We are Hanno Beck, Lindy Davies, Fred Foldvary, Mike O'Mara, Jeff Smith, and assorted volunteers, all dedicated to bringing you the news and views that make a difference in our species struggle to win justice, prosperity, and eco-librium.
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.
This 2013 excerpt of Clawback, Feb 17, is by Greg LeRoy.
A large national poll of independent business owners finds that cutting taxpayer subsidies to big business is their top-rated public policy priority. And a smaller survey of high-growth entrepreneurs finds that the last things they are concerned about are low taxes or business-friendly regulations.
Nationwide, of 2,602 small business owners said the public policy change that would most help their business was “eliminate subsidies for big companies.”
Of the fastest-growing companies in the United States, only five percent cited low taxes and only two percent cited regulations as a reason for choosing their location. Before starting their company, they moved to a city of one million or more because of personal connections and quality of life. Their most critical business reason for staying was a pool of talented labor, followed by access to customers and suppliers.
Ed. Notes: In the US, regulations are not as big a problem as in the nations listed by deSoto in his work on capitalism where people must wait years for permits. That said, even if most businesses here don’t run into trouble, some still do, and none should.
Instead of regulate and permit (or not) and otherwise interfere, governments could instead get out of the limited liability business. To minimize liability and ruinous lawsuits, business would conduct its affairs safely and buy sufficient insurance coverage.
And to attract talented labor, customers, and suppliers, there is something any town can do to make itself such a destination city. It’s something cities across the Pacific used to help themselves become the Asian Tigers. And that is, shift the property tax off buildings, onto locations. Then to pay the higher “land dues”, the owners quit speculating and develop their sites. The development stimulates the local economy and the second wave of businesses that fill the new structures keep the good growth going.
This property tax shift does not directly fall on new businesses but it does create a context that favors start-ups. Indeed, in the recession before last, the Australian towns that taxed land not only did not lose businesses but actually added them! Good ol’ geonomics worked again!
So smart taxes and efficient land use matter, as does eliminating the financial favors for bigger insiders.
This 2014 excerpt of Seeking Alpha, Feb 16, is by Craig Pirrong.
Elon Musk is the founder of PayPal, Tesla Motors, and SpaceX (space exploration). All of his companies were heavily dependent on government subsidies and support. This support socialized the potential losses, and allowed Musk (and other major investors, notably Goldman) to capture the upside.
If his products and business models were so great, visionary Musk could succeed on his own, by attracting private capital.
SpaceX is dependent on government contracts, given that a very large fraction of space launches carry government payloads. This is something different from Solar City and Tesla, where the government is providing subsidies but not receiving any product or service in return. But still, it means that Musk depends crucially on cultivating government support.
A firm does not succeed or fail at winning big ticket contracts on the basis of the superiority of its product, but instead on the basis of its ability to influence politicians and bureaucrats. And a lack of scruple is often a feature, not a bug in that regard.
SpaceX was looking for a commercial launch site, and seeking state subsidies in order to build it. The company has been playing states off against one another, looking for tax benefits. Musk focused on one of the poorest parts of Texas – Brownsville – and dangled the prospect of a mere 600 jobs, in exchange for $20 million dollars or so in tax benefits. Some of which will come from the taxpayers of that very poor community. The state legislature has succumbed.
Ed. Notes: There’s long been a refrain in economics and business: The way to make a fortune is to rake in the public’s money and to slough off your costs onto the public. Don’t pay for your pollution; let others do that. And, classically, capture the socially-generated rental value of land, while unconscious society sits idly by not even aware of what they’re losing.
Ordinary people will fight each other over wages and jobs but not over locations and their rents (only the elite know enough to wage those battles). In this regard, regular people are much like the species of lizards that live on the cliffs of South America overlooking the Pacific Ocean, but in reverse. The lizards fight each other over nesting spots but when a seagull comes and eats the eggs, the lizards don’t defend their own offspring; they just blithely sit there watching the next generation go down the gullet of the seagull. The lizards are not evolved enough to understand what’s happening to their progeny, to their species.
