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Ironically, some people earning incomes elsewhere must relinquish US citizenship as others hoping to earn a living in America strive to attain it.
A 2013 excerpt of RT, Aug 10.
The United States is the only country out of 34 in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) that continues to tax citizens regardless of where they live around the world.
Now, facing a high national debt and drastic cuts in government spending, US tax enforcers are employing stricter asset-disclosure laws under the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FACTA). For that reason, more Americans living abroad are weighing whether it is worth holding on to their US passport.
In the three months through June, 1,131 American expatriates turned over their passports at US embassies around the world. It was a drastic surge from the same time span in 2012, when just 189 people renounced their citizenship, according to the Federal Registry. The first six months of 2013 alone has seen 1,810 such instances, compared to 235 in all of 2008.
In 2012 there were between 5 and 6 million Americans who resided overseas.
The US tries to undercut tax havens. Countries like Switzerland earn that designation by protecting an individual’s finance information, requiring only nominal taxes, or a general lack of transparency. “The United States wishes to ensure that all income earned worldwide by US taxpayers on accounts held abroad can be taxed by the United States,” the Swiss government stated earlier this year.
This 2013 excerpt of the Huffington Post, Aug 12, is by Mary Manning Cleveland and Mason Gaffney.
From 1890-1930, Detroit’s population boomed from 205,000 to 1,569,000, the fastest growth of any US city. The auto industry did it, but why Detroit? Detroit had produced horse-drawn carriages from hardwood lumber, but so had other places. It was not low wages; Detroit paid better than most — that’s why so many people rushed in. It was not business-dominated politics; Michigan was a Progressive, Bull Moose Teddy Roosevelt state. It was not low taxes on wealthy “job-creators”; Michigan relied on high state and local property taxes.
Detroit Mayor Hazen Pingree, 1889-1897, was an early Georgist Progressive. He supported the idea of American economist and reformer Henry George (1839-1897) that all taxes should be shifted onto land and other natural resources. Today, “Nobel” (Riksbank)-Prize-winner Joseph Stiglitz advocates this as the “Henry George principle.” Poor renters own no land, heavily-mortgaged middle classes own very little. So shifting taxes to land turns property taxes into wealth taxes on steroids. Better yet, taxing land discourages rich speculators from holding valuable property out of use. Mayor Pingree was a mentor to and model for the Georgist soon-to-be Mayors Tom Johnson and Newton Baker of Cleveland, and Samuel Jones and Brand Whitlock of Toledo.
The crash of 1893 hit Detroit soon after Pingree’s election. The city was riddled with vacant lots held by land speculators; Pingree arranged for the unemployed to plant vegetables. “Pingree’s Potato Patches” inspired other cities to follow. Meanwhile, he had campaigned for “higher taxes on the vast landed estates of the city”; when big industries threatened to leave town, he responded by raising just the land assessments. This won the support of small business.
The Georgist Progressive movement supported cheap mass transit on trolley cars. With fixed costs funded by property taxes, fares stayed low. Property taxes also paid for public education, public health, public parks, water, sanitation, welfare, etc. Property tax rates of 2.5 percent of market value were normal; there were no sales taxes, business taxes, or income taxes. Detroit’s private sector was a big collection of small machine shops, little businesses and services. That’s what attracted Henry Ford, the Dodge brothers, and other young tinkerers to Detroit. In one of history’s ironies, trolley cars nursed the auto industry that later rose up to slay them.
In 1897 Pingree became governor. He centralized the assessment of property taxes, and had the State Board of Tax Commissioners revalue all property. They found so much untaxed land, especially railroad holdings, that they actually lowered tax rates even as they raised more taxes.
During the “Dirty Thirties,” Detroit grew while many cities shrank. Walter Reuther’s UAW pioneered the sit-down strike at the GM plant in Flint. Former Detroit Mayor and now Governor Frank Murphy negotiated a settlement that legitimized the UAW, using the new national Wagner Act. It was “The strike heard round the world.” UAW membership exploded from 30,000 to 500,000.
After Pearl Harbor, FDR naturally turned to Detroit to convert its assembly lines to war production. This was the age of Rosie the Riveter, and Rosie loved Detroit. From 1930 to 1950, Detroit’s population grew 18 percent, to 1,850,000.
