Geonomist, #54 — 2007 Spring (Vol. 16, No. 1)
|March 21, 2007||Posted by Jeffery J. Smith under The Geonomist|
Geonomics is …
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.
China to share steep values
In order to avoid a possible market crash, China has tried again to dampen speculation in its sizzling real estate market. Starting from the first of 2007, the government no longer exempts foreign investors from its land taxes. Closing the loophole creates a more even playing field for domestic and overseas companies. Domestic companies by themselves have had to pay these taxes and fees for nearly two decades. Meanwhile, the Chinese government also tripled annual land-use tax rates, depending on the size of the city and types of land use. (Jang Group Online, Jan 8)
FROM THIS PEN’S PERCH
Zenith tardy, buds early
Like Einstein said, everything’s relative. While in most major American metro regions, housing prices – actually, housing site prices (the homes themselves are older, more worn out) – are leveling, even falling, here in the Pacific NW, as economic refugees from the rest of the nation keep coming here, and some of them with big bucks after selling houses in California or Boston, land prices keep climbing up. Like, when a wave hits a beach, the whole front does not arrive at the same time, the end of it lags behind the center; same thing in the land price cycle. Here we watch our imminent fate played out by the rest of the country. Meanwhile, NW sellers still get to feel smart or lucky or greedy while buyers get to feel dumb or cursed or profligate. The only silver lining is since some are still buying homes, landlords can raise what they charge for apartments only so much – for now; change is in the air. This new weather we call “Junuary”, since nowadays flowers can bloom any warm week after MLK Day. That might mean global calamity some decade, but right now I got a tennis match to catch. See you on the court.
Free land in Quixote-ia
In Spain, the average price of an existing house is $282,000 – equal to nine years’ salary. In Marinaleda, a small town in the Spanish province of Seville, the city gives away the land to anyone who needs a house, together with a grant, as long as the new owner helps work on its construction or pays for someone to do so. The attached cottages have 880 square feet distributed in two floors with three rooms, living room, bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and a small terrace plus 980 square feet of courtyard. Each costs the same price as two movie tickets with a big bag of popcorn. The same house, but with a courtyard half the size in Villaverde, the cheapest neighborhood in Madrid, would cost $557,000 and would take a monthly mortgage of about $2,688 lasting 30 years. Marinaleda buys or expropriates land. The mayor states, “The land to build is a necessity, a right, and it should be a common good as water or air. Land is about 60% of the final value of a house so by giving it away, its final price is already reduced by more than half.” Mayor Juan Manuel Sánchez Gordillo has won all seven municipal elections in Marinaleda since the reinstitution of democracy in 1979. (Town of Marinaleda’s official website, via Caspar Davis) A couple years ago, small towns in mid-America did the same.
1k people have $3.5 trillion
Strong equity markets combined with rising real estate values and commodity prices pushed up already huge fortunes. Forbes found 946 billionaires, 178 of them newcomers; 17 climbed back into the ranks after being absent for a year or more. The nouveau riche include 19 Russians, 14 Indians, 13 Chinese, 10 Spaniards – Spain’s sizzling real estate market created nine of them – plus the first billionaires from Cyprus, Oman, Romania, and Serbia. In Europe, Russia’s mostly young, self-made tycoons are catching up to Germany’s often-aging heirs and heiresses. Russia now has 53 billionaires (2 shy of Germany’s total), but they are worth $282 billion ($37 billion more than Germany’s richest). After a 20-year reign, Japan is no longer Asia’s top spot for billionaires: India has 36, worth a total of $191 billion, followed by Japan with 24, worth a combined $64 billion. The average billionaire is 62 years old, two years younger than in 2005. This year’s new billionaires are seven years younger than that. Two-thirds of last year’s billionaires are richer. Only 17% are poorer, including 32 who fell below the billion-dollar mark. The billionaires’ combined net worth climbed by $900 billion to $3.5 trillion. They made money in everything from media and real estate to coffee, dumplings, and ethanol. Are there billionaires Forbes missed? They didn’t uncover Ireland’s Denis O’Brien, who pocketed $800 million in a junk bond offering, until 13 days after they’d locked in fortunes, so he is not reflected in the rankings. (Forbes website, March 8)
Falling farther behind
In 2000, the top 1% of the world’s population – some 37 million adults with a net worth of at least $515,000 – accounted for about 40% of the world’s total net worth. The bottom half of the population owned merely 1.1% of the globe’s wealth. The net worth of the world’s typical person – whose wealth was above that of half the world’s population and below that of the other half – was under $2,200. The US accounted for 4.7% of the world’s population but 32.6% of the world’s wealth. Nearly 4 out of every 10 people in the wealthiest 1% of the global population were American. The average American had a net worth of nearly $144,000, ranking behind the average Japanese, who had $180,000, at market exchange rates; the average person in Luxembourg, who had $183,000; and the average Swiss, who had $171,000. Among Americans, wealth is distributed about as unequally as it is around the globe; the richest 1% of Americans held 32% of the nation’s wealth in 2001 and rake in a higher share of the nation’s income than at any time since the 1920s. (New York Times, December 6, via Ed Dodson)
Rich get new subsidies
After Hurricane Katrina, the government gave out nearly $5.3 billion in aid to rebuild New Orleans. Besides purchase food and construction materials, it was used to pay for guns, strippers, and tattoos. At least 162,750 homes that didn’t exist before the storms may have received a total of more than $1 billion in illegal payments. Conversely, some deserving people were improperly denied aid. The Justice Department so far has prosecuted more than 400 people for storm-related fraud, and $18 million has been returned to FEMA or the American Red Cross. A block-by-block survey of flooded areas also shows that about 10,000 properties in New Orleans remain in a state of withering neglect. (Seattle Times, Feb 7) While cheating the government is wrong, is lobbying it any better?
