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Will Fed policies continue on the path of inflation?
This 2013 excerpt of Monex, Nov 18, is by ex US Presidential candidate Ron Paul.
Janet Yellen, nominated to become Federal Reserve Board Chairman, indicated that she would continue the Fed’s ‘quantitative easing’ (QE) polices, despite QE’s failure to improve the economy. Coincidentally, two days before the Yellen hearings, Andrew Huszar, an ex-Fed official, publicly apologized to the American people for his role in QE. Mr. Huszar called QE ‘the greatest backdoor Wall Street bailout of all time.’
It is increasingly obvious that the Fed’s post-2008 policies of bailouts, money printing, and bond buying benefited the big banks and the politically-connected investment firms.
It would be a mistake to think that QE is the first time the Fed’s policies have benefited the well-to-do at the expense of the average American. The Fed’s polices have always benefited crony capitalists and big spending politicians at the expense of the average American.
By manipulating the money supply and the interest rate, Federal Reserve polices create inflation and thereby erode the value of the currency. Since the Federal Reserve opened its doors one hundred years ago, the dollar has lost over 95 percent of its purchasing power — that’s right, today you need $23.70 to buy what one dollar bought in 1913!
The creation of new money does not impact everyone equally. The well-connected benefit from inflation, as they receive the newly-created money first, before general price increases have spread through the economy. It is obvious, then, that middle- and working-class Americans are hardest hit by the rising level of prices.
Ed. Notes: Businessmen who make their money in oil or whatever then go on to start a bank — the Rockefellers started what is now Chase — and the banks go on to collude, creating a central bank that controls currency and credit, such as the Federal Reserve, which actually is a corporation. The cycle gets its start from one man getting to keep the “rent” for a natural source. The cycle gets its fuel to keep running from banks getting to keep the “rent” for land that’s bundled up in mortgages. Bankers know this even if the rest of the population — those paying out the nose — don’t see how it’s done to them. Maybe geonomics should be a required course!
Microsoft to buy Nokia phones, patents for $7.2B
A 2013 excerpt of the AP, Spt 3.
Microsoft says it is buying Nokia’s devices and services business, and getting access to the company’s patents, for a total of 5.44 billion euros ($7.2 billion) in an effort to expand its share of the smartphone market. Nokia confirmed the deal in a joint news release.
This is a major step in Microsoft’s push to transform itself from a software maker focused on making operating systems and applications for desktop and laptop computers into a more versatile and nimble company that delivers services on any kind of Internet-connected gadget.
The purchase in an attempt to mount a more formidable challenge to Apple Inc. and Google Inc. as more technological tasks get done on mobile devices instead of personal computers.
The shift is weakening Microsoft, which has dominated the PC software market for the past 30 years, and empowering Apple, the maker of the trend-setting iPhone and iPad, and Google, which gives away the world’s most popular mobile operating system, Android.
Nokia, based in Espoo, Finland, and Microsoft have been trying to make inroads in the smartphone market as part of a partnership forged in 2011. But their devices haven’t emerged as a popular alternative to the iPhone or an array of Android-powered devices spearheaded by Samsung Electronics’ smartphones and tablets.
Microsoft is betting it will have a better chance of narrowing the gap if it seizes complete control over how the mobile devices work with its Windows software.
Microsoft hopes to complete the deal early next year. If that timetable pans out, about 32,000 Nokia employees will transfer to Microsoft, which currently has about 99,000 workers.
It will represent the second most expensive acquisition in Microsoft’s 38-year history, ranking behind an $8.5 billion purchase of Internet calling and video conferencing service Skype.
The money to buy Nokia’s smartphones and patents will be drawn from the nearly $70 billion that Microsoft held in overseas accounts as of June 30.
Ed. Notes: So Microsoft seeks total control, rather than cooperation. That means they are a top-down company. Could that be why they lost touch with the market?
All those billions they keep offshore — how is that legal? Not that it’s offshore, out of the grasp of the taxman, but that they don’t have to use the huge profit to pay stockholders huge dividends. Why is cheating shareholders not considered theft?
Further, the value of the patents, not the value of buildings or machines, is the most valuable thing in Nokia. Patents, little pieces of paper that grant monopoly control over some turf in the field of knowledge, and that cost a pittance. Some analysts estimate that patents and copyrights account for 80% of the value of companies listed on Wall Street’s NYSE. But if the value is not in the product but in the monopoly over part of the market, then shouldn’t we raise what we charge for patents and copyrights up to full market value?