Yet after 1950, Detroit began to shrink, the first break in its sensational upward trajectory. What happened? Some blamed the end of the war, but America was pouring billions into the Interstate Highway System. The world wanted American cars and trucks. The causes of decline must have been internal.
Governor G. Mennen “Soapy” Williams, 1949-1960, introduced the Business Activities Tax (BAT), a kind of sales tax. The BAT was replaced by a corporate income tax in 1967 and by the Single Business Tax (SBT) in 1975. The SBT allowed the deduction of inputs — including real estate purchases! — but not labor. Easy for big corporations to evade, the SBT fitted concrete boots on small unincorporated businesses.
Governor George Romney, 1962-68, introduced a personal income tax to provide “property tax relief,” a new catchword. Meantime in Michigan and nationwide, the property tax itself was degenerating; effective rates were falling, especially on land. Its Georgist heritage forgotten, Detroit was valuing land at next to nil, using assessments dating from the Great Depression.
While Detroit hollowed out, its suburb Southfield boomed. From 1950-70 it grew from 19,000 to 69,000 people. It had a Georgist Mayor, James Clarkson, who aggressively raised land assessments and lowered building assessments. Southfield’s tax base actually rose by 20 percent per year under Clarkson, funding good utilities and public services.
Now Detroit’s current population of some 700,000 is the lowest since 1914. In another of history’s ironies, Detroiters today grow food in vacant lots — “Pingree’s Potato Patches” again, 105 years later.
Claiming sovereignty over an unoccupied territory, on behalf of an unknown nation, is a modern farce. It’s also a centuries-old tradition.
This 2013 excerpt of The Atlantic, Oct 23, is by Adam Clulow.
Lamont M. Butler-El didn’t attempt to seize a $6 million 12-bedroom, 17-bathroom estate by slipping through a hole in the fence. Instead, he presented himself before the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation to demand that the records be altered to reflect the fact that he was assuming ownership as a representative of the Moorish Nation of Northwest Amexem, North America, a community he asserts that predated both the modern United States and European colonization of the Americas. When questioned by his new neighbors, his response was a detailed history lesson — that was repeated to police officers arriving on the scene.
To make a claim is to appeal to some standard of justice, some sort of right, but it is also to assert a willingness to back up this appeal with some sort of action.
Identical qualities stand at the heart of the European sovereignty playbook as it was deployed in diverse spots across the world during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Again and again, tiny contingents of Europeans, always outnumbered and often in terrible shape after long voyages in cramped vessels or disastrous treks across harsh interiors, proceeded to lay claim to huge tracts of land or even vaster expanses of maritime space. Vasco Núñez de Balboa, a Spanish adventurer, waded into the warm waters of the Pacific up his knees and proceeded to claim the ocean itself “now and for all time so long as the world shall last, until the final universal judgment of all mortals.”
European claims always commenced by invoking a standard of justice, although it was invariably a standard that could not be accessed or indeed understood by precisely the people to whom it was being applied.
An imposed sweeping set of rules without allowing any possibility for local comprehension prompted one historical observer to note that he did not know “whether to laugh or cry” when he heard of the practice. A modern juror in Butler-El’s case who, commenting on the actions of the defendant, noted that it “seemed like they were making up their own laws” and then applying them without regard for existing norms or systems.
This 2013 excerpt of EcoWatch, Aug 9, is by Laura Beans.
Hundreds of participants have banded together in Nez Perce ancestral land and a Wild and Scenic River Corridor to the Montana border for nightly tar sands protests, including members of the Nez Perce Nation and Idle No More. Idaho Rivers United (IRU) and the Nez Perce Tribe filed a joint lawsuit in federal court in Boise, ID, to stop the megaload delivery truck carrying tar sands equipment.
The water evaporator of the Oregon-based shipper Omega Morgan had received one permit, but bypassed approval by the U.S. Forest Service and Federal Highway Administration. The Forest Service even raised objections. Still, the firm tried to slip its megaload through unnoticed.
The U.S. Forest Service’s failure to stop a megaload from entering the river corridor was “arbitrary, capricious, (and) an abuse of discretion.”
Police muscle is escalating as each evening blockade presses on, using their cars and phalanx tactics and broke the blockade for the megaload truck.
WIRT is calling on the Forest Service to “step up to the plate with fed marshals, arrest the driver and impound the rig,” which is traveling without a permit.
Gas injections used to enhance oil production linked to quakes in the Permian Basin.
