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This 2014 excerpt of Reader Supported News, Jun 27, is by Carl Gibson, 26, is co-founder of US Uncut. Carl and other US Uncut activists are featured in the documentary “We’re Not Broke,” which premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.
Through four Congressional committees — foreign relations, armed services, homeland security, and “defense” appropriations — $300 billion in taxpayer dollars, which is roughly $2000 per taxpayer, went to private military contractors in 2013.
Between the two of them, Senators McCain and Durbin received more than $300,000 in campaign contributions from contractors. Members of the Senate who voted YES for military intervention in Syria received 83 percent more in campaign donations from military contractors than those who voted NO.
Contractors hire expensive lawyers with connections in government.
The Hogan Lovell law firm, where Chief Justice John Roberts previously worked before joining the Supreme Court, explicitly boasts on its website about its expertise in helping corporate clients worm their way through the regulatory system.
Justice Antonin Scalia worked in the Jones Day law firm before Ronald Reagan appointed him to the Supreme Court. Jones Day’s client list includes war profiteers like Bechtel, General Electric, and Verizon.
In 2010, both Scalia and Roberts voted to establish money as speech in the Citizens United vs. FEC decision, which allowed for corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money influencing elections. Recently, both justices voted that aggregate limits on individual campaign donations are unconstitutional in McCutcheon vs. FEC.
Contact Carl Gibson at email@example.com and follow him on twitter at @uncutCG. See source
Ed. Notes: The money that corporations spend on office holders is not to persuade anybody, since they all have the same values and worldview, but to keep flow of public money to each player flowing ever faster. There is no political solution. Reformers want electoral campaigns to be publicly funded, but the nations already doing that still wage war and waste public revenue.
But there is an economic solution. That is, let citizens spend public money by having government disburse a dividend. And don’t let government tax whatever it wants but only recover socially generated values (don’t tax earnings, purchases, or buildings but rather charge polluters, resource depleters, and land displacers).
Once politicians can’t grant favors, nobody will want to lobby them. Then we can abolish corporate welfare and deny rent-seeking. There won’t be anyone unduly rich to try to influence the power structure left. Such geonomic reform begins not by focusing on one’s opponents but on a vision of how to run things right. Share the common wealth!
This 2014 excerpt of the Washington Post, Jun 27, is by Jaime Fuller.
According to a new Pew survey, 62 percent of Americans think that the economic system unfairly favors the powerful, and 78 percent think that too much power is concentrated in too few companies. The discontent isn’t limited to liberals; 69 percent of young conservative-leaning voters and 48 percent of the most conservative voters agree that the system favors the powerful.
Business conservatives hold vastly different views of the American economic system than most Americans. Two-thirds of business conservatives think the economic system is fair to most people, and 57 percent think that large companies do not have too much power.
Business conservatives’ confidence in the economic system might differ from everyone else, but business conservatives are politically active enough to make a big impression on politicians.
Ed. Notes: Now Americans must consense on the solution: Shift from letting politicians spend our public dollars to paying citizens a dividend and shift from taxing our efforts to recovering the common wealth — the worth of Earth. Even small steps in this geonomic direction have made a big difference, whenever and wherever tried. If only geonomics had its own Senator Warren!
In a study from California, children with an autism spectrum disorder were 60% more likely to have mothers who lived close to fields treated with certain pesticides during pregnancy.
Proximity to agricultural pesticides in pregnancy was also linked to other types of developmental delay among children.
“Ours is the third study to specifically link autism spectrum disorders to pesticide exposure,” said lead author Janie F. Shelton, from the University of California, Davis.
Pesticides affect signaling between cells in the nervous system, she added, so a direct link is plausible.
California is one of only a few states in the U.S. where agricultural pesticide use is rigorously reported and mapped.
Developmental delay, in which children take extra time to reach communication, social or motor skills milestones, affects about four percent of U.S. kids. One in 68 children has an ASD, also marked by deficits in social interaction and language.
Prenatal exposure to pesticides is associated with lower IQ.
This study almost certainly underestimates the true strength of the association between pesticides and neurological problems since it did not precisely measure each individual woman’s exposure.
