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This 2014 excerpt of the Washington Monthly, January/ February, is by Siddhartha Mahanta.
When you buy a Big Mac or a T-bone, a portion of the cost is a tax on beef, the proceeds from which the government hands over to a private trade group called the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.
Nearly 99 percent of all the beef tax dollars collected by the government, some $45 million a year, winds up in the hands of just one group, the NCBA, which relies overwhelmingly on this public money to support itself. Fewer and fewer actual “cattlemen” belong to the organization, while more and more note the rancher’s own money is being used to put him out of business, with government complicity.
Meanwhile, the consumer’s tax dollars are going to a trade group that’s in court trying to keep me from knowing what I’m eating.
NCBA state affiliates support what’s known as “ag gag” laws. These measures make it a felony in a growing number of states to gather information on inhumane and unsafe practices on farms and processing plants, even prohibiting taking photographs of the facilities from nearby roads or other public property.
Ranchers who treat their animals well want the public to know their story, and don’t want to be forced to subsidize a trade group that vilifies their potential customers as animal rights “radicals.”
Ed. Notes: Not only does Big Beef collect subsidies, they also benefit most from the absence of a tax on land. They’re absentee landowners who, whenever they have to pay for all the land that they get to charge others to use, tend to sell their excess to their tenants at prices tenants could afford. That would bring back family ranchers … to a degree.
Ranchers (and farmers) might also need a repeal of taxes on wages, so they can more easily afford to hire helpers. Plus, they may need a Citizen’s Dividend which would benefit most the people in the country. That’s where the differential between rent dividend received and land dues paid is greatest.
Happily, with more economic equality, there’s less of an urban/rural divide, so people from everywhere can get to see the other’s POV.
This 2014 excerpt of Alternet, Feb 24, is by Lynn Stuart Parramore.
The typical mainstream economist is about as good at making predictions as a monkey reading tea leaves.
Take the financial crisis — only a few economists outside the mainstream saw it coming.
The profession of economics projects their pathologies onto the rest of us.
Economists are in love with mathematical models, despite the fact that they often don’t work.
When asked by Congress why he was unable to warn Americans about the coming sh*tstorm, Alan Greenspan offered an uncharacteristic admission: the model he had used to assess the economy for decades was not worth a hill of beans.
Like most other fields, economics is dominated by elites who get to decide what’s acceptable. You can introduce a new idea to these elites, that’s fine — but if you start questioning their methodologies, you will run into trouble. You’re not going to get published, get tenure, or be invited back to next year’s conference.
People in power tend to think and behave in ways that consciously, or unconsciously, legitimize, underscore, and perpetuate their power.
Ed. Notes: Things go in cycles. Decades ago Hazel Henderson noted economics is a form of brain disease. Yet is the explanation psychology or politics?
People can’t do economies without ownership, and property is rife with illegitimate claims. Economists, if they expect to be paid, have to overlook how gains are made, and must focus squarely on just counting the gains. You can’t really do a science that way.
For economics ever to become a science, it’d have to get serious about noting the difference between earnings and non-earnings, between our spending that rewards another person’s labor or capital and our spending that rewards another person’s privilege, such as a claim on land. Economist would have to admit there is private wealth and common wealth. But before they’re psychologically able to do that, probably geonomics will take over.
The global economic cost of violence in 2012 was US$9.46 trillion, which represents 11% of Gross World Product.
Violence containment spending is understood as any economic activity that is related to the prevention or consequences of violence; it includes direct costs such the medical cost of a victim, and indirect costs such as the loss of human capital when someone is displaced as a result of violence.
The findings outlined in the report show that violence containment costs US$1,300 per person per year. It is almost double the size of the world’s agriculture industry and over 2.4 times the size of the total GDP of Africa.
While some spending on violence containment is necessary, overspending on violence containment reduces funds for productive programs. Some of the countries that have the highest violence containment expenditure, are also among the poorest.
The three countries with the highest level of violence containment spending as a percentage of GDP are North Korea, Syria, and Liberia. The military accounts for 70% of North Korea’s violence containment expenditure, which is equivalent to 20% of the country’s total GDP.
Ed. Notes: The authors want government to behave and not spend so much on killing while spending more on schools and clinics. However, subsidized schools and clinics are for poor people. Should we keep people poor? If they weren’t poor, couldn’t they choose their own teachers and doctors? The way to end poverty is NOT to let governments tax then hope they spend our public revenue fairly. The way to end poverty is to get rid of taxes and subsidies. Replace taxes with fees and dues. Replace subsidies with a dividend to the citizenry from the value of sites and resources, a value that always yields surplus public revenue. Even small applications of geonomics have worked.
This 2014 excerpt of Guardian LV, Feb 22, is by Allison Longstreet.
The African island of Madagascar is the only place where lemurs live in the wild, but possibly not for too much longer; the lemur’s extinction risk rate is at a deadly high.