Similarly, humans are not hardwired to be able to see the flow of rent, to see their loss of rent, to see who captures it, to see how social conventions like property, mortgages, subsidies, and tax breaks direct the flow of rent into the pockets of favored insiders. Hopefully, humans will acquire the ability to become conscious of rent out of innate curiosity and a sense of justice without having to wait for evolution to deliver the needed new neural connections in the brain. Which is the mission of this site, to somehow make rent and geonomics obvious to the curious and caring.
This 2014 excerpt of AP, Feb 16, was from Williston Herald and was circulated by ABC.
The rapidly growing North Dakota oil patch city of Williston has the highest average rent for an apartment in the United States. Oil field workers receive six-figure salaries that can bear inflated rent.
A 700-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment in Williston costs an average of $2,394 a month. The same apartment would cost $1,504 in the New York area, $1,411 in the Los Angeles area or $1,537 in the Boston area. Nearby Dickinson, N.D., ranks fourth on the list at an average of $1,733 a month. Chicago didn’t even crack the Top 10.
The population of Williston, in the northwest corner of the state not far from the Montana border, has more than doubled since the 2010 Census.
Many of the new apartment buildings feature mudrooms, where workers can remove dirty shoes before entering.
The oil boom may be around for the next 20 years because of the different levels of oil they now have access to through fracking.
Ed. Notes: What sets how much you must pay for land, something you usually pay for when paying for housing? It’s not the cost of land, since land has no cost, not being created by anyone. Instead, it’s how much users or occupants are willing and able to pay. It’s all laid out in the old Ricardo’s Law of Rent.
Also, the oil boom could bust any time, turning those boom towns into ghost towns. If fracking uses up to much water, or pollutes too much water, or burning oil worsens climate change to the point where people have had enough, then petroleum could go the way of whale oil.
That day of switching to clean, renewable energy could come sooner if governments were to switch to geonomics right away.
This 2014 excerpt of CounterPunch, Feb 15, is by Mike Whitney. It also appeared in OpEdNews.
Economic fundamentals played no part in the so called housing rebound. The economy stinks as bad today as it did four years ago when the government number-crunchers announced the end of the recession. The reason prices have been rising is because of the Fed’s fake rates and QE, inventory suppression, bogus gov mortgage modification programs, and speculation by Private Equity and investors groups.
The big PE firms made a killing, since prices soared 12 percent in one year. In some of the hotter markets, investors represented upwards of 50 percent of all purchases.
Sales are down, purchase applications are down, and the country’s homeownership rate has slipped to levels not seen since 1995, 18 years ago.
The Fed’s $1 trillion purchase of mortgage backed securities (MBS) and zero rates have done nothing to stimulate “organic” consumer demand. No “trickle down” at all. All the policy has done is generate a temporary surge of speculation that’s distorted prices.
Household growth of 448,800 in 2013 represents a 48 percent drop in household growth relative to that from 2012 and marked the lowest annual household growth measure since 2008, in the depths of the Great Recession.
Nearly half of college grads have been scrubbed from the list of potential buyers due to their burgeoning student loans which now exceed $1 trillion. These kids will probably never own a home, let-alone have a positive impact on sales in 2014.
The number of “seriously delinquent borrowers” has actually gone up in the last year. Not only that, but many of these people haven’t made a payment in more than four years.
The banks have been dragging their feet for 40 months now, slowing down the foreclosure process (that adds to the shadow supply of distressed homes) in order to push up prices hoping to ignite another boom. Now — after three and a half years of blatant collusion — they’ve done a 180 and started speeding up foreclosures. Why?
They think that “institutional investors” are going to call-it-quits and move on to greener pastures. That’s going to push down prices, which means they’re going to lose money. So they want to get ahead of the curve and dump more houses on the market before the stampede. That way, they lose less money.
Ed. Notes: Foreclosures are sad for families but part of banking as is but maybe shouldn’t be. Maybe banking should change. But change how?
First, trends in economies are not smooth, rising or falling evenly; it’s more like two steps forward, one back, or vice versa. What the writer above is noticing is a temporary correction that won’t last more than a few months. It fits right into the more regular 18 year cycle business cycle, or more precisely, the land-price cycle. That cycle could be flattened so there’d be no more recessions and foreclosures. How?
Remove the value of land from the price of housing. How? Get government to recover the socially-generated value of land. How? Tax locations. Institute land dues. Raise the deed fee. However. Just do it.