This 2013 excerpt of Independent Science News, Oct 30, is by Colin Tudge.
Golden Rice is a flagship for GMOs. Golden Rice is not the answer to the world’s vitamin A problem, rather it is part of the cause. Syngenta’s promotion of it is an exercise in top-down control.
Vitamin A deficiency is now a huge and horrible issue primarily because horticulture has been squeezed out by monocultural big-scale agriculture —- the kind that produces nothing but rice or wheat or maize as far as the eye can see. The best way by far to supply carotene (and thus vitamin A) is by horticulture which traditionally was at the core of all agriculture.
We have been told that GMOs increase yields with lower inputs and have been proven beyond reasonable doubt to be safe. In reality, GMOs do not consistently or even usually yield well under field conditions; they do not necessarily lead to reduction in chemical inputs, and have often led to increases; and there is no worldwide consensus of scientists vouching for their safety.
No GMO food crop has ever solved a problem that really needs solving that could not have been solved by conventional means in the same time and at less cost.
We have been assured that without high tech, industrialized agriculture, we will all starve. Yet the world already produces enough staple food to support 14 billion -– twice the present number. A billion starve because the wrong food is produced in the wrong places by the wrong means by the wrong people -– and once the food is produced, half of it is wasted.
The task is not to increase output, but to produce what we do produce (or even less) by means that are kinder to people, livestock, and wildlife.
The industrial farming that is supposed to be feeding the world in practice provides only 30% of the world’s food. Another 20% comes from fishing, hunting, and people’s back gardens – and the remaining 50% comes from the mostly small, mostly mixed traditional farms that the industrialists and their political assistants tell us are an anachronism; and small mixed farms can be the most productive of all, per unit area. Furthermore, to produce their 30%, the industrial farms gobble up enormous quantities of oil for their industrial chemistry with immense collateral damage, not least to the climate. In contrast traditional farms are low input, and at least when properly managed, need not be damaging at all.
Small, mixed, traditional-style farms are said to be far too expensive because they are labour-intensive. But in fact, about 80% of what people spend on food in supermarkets goes to the middle-men and the banks (who lend the money to set up the system in the first place). So the farmers get only 20%. If those farmers are up to their ears in debt, then a fair slice of that 20% goes to the banks. At most, the farm labour costs account for less than 10% of the total food bill. It’s the 80% we need to get down.
When farmers sell directly to customers they get 100% of the retail price; through farmers’ markets they typically get around 70%; and through local shops at least 30%.
The Monsanto Protection Act allows big agricultural and biotech corporations to ignore food safety regulations and sell genetically engineered foods even after a court order to stop. The Monsanto Protection Act was written anonymously and in secret — and prevents courts from doing their jobs.
US Sens. Jeff Merkley, Bernie Sanders, Reps. Tulsi Gabbard, Earl Blumenauer, Kyrsten Sinema, Yes on 522, and the Daily Kos community sponsored a petition to tell Congress to stop the Monsanto Protection Act.
Ed. Notes: You know why corporations are called limiteds in the UK? Because their salient feature is they limit the liability of those responsible for harming others in order to turn a fatter profit. If you repealed such limits or at least made businesses pay a fair and ongoing fee for their corporate charter, then they’d become much better corporate citizens.
At the bottom of the business hierarchy, most farmers toil on land that’s not theirs but owned by absentee investors. The actual farmer has little say over how to farm. To empower farmers you have to spread farmland ownership. A very effective way to do that is to have government recover ground rents. Having to pay land rents makes it pointless to own land you don’t use — the profit goes to the rent. So absentee owners sell out, actual farmers get some farmland, and everybody’s happy (almost).
Happily, this geonomic solution has worked wherever tried.
The US Congress seem to be the only people in America getting as much down time as the medieval peasant. They get 239 days off this year.
This 2013 excerpt of Reuter’s Great Debate, Aug 29, is by Lynn Parramore.
Plowing and harvesting were backbreaking toil, but the peasant enjoyed anywhere from eight weeks to half the year off. The Church, mindful of how to keep a population from rebelling, enforced frequent mandatory holidays. Weddings, wakes and births might mean a week off quaffing ale to celebrate, and when wandering jugglers or sporting events came to town, the peasant expected time off for entertainment. There were labor-free Sundays, and when the plowing and harvesting seasons were over, the peasant got time to rest, too. During periods of particularly high wages, such as 14th-century England, peasants might put in no more than 150 days a year.
