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 The Law School Tuition Bubble, Apr 21, is by Matt Leichter.
Anthropologist David Graeber is probably best known for writing the 2011 book Debt: The First 5,000 Years. Last summer he penned “On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs,” which posited as a general rule that “the more obviously one’s work benefits other people, the less one is likely to be paid for it.” Jobs like nurses, cooks, and fight-clubbers-who-guard-you-while-you-sleep-so-do-not-fuck-with-us are good, bond traders, not so much. “Bullshit Jobs” was attacked by every neoclassically trained economist for rejecting marginal product theory.
The problem isn’t marginal product theory but what John Bates Clark did to it: tear land out because he was a shill for robber barons who hated Henry George and his land-taxing followers.
Graeber told PBS why he favored giving everyone a basic income instead of government welfare benefits of various types, a proposal favored by a handful of conservatives, most notably Charles Murray. Yet basic income, instead of government services, has a few problems. One, landowners will suck the benefits up, so without taxes on land rents, poverty won’t vanish. Two, paying for a basic income out of the current tax system will distort incentives for higher-income taxpayers. Three, some people need more government services than the basic income check will provide.
Ed. Notes: As more people acknowledge the need for a basic income, hopefully they will consider the soundest way to fund an extra income for everyone. If they win legislation to recover all “rents”, and share that revenue among the citizenry, then the payment won’t be conventional welfare but will be a Citizen’s Dividend, a fair share of our common wealth. Presently society’s surplus goes to just a few on top but it belongs to all of us and should go to all of us.
Ed. Notes: How do corporations get away with it? Because government was not set up to defend your rights to a healthy environment. Government was set up to limit the liability of businessmen when something goes wrong after they tried to make a buck by putting nature, worker, and consumer at risk. Look at the history of politics. The laws that limit liability are centuries older than the laws that “protect” the environment.
How can we get government to befriend citizens instead of lobbyists? One key reform is restrict the power to tax. Don’t let politicians tax anything they want. Limit them to taxing infringements such as pollution. Let them use taxes and fees, etc, to recover common wealth — such as the worth of Earth — and to leave our private wealth alone.
Worried about no longer taxing the rich? Don’t. First, we don’t really accomplish much of that anyway. Second, if we recover our common wealth upstream, then there won’t be any undue fortunes downstream to long to tax.
Once government can’t tax anything, and as long as politicians want to raise revenue, then they’d have to capture the same natural values that are now being captured by the oil companies. Once oil companies are no longer filthy and unduly enormously wealthy, they won’t be able to pay government to do their bidding — and limited liability could be severely curtailed.
Then, when businessmen have their own incomes on the line, they won’t be so cavalier about putting everyone else at risk. Industrial “accidents” would become as rare as a misplayed note at a symphonic concert. Industry should not be sloppy; it could become a thing of beauty — once deprived of free and easy limited liability.
This 2014 excerpt of Weekly Wastebasket, Apr 18, is by Taxpayers for Common Sense.
The public helps the “cowboy” live high on the hog with sweetheart deals including water, mining, crop insurance, grazing, livestock disaster, and other subsidies from Uncle Sam.
Recently federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) agents seized Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy’s cattle to settle the more than $1 million in fines he has racked up since 1993. The fines are a result of Bundy grazing his cattle on BLM lands where grazing is prohibited, land for which he didn’t have one of the 18,000 federal permits in the west.
Government data pegs private grazing fees at roughly $18 per Animal Unit Month (AUM represents the amount of forage (e.g. grass) a cow and her calf need for a month) throughout the west over the past two years. In Nevada the average private grazing fee was $15 per AUM. Yet this year the BLM fee is set at $1.35 per AUM.
The fees charged for grazing permits fall far short of the cost taxpayers incur for opening these lands to ranchers, covering a little more than 13 percent of overall program funding in fiscal year 2004.