This 2013 excerpt of Nature, Nov 4, is by Jeff Tollefson.
First came reports of earthquakes caused by hydraulic fracturing and the reinjection of water during oil and gas operations. Now US scientists are reporting tremors may have been caused by the injection of carbon dioxide during oil production. Since 2006, a series of tremors has rattled Snyder, Texas, which lies in the oil-rich Permian Basin.
The evidence centres on a sudden burst of seismic activity around an old oil field in the Permian Basin in northwest Texas. From 2006 to 2011, after more than two decades without any earthquakes, seismometers in the region registered 38 tremors, including 18 larger quakes ranging from magnitude 3 to 4.4. The tremors began just two years after injections of significant volumes of CO2 began at the site, in an effort to boost oil production.
The earthquakes have rattled residents in the nearby town of Snyder and spurred questions about the link to oil and gas activity in the region.
Any time you are putting material into the ground, particularly under pressure, you are going to have the potential to break rock.
The data suggest that there is a previously unidentified fault running through the area, and that the CO2 injections effectively lubricate that fault, enabling slippage. (Scientists documented a series of earthquakes in the area from 1975 through 1982, but those tremors were linked to water injections, also intended to boost oil production.)
This 2013 excerpt of Huffington Post, Aug 7, is by Richard (RJ) Eskow.
Here are seven things about Wall Street crime and Washington “justice” you might have wanted to know. It’s true that there’s a shortage of justice where bankers are concerned; the prosecuting has been tepid. But don’t get depressed. Get serious about demanding change.
1. Attorney General Holder said the Justice Department can’t indict too-big-to-fail banks because it would endanger the nation’s, and possible the world’s, economy. Criminal indictments against bankers are necessary both for the cause of justice, and the safety of our economy. Why did Holder make these comments? It’s called misdirection. It gets everybody thinking about one question — Why aren’t they indicting banks? — so they won’t think about a more important question: Why aren’t they indicting bankers?
2. If hurting ‘too big to fail’ banks is such a concern, why did the Justice Department and the SEC just sue Bank of America? Shareholders bear the costs and the consequences of these suits, which are directed against the banks as institutions — even when the suit in question involves fraud against the shareholders themselves. That means the executives who profit from criminal behavior have absolutely no reason not to commit those crimes again and again and again — which, as the record shows, is exactly what they have been doing.
Suits like these do not endanger the institution being sued. The amounts of money involved — $850 million, in this case — sound large. But they’re negligible when compared to the revenue at America’s bloated mega-banks.
3. Why sue Bank of America at all, if they’re in the banks’ pockets? Washington officials have multiple constituencies, presumably including wronged investors who want restitution of some kind. They presumably want to make sure the banks’ exposure is kept manageable — from the bank’s perspective — but don’t want to anger the investors any more than necessary.
4. The Justice Department has said it’s too hard to get convictions in financial fraud cases. More than 1,000 people were convicted after the much smaller savings and loan scandal of the 1980s. It wasn’t “too hard” to get a conviction then. But then, in those days they were trying.
A rare courtroom victory against Goldman Sachs was achieved just last week. Needless to say, it was not against a Goldman executive, but against a relatively junior employee, trader “Fab” Tourre. It was not a criminal prosecution, but a civil case. And the verdict was won by the SEC, not the Justice Department.
5. Why don’t they want to indict bank executives? Both Attorney General Holder and his recently departed No. 2, Lanny Breuer, had high-priced jobs defending Wall Street bank executives. Breuer has already cashed out and gone back to Covington & Burling, Holder’s once (and future?) firm, with a special title and position created especially for him.
As for elected officials, bank executives write very big campaign checks. They also hobnob with powerful politicians. When JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon testified before the Senate Banking Committee earlier this year, only two of the senators facing him had not received campaign contributions from his bank. Dimon was also called “Obama’s Favorite Banker” for a while.
Another executive with a large financial operation, GE’s Jeffrey Immelt, was named head of the President’s ‘Jobs Council.’ Immelt was responsible for GE Capital while municipalities were being criminally defrauded in the case which became United States of America v. Carollo, Goldberg and Grimm.
6. Why are they saying that the SEC’s “winding down” its fraud investigations? Impending statute of limitations makes it more difficult to keep pursuing pre-2008 misdeeds. The Justice Department and SEC chose to “run out the clock” on Wall Street’s crimes.