When workers fought for the eight-hour workday, they weren’t trying to get something radical and new, but rather to restore what their ancestors had enjoyed before industrial capitalists and the electric lightbulb came on the scene. Go back 200, 300 or 400 years and you find that most people did not work very long hours at all. In addition to relaxing during long holidays, the medieval peasant took his sweet time eating meals, and the day often included time for an afternoon snooze. Our ancestors may not have been rich, but they had an abundance of leisure.
As for the modern American worker? After a year on the job, she gets an average of eight vacation days annually.
Some blame the American worker for not taking what is her due. But in a period of consistently high unemployment, job insecurity, and weak labor unions, employees may feel no choice but to accept the conditions set by the culture and the individual employer. In a world of “at will” employment, where the work contract can be terminated at any time, it’s not easy to raise objections.
Ironically, this cult of endless toil doesn’t really help the bottom line. Study after study shows that overworking reduces productivity. On the other hand, performance increases after a vacation, and workers come back with restored energy and focus. The longer the vacation, the more relaxed and energized people feel upon returning to the office.
Economic crises give austerity-minded politicians excuses to talk of decreasing time off, increasing the retirement age, and cutting into social insurance programs, and safety nets that were supposed to allow us a fate better than working until we drop. But the Greeks, who face a horrible economy, already work more hours than any other Europeans. In Germany, an economic powerhouse, workers rank second to last in number of hours worked. Despite more time off, German workers are the eighth most productive in Europe, while the long-toiling Greeks rank 24 out of 25 in productivity.
Beyond burnout, vanishing vacations [and expanding workweeks] make our relationships with families and friends suffer. Our health is deteriorating: depression and higher risk of death are among the outcomes for our no-vacation nation.
Ed. Notes: You want a solution to too much (useless) work? You need to get some income that comes from some other source than your work. You need to get paid not for your labor or your capital (your savings / investments). You need an income from your land, or, more precisely, from all the land in your region — sort of like Singapore’s dividend to citizens from its high land values, sort of like Aspen’s assistance to residents for housing from a tiny partial land tax, and sort of like Alaska’s oil dividend to residents. With that extra income, then you could negotiate not just more time off but also higher wages, better conditions, and more say in management. And you’d become more productive too, so then you could take even more time off!
IRS Cracks Down on Breaks Tied to Rich Americans’ Land
This 2013 excerpt of Bloomberg, Nov 5, is by Richard Rubin.
The IRS is challenging a complex and obscure tax break that benefits some of the nation’s wealthiest property owners. Without giving up land, they donate the hard-to-calculate value of a perpetual promise to leave the property undisturbed. For that, they claim a big tax deduction.
The conservation easement break is one of hundreds scattered throughout the tax code that members of Congress are reviewing.
Between 2003 and 2006, taxpayers saved an estimated $4 billion through easement donations, about 6 percent of the revenue that the U.S. government will forgo because of the mortgage interest deduction next year alone. The U.S. tax system raised $2.8 trillion last year.
Congress first specifically allowed tax deductions for conservation easements in 1976 and made the rule permanent in 1980.
The Obama administration has made little headway in its effort to push lawmakers to prevent golf courses and air rights above historic buildings from qualifying for the break.
Ed. Notes: The problem with giving someone a little unearned income is then they feel like they deserve a lot more. Then they go too far, even for the usually docile IRS. It must mean that the government debt is worrying even some in the government — if the federal debt gets too big, the even the IRS could lose its source of funding!
A world without an IRS does sound like a better place to live. However, they IRS could become useful if it were to calculate the income that’s not earned by individuals but earned by society, which is all our spending for goods and services never produced by labor or capital, things such as land, oil, the airwaves, ecosystem services, etc.
If people saw how manny trillions they spent as a society for using some land, payments made to a tiny group of absentee owners, speculators, and lenders, then they might finally see such spending as our common wealth, as society’s surplus, as a font to share.
The poor get handouts and the rich get tax loopholes, worth many billions more.
This 2013 excerpt of Pacific Standard, Aug 29, is by Jay Livingston.
About half of all tax “expenditures” [tax breaks or loopholes] go to the top quintile (top 20 percent of income earners). The bottom 80 percent of earners divide the other half. And within that richest quintile, the top one percent receive 15 percent of all tax expenditures (this distribution of tax breaks roughly parallels the distribution of income).
The Earned Income Tax Credit, which benefits mostly the poor, “costs” [exempts from the income tax] less than $40 billion. The tab for the low tax on investment income (capital gains and dividends) is more than twice that, and nearly all of that goes to the top quintile. More than two-thirds goes to the richest one percent.
