GEONOMIST, #31 — 2001 Summer (Vol. 10, No. 1)
|June 20, 2001||Posted by Jeffery J. Smith under The Geonomist|
To Russia, Sans love ……..…………….…………… page 2
High Court sees a taking ……….………..……… page 2
Losing Louisiana …………………….….….….……… page 2
With friends like these …………..………………… page 2
California draining …………………………..…..…. page 3
Harvard on housing …………………………..…..…. page 3
Owning homes pays off …………………………… page 4
Fund for all ages ……………….……………………… page 4
$ attractors, poles apart ……………….………… page 4
FROM OP-ED PAGES
The Philadelphia Inquirer ……………….………. page 4
Philly’s U of Penn avers ……….….………….….. page 4
Even Philly’s Realtors grok ……….….…………. page 4
Greens, WTO, Chicago Sun-Times ……….…. page 5
FROM THE ARCHIVES
Colonizers & diggers ………..……………………… page 5
Green Economics …………………..….……………… page 6
Conspiracy or Apathy? …….………..……………. page 6
Citizens Dividends concerns ……………………. page 6
Charge Free-riders ………………..…..…..……..… page 7
Voting to pay for space
In Massachusetts, where every day 44 acres are lost to development, two dozen towns in the last year, availing themselves of a new law, have voluntarily raised their property tax to pay for open space, pre-serve historic buildings, and develop affordable hous-ing. (Boston Globe, May 12 via Urban Land Inst’s Smart Growth News, May 17) Residents in cities and counties around the US are voting to raise taxes to preserve open space. Tho’ state referendums for open space generate greater revenue, local ones preserve green land in the voters’ own neighborhoods. (USA Today, May 31 via Smart Growth News, Jun 19)
More victories for parks and preserves loom on the horizon. Voters in Virginia would spend more on saving the Chesapeake Bay, even at the expense of public schooling, a Nature Conservancy poll found (Wash-ington Post , May 10 via Smart Growth News, May 17) Three out of four Americans told the National Assoc. of Realtors that to purchase land for open space, they’d pay another $50 in property tax annually; one third would pay more than $100. (New York Newsday, Jun 6 via Smart Growth News, Jun 19)
While choosing to bite the bullet is admirable, it’s not necessary. Voters could clear some land while paying less tax were they to raise only the rate on land, not buildings. Not only is this property tax shift progressive for most residents, it’d also prompt speculating owners to use their central, valuable sites more intensely, so less valuable, outlying sites need not be used at all. A com-puter model of Boston found that a modest shift of the property tax from buildings to locations modestly shrunk the perimeter of that spreading city (DiMasi, 1987).
Geonomics is …
the annoying habit of seeing the hand of land in al-most all transactions. In geonomics we maintain the dis-tinction between the items bearing exchange value that come into being via human effort – wealth – and those that don’t – land. Keeping this distinction in the forefront makes it obvious that speculating in land drives sprawl, that hoarding land retards Third World development, that borrowing to buy land plus buildings engorges banks, that much so-called “interest” is quasi-rent, that the cost of land inflates faster than the price of pro-duced goods and services, that over half of corporate profit is from real estate (Urban Land Institute, 1999). Summing up these analyses, geonomists offer a Grand Unifying Theory, that the flow of rent pulls all other in-dicators in its wake. Geonomics differs from economics as chemistry from alchemy, as astronomy from astrol-ogy.
“Hey, everybody, the IMF is holding a cookout
and we’re invited!”
FROM THIS PEN’S PERCH
How many Komanoffs can there be? Last issue I identified Charles K, researcher in nuclear power costs, as the Cornell U researcher in nuclear power costs. He found me out: “You kinda blew that one (though no big harm done). What I did was to deconstruct the costs to build and operate U.S. nuke plants to show that reactor costs were escalating much faster than those of competing energy sources … and to explain why (largely, cascading regulatory requirements arising from public distrust, which in turn was fed by numerous factors including the industry’s own incompetence). I did that work largely during 1975-1985. I ‘cleaned up’ as an expert witness for state consumer agencies during 1977-1990, then moved into unremunerative pro-bicycling and anti-car activism, which is, for the most part, where I’m at today. Go visit www.cars-suck.org.” Remunerative or not, you’re doing a great job. And with a Bush in the White House and blackouts emanat-ing from California, we may have to call you to the stand all over again.