For city-dwelling families, instead of spraying for cockroaches every month, integrated pest management is a better choice. That approach makes chemical pesticides the last resort – first steps are to seal up cracks and crevices in the home, clean up food residue, and try relatively non-toxic options, like roach motels.
Ed. Notes: People should quit accepting as normal or OK that some pay pollute others for profit. One main culprit is the liability limits that any polluter can get from the government for just a tiny filing fee. That fee should be raised and some pollutants should not be tolerated at all.
Maybe it would help if we all got our fair share of the worth of Earth. Then we’d get more as the earth got healthier. So we would more stoutly oppose pollution.
Thousands of children are entering the US to escape threats by drug gangs and drug lords. The US has for many years exported its war on drug users to Mexico. The increasing force applied in Mexico has driven the drug dealers to Central America, and now the governments of those countries are being increasingly corrupted and destabilized.
Anti-immigrant voices in the USA are obsessed with the effects of their policies, the child migrants, and seek to strengthen immigration barriers rather than confront the causes. The children are not coming to the USA to take advantage of welfare aid. They are fleeing from physical danger.
The drug gangs in Central America are forcing teenagers to join them, or else get killed. That is how they recruit new members. That is why children are fleeing.
US immigration policy contributes to the problem. With legal immigration restricted, and paths to legal residency blocked, immigrants are forced to work in the underground economy, where they are vulnerable to being arrested by the immigration authorities. The undocumented persons then become victims of extortion rackets. Traffickers tell parents that their children left behind in the home country are in danger, and demand money to bring them into the USA. But often the children are abandoned in the desert or used to carry drugs.
The US government is telling the Mexican government to do more to stop children from entering Mexico. But when a child’s parents have been killed in the drug war, and the children are threatened with death, they will swim across rivers, trek through jungles, and cross deserts to save their lives. The US government is committing policy child abuse by refusing to remedy the causes.
Now US government officials are offering the Central American governments aid to programs to keep children in their home country. But until the violence stops, children will not stay in a school where the drug gangs will kill them or make them miserable.
The only way to stop this tragedy is to end the war on drug users and to legalize immigration. Children are not being victimized in the production and sale of alcohol, because it is legal. When a substance is legal, there is a competitive market, and profits are competed down to normal. There is advertizing, and goods can be transported and traded at normal costs.
When a substance is illegal, we get turf wars and coerced children. The criminal systems treat minors with special care, especially when they have been forced to help criminals. Therefore, the drug lords use helpless children, who are also more dependent on adults.
Besides decriminalizing drugs, as Portugal has done successfully, the US should legalize the immigration of all persons who are not threats. US policy has created violence in Latin America, and then the US refuses entry to the victims of that violence.
Critics of immigration claim that the new residents take jobs from American citizens. This claim has been disproved by economic studies. But immigrants would be even less dependent on governmental welfare if labor were fully legalized. It is illegal even for American citizens to freely engage in labor in the USA; the penalty for labor is a levy on the wages earned. When labor is fully legal, it is free of any tax or minimum wage law. A tax on wages has an excess burden or deadweight loss, making it a penalty for working.
In this way, three deeply unjust policies have created the crisis of immigrant children. First, the prohibition of drugs drives the industry towards drug lords and gangs that enslave children, who seek escape by emigrating. Secondly, anti-immigration policies make children have to suffer long and dangerous trips without protection, to evade immigration controls, and risk getting deported. Third, the children are not allowed to work, work opportunities for undocumented adults are limited, and legal labor is suppressed with heavy taxes.
One hundred years ago, prior to World War I, the US did not suffer this inflow of children. The causes were absent. There was no war on drugs, there were no immigration barriers, and there was no tax on wages. Millions of immigrants entered legally, became employed, and contributed to American prosperity. Now we have a declining labor participation rate, drug violence, and a big immigration problem. Our technology is better, but smarter phones will not save us from fundamentally bad government policy.
This 2014 excerpt of Aeon, Jun 23, is by Andrew Crumey.
