Speaker Nabih Berri rejected an Israeli warning to stop pumping water from the springs, which feed the Hasbani River flowing from the South into northern Israel. In less than 25 days, a newly arrived pump will begin sucking up 10,000 cubic meters of water a day from the Wazzani Springs and channeling it to several villages in the central sector of the border district. The final stage of the project involves damming the Hasbani River with rocks to create a 3-meter-deep pool from where the water will be drawn. A sprawling pile of boulders already stretches most of the way across the river, leaving a 2-meter gap for the Hasbani to pour through. The Wazzani Springs bubble up from the western bank of the river and feed straight into it. The prospect of a dam being built across the Hasbani is sure to further arouse Israels suspicions about the extent of the project.
But Ali Wehbe, the owner of the construction firm working on the project, said a diversionary channel would be excavated on the eastern bank for a few meters to allow the river to bypass the dam and pool and continue flowing south to Israel. However, theres a catch. For over two decades, Israel has been quietly pumping water from the Wazzani Springs, across the Hasbani River and up the steep eastern bank to supply Syrian residents of the Israeli-controlled village of Ghajar. The Israelis have been permitted to continue pumping the water, despite the twin pumps being on Lebanese territory and easily accessible. Both pumps are only 20 meters from where the new pipe is being installed. This arrangement could be drawing to a close because the new dam will dry up the source of water used by the Israeli pumps. Once the new pump is operating, the amount of water that will be taken from the river will still be far short of the 35 million cubic meters a year allocated to Lebanon in the 1955 Johnston Agreement, an accord that is still the only official regional arrangement on water sharing for the Jordan River and its tributaries, of which the Hasbani is one.
Who owns the water in the Middle East? What would be a fair way to allocate it for the benefit of all? Tell The Progress Report!
I will give you a talisman. Whenever you are in doubt, or when the self becomes too much for you, apply the following test: Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man whom you may have seen, and ask yourself, if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him. Will he gain anything by it? Will it restore him to a control over his own life and destiny? In other words, will it lead to Swaraj [self-reliance] for the hungry and spiritually starving millions? Then you will find your doubts and your self melting away. — The Talisman of Mahatma Gandhi
They came, they spoke and they lost. The heads of state, who had assembled for the recently concluded World Food Summit five years later at Rome, spoke eloquently about the scandalous scourge of prevailing hunger, and yet provided only a diet of verbosity to the millions of hungry and malnourished. They spoke about the urgent need to remove global hunger and yet could not look beyond depressing figures. They came to draw global attention to mankinds greatest shame but in reality came to promote biotechnology under the guise of hunger and food insecurity.
After all, in an era of market economy, where contesting the next election is the biggest challenge that confronts the political leaders all over the world, the heads of state did not think even once before unabashedly promoting the commercial interests of the corporations. The hungry will, therefore, have to wait. And wait endlessly for another Mahatma Gandhi to emerge on the horizon and to single-handedly lead the march against hunger, poverty and inequality.
If only the heads of state, who came for the growing ritual of meaningless Summits, had read Mahatma Gandhis Talisman, there would have been hope and optimism emerging from the dark clouds of hunger and malnutrition.
For days before the heads of state started arriving, the drafting committees were locked in the debate over defining a code of conduct for the right to food. As if the right to food is a magical stick that makes the Supermen of the political hierarchy deliver food to the hungry and the desperately needy, the G77 countries, the European Union and the United States fought relentlessly for and against it. Finally, the worlds only superpower succeeded in imposing its will on the rest of the world. The code of conduct was replaced by the word guidelines, as the US had initially wanted, and the final draft was ready for the signatures of the heads of state.
The right-based approach to hunger and malnutrition was expected to challenge unwilling governments to change policies. At the same time, it aimed at giving the victims of violations the means to seek redress and claim good governance by giving them the power of political and economic participation. In addition, a code of conduct was also expected to allow civil society and the national judiciary to guarantee the right to food. Laudable intentions, indeed. But what the promoters of the right-based approach probably did not realize is that the right to food in a majority of the developing countries where hunger persists is already enshrined in their Constitutions. The code of conduct becomes meaningless when governments all over the world, and that includes the United States, are more interested in pushing the commercial interests of an industry and the corporate empire than addressing the problems of hunger and inequality.
Take the case of India, where the shameful paradox of plenty fails to move the government to wage war against hunger and malnutrition. And that too in a country which alone has a third of the worlds estimated 800 million hungry, and tragically over 65 million tonnes of food stocks rotting in the open. The countrys Supreme Court had last year directed the government to devise a scheme where no person goes hungry when the granaries are full and lots being wasted due to non-availability of storage space. At the same time, the Court had asked the government to open the public distribution shops in the worst-affected states so as to make available the food to the poor and hungry.
The Supreme Courts directive came in 2001. A year later, all that the government has done is to play around with figures and statistics in an effort to provide a neat cover for its inaction. Another document, in the form of a code of conduct for the right to food, is certainly not going to move the government into action. Nor will it provide the much-needed weapon for the victims of apathy and neglect to fight for their rights. If only the poor and hungry had a voice, no government could have dared to ignore their plight. The monumental task, therefore, cannot be achieved by yet another carefully-worded document that comes from the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO). It requires an instrument more powerful than the lack of political will referred to by FAO Director General Jacques Diouf.