Certainly there are differences between private land and public land in quality, but there are also a variety of federal programs such as Wildlife Services (killing wolves and other predators) that also benefit ranchers.
If ranchers owned that land, they would have to maintain it and pay taxes on it. Having taxpayers subsidize your grazing fees is a much cheaper way to go.
Federal grazing rules are outdated, too generous, and don’t even come close to covering the costs taxpayers bear in maintaining federal grazing lands.
Ed. Notes: Not just Westerners but many people assume that owning land means keeping its rental value rather than paying its rental value. However, owners do owe. Owners do not create land and they do not create its value. The society they belong to might not create the land, either, but they do create its value. They create the demand for the land which creates its value and price and rent.
People need to evolve to this understanding. Not long ago, people thought that if they had a kid, they owned that kid’s labor. If a daughter, they could sell the kid (charge a dowry). Times have changed about children. Now public awareness must change about land.
Another problem is government spending. It’s not just ranchers who should not get subsidies; it’s anybody. Letting politicians decide who to bestow public money upon is the problem. Much better is to simply, automatically divvy up common wealth among the citizenry equitably.
With people getting this extra income, they would not need much in the way of government programs. They could happily shrink public budgets. With government not needing so much revenue, they could repeal most taxes, especially those that raise costs and restrict output. So people would pay less tax at the same time they’d receive more income.
That should make even cowboys happy, shouldn’t it?
This 2014 excerpt of the New York Times, Apr 18, is of a book review by Howard W. French.
“The Tyranny of Experts: Economists, Dictators, and the Forgotten Rights of the Poor” is by William Easterly who describes himself as a recovering expert, referring to his career at the World Bank.
“The technocratic approach ignores what this book will establish as the real cause of poverty — the unchecked power of the state against poor people without rights,” he writes. He cites African land grabs.
Easterly’s other major claim is that technocratic advisers attach little importance to the historical background of the countries they work on. He offers the example of the World Bank, in 1949, whipping up a 950-page development plan for Colombia in less than a year, in which recommendations weren’t specific to that country.
He claims paternalism and a belief in the incapacity of others is an unexamined foundation of development ideology.
He touts Adam Smith who understood that not all problems could be solved by the Invisible Hand of the market and describes Hayek as a fierce proponent of individual liberty who favored a minimum income guaranteed by the state and attacked British Conservatives as “paternalistic.”
The greatest benefits to a society come from the spontaneous, uncoordinated actions of mostly small actors whose talents are allowed to flourish, as opposed to top-down initiatives involving the state or outside donors.
This 2014 excerpt of Common Dreams, Apr 16, is by Jon Queally.
The AFL-CIO’s latest ‘Executive Paywatch’ report shows the astronomical disparity between the annual pay of the nation’s top executives —- which continue to rise year after year —- and the stagnant wages that middle class and the working poor continue to suffer.
U.S. CEOs averaged $11.7 million in 2013 while the U.S. worker earned $35,293. That means CEOs were paid 331 times that of the average worker.
In 2013, CEOs made 774 times more than those who work for minimum wage.
While many of these companies argue that they can’t afford to raise wages, in 2013 the S&P 500 companies earned $41,249 in profits per employee.
Workers continue to scrape by in an economy that has left them out of the so-called recovery.
Ed. Notes: While CEO pay is way too high, why don’t critics ask why? Since they don’t ask, they can’t answer. Let me give it a shot. It’s because Big Business gets:
sweetheart deals on contracts,
leeway to violate laws, even fail to pay what they owe (such as royalties) and not get punished,
shift taxes and other costs onto employees and consumers, and they get to
capture what should be our common wealth (the economic worth of government-granted privilege like limited liability and the worth of Earth).
All this tilts the playing field, giving them the competitive edge over both small business and people needing jobs. And, as noted above, companies don’t have to negotiate with employees who’re enjoying material security.