7. What can we do about it?
A full investigation of Wall Street crimes.
Expanded powers for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
No more deals where banks “neither admit nor deny wrongdoing.”
Ed. Note: All well and good but we can’t turn back the clock and can’t keep faith in regulations that come and go. We need to shrink banks and expand ourselves. Stop sending fat mortgages to Wall Street. Instead, keep our payments for land and resources recirculating in our community. Levy land taxes in lieu of others or institute Land Dues to fund a rent dividend paid to residents and citizens. People will be better off, have more power that comes from greater income, and banks will have less, devolving into human-scale.
This 2013 excerpt of Care2, Oct 30, is by se smith.
Companies started manufacturing products with notes about their charitable giving, and also set about boldly linking charitable causes with their products. Breast cancer is one of the most obvious examples: consumers are encouraged to buy given products with promises that some proceeds go to breast cancer research and treatment, although they rarely stop to audit where that money is really going and how it’s being used.
Companies tend to prefer charities with a strong existing infrastructure (thus products co-branded with the American Heart Association, for example) or a simple charity appeal (offering to donate coats to homeless shelters for coats purchased in the winter months).
Breast Cancer Action’s “Think Before You Pink” campaign targets cause marketing, exposing abuses while at the same time promoting real-world action people can take on breast cancer issues. As the campaign’s tagline suggests, sometimes it’s a good idea to put down the pink ribbon and call the local cancer resource center to see if they need in-kind donations, people who can keep patients company or help them with errands, or other assistance.
This 2013 excerpt of Mint Press News, Aug 8 is by Laura Beans.
The multinational Chevron Corp. has been fined $2 million after accepting a plea bargain following an August 2012 fire at a Richmond, CA, refinery that sent 15,000 people to the hospital with complaints of breathing problems.
Investigators found “willful violations” in Chevron Corp.’s response before, during and after the Aug. 6 fire in Richmond caused by an old, leaky pipe in one of the facility’s crude units.
Chevron attorneys pleaded not guilty to six charges, accepting the terms, which includes 3 1/2 years of probation, $1.28 million in fines and more than $720,000 in restitution payments to three different agencies.
The fine and settlement come on the heels of a protest earlier this week on the anniversary of the fire. Roughly 1,000 people gathered August 6, to commemorate the incident and demand accountability.
Those gathered chanted, “Arrest Chevron,” in front of the refinery gates before police in riot gear moved in, arresting 208 protesters.
This fine is a slap on the wrist for Chevron, a multinational oil corporation with $241 billion in revenue last year. Like most oil companies, Chevron has a dubious safety record and has been responsible for several serious accidents in recent years.
An explosion at a Chevron refinery in Wales killed four workers and seriously injured one other during a June 2011 accident.
More recently, a January 2012 blowout and fire at a Chevron offshore natural-gas platform killed two men near Nigeria. The fire continued burning for 46 days, stopping only after the flow of natural gas dried up.
This claim pales in comparison to an unresolved $19 billion lawsuit filed by members of Ecuador’s indigenous Amazonian community after years of pollution in areas around Chevron drilling sites. Years after the 2011 legal victory in an Ecuadorian court, Chevron has not paid the fine, nor has it offered compensation to the victims. Local residents claim that cancer rates have increased as a result of contaminated drinking water.
Popularity of “policing for profits” grows as law enforcement budgets dwindle.
This 2013 excerpt of USA Today, Oct 30, is by Jonathan Turley, of George Washington University and a member of USA Today’s Board of Contributors.
Officers stop cars on a pretext such as not using a turn signal and then ask a series of questions about drugs or contraband in the car. If the driver does not consent to a search, officers will sometimes declare that the driver is acting suspiciously and call in a drug dog or search the passenger for their own personal safety. Any drugs found can then be used to seize the car and any money inside of it. The result is that police are mining our highways for jackpot stops.
Churning has become the self-help solution for some federal agencies. The most recent example of this trend was highlighted by an investigation into the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The Justice Department’s inspector general found that the ATF conducted dozens of unauthorized undercover investigations into illicit cigarette sales and lost track of 420 million cigarettes worth $127 million. The investigation concluded that the ATF was engaging in churning operations designed to fund its operations and misused $162 million in profits.