Katrina and Rita turned 300 miles of coast into wasteland. Yet in response to wealthy owners of high-risk land along Florida’s Gulf Coast and on Jekyll Island, a vacation spot off Georgia’s coast, Congress agreed to include them in the federal subsidized insurance program. The federal flood portfolio carries 5.4 million policies and recently eclipsed $1 trillion in coverage. It takes in just $2 billion a year in premiums; more than a third of that – nearly $720 million a year – is eaten up by interest on debt; the program owes the US Treasury $20 billion. Subsidizing rich landowners makes it possible for them to build on sites that are environmentally sensitive and disaster-prone. Now rich owners of beachfront in Alabama, Texas, and elsewhere are lobbying Congress for their own cheap coverage. (Associated Press, 2006 Dec 29)
Cowboys ride on taxpayers
The Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management announced the new fee of $1.35 per cow/calf pair, per month, down from $1.56 last year. The new fee is as low as it can legally be. A small number of Western livestock operators, producing less than three percent of the beef we eat, pay less per month to feed their cows than it costs to feed a hamster. Meanwhile those cows are befouling our rivers, accelerating erosion, and driving rare species toward extinction on lands that belong to the American people. The federal grazing program operates at a deficit of at least $123 million annually. Independent economists have estimated that the costs may be closer to $500 million annually. It estimated that in order to cover costs, the Bureau of Land Management would have to charge $7.64 per animal-unit-month and the Forest Service would have to charge $12.26. (Center for Biological Diversity, February 05; via Paul Metz)
Tolls to unclog highways
Some number of travelers will always be willing to pay a price to save several minutes, while others would rather save a few dollars and take the chance of being stuck in traffic. Addressing the preferences of the former, the administration’s proposed $2.9 trillion fiscal 2008 budget allocates $130 million to build congestion-pricing systems. A few such experiments already operate in the US. On a portion of California Route 91 in Orange County, drivers can choose between the free road and the less-traveled pay-per-drive adjacent lanes, in which tolls vary throughout the day and throughout the week. Driving eastbound in the express lanes at 4 PM Thursday costs $9.25, compared with $1.85 at noon the same day. To the south in San Diego, on an eight-mile stretch of Interstate 15, motorists who pay fees that vary throughout the day depending on traffic conditions, can use the high-occupancy toll, or H.O.T., lanes. (NY Times, Feb 11, via Heather Remoff)
US lets our oil go for free
A study, which the Interior Department refused to release for more than a year, estimates that current tax breaks let oil companies drilling in the Gulf of Mexico dodge tens of billions of dollars in royalties. The US government’s usual take – royalties plus corporate taxes – is about 40% of revenue from oil and gas extracted on federal property; worldwide, governments average about 60 to 65%; that figure excludes countries where government alone extracts oil. Starting this year, Britain raised its tax on petroleum revenue from the North Sea, pushing the government’s share to 50%. Norway keeps at least 70% of revenues; as oil prices rise, the government share increases and tops out at 78%. Several Canadian provinces have adopted similar policies; Alaska’s new tax system kicks in as oil prices climb above $55 a barrel. Given the nearly fourfold increase in oil prices from $15 a barrel in 1999 to more than $70 2006 summer, do oil companies really need tax breaks? (New York Times, Dec 22, via Alanna Hartzok)
In 2006, the world’s largest oil company netted $39.5 billion, making it the most profitable year for any company ever. It tops the last record, also set by Exxon, in 2005 by 9.3%. Exxon’s annual net income soared despite fourth-quarter earnings falling 4.3% from last year’s record quarter. Exxon’s profit equals roughly $132 for every US resident, more money generated per minute, $75,150, than 90% of the US population earned all year. Exxon raked in record profits even though the price of a barrel of oil ended 2006 at $61.05 where it started – $61.04 a barrel at the end of 2005. It benefited over the summer when oil prices spiked to a high of $77.03 a barrel. (USA Today, Feb 2)
SEC Chairman Christopher Cox said the timing of stock option awards to executives “appears to be a pandemic of crooked accounting.” Companies had to erase more than $5 billion in earnings and fire more than 60 senior officers and directors – including 18 Cheat Executive Officers. The founder and CEO of the company that popularized the graphic “Grand Theft Auto” video games, Ryan A. Brant, pleaded guilty. A former top executive of the company that runs another popular feature of American culture, the Monster job search Web site, admitted he backdated millions of dollars in stock option grants. They were the sixth and seventh executives to be criminally charged in the wave of government investigations. The Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission have 130 or so companies under investigation. Some critics want prosecutors to pick up the pace of enforcement actions in corporate America’s biggest fraud of 2006. (Associated Press, Feb 16)
Along with back-dating, there’s trading-ahead. The Financial Times (Feb 15, via Phil Anderson) highlighted several examples of the length some stock traders go to, to disguise their knowledge and then trading of non-public information. Which will still affect price, of course, diluting returns to those not in the know. Federal prosecutors at the Securities and Exchange Commission charged that an inside trading ring at three “top tier” Wall Street firms – UBS, Morgan Stanley and Bear Stearns – operated for five years, involving hundreds of tips and thousands of relatively small trades, netting the insiders $8 million. (USA Today, Mar 1)
Big paycheck gap bigger
The top five Wall Street firms (Bear Stearns, Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, and Morgan Stanley) were expected to award from $36 billion to $44 billion worth of bonuses to their 173,000 employees. That averages between $208,000 and $254,000, with the bulk going to the 1,000 or so highest-paid managers. An amount less than half of the combined bonuses awarded by the five Wall Street firms for one year, $15.4 billion, is how much the combined annual earnings of the 93 million production and nonsupervisory workers (exclusive of farmworkers) rose from 2000 to 2006. That’s $3.20 a week, an increase of 1%. Yet those workers’ productivity, the amount of output per hour of work, from 2000 to 2006 rose by 18%. They earned bigger rewards, but the bonuses went instead to the tiptop. Meanwhile, the US savings rate has dropped to below zero, and more Americans file for bankruptcy than for divorce. (NY Times, Jan 8, via Heather Remoff)
In 2006, productivity slowed to its lowest rate in nine years – in 1997 the gain was 1.6%. Since hitting 4.1% in 2002, productivity has declined: in 2005 it was 2.3%, last year it was 2.1%. But that was still nearly a full percentage point above average annual gains from 1973-93 when oil price shocks made doing business more costly. Then high-tech tools such as computers began to boost worker efficiency. Labor’s wages for each unit of output rose 3.2% for all 2006, up from 2% in 2005 and the fastest rise in wages and benefits since a 4.2% increase in 2000. Following a 3.2% rate of increase in the third quarter, for the fourth quarter wages fell back to just 1.7%. (AP, USA Today, Feb 7)
Wealth gap popular worry
American overwhelmingly see the growing gap between rich and poor as a serious national problem; in an LA Times poll, three quarters worried about the yawning income/wealth gap. Among people earning less than $40k annually, 84% called the disparity a major challenge; almost as many among the $40-$60k/yr group felt the same way; among those making over $100k/yr, it was three in five. Even a majority of Republicans – 55% – called the situation serious. Even an ex-vice chair of the Federal Reserve – which wields enormous power, creating so much new money which investors use to bid up assets, making the rich richer – expressed concern (Ms. Alice Rivlin by name) about the inequality. The portion of national income claimed by the top quintile topped 50%, up from 45.6% 20 years ago; the bottom three quintiles earned 26.6%, down from 29.9% in 1985. Average pay for CEOs rose to 369 times that of the average worker last year, up from 131 times in 1993 and 36 times in 1976. While we slide into a two-class society, there is nevertheless some head-in-the sand; about two thirds of Americans called their own finances secure and expected housing values in their neighborhood to stay up in the first half of 2007. (Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Dec 14; via Meta Heller)
Housing costly, crime up
In cities like New York, LA, Boston, and San Francisco, less than 10% of households can afford a median-priced home. Nationally the average is about 50%. In the star cities, many homes are kept empty much of the year by rich owners who live in multiple dwellings. (Wall Street Journal, Feb 13) After a lull between 2001 and 2004, robberies and murders in America rose in the first half of 2006, from big urban areas to small cities. At 3.7%, the violent crime rate was on pace for a second straight annual increase; in 2005, violent crime rose 2.2%. Some of the biggest jumps were in robberies at 9.7% and in arson at 6.8%. (The Oregonian, Dec 19)
Small caps, big dividends
To share profit with investors at year-end, fewer US companies, particularly big-name ones, raised dividend payments to shareholders in December than in the same month a year earlier. Some small and midsize companies chose another route: one-time, or extra, dividend payments. A total of 221 companies, the highest since 1978, declared extra dividends in December, up 13% from the 196 companies that paid them a year earlier. Companies typically pay extra dividends when they want to reward shareholders but don’t want to commit to paying the same amount each year. The number of companies that raised their regular dividends in December was 154, down from 166 a year earlier. For the full year, 1,969 companies raised their regular dividends, up 1% from 1,949 in 2005. Many companies used excess cash to buy back stock last year rather than raise dividend payments. (LA Times, January 5)
Few corps split their stock
Only 37 companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 index split their stock last year. That’s almost 40% below the average number of yearly splits since 1979 and 60% below the 91 that split in 1999 as the last bull market was peaking. Companies split their stock in half to keep their per-share price low. Small investors like the idea that they own twice as many shares and that they can purchase stock at a lower per-share price. Data show splits are meaningless; stocks that split from 1988 to 2005 had nearly identical 12-month performance to those that didn’t. Some guesses for last year’s drought of splits: The Google effect. Having a high per-share price is a status symbol. Some investors see Google at $500 and Berkshire Hathaway at $100,000 as a badge of honor.