This Geonomist, on the whole, is long on news from the world, short on news from the society. Ah, well. What else is summer for?
To Russia, sans love
The Russian people’s love for Mother Russia and their lack of a speculator class raised hopes that the people would realize the role of rent in society, then this remnant of the xUSSR would become humanity’s first geonomic nation. It was even illegal to buy land until recently (not that that bothered corrupt officials); now, anyone can, even foreigners. Disguising themselves as free marketeers, wannabe global landlords persuaded the Duma to adopt a new Land Code that lets specula-tors treat land not used for farming as much a commod-ity as any human-made product. (Russian Observer, Jun 15) The coming wheeling and dealing will usher in more speculation, land price inflation, onerous mort-gages, usurious interest rates, diversion of investment from production, unemployment, higher taxes on sales and income – not a pretty picture. Private property in land is fine – as long as it’s coupled with public property in rent. That is, if society collects from owners the an-nual value of their location via taxes, fees, or dues, then owners can be as private as they want.
High Court sees a taking
The contest between government and developers stays lopsided. The US Supreme Court ruled again in favor of compensating an investor in land whose par-cel lost value due to zoning, despite this particular pur-chase occurring after the local law went into effect. Those who sued called it a victory for property owners (Christian Sci. Mntr, Jun 29). But compensating owners over every regulatory dispute will raise the cost of do-ing government; so government will try to raise taxes. Or, what if local government can’t afford to settle such expensive disputes and quits enforcing zoning? And your home is beside somebody who decides to flaunt regulation and block your view, blast away seeking gold, open a smelly pig farm, or erect a trash incinera-tor? Your property will lose value. That’s a victory? Since we compensate owners for value we take from them, we should also charge owners for the value we give to them.
Leaving the French Quarter in New Orleans, I walked to the Mississippi River. At the levee, I counted the steps to the top. On the wet side, I counted them to the bottom. Turns out about 60% of the Mardi Gras playground is under sea level – and sinking deeper. Each year Louisiana shrinks by 30 square miles (bigger than Manhattan). The source of these data? Parade Magazine, June 24. Don’t you love it when issues you’ve been tracking for decades finally show up in the main-stream press, in its lowest common demoninator, junior high school level? So if Louisiana washes away, maybe that will hamper the wells now yielding 1/4 the oil and gas being burned by the US, a fire which helps warm the globe, scientists have reiterated, raising sea level, and inundating Louisiana in the first place. Or, before that, let’s levy natural resources, making extracting them less profitable, and de-tax labor and capital, making in-vestments in techno-progress more profitable.
With friends like these
Project Manager for Urban Development, Minnesota Planning, Mark Haveman (May): “Gov. Jesse Ventura wanted to remove the general education levy from our property tax and replace the funding in part with a new statewide property tax on commercial/industrial prop-erty. To my astonishment, the Republican-led House omnibus tax bill one-upped the Governor and made this new statewide tax a phased in land value tax. This tax bill, primarily, sent our session into “overtime”, tho’ the hold up had nothing to do with the land tax. The con-ference committee agreed to have the Department of Revenue draft the compromise bill. In the revised draft, Revenue took the land tax out. The Revenue Commis-sioner was not hostile to it; I’d even describe him as fairly sympathetic. The assistant commissioner told me there was simply no “time” to do it because some state law regarding assessors’ activity/information was run-ning up against a deadline. I think assessors didn’t like it and encouraged Revenue to kill it.” (JS: Probably be-cause it’d mean less work for them.)
“As for transforming the traditional property tax, I met with the environmental community. It seemed like they were coalescing a bit on the idea. Then 1000 Friends of MN put together a report on the impact of the state property tax on local land use and develop-ment. The authors were a former revenue commissioner and a former democratic legislator (i.e., heavy hitters). In skewering the existing property tax, they also took the time to disembowel land value taxation, calling it ‘the ultimate expression of the view that land is nothing more than an economic commodity ignoring its place in the foundation of our ecosystem.’ Enviro interest evapo-rated quite noticeably.” (JS: Thus they describe our strongest tool against speculating in land!)