Consider the case of George Reby, an insurance adjuster from New Jersey. Last year, he was stopped in Tennessee by officer Larry Bates for speeding and asked whether he had a large quantity of money. Reby said he had about $20,000 and explained that he planned to buy a car. Bates seized the money. He did not arrest Reby, mind you. Reby committed no crime. The officer stated that police would keep the money until Reby could prove to their satisfaction that it was legitimate.
Then there is Tara Mishra, who had given her life savings to friends as her share in a new business. Last year, a Nebraska state trooper stopped her friends for speeding and asked to search for drugs. The couple agreed, and the troopers found more than $1 million. Though the couple explained why Mishra had given them the money and though no drugs were found, police kept the cash after a K-9 analysis found drug residue on it.
It was another pretext. Studies show a high percentage of money has such residue on it. Mishra was forced to litigate until a federal judge ordered the money returned to her in July.
At such stops, citizens invoke their rights at their own peril. One recent video shows an irate officer ordering a driver to pull to the side after he questioned the basis for the stop. He was forced to wait for a drug dog, which signaled the presence of drugs after the officer notably pointed at the door. The police then unleashed a full drug search. After finding no drugs, the officer is heard warning his partner, “He’s perfectly innocent, and he knows his rights; he knows what the Constitution says.”
Of course, his rights really are not much of a barrier when the Supreme Court has expressly stated that it will not question motives of officers.
Nobody home: Almost 12,700 residential properties in Melbourne appear unoccupied. Those residents either don’t take showers or many apartments are empty most of the year.
This 2013 excerpt of Australia’s The Age, Oct 30, is by Jason Dowling, City Editor.
A study has found more than 64,000 residential properties in Melbourne are rarely used and almost 12,700 appear unoccupied.
The findings are based on an analysis of water use commissioned by Prosper Australia [AKA EarthSharing, one of our affiliates], a group seeking tax changes to improve the efficiency of land use.
Average household water consumption in Melbourne is estimated at 419 litres a day.
The analysis of 1.4 million residential properties found 4.4 per cent were potentially unused or seldom used.
“The annual increase in the capital value of the land under a property can outrun the net rental income,” it said. “An investor may calculate it is profitable to purchase a property exclusively for the potential capital gains.
“A substantial land value tax would blunt capital appreciation and serve as a withholding cost, shifting the incentive to profit from rental income rather than capital gain.”
Karl Fitzgerald, of Prosper Australia, said the results showed there were many properties not being used efficiently for housing.
He said there was a housing “distribution issue”, not a supply issue.
“We are strong believers that stamp duty must be replaced with a land tax,” he said.
There are more bicycles than residents in The Netherlands and in cities like Amsterdam and The Hague up to 70% of all journeys are made by bike.
This 2013 excerpt of the BBC, Aug 7, is by Anna Holligan.
In response a social movement demanding safer cycling conditions for children was formed. Called Stop de Kindermoord (Stop the Child Murder), it took its name from the headline of an article written by journalist Vic Langenhoff whose own child had been killed in a road accident.
The Dutch faith in the reliability and sustainability of the motor vehicle was also shaken by the Middle East oil crisis of 1973, when oil-producing countries stopped exports to the US and Western Europe.
These twin pressures helped to persuade the Dutch government to invest in improved cycling infrastructure and Dutch urban planners started to diverge from the car-centric road-building policies being pursued throughout the urbanising West.
In many cities the paths are completely segregated from motorised traffic. Sometimes, where space is scant and both must share, you can see signs showing an image of a cyclist with a car behind accompanied by the words ‘Bike Street: Cars are guests’.
You can cycle around a roundabout while cars (almost always) wait patiently for you to pass. The idea that “the bike is right” is such an alien concept for tourists on bikes that many often find it difficult to navigate roads and junctions at first.
Even before they can walk, Dutch children are immersed in a world of cycling. As babies and toddlers they travel in special seats on “bakfiets”, or cargo bikes. These seats are often equipped with canopies to protect the children from the elements, and some parents have been known to spend a small fortune doing up their machines.
As the children grow up they take to their own bikes, something made easier and safer by the discrete cycle lanes being wide enough for children to ride alongside an accompanying adult. And, as young people aren’t allowed to drive unsupervised until they are 18, cycling offers Dutch teenagers an alternative form of freedom.
The state also plays a part in teaching too, with cycling proficiency lessons a compulsory part of the Dutch school curriculum. All schools have places to park bikes and at some schools 90% of pupils cycle to class.