In nearly every era there arises, in some form, nearly every idea of which humans are capable. Certainly, there is the emergence of new ideas. However, the vast majority of ideas are recycled.
It is not hard to find fossilised ideas all around us. We still say that the sun rises and sets, or that we cast a glance over a page, though we know that the Earth rotates and rays come into our eyes, not out of them.
There are an awful lot of present-day theoretical physicists whose untestable ideas about superstrings or multiverses possibly put them in the same category as the jocular British pop-astrologer Russell Grant.
Intuition, however, could be considered revelation by a more secular name. We willingly attribute it to discoverers and innovators of all kinds – as long as their guesses are right.
The standard model of elementary particles grew out of studies of ‘symmetry groups’, an area of mathematics related to Kepler’s geometrical exercises. In each case, the idea was the same: start with a concept of mathematical symmetry and try to make it match reality.
The harmony of the spheres also has its counterpart in modern-day superstring theory, which supposes particles to correspond to those same vibrations that captivated the Pythagoreans, though, after more than 30 years of intensive study, the theory has yet to make a single prediction borne out by experiment.
An ‘occult force’, in Newton’s terms, was any hidden principle not directly observable in phenomena, and his opponents claimed that his version of gravitation was itself an occult force since it assumed some mysterious ‘action at a distance’. An analogous situation was thought by some to arise in quantum theory, leading to what Albert Einstein allegedly disparaged as ‘spooky action at a distance’.
Newton sought the original unit of length. In a different way, so do today’s physicists, though rather than cubits they speak of the ‘Planck length’, a unit determined by some juggling with fundamental values such as the speed of light and the gravitational constant.
The recurrence of ideas over the course of history is something that Jung or Pauli would have attributed to archetypes in the collective unconscious. An alternative would be the finiteness of human imagination, and susceptibility to cultural influence. While scientific theories can become increasingly technical and abstract, the brains that struggle to interpret their meaning haven’t evolved much in the past 50,000 years. If our own brain is a kind of living fossil, it’s hardly surprising that so much of what we do with it is metaphorically fossilised too.
Ed. Notes: So what’s new under the sun? Not much. Some ideas re-occur — as if they were behind their times — just as other ideas first appear, often without being accepted — as if they are ahead of their time. At least the re-occurence of good old ideas gives them another chance of being accepted, just as at last geonomics is gaining ground, over a century after Georgism, which which was over a century after phyiocracy, which was a century after Locke, Spinoza, William Penn, etc, and all of them were millennia after Confucius and Mencius.
This 2014 excerpt of BBC, May 15, by Jonathan Webb.
Researchers have developed a collection of new plastics that are recyclable and adaptable – and the discovery began with a laboratory mistake.
They include strong, stiff plastics and flexible gels that can mend themselves if torn.
Dr Jeanette Garcia, from IBM’s Almaden Research Center in San Jose, stumbled upon the first new class of thermosets in many years when she accidentally left one of three components out of a reaction.
That chunk of plastic, produced from unexpectedly simple ingredients, proved to be tremendously hard and stable. Crucially, it could be digested in acid, reverting to its original components. This digestion reaction allows the chemical building blocks, or monomers, to be reused.
All previous “thermosets”, like the Bakelite found in old telephones and radios, were not recyclable.
Because they are strong and light-weight, thermosets are used throughout modern cars and aircraft, often mixed with carbon fibres to form composites. The new plastics could reduce waste from aircraft materials. When a large or expensive component is damaged or reaches the end of its useful life, it could be repaired or recycled instead of thrown away.
As well as very hard and durable plastics, the researchers adapted their procedure to a different monomer and produced flexible, self-healing gels. These could be useful in anything from cosmetics, to paint, to the design of drug capsules, because of their particular solubility properties.
Ed. Notes: Industry catches up to kindergartners who know to clean up after themselves. As the environment becomes more livable again, it will cost more to live in it. Hence we better have progress in social policy to match the progress in materials technology. That is, we should make the higher land values into a boon for everyone by recovering and sharing them, in lieu of taxation and wasteful spending. It’s called geonomics and aligns the needs of Earth with those of humanity.