While workers might not receive fair pay, it’s because they receive zero, no, portion of the common wealth. Imagine if everyone got a share of the worth of Earth — sort of like what’s done in Alaska with oil value and in Aspen CO with land value. If you got an extra income without working, for just being a decent member of society with an equal right to Earth, then you’d have a bit of financial cushion which you could use as leverage to negotiate a higher wage.
So the solution to low wages is not to legislate higher wages but to demand a fair share of society’s surplus. Not only would workers benefit, but so would people who’re not working — children, the elderly, the infirm, and the misfits who do not belong in conventional society but in a world that no longer exists or has not yet been born.
If we shared the immense stream of spending for nature — for land, resources, EM spectrum, ecosystem services, etc — automatically, if everyone got a share, even the rich, automatically, then we could shrink government bureaucracy and bureaucratic programs to an absolute bare minimum. When government is not too active, then it does not need so much money; its budget could be shrunk and its taxes along with it. Despite the critics’ demand for higher taxes, lower overall taxes would benefit workers (they’re the ones working from Jan 1 to early May to pay all the taxes levied upon them) more than the rich, as long corporate welfare and the rest of the favors (above) for business are repealed.
So, do be concerned about inequality and unfair pay but do demand a solution that truly works: geonomics.
This 2014 excerpt of Strong Towns, Apr 16, is by Andrew Price.
Relying on sales tax means everything other than retail becomes a burden. Shops generate revenue for the city, while houses, businesses, and factories that do not make any direct sales do not generate any direct tax revenue – yet consume infrastructure and services.
In sales tax based cities, building more retail does not automatically mean more tax revenue. There are only so many toothbrushes, televisions, and cars a person will want to buy in a year. A new store opening up will not always mean we will buy more toothbrushes, televisions, or cars.
If a city invests downtown and that attracts more shoppers downtown, tax revenue won’t necessarily increase as people are not necessarily spending more – they are just spending their money downtown instead of in the suburbs.
Building a new restaurant does not mean I will eat out more, only that I will have more choices of where to eat when I decide to eat out.
There is also the threat of online retail where people can bypass paying sales tax completely. Wealthier residents that travel frequently may do most of their spending out of state, or even in a foreign country. The city has access to none of this.
The largest problem with sales tax based cities is that they have no way of capturing or measuring the performance of their investments. Building a neighborhood park or cleaning up a residential street will not lead to people spending more. We end up with a delusion that cities are like charities – to provide services and infrastructure for the people no matter the cost, because there’s no way to capture or measure it.
In order for a city to make a return on their investments, as well as to judge if an investment was productive, cities need a way to capture the increases in the value of their areas they invest in. Typically, cities capture the value of their communities through property taxes or land value taxes.
This 2014 excerpt of Slashdot, Apr 16, is by Soulskill.
“According to a recent survey of 1,000 U.S.-based software developers, 56 percent expect to become millionaires in their lifetime. 66 percent also said they expect to get raises in the next year, despite the current state of the economy. Note that some of the other findings of the study (scroll to bulleted list) seem overly positive: 84 percent said they believe they are paid what they’re worth, 95 percent report they feel they are ‘one of the most valued employees at their organization,’ and 80 percent said that ‘outsourcing has been a positive factor in the quality of work at their organization.’”
Ed. Notes: If people in IT had to pay full value for the patents and copyrights that the government gives them, could it be such a lucrative field? New fields that are popular with consumers are, naturally, a gold mine. But cheap monopolies exaggerate the value of new programs.
Also, a lot of money and time and talent could be saved if there were some standardization. Another industry that changed everyone’s lives at the time — railroads — eventually standardized the width of train tracks, which really ratcheted up efficiency, so railroads could not profit off mere bottlenecks. Some day certain consensed upon protocols could save everyone big bucks in software, too.
Meanwhile, whenever software developers do strike it rich and buy housing, there they drive up the price of land. That makes housing unaffordable for those who have not struck it rich … at least until society wakes up and recovers and shares the socially-generated value of land.