Fear of a market correction. It’s been 51 months since the market corrected 10% or more. That makes companies nervous. If their share price falls after a split, it may be lower than management wanted.
The get-even factor. While the Dow Jones industrial average was near a high, many stocks were still lower than were they were five years ago. The S&P 500 was still 6.3% below its high. (USA Today, Jan 22)
Home prices down again
“In all the developed countries put together, real estate prices have risen by more than $30trn over the past five years. That’s equivalent to 100% of their combined annual GDPs. This eclipses the 1990s stock market bubble (an increase over five years of 80% of GDP), and Wall Street’s bubble of the late 1920s (55%).” (Fred Harrison, author of Boom, Bust: House Prices, Banking and the Depression of 2010 in Money Week, Jan 30)
By last year, a median-priced American home cost nearly eight times average annual earnings, up from about five times earnings in 1980. The number of unoccupied homes for sale has reached a record 2.7% of all homes that are normally owner occupied. (Christian Science Monitor, Feb 7)
The S&P/Case-Shiller method showed that home prices rose 0.4% in the fourth quarter of 2006 compared with the same period a year earlier. It was their smallest gain since 1993 Q2. (USA Today, Mar 1)
In December, home prices in the top 10 metro areas fell 0.8%, the largest monthly drop since 1991. (CBS MarketWatch, Feb 27)
In January, sales of new homes fell by double digits, the sharpest in 13 years, since January 1994. New homes account for 15% of the market. The median price of an existing home fell to $210,600, a decline of 3.1% from a year ago, the third-biggest drop in history and the sixth straight month of decline. (CBS MarketWatch, Feb 16)
Of 55 economists polled Jan. 18-24, 9% said the housing decline ended in 2006, 42% said the downturn will end in the first half of 2007, and 45% said it will bottom out in the second half. (USA Today, Feb 5)
Cracks in the façade?
In the final quarter of 2006, as borrowers with meager means faltered, late mortgage payments shot up to a 3 1/2-year high and foreclosures surged to a record high. The percentage of payments that were 30 or more days past due for all loans tracked jumped to a seasonally adjusted 4.95% rate in the October-to-December quarter. That marked a sharp rise from the third-quarter’s delinquency rate of 4.67% and was the worst showing since the spring of 2003, when the late-payment rate climbed to 4.97%. The percentage of mortgages that started the foreclosure process rose to 0.54%, a record high. The previous high, 0.50%, occurred in the second quarter of 2002 as the economy was recovering from the blows of the 2001 recession. The late-payment rate for all subprime loans jumped to 13.33% in Q4, from 12.56% in the prior period and the highest in four years. The delinquency rate for subprime borrowers with adjustable-rate mortgages was even higher – 14.44%, also the highest in four years. The Mortgage Bankers Association, the source of the data, altered its December forecast of when housing prices would turnaround, from 2007′s middle to this year’s end. (USA Today, March 13) Not only did poor borrowers overextend, so did their lenders, and the lenders to their lenders. Next, some banks should fail, followed by some businesses who needed their poor customers. How far it spreads depends on how rational voters and government react; expect the bankruptcies to spread widely.
Cycle signals point down
US debt enjoys demand. Despite war abroad, oil exporters increased their holding of Treasuries to $97.1 at the end of November, up from $79.3 billion a year ago; China went from $303.9 billion a year before to $347 billion. As demand for US bonds rises, their yields fall. Normally, the yield of a 30-year bond stays 1.5 percentage points above the Fed funds rate. But to slow growth, the Fed has raised their basic rate 16 times since 2004 (still well below their 1981 rate of 19%). That has pushed up the yield of short-term bonds, as demand lowered the yield of long-termers. When short-terms pay more than long, watch out; since 1960, such inversion has preceded a recession, the lone exception being 1966. Lately the 30-year bond yield has dipped below the fed funds rate, and the 10-year Treasury note, often used as a benchmark for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages, has kept below six-month Treasury bills for eight-straight months, the longest such period since 1981. Yields have been inverted 11 of the past 13 months. Yet does an inversion still matter? US companies can borrow overseas at lower rates; while the Fed’s funds rate is 5.25%, the European Central Bank rate is 3.5%. (USA Today, Feb 13) Yet cheap loans can’t buoy business when their customers go broke.
Meanwhile, high-end office space rents are higher in Moscow than in New York City, $21 per square foot higher, at $95 per square foot. To capture those rents, investors are building a 93-story office tower, which will be Europe’s tallest building. (Parade Magazine, Dec 24) If it’s darkest before down, it’s also brightest before sunset. It’s at the end, the peak, of the land price cycle when investors put up the newest, tallest building.
FROM THE OP-ED PAGES
NY State on split-rate
“A split-rate tax would benefit many upstate New York cities and villages with aging infrastructure and high property taxes that have resulted from diminishing tax bases. Nearly all of the Pennsylvania cities using the split-rate tax experienced an increase in development after the split-rate tax was implemented.” (In ex-Governor Pataki’s Report on Quality Communities, page 95, November 2006)
By taxing land more than buildings, cities can encourage valuable sites to be used productively, rather than banked by investors hoping for even higher prices. (Rich Nymoen et al, St. Paul Pioneer Press, Nov 27, linked to Planetizen: Urban Planning and Development Network, the popular website of planners)
Lower taxes on buildings would encourage renovation and new construction, because there’d be less of a penalty for doing the work. Also, there would be a greater incentive for people to replace abandoned buildings and parking lots with useful structures such as affordable housing. (Jeffrey P. Cohen, Barney School of Business, U of Hartford; The Hartford Courant, 2006 December 17)
The New York Observer, March 12, by Tom Acitelli: “It’s more than a century since Henry George’s Progress and Poverty was a best-seller, but his memory lingers on.”