This 2014 excerpt of Daily Kos, Jun 20, is by Hunter, a blogger there.
According to a new poll 47 percent of us aren’t monsters.
In 1995, in the midst of a raging political debate about welfare and poverty, less than a third of poll respondents said people were in poverty because of issues beyond their control. At that time, a majority said that poverty was caused by character flaws, by “people not doing enough.” Now, nearly half of respondents, 47 percent, attribute poverty to factors other than individual initiative.
In hard economic times, people become more sympathetic to the poor. About half us recognize that there are things that can make you poor —- from simple lack of opportunity to medical crises to local economic conditions to a not-very-long string of bad luck —- that do not stem from a simple case of insufficient bootstrap-pulling.
Ed. Notes: Perhaps next, a majority of Americans will accept the cure for poverty, which is distributing the common wealth fairly, rather than let a 1% hog most of it. To accomplish that, we’d all pay in land dues and get back rent dividends, swollen by the values of locations downtown, oil fields, the EM spectrum, etc. The land dues could replaces counterproductive taxes, the dividends could replace wasteful subsidies. Most people would come out way ahead. We’d be free to work as much as we want, at what we love, and to deveop our talents in anyway we want.
These two 2014 excerpts on LVT, Jun 26, are of NICVA by Elizabeth Hendron and of The Guardian by Simon Goodley and Leila Haddou.
Tax Land, Not Houses
NICVA’s Centre for Economic Empowerment has launched a new report into the feasibility of introducing a land value tax in Northern Ireland.
Under the current system of taxation, charges are levied on land and the improvements – typically buildings – together, with no distinction made between the two.
Under a system of Land Value Tax, the charges would be levied on the land only, with improvements subject to zero or minimal taxation. If introduced it could mean that land bought by developers but not developed, and agricultural land could be taxed for the first time.
This would shift the burden of real estate taxation towards less productive activities, particularly speculation on land, which is a major source of property bubbles. LVT would be a progressive tax, with the most deprived paying least.
Seamus McAleavey, chief executive of NICVA said, “House prices in Northern Ireland are on the rise again. As before, this has been widely welcomed as an indication of economic progress. It is important to ensure that any price rises are a sustainable result of real economic growth, rather than speculation. In this context, this report is crucial reading.”
Inflated property values merely increase indebtedness and reduce economic output.
People who have low incomes and modest homes should continue to receive rates relief, as currently applied. People with low incomes but with expensive properties could defer payment until the property is sold.
Tesco, the UK’s largest supermarket chain, is hoarding land and buildings covering an area big enough to build 15,000 homes, a Guardian analysis has revealed.
While the aggregate size of Tesco’s land bank could theoretically be used to build many homes, it is distributed across Britain, with some plots likely to be unsuitable for housing.
Some of the portfolio is residential property or rented to other retailers, but the majority is undeveloped. Tesco last year said its UK property empire was worth £20bn.
The hoarding of development land for long periods has also drawn criticism in the house building sector – which owns far larger plots of land than the supermarkets.
Fred Harrison, an economist who has called for land to be taxed as if the sites were in use, added: “Given there is a market demand for it and we know the value, you can charge the owners for the public services that make the land valuable. Then they lose money if they just sit on it with no revenue”.
This 2014 excerpt of Lebanon’s Alakhbar, Jun 17, by Alain Tabourian, industrialist, Minister of Energy and Water from 2008 to 2009, and graduate of the Harvard Business School.
I do not see any future for industry in Lebanon, and definitely not a world-class industry.
Private investors who enter into partnership with the public sector in an unstable region of the world assume a Weighted Average Cost Of Capital (WACC) of 15 to 20 percent.
Still, a major international company reached out to us for collaboration on establishing a world-class production unit in the food industry, which would have employed 1,000 people. It was found not to be feasible due to the high price of agricultural land, which was about 10 to 20 times the global average.
High land prices here have no corresponding economic justifications. Who could believe that our locations produce 10 to 20 times more than elsewhere?
High hotel room rates keeps Lebanon off the global tourism market.