To say that the main underlying reason for the persistence of hunger is due to the lack of a political will, and as a result of this the resources to fight hunger have not been mobilized to the extent required, is to brush aside the real causes for persistent hunger and abject poverty. What Mr Diouf needs to acknowledge is that it is because of the prevailing political will that hunger is multiplying. It is because the political will is in resonance with the forces that aim at exploiting the hungry and the poor, that the entire global system is directed towards extracting its pound of flesh from even the starving masses. Such a disgraceful system has its roots firmly embedded in the FAO and the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). Over the past few years, both the respected global institutions have deviated from their path of global good to global greed.
At the first World Food Summit in 1996, also held in Rome, Italy, the heads of state had pledged to achieve the objective to halve the number of hungry by the year 2015. This meant an annual reduction in the number of hungry by approximately 22 million. Even this has not been achieved, the FAO observed. And still, the 182 member countries, represented by some 81 heads of state and high-level delegations, once again reiterated the commitment to reduce half the worlds hunger, which in other words means pulling out 400 million people from the hunger trap, by 2015. Even if the FAO and the international community fails to set the hunger agenda into motion, over 122 million hungry would have perished in any case by then. Perhaps that is what the heads of state are hoping for as a face-saving grace!
It is here that global greed comes into focus. While the boring speeches continued in the main plenary, the United States was busy pushing its own commercial interests. The US secretary of agriculture, Ann Veneman, had made no secret of her intentions when she said: Biotechnology has tremendous potential to develop products that can be more suited to areas of the world where there is persistent hunger, adding: there is no food safety issue whatsoever. It was primarily for this reason that the US had all along wanted strong language in the final declaration in favour of genetically-modified food as the key to solving hunger and malnutrition.
The worlds food basket
No wonder the US announced a $US100 million programme to develop genetically-modified crops and products tailored “specifically” for the needs of the developing countries. Now, before you ponder over the real motive behind this benevolence, what emerges crystal clear is that having attained the unique status as the worlds only super-power, the US focus is now to become the worlds only food basket. The entire research and aid development programmes, actively backed by the World Bank, IMF and the World Trade Organization (WTO), are aimed at building the US into a food power so that the rest of the world becomes completely dependent upon America for its food needs. This can be achieved by ensuring that, first, the trade rules are so framed that the benefits should mainly percolate to the American farm sector and, secondly, by gradual destruction of the capacity of the developing countries the majority world to go in for food self-sufficiency.
Biotechnology is the only tool that can usher in the great hunger divide between the rich industrialized countries and the poor developing economies, between the heavily subsidized OECD agribusinesses and the subsistence farming of the developing world, and between the seed-rich countries of the North and the gene-rich nations of the South. The stage has been clearly set for a major confrontation on the food front. With the political leadership in the developing countries lured by hope and succumbing to arm-twisting and pressures, biotechnology is certainly set on a path to destroy livelihoods in the South. By the time the negative impact is felt, the damage would have been done.
Biotechnology only aims to force peasants and marginal farmers off their meagre land holdings. Biotechnology claims to seek to provide the hungry with a “choice.” But what it forgets is that, given a choice, all that the hungry need is simple food. By refusing to address the immediate crisis on the hunger front, the Summit failed and failed miserably. Except for the decorative part of the final declaration, the Summit failed to spell out the initiatives on how to immediately tackle prevailing hunger and malnutrition, on how to ensure that the tragedy of Malawi and Zimbabwe, which are still deep in the quagmire of famine and starvation, is not repeated elsewhere. It failed by turning a blind eye to the plight of over 320 million hungry in India, who continue to stare with dry eyes at the mountains of food surpluses being eaten by rats and pests.
The onus does not only rest with the heads of state; the FAO and CGIAR are equally responsible for the food debacle. If only the FAO/CGIAR refuses to chant the biotechnology mantra, if only these two global farm research and development organizations refuse to conform to the research agenda of the western countries, and if only these institutions were to reiterate their commitment to the farming communities and sustainable farming practices in the developing countries, the onerous task of feeding the world without destroying the resource life-line could have been easily achieved. With good science now being replaced with lobbyist science as advocated by the industry, the poor and hungry will have to wait as they do not add to the corporate profits.
If only the political leadership, the industry, agricultural scientists and civil society had followed Mahatma Gandhis Talisman, the world would not have been a witness to mankinds greatest shame hunger, and in the midst of plenty. It is time the FAO/CGIAR adopt the Talisman as their directive principal, it is time the heads of state were to understand the meaning of the Talisman — the world would then see the beginning of a bright future. There is no need to wait for another Mahatma; the need is to follow what the Mahatma said. And then there would be no need for another World Food Summit. We have had enough.
Devinder Sharma is a food and trade policy analyst based in New Delhi, India.
Green Party Leads All Others in Ideas for Curbing Sprawl
There are ways to contain urban sprawl. One promising approach involves removing the artificial subsidies and distortions that help to create sprawl in the first place.
The mainstream political parties seem very slow to grasp the problems of sprawl or the ways to curb it. However, the Green Party shows a deeper understanding of this issue.
Here is a recent news release from the Green Party of Ontario, Canada.
DE JONG TO EVES: “GO AHEAD, STEAL OUR PLAN!”
Frank de Jong, Leader of the Green Party of Ontario, today (9/23/2002) offered to share his party’s comprehensive plan to fight urban sprawl with the Eves government of Ontario, which today begins its new legislative session.