One of the primary causes is the destruction of their natural habitat by farmers and developers, who illegally use slash-and-burn farming methods to harvest plants, as well as the excessive harvesting of rosewood and ebony trees, which ruins the lemur’s natural habitat.
Also, due to political strife on the African island, many citizens have become burdened with poverty and have turned to hunting these primates as a source of nutrition.
To protect the lemurs, scientists hope to raise money through eco-tourism.
From tourists some citizens earn a better living wage, thus protecting the lemurs from hunters.
Ed. Notes: It’s not that humans want to drive other species to extinction. It’s that their economies don’t provide what the humans need, so out of desperation they deplete their resources, including living ones. If economies granted people access to what they need, they’d not resort to exhausting cute parts of their ecosystem. Once again, economic justice is key, specifically, sharing Earth by sharing her worth, the central feature of geonomics.
This 2014 excerpt of the AP, Feb 23, is by Hannah Dreier.
A handful of top U.S. business tycoons are pressuring fellow entrepreneurs to pay workers more proposing to give their money back to the government to redistribute.
Members of the 0.1 percent now make at least $1.7 million a year; the median annual household income has dropped to $51,017.
Income for the top 1 percent soared 31 percent from 2009 through 2012, after adjusting for inflation. For everyone else, it inched up an average of 0.4 percent.
Ron Unz, whose fortune comes from founding Wall Street Analytics Inc, argues that by not paying a living wage, companies are forcing the government to subsidize them through massive welfare spending. An advocate for the free market, Unz opposes any kind of subsidy. Unz, 52, was trained as a theoretical physicist and has written scholarly papers on the Spartan naval empire.
Seattle venture capitalist Nick Hanauer was one of the early investors in Amazon. He started aQuantive which was acquired by Microsoft Corp. in 2007 for $6.4 billion. Hanauer said he doesn’t consider himself a “job creator.” In 2012, he advanced his ideas in a TED talk but TED organizers refused to post Hanauer’s lecture on the web, claiming it was too partisan.
Steve Silberstein made his fortune by co-founding a company that creates software for hundreds of college and university libraries. He opposes exorbitant executive salaries. He would tax companies with a large pay gap higher, and those with a narrower gap lower.
Leo Hindery Jr., raised a Jesuit and previously chief executive of AT&T Broadband and of the YES Network, the cable channel of the Yankees, is asking Congress to raise taxes on Patriotic Millionaires. Rich people like him don’t put their extra dollars back into the economy. They already own all they can use.
Ed. Notes: Wouldn’t it be cool if one of the super rich would propose to totally transform the system so that it no longer spewed forth unearned fortunes at one end and poverty at the other? Instead, people would earn their keep (add value), keep what they earn (zero taxes). And that’d go for both individuals and society as a whole.
The rich get rich not by working or investing so much as by corralling a portion of society’s surplus. They capture society’s spending for land and resources, or they enjoy patents and copyrights without paying full value for them, or they get other monopolies like broadcast licenses for free, or they pollute without paying an equivalent penalty, or they control the creation of new money, etc. Minus such privileges, fortunes would be much, much smaller.
Further, those now struggling would be much better off if government redirected the value of nature and privilege into the pockets of everyone and quit taxing goods and subsidizing bads. While it’s nice that the beneficiaries of today’s system want to give some unearned income back, it’d be even nicer if they’d lend their prominent voice to establishing a just system for everyone — a true geonomy in operation!
This 2014 excerpt of Truthout, Feb 22, is by Christian Exoo and Calvin F. Exoo.
Poverty is a causal factor (rather than merely correlational) in debilitating medical conditions that leave people sick, unable to work, and unable to think – all factors that then perpetuate poverty.
The Eastern Band of Cherokee paid every member of the tribe $6,000 in 2001, with children’s money going straight to a trust fund. The rate of conduct and oppositional defiant disorders in (now formerly) poor children dropped to that of children who had never experienced poverty. Those children were less likely to commit a crime and more likely to graduate high school. And by age 21, they had almost an additional year of schooling.
ADHD (which is almost twice as likely to appear in poor children as in the general population), is estimated to cost (for treatment, educational adjustments, parents missing work, and juvenile justice) $14,576 per child per year.
The human brain has a finite amount of bandwidth. If it is forced to spend that worrying about poverty, it will necessarily have less capacity to spend on other tasks. The poor often fail to take prescribed medications, fail to use preventative health care, and are less productive workers than their more-comfortable counterparts.
There are 49.7 million Americans currently living below the poverty line. We can expect each of them to gain 13 IQ points if the gap between their needs and their means to meet them were somehow bridged. What could we do with that much extra brain power? Heck, maybe we could even end poverty.