The point? People complain about government payments to the poor, but tax breaks are also payments, though less obviously so, to the rich. And those tax breaks cost the government a lot more money.
Ed. Notes: Some say, to eliminate all this funny business, get rid of all loopholes for everyone and just have a flat income tax rate. That could be a step in the right direction — if all the revenue were to go to war and war debt. Then, when people complain about the tax money taken from them they’d have to, logically, at the same time complain about all the wars their government wages, not necessarily making the country safer but definitely making military contractors and other insiders incredibly rich.
If your income tax payments were to fund only wars (past, present, and future), how would government fund other programs? What programs? Most are not needed. You mean medicare and social security and food stamps? Forget them. Forget them all. Instead, fund a Citizen’s Dividend — a check in the mail paid monthly to the citizenry in general.
Where would government get the money for paying citizens a dividend? For all of our spending for nature, from our mortgages for the land under our homes and from the leases for the oil under our territory, including from the licenses for the airwaves and other mini-monopolies. Government would shift its taxes, fees, and dues to redirect our spending for nature into the public treasury, then back out again as equal dividends.
Government would charge full market value for its deeds and utility franchises and corporate charters and every other privilege it grants, without granting anyone any special rates or loopholes.
Under this policy, people would pay for what they take, not what they make, earn their keep, keep what they earn, and enjoy a share of what already belongs to us all, our common heritage, the worth of Earth in our territory.
Indians don’t get enough credit for their role in making the fall harvest holiday possible — rename it Thankindians — while the poor get too much blame for imposing on others.
This excerpt of European Politics and Policy within the London School of Economics, Nov 15, is by Christian Albrekt Larsen.
Negative portrayals of welfare recipients in the UK press are in contrast to the positive stories which dominate Swedish and Danish mass media.
Stories and pictures presented in the mass media help shape our opinions towards the poor and welfare recipients. Media content influences our perception of who the poor and welfare recipients really are, how they behave, and what should be done to either help or punish them.
The US and the UK are caught in a vicious circle: the combination of higher levels of poverty and a targeted welfare system produces a large amount of negative stories about the poor and welfare recipients. In contrast, Sweden and Denmark seem to be caught in a virtuous circle. There, the combination of lower poverty levels and a universal welfare system reduces the amount of newsworthy negative stories and creates room for positive narratives about the ‘deserving poor’.
Ed. Notes: When the poor get something for nothing, the right is enraged while the left is OK with it. When the rich get something for nothing, the left is enraged while the right is indifferent. If only both would rally together to get rid of welfare for both the needy and the greedy.
What could replace government handouts to insiders on one (heavily laden) hand and to the underclass on the other (tight-fisted) hand? A Citizen’s Dividend. Pay the citizenry in general an equal amount, no matter their station in life. That would eliminate both the stigma hurting the downtrodden and the favoritism uplifting the well-connected.
What would fund the Dividend? A dividend, by definition, is a share of a surplus. What is our social surplus, our common wealth? It’s all of our spending for all the nature we use. It’s part of mortgages, part of resource leases, indeed it’s part of the price of every good consisting of raw material and every service delivered on some location — all goods and services. We could redirect this spending into the public treasury by levying taxes, dues, fees, and the like, and then back out again to everyone as periodic dividend check in everyone’s (e)mail. We’d all probably feel thankful eventho’ a fair share of society’s organic surplus is our basic right.
This 2013 of Common Dreams, Aug 28, is by Norman Solomon.
Every president who wants to launch another war can’t abide whistleblowers. They might interfere with the careful omissions, distortions, and outright lies of war propaganda, which requires that truth be held in a kind of preventative detention.
Obama has overseen more prosecutions of whistleblowers than all other presidents combined—- while also subjecting journalists to ramped-up surveillance and threats, whether grabbing the call records of 20 telephone lines of the Associated Press or pushing to imprison New York Times reporter James Risen for not revealing a source.
The vengeful treatment of Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning, the all-out effort to grab Edward Snowden, and less-publicized prosecutions such as the vendetta against NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake are all part of a government strategy that aims to shut down unauthorized pipelines of information to journalists —- thence to the public. When secret information is blocked, all that’s left is the official story.
From the false Tonkin Gulf narrative in 1964 that boosted the Vietnam War to the fabricated baby-incubators-in-Kuwait tale in 1990 that helped launch the Gulf War to the reports of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction early in this century, countless deaths and unfathomable suffering have resulted from the failure of potential whistleblowers to step forward in a timely and forthright way —- and the failure of journalists to challenge falsehoods in high government places.