“Ironically, their recommended reform lifts heavily from the ideas of Henry George. Called the land and structure tax, it’s a split rate tax with differential rates for land and buildings but based on consumption rather than value (square footage of land and periphery of buildings). In conversations with them, it became clear that the massive amount of centralized land use planning required to keep their tax from creating all sorts of envi-ronmental and land use havoc was seen as an asset to the proposal rather than a liability. This, of course, went nowhere legislatively.” (JS: Oh, my greens!)
When you pay taxes that fund subsidies, do these expenditures really harm the environment? So some say. Green Watchdog, a coalition of 20 groups includ-ing Friends of the Earth and Taxpayers for Common Sense, sent a letter to California Gov. Gray Davis tar-geting 14 state programs that waste nature and money ($4 billion every year). Two examples of misplaced gen-erosity are superfluous irrigation projects and so-called “tax breaks”, the exempting of resource owners from paying the rental value of their nature. And politicians say they haven’t enough money for teachers! Maybe these pork projects should hold the bake sales and the public revenue be directed into dividends to everyone. Heck, the worth of Earth is ours. Pass it on, and do all you can to avoid paying the taxes that turn into anti-planet subsidies. (Progress Report, www.progress.org)
Harvard on housing
Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies released their annual report. “State of the Na-tion’s Housing”. It found that:
* Housing inflated for the seventh consecutive year, surpassing the price run-up of the 1980s. Actually, since most housing ages, it was the land underneath that rose in value.
* In Oregon, nearly half of tenants spend 1/3 or more their income on “rent” (actually, “lease”).
* The “free rent” of living at home kept the number of young adults in their parents’ nest at historic highs and new family formation low.
* Subprime lending, priceyer loans to minorities and the poor, jumped from 1% of loans in 1993 to 19% in 1999. Due to predatory lenders, bamboozled borrow-ers are defaulting more often. Increasing foreclosures drop many poor borrowers right back into the ranks of tenants (Christian Science Monitor, May 1).
* National home ownership is at a record high, a little over 2/3rds (almost 3/4ths for whites, almost1/2 for others). Yet in Taiwan, which taxes land a bit, 80% of the people own homes and do so outright. In the US, people still owing 30 years of mortgage payments are counted as “owners”, not “owers”.
* Second mortgages have reduced equity as a share of home value to the lowest level since World War II. Actually, the equity is not in the home but in the land and is generated not by the owner but by his neigh-bors, the surrounding society.
* To put a happy face on costly housing, the press calls the market “strong” and home ownership a “good investment”. That depends upon when in the land price cycle you buy then sell, and where you live now vs. where you move to. And that’s if you can climb on the mortgage treadmill. Only if site rents are collected and shared do rising site values benefit us all.
The study is available at www.gsd.harvard.edu/jcenter. (Oregonian, Jun 27)
Owning homes pays off
Where communities help residents become home-owners, good things happen. The Local Initiatives Sup-port Corp.’s Center for Homeownership, with George Mason U’s School of Public Policy, studied ‘hoods in Washington (DC), Houston, Seattle, and Kalamazoo. In four of the five neighborhoods, public investment in homeownership sparked revitalization. In three of the five, residential property values rose; in two of the neighborhoods, retail sales surged; and in three, crime rates dropped significantly. (US Newswire, Jun 04 via Smart Growth News, Jun 19) While such gains are great, taxpayers need not pay for them. Places that re-place taxes with community collection of ground rent enjoy all these benefits automatically, without subsidiz-ing anyone (see our “Where Tax Reform Has Worked).
Fund for all ages
Coming from another time or place, one of the oddest things you’d notice about here and now is age segregation. Most people spend most of their time with people in their age group. Even in families, visits to and from other generations are rare. Even within house-holds, members hardly eat together, never mind play together. And what was play for all our evolution until now? Children mimicking adults at work. When’s the last time kids saw mom picking berries or dad snaring rabbits, or either one doing anything productive and creative? Now it’s normal for people in their most pro-ductive years to be single and childless and live in ho-mogenized enclaves in cities or in the case of San Fran-cisco, take over the entire city (The Oregonian, Jun 17). While time away from kids is a needed vacation, time with kids is needed for all ages. Unless we’re to add more hours to the day, that time must come from some other activity, so-called work. To replace missing wages, liberated workers (the reborn players), need an extra income, paid not from one’s labor or capital but from society’s surplus, the worth of Mother Earth.