Ed. Notes: While sharing public revenue with the poor does save taxpayers money, the best way to share monies is not the usual welfare for the poor — food stamps, minimum wage, public housing, etc. It’d be much more efficient to just pay everyone an extra income, no strings attached. And it’d be much fairer to not use taxes on income and business but instead recover the socially-generated values of land and resources. Levy a land tax or charge a land use fee or raise the deed fee to the rental value of the location or institute land dues or lease public resources at full value, et al. Then parcel out that revenue to citizens as a dividend, sort of like Alaska, Aspen CO, and Singapore do.
At the same time, it’d be fair and cost-saving to abolish the corporate welfare for the rich. And if the government does quit taxing labor and capital, then people will become more productive and they’ll bid up the value of locations. That, in turn, will fatten the Citizen’s Dividend.
It’s geonomics, it works, but the left who argue for more of the same old welfare which has never gotten to the root of the problem don’t see it — yet.
This 2014 excerpt of Grok Granite, Feb 22, is by Skip Murphy.
An example of rent-seeking is when a company lobbies the government for loan subsidies, grants, or tariff protection. These activities don’t create any benefit for society, they just redistribute resources from the taxpayers to the special-interest group. Among those industries that are most apt to seek demand tax relief for what is just ordinary business is the Entertainment business.
Dear Governor O’Malley,
I wanted you to be aware that we are required to look at other states in which to film on the off chance that the legislation does not pass, or does not cover the amount of tax credits for which we would qualify.
Senior Vice President, Television Production
Politicians may be thinking the equation of most “the giving away of our peoples’ monies will be more than compensated by the extra revenues spent by the production crew” – it hardly ever works out that way.
Ed. Notes: Now you know why they call movies “magical”. They get even the powers-that-be to swoon. If Maryland or any state wants to attract filmmakers or any industry, all it has to do is quit taxing wages and other earnings, plus recover land rents, spurring owners to put/keep all locations at best use. Then the jurisdiction will be swamped with businesses, new and old, factual and fictional. Something similar worked well for the Asian Tiger.
This 2014 excerpt of Alternet, Feb 21, is by Mike Lofgren, a former congressional staffer on both the House and Senate budget committees, possessing a top secret security clearance.
The Deep State operates regardless of who is formally in power.
President Obama cannot enact his domestic policies and budgets; because of incessant GOP filibustering, not only could he not fill the large number of vacancies in the federal judiciary, he could not even get his most innocuous presidential appointees into office. This strategy amounts to congressional nullification of executive branch powers by a party that controls a majority in only one house of Congress.
Despite this apparent impotence, President Obama can liquidate American citizens without due processes, detain prisoners indefinitely without charge, conduct “dragnet” surveillance on the American people without judicial warrant, and engage in witch hunts against federal employees (the so-called “Insider Threat Program”). Within the United States, the chief executive displays intimidating force of militarized federal, state, and local law enforcement. Abroad, President Obama starts wars without so much as a by-your-leave from Congress; he forced the landing of a plane carrying a sovereign head of state over foreign territory.
We have heard very little from Republicans about these actions — with the exception of Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky. Democrats, too, permit perjured testimony under oath by executive branch officials on the subject of illegal surveillance.
When there was heated debate about the budget crisis, our government committed $115 million to keeping a civil war going in Syria and to pay at least £100m to the United Kingdom’s Government Communications Headquarters to buy influence over and access to that country’s intelligence. Since 2007, the government has spent $1.7 billion constructing a building in Utah that is the size of seventeen football fields for the National Security Agency to store a yottabyte of information, the largest numerical designator computer scientists have. A yottabyte is equal to 500 quintillion pages of text.
There is another government behind the one visible at either end of Pennsylvania Avenue. It’s a hybrid entity of public and private institutions. Its operators — the people who are, to quote George W. Bush, “the deciders” — mainly act in the light of day.
“Groupthink” — the chameleon-like ability of people to adopt the views of their superiors and peers — is endemic to Washington. As in the military, everybody has to get on board with the mission, and it is not a career-enhancing move to question the mission. As Upton Sinclair said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”
After a while, a functionary of the state begins to hear things that, in another context, would be quite remarkable, or at least noteworthy, and yet they simply bounce off one’s consciousness like pebbles off steel plate. It is easy to grow immune to the curiousness of one’s surroundings. To paraphrase the inimitable Donald Rumsfeld, I didn’t know all that I knew, at least until I had had a couple of years away from the government to reflect upon it.
The Deep State is a hybrid of national security and law enforcement agencies: the Department of Defense, the Department of State, the Department of Homeland Security, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the Justice Department. We also include the Department of the Treasury because of its jurisdiction over financial flows, its enforcement of international sanctions, and its organic symbiosis with Wall Street. All these agencies are coordinated by the Executive Office of the President via the National Security Council. Certain key areas of the judiciary belong to the Deep State, like the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, whose actions are mysterious even to most members of Congress. Also included are a handful of vital federal trial courts, such as the Eastern District of Virginia and the Southern District of Manhattan, where sensitive proceedings in national security cases are conducted. The final government component (and possibly last in precedence among the formal branches of government established by the Constitution) is a kind of rump Congress consisting of the congressional leadership and some (but not all) of the members of the defense and intelligence committees.