Everything has high prices because of excess liquidity that has no room to be invested productively except in inflating bank deposits or buying up real estate. Acquisition of real estate does not result in any cost. A person may keep a piece of land for 30 or 40 years without paying any fees, then sell it at a huge profit without paying any tax.
Investors in the real economy bear many risks even as they employ people. If these investors profit, they pay taxes, first on profits, and second on distribution. Is that fair? Does this encourage productive investments?
The solution is not to increase tariffs. Doing so would reduce the consumers’ purchasing power, reducing their demand for the rest of goods and services, and subsequently, cause the entire economy to contract.
The rentier economy is also directly responsible for the migration of our young people. The Lebanese economy does not create enough value-added jobs that can accommodate the capacities of educated young people.
These young people send remittances to support their families. Meanwhile, we import low-wage workers for simple jobs, and these workers in turn send a large part of their incomes to their home countries.
We had a war that caused widespread destruction, and we had to rebuild. We benefited from external cash inflows, which drove consumption up. At the same time, oil prices rose, and the incomes of Lebanese expatriates improved, increasing the size of their remittances to Lebanon. Of course, the energy bill skyrocketed, but money was available to pay it thanks to remittances. We also benefited from the global debt crisis of 2008, which reduced interests to zero in the major economies, reducing the cost of our debt and increasing the flow of capital. However, all these factors are precarious.
Ed. Notes: It is painfully ironic that economic troubles are easy to solve logically and hard to solve politically. Imagine if Lebanon taxed land or instituted land dues; there goes speculation and the inflated price for locations. Imagine if Lebanon repealed taxes on wages and on profits from actual output; there goes the scarcity of capital as domestic savings and investments from outside pile up. Imagine if Lebanon did not subsidize any industry or product, not even fuel for heating homes; there goes waste to be replaced by upgrading the means of production. Make these geonomic reforms and maybe Lebanon could lead the Middle East to peace and prosperity.
This 2014 excerpt of the New York Times, Jun 17, is by Michael Forsythe.
President Xi Jinping of China has been pushing his own family to sell hundreds of millions of dollars in investments. If he doesn’t do this, it is very hard for him to convince other elite families to be more self-disciplined.
Xi’s sister Qi Qiaoqiao and brother-in-law Deng Jiagui sold investments in at least 10 companies worth hundreds of millions of dollars, including their 50 percent stake in a Beijing investment company they had set up in partnership with a state-owned bank.
Even while Mr. Xi’s relatives were selling off assets, those calling publicly for more disclosure have been jailed. The websites of The Times and Bloomberg, which have both reported on elite shareholdings, have been blocked in China for many months.
Relatives of the Politburo elite are deeply enmeshed in the state-driven business culture of the country. They have accumulated billions of dollars in assets, including company shares and real estate, in the past decade as China’s economy has boomed. Many of the investments are in areas such as mining, infrastructure, and property that involve the privatization of formerly state-owned assets.
At least four families among the nine-man Politburo Standing Committee that ruled the country from 2007 to 2012 each owned or controlled documented assets in excess of $150 million, including relatives of Xi, former Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, Zhou, and Jia Qinglin (the former fourth-ranked party member).
Deng through a Shanghai holding company owned more than one-sixth of a rare-earth mining company that reported assets of about $2.1 billion. Rare earths go into critical components in electric cars and wind turbines.
Qinchuan was set up in the weeks after Xi ascended to the Politburo Standing Committee in 2007 with $2.7 million in investments, ballooning to $156 million four years later. Deng and Qi did not sell three of its most valuable assets held by Qinchuan, including two infrastructure companies in the city of Xiangyang in Hubei Province. The three assets are together worth at least $234 million.
On Oct. 8, ownership of Qinchuan itself was transferred out of the family and into the hands of a longtime business associate, Xu Zaisheng. Qi, her husband Deng, and her daughter Zhang Yannan still hold tens of millions of dollars in company shares and real estate, including a villa overlooking Hong Kong’s exclusive Repulse Bay.
Surging income inequality in China is among the highest in the world and far greater than in Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan: neighbors that, unlike China, do not have Communist roots.