Others on full land tax
Scrapping Kansas City’s 1% tax on workers’ earnings and replacing it with a land tax would help the city compete more successfully with other metropolitan areas and slow the migration of businesses and workers to distant suburbs. Henry George, a social reformer in the 19th century, campaigned to replace all other taxes with a single tax on land. Haslag’s model suggests a 10% tax on land value, in addition to the current 1.44% tax on land and building. (Joseph Haslag, U of Missouri at Columbia, published by the Show-Me Institute; St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Jan 24, Kansas City Business Journal, Jan 25, The Kansas City Star, Jan 26)
Henry George knew that state ownership of land would never be tolerated, so he proposed that the state confiscate all unearned increment of land values as a single tax. (Charleston Gazette, Feb 9; Huntington News Network, Feb. 12)
How to shift to alternative energy and oil conservation: how to pay for it? One way would be serious tax reform, not only by eliminating the Bush tax cuts, but also by heavily taxing non-productive asset transactions through restoration of higher capital gains taxes, shutting down offshore tax havens, a universal land-use tax on rents and mineral rights, or higher taxes on earnings from privatized public utilities and interest. (Richard C. Cook, who worked in the Carter White House and NASA before spending 21 years as an analyst with the US Treasury Department. He is the author of Challenger Revealed, called by Publisher’s Weekly, “easily the most informative and important book on the disaster.” Dissident Voice, Feb 18. He spoke in the Basic Income Group track at the Eastern Econ. Assoc. annual)
The Christian Science Monitor (March 14): “An increasing number of liberals, such as Al Gore, and conservatives, such as Texas oil billionaire T. Boone Pickens, are publicly supporting the idea of taxing energy more and work less. All across Europe – where energy taxes are already much higher than in the US – governments are already cutting payroll taxes. Payroll taxes increase the costs of hiring workers.”
English left, Scottish greens
“We do not get richer as a society from rising house prices. We merely transfer a burden to future generations who have to pay more for their houses. We shut out the have-nots who cannot tap their parents for a deposit. We lock in a permanent underclass who have no hope of ever getting on to the property ladder. Need this have happened? No. Residential property in Britain jumped by £410bn in value last year. Only about 2% of that gain was taxed by stamp duty or inheritance tax. Would prices have risen so far so fast if land values were taxed more? No. The discussion of land value tax, which has been around since the days of Adam Smith and David Ricardo, is gaining ground again as people reflect on the absurdities of the housing boom. Next week sees the launch of an edited and abridged version of the classic 1879 work by the American economist Henry George, Progress and Poverty by Bob Drake. George is widely seen as the father of land value taxation and his ideas are as relevant today as they were in the aftermath of the US civil war.” (One of several recent endorsements in The Guardian, this in their e-Unlimited by Ashley Seager Feb 19, via Mark Monson)
“Greens support a land value tax. The land value of a location is community-created. Land value is not created by property owners who should therefore not benefit from it when it becomes incorporated in higher capital or rental values.” (Mark Ballard MSP for Lothians since 2003, Green speaker on Finance and Public Services, and Rector of Edinburgh University, and Peter McColl, researcher for Mark Ballard, Scottish Left Review, Issue 38)
Asia and Down Under
The Australian, the daily national broadsheet, published a prize-winning essay, here extracted: “There is the economic opportunity cost of all the investment going into property. Unlike investment in shares or loans to business, investments in land ownership generate no increase in productivity or output. They simply rely on population increase and general increases in societal wealth to increase demand for, and thus the price of, land. In this respect, untaxed land ownership steals income from those involved in production: in 1911 land owners received only 8% of national income with workers and entrepreneurs getting 85%. Today it is 27% and 41% respectively. Ultimately, land monopolies act as a constraint on continued economic growth as more income passes from businesses and their employees to landlords.” (Tony Healy, Dec 18)
Punjab News (Jan 28): “Pay for what you take, not for what you make. Businesses should not be taxed for hiring people or for earning a profit, but should be charged for using resources and polluting the planet. People should not be taxed for earning an income or purchasing products but should be charged for the value of land they own and the resources used in the products they buy. Taxing unearned income (resources, land) and not earned income (jobs, profits) will reduce the rich-poor gap since the rich are always in a better position to capture unearned or windfall income by their ability to hold assets that they do not have to consume.” (G.S.Bhalla, Commerce and Business Management, Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, India; via Ed Dodson)
FROM THE ARCHIVES
Historical Society on HG
His name was Henry George, and he was perhaps the most original economic theorist this nation has produced. In his own day he was as well known as, say, Ralph Nader is today. He had something to say still worth listening to, and he put it all down in a book called Progress and Poverty, published in 1879 as the pinnacle of what might be called an intellectual success story by Horatio Alger. As he himself once observed, “… if I have been enabled to emancipate myself from ideas which have fettered far abler men, it is, doubtless, due to the fact that I was led to think a good deal before I had a chance to do much reading.” (American Heritage Magazine, 1978 April-May, and their website)
Capitalism’s Next Stage
In Capitalism 3.0: A Guide to Reclaiming the Commons, (Berrett-Koehler), Peter Barnes, founder of Working Assets, argues in 166 pages that each stage of capitalism spawns its own operating system. In Capitalism 1.0, a time of shortages and scarcity, people survived on the land until the enclosure movement shrank the commons; then they moved into cities where they became a reluctant and restive industrial workforce. Capitalism 2.0, from the late 19th century to the late 20th century, is characterized by surplus. The challenge was to persuade people to want output and extend them the credit to buy it. The costs are inequality, stressful lives, and corporate revenues and power that exceed those of many nations. In Capitalism 3.0, the Commons is no longer simply a pasture but the gifts we inherit or create together. The land as Commons is an idea from the earliest days of the American Republic. Tom Paine proposed paying citizens compensation for their loss of “natural inheritance, by the introduction of the system of landed property.” In the late 19th century, Henry George and his followers advocated a tax on land, to compensate the public for its investment that created the land’s market value. Even a cursory investigation suggests that the level of givings in this country is 100, perhaps even 1000 times greater than the level of takings. Rather than relying on government to protect the Commons, Barnes argues for a trust to disburse revenue gained from creating a property right in the Commons, which could ameliorate poverty. (David Morris, co-founder and VP of the Inst. for Local Self Reliance in Minneapolis; AlterNet, Independent Media Inst, Jan 5)
Ricardo’s Law revisited
A new book by Fred Harrison brings into sharp focus the root cause of our continuing failure to address poverty and the growing gap between rich and poor. Ricardo’s Law takes its title from a much neglected piece of economic theory, David Ricardo’s Law of Rent, which explains how much of the wealth generated through economic activity ends up in increased land values, enhancing the wealth and wellbeing of those who own land, and doing little for those who contribute most to its creation. (Guardian Unlimited, by Mark Braund, Feb 22)
In Ricardo’s Law, journalist Fred Harrison adds his voice to the moral crusade to which Tom Paine and Henry George devoted themselves. Paine had joined the best of his age’s moral philosophers in calling for the public collection of “ground rents” to cover the costs of government and provide an income supplement to many citizens. George described how market dynamics determine the amount of ground rents available for public collection. Paine’s efforts helped secure republican governance and democratic processes. George and his supporters formed the Progressive vanguard fighting for an end to monopoly privilege. Tragically, they failed. Armed with data produced by government and other experts, Harrison’s analysis challenges a long list of conventional wisdoms. (Ed Dodson continues his review of 2006 November on his webiste, the School of Cooperative Individualism.)
Fed head explains inflation
Before he became Federal Reserve Chair, Ben Bernanke told the National Economists Club (2002 Nov 21): “Government has a technology, called a printing press (or, today, its electronic equivalent), that allows it to produce as many dollars as it wishes. By increasing the number of dollars in circulation, government can reduce the value of a dollar in terms of goods and services, which is equivalent to raising prices.”
Mason Gaffney, UC-Riverside (Feb 4): “As for inflation, the main cause is the failure of governments to collect enough taxes, so they resort to deficits, financed by central banks issuing new money.”