$ attractors, poles apart
Another year, another study, another widening in the income gap. Over the last 18 years, figures the bi-partisan Congressional Budget Office, the richest 1% saw their tax liability grow by almost half (48%) yet swelled their intake over two and half times (157%), from $263,700 to $677,900. Their jump in tax payments was due not to higher rates but to the expanding ranks of super rich, from 15.5% of households in 1979 to 23% in 1997. The bottom fifth of Americans, the ones who are expected to work for a living, lost income, from $10,900 to $10,800. (AP via The Oregonian, May 31) To replace it, not unions nor wage laws nor economic growth (which set the US record in the 90s) will work. What we need is an income apart from our labor or our capital, a social salary that comes from the value of land, our common heritage.
FROM THE OP-ED PAGES
The Philadelphia Inquirer
April 30, reporter Andrew Cassell: “Properties sit idle or underused while their deep-pocketed owners wait for a buyer. Sitting on land and buildings until conditions improve doesn’t make conditions improve. This is an argument for the land-value tax. Henry George, the Philadelphia native who popularized this notion a century ago, believed that the ideal way to split the property tax is 0% on structures, 100% on land. If the general community makes a particular location worth money; the community has the right to take that value. Whenever land prices rise, the owner would see his tax bill go up. If he redevelops the property, the value of his improvements would not raise his tax bill. No longer would speculators doing nothing but waiting to be bought out hinder business.” (The Georgist News, May 15)
Philly’s U of Penn avers
The Wharton School of Business in the U of Penn Graduate Schl in Philadelphia has a couple of guys, Jo-seph Gyourko and Todd M. Sinai, who wrote “The Spatial Distribution of Housing-Related Tax Benefits in the United States”. They figure that owner-occupants in just three large CMSAs get over 75% of all net benefits. Within a few big metro areas, the top 1/4 get 70% of the housing subsidy. By subsidy they mean more than di-rect cash outlays from a public treasury; it’s mainly tax breaks like abatements, depreciation allowance, and mortgage interest deduction (leaving out assessment distortion). So while little owners cling to their crumbs, it’s the big owners who engorge upon the main course. Find Working Paper 332, Feb 2001, Zell-Lurie Real Es-tate Center at the SSRN Electronic Paper Collection pa-pers.ssrn.com/paper. (The Georgist News, May 15)
Even Philly’s Realtors grok!
Melani Lamond, Legislative Com’t. of the Greater Philadelphia Assn. of Realtors, via Asst. City Comptroller Bruno Moser (July): “If I park a VW and you park a Rolls Royce in the same lot, does the attendant charge you more and me less? No, because the spaces have the same value, no matter what we put in them. So why does the owner of the parking lot pay less tax for his ‘space’ than the owner of an office building? Speculator Rapaport’s run-down properties discourage best use: How can you have a high end restaurant and sidewalk cafe next door to a boarded building with weeds growing out of the crevices and debris around? If Ra-paport paid the same tax as the neighboring owners, it might force him to renovate his building. Then its whole block improves – adding jobs. The Controller’s office briefed us. One Realtor said it takes a few years to as-semble properties for redevelopment (since the owners of lots next to the ones he’s already got don’t necessar-ily want to sell at the same time); high taxes on the par-tial package would be hard on the waiting developer. But we realized if the reluctant sellers were paying higher taxes, too, they might not hold out so long. Re-development might happen faster! We’re having a sec-ond meeting on the topic on July 13th.” (in e-list UnivCity)
More greens on board
The American Planning Association has stuck its neck out a little farther. First their journal carried an article by Geo Soc helper, Tom Gihring, Ph.D. Now their Public Investment (June), a special edition of their Planning Advisory Service Memos, reprints “Financing Community Redevlopment Through Value Capture” by our friend Tom, who has been working in war-torn Bosnia.