In the 16th Century, houses in Amsterdam were taxed according to their width, a measure residents countered by building tall, narrow houses. So hallways get filled with bikes – but so many people cycle, no-one really minds, and just clambers past.
The bike is an integral part of everyday life rather than a specialist’s accessory or a symbol of a minority lifestyle, so Dutch people don’t concern themselves with having the very latest model of bike or hi-tech gadgets.
They regard their bikes as trusty companions in life’s adventures. In that kind of relationship it is longevity that counts – so the older, the better. It’s not uncommon to hear a bike coming up behind you with the mudguard rattling against the wheel. If anything, having a tatty, battered old bike affords more status as it attests to a long and lasting love.
The famously flat Dutch terrain, combined with densely-populated areas, mean that most journeys are of short duration and not too difficult to complete.
Dutch people also tend to go helmet-free because they are protected by the cycle-centric rules of the roads and the way infrastructure is designed. If you see someone wearing a cycling helmet in The Netherlands, the chances are they’re a tourist or a professional.
The U.S. Navy has announced that it has turned over its decommissioned carrier, the USS Forrestal, for scrap. The Navy’s first super-carrier, launched in 1954, was in service for an eventful 4 decades; John McCain served aboard the ship in the sixties before becoming a P.O.W. in Vietnam. Rather than sell it for scrap metal, the Navy had to pay to have it scrapped — all of one cent.
A scion of one of America’s top fortunes has just exposed our “charitable-industrial complex.”
This 2013 excerpt of Other Words, Aug 7, is by Sam Pizzigati, author of The Rich Don’t Always Win: The Forgotten Triumph over Plutocracy that Created the American Middle Class.
Some 97 percent of the world’s “high-net-worth individuals” do give annually to charity. Yet only one-third of these extremely wealthy folks give away over 1 percent of their net worth. The rich, in other words, could afford to give away far more than they actually do.
Peter Buffett runs a foundation his father Warren Buffett created. He says American philanthropy has become our “charitable-industrial complex.”
In elite philanthropic gatherings, notes the 55-year-old Buffett, you’ll see “heads of state meeting with investment managers and corporate leaders,” all of them “searching for answers with their right hand to problems that others in the room have created with their left.”
And the answers that do eventually emerge seldom discomfort the problem-creators. These answers almost always keep, Buffett charges, “the existing structure of inequality in place.”
Peter Buffett dubs this comforting charade “conscience laundering.” Philanthropy helps the wealthy feel less torn “about accumulating more than any one person could possibly need to live on.” They “sleep better at night while others get just enough to keep the pot from boiling over.”
This 2013 excerpt of the Guardian, Oct 20, is by Ian Sample.
A US scientist has discovered an internal body clock based on DNA that measures the biological age of our tissues and organs.
The clock shows that while many healthy tissues age at the same rate as the body as a whole, some of them age much faster or slower.
Researchers say that unravelling the mechanisms behind the clock will help them understand the ageing process and hopefully lead to drugs and other interventions that slow it down.
Tests on healthy heart tissue showed that its biological age – how worn out it appears to be – was around nine years younger than expected. Female breast tissue aged faster than the rest of the body, on average appearing two years older.
Diseased tissues also aged at different rates, with cancers speeding up the clock by an average of 36 years. Some brain cancer tissues taken from children had a biological age of more than 80 years.
The biological clock was reset to zero when cells plucked from an adult were reprogrammed back to a stem-cell-like state. The process for converting adult cells into stem cells, which can grow into any tissue in the body, won the Nobel prize in 2012 for Sir John Gurdon at Cambridge University and Shinya Yamanaka at Kyoto University.
in part the Great Green Tax Shift maxed out. Economically, taxing pollution and depletion does reduce pollutants and extracts – and thus the tax base; plus such taxes are regressive, requiring a safety net. On the other hand, collecting site rent is progressive and generates a revenue surplus payable as a dividend to residents, which can serve as the safety net. Environmentally, taxes on waste and extraction do not drive efficient use of land, as does getting site rent.
a scientific look at how we divvy up the work and the wealth, how some of us end up with too much or too little effort or reward. That’s partly due to Ricardo’s Law of Rent, showing how wasteful use of Earth cuts wages. And it’s partly due to how a society’s elite runs government around like water boys, dishing out subsidies and tax breaks. While geonomists look political reality right in the eye, without blinking, conventional economists flinch. When Paul Volcker, ex-chief of the Federal Reserve, moved on to a cushy professorship at Princeton cum book contract, the crush of deadlines bore down. So Volcker asked a junior associate to help with the book. The guy refused, explaining that giving serious consideration to policy would ruin his academic career. The ex-Fed chief couldn’t believe it and asked the department chair if truly that were the case. That head honcho pondered the question then replied no, not if he only does it once. And economics was AKA political economy!
a 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.