The key problems, as usual, revolve around undue deference to authority —- obedience in the interests of expediency —- resulting in a huge loss of lives and a tremendous waste of resources that should be going to sustain human life instead of destroying it.
As a practical matter, real journalism can’t function without whistleblowers. Democracy can’t function without real journalism. And we can’t stop the warfare state without democracy. In the long run, the struggles for peace and democracy are one and the same.
Ed. Notes: Yet we can’t have either peace or democracy unless we win economic justice. The elite have no reason to respect you, not as long as they can syphon off our common wealth and everyone keeps silent about it. That surplus, it’s something society in general generates and can’t help but do so. That flow of funds belongs to all of us, not just those who loom over everyone else. It’s all of society’s spending for land and natural resources, all the things that didn’t require anyone’s labor or capital to come into existence. None of us made harbors or oil, all of us need them, and population in general create their value. Once we wake up to that, and share what already belongs to us all, then we will have closed the income and wealth gaps, have toppled the elite, and their drives to various wars will be no more.
Verizon’s $725 million loan shows Farm Credit reform is needed.
This 2013 excerpt of USA Today, Nov 14, is by Jeff Plagge, president of Northwest Financial Corp, chairman of the American Bankers Association. This article first appeared in The Des Moines Register.
The federal Farm Credit System was created nearly 100 years ago at a time when affordable bank loans for farmers were hard to find. Today is a $250 billion financial institution; if it were a bank, it would be the ninth-largest in the country. Not only is its funding subsidized by government sponsorship, it also receives very generous tax breaks — all while competing directly with banks and other lenders that do not share these advantages.
It also makes loans to whomever it wants -— such as those buying land for recreational purposes: developers of golf courses and luxury residential neighborhoods.
Recently it loaned $725 million to Verizon Communications. The Farm Credit System joined with 45 banks from around the world to help Verizon purchase the 45% of Verizon Wireless it does not already own from British telecom giant Vodafone.
Why should taxpayers be subsidizing loans to a Dow 30 company with $116 billion in 2012 revenues? It will not fund construction of any rural wireless infrastructure; it merely funds a corporate buyout. Verizon is not a rural telephone cooperative; it is a stockholder-owned corporation.
Should the government continue to sponsor an enterprise as large and unfocused as today’s Farm Credit System?
Ed. Notes: The author, being a banker, has an axe to grind, since public lenders take business away from private lenders. That aside, the bigger issue is: these deals are the main business of government and always have been: to serve business. The out-of-pocket expense to the taxpayer (as a direct subsidy to the FCS) might not be so huge, but that’s not the point. The point is, the loans are to the biggies, not the littles. Government involvement in a business does not lower its prices to the public; that’s not even touched. And competition — which should lower prices and raise service — is not increased. No, it’s just another example of the role government plays in the real world as handmaiden to big business.
If you want it to stop, you have to stop letting politicians spend all your public revenue and must start spending it yourselves. That is, limit the government’s discretionary power of the purse to defending our rights; use the bulk of public revenue to fund a dividend to the citizenry in general.
Where would government get the money? From taxes, fees, dues, and leases on lands, resources, airwaves, and monopoly privileges like Verizon’s utility franchise. Charge the Verizons of the world full value for loans and guarantees; don’t give them such favors at little or no cost. Run government like a business in the most basic sense of the phrase.
This 2013 excerpt of the Huffington Post, Aug 28, is by Shahien Nasiripour.
Regulators overseeing the nation’s largest financial institutions are distrustful of their bosses, afraid to speak out, and feeling isolated, according to a confidential survey this year of Federal Reserve employees.
The shaky morale is a legacy of Alan Greenspan’s 19-year term as Fed chairman. From 1987 to 2006, the Greenspan Fed pushed for a hands-off approach by regulators, who then found themselves blamed for the financial crisis that led to the most punishing economic downturn since the Great Depression.
Most say that top leaders are failing the organization, in part by not communicating honestly, and that employees are in the wrong jobs, or are poorly managed.
Even in a bureaucracy traditionally rife with turf wars and secrecy, the Fed stands out among banking regulators for its low marks on key issues such as trust and collaboration, according to comparable survey results from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.
Nearly a dozen current and former Washington-based Fed employees corroborated the Fed survey results, some by offering personal examples of Fed regulators who had been marginalized after challenging senior leaders or pushed out over apparent personality conflicts. They all spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of losing their jobs.