Catching up to Friends Of the Earth US and FOE Scotland, FOE England now advocates the Property Tax Shift. Director Charles Secrett: “For the next Gov-ernment, a tax of land value presents an opportunity to replace unfair taxes with one that would reinforce the goals of urban regeneration, social inclusion, and the prudent use of a vital natural resource, while bringing administrative and revenue collection gains. FOE will carry on campaigning until the Treasury does.” (Land & Liberty, spring, via Progress, May-Jun)
The Austrian Green Party, which promotes the environmental tax shift from goods to bads, joins the Irish and English GPs in pushing for a social salary, tho’ not necessarily from rent. In the Austrian debate on income, they are joined by the Left-Liberal Party. (US Basic Income Group Newsletter No. 10, Jun/Jly).
WTO, Anti-Tax Loophole
American businesses that export goods keep $4 bil-lion per year from the tax collector; they use offshore subsidiaries, exempt from taxation thanks to the Foreign Sales Corporation (FSC) tax credit, to export their products. Some of the biggest US companies, including GE and Microsoft, receive the lion’s share of the loop-hole’s benefits. Boeing reported $13.3 billion in revenue for the first quarter of this year, a 34% increase over last year’s first quarter, with about 10% of its total earnings coming from this tax credit. The tax break is inherently unfair to companies that do not export. Last year the World Trade Organization (WTO) called the FSC an unfair export subsidy. So Congress revised, but did not cancel, it. Now the WTO recommends repealing it. Oth-erwise, the WTO could allow the European Union to levy steep duties and tariffs on American imports. (Tax-payers for Common Sense, via The Progress Report)
Executive Director of the Illinois Tax Accountability Project, a bi-partisan think tank for a tax system both fair and sound, Ralph Martire asked (June 9), “Boeing gained in its move to Illinois, but did citizens? Is the state getting any bang for its buck? The governor says it’s a great deal to give Boeing a $41 million tax break to lo-cate its headquarters in Chicago, despite giving an ad-vantage over competitors who do pay their fair share. Once enacted, tax waivers like Boeing’s no longer have to compete for financing with other programs in future budget battles – no public debate over whether the subsidy is well spent or would be better used else-where.” (The Progress Report)
FROM THE ARCHIVES
Colonizers & diggers
Skipper of The Mayflower and leader of the Pil-grims, William Bradford described how to fund the new theocracy in New England in his History of Plimoth Plantation, Book II (pp. 358-60 of the original ms.) – collect rent from land, don’t tax improvements. Penn-sylvania founder William Penn had the same idea. Cen-turies later, the Puritan model inspired Mormon leaders. The folk saying was that a Mormon settler’s rights to land and water were in proportion to the length of the family’s clothesline. Taxes (originally, contributions to the LDS Church) were in proportion to land values. (Thomas’ The Development of Institutions under Irriga-tion; both sources via Geo Soc Advisor and UC – River-side economist, Dr. Mason Gaffney)
Who knows what inspired the diggers of the Erie Canal. Proponents of the big ditch started out funding one of the wonders of the then world by using the re-sultant increase in site value. That lasted about one year before speculators wrangled away the enormous site rent jumps for themselves. Meanwhile, however, scores of miles of canal were dug, an engineering marvel of its day. (Ronald Shaw’s Erie Water West, 1966, via Mary Rawson in The Republic of East Vancouver, May 3)
With pithy insights and strategies for transformation, this British work edited by Cato and Kennett neatly knits together the prevailing green POVs on both problems and solutions. It’s full of hard data, report summaries, and reliable sources. And as a compendium of authors, the styles keep changing, refreshing the reader, even if one writer does sometimes contradict another. Painting a complete picture, these readable 200+ pages include chapters by geonomists, Richard Bramhall on land-value taxation and James Robertson on a social salary.