Ed. Notes: These details from China show how government creates fortunes, a universal process, that happens in all times and places, even in so-called market economies. In the US, investors and politicians both got rich off railroads. Oil companies, thru their lobbyists and the banks they spun off, enriched helpful politicians along with the businessmen. Governments paid for paving roads which made it possible to sell millions of cars. Governments bought millions of desktop computers and developed the internet, paving the way for fortunes to be made in Silicon Valley. If government is to have a role in industry, then the resultant profit should go to the public. Or better yet, politicians should not give or receive favor from any players in the business world.
This 2014 excerpt of Wired, Jun 12, is by Jordan Golson.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced that his company will not “initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology.” In plain English, that means that if other car companies want to produce electric cars, they can use Tesla’s technology to do it.
Of course, Tesla wants to make and sell electric cars (it exists to make a profit, theoretically), but in order to do that on a large scale, the company needs to move past the niche markets that the Model S currently plays in. They need the public to stop thinking of them as electric cars and to start thinking of them simply as cars.
“They need to see Americans … at least be open to switching to an electric vehicle lifestyle,” Kelly Blue Book analyst Karl Brauer said. By themselves, “they’re never going to convert the average American into an electric car fan, even with great press and great publicity.” A $90,000 electric car for celebrities and the Silicon Valley elite isn’t going to save the world.
At the moment, the Model S is the only electric car that acts as a true replacement for a more traditional gasoline-powered automobile, with its 200+ mile range and network of rapid charging stations that stretches from coast-to-coast across 96 stations in the US, with dozens more coming in North America, Europe and Asia. Not enough people are interested in electric cars with 70-100 miles of range, as Nissan and others are discovering.
If other automakers begin using Tesla’s technology, it increases the value of the company and its inventions. Tesla has hundreds of patents, but if the company goes bust because not enough people buying electric cars, they’re all meaningless. Tesla needs widespread adoption of electric cars and the easiest way to do that is to get other automakers to sell them too.
Ed. Notes: This is not the only time that it’s not a good idea for an inventor to hoard his discovered knowledge. Actually, it’s rarely a good idea. Patents and copyrights don’t protect inventors so much as they benefit corporations who use the legalisms to post “no trespassing” signs on the field of knowledge, hampering the spread of good ideas.
Competition and cooperation work best together, not apart. More beneficial to inventors is getting a head-start in business, establishing a brand identity, and capturing huge market share (see Apple).
Of course, inventors deserve to be rewarded for their useful creations. But is owning and hoarding knowledge the best way to do that? Preventing everyone else from using a good idea when they’re not the first to realize it?
Should ownership go on forever? Should the descendants of Newton be paid every time somebody uses calculus? Should no one ever repeat a joke without paying the person who first told it?
Does the first person who stepped on the moon own the moon? Nope. Not unless they compensate everyone else who also wants to and can visit the moon. That’s what makes owning land — or ideas — proper … or “property”, and that is compensating those excluded. Pay the rental value of land, or of knowledge, to society and it is yours … for as long as you keep paying your neighbors (as they’ll be paying you in your harmonious geonomy).
This 2014 excerpt of Fortune, Jun 10, is by Chris Matthews.
When we think of government corruption, our biased minds often gravitate to thoughts of military juntas and third world governments. But corruption is everywhere, in one form or another. And it’s costing U.S. citizens big time.
Corruption on the state level is costing Americans in the 10 most corrupt states an average of $1,308 per year, or 5.2% of those states’ average expenditures per year.
Between 1976 and 2008, there have been more than 25,000 convictions of public officials for violation of federal corruption laws. Further, state spending reveals patterns of corruption.
Based on these data, the the most corrupt states are:
8. South Dakota
Mississippi and Louisiana are some of the least economically developed states in the country. Illinois and Pennsylvania are part of the Rust Belt. Alaska is resource rich.
For 9 out of the 10 of the most corrupt states, overall state spending was higher than in less corrupt states (South Dakota was the only exception). Attacking corruption could bring down state spending without hurting programs that benefit people.
Spending in these states was different than their less corrupt counterparts; it favors construction, salaries, borrowing, correction, and police protection at the expense of schools and hospitals.