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.
of interest to Dave Lakhani, President Bold Approach (Mar 8) and Matt Ozga (Jan 29): “I write for the Washington Square News, the student run newspaper out of New York University. Geonomics seems like it has great significance, especially in this area. When was geonomics developed, and by whom?”
About 1982 I began. Two years later, Chilean Dr Manfred Max-Neef offered the term geonomics for Earth-friendly economics. In the mid-80s, a millionaire founded a Geonomics Institute on Middlebury College campus in Vermont re global trade. In the 1990s, CNBC cablecast a show, Geonomics, on world trade as it benefits world traders. My version of geonomics draws heavily from the American Henry George who wrote Progress & Poverty (1879) and won the mayoralty of New York but was denied his victory by Tammany Hall (1886). He in turn got lots from Brits David Ricardo, Adam Smith, and the French physiocrats of the 1700s. My version differs by focusing not on taxation but on the flow of rents for sites, resources, sinks, and government-granted privileges. Forgoing these trillions, we instead tax and subsidize, making waste cheap and sustainability expensive. To quit distorting price, replace taxes with “land dues” and replace subsidies with a Citizens Dividend.
Matt: “This idea of sharing rents sounds, if not explicitly socialist, at least at odds with some capitalist values (only the strong survive & prosper, etc). Is it fair to say that geonomics has some basis in socialist theory?”
A closer descriptor would be Christian. Beyond ethics into praxis, Alaska shares oil rent with residents, and they’re more libertarian than socialist. While individuals provide labor and capital, no one provides land while society generates its value. Rent is not private property but public property. Sharing Rent is predistribution, sharing it before an elite or state has a chance to get and misspend it, like a public REIT (Real Estate Investment Trust) paying dividends to its stakeholders – a perfectly capitalist model. What we should leave untaxed are our sales, salaries, and structures, things we do produce.
what you do when you see economies as part of the ecosystem, following feedback loops and storing up energy. Surplus energy – fat or profit – enables us to produce and reproduce. To recycle society’s surplus, the commonwealth, geonomics would replace taxes with land dues (charged to users of sites and resources, in-cluding the EM spectrum, and extra to polluters), and replace subsidies with rent dividends to citizens (a la Alaska’s oil dividend). Without taxes and subsidies to distort them, prices become precise, reflect accurately our costs and values; then, motivated by no more than the bottom line, both producers and consumers make sustainable choices. While no place uses geonomics in its entirety, some places use parts of it, most notably a shift of the property tax off buildings, onto locations. Shifting the property tax drives efficient use of land, in-fills cities, improves the housing stock, makes homes affordable, engenders jobs and investment opportunities, lowers crime, raises civic participation, etc – overall it makes cities more livable. Geonomics – a way to share the bounty of nature and society – is something we can work for locally, globally, and in between.
a POV that Spain’s president might try. A few blocks from my room in Madrid at a book fair to promote literacy, Sr Zapatero, while giving autographs and high fives to kids, said books are very expensive and he’d see about getting the value added tax on them cut down to zero. (El Pais, June 4; see, politicians can grasp geo-logic.) But why do we raise the cost of any useful product? Why not tax useless products? Even more basic: is being better than a costly tax good enough? Our favorite replacement for any tax is no tax: instead, run government like a business and charge full market value for the permits it issues, such as everything from corporate charters to emission allowances to resource leases. These pieces of paper are immensely valuable, yet now our steward, the state, gives them away for nearly free, absolutely free in some cases. Government is sitting on its own assets and needs merely to cash in by doing what any rational entity in the economy does – negotiate the best deal. Then with this profit, rather than fund more waste, pay the stakeholders, we citizenry, a dividend. Thereby geonomics gets rid of two huge problems. It replaces taxes with full-value fees and replaces subsidies for special interests with a Citizens Dividend for people in general. Neither left nor right, this reform is what both nature lovers and liberty lovers need to promote, right now.
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.
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.