In a letter to the Premier and the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, de Jong said:
“Looking ahead at the government’s fall legislative agenda, we see that the government has no new ideas to curb sprawl. The Green Party of Ontario formally offers the government the details of its plan, which would form the basis of effective new anti-sprawl legislation.
“The costs of sprawl are smog, farmland loss, wasted commuting time and road construction and maintenance costs. Our solution is to use market mechanisms to end sprawl, encourage redevelopment of existing urban areas into pedestrian-friendly communities, boost transit and reduce vehicle-dependency.”
The Green Party of Ontario’s plan includes requiring municipalities to assess buildings separate from the land they stand on, then shifting the property tax onto the land and away from the building. This form of land rent or site-value taxation will help end sprawl without government micromanagement.
“We understand that after seven years in power, the Eves Conservatives have run out of fresh ideas,” said de Jong. “That’s why we’re offering them the Green Party’s plan for shifting taxes. Our plan will discourage land speculation, stop sprawl, increase affordable housing and build a Better Way to Live for the people of Ontario.”
The Green Party of Ontario is the province’s fastest-growing political party. In the coming election, the party will field a full slate of candidates across the province.
Our recommended tax “split and shift” plan is revenue neutral, not a tax grab. Zoning for various types of land use will remain unchanged. The change is that assessors will assess the buildings independently from the land they are built upon, and the land assessment will be based on the optimal usage of the land.
Municipal politicians will decide on the mill rate, but tax bills would be based on the “best use” assessment or best market value of the land. The building will be taxed less – if at all. Landowners will thus be urged to either use the land more efficiently by improving or enlarging the buildings, or to sell to those who would improve them. Improvements or enlargements to buildings will no longer incur increased taxation, which would encourage businesses to expand or upgrade rather than move.
Our “split and shift” plan will encourage smart growth through free enterprise, not through arbitrary or draconian legislation. Specifically, our land-value assessment system would help the Toronto area accommodate the projected 2.7 million people who will move there by 2031 – without developing any land on the Oak Ridges Moraine or other regional farm lands or wildlife habitats.
The shift to levying fees based on the optimal use of the land will discourage poor usage of urban of land. It would discourage land speculation. It will foster more compact, pedestrian-friendly communities throughout the province. It will encourage private and public transit without subsidization and help reduce dependency on smog-causing vehicular transportation.
You might remember the old movie “Twelve Angry Men,” starring Henry Fonda, Lee J. Cobb, E.G. Marshall and Jack Klugman. Most of the dramatic film takes place inside a jury room as a dozen people deliberate at the end of a murder trial. The weather is swelteringly hot. At the outset, most of the jurors are eager to render a guilty verdict and go home. As the story unfolds, viewers learn that some are influenced by prejudice against the dark-skinned defendant.
We’d like to think that such bias doesn’t hold sway in jury rooms these days. After all, “Twelve Angry Men” came out in 1957, and a lot of progress has occurred since then. But stereotypes and semi-conscious racism are still widespread factors in American society.
An essay in the new anthology “Race and Resistance” notes that “the power of the media is profound” — and adds that “its most powerful impact is on children, who frame definitions of and draw conclusions about the world through the messages they receive.”
Written by mass communications professor Alice Tait and journalist Todd Burroughs, the essay refers to internalized racial spin in the United States: “Studies conducted in the 1990s show that children across all races associate positive characteristics more with white characters they see on television, and negative characteristics with the minority characters.”
Several years ago, physician Michael LeNoir coined the apt term “image distortion disorder” to describe a prevalent social dynamic that blurs and obscures our common humanity. “Most of the images that one ethnic group has of another are developed by the media,” LeNoir pointed out. With some minorities often depicted in a bad light, especially on television, media-fed perceptions create “a background of anxiety and fear in America that is dangerous.”
Some repetitive media representations of African Americans, Latinos and Asians “have a devastating effect on every person in this country and undermine any attempt to bring us together as a people,” says LeNoir, who practices medicine in Oakland, Calif. He advocates speaking out: “Those of us in America who are concerned about race relations must react to obvious distortions in the media by raising our voices in protest over the never-ending attempt to portray people of color in these caricatured, fragmented and distorted images.”
Such images have profound consequences in many spheres of American life — including the nation’s courts. News outlets frequently exacerbate the illness of “image distortion disorder,” but they’re sometimes effective at calling attention to how various forms of racism contribute to terrible injustices in the present day.
One of the virtues of a recent special report on national radio is that it did just that. In a documentary called “Deadly Decisions,” from American RadioWorks, correspondent Alan Berlow found that “jurors may be influenced by their own fears and prejudices when they sentence people to death.”
The documentary, co-produced by Minnesota Public Radio and NPR News, succeeded in ways that public radio shows like “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered” routinely fail. Meticulously researched, the special report devoted a full hour to scrutinizing what happens under the surface of official accounts, easy narratives and quick soundbites.
The result was exemplary journalism that explained how people can be put to death by a legal system that’s theoretically equitable but functionally skewed against defendants without white skin or financial resources. Combining well-ordered factual information and vivid interviews (see www.AmericanRadioWorks.org), the “Deadly Decisions” report built a logical case for some very disturbing conclusions.