The subtitle is Beyond Supply and Demand to Meeting People’s Needs. Yet why oppose people sup-plying demanders to people meeting their needs? A market economy and human welfare need not be at odds. What deprives some people is not other’s success; the Creator did not set us down in a win/lose situation. What deprives some people is other people’s privileges. Privileges – tax breaks, subsidies, license to impose risk, and retention of nature’s rent – are creatures of politics, not markets. But it’s hard to curb the human lust to control, to be like good Buddhists and let go. Let mar-kets operate freely, without taxes, subsidies, and other privileges, so that they’d meet everyone’s needs auto-matically, organically.
Conspiracy or apathy?
Project Manager for Urban Development Generice Environmental Impact Statement, Minnesota Planning, Mark Haveman (May): “Have been an appreciative reader of your pieces which have been of significant help to me in my work. (I did a study on site value taxation here.) My question to you: why is there such a dearth of attention paid to land value taxation among think tanks devoted to free market approaches to seemingly intractable social problems? The optimist in me says it’s simply flying under their radar screen. The cynic in me says these organizations really don’t want this idea to get greater debate and play for Gaffney-like reasons.”
Both your cynic and optimist are right. GS VP Gary Flo notes: “Real Estate interests and developers, who have great political power, oppose it. As a response to the threat of the single tax movement, in the early part of last century laws were passed to outlaw differential rates on land and improvements. Only PA and maybe Maryland don’t have this on the books. Also, 67% of Americans own their own homes, get a mortgage inter-est deduction which amounts to a huge subsidy, and are hoping to cash in on the appreciation of their prop-erty value, or at least stay ahead of inflation. Finally, in the economics of academia, land doesn’t even exist. It is a form of “Capital”. Economists advocate elimination of taxes on capital and elimination of capital gains taxes. Because they make no distinction between “capital” and land, they don’t see the differing effects of taxation on them.”
While there’s not a conspiracy, some of the re-searchers who favor taxing site values have been warned by big funders. Some big-name economists, invited to address the topic in Russia, canceled their trips at the urging of the US State Department. While rent-privatizers and their cronies do do these things, the main reason the site value tax stays in the dark is that the homeowner, the vast middleclass, does not want to hear about it either. For too many, their only savings is the equity in their land. And they don’t see that site val-ues are highest downtown and over oil fields.
Mark replied: “I always wondered why this reform didn’t get play in Russia. The ball was teed up beauti-fully.”
Citizens Dividends concerns
John Watkins, President of New England’s Simple Society (Mar): “How do we prevent a constant “democ-ratic” pressure to raise land-rents in order to increase the size of the Citizens Dividend (CD)?”
Why prevent it? Welcome it. The only way to raise the overall land value of the community is to husband the land, to even pick up litter, to put each site to high-est and best use, which includes non-use (open space, etc). The CD turns the populace into stewards.
JW: “The notion of a CD does represent a re-distribution of income in a way that makes sense to me – up to a point.”
‘Cept it’s not re-distribution but pre-distribution, getting and sharing the Rent before an elite or state have a chance to misspend it. Look, you know model towns. In some, residents belong to a corporation to which they pay site rent and from which receive divi-dends. Nobody would call that re-distribution. Instead of a corporation, imagine a local government doing the collecting/disbursing. Changing from private to public does not make it a case of taking from the haves, giving to the have-nots. It’s still just sharing social surplus.
JW: “What is necessary to bring about a transition from land ownership to land and resource rent?”
Let others talk about owning land. Lets us talk about sharing Rent. As the time famine worsens, hous-ing costs and workers’ incomes go their separate ways, the offer of some sort of rent share, a Citizens Dividend or Housing Voucher, should draw enough attention to enlist a critical mass and get the reform implemented.
Charge free riders
For a report to Congress in 1981, former staffer to Sen. Paul Douglas then Rep. Henry Reuss, Walt Ry-beck looked at the impact of the Washington (DC) Metro system on land values. “In 1976 Metro opened, and after some $3 billion in expenditures was 40% com-plete at the time of my research. We conservatively measured over $2 billion in new land values that would not have existed without the subway. In January 2001 the 103-mile system was completed at a cost of $9.5 bil-lion. I estimate that this transit system, popular with commuters and visitors, generated to date between $10 and $15 billion in new land values. Every day in the Washington Post dozens of ads declare, ‘Just 1 1/2 blocks from Metro.’ or ‘Easy walk from Rosslyn Metro exit’. While free-riding private owners pocket the lion’s share of Metro-created land values, Metro cries that it is short of funds for maintenance, operation, and line ex-tensions that the public wants. Environmental groups – the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, and the Wash-ington Regional Network – urge regional officials to tap land values. A land tax would suppress land speculation along the routes, foster development in existing urban sectors, stem the sprawl surrounding Washington, and could be used to support Metro.” (e-mail to us from W. Rybeck)
The lead letter to the editor of The Oregonian, June 5:
“People living on low wages have a right to com-plain. But high wages are not the answer. What would work is a social salary, an extra income for everyone apart from their labor or capital.