Then housing — minus any price for land — would no longer attract speculators, no more inflating its price. Land and housing would only reflect “organic” demand, to use the jargon above.
And BTW, while recovering the value of locations and resources, don’t tax anyone’s labor or capital. Those taxes are not fair and merely counterproductive. Sans such taxes, the value of land will be high in a healthy way, able to fund a dividend to everyone, the key feature of geonomics.
This 2014 excerpt of Weekly Wastebasket, Feb 14, is by Taxpayers for Common Sense.
Congress mandated these sweetheart deals:
Agriculture Committee leaders jammed a trillion dollar farm bill through Congress last week that will increase taxpayer subsidies for agribusinesses coming off several years of record profits.
Shipbuilders want to build more ships or, at the very least, they want to modernize the current ships. Congress directed the Secretary of the Navy to upgrade one of the cruisers starting immediately.
Taxpayers across the nation spend more than $200 million each year so that a privileged few in just 117 communities can be guaranteed convenient air service. Taxpayers spend $3.9 million annually to subsidize air service from Presque Isle, Maine to Boston. Every time somebody flies from Lewistown, Montana to Billings, Montana, it costs taxpayers $1,905. A taxi for the two hour drive – at New York City taxi cab rates – would be less than $350.
Some BLM offices let coal companies explain their low bids, and then accept them. The BLM collects lower royalty payments for coal because it doesn’t consider foreign markets, where coal is more expensive.
Such largesse is certainly not the way into any taxpayer’s heart.
Ed. Notes: Don’t you wish you could put a stop to such wasteful favors for insiders? To fix this problem, it’s not enough to criticize such subsidies in particular. Citizens must criticize the validity of subsidizing in general.
There’s never been a government that didn’t favor insiders. Indeed, that’s what government is for, to fleece the flock and feed the wolves. It’s always been that way and always will, until citizens demand a wholesale transformation of public revenue policy.
We need to make taxing and subsidizing relics of the past. Instead, our governments must recover and share society’s surplus, which is all of society’s spending for land, resources, and other natural assets that come into existence without the contribution of anyone’s labor or capital. It’s called geonomics and it would save citizens one heck of a lot of money!
This 2014 excerpt of Grist, Feb 14, is by John Upton, based on articles in Science and in Stanford News.
A new mega-analysis of 20 years worth of research suggests that the EPA is underestimating the fossil fuel’s climate impacts by 25 to 75 percent.
The problem with the EPA’s math doesn’t concern the burning of natural gas, which produces less carbon dioxide than other fossil fuels (but way more than solar panels or wind turbines). The problem is in the leaky systems that extract and transport the fuel.
The EPA is severely underestimating the amount of natural gas that leaks into the atmosphere during drilling, processing, and distribution. Atmospheric tests covering the entire country indicate emissions around 50 percent more than EPA estimates. And that’s a moderate estimate.
Natural gas is basically just methane. Methane is responsible for perhaps a fifth of global warming since the 18th century. Levels of methane detected in the atmosphere have been rising rapidly since 2007.
Ed. Notes: A huge hullaballoo is made about the discovery of fire but burning has been too easy for humanity for way too long. These natural gas leaks are just another reason for our species to change how it harnesses energy. We must use
sunlight for electricity to make artificial light,
fuel cells for electricity to power motors, thereby
reducing the need to burn whatever fuel to heat homes to a bare minimum.
Technologically, we could make such a shift today. What’s in the way is not a lack of new gizmos but the presence of political opposition. Government subsidizes the old ways and taxes the new ways, albeit inadvertently by making both labor and entrepreneurship more expensive than they would be sans taxes.
Thus if we shifted our revenue policy we could shift our energy technology and score another one for geonomics.
Ed. Notes: As usual, the problem is people assuming that the rental profit from locations belongs to the landowner when in a moral universe it belongs to those creating it, which is the surrounding society. Further, nobody made the earth, everybody needs some part of her, and enjoying an equal right to life we all have an equal right to land. If we were to use government to recover then disburse equitably the socially-generated value of land — and to not tax and subsidize willy-nilly — then the rise in site value would be a boon to us all, no matter what its cause: tourists, Air(mattress)BnB, or locals hitting the jackpot.