Construction spending, especially on big infrastructure projects, is particularly susceptible to corruption because the industry is dominated by a few monopolistic, well-connected firms. Corrupt states also have more and better paid public employees, including police and correctional officers, who may have more to do where residents are kept poor.
The least corrupt states are: Oregon, Washington, Minnesota, Nebraska, Iowa, Vermont, Utah, New Hampshire, Colorado, and Kansas. All are in the North, are either mountainous or prairie, and several are play states.
Ed. Notes: Government officials can’t be corrupt if they can’t spend public money. There is no good reason to continue to allow them to enjoy this ppwer. The budget could be put on the ballot and bonds could be offered for sale for infrastructure projects; if they don’t sell, the project dies. If we could clean up public spending, then next we could correct taxation. And once we straighten out the state and local governments, then we could shape up the federal government … and finally live in a citizen-friendly nation — a geocracy!
This 2014 excerpt of Weekly Wastebasket, Jun 06, is by Taxpayers for Common Sense.
With the near-trillion dollar farm bill now law, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) shovels out cash for at least 55 new programs, reports, and studies for everything from catfish inspection and cotton trust funds to studying the marketability of U.S. Atlantic Spiny Dogfish and conservation of the Lesser Prairie Chicken.
Instead of eliminating wasteful, outdated, and ineffective programs, the farm bill created a whole new alphabet soup of agribusiness income entitlement programs – Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC), Supplemental Coverage Option (SCO), Price Loss Coverage (PLC), and Stacked Income Protection (STAX) to name a few.
These programs only add more waste to highly subsidized crop insurance for more than 120 crops; this number will soon balloon as Congressional mandates for “priorities” such as sugarcane, swine, and sorghum (used as a bioenergy crop).
USDA just dispensed $6 million to universities, extension offices, and even a crop insurance consultant to create “decision tools and educational materials” designed to tell producers [who mainly now are not families but corporations] to squeeze the most money out of the programs.
USDA is delaying enrollment until spring 2015 so producers will be picking their “safety net” for their 2014 crops after they’ve already harvested and sold them. It’s like being able to make your poker bet after you’ve seen everyone else’s cards.
Ed. Notes: You really must rein in your politicians if ever you’re to save money and save land. Real farmers don’t need subsidies. All they need is zero taxes and fines upon fake farmers who ruin land and raise crops of low nutritional value.
Farmers, by living in the country, enjoy one huge advantage over others — the land rent they pay is much less per acre than that paid by people leasing city land. If everyone paid land rent into the public treasury and got a rent share back, country folk would come out way ahead, compared to urban dwellers.
Then maybe farmland could catch a long needed rest.
This 2014 excerpt of the New Economics Party, Jun 6, is by Deirdre Kent.
Like the formation of a river from the small streams to the river to the sea, create a new national currency at Local Board level and pass it up the line. Then the monetary authority, in conjunction with the monetary authorities of the supercities and the government, would make sure the local board did not issue more money than it was allowed, as inflation must be kept strictly under control.
We aim to move to a tax system that taxes the monopoly use of the commons rather than labour and sales. Some revenue will be distributed as a Citizens Dividend to all citizens who have lived there for a year or more, the rest will be shared by all levels of government.
Government pays you for your land, and the title of your property then bears a covenant, an obligation to pay a ground rent from then on, whoever owns the land. The tenure is for a lifetime, with rights that your descendants can get the next lease.
Land rents are stable over time. When there is a major event like an earthquake they decline or when a railway is put in or a labour intensive business arrives they rise more than just a tiny bit.
Councils and Government should never sell land. They should keep it and auction the leases to the highest bidder, then share that revenue with the public (via a Citizens Dividend) and the central government. This should be entrenched in law.
This 2014 excerpt of Dirt Diggers Digest, May 29, is by Phil Mattera.
More than half of corporate miscreants (146 of 269, or 54 percent) have received state and local subsidies. These include cases in which the awards went to the firm’s parent or a “sibling” firm. The total value of the awards comes to more than $25 billion.