One of the documentary’s illustrative stories involved the experiences of a man named Michael Callahan, who was a juror in a murder trial. Callahan described a jury atmosphere reminiscent of “Twelve Angry Men.” But instead of sitting in a make-believe cinematic jury room in the 1950s, Callahan was sitting in a real jury room in the 1980s.
Most of the jurors seemed inclined to convict even before the trial began. And the prosecutor’s case was so weak that Callahan recalled feeling “aghast.” Yet, convinced that “sooner or later the truth is going to come out,” he went along with voting to convict the defendant, Rolando Cruz, of first-degree murder.
An entire decade passed before the truth came out. “Cruz had nothing to do with the murder,” the documentary reported. “He had lost nearly 12 years of his life, most of it on death row.”
Such stories — exposing grim realities of injustice in our midst — are difficult to tell with the detailed care that they deserve. When journalists find ways, there is more hope for the future.
Norman Solomon’s latest book is “The Habits of Highly Deceptive Media.” His syndicated column focuses on media and politics.
How do you view Labor Day? Tell your opinions to the Progress Report!
Major Investigation Concludes Strongly Against GM Products
GM CROPS ARE ECONOMIC DISASTER, SHOWS NEW REPORT
We are thrilled that someone has compiled an analysis of the actual economic effects of genetically modified crops. The verdict is clear and sharp — GM crops are terrible and unjustified and have cost taxpayers heavily.
Our thanks to the Soil Association for making this important new report. Here is their announcement, along with a selection of details.
New Report “Seeds of Doubt” Shows Economic Failure of GM Crops
Genetically modified crops have been an economic disaster in the USA and Canada according to a new report published by the Soil Association.
The Soil Association estimates that GM soya, maize and oilseed rape could have cost the US economy $12 billion (£8 billion) since 1999 in farm subsidies, lower crop prices, loss of major export orders and product recalls. Farmers are not achieving the higher profits promised by the biotechnology companies as markets for GM food collapse. Widespread GM contamination at all levels of the food and farming industry is the major cause of these difficulties.
Severe problems with GM crops has led to over 200 groups representing farmers and the organic sector in the USA and Canada to call for a ban or moratorium on the introduction of the next major proposed GM food crop, GM wheat. Some politicians in the USA are so concerned that in May this year, legislation was introduced to Congress to address the economic, market and legal issues.
The Soil Association’s report is the first to reveal the serious widespread impacts of GM crops in North America on the food and farming industry, where three-quarters of the world’s GM food is grown. It is the most comprehensive review of the situation to be produced from a non-biotechnology industry perspective.
Peter Melchett, the Soil Association’s Policy Director said: “A decision will be made next year whether to allow GM crops to be grown commercially in the UK. With agriculture still suffering a deep economic crisis, the temptation to seize a new technology is great.
“GM was introduced to the USA when farmers were financially vulnerable. The biotechnology industry’s claims that their products would bring benefits were widely accepted, but GM crops have now proved to be a financial liability. Growing GM crops in the UK will undermine the competitiveness of British agriculture.
“We hope farmers in the UK will take our findings seriously. Most of the world is GM-free and there is no market for GM crops in the EU.
“The Soil Association hopes that this report will result in a better informed public debate, and a more independent, less pressurised decision about the possible commercial growing of GM crops in the UK. We can still avoid the mistakes made in the USA and Canada, but only if we don’t open the can of GM worms that commercial growing of GM crops represents. “The Government is publicly committed to ensuring that the expansion of organic farming is not undermined by GM crops – our report shows that the two cannot coexist.”
Over the three years 1999, 2000 and 2001, the USA paid out an estimated total extra $10 billion (£6.5 billion) in farm subsidies for maize and soya (as ‘Loan Deficiency Payments’ and ‘Market Loss Assistance’) as a result of the low prices caused by the loss of trade due to GM crops. The loss of foreign trade due to GM crops totalled an estimated $1-2 billion (£0.6 billion – £1 billion) . The StarLink corn incident has cost an estimated $1 billion (£0.6 billion) including the product recall.
GM oilseed rape, maize, soya and cotton have been grown commercially in North America since 1996. They are all used in vegetable oils and animal feed, and soya is widely used in processed food.
The report is based on interviews with organic and conventional farmers in the Mid-West states of America in January and February 2002, as well as evidence from independent academics, advisers and industry analysts in the USA and Canada.
Nestle, Unilever and Heinz, plus the major UK supermarkets have a ban on GM food ingredients in own brand products. Many are now also using GM-free animal feed.
GMOs are prohibited in organic farming and food processing in view of their incompatibility with the principles of organic agriculture, their unrecallable nature and the potential risks they pose to the environment and human health.
Seeds of doubt: experiences of North American farmers of genetically modified crops
Lower profits for farmers growing GM crops: The profitability of growing GM herbicide tolerant soya and insect-resistant Bt maize is less than non-GM crops. This is due to the extra cost of GM seed (which can be up to 40% higher), the lower market prices paid for GM crops, and reduced soya yields.
Collapse of export markets: within a few years of the introduction of GM crops, almost the entire $300 million (£200 million) annual US maize exports to the EU and the $300 million annual Canadian rape exports to the EU had disappeared due to market rejection. The US share of the world soya market has decreased while non-GM producing countries have seen an increase.
Increase in government subsidies: US farm subsidies were meant to have fallen over the last few years. Instead they rose dramatically, paralleling the growth in GM crops. The lost export trade as a result of GM crops is thought to have caused a fall in crop prices and a need for increased government subsidies, estimated at an extra $3-$5 billion (£2 – £3 billion) annually.