This 2014 excerpt of Global Witness, Apr 15, is by Oliver Courtney and Alice Harrison.
Killings of people protecting the environment and rights to land increased sharply between 2002 and 2013 as competition for natural resources intensifies, a new report from Global Witness reveals. In the most comprehensive global analysis of the problem on record, the campaign group has found that at least 908 people are known to have died in this time. Disputes over industrial logging, mining, and land rights are the key drivers, and Latin America and Asia-Pacific particularly hard hit.
Released in the year of the 25th anniversary of the assassination of Brazilian rubber tapper and environmental activist Chico Mendes, Deadly Environment highlights a severe shortage of information or monitoring of this problem. This means the total is likely to be higher than the report documents. Just over one per cent of the perpetrators have been convicted.
Companies and governments routinely strike secretive deals for large chunks of land and forests to grow cash crops like rubber, palm oil, and soya. Often, the first the indigenous know of a deal that goes against their interests is when the bulldozers arrive in their farms and forests. At least 661 – over two-thirds – of the killings took place in the context of conflicts over the ownership, control, and use of land.
The report also underlines that rising fatalities are the most acute and measurable end of a range of threats including intimidation, violence, stigmatization, and criminalization. The number of deaths points to a much greater level of non-lethal violence and intimidation.
The death rate rose in the last four years to an average of two activists a week. Human rights only have meaning if people are able to exercise them.
This 2014 excerpt of The Nation, Apr 15, is by Zoë Carpenter.
ExxonMobil, the world’s largest oil company, hauled in a $32.6 billion profit last year. Tax day, the company got its annual boost from the Federal Government: an estimated $600 million in tax breaks. Chief executive Rex Tillerson got a 3 percent bump in his pay package, sending it above $28 million.
The US gifts as much as $4.8 billion to the oil industry each year, more than any other country. Much of that comes not as direct handouts but instead via loopholes in the tax code; deductions for depleting oil reserves, for example, and write-offs for the expense of drilling a new well.
Globally, subsidies for fossil fuel production —- amounting to $1.9 trillion in 2011, or 8 percent of government revenues —- increase emissions and put heavy burdens on public budgets.
The IMF estimates that eliminating fossil fuel subsidies could lower emissions by 13 percent.
In the last fifteen years oil and gas companies spent more than $1.4 billion on lobbying, employing nearly 800 lobbyists, many of them culled from congressional offices. That expense is actually a shrewd investment: every dollar the five largest oil companies spend on lobbying reflects $53 in tax breaks.
Another de facto subsidy comes from the Interior Department’s failure to collect royalties on domestic oil and coal. The government has lost as much as $14.7 million because royalties are not collected on offshore leases in the Gulf of Mexico. In Wyoming’s Powder River Basin, below-market sale prices and an uncompetitive bidding for coal reserves has cost taxpayers as much as $30 billion over the past two decades.
Finally, there is a more deeply hidden giveaway to the fossil fuel industry, the most critical of oversights: the fact that companies don’t pay for the damages caused by their products.
Ed. Notes: It’d be interesting to know how much lobbying the CEO does directly; I bet he’s on a first-name basis with many key players in Washington. I also bet the amount of subsidy above is too low; it leaves out paying the companies to pump some oil back into the ground (Strategic Reserve and did not mention the subsidies for “research”.
Some number crunchers figure that resource industries could not turn even a penny of profit if they had to pay for all the damages they cause to worker (even death to refinery workers), consumer (cancer), and nature (destruction of habitat by even routine pollution from oil tankers).
For a political analysis, the author left out a key fact. If oil companies had to pay the full-rental value of oil in the ground (as Norway charges them) instead of keep this socially-generated common wealth for themselves, then they would not have those funds and would not have so much political power. If those oil rents funded a dividend to citizens, a la Alaska’s oil share, then the general public would enjoy that extra income and the political clout that comes with it. People then might understand the wisdom of the entire geonomic package and move on to recovering the rents for all sites and natural resources, completely changing the economy and political scene.