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act of 2008 retroactively legalized the Bush administration’s illegal and unconstitutional surveillance and indemnified the telecommunications companies for their cooperation in these acts. The bill passed easily: all that was required was the invocation of the word “terrorism” and most members of Congress responded like iron filings obeying a magnet.
What is euphemistically called private enterprise is an integral part of its operations. There are now 854,000 contract personnel with top secret clearances — a number greater than that of top secret-cleared civilian employees of the government. Since 9/11, 33 facilities for top-secret intelligence have been built or are under construction. Combined, they occupy the floor space of almost three Pentagons — about 17 million square feet. Seventy percent of the intelligence community’s budget goes to paying contracts. And the membrane between government and industry is highly permeable: the Director of National Intelligence, James R. Clapper, is a former executive of Booz Allen, one of the government’s largest intelligence contractors. His predecessor as director, Admiral Mike McConnell, is the current vice chairman of the same company; Booz Allen is 99 percent dependent on government business.
Wall Street supplies the cash that keeps the political machine quiescent and operating as a diversionary marionette theater. The executives of the financial giants even have de facto criminal immunity. They’re too big to jail yet the justice system has practically abolished the constitutional right to trial for poorer defendants.
General David Petraeus joined KKR (formerly Kohlberg Kravis Roberts) of New York, a private equity firm with $62.3 billion in assets. KKR specializes in management buyouts and leveraged finance; General Petraeus’s expertise in these areas is unclear; his ability to peddle influence, however, is a known and valued commodity. He also obtained a sinecure as a non-resident senior fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard. The Ivy League is the preferred charm school of the American oligarchy.
Silicon Valley is a vital node of the Deep State as well. Unlike military and intelligence contractors, Silicon Valley overwhelmingly sells to the private market; but its business is so important to the government that a strange relationship has emerged. While the government could simply dragoon the high technology companies to do the NSA’s bidding, it would prefer cooperation with so important an engine of the nation’s economy, perhaps with an implied quid pro quo. Perhaps this explains the extraordinary indulgence the government shows the Valley in intellectual property matters — if an American “jailbreaks” his smartphone (i.e., modifies it so that it can use another service provider than the one dictated by the manufacturer), he could receive a fine of up to $500,000 and several years in prison; so much for a citizen’s vaunted property rights to what he purchases. The libertarian pose of the Silicon Valley moguls has always been a sham. Silicon Valley has long been tracking for commercial purposes the activities of every person who uses an electronic device.
Washington, the headquarters of the Deep State, has been extracting value from the American people in vampire-like fashion. Within the Beltway itself, the richest metropolitan area in the nation, virtually every time there is a severe summer thunderstorm, tens — or even hundreds — of thousands of residents lose power, often for many days. There are occasional water restrictions over wide areas because water mains, poorly constructed and inadequately maintained, have burst.
As long as appropriations bills get passed on time, promotion lists get confirmed, black (i.e., secret) budgets get rubber stamped, special tax subsidies for certain corporations are approved without controversy, the gears of the hybrid state mesh. But when one house of Congress is taken over by the Tea Party, life for the ruling class becomes more trying. Sequestration, the government shutdown, and the threat of default over the debt ceiling extension have been disrupting that equilibrium.
Also, Silicon Valley is losing billions in overseas business from companies, individuals, and governments that want to maintain privacy. For high-tech entrepreneurs, the cash nexus is ultimately more compelling than the Deep State’s demand for “patriotic” cooperation. Even legal compulsion can be combatted: unlike the individual citizen, tech firms have deep pockets and batteries of lawyers with which to fight government diktat. Silicon Valley is now lobbying Congress to restrain the NSA, a core component of the Deep State. Some tech firms are moving to encrypt their data.
Ed. Notes: The above is how nations shed their empires. Afterwards, the ordinary people are better off. Check out the regular citizens of former European powers that have lost all their colonies. Without its huge parasite — the military/industrial complex that President Gen. Dwgiht Eisenhower warned Americans about — perhaps America can get back to being the beacon of freedom and progress for the lagging parts of the world. We can stay number one in exporting pop culture, if the world still will want it, and forget about being war mongers.
This 2014 excerpt of Salon, Feb 21, is by Falguni A. Sheth.
The Obama administration resorts to incarceration (John Kiriakou), mock trials (Chelsea Manning), or no trials (Barrett Brown), rescinding passports (Edward Snowden), coercing other sovereign states to incarcerate challengers to its power (Yemen/Abdulelah Haider Shaye), and killing citizens and foreigners alike without review or impunity (whether by drones or financial starvation).
The FBI stands above the law and does not answer to any authority when they outright lie or make deliberate misrepresentations about what kind of operations they are or are not conducting. The Executive Branch enjoys extraordinary immunity from punishment when incredible abuses of power are committed and cases on torture, warrantless wiretapping, or spying are brought forward in court.