The federal deficit for the four months, Oct. 1 to Jan 30, totaled $42.2 billion. From the same period in fiscal 2006, it was down 57.2%, since revenues were up 9.7%, climbing to $834.1 billion, a record for the period. Government spending was up 2.1% to $876.3 billion, also a record for the period. (USA Today, Feb 13)
Consumer prices in 2006 rose 2.5%, the slowest rise since 1.9% in 2003. Core inflation, which excludes volatile energy and food costs, rose 2.6%, the fastest increase since 2.7% in 2001 (2.7% for 27 years will double prices). (LA Times, Jan 18) In January, consumer prices rose 0.2% while core prices rose 0.3%, largest gain in seven months. Medical costs – prescription drugs and doctor services – rose 0.8%, steepest rise since 1991 August. (USA Today, Feb 21)
Since prices for copper and zinc have inflated, some people melt down pennies and sell the metal. In 2006 the US Mint made melting down pennies and nickels illegal. No one has yet made it illegal for the US to over-issue new money, making possible inflation in the first place.
LA Times aggra on agri-biz
The Los Angeles Times on farm subsidies (Feb 4): “Why should Americans care? First, because other nations retaliate against US exports. Second, because subsidies kill competition with foreign growers that would ultimately lower prices on some produce in this country. Third, because taxpayers are shelling out roughly $20 billion a year to an agribusiness juggernaut that neither needs nor deserves the money at a time of ballooning deficits. And fourth, because the poor countries most harmed by our trade policies are the ones most likely to become failed states, embittered by our hypocritical preaching on the merits of ‘free trade’.”
In recent years, ever more Americans don’t trust government to spend their money wisely. On Medicare, most surveyed sided with Democrats’ desire to have the government negotiate drug prices with manufacturers. On Social Security, a more narrow majority sided with President Bush in his effort to make individual accounts part of the government retirement program. The findings are from public policy groups, both left- and right-leaning: the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, and Public Agenda and Viewpoint Learning, two liberal groups. All three favor deficit reduction and have spent the past year working to educate the public and seek feedback about the nation’s fiscal condition. (USA Today, 2006 Dec 12)
To skirt the waste inherent in spending OPM (Other People’s Money), let’s shift discretionary spending from politician and bureaucrat to the citizenry, paying ourselves a dividend rather than more subsidized “services”.
One pro, one con land tax
M. Jastifer, ex-Michigan assessor now advising remodelers on real estate and property tax matters (Feb 21): “The ad valorem property tax is the most fair tax in America. Everyone in America can get a house if they just work. What do you want to do? Give all the land to the people and everyone has to be equal?”
Editor: The property tax is fair in part because part of it falls on the socially-generated value of land. But the part that falls on the building is not fair; that value is generated by somebody’s labor and capital. And there’s many people working hard who lack homes, so work by itself is no solution. Left up to me, I’d not give land to anyone, just leave land titles in the hands of whoever pays the land dues. What I’d give is the land value to everyone, since it’s everyone who generates it and nobody creates the land. Then people could enjoy equal rights.
Hollywood Writer: “Why should somebody who paid for land once have to pay again?”
Editor: They paid the wrong person. They paid neither whoever made land nor who makes land value. While your neighbors did not create land either, they do create its value. Your paying them compensates them for keeping off your land, a portion of our common heritage, as their paying you compensates you for same. And you keep paying them as long as you want them to respect your property, provide police patrols, maintain roads, teach your kids, etc, as they’ll keep paying you for the same, each paying land dues in and everyone getting “rent” dividends back.
John Kromkowski, Baltimore lawyer (Mar 13): “In some states, a constitutional uniformity clause has been written or interpreted in such a way as to require any tax on property to fall on both land value and improvement value equally. To skirt this clause and tax a kind of personal property – cars – lawmakers called their tax on automobiles/vehicles a title tax. Currently, property title fees are a just flat filing fee, relating not at all to the value of the real estate. A geoist legislature could raise it to the value of the land. Of course, just as some people try to drive without registrations, some would skip paying the land title fee. What to do about such a landowner? Such a risk-taker could not defend his land against adverse possession in court. Rather than confiscation, a state could create a cloud on his title, making mortgages and the sale of the property complicated. To avoid that and to use state courts, almost all owners would pay up.”
Editor: If compliance wouldn’t be a problem, then eventually deed fees might morph into real land dues.
In the media, on a podium
I extended an invitation to our local network to a Winter Solstice celebration, which drew some who demonstrated that knowledge, too, can be bliss – as long as there’s good company to laugh about it with. A couple weeks later, Jan 7, presented to Portland’s Humanists, about 80 strong. The lively discussion recruited volunteers and spun off a restaurant dinner to further discuss geonomics and how Humanists might help the cause. With Salemite Richard Reid we emailed and visited a dozen elected representatives at the start of Oregon’s biennial legislative session; we brought around some new leaders, especially Republican Rep. John Dallum who had read our stuff in advance was enthused to move forward. We got a bill into Legislative Council for official drafting but not back in time to meet a new deadline self-imposed by lawmakers. Our bill might get incorporated into someone else’s, but at this point that’s our only chance.
Basic Income in New York
In February, thanks to support from the Henry George School and the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation, in New York City I spoke in the Basic Income Track within the annual conference of the Eastern Economic Association. Their new president, Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz, fired from being Chief Economist at the World Bank for articulating inconvenient truths, drew a bigger audience than yours truly! Stanley Aronowitz, unionist now at the City University of New York, from the podium agreed with recovering site values, but thought taxes on other values would be necessary, too. Senator Eduardo Suplicy, Brazilian Federal Senate, who may be the next mayor of Sao Paulo, liked the idea of recovering site values in order to fund housing assistance for all residents, a bit like Aspen CO does. The reception at the Henry George School was the highlight of the week. There I met many old friends and Nibaldo Aguilera, new advisor to the new president of Chile; we brainstormed ways we might catalyze geonomics in Latin America. Returning to Portland, the cabbie from the airport liked my report on my trip so much, he halved my fare!
Newcomers, old stayers
The fall Geonomist elicited enough renewals and newals to cover the costs of copying and postage: from patron Marion Sapiro (ret. CA prof); super stalwarts Hanno Beck (MD computer consultant), Richard Biddle (ret. Philly teacher), Jake Himmelstein (Philly accountant), stalwarts Polly Cleveland (NY economist), Michael Cykana (TX computerician), Wendell Fitzgerald (new groom and ret. CA oil manager), Everett Gross (ret. Nebraskan), Mel Leasure (ret. VA communitarian), Michael Neil (CA healer), Mark Sullivan (NY manager), Nic Tideman (VA prof); sustainer Jeff Strang (Portland bldg. inspector); super supporter Paul Justus (AR planner), supporters Gil Herman (CT activist), Greg Young (MO caregiver); and subscribers Trevor Acorn (Democratic Freedom Caucus), Christopher Thacker (MO student), the Robert Schalkenbach Fdn itself (NY), among others. Big thanks to all for re/joining, donating, and granting. If you don’t see your name above and know it belongs there, just send a check. We’ll know what to do with it.
The Robert Schalkenbach Foundation has contracted with us to produce the monthly e-newsletter, The Georgist News. It’s free, fact-packed, and timely. If you’d like a sample copy, let me know.
WHERE FROM HERE?