Lower yields: the claims of increased yields have not been realised overall except for a small increase in Bt maize yields. The main GM variety (Roundup Ready soya) yields 6-11% less than non-GM varieties. A farmer in Mississippi was awarded over $165,000 (£100,000) in damages from Monsanto for low GM soya yields.
Widespread contamination of non-GM crops: contamination has caused major problems throughout the food and farming industry in just a couple of years, including the loss of nearly the whole organic oilseed rape sector in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan. Non-GM seeds varieties are difficult to buy, and even these may turn out to be contaminated. Those who are successful in sourcing non-GM seeds risk having their crops contaminated by neighbouring GM fields. Many organic and other GM-free maize farmers have lost sales or received lower prices because of contamination at a potential cost of over $90 million (£60 million) annually.
Premiums for non-GM crops: farmers who are successfully growing non-GM crops are reaping benefits, with one farmer reporting that organic soya is selling at a 200 per cent premium.
A proliferation of lawsuits and the emergence of complex legal issues: biotechnology companies are suing many farmers for infringing company patent rights, saying that they have unlicensed GM plants on their land. A non-GM farmer whose crop was contaminated by GMOs was sued by Monsanto for $400,000 (£260,000). Farmers are turning to the courts for compensation from the companies for lost income and markets as a result of contamination. In Canada, legal action has been launched by the organic sector in Saskatchewan because they cannot supply the organic rape market with GM-free rape, which could cost biotechnology companies millions of dollars.
Increased use of herbicides: Contrary to claims from the biotechnology industry, farmers are now more reliant on herbicides (weedkillers). Certain crops have been engineered to be resistant to specific herbicides to enable farmers to spray weeds without damaging crops. Although it was claimed that only one application would be needed per crop, several are being made. In addition, weeds are developing resistance to these herbicides, and rogue GM plants that grow after a harvest (volunteers) have appeared and spread widely. In particular, GM oilseed rape volunteers the GM crop most likely to be introduced in the UK have spread quickly, and some plants have become resistant to several herbicides through cross pollination. As a result, farmers are making more frequent applications and reverting to older and more toxic chemicals.
GM food recalls: the most expensive recall concerned GM Starlink which was approved for animal feed, but not human consumption. However, it was found in food products such as taco shells and the recall cost to Aventis is estimated to be up to $1 billion (£0.5 billion). In 1998, cross-pollination from GM maize was suspected of contaminating organic maize in Texas. This was only discovered once the maize was shipped to Europe as organic tortilla chips, costing the small company more than $150,000 (£100,000).
“Seeds of doubt: experiences of North American farmers of genetically modified crops” is available from the Soil Association Mail Order Department. Telephone 0117 929 0661, or email firstname.lastname@example.org or go to http://www.soilassociation.org/gm
Be sure to see Fred Foldvary’s editorial on Genetically Manipulated Food So now the facts are in. GM crops are an economic failure and taxpayers are being forced to make huge corporate welfare handouts to agribusiness corporations just to compensate them for their GM-caused losses. This situation is one of the greatest and most dangerous scandals of our generation. What’s your opinion? Tell your views to The Progress Report!
Bush Administration Hypocrisy — Harsh on DWI While Covering Up Conviction
Convicted for Driving While Intoxicated
Below is a news announcement from the excellent Justice Policy Institute.
by Jason Ziedenberg and Vincent Schiraldi
Here are a some statistical facts from our work in Texas that may be of interest.
1. From the time in which George W. Bush won office in November 1994—in a campaign where he accused his opponent, Democrat Ann. Richards, of being soft on crime—the number of people serving time in Texas prisons on DWI charges jumped from 1,091 to 4,229 in 1998. So, from the year prior to George Bush becoming governor to 1998–the lastest year for which prison counts are broken down by offenses—the number of people imprisoned on DWI charges quadrupled. The percentage of Texas inmates imprisoned for DWI charges grew from 1.2% to 3.3%. (Source: Criminal Justice Policy Council)
2. In 1999, 92,895 people were arrested in Texas for DWI. Of those, 86,579 were white, and 5,969 were African American, and the rest were classified as Native American or Asian/Pacific. (Source: Texas Department of Criminal Justice).
3. In 1999, 106,516 people were arrested for drug offenses. Of those, 72,828 were white, and 33,397 were African American. As of 1998, there were 28,083 people imprisoned for drug offense in Texas, up from 18,602 in 1994. (TDCJ, and CJPC).
4. Though more whites are arrested than African Americans for both DWI and drug offenses, and while only 12% of Texans are African American, as of August, 1999, African Americans accounted for 44.2% of all Texas prisoners. (TDCJ). In August, we estimated that African Americans comprised 41% of Texas jail inmates.
5. In August, 2000, the Justice Policy Institute reported that Texas has the largest prison population in the country (161,000), that 1 in 20 Texas (5% Texas’ adult population) was in prison, jail, parole, or probation, and that nearly 1 in 3 young African American men in Texas were under some form of criminal justice control.
If you’d like the source material on these statistics, please give the Justice Policy Institute a call at (202) 737-7270, ext. 232
In 1998, George W. Bush said he had not been arrested since 1964, but he was arrested and convicted of drunk driving in 1976. Then in 2000 he tried to cover up the facts when running for President. What’s your opinion? Tell your views to The Progress Report!