AG Eric Holder promised that he would not claim the state-secrets privilege to hide wrongdoing, incompetence, inefficiency, or embarrassment. Nor would he invoke it to “prevent or delay the release of information the release of which would not reasonably be expected to cause significant harm to national security.” Clearly, Holder lied.
Holder’s behavior and that of many of his colleagues in the Obama administration, such as Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, indicates that they have no problems with lying about government practices, evading demands for evidence, or concealing violations with law.
The Obama administration has claimed the right to kill American citizens without charge or trial. That’s not an abuse of power. It’s a complete usurpation of power; it’s the monopoly of power.
Ed. Notes: The question that needs to be addressed is not whether the Obama administration is interested in holding itself accountable but whether we are interested. If so, the way to challenge the state’s political power is to challenge its economic power. That is, shrivel its power to tax and subsidize however the politicians see fit. Instead, restrict government to recovering our common wealth, the values generated by society, which typically attach to land, resources, or more precisely to locations, and to disbursing discretionary public revenue to the populace in general via a Citizen’s Dividend. Humans won’t be taxpayers so much as sovereign citizens. It may be scary to live under a government out of control but at least there’s something you can do about it.
This 2014 excerpt of the AP, Feb 20, is by Josh Boak.
The gap between the wealthy and the poor is most extreme in several of the United States’ most prosperous and largest cities. The economic divides in Atlanta, San Francisco, Washington, New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles are significantly greater than the national average.
Many sources of both economic growth and income inequality have co-existed near each other for the past 35 years.
There’s something of a relationship between economic success and inequality.
Ed. Notes: Why’d Henry George even bother to write his classic, Progress and Poverty, back in 1879, people have so thoroughly forgotten his lesson. Of course there’s a gap. It’s because Ricardo’s observation about income distribution is a natural law, and natural laws (like gravity) are not so easily violated. The only way there couldn’t be a gap would be if the value of land — which is highest in cities where income is highest — were to be recovered and shared, something any city could achieve using its powers of raising revenue and disbursing revenue. So, unequal cities, what are you waiting for? George won’t be writing a sequel.
This 2014 excerpt of Poor as Folk, Feb 19, is by Jenn, posted Jupiter Sinclair.
Today, I did something I never thought I’d do. I yelled at my son for being hungry. He’s just a kid, a 7 year old who is full of energy and constantly growing. I didn’t have enough food for anyone to have extras. Everything has to be rationed.
There was nothing I could do to change it in that moment. My anger turned to worry, another constant feeling in my daily life, as I wondered if this would create food issues in my child. Will he be afraid to eat, knowing that we might not have enough the next day?
I am college educated, degreed, and I have held a professional license. I have been working since the age of 18. Until now.
I have saved my kids Halloween candy for times when my blood sugar gets too low after a day of not eating because I can’t afford enough food for 3 square meals for the entire family. Having my heat set above 60 degrees is a luxury. The needle on my gas gauge is constantly hovering at E. We wear our clothes several times before laundering because we can’t afford the the washing machines. The thrift shop is damn expensive.
It’s not that anyone should be judged for why they are poor, but people naturally ask, mostly out of curiosity and sometimes to find information to justify their lack of care for our situation. My husband lost a fairly good job. His period of unemployment meant we burned through our savings and our emergency fund. While I am still unemployed, my husband is currently working three jobs. Two of them pay exactly minimum wage. The third pays just above that. He is constantly applying for jobs on a weekly basis, as am I. He would often work nearly 30 hours in a row, come home to sleep for a few hours, then go back for another cycle of 30 hours. It’s been brutal on his health and our family.
The changes to one’s mental health when living in poverty can be astonishing. I suffered a miscarriage years ago and I knew anger and sadness then. I didn’t think I would feel such strong emotions again. I was wrong. I am angry I’m not good enough for proper employment. I’m angry my children are living through this. I am angry at my husband. I’m angry at Christians who preach against me. I’m angry at politicians who vote against people like me. I’m angry at a society that views me as a leech.
Now I’m jealous at anyone who can afford to buy $15.00 jeans on sale at Old Navy. Where I would once say, “oh, those boots are cute,” I am now filled with plain old bitter envy. An acquaintance said to me recently, “You actually look like a poor person.” My husband took to wearing black shorts under his pants (also black) so the holes wouldn’t be a noticeable.
I’ve been jealous that friends can do wild and crazy things like buy a full tank of gas, get new brakes for their cars, buy a pack of toilet paper, eat.
I took my children to Ikea. We weren’t there to buy anything. It was damn cold, we were tired of being cooped up in the house, and there weren’t many options for a free place to play. Ikea has a play zone for my older child. My daughter is more than happy to walk around the store, sitting on sofas and chairs. I bought my kids lunch. As they ate, I would steal a bite here and there. That’s when the tears, which I fought very hard to hold back, started to flow.