A large portion of that total ($13 billion) comes from a single company — Boeing, which is not only the largest recipient of subsidies among corporate miscreants but is also the largest recipient among all firms. Boeing made the Justice Department list by virtue of a 2006 non-prosecution agreement under which it paid $615 million to settle criminal and civil charges that it improperly used competitors’ information to procure contracts for launch services worth billions of dollars from the U.S. Air Force and NASA.
Not all the subsidies came after that case was announced. In the period since 2006, Boeing has received “only” about $9.8 billion.
The other biggest subsidy recipients on the list are as follows:
Fiat (parent of Chrysler): $2.1 billion
Royal Dutch Shell (parent of Shell Nigeria): $2.0 billion
Toyota: $1.1 billion
Google: $751 million
JPMorgan Chase: $653 million
Altogether, there are 26 parents on the DOJ list that have received $100 million or more in subsidies. As with Boeing’s $13 billion figure, the amounts for many of the companies include subsidies received before as well as after their settlement.
Ed. Notes: Soon’s you get tired of such corruption, let’s put a stop to it. Quit letting politicians subsidize anybody. And quit fining the corporation but instead punish the CEOs and managers making the decisions.
If not subsidizing, government could save so much public revenue it could climb out of the red. The biggest “subsidy” is letting corporations keep “rents” (society’s payments for land, resources, etc). Once government recovers those socially-generated values, it could not just end counterproductive taxes but even pay citizens a dividend!
If corporations can’t profit when not getting taxed on creating value and when people are endowed handsomely in order to become customers, then the corporation deserves to go broke.
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.
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.
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?
as unfamiliar as geo-economics. The latter is a course some universities offer that combines geography and economics. A UN newsletter, Go Between (57, Apr/May ’96; thanks, Pat Aller), cited an Asian conference on geopolitics and “geoeconomics”. The abbreviated term ‘geonomics” is the name of an institute on Middlebury College campus and of a show on CNBC. Both entities use the neologism to mean “global economics”, in particular world trade. We use geonomics entirely differently, to refer to the money people spend on the nature they use, how letting this flow collect in a few pockets creates class and poverty and assaults upon the environment, and how, on the other hand, sharing this rental flow creates equality, prosperity, and a people/planet harmony. This flow of natural rent, several trillions dollars in the US each year, shapes society and belongs to society.
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.
a scientific look at how we divvy up the work and the wealth, how some of us end up with too much or too little effort or reward. That’s partly due to Ricardo’s Law of Rent, showing how wasteful use of Earth cuts wages. And it’s partly due to how a society’s elite runs government around like water boys, dishing out subsidies and tax breaks. While geonomists look political reality right in the eye, without blinking, conventional economists flinch. When Paul Volcker, ex-chief of the Federal Reserve, moved on to a cushy professorship at Princeton cum book contract, the crush of deadlines bore down. So Volcker asked a junior associate to help with the book. The guy refused, explaining that giving serious consideration to policy would ruin his academic career. The ex-Fed chief couldn’t believe it and asked the department chair if truly that were the case. That head honcho pondered the question then replied no, not if he only does it once. And economics was AKA political economy!
what you do when you see economies as part of the ecosystem, following feedback loops and storing up energy. Surplus energy – fat or profit – enables us to produce and reproduce. To recycle society’s surplus, the commonwealth, geonomics would replace taxes with land dues (charged to users of sites and resources, in-cluding the EM spectrum, and extra to polluters), and replace subsidies with rent dividends to citizens (a la Alaska’s oil dividend). Without taxes and subsidies to distort them, prices become precise, reflect accurately our costs and values; then, motivated by no more than the bottom line, both producers and consumers make sustainable choices. While no place uses geonomics in its entirety, some places use parts of it, most notably a shift of the property tax off buildings, onto locations. Shifting the property tax drives efficient use of land, in-fills cities, improves the housing stock, makes homes affordable, engenders jobs and investment opportunities, lowers crime, raises civic participation, etc – overall it makes cities more livable. Geonomics – a way to share the bounty of nature and society – is something we can work for locally, globally, and in between.
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.
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.