Enforcing a minimum wage not only eliminates some entry-level jobs, it does nothing for people out of work and not nearly enough for single working parents. Yet should low-skilled work pay enough to raise a family? Or, tell adults to get trained for better work?
The money’s there to share. Generous to a fault, government gives away highly prized privileges to the well-connected for nearly nothing. Favors such as cor-porate charters, mineral and oil leases, broadcast li-censes, monopoly patents, utility franchises, pollution waivers and so on, make the already rich vastly richer. Charging full market value for these mere pieces of paper, we could raise enough to pay ourselves a Citizens Dividend.
JEFFERY J. SMITH President, Geonomy Society”
Portland’s other main paper, The Tribune, ran our letter on subsidies to cars on May 29.
Via word of pen
The proceedings from the 2nd Annual Global Conference on Environmental Taxation Issues, Experience and Potential, which includes our “Property Tax Shift: how to maximize the environmental tax shift”, are available from the Pembina Institute website. Go to www.pembina.org and look under “What’s New”. Some papers are available in abstract form only. Questions? Please contact the ever so resourceful Amy Taylor, email@example.com.
Notes < donors & others
Clay Berling, US soccer leader (Jun): “I just had the chance to visit your newsletter on-line. Happy to be a supporter. People need to get constant injections to get up to speed, and your Geonomist does it. It is really what I would like the Henry George News to be. Let’s talk about getting these efforts together, with a unified marketing scheme: periodical ads, flyers, mailers, etc.” I’m listening.
Allan Cooley, Sta Barbara accountant (Jun): “Great news. I found my checkbook. Do I send $ to Po Box 425 College Park MD, or to Portland?”
Please, send all available funds, jewels, stocks, bonds, and other valuables to VP Gary Flo in Maryland.
“Also, had a dream .., was in Kansas with G. Flo, in a youth hostel with “hitch hike” playing in back ground - and wouldn’t you know it, ran into Keith Richards! It’s a small surreal world.”
It’s the only one still affordable.
“Particularly liked your ‘Funding mass transit from the resultant rise in land value around transit stops’ idea. Hope the East Asian Society of Transportation Special-ists like it too.“
Marty Collier, Manager, Detour Publications (May): “I had a chance to visit your website and must return soon as there was so much great stuff. I am per-sonally very interested in taxation/subsidy issues and how they favor polluters. Detour’s Gravy Train subject area takes a look at ‘The Business & Economics of Sus-tainable Transportation’ and will be adding Worldwatch Institute’s ‘Getting the Signals Right: Tax Reform to Protect the Environment and the Economy’ this week. Just the same, I would like to add more titles to this sec-tion so please let me know if you have read any books that would fit into this category.”
Got a paper on self-financing of transit from site values if you or anyone would like a copy.
“BTW, do you know of any good sites/information pertaining to the argument for higher gas prices?”
World Resources Institute years back released a study showing why gasoline should be $7.00 per gal-lon.
“Detour has been creating cross-promotional part-nerships with membership-based NGOs (e.g. LA Bicycle Coalition, Green Tourism Association, Toronto Regional Conservation Authority) and subscription-based maga-zines (e.g., Alternatives Journal, Encompass Magazine). Since you have donors/supporters, I think it would be great if we could create a similar partnership together.”
Let’s go for it!
Cliff Esler, GPI Atlantic Webmaster (May): “Dr. Ron Colman, Director of GPI Atlantic, was very inter-ested in what he saw in the new issue of The Geonomist, and asked me to explore the possibility of exchanging memberships between our two organizations. You get our newsletter and we get yours, etc. If you would be so kind as to take a look at our site < www.gpiatlantic.org>.