This 2014 excerpt of Common Dreams, Apr 14, is by Eric Zuesse.
A study, to appear in the Fall 2014 issue of the academic journal Perspectives on Politics, answers the question: “Who governs? Who really rules?” in the US.
Americans do enjoy regular elections, freedom of speech and association, and a widespread (if still contested) franchise. But the first-ever comprehensive scientific study of the subject shows that the preferences of the average American have a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.
The authors — Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page — in their article titled “Testing Theories of American Politics” note the data available are probably under-representing the actual extent of control of the U.S. by the super-rich.
The clear finding is that the U.S. is not a democracy at all, not part democracy / part oligarchy, but only an oligarchy.
The U.S., in other words, is basically similar to Russia or most other dubious “electoral” “democratic” countries.
Ed. Notes: Good to have more studies to go with the work of others such as G. William Domhoff on who owns America, which offers a deeper look into how policy gets made. But is any of this new? The US Constitution replaced the US Articles of Confederation as a favor to rich insiders. What could ever change this situation?
People must feel worthy of justice. And they must not worry so much about their political rights — we can vote, right? so? — as their economic rights. They should demand a fair share of the common wealth. That will show they have worth as individuals and help them feel real self-esteem.
Things will get better when enough people share the same vision of a better world and demand that government let — or help make — it happen. The key part is the vision, making it visible to a critical mass. That’s why it’s important for you to articulate a Citizen’s Dividend for everyone.
This 2014 excerpt of National Public Radio, Apr 20, is by Bob Marshall.
More than 54,000 wells were planted in and off the Louisiana coast — part of the 300,000 wells in the state. They’re connected by thousands of miles of pipelines, all vulnerable to leaks.
And leak they do. Louisiana admits to at least 300,000 barrels spilled on its land and in its waters each year, 20 percent of the nation’s total. But those figures come from a system that depends largely on oil companies to self-report.
Under the Clean Water Act, when a company spills any amount of oil in the water, it must file a report with the National Response Center run by the Coast Guard. But many smaller spills were not making that list.
Gulf Restoration Network has personnel who can spot spills from the air and file complete reports. SouthWings, a group of volunteer pilots, helps get those spotters aloft. SkyTruth finds the spills on satellite photographs, then applies a formula used by spill experts to translate the size of the oil sheen into gallons of oil in the water; its estimates typically are 10 times larger than what had been reported.
In an average year, the NRC receives 10,000 reports of spills in the Gulf. That is a continuous, business-as-usual practice.
Ed. Notes: Polluters know what will stop them even if we don’t and that’s repeal of free, government-granted liability limits. Get rid of that freebie, make management buy insurance plus put their own butts on the line, and you’d see them become good neighbors. Of course, if oil companies had to pay the “rental” value of oil rather than keep it — close to what Norway does — and pay to the community, that would show who is really boss and help keep business in line. Further, you could use the raised revenue to cut counter-productive taxes, such as those on wages, sales, and homes. Most voters would love that, and thus love this system of stewardship all the more. More at progress.org.
This 2014 excerpt of Iranian, Apr 14, is by M. Kimya Hedayat-ZadehLife.
In a symbolic and unprecedented move, Ayatollah Abdol-Hamid Masoumi-Tehrani, a prominent Muslim cleric in Iran, has gifted to the Baha’is of the world an illuminated work of calligraphy of a paragraph from the writings of Baha’u’llah, the Prophet-founder of the Baha’i Faith.
This move comes in the wake of several recent statements by religious scholars in the Muslim world who have set out alternative interpretations of the teachings of Islam in which tolerance of every religion is, in fact, upheld by the holy Qur’an.
Ayatollah Tehrani states on his website (see translation of statement) that he prepared the calligraphy of the verse as a “symbolic action to serve as a reminder of the importance of valuing human beings, of peaceful coexistence, of cooperation and mutual support, and of avoidance hatred, enmity, and blind religious prejudice.”