This 2014 excerpt of CorpWatch, Feb 12th, is by Pratap Chatterjee and it also appeared at OpEd News.
Three top executives at Anglo Irish bank are on trial for a secret scheme to buy their own bank’s shares. The bankers allegedly hatched the plan to cover up bets made by Sean Quinn, once Ireland’s richest man.
What the executives were doing had “potentially disastrous consequences for the entire Irish financial system.”
Ireland attracted a phenomenal amount of investment in its Celtic Tiger boom days after it set up an “offshore” tax haven named the International Financial Services Centre with a special limited-time tax rate of 10 percent. Among the beneficiaries was Anglo Irish bank, a property finance bank founded in 1964, which gained a reputation for lending quickly for risky local projects at a higher rate of interest that in turn swelled its profits. One of the ways that Anglo was able to grow exponentially was because it often accepted one mortgaged property as collateral for the next, a scheme not unlike a house of cards.
Over the course of a decade, beginning in 1994, house prices in Ireland rose five fold and by 2007 even Irish farm land was worth €66,000 ($88,000) per hectare, the highest in Europe. Ireland was soon building more than seven times as many houses per capita as the U.K. and the Irish had borrowed twice as much as their gross national product. At the time one in five workers in Ireland was employed in the construction industry, and lending to the sector totaled 28 percent of all lending (compared to 8 percent in the rest of Europe).
One notable beneficiary of this was Irish entrepreneur Sean Quinn, who started his career in 1973 quarrying gravel on his family farm, who eventually built a fortune in manufacturing by undercutting his competitors. In 2008, Quinn was the wealthiest man in all of Ireland, worth €4.722 billion ($6.13 billion)
At the time, Quinn had quietly built up a 29.3 per cent ownership stake in Anglo Irish by buying an exotic financial instrument called contracts for difference (CFD) that essentially involved gambling that the bank’s share price would rise. Quinn made his bets in secret, using a bank registered in Madeira to invest a total of €3.2 billion ($4.4 billion) in Anglo Irish beginning in 2006.
When share prices in the bank started to fall in March 2008, bank executives discovered that Quinn was effectively the biggest shareholder in the bank. Panic stricken, they decided to lend money to ten wealthy people – who have been dubbed the Maple Ten based on the name for the scheme drawn up by Morgan Stanley – to buy a large chunk of Quinn’s shares from him in the hope that would stabilize their value.
The problem was that since the Maple Ten had borrowed money from the bank itself so when the share price continued to collapse, the bank lost its own money.
They had legal opinion from MOP (law firm Matheson Ormsby Prentice) and that the financial regulator was aware of it, and the Central Bank, everyone, was aware of it, and they wanted it done.
When Anglo Irish teetered on the brink of complete collapse later that year, the Irish government pumped €30 billion ($33.8 billion) of taxpayers’ money into it. The following year, Anglo Irish was nationalized and in February 2013, the bank was liquidated, essentially writing off the taxpayer’s money. Meanwhile the government of Ireland has been forced to borrow €67.5 billion from the European Union and International Monetary Fund to cover the losses caused by the collapse of the national economy.
Ed. Notes: Good to see some top dogs face jail time potentially. But what’s overlooked is such scams happen every business cycle. The problem, this cycle — which is really the real estate cycle — is too long for most people to notice, being 18 years. What’s also overlooked is that the value is not in any building but in the land or location. And finally, most people don’t notice that the value of locations is generated by the presence of society, so it’s fair for society’s government to recover this surplus value. If government we to tax land value or charge land dues or recover site value by whatever mechanism, then it’d no longer be available for speculators, and such scams could not occur; why would any speculator bother? So, instead of one billion grabbing for all that rising land value, society should, and put an end to both such scandals and a roller-coaster real estate cycle.
The Economics of Star Trek — The Proto-Post Scarcity Economy
This excerpt of Medium, either late 2013, late December, or early 2014, January or February, is one of their Editor’s Picks by Rick Webb.
People can get paid doing zero work. We have the capacity to feed everyone, even if we don’t have the will. It’s not a matter of scarcity; it’s a matter of the organization of labor and capital.