Ed. Notes: Bigger picture: Should a society’s currency be run by a bureaucracy, never mind how well meaning (or not)? Could currency be handled by community trading groups operating on consensus? Could the role of government (which the Fed is not actually a part of) be simply to set standards that currencies would have to meet to become legal tender? We decentralize credit cards; why not decentralize the creation of credit?
This 2013 excerpt of The Guardian, Nov 11, is by Richard Orange.
Prison numbers in Sweden, which have been falling by around 1% a year since 2004, dropped by 6% between 2011 and 2012 and are expected to do the same again both this year and next year.
Sweden has experienced such a sharp fall in the number of prison admissions in the past two years that it has decided to close down four prisons and a remand centre.
Partial explanation for the sudden drop in admissions may be:
Sweden’s focus on rehabilitating prisoners may have played a part.
Swedish courts have given more lenient sentences for drug offences following a ruling of the country’s supreme court in 2011.
A recent shift in policy towards probationary sanctions instead of short prison sentences for minor thefts, drugs offences, and violent crimes.
In 2012, there were 4,852 people in prison in Sweden, out of a population of 9.5 million. Sweden ranked 112th for its prison population.
The US has a prison population of 2,239,751, equivalent to 716 people per 100,000. China ranks second with 1,640,000 people behind bars, or 121 people per 100,000, while Russia’s inmates are 681,600, amounting to 475 individuals per 100,000.
Air board will start monitoring pollution next to SoCal freeways. Similar steps will occur in more than 100 big cities across the country.
This 2013 excerpt of the Los Angeles Times, Aug 25, is by Tony Barboza.
Air quality regulators will begin monitoring pollution levels near major Southern California traffic corridors next year, for the first time providing data important to nearly 1 million Southern Californians who are at greater risk of respiratory illness because they live within 300 feet of a freeway.
Scientists have linked air pollution from traffic to a long list of health problems, including asthma, heart disease, bronchitis, and lung cancer. Children living near busy freeways have higher asthma rates and reduced lung function.
Scott Fruin, a professor of preventive medicine at USC, believes the EPA’s action is long overdue.
The new monitoring is likely to have broad implications. If, as expected, the new data show higher pollution levels, local officials should reduce emissions and curtail residential development near freeways.
Ed. Notes: Defending rights, such as our right to a healthy environment, that’s what government should do, even if belatedly. Government probably would’ve been doing its duty all along if not so beholden to moneyed developers and other corporations. If people want government on their side, they must have money on their side. We must stop letting society’s surplus collect in just a few pockets and share it among us all instead.
This 2013 excerpt of Inequality, Nov 8, is by Salvatore Babones.
According to the latest figures from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, real US gross domestic product (GDP) rose at an annualized rate of 2.8% in the third quarter of 2013, which covered July through September. For comparison, the long-term trend rate in US GDP growth is about 2% per year. If the overall structure of the economy remains the same, then higher GDP means more income for everyone.
Corporate revenues may be increasing slowly, but corporate profits are exploding. So are executive salaries and bonuses.
After-tax disposable income has been rising at a rate of around 4.5% this year, or about 3.5% after adjusting for inflation. Yet the income of the typical person has not increased at all for several years. In fact, real median income is still more than 7% below 2007 levels.
The economy is bigger than it was in 2007, but it’s a different economy. All of America’s economic growth for forty years has gone to an elite minority.
The economy isn’t to generate profit. The purpose of the economy is to serve the people. It’s time to consider a different kind of economy. One that works for everyone.
Ed. Notes: Reformers tend to make their goal of reform harder for themselves. Instead of slamming profit, they should demand that everyone get some.
Economies can’t help but churn out a surplus. It’s all of a society’s spending for the land and resources it uses. Such spending is a surplus because nobody has to be rewarded for producing nature since none of us did. People only need to be paid for providing their labor and capital, inputs they did provide.
The value of land, generated by society’s demand for the land, is ideal for sharing, for making into our common wealth. We could all pay Land Dues into the public treasury and get rent shares — a Citizen’s Dividend — back. Sort of like what Alaska does with some oil revenue and Singapore with some location value. Since site value rises with economic growth, then a rising GDP would , at last, lift all boats.
Want to Win a Political Debate? Try Making a Weaker Argument — the new social science behind why you’re never able to convince friends or foes to even consider things from your side.
This 2013 excerpt of Pacific Standard, Aug 23, is by Eric Horowitz.