Truly Free Markets Can Work For Us, Not Against Us
Free Market Environmentalism
This interesting article is reprinted here with the special permission of the Environmental News Network. The ENN website is here.
We agree with parts of it, and disagree with parts of it. How about you?
by Michael Parrish
Money matters. So what better way to protect imperiled resources than to make their protection affect your pocketbook?
Many environmentalists now advocate the use of market forces to achieve environmental goals set two decades ago. Instead of relying on government alone to mandate environmental progress, they have devised clever ways to use the basic power of markets – the incentive of profit – to effect change.
In recent years, various market-based strategies have validated this approach. “Market-based strategies are now a key tool for environmentalists,” said Jane Shaw, a senior associate at the Political Economy Research Center, an environmental public-policy institute based in Bozeman, Montana. PERC was one of the earliest and strongest advocates of “free-market environmentalism,” a phrase the company uses for strategies linked to private property rights, personal and community initiative and minimal dependence on government agencies.
“We realize that there is always going to be a role for government in protecting the environment,” said Shaw. “But there could be much more reliance on markets than there is now – much more.” Successful market-based programs are abundant:
* The return of the wolf to Yellowstone was achieved in part through the efforts of Defenders of Wildlife. The environmental group used rock concerts, among other ideas, to set up an insurance fund. The fund compensates ranchers who lose livestock to the wolves, so that the ranchers don’t feel as if they’re paying the cost of someone else’s crusade. Both sides, in this case, found middle ground by way of commerce.
* Housing developers in Southern California now routinely use “conservation banks” by which they can buy permission to develop land in an area otherwise protected by species-preservation laws. In turn, the developers are required to donate equivalent habitat elsewhere.
* Environmental groups and government agencies have both begun to buy water rights from farmers along the Columbia River and other waterways – and leaving that water in the rivers to enhance fish populations.
* Another unique idea, air-pollution permit trading, has also caught on. Such a program encourages businesses to reduce emissions such as acid rain through a permit system. Initial permits are issued based on emissions records of a factory. Factories that reduce their emissions further than levels called for by the permit are awarded “credits.” These credits can then be sold to other companies. This model has been particularly successful on the East Coast in reducing acid rain and with various air pollutants in Southern California.
Not all environmental problems lend themselves to market mechanisms. Some studies, for instance, have shown that timber from Latin American forests is worth so little commercially that sales wouldn’t generate enough money to fund forest-management projects. Such projects are vital to keep those forests healthy over the long term.
Some traditional environmentalists worry that market schemes, while sometimes making it easier for polluters to make a profit and still comply with environmental rules, don’t always offer the best solution for specific problems.
Yet, the list of successes is impressive. Salt-water commercial fishing programs are a good example.
“They’ve been tried successfully all around the world,” said Doug Hopkins, program manager of the Environmental Defense Fund’s Oceans Program. Participating countries include Iceland, Canada, New Zealand and the United States.
Traditionally, commercial fishing has been regulated by limiting the length of the season. Biologists estimate how long a fleet can catch fish without having an adverse impact on the species’ ability to restock over the next year. But this method has often failed and many species have drastically declined, leading to increasingly shorter fishing seasons and, in some cases, to frantic, wasteful and dangerous fishing. Sometimes the year’s catch must be taken in a matter of days, or even hours, with boats essentially competing in so-called “derby fishing.”
Derby fishing, which rewards those who fish the fastest, has encouraged fishermen to buy bigger and bigger boats and more gear. Some of the extra fishing tackle is inevitably lost during a derby season, killing fish that are never harvested, a phenomenon called “ghost fishing.” All of this has dramatically depleted commercial fish species.
New Zealand has pioneered better fishing management. In 1986, it adopted a market scheme to save dwindling stocks of rock lobster and scallop in its coastal fishing grounds. Officials implemented Individual Transferable Quotas, or ITQs, to regulate its rock lobster and scallop catches. The country has since expanded the program to other fish species.
ITQs entitle each fisherman to a share of the total allowable catch that year. The fish can be taken at any time, which means that fishermen can choose the most economical way to catch their quota. They don’t have to compete in a derby, fair weather or foul. The quotas, issued only to long-time fishermen in the fleet, may also be traded. This means a fisherman who doesn’t have enough of a quota to make a profit on his or her boat can either buy more or sell to other fishermen. Environmental groups can also buy quotas and simply retire them, leaving more fish in the sea each year.
The upshot is that fewer, better-run boats remain in the fleet, dangerous and wasteful fishing is significantly reduced and fish populations improve. A U.S. National Research Council report released last spring found that New Zealand’s ITQs had been a big success. It showed that of the 149 categories of commercial fish pursued by new Zealand boats – in deep trouble a decade ago – only 11 were still below the target levels for a healthy fish population.
Fishermen in the United States tried ITQs in Alaska’s halibut and sablefish fisheries. Hopkins notes that these ITQs also brought improvements, including, for consumers, a new market in fresh halibut. But a group of what Hopkins describes as “very disgruntled fishermen” who joined these fishing fleets only recently – and felt they didn’t get a fair share of quotas – complained to members of Congress. In 1996, Congress banned new ITQs for U.S. fishing fleets. Hopkins and other environmentalists hope that the new National Research Council report will help to lift that ban.