I’m constantly weak. My husband is a very strong man, but he has lost an alarming amount of muscle and strength in the past year. The two of us are constantly exhausted. Part of that is the hunger, part of it is emotional.
Hopelessness is unbearable. I was once someone that my friends would always look to for a positive thought and encouraging word. Fear is constant. I’m afraid of opening my bills to find new late fees. I’m afraid of losing utilities. I’m afraid of being evicted. My tail light is out; it’s terrifying. We don’t have the money for a new tail light. Our cops here are very good at pulling you over for broken lights, outdated stickers, etc. Weather is terrorizing; jobs can be called off due to snow or ice.
Poverty is isolating. Friends eventually fade away because they think you’re ignoring them when you constantly turn down their invites to dinner or events. Your children’s social lives suffer – you can’t afford to send them to many birthday parties or playdates. Trips to zoos, museums, and other fun places with admission fees are extremely limited.
Friends try to help you, fix you now, get you to shut the fuck up about being poor. It’s hard for others to hear that you don’t want to get up in the morning anymore, that you just want to end it all. Many friendships have been strained by poverty.
However, no one can be as hard on you as you are on yourself. I spend hours per day telling myself how much I suck. If only I had done this or done that. I know our circumstances were beyond our control. I know how hard we try every single say. But, it doesn’t stop the shame.
I sit here now, writing this at my desk that is piled with overdue bills. I have multiple windows open on my computer – several for job applications for me, several job applications for my husband to look at once he’s home from work, a few for charity searches, another for prayer requests, and another for a site that offers emotional support and solidarity for people like me.
I hope to eventually write about how we struggled, survived, and came out on top. Until then, be nice to the poor folk. You can have all the assumptions in the world about how they got there, how the feel, how much they “take,” but you can never really know their true story.
Ed. Notes: Poverty does not show someone is worthless, prosperity does not show someone is worthwhile. Indeed, one’s material success is due far more to one’s economy’s success than to one’s personal attributes. Now you can become very comfortable as a sales person, a programmer, a college dean, etc, but not too long you could not.
While personal attributes should determine how high one’s income can go, they should not set how low one’s income can go. Everyone should receive at least a share of society’s surplus, of the worth of Earth. On that income floor, people can build themselves up into higher income earners.
But as long as the economy keeps automatically generating a surplus, nobody should ever suffer materially.
This 2014 excerpt of Common Dreams, Feb 17, is by Andrea Germanos.
Toxic chemicals including some pesticides and solvents may be behind the increasing number of cases of neurodevelopmental disabilities—including autism and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder—among children, researchers warn.
The findings are presented in a study by Philippe Grandjean, adjunct professor of environmental health at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and Philip Landrigan, Dean for Global Health at Mount Sinai published online Saturday in Lancet Neurology.
“The greatest concern is the large numbers of children who are affected by toxic damage to brain development in the absence of a formal diagnosis. They suffer reduced attention span, delayed development and poor school performance. Industrial chemicals are now emerging as likely causes,” said Grandjean.
Manganese has been linked to diminished intellectual function and impaired motor skills, and solvents have been linked to hyperactivity and aggressive behavior, the authors write.
The effects of neurotoxicity can be society-wide, the authors note, as loss of IQ points may bring down earnings thereby affecting GDP. They can be costly as well; for example, the annual cost of lead poisoning in the U.S. is $50 billion, while behavioral problems associated with neurotoxicant exposure could also require special educational services and may even lead to incarceration, the authors write.
“The presumption that new chemicals and technologies are safe until proven otherwise is a fundamental problem,” the authors write, adding, “Voluntary controls seem to be of little value.”
To confront this silent, global pandemic, the authors urge an international strategy that takes a precautionary approach to fully evaluate new chemicals before they hit the markets. Testing on industrial chemicals and pesticides already on the market should also take place, they say.
Ed. Notes: Businesses would be sure to make sure that their products are safe if we didn’t grant polluters the limited liability they now enjoy in corporate charters. It’s another huge favor that governments grant to those who’re most dedicated to grabbing a buck, whether by hook or crook.
How can we evolve government from its historical role of favoring insiders to defending the rights of all? Let’s demand that governments defend one of the most basic rights of all — our right to a fair share of Earth’s worth: a Citizen’s Dividend from the value of land and resources (a la Alaska, Singapore, etc).
Once that demand becomes part of the public debate, that’ll totally shift the paradigm, the prevailing worldview, so imposing harm on others for profit will no longer seem normal while benefitting equally from nature and society will become the new norm.
This 2014 excerpt of Ecoshock, Feb 19, is by Alex Smith (no relation).
Despite snow-storms on the East Coast, or relentless cold in Wisconsin or Winnipeg, the planet is much too hot in other places.
If the temperature is below zero, can we call it a heat wave? We can if we are talking about the Arctic circle in winter.