What you can do
Attend the Exploring Innovation Conference, May 2-4, St. Louis MO, hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank. See their invitation online. The early bird fee, $275, lasts til March 29. Dr. Tom Gihring and I will speak and network with locals Al Katzenberger and friends.
Prof Hovhanness I Pilikian (Dec 20): “I forward your communication to over fifty of the choicest on my mailing-list; I included you to let you have a copy!”
Editor: Big thanks. Knowledge is power. If anyone else has a list, tell them about this knowledge source.
What else you can do
Edward Clarke, ret., OMB (January 5: “I’m embarrassed that I didn’t get you my usual year-end donation. Will correct that ASAP. Keep up the great work.”
Scott, the Roots (Jan 2): “I’ve been using PayPal and it’s been great; instant payment makes it so easy to donate. If I had to take the time to make out a check for a small amount I probably wouldn’t. Is PayPal on your website? I’ll head over there to donate $5.”
Michael A. Neil, California health provider (Jan 15): “Your web site needs, right at the top, a button, ‘Make a Contribution’. Thought I’d re-up there but it’s still the paper way I guess. Your check is in the mail.”
Editor: Big thanks, fellows. Our webmaster is a volunteer who’s so busy. We are enrolled at Pay Pal. At their site, they ask you to open an account for yourself then to send to my e-address. If you have any trouble, I’ll resolve it. Visit: http://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=p/ema/index-outside
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The bottom line: Secure Earnings, Share Earth
Finns, Germans for BIG
Imagine getting an income just for being a member of a society with a surplus. You’d have so much security, you could choose to do only useful work. You’d have time to enjoy your brief stay on this planet.
Back in 1985 in the UK Parliament, the Labour Land Campaign sponsored a bill to craft a dividend paid to citizens from the recovered values of sites and resources. Dave Wetzel worked on that campaign and works for the “rent” dividend now. He wields some clout among civic leaders worldwide; he’s a VP in the capitol’s mass transit agency, Transport for London.
Something similar to this dividend is the Basic Income Grant (BIG). Some of its advocates note the payment should come from “rent” – the money we spend on the nature we use (sites, resources, EM spectrum, ecosystem services). Most proponents, however, are silent on how to fund BIG. The Scottish Green Party advocates both a “Citizen’s Income” and a tax on land value but does not connect the two – a case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing.
Among the BIGists are some fairly big (no pun intended) names. Prime Minister of Finland, Matti Vanhanen of the Centre Party, in joining his nation’s debate on BIG, said that the current wide range of benefits could be replaced by a BIG of about 600 or 700 euros per month, supplemented by incentives to encourage people to work. The Finnish Greens had accused the Social Democrats of using false reasons to reject this extra income for everyone.
Several newsworthy Germans have endorsed BIG, including sociologist Ulrich Beck, author of “The Risk Society,” and chairperson of the left party PDS, Kayja Kipping. One of the 500 richest Germans, Gotz Werner, owner of over 1700 drug stores with annual sales of 3.7 billion euros said, “Like almost all entrepreneurs, I wanted more and more in the past. Today maximizing meaning is my top priority. I have read the classics, Goethe, Schiller. I understand my own success is not everything. I want to help others succeed. ‘Nothing is stronger than an idea whose time has come,’ Victor Hugo said. Two years ago BIG was something for a few experts. When I give lectures today the halls are full.”
In behalf of Africa, the UN Commission for Social Development praised Namibia’s basic income grant proposal. The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) urged its member churches to consider poverty reduction initiatives like Namibia’s BIG proposal. The LWF also praised Namibian Lutherans for their work promoting the BIG in South Africa.
In Australia, John McDonnell has been an MP for the Australian Labour Party since 1997. Now he campaigns to become the next Labour leader and endorsed social rights to a Citizen’s Income (or BIG). If his campaign succeeds, he’d be poised to become Prime Minister of Australia next general election, after which he could likely get his Citizen’s Income implemented.
In South America, Uruguayan member of the Parliament Pablo Álvarez (Frente Amplio, left wing coalition) presented at the Chamber of Representatives of the National Parliament a proposal to create the “Uruguayan National Network for Basic Income”. The Parliament approved the creation of a Committee to study the political meaning and feasibility of BIG. A committee can be a graveyard for new ideas, but at least the discussion is underway.
In North America, participants in a survey by the [Canadian] National Council on Welfare ranked the Guaranteed Livable Income (another name for BIG) number one for action to permanently reduce poverty. Three Canuck politicos declared their support: Conservative Senator Hugh Segal, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, and the Green Party of Manitoba. Ontario Green Party leader Frank de Jong wrote us (May 26), “I just got around to reading your amazing piece on the citizen’s dividend in Common Ground. You inspire me greatly.” US BIG posted on the web a copy of “Can a Citizens Dividend Replace Welfare?” What do you think the answer is?
FROM THIS PEN’S PERCH
Gulfs and support widen
Summer’s already begun and here I am in a New York airport, after the Ecological Economics meeting, stranded by a hard rain, trying to wrap up this summer issue. Sitting butt-numb, wondering what’s next as some basic trends keep moving apart. Some guys get a billion dollars a year while others must keep working past the old retirement age. Subsidies and oil account for ever more of the income gap. Bankruptcies pile up while, too late, home (site) prices drop. The environment worsens yet investors appear oblivious as the stock market hits new highs and the newest world’s tallest building nears completion. In the Pacific Northwest, it’s different. Land prices are still high – they always follow the rest of the nation – and its environmentalists keep ahead of the pack, getting local governments to address both climate change and peak oil, altho’ one problem seems to cure the other. And the solution to this myriad of ailments along economic lines keeps making more friends, more in Britain and Asia than in America, yet the coming housing bust could change that. Enough middleclass Americans lose all their savings by defaulting on mortgages and they may become ready to hear what works. It’d be a hard way to learn, but sometimes it seems only pain gets thru. On the bright side, once the rules on property are fixed right, they’re fixed forever.
Iraqi oil funds bad guys
Between 100,000 and 300,000 barrels a day of Iraq’s declared oil production over the past four years is unaccounted for. Using an average of $50 a barrel, the discrepancy was valued at $5 million to $15 million daily. It’s possible that Iraq has been consistently overstating its oil production. However, Iraq has a history of corruption – the “resource curse”. Bush’s Administration has spent billions of US tax dollars to improve Iraq’s oil industry while output has dropped. These new figures reinforce longstanding suspicions that smugglers, insurgents, and corrupt officials control significant parts of the country’s oil industry. (James Glanz, International Herald Tribune, May 13) That oil corrupts and absolute oil corrupts absolutely is not peculiar to Iraq; it happens in the US, too. One current and two former Alaska legislators – all Republicans – were indicted for accepting bribes to back a pipeline negotiated by a former governor. More than just cash, the bribes included a job offer in Barbados. Yet businesses lavishing politicians with perks and campaign contributions is how permits, taxes, and subsidies get passed – until we realize the worth of Earth belongs to us all. One US presidential candidate, Tommy Thiompson, does call for giving the oil revenue to the Iraqi people, something Bush’s administrator Brenner talked about doing, too.