Proponents of market environmentalism remain optimistic.
“We have a long way to go to apply free markets to the environment,” said Shaw, “but the market-based approach is certainly much more important to environmentalists than ever before.”
There is a wealth of information on the web about alternative economic and marketing strategies. For more details, visit some of the web sites listed below.
Here is a news update from Taxpayers for Common Sense. TCS is the best organization that monitors excessive government spending, corruption and corporate welfare.
WEIGHING THE COSTS OF WAR Congress is poised to authorize a blank check for U.S. military action against Iraq without any financial commitment from our allies, a move that will guarantee budget deficits for years to come.
Iraq may be one of the hottest, most talked about issues in the nation at present, but the economic impact of invading without international support has been conspicuously absent from the public debate. The cost of war is a critically important issue that must be weighed against the level of national security risk.
Widespread uncertainty exists over the total costs of an invasion, but even lowball estimates should give lawmakers sticker shock. U.S. taxpayers may be told to foot the entire $40 – $200 billion bill for the execution of the war and subsequent peacekeeping and rebuilding efforts.
In light of the new $145 billion budget deficit, any major new spending by the federal government is likely to have long-lasting negative effects on the economy.
To put the estimated costs into perspective, the Gulf War against Iraq cost $80 billion (in today’s dollars), but 80% of those costs were borne by international allies. This time it appears that allies will be much harder to come by. Both Germany and Saudi Arabia contributed significantly to the cost of the Gulf War, but each has strongly indicated opposition to the Bush administration’s current plans to invade Iraq. The U.S. does not have any current ally which has made a financial commitment to back Bush’s war efforts.
Without international support for an invasion, there will be even less of an obligation for other countries to pay for a portion of the costs of peacekeeping and subsequent rebuilding. That would place responsibility for picking up the pieces after a U.S. invasion squarely on the shoulders of the U.S. taxpayers, already facing a mountain of budgetary red ink. Initial estimates have put the rebuilding costs at $10-$20 billion per year, which, according to some estimates, could cost more than $150 billion for the whole effort.
A full-blown war against Iraq is sure to generate astronomical costs to American taxpayers, as public and private economic sectors are certain to be rocked by an unrestrained war effort. Any U.S.-led Middle-Eastern incursion will cause volatility in both the U.S. and international economic markets due to disruption in oil production and losses in investor confidence. Such changes could lead to economic instability — including recession — reminiscent of the Gulf War. The oil embargo of the 1970s and 1980s, which was partially a backlash to America’s policies in the Middle East, resulted in the loss of 500,000 American jobs.
While there is little dispute over the need for a combination of diplomatic and coercive actions to dismantle Iraqi weapons production capabilities, the Bush administration should temper its interest in invasion with its fiscal responsibilities to American taxpayers.
Many lawmakers feel uncomfortable authorizing military action based on incomplete information. Taxpayers should also be wary of a rash judgment to launch a war without knowing the full costs - to life, our economy, and our international reputation.
As such, it is essential that Congress and the Bush administration exhaust all possible options before launching a unilateral invasion. Don’t get us wrong, Hussein must be stopped. But Congress needs to ask why Bush is the only world leader willing to make taxpayers pay for it.
For more information, contact Keith Ashdown at (202)-546-8500 ext. 110 or by email at email@example.com TCS is at www.taxpayer.net
What’s your view? Tell your opinions to The Progress Report!
Wimpy Diplomats Seek Immunity From London User Fee
A sensible environmental user fee will be applied in London next year. It is consistent with green economic policy. Although the fee should theoretically vary with the fuel-efficiency of the vehicle and the amount of time it spends in London, still the main idea is right on target.
Who’s complaining? The wealthy outsiders who already enjoy many special privileges think their gas-guzzling cars should be declared exempt.
Here are a few portions of an article that recently appeared in the New York Times, with clarifications by the Progress Report.
The wealthy U.S. diplomat did not want anyone to know he had talked to a reporter. Not about the subject of London’s proposed fee on cars driving into the center of town.
“We don’t want to sound like we think it’s a big deal,” the diplomat said. “But it is a general position that this is a tax issue and that therefore embassies should be exempted.”
Therein lies the crux of the awkwardness bubbling up between the city of London and representatives of some embassies here. Starting in February, the city plans to embark on a traffic-reduction program, charging motorists 5 pounds a day for the privilege of driving in certain central neighborhoods. The diplomats do not want pro-environmental rules to apply to them and are fighting back in the way they know best, diplomatically.
The reason for the objection, they say, is rooted in the 1961 Vienna Convention, which bars governments from levying taxes on missions and embassies.
“It is the view of the United States government that the decision to apply the congestion charge against staff working for the United States and other countries is a clear violation of the Vienna Convention,” a spokesman for the American Embassy told the Sunday Telegraph last week.
Although the American pique about congestion charges is well known in diplomatic circles, the spokesman was not allowed to talk about it to American reporters because, the spokesman said, the State Department has not authorized him to speak to the American press on this awkward issue.
According to officials in other embassies, the Americans have even hinted that if their workers are forced to fork over the 5 pounds every time they want to drive to work, British diplomats might well find themselves suddenly subject to similar charges.