The intricate artwork must have taken several months to painstakingly prepare by hand. Ayatollah Tehrani’s other artworks include the illumination of the Qur’an, the Torah, the Psalms, the New Testament, and the Book of Ezra. His illumination of the Psalms is currently being held in the United States Library of Congress.
On previous occasions, Ayatollah Tehrani has with great courage publicly voiced concern about the ongoing and severe persecution of religious minorities, including the Baha’is in Iran. Since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, hundreds of Baha’is have been killed and thousands have been imprisoned. There are currently 115 Baha’is being held in prison solely on the basis of their religious beliefs. Baha’is in Iran are denied access to higher education, obstructed from earning a livelihood, prevented from burying their dead in accordance with their own burial rites and subjected to the demolition and desecration and expropriation of their cemeteries.
Ed. Notes: People like this cleric are the ones who deserve support from the foreign policy of superpowers. That would improve communication between different cultures. Perhaps then the dialog could move from religion to science, and science could progress to include geonomics.
This 2014 excerpt of TruthDig, Apr 13, is by Ellen Brown of Web of Debt.
Taxpayers are paying billions of dollars for a swindle pulled off by the world’s biggest banks, using a form of derivative called interest-rate swaps; and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation has now joined a chorus of litigants suing over it.
Being sued are sixteen of the world’s largest banks – including the three largest US banks (JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, and Citigroup), the three largest UK banks, the largest German bank, the largest Japanese bank, and several of the largest Swiss banks.
The swap is an ongoing bet on interest rates. The borrower owes both the interest on its variable rate loan and what it must pay out on this separate swap deal. Interest rate swaps are now a $426 trillion business. That’s trillion with a “t” – about seven times the gross domestic product of all the countries in the world combined.
While banks are still collecting fixed rates of 3 to 6 percent, they are now paying public entities as little as a tenth of one percent on the outstanding bonds – an outcome which amounts to a second bailout for banks.
In 2008 and 2009, during the height of the financial crisis, the cost of the swaps that municipalities had taken out jumped in price at the same time that their borrowing costs went up, which was exactly the opposite of how the swaps were supposed to work, and it was chiefly due to manipulation. Nearly every major bank conspired to rig bids and drive up the fixed rates state and local governments pay on their derivative contracts.
Unlike most banks, big ones make most of their money not from ordinary commercial loans but from interest rate swaps. In the fall of 2008, the Federal Reserve dropped the prime rate (the rate at which banks borrow from each other) nearly to zero. This was a giant windfall for the major derivative banks; it lowered what they had to pay their big buyers of swaps.
Fraud is grounds for rescission (terminating the contract) without paying penalties, potentially saving taxpayers enormous sums in fees for swap deals that are crippling cities, universities, and other public entities. Fraud is also grounds for punitive damages, something an outraged jury might be inclined to impose.
Ed. Notes: We really should not let so much money be collected into one place, tempting banksters, in the first place. The most fundamental way to prevent this concentration is to quit buying land from individuals, which often requires a mortgage from a bank, and to start renting land from one’s community, and paying rent is something even the poorest can usually afford without having to borrow. Since most debt is debt for land, that would instantly reduce the enormous flow of funds to banks.
Further, once residents start getting an extra income — a share of those rents for land (and resources and EM spectrum, etc) — then they won’t need much in the way of government services. Government could be streamlined and would no longer have much need to borrow. Public debt is the other huge source of income to banks.
Without fat mortgages, and without indebted governments, big banks would be left with nothing of interest to anyone to swap. Plus, citizens would be getting dividends. That’s how you solve problems: view the bigger picture then apply geonomics.
This 2014 excerpt of the Weekly Wastebasket, Apr 11, is by Taxpayers for Common Sense.