Great site, great idea. Let’s commingle!
Paul deLespinasse, emeritus prof in Oregon (Jun): “After reading your good letter in this morning’s Oregonian I tracked down your e-mail address. Your proposed Citizens Dividend has a strong resemblance to my proposed “Social Dividend,” which is discussed in my 1998 strictly virtual book, The Metaconstitutional Manifesto: A Bourgeois Vision of the Classless Society. I kind of dump all over poor Marx. Visit www.proaxis.com/~ddeles, then click on “Paul.” Nice to know a social salary is not just of the left.
Bill Pitt, Aussie retiree (Jun): “Thanks for your lat-est. Now I must kick you, twice. You consistently use land values, rather than sites rents. And there is no jus-tification for charging anything over and above gov-ernment expense, merely so to provide a community dividend. PS: Are my dues up to date?” First, why gloss over the difference between site value (potential rent) and site rent (collected value)? Second, if rent belongs to the community, all of it belongs to the community, regardless how much or little government needs. Third, your dues are in arrears, as are those of other readers. Close that gap!
Close the income gap!
“In 1997, the richest 5% of US households held more than 60% of the nation’s private wealth. The long-est uninterrupted economic expansion on record has left this country with a concentration of income and wealth that harks back to the 1920s and more closely resembles the norm in the Third World than in the ad-vanced industrial nations of Europe or Japan. Want more on the growing separation between America’s haves and have-nots and have-lesses? Visit a storehouse of information and opinion both on the phenomenon itself and its not always obvious effects on individuals, communities, and the nation as a whole. We are in the process of assembling a set of policy ideas on closing this gap.” Perhaps they’ll cite the social salary, even a Citizens Dividend funded from collected rent. Suggest a few articles and/or point them to people who might write them (300-800-word summaries). Write founder Jim Lardner, firstname.lastname@example.org, a courteous guy, and visit www.inequality.org.
Free the politicians!
John McCain overcame major roadblocks from big money to win Campaign Finance Reform (CFR) in the US Senate. He and backers now face more opposition in the House of Representatives. To win again, he needs more backing. To help out, visit his web site and direct everyone you know. The site contains the most recent information on CFR, news about various reform efforts, and how you can get involved to make a difference in the way that our government does business. To break the special interests’ grip on Washington, D.C. and turn reform into law, tell family and friends. Forward this message to your email list. Check out www.straighttalkamerica.com/Team/Tell.
The Georgists gather this year in Pittsburgh, Amer-ica’s erstwhile flagship geonomic city, for the 2001 North American Conference of Georgist Organizations, from Wednesday, August 29 (evening) through Labor Day, September 3, the day after Henry George’s birthday (maybe owing to founder Louis F. Post, Secretary of Labor under President Wilson, being a Georgist). The conference theme is “Land and Labor: America’s Lost Legacy.” Speakers will address the relationship of rent privatization to: local tax policy, the erosion of wages, the perversion of trade, and the birth of the American labor movement. For a full conference schedule, con-tact Sue Walton at email@example.com. For best airfares, check www.airtran.com
For joining thanks to Ronald Rosenberger of Pitts-burgh and for rejoining thanks again to Heather Remoff of Pennsylvania. Hope to thank you both in person in September at the annual geoist conference (above). Anyone else, if so moved, please contribute dues. We’re not yet up to mass mailing or reminding members of when their year is up. Instead we make intermittent hints and maybe one big pitch during the season of giving, which should never go out of fashion.
What you can do
Visit our website. Order an article or three. Join! Sign up others! Persuade foundations to support us. Come to a meeting. Organize meetings, lobbying, letter-writing campaigns to editors and elected officials. Invite us out to present our show. Get elected and us ap-pointed to your cabinet. Weigh our worth. It is on the wings of donations that awareness spreads. And the sooner the word gets out, the sooner the world gets well. Thanks.
Dear Geonomy Soc. (an educational IRS 501[c]3);
Here’s my tax-deductible yearly dues:
bottom line: Secure Earnings, Share Earth