“It’s an issue of principle,” one official said. “If we can’t negotiate something then we might find that the only way to resolve the disagreement is to say, “Well, you say it isn’t a tax, so we’ll impose the same kind of nontax on British diplomats.” [The Progress Report notes -- that is not a threat, that would be a wonderful thing, a new environmental "green tax" in the USA!]
Tough luck, says the famously contentious mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, who had the idea for the congestion charge in the first place.
“This is not a tax it’s a congestion charge for entering central London during certain hours on weekdays,” said Stuart Ross, a spokesman for London Transport.
Congestion imposes economic, social and health burdens on others without their consent. A system of fees to charge vehicles for the burdens that they impose makes excellent economic sense. We applaud the mayor of London. The privilege-seeking diplomats should be ashamed. What’s your opinion? Tell your views to The Progress Report!
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 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.
an alternative to conventional land trusts. Just as it seems some functions should not be left to the market – private courts and cops invite corruption (while private mediation is fine) – just so some land should not be left in the market. That said, sacred sites do not make much of a model for treating the vast acreage of land that we need to use. So the usual trust model, which is anti-use and counter-market, can not apply where it’s needed most. Trust proponents worry about ownership and control – two very human ambitions – but they’re not central. Supposedly, we the people own millions acres – acres that private corporations treat as private fiefdoms – and conversely, the Nature Conservancy owns wilderness the public can some places use as parks. So, the issue is not who owns but who gets the rent – ideally, all of us.
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.
a study of a phenomenon David Ricardo noted going on two centuries ago. When wine grapes rise to $10,000 a ton from the very best land (last year, cabernet sauvignon commanded an average of $4,021 a ton in the Napa Valley), then vineyard prices soar from $18,000 an acre in the 1980′s to $100,000 an acre five years ago and now for a top pedigree up to $300,000 an acre (The New York Times, April 9, via Wyn Achenbaum). Pricey land does not make wine pricey; spendy wine makes land spendy. While vintners make their wine tasty, nature and society in general – not any lone owner – make land desireable. Steve Kerch of CBS’s MarketWatch (April 5) notes that much of what a home sells for on the open market is a reflection of intangible factors such as what school district the house sits in. The price the builder has to pay for the land also tends to be driven by the same intangibles. Because the value of land comes from society, and because one’s use excludes the rest of society, each user owes all others compensation, and is owed compensation by everyone else. Sharing land’s value, instead of taxing one’s efforts, is the policy of geonomics.
a discipline that, compared to economics, is as obscure as Warren Buffett’s investment strategy, compared to conventional investment theory, about which Buffett said, “You couldn’t advance in a finance department in this country unless you taught that the world was flat.” (The New York Times, Oct 29). The writer wondered, “But why? If it works, why don’t more investors use it?”
Good question. Geonomics works, too. Every place that has used it has prospered while conserving resources. Yet it remains off the radar of many wanna-be reformers. Gradually, tho’, that’s changing. More are becoming aware of what geonomics studies – all the money we spend on the nature we use. Geonomics (1) as an alternative worldview to the anthropocentric, sees human economies as part of the embracing ecosystem with natural feedback loops seeking balance in both systems. (2) As an alternative to worker vs. investor, it sees our need for sites and resources making those who own land into landlords. (3)As an alternative to economics, it tracks the trillions of “rent” as it drives the “housing” bubble and all other indicators. And (4) as an alternative to left or right, it suggests we not tax ourselves then subsidize our favorites but recover and share society’s surplus, paying in land dues and getting back “rent” dividends, a la Alaska’s oil dividend. Letting rent go to the wrong pockets wreaks havoc, while redirecting it to everyone would solve our economic ills and the ills downstream from them.
People must learn to stop whining so much and feel enough self-esteem to demand a fair share of rent, society’s surplus, the commonwealth.
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.
not exactly Georgism, the Single Tax on land value proposed by Henry George. He did, tho’, inspire most of the real-world implementations of the land tax that some jurisdictions enjoy today, and modern thinkers to craft geonomics. While his name and our remedy both begin with “geo” since both words refer to “Earth”, the two have their differences. (a) George pegs land monopoly as the fundamental flaw while geonomics faults Rent retention. (b) To fix the flaw, George was content to use a tax, while geonomics jettisons them in favor of price-like fees. (c) George focused on the taking while geonomics headlines the sharing. George envisioned an enlightened state judiciously spending the collected Rent while geonomics would turn the lion’s share over to the citizens via a dividend. (d) And George, as was everyone in his era, was pro-growth while geonomics sees economies as alive, growing, maturing, and stabilizing. Despite these differences, George should be recognized as great an economist as Euclid was a geometrician.
an economic policy based on the earth’s natural patterns. Eco-systems self-regulate by using feedback loops to keep balance. Can economies do likewise? Why don’t they now produce efficiently and distribute fairly? The answers lie in the money we spend on the earth we use. To attain people/planet harmony, that financial flow from sites and resources must visit each of us. Our agent, government, must collect this natural rent via fees and disburse the collected revenue via dividends. And, it must forgo taxes on homes and earnings, and quit subsidies of either the needy or the greedy. As our steward, government must also collect Ecology Security Deposits, require Restoration Insurance, and auction off the occasional Emissions Permit. And that’s about it – were nature our model.
a new policy from a new perspective. Once your worldview shifts — so that vacant city lots are no longer invisible — then epiphany. “Of course! Why didn’t I see it before?” Once you do see the emptiness and what damage it does, how can you ever go back to the old paradigm?