Taxpayers that don’t need subsidies — through direct spending or via tax loopholes — include the oil and gas industry. Extraction of fossil fuel has been subsidized for a hundred years (literally) and it is one of the most profitable businesses in the world (literally). We found that the three largest U.S.-based oil and gas companies had an average U.S. tax rate of 26.2 percent for 2008-2012. If you subtract the billions the companies are allowed to defer each year (thanks to these special tax provisions), it drops to around 20 percent. And, to be sure, oil and gas companies are not the only ones picking from the menu of various tax breaks to lower their rate below the statutory rate of 35 percent.
The same holds true for individual taxpayers. Special tax deductions that have been in effect for decades benefit a small slice of taxpayers, but cost everyone. Even popular ones like the mortgage interest deduction, which costs roughly $75 billion a year, have no effect on homeownership rates in this country and are basically offset by the increase in home prices it causes. Like the oil and gas industry, some of the wealthiest individual taxpayers can avoid paying higher rates by also utilizing special tax provisions that aren’t available to everyone.
Congress could lower overall tax rates – something everyone wants to do – by cutting out the whole thicket of special credits and deductions that distort both the tax system and business decisions. So why don’t they just do it already?
Ed. Notes: It would not surprise me if the author over-estimated how much tax the oil corporations actually pay, especially when you subtract the payments they get from the US Government for storing oil underground (pump it out, pump it back in), for doing “research”, and for the “services” performed by their subsidiaries, such as uranium miners and processors. You could also subtract the fines not levied for pollution emitted by their trains and ships and gas stations and the fines not collected for their failure to pay over even the tiny royalties that they are charged (Norway charges nearly 80%, not 10% or 12%). This list could probably go on.
Most ironic, most of the value of oil is “rent”, or, its value in the ground, before it’s even extracted. Since oil in the ground is not the product of anyone’s labor or capital, and since its value is created by the demand for it by all of us, oil “rent” is actually our common wealth. It is one of the few things that really should be taxed or levied in some other way (auction or deed fee, etc), with the raised revenue going to the citizenry, a la Alaska’s oil dividend.
If you’re going to have a federal income tax, you should make it as simple as possible, since complexity is the enemy of equity. Have one same rate for everybody. Have absolutely zero loopholes. And spend it all on war. If you want to pay less tax, then shrink the so-called “defense” budget. Make everybody pay, even the poor. They’ll be able to afford paying 10% of an $8,000 income — $800 — since their Citizen’s Dividend would be more like $12,000. After paying $800, they’d still have $19,200 per year to live on. Not bad. And $12k to replace mortgage interest deduction; not bad for the middle class. And $12k to replace billion-dollar oil subsides … well, too bad, “oiligarchy”, but fair is fair.
This 2014 excerpt of MSNBC, May 5, is by Jane C. Timm.
Nevada Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford is trying to oust the pro-Bundy militia from his district, citing constituents who are bothered by the presence of the self-appointed militia.
The group has been camping near Cliven Bundy’s land to defend the embattled rancher in his battle with federal land managers. Bundy – who says he doesn’t recognize the federal government – owes more than $1 million in fees for letting his cattle graze on federal lands for the last two decades. The Bureau of Land Management stopped trying to seize Bundy’s cattle last month, after a face-off with the militia.
Many thought when the face-off was done the militia—who came from all-over the country—would depart, but they have not.
Rep. Steven Horsford is calling on the senator, governor, and others who made Cliven Bundy out to be a patriot to stand with the residents.
Republicans have struggled to reconcile their support for Bundy’s states-right’s views with his racist rants.
Ed. Notes: As usual, both sides are partially right. People should pay for land, they should not just use it without compensating anyone, but they shouldn’t necessarily pay to the federal government but instead to their community, perhaps the county or state. And the government that receives payment shouldn’t necessarily keep the rents but instead disburse them to residents. Doing that would compensate those excluded from the (ranch) land and would give the owner a legitimate title to “hers” ranch.