Rich from oil & subsidies
According to the United Nations, in 2006 the net transfer of capital from poorer countries to rich ones was $784 billion, up from $229 billion in 2002. (In 1997, the balance was even.) Even the poorest countries, like those in sub-Saharan Africa, are now money exporters. Rich-country governments spent $283 billion in 2005 to support and subsidize their own agriculture, mainly companies like Archer Daniels Midland and Cargill. They undercut small farmers in poor countries who stop farming; three-quarters of the world’s poor people are rural. Then their nation buys food from the North. (NY Times, March 25, via Heather Remoff)
While income for the lower 55% of the world’s 6-billion-plus people declined or stagnated last year, the total wealth of the global ruling class grew 35%, topping $3.5 trillion USD. It came mostly from speculation on equity markets, real estate, and commodity trading, rather than from technical innovations. One hundred millionth of the world’s population owns more than over 3 billion people. Over half of the current billionaires (523) come from just 3 countries: the US (415), Germany (55) and Russia (53). (James Petras at stwr.net)
The oil-rich, former Soviet Union, including billionaires in Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan, would rank second to America as home to 65 billionaires. Turkey is home to 25; Hong Kong accounts for 21; but France has only 15. Quite a few of these billionaires in emerging markets, such as Mexico and Russia, were helped along the way by cronyism and weak antitrust laws. (Los Angeles Times, March 17)
Topping off tallest of all
Burj Dubai, the iconic super-tower, is now the tallest structure in the Middle East and Europe and it is not finished. Already at 110 levels and 380 meters high, Burj Dubai shares the honor of having the largest number of floors in any building in the world, alongside Sears Tower in Chicago. At the current unfinished height, the tower is also the world’s ninth tallest building. Burj Dubai is only one meter shorter than the Empire State Building, the second tallest in the US. It is the centerpiece of the AED 73 billion (US$20 billion) Downtown Burj Dubai, a mixed-use project in the heart of Dubai featuring residences, commercial space, hospitality projects, and several retail outlets including The Dubai Mall, the world’s largest shopping and entertainment destination. Burj Dubai is on course to become the world’s tallest building. (Emaar Properties PJSC press release, March 3, via Phil Anderson) Every time the newest world’s tallest building opens, it has been just after the 18-year land-price cycle peaked.
Buy bottled air? Got to.
Take a deep breath. Or, maybe not. Not if you’re in the Indian city of Calcutta. Traffic has so dirtied the air that 70% of its residents suffer from lung disease, including breathing difficulties, asthma, and lung cancer. The worst offenders are the 50,000 rickshaws – half of them unregistered – that burn “kantatel”. This fuel is a deadly concoction of kerosene and petrol. Government cannot force rickshaw drivers to convert to a cleaner fuel because they’re protected by powerful trade unions. What government has done is soothe the headaches of police who breathe the worst smog at work. The city equipped traffic offices with oxygen concentrators, the kind used by patients in hospitals. Doctors caution, however, that the oxygen cannot dislodge pollutants buried deep in the lungs. (17 May, BBC News) We already have the technology: fuels, motors, and mass transit that’d emit less pollution. But we still choose the same old entrenched smoggy ways because they’re cheaper, made cheaper by subsidies while the more efficient clean ways are made more expensive by taxes. Stop letting drivers pollute for free and start recovering the socially-generated value of sites and resources, then cities won’t be choked with traffic and the air with smog. Denizens could breathe again.
Retire when? Not soon.
After falling for more than 100 years, the retirement age edged up; in the 1980s, 18% of over-65s kept on working, now 29% do. What choice do those Boomers have? Aging has gotten spendy and benefits scarce. (LA Times, May 30) Slow trends that are so hard to sense can only get worse until people feel right about getting an extra income apart from their labor, one from the value of the land in their region, a value that all residents contribute to just by contributing to population density, one of the main factors by which society generates the value of locations.
Congress to tax oil?
The World Bank Group reports in 2005, public institutions such as the World Bank and US agencies such as the Export-Import Bank provided more than $3 billion to the international oil and gas industry; over the past year, lending for oil projects increased more than 75%. Instead of alleviating poverty, most oil and gas projects have exacerbated corruption, worsened economic inequality, increased local conflict, and intensified global climate change. Hence Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) on April 17 introduced a bill to help end international subsidies to Big Oil. (The Progress Report)
Despite the market price for crude oil and natural gas being lower than a year ago, in Q1 Exxon Mobil, the world’s largest publicly traded oil company, saw profits rise 10% to $9.3 billion. Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), introduced a bill to impose a windfall profits tax and close certain tax loopholes for big oil companies. (AP, April 26)
Ethanol subsidy to land
When we subsidize them, farmers can make money farming or by selling or leasing land. On one hand, returns from farmland have averaged 10.9% annually the last 15 years (Bloomberg, February 20). On the other hand, the growing demand for ethanol has pushed up corn prices an average of 63% to $3.31 a bushel during the first quarter of 2007. So farmers nationwide expect to plant 16% more acres to corn this year. In Iowa, the value of good farmland shot up 16% over the last 12 months, with 7%, or nearly half the total increase, coming in the first quarter of 2007. (Des Moines Register, May 29) Dr. Fred Foldvary, Sta Clara U, uses this example to show how higher prices for goods get capitalized into higher land values. In this case, it is corn, as subsidies to ethanol drive up corn prices. Who benefits? Owners of corn farms.
Pay for rich golfer’s links
The more you can afford to pay, the less you have to. Bill Gates, Michael Jordan, and Don Johnson have all hit the links at the Bandon Club in central Oregon. To play golf there, rich CEOs fly into the nearby Bend airport on 5000 private jets per year at a cut rate, thanks to their shareholders kicking in and taxpayers paying $31 million for the airport and its new expansion. Golfers pay $200 each and altogether play 120,000 rounds each year, besides drink, dine out, and hire hotel rooms. Despite raking in tens of millions each year, Bandon also gets a break on its property tax and the local government’s power of eminent domain to take land for a reservoir in that dry part of the state. (David Cay Johnston, The Oregonian, June 15, via Gil Herman) While not a major rip-off, it is exemplary of how the elite-state partnership works. It’s spending like that that makes government expensive and a bad bargain and that keeps the rich rich since they can slough off their costs onto everyone else. It’s why discretionary spending should reside not with politicians but with citizens – pay public revenue to citizens directly, equally, by paying them a monthly dividend from raised revenue, from charging for granting privileges like land titles, resource leases, utility franchises, charters, and … airport landing slots.
Showy insider confesses
CNBC TV’ Jim Cramer, host of Mad Money: “A lot of times when I was short (in debt for stocks) at my hedge fund – meaning I needed it (the stock to go) down – I would create a level of activity beforehand that would drive the futures. It’s a fun game, and it’s a lucrative game.” Cramer told how he’d make bets that gave the impression insider investors were predicting a stock’s future. Cramer said everything he did was legal but added that illegal activity is common in hedge funds, where regulation is lax. He said some hedge fund managers spread false rumors about a company to the media and large trading desks to drive a stock price lower. He said this practice is illegal, but easy to do “because the SEC doesn’t understand it.” He said, “The way that the market really works is to have that nexus hit the brokerage houses with a series of orders that push it down, then leak it to the press, and then get it on CNBC.” (Matt Krantz, USA Today, March 23,)
For 2006, some managers of hedge funds were paid more than $1 billion each, way more than they’ve been paid in the past. While the Standard & Poor’s 500 index returned 15.8% last year, many hedge funds did 40%. Centaurus Energy, before fees, posted 317%; it hasn’t done less than 200% since its founding in 2002. Hedge funds pool the capital of very rich individuals or institutions such as pension funds who meet financial minimums set by the SEC. Unlike the more regulated stocks and bonds bought by mutual funds, hedge funds buy derivatives and other exotic debts – which can hit the jackpot or swallow an entire investment. Hedge fund managers typically take 2% of the fund’s assets and 20% of its returns. (AP, Tim Paradis, May 1)
Stocks defy gravity
Are giant corporations any longer national? Companies like IBM, Coca-Cola, and Intel – all among the 30 in the Dow Jones Industrial Average – derive well over half their revenue from abroad. The growing economies of Europe, China, and other emerging giants absorb US exports. US-based corporations saw the earnings of their foreign affiliates in 2006 Q4 surge to an annualized level of $272 billion, up 38% from the pace in 2005 Q4. That amounts to 15% of all US corporate profits.