You probably heard it was warmer in Homer Alaska one day in January than it was almost anywhere in the lower 48 states. The same Polar Vortex that brought snow storm after storm to the central and eastern part of North America kept a big sweep of Hawaiian air running over Alaska. World-known dog sled races were cancelled or shoved somewhere else. A series of avalanches – that’s melting unstable snow in January – closed down major highways. Places like Nome, Seward, and Homer hit all-time record highs. Kids all over Alaska were out in shorts. Backyard barbecue parties returned.
That was all part of the same weather system that delivered the drought to California and record high temperatures. San Francisco was more than 7 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than a normal January. On the 15th and 16th, the temperature rose to 73 degrees, 22 C. Sacramento set more record highs in January 2014 than at any time in it’s history.
Elsewhere in the North …
All-time-record monthly warm temperatures have been observed at many sites in the Siberian states of Yakutia and Kamchatka. Oymyakon (various spellings) saw its temperature rise to a February record high of -12.5 °C (9.5 °F) on February 9th. Oymyakon is normally the coldest permanently inhabited place on earth, – 67.7 °C (-90 °F) set on February 6, 1933 (almost exactly 80 years ago).
It was the same in January on the other side of the world (where it’s summer).
Australia had day after day over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, 38 degrees Celsius. Nights that don’t get much cooler. The resulting bushfires spread became so big they created their own weather systems complete with dry lightening storms, causing more fires. At least 400 people have died from this recent heat wave. Heat is now a leading cause of death in Australia.
Brazil’s largest city, Sao Paulo experienced its warmest January on record with a daily average maximum of 31.9 °C (or 89.4 °F). Normal is about 28 degrees C for that time of year. Then it got hotter in Feburary, around 95 degrees Fahrenheit, or 35 degrees C every single day for the first week. That’s before you figure in the high humidity which made it all unbearable.
In Buenos Aires, it was above 30 degrees C, at least 86 degrees Fahrenheit, every day of December, and most days of January. With the humidity, it felt like the mid-40′s, or 113. In late January the temperature adjusted for the humidex reading was 47 degrees, or 116.
The world has not warmed by much, as a global average. But the poles have warmed more than anywhere else. When there is a smaller difference between the poles and the equator, there is less to drive the Jet stream from West to East. Instead the Jet Stream takes huge bends, almost blowing north to south. It gets stuck in those bends.
In Great Britain, a satellite photo shows a series of giant lakes where the southern English countryside used to be. The high winds and record-setting storm surges are changing the British coast line. A couple of weeks ago, an amateur fossil hound uncovered the remains of dinosaurs, formerly embedded in a sea side cliff. Others found evidence of humans living in Britain at least 800,000 years ago. Two weeks later, rising tides swept those footprints away.
Ocean currents change speed. When fast and choppy, they capture some air and its carbon; when slow they release carbon. This process and the melting methane clathrates could bring on an even bigger warming jolt as soon as later this year.
Ed. Notes: Since humans have taken most of the buried carbon (fossil fuel) and stuck it into the atmosphere, something had to give. How could anyone think that altering the composition of the atmosphere would have zero effect? That’s what’s caused global climate change before, over the past hundreds of millions of years.
The good news is, what humans have broken they may be able to fix. How? It’s not relying on techno-fixes like solar panels and fuel cells. It’s relying on social justice, specifically economic justice, meaning a just distribution of the economy’s output. Don’t tax the wages of labor. Don’t subsidize the operations of capital. And do recover and share the value of land.
When owners must pay Land Dues or land taxes, they take less and use what they take more wisely. When residents receive a rent share or Citizen’s Dividend, they’re enabled to invest their talents in discovering new efficient machines and new waste-free lifestyles of more play and stronger human ties. Geonomics is not widely known yet but these blinding snow-storms could open more eyes.
This 2014 excerpt of The Guardian, Feb 18, is by Luke Mansillo.
Australians are routinely being told that hefty mining taxes would hinder the country’s exports of coal and iron ore. However, mining giant BHP Billiton recently increased its profits by 83% to US $8.1bn. In spite of this enormous growth, the company only paid US $29m in minerals resource rent tax (MRRT). As it stands, the tax is in no way making BHP uncompetitive.
Unlike Australia, Norway has kept their resource extraction “rents”. Norway has a 78% tax on oil and gas revenues – unlike Australia, where the effective tax rate is a mere 13%. $60bn from gas sales to continental Europe is annually deposited in the Norwegian sovereign wealth fund. The fund has 5.11 trillion Krone (AU$930bn), or twice Norway’s GDP.
Norway’s example demonstrates that, after 20 years, private companies will remain and continue to make a profit – with margins reduced.
But while Norway has been prudent with its resource bounty of $185,000 for every citizen, Australia has not.
It is not xenophobic to believe that Australians should receive the maximum benefit from their property. Australia’s mineral wealth is owned by the Crown; the Crown holds those resources in trust so they may benefit citizens. Those resources ought to be exploited by the Australian citizenry because they belong to them.