In today’s terms, a ‘healthy’ economy now is one at or near full employment. A healthy economy now is one where everyone has a job. But in abundance, jobs are actually unrelated to a healthy economy. Everyone’s fed and housed and tons of people simply don’t need to work. Right now, we have them working making stuff we don’t need. Is that any better than them not working?
It seems pretty clear cut that jobs are optional. The Federation is based on a philosophy of self improvement and cultural enrichment. We’ve never seen people who sit around and literally do nothing, but then why would we?
The big challenge here is how does society get someone to do the menial jobs that cannot be done in an automated manner. Why would anyone? There are really only two options: there is some small, incremental increase in your hypothetical maximum consumption, thus appealing to the subconscious in some primal way, or massive societal pressure has ennobled those jobs in a way that we don’t these days.
Private ownership still exists — the biggest examples are Sisko’s restaurant and Chateau Picard. The Maquis routinely refer to “our land,” which they presumably owned. Some spaceships were privately owned. Finally, Captain Kirk says in the Nexus, “This is my house. I sold it years ago.”
Star Trek is, essentially, European socialist capitalism vastly expanded to the point where no one has to work unless they want to. The amount of welfare benefits available to all citizens is in excess of the needs of the citizens. Therefore, money is irrelevant to the lives of the citizenry, whether it exists or not. Resources are still accounted for and allocated in some manner, presumably by the amount of energy required to produce them (say Joules). And they are indeed credited to and debited from each citizen’s “account.” However, the average citizen doesn’t even notice it, though the government does, and again, it is not measured in currency units — definitely not Federation Credits.
If robots do all the dirty work, and the US is hugely rich, does every single person really need a job? Are we going to let all of that money pile up in the 0.1% ruling elite, or can it be distributed to everyone? Does wealth being distributed to the people in an equal manner mean communism absolutely? What happens when the surplus is more than enough?
Ed. Notes: Outsiders buying up homeland happens all the time in Africa and elsewhere. America is not exempt from that and, actually, never has been. Because we humans are land animals and have the instinct of ownership, and feel upset by trespassers, our hackles rise when the rich land-grabber is a foreigner but don’t even care when the absentee owner is a fellow countryman. Nationality (the horizontal dimension) matters but class (the vertical dimension) doesn’t count.
But in reality, investor owners won’t make different decisions; being from here or there won’t change any minds about preferring big agri-business, factory farms, selecting crops that travel well and can sit on shelves for long periods, using GMOs, mechanizing and automating with hot fertilizers, over-irrigating and thereby depleting the ground water, etc.
If people could care as much about sharing rents, making land value into our common wealth, rather than about the home address of absentee owners, then these downstream issues would no longer plague us. So how do we tie instinct to geonomics?
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 study of a phenomenon David Ricardo noted going on two centuries ago. When wine grapes rise to $10,000 a ton from the very best land (last year, cabernet sauvignon commanded an average of $4,021 a ton in the Napa Valley), then vineyard prices soar from $18,000 an acre in the 1980′s to $100,000 an acre five years ago and now for a top pedigree up to $300,000 an acre (The New York Times, April 9, via Wyn Achenbaum). Pricey land does not make wine pricey; spendy wine makes land spendy. While vintners make their wine tasty, nature and society in general – not any lone owner – make land desireable. Steve Kerch of CBS’s MarketWatch (April 5) notes that much of what a home sells for on the open market is a reflection of intangible factors such as what school district the house sits in. The price the builder has to pay for the land also tends to be driven by the same intangibles. Because the value of land comes from society, and because one’s use excludes the rest of society, each user owes all others compensation, and is owed compensation by everyone else. Sharing land’s value, instead of taxing one’s efforts, is the policy of geonomics.
a manual. The world did not come without a way for people to prosper, and the planet to heal and stay well; that way is geonomics. Economies are part of the ecosystem. Both generate surpluses and follow self-regulating feedback loops. A cycle like the Law of Supply and Demand is one of the economy’s on/off loops. Our spending for land and resources – things that nobody made and everybody needs – constitutes our society’s surplus. Those profits without production (remember, nobody produced Earth) can become our commonwealth. To share it, we could pay land dues in to the public treasury (wouldn’t oil companies love that?) and get rent dividends back, a la Alaska’s oil dividend. Doing so let’s us axe taxes and jettison subsidies. Taxes and subsidies distort price (the DNA of exchange), violate quid pro quo by benefiting the well-connected more than anyone else, reinforce hierarchy of state over citizen, and are costly to administer (you don’t really need so much bureaucracy, do you?). Conversely, land dues motivate people to not waste sites, resources, and the ecosystem while rent dividends motivate people to not waste themselves. Receiving this income supplement – a Citizens Dividend – people can invest in their favorite technology or outgrow being “economan” and shrink their overbearing workweek in order to enjoy more time with family, friends, community, and nature. Then in all that free time, maybe we could figure out just what we are here for.