There could be an entire book of syndicated newspaper columns that discuss “motivated reasoning” —- the tendency to interpret information in a way that confirms your existing beliefs. But research on human motivation also hints at a simpler and somewhat startling reason for the lack of flip-flopping: Nobody makes the type of arguments that are likely to change minds.
The arguments people make are those that appear the strongest to themselves and the people who already agree with them. But such arguments tend to be meaningless to people who disagree.
It starts with the universal desire to protect against threats to your self-image or self-worth. People are driven to view themselves in a positive light, and they will interpret information and take action in ways that preserve that view. The need to maintain self-worth is one reason we attribute our failures to external factors (bad luck), but our success to internal factors (skill.)
The arguments that are most threatening to opponents are viewed as the strongest and cited most often — yet rejected.
Because political beliefs are connected to deeply held values, information about politics can be very threatening to your self-image. If you’re wrong about an important policy, what else might you be wrong about? And if you’re wrong about a bunch of things, you’re obviously not as smart or as good or as worthwhile a person as you previously believed. These are painful thoughts, and so we evaluate information in ways that will help us to avoid them.
Self-affirmation —- a mental exercise that increases feelings of self-worth —- makes people more willing to accept threatening information. The idea is that by raising or “affirming” your self-worth, you can then encounter things that lower your self-worth without a net decrease. The affirmation and the threat effectively cancel each other out, and a positive image is maintained.
An argument that is objectively weaker is more likely to be below the threat threshold that leads to automatic rejection. It might actually be considered.
Why is pro sports constantly jamming military fervor down our throats? Their claims are wrong in more ways than one. Stop Thanking the Troops for Me: No, They Don’t Protect Our Freedoms!
This 2013 excerpt of Alternet, Nov 11, by Justin Doolittle of Salon.
What is problematic is that this nonexistent connection between “freedom” and the military continues to be perpetuated as an uncontroversial truism, and is met with no resistance within the confines of the mainstream.
The corollary to the claim that our freedom exists only at the pleasure of the military, of course, is that the same military can revoke said freedom if it so desires.
One implication of this myth is that people feel they owe boundless gratitude to the military as an institution and all the men and women who serve in it.
This approach blurs the lines between patriotism and support for the military.
It reduces sincere dissent on these matters of such tremendous consequence to our culture and our politics to nothingness. It makes us, free citizens of a constitutional society, meek and excessively obeisant.
The troops allowing us to “live free” is hardly a fringe belief. It reflects many decades of highly effective propaganda that has convinced generations of people that there is virtually nothing for which we should not thank the troops. The ability to “get away from our world, and whatever’s going on in our world” and talk about football — whom are we to thank for this? The troops! There is seemingly no limit to the scope of human activity that many of us sincerely believe would not be possible were it not for the military’s selflessness.
We need not thank the troops for every breath we take. When we do, we reduce our entire existence as free people to something that only exists at the whim of the U.S. military, and suffocate critical thought about the military and what it’s actually doing in the world.
Ed. Notes: Americans are not citizens so much as they are taxpayers, a mass market, and a pro-war mob. We Americans need to feel more self-esteem. We need to see how illogical it is to, one hand, praise the military going around killing poor foreigners all over the planet while, on the other hand, slamming politicians who send soldiers into these wars, who enrich military contractors and other corporate welfare cheats, and who keep cancerously expanding taxes and government.
One main reason to demand a Citizen’s Dividend is not that it will be won soon or easily but that even making the demand shows Americans what self-esteem looks like.
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. Better settlement patterns do reduce extraction upstream and pollution downstream.
Politically, green fees have less impact if applied locally; local is where grassroots movements have more impact. Yet getting rent usually entails shifting the property tax (or charging user fees), the province of local jurisdictions; both mayors and city voters have been known to adopt a site-value tax.
Ethically, putting into practice “tax bads, not goods” skirts the issue of sharing Mother Earth which collecting rent confronts head on. Since nothing is fixed until it’s fixed right, ultimately, greens must lead humanity into geotopia where we all share the worth of Mother Earth.
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.