Ed. Notes: It’s not just exhaustible natural resources that should enrich the populace but the more familiar surface land, too. Have owners pay in Land Dues and have everyone (owners included) receive rent dividends. Doing so is not only fair. It also makes taxes and subsidies far less excusable. And it — geonomics — has worked wherever tried.
This 2014 excerpt of TakePart, Feb 18, is by Willy Blackmore.
The fight over GMO labeling isn’t the first regulatory battle Monsanto has engaged in over the course of its 112 years in business. From PCBs to DDT to Agent Orange, the chemical company turned ag giant has manufactured numerous products that ended up all but disappearing — if not being banned outright — following high-profile public debates about environmental and health concerns.
You don’t have to look much farther than the boardroom to see how deeply entrenched Monsanto’s ties to the rest of the food industry are: Janice L. Fields, a former president of McDonald’s USA, and C. Steven McMillan, a former CEO of Sara Lee Corporation, both sit on the board of directors. Other board members have ties to Procter & Gamble, Lockheed Martin, and Microsoft.
Monsanto’s board members have worked for the EPA, advised the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and served on President Obama’s Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations. They presided over multiple universities in various senior positions, including South Dakota State University (with whom Monsanto has a significant research agreement), Arizona State’s Biodesign Institute and Washington University in St. Louis…. The prevalence of Monsanto’s directors in these highly influential positions begs a closer look at how they’re able to push the pro-GE agenda within the government and influence public opinion.
Ed. Notes: Monsanto is hardly the exception. Every major corporation has its directors serving as directors on other company boards, rich foundation boards, executive advisory councils, as university trustees, intermarrying themselves and their children, etc. It’s the way of the world. It’s well documented in Who Owns America by G. William Domhoff.
It has its roots — both historically and even today — in capturing the vast stream of money paid for land and resources. If ever the hierarchy is to be toppled, then reformers will have to redirect that flow of “rents” to the accounts of everybody. Government would have to quit being the handmaiden of the elite and instead use its powers to tax or charge fees or institute dues or lease public resources at full market value in order to recover these socially-generated values then disburse the raised revenue as dividends to the citizenry in general.
More equitable distribution of society’s surplus will provide a foundation for a more equitable society, minus the concentration of wealth and power.
BTW, there is a petition to pass a law to require truth in the labeling of food which would require Monsanto’s customers to reveal the GMOs on shelves in grocery stores, in case you’d like to know what your eating.
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.
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.
an answer for Jonathan of the Green Party (Nov 7): “What does ‘share our surplus’ mean?”
Our surplus is the values that society generates synergistically. It’s the money we spend on the nature we use: on land sites, natural resources, EM spectrum, ecosystem services (assimilating pollutants). It’s also the money we pay to holders of government-granted privileges like corporate charters. We could share it by paying for the nature we use and privileges we hold to the public treasury then getting back a fair share of the recovered revenue. Used to be, owners did owe rent (“own” and “owe” used to be one word). And presently, some lucky residents do get back periodic dividends: Alaska’s oil dividend and Aspen Colorado’s housing assistance. Doing that, instead of subsidizing bads while taxing goods, is the essence of geonomics.
Jonathan: “Is local currency what you mean?”
Editor: It’s not. Community currency is a good reform, but every good reform pushes up site values. That makes land an even more tempting object of speculation. Now, any good will eventually do bad by widening the income gap – until you share land values.
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 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.
an answer to a rarely asked question. If price is a reward for production, why do we pay for land, never produced by any of us? What is land price a reward for? Good behavior? How much money do we spend on the nature we use? Who gets it? What do they do with it? (If you answer all these correctly, you’re not a genius but a geoist.) The worth of Earth is enough that were we to collect and share it, we could abolish taxes on the goods we do produce. For example, San Francisco’s Redefining Progress has calculated that Cali-fornia could abolish all state and local taxes were it to collect the values of resources and of using na-ture as a dump. By exorcising the profit motive from depletion and pollution, rent collection could replace bossy regulation. Economies could self-regulate, as the rest of the eco-system does. See how big problems yield to big answers when we ask the right questions?
a way to have everybody pulling on the same end of the rope. Last summer’s expansive forest fires shed light on growing class resentment in the West. Old loggers and ranchers rankled at the new urgency to stamp out the blazes that threatened the recent Aspenesque settlers. The newcomers expected working class firemen to make protecting their expensive homes top priority. (Chr Sci Mntr, Spt 7) The tinder for this envy? Rich people moving in bid up the price of land, making it hard to afford by people on the margin. The fault really lies with our system of privatizing land value. If this rising value were collected by land dues and shared by rent dividends – the essence of geonomic policy – who’d complain? The more people move in, the higher the land value, and the fatter the dividend paid to residents. Then people on the margin might go out of their way to invite rich outsiders in.
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.
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, including 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.
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.