a new policy from a new perspective. Once your worldview shifts — so that vacant city lots are no longer invisible — then epiphany. “Of course! Why didn’t I see it before?” Once you do see the emptiness and what damage it does, how can you ever go back to the old paradigm?
a way to redirect all the money we spend on the nature we use – trillions of dollars annually. We can’t pay the Creator of sites and resources and are mistaken to pay their owners this biggest stream in our economy. Instead, as owners we should pay our neighbors for respecting our claims to land. Owners could pay in land dues to the public treasury, a la Sydney Australia’s land tax, and residents could get back a “rent” dividend, a la Alaska’s oil dividend. We’d pay for owning sites, resources, EM spectrum, or emitting pollutants into the ecosphere, then get a fair share of the recovered revenue. The economy would finally have a thermostat, the dividend. When it’s small, people would work more; when it’s big, they’d work less. Sharing Earth’s worth, we could jettison counterproductive taxes and addictive subsidies. Prices would become precise; things like sprawl, sprayed food, gasoline engines, coal-burning plants would no longer seem cheap; things like compact towns, organic foods, fuel cells, and solar powers would become affordable. Getting shares, people could spend their expanded leisure socializing, making art, enjoying nature, or just chilling. Economies let us produce wealth efficiently; geonomics lets us share it fairly.
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.
close to the policy of the Garden Cities in England. Founded by Ebenezer Howard over a century ago, residents own the land in common and run the town as a business. Letchworth, the oldest of the model towns, serves residents grandly from bucketfuls of collected land rent (as does the Canadian Province of Alberta from oil royalty). A geonomic town would pay the rent to residents, letting them freely choose personalized services, and also ax taxes. Both geonomics and Howard were inspired by American proto-geonomist Henry George. The movement launched by Howard today in the UK advances the shift of taxes from buildings to locations. A recent report from the Town and Country Planning Association proposes this Property Tax Shift and their journal published research in the potential of land value taxation by Tony Vickers (Vol. 69, Part 5, 2000). (Thanks to James Robertson)
a way to connect the dots. Making the cyber rounds is “The Cavernous Divide” by Scott Klinger, from AlterNet (posted March 21): “As the number of billionaires in the world expands, so does the number of those in poverty.” Duh. The yawning income gap is not news. Nearly every issue of our quarterly digest carries a similar quote. Yet the connection was worked out long ago by one of America’s greatest thinkers, Henry George, who labeled his masterpiece, Progress and Poverty. Techno- and socio-advances always enrich few and impoverish many. Yet progress also pushes up location values – the geonomic insight (is Silicon Valley cheaper now or more expensive?). Instead of taxing income, sales, or buildings, society could collect those values of sites, resources, EM spectrum, and ecosystem services via fees and dues, which would lower the income ceiling, and instead of lavishing corporate welfare, pay out the recovered revenue via dividends, which would jack up the income floor. Dots connected.
a 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.
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?
I am not a full devotee of Henry George but there is no one in the social world that I read with more intense interest.
John Kenneth Galbraith, Letter of October 30, 1998
Be who you are and be that well.
Saint Francis de Sales
I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have gotten hold of for the moment and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before passing it to future generations.
George Bernard Shaw
It is organized violence on the top which creates individual violence at the bottom.
Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.
You better cut the pizza in four pieces because I’m not hungry enough to eat six.
No matter how bad you think it is, it’s worse.
Short seller David Einhorn on insider corruption.
Everything that you are against weakens you; everything that you are for empowers you.
You see things; and you say, ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say, “Why not?”
George Bernard Shaw
What is the use of a house if you haven’t got a tolerable planet to put it on?