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.
shaped by reality. In the 1980′s, the Swedish government doubled its stock transfer tax. Tax receipts, however, rose only 15%, since traders simply fled to London exchanges. Fearing a further exodus, the Swedish government quickly rescinded the tax altogether. (The New York Times, April 20) That willingness to tax anything leads us astray. Pushing us astray is that unwillingness to pay what we owe: rent for land, our common heritage. Assuming land value is up for grabs, we speculate. We cap the property tax on both land and buildings and the rate at which assessments can go up; while real market values rise quicker, assessments can never catch up. Our stewards, the Bureau of Land Management, routinely sell and lease sites below market value, often to insiders, says the Government Accounting Office. Once we grasp that rent is ours to share, we’ll collect it all, rather than let it enrich a few, and quit taxing earnings, which do belong to the individual earner. That shift is geonomic policy.
a way to redirect all the money we spend on the nature we use – trillions of dollars annually. We can’t pay the Creator of sites and resources and are mistaken to pay their owners this biggest stream in our economy. Instead, as owners we should pay our neighbors for respecting our claims to land. Owners could pay in land dues to the public treasury, a la Sydney Australia’s land tax, and residents could get back a “rent” dividend, a la Alaska’s oil dividend. We’d pay for owning sites, resources, EM spectrum, or emitting pollutants into the ecosphere, then get a fair share of the recovered revenue. The economy would finally have a thermostat, the dividend. When it’s small, people would work more; when it’s big, they’d work less. Sharing Earth’s worth, we could jettison counterproductive taxes and addictive subsidies. Prices would become precise; things like sprawl, sprayed food, gasoline engines, coal-burning plants would no longer seem cheap; things like compact towns, organic foods, fuel cells, and solar powers would become affordable. Getting shares, people could spend their expanded leisure socializing, making art, enjoying nature, or just chilling. Economies let us produce wealth efficiently; geonomics lets us share it fairly.
the study of the money we spend on the nature we use. When we pay that money to private owners, we reward both speculation and over-extraction. Robert Kiyosaki’s bestseller, Rich Dad’s Prophecy, says, “One of the reasons McDonald’s is such a rich company is not because it sells a lot of burgers but because it owns the land at some of the best intersections in the world. The main reason Kim and I invest in such properties is to own the land at the corner of the intersection. (p 200) My real estate advisor states that the rich either made their money in real estate or hold their money in real estate.” (p 141, via Greg Young) When government recovers the rents for natural advantages for everyone, it can save citizens millions. Ben Sevack, Montreal steel manufacturer, tells us (August 12) that Alberta, by leasing oil & gas fields, recovers enough revenue to be the only province in Canada to get by without a sales tax and to levy a flat provincial income tax. While running for re-election, provincial Premier Ralph Klein proposes to abolish their income tax and promises to eliminate medical insurance premiums and use resource revenue to pay for all medical expense for seniors. After all this planned tax-cutting and greater expense, they still expect a large budget surplus. Even places without oil and gas have high site values in their downtowns, and high values in their utility franchises. Recover the values of locations and privileges, displace the harmful taxes on sales, salaries, and structures, then use the revenue to fund basic government and pay residents a dividend, and you have geonomics in action.
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.
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!
as unfamiliar as geo-economics. The latter is a course some universities offer that combines geography and economics. A UN newsletter, Go Between (57, Apr/May ’96; thanks, Pat Aller), cited an Asian conference on geopolitics and “geoeconomics”. The abbreviated term ‘geonomics” is the name of an institute on Middlebury College campus and of a show on CNBC. Both entities use the neologism to mean “global economics”, in particular world trade. We use geonomics entirely differently, to refer to the money people spend on the nature they use, how letting this flow collect in a few pockets creates class and poverty and assaults upon the environment, and how, on the other hand, sharing this rental flow creates equality, prosperity, and a people/planet harmony. This flow of natural rent, several trillions dollars in the US each year, shapes society and belongs to society.
one of many words I coined over 20 years ago: geoism, geonomics, geonomy, geocracy, etc – neologisms that later others came up with, too. CNBC once had a Geonomics Show, and Middlebury College has a Geonomics Institute. If “economy” is literally “management of the household”, then geonomy is “management of the planet”. The kind of management I had in mind is not what CNBC was thinking – top-down. My geonomics is not hands-on, interfering, but hands-off, organic. It’d strive to align policy with natural processes, similar to what holistic healing does in medicine, what organic farming does in agriculture. Geonomics attends to two key components: One, the crucial stuff to track is fat — or profit, especially profits without production, such as rent, or all the money we spend on the nature we use. Society’s surplus is the sine qua non for growth, needed to counter death – not merely more, but sustainable development, more from less. Two, the basic process to respect is the feedback loop. These let nature maintain balance automatically and could do the same for markets, if we let them. Letting them would turn our economies, now our masters, into a geonomy, our servant, providing us with prosperity, eco-librium (to coin a term) and leisure, time off — a hostile environment for economan but a cradle for a loving and creative humanity.