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 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.
more transformation than reform; it’s a step ahead. Harvard economics students this year did petition to change the curriculum, in the wake of the English who caught the dissension from across The Channel. French reformers, who fault conventional economics for conjuring mathematical models of little empirical relevance and being closed to critical and reflective thought, reject this “autism” – or detachment from reality – and dub their offering “post-autistic economics”. Not a bad name, but again, academics define themselves by what they’re not, not by what they are, unlike geonomists. We track rent – the money we spend on the nature we use – and watch it pull all the other economic indicators in its wake. We see economies as part of the ecosystem, similarly following natural patterns and able to self-regulate more so than allowed, once we quit distorting prices. To align people and planet, we’d replace taxes and subsidies with recovering and sharing rents.
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 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?
suitable for framing by Green Parties. When Greens began in Germany two decades ago, they defined themselves as neither left nor right but in front. Geonomics fits that description. The Green Parties have their Four Pillars; geonomists have four ways to apply them:
Ecological Wisdom. Want people to use the eco-system wisely? Charge them Rent and, to end corporate license, add surcharges. To minimize these costs, people will use less Earth.
Nonviolence. Want people to settle disputes nonviolently? Set a good example; don’t levy taxes, which rely on the threat of incarceration, to take people’s money. Try quid pro quo fees and dues.
Social Responsibility. Want people to be responsible for their actions? Don’t make basic choices for them by subsidizing services, addicting them to a caretaker state. Let people spend shares of social surplus.
Grassroots Democracy. Better have grassroots prosperity. Remember, political power follows economic. Pay people a Citizens Dividend; to keep it, they’ll show up at the polls, public hearings, and conventions.
not a panacea, but like John Muir said, “pull on any one thing, and find it connected to everything else.” Recall last month’s earthquake in El Salvador. We felt it and its formidable after-shocks in Nicaragua. Immediately afterwards, my host nation, one of the poorest in the Western Hemisphere, sent aid to its Central American neighbor. The Nica newspapers carried photos of the devastation. They showed that the cliff sides that crumbled had had homes built on them while the cliffs left pristine withstood the shock. Could monopoly of good, safe, flat land be pushing people to build on risky, unstable cliffs? If so, that’s just one more good reason to break up land monopoly. What works to break up land monopoly, history shows, is for society to collect the annual rental value of the underlying sites and resources. That’d spur owners to use level land efficiently, so no one would be excluded, forced to resort to cliffs. To prevent another man-induced landslide is yet another reason to spread geonomics.
the policy that the earth’s natural patterns suggests. Use the eco-system’s self-regulating feedback loops as a model. What then needs changing? Basically, the flow of money spent to own or use Earth (both sites and resources) must visit each of us. Our agent, government, exists to collect this natural rent via fees and to disburse the collected revenue via dividends. Doing this, we could forgo taxes on homes and earnings and subsidies of either the needy or the greedy. For more, see our web site, our pamphlet of the title above, or any of our other lit pieces; ask for our literature list.
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 study of Earth’s economic worth, of the money we spend on the nature we use, trillions of dollars each year. We spend most to be with our own kind; land value follows population density. Besides nearness to downtowns, we also pay for proximity to good schools, lovely views, soil fertility, etc. These advantages, sellers did not create. So we pay the wrong people for land. Instead, we should pay our neighbors. They generate land’s value and deserve compensation for keeping off ours, as they’d pay us for keeping off theirs. It’s mutual compensation: we’d replace taxes with land dues – a bit like Hong Kong does – and replace subsidies with “rent” dividends to area residents – a bit like Alaska does with oil revenue. Both taxes and subsidies – however fair or not – are costly and distort the prices of the goods taxed and the services subsidized. By replacing them and letting prices become precise, we reveal the real costs of output, the real values of consumers. Then, just by following the bottom line, people can choose to conserve and prosper automatically. A community could start by shifting its property tax off buildings, onto land – a bit like a score of towns in Pennsylvania do; every place that has done it has benefited.