Flushed with global profits, companies buy back their own stock and purchase that of others – they merge. Both actions pump up share value. The price of shares for the Standard & Poor’s 500 index is about 16 times the companies’ earnings. The S&P 500 is flirting with its historic high of 1527.46 set in 2000. The Dow Jones Industrial Average crossed 13000 for the first time. All this despite the housing-market slump and gasoline topping $3 a gallon.
An old adage on Wall Street advises, “Sell in May and go away.” Historically, from May through October share prices average lower than during the winter-to-spring period. Some of the stocks performing the best are companies that typically do well during downturns – relatively safe industries such as healthcare, utilities, and telecommunications. Like farming, football, and fashion, markets are cyclical, too. As the US economy – the globe’s largest and the one that imports the most goods – slows, other economies must slow, too. Those places will quit returning such fat profits to US firms. (Mark Trumbull, Christian Science Monitor, May 8)
Income gap 2x 1980′s
Income inequality grew significantly in 2005, with the top 1% of Americans – those with incomes that year of more than $348,000 – receiving their largest share of national income since 1928. Their incomes rose to an average of more than $1.1 million each, an increase of more than $139,000. The top 10%, roughly those earning more than $100,000, also reached a level of income share not seen since before the Depression. Average incomes for those in the bottom 90% dipped slightly compared with the year before, dropping $172. The new data also shows that the top 300,000 Americans collectively enjoyed almost as much income as the bottom 150 million Americans. Per person, the top group received 440 times as much as the average person in the bottom half earned, nearly doubling the gap from 1980.
Defaults up, prices down
In California, Florida, Nevada and Arizona, speculators walked away from properties since home prices fell as interest rates rose. Late payments and foreclosures on adjustable-rate home mortgages spiked to all-time highs in 2007 Q1, up from 14.44% to 15.75%. The percentage that started the foreclosure process climbed from 2.7% to 3.23%, the highest on record. Among lenders of loans with teaser rates, 30 have gone bankrupt this year. In Q1, the number of all mortgages starting the foreclosure process rose to 0.58%, a record that surpassed the previous high in 2006 of 0.54%. (Jeannine Aversa, AP, June 14)
Sales of existing homes in May fell by about 10% from last year to the lowest level in four years, and prices dipped for the 10th month in a row. The inventory of properties on the market has swelled to an 8.9-month supply, highest in 16 years. The median price for an existing home fell about 2% to $223,700 from a year ago. (AP, June 26)
Home prices in the 10 cities fell 2.7% on a year-over-year basis, the largest decline since September 1991. Meanwhile, prices in 20 cities dropped a record 2.1% year over year. Price appreciation has slowed for 17 consecutive months. (MarketWatch, June 26)
Commercial real estate, which lags behind residential, seems to have peaked in February. See the iShares Dow Jones US Real Estate index (an ETF and NYSE: IYR). Go to the YTD or 1-year chart.http://finance.google.com/finance?q=IYR
Land eats up our budget
The number of households spending more than half their income on housing increased in one year by 1.2 million to 17 million in 2005. That year, records were set for home sales, single-family starts, and house-price appreciation. Then in 2006, while median house prices increased at least 10% in 23 of 149 metropolitan areas, they fell in 34 metros. Of the 11 metros that had declines of greater than 3%, nine were in economically depressed areas in the Midwest. The amount of home equity cashed out set a record. (MarketWatch, June 11)
Employees who’re asked to relocate balked, fearing losing money were they to sell their home. Some companies are losing prized recruits or paying higher relocation costs, as much as $100,000. (Amy Hoak, Market Watch, May 11, 2007)
Freddie Mac, which bundles and resells mortgages as securities, lost $211 million in Q4. The report marked Freddie Mac’s first on-time filing of a quarterly report in five years. Freddie Mac paid a then-record $125 million civil fine in 2003 for management misconduct in their faulty accounting. (AP, June 14, USA Today)
FROM THE OP-ED PAGES
British influenced world
New Statesman (June 4) ran “50 ideas for Brown’s Britain”, asking five leading think tanks to suggest ten-point plans for the Gordon Brown premiership. The second point in the submission from Compass reads: “Tax Land – It is often public investment in schools, roads and other supply-side measures that creates unearned gains by landowners. A land tax would stabilise house prices, slow speculation, and rebalance regional and wealth inequalities.” (via Dave Wetzel)
The Herald (May 8): “Amid the council taxation debate, the Scottish Green Party wants to tax land value rather than property price for both homes and businesses … to spur owners to bring unused shops and brownfield sites into use.”
The Sunday Herald, Deputy Business Editor Antony Akilade: “The Greens propose a land value tax. As such, it compensates the community for the private gains made from public investment in the infrastructure and financial assistance to attract development.”
Financial Express, F. H. M. Masoom (March 20): “The owners of properties whose value increases year to year enjoy the unearned increment without contributing anything towards the development of the country. To tax them is most justified and not to tax them is unethical.”
Sun Star, Antonio V. Osmeña (April 11): “In many urban areas, particularly those of high population concentration, vacant land or lots with blighted structures should be assessed and taxed in excess of their contribution to overall real estate market value, in order to stimulate its use, to discourage the holding of vacant urban land for speculative purposes, and to encourage improvement of blighted structures.
US Banker and NE editor
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Jo Mannies (April 15, via Joe Casey): “Retired investment banker, Rex Sinquefield, plans to invest millions in upcoming years in an effort to shape Missouri’s future. He also helped to establish the Show-Me Institute. He believes that state income taxes, as well as earnings taxes in St. Louis and Kansas City, hurt job growth and economic prosperity. He proposes replacing St. Louis’ earnings tax with a land tax that would be separate from a property tax.”
Hartford Courant, Tom Condon, editor of Place (June 10): “The thought is that the land tax, pioneered by 19th-century economist Henry George, will encourage owners to get the most out of the land by building on it, or selling it to someone who will build on it. Downtown seems like a very good candidate. Speculators are buying buildings and holding on to them. If owners had to pay higher taxes on land, this kind of bottom-feeding would be discouraged. Conversely, building in the trident areas would be encouraged.”
Gore, LA Times for shift
Before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on global warming, former vice president Al Gore urged Congress “to reduce taxes on employment and production and make up the difference with pollution taxes,” principally on carbon dioxide emissions. (The San Francisco Chronicle, March 23 (via Paul Martin)
Daniel Rosenblum, cofounder of the Carbon Tax Center, interviewed by Ray Suarez on PBS NewsHour (April 11): “So whenever the refiners or the oil companies sell oil into the pipeline, there will be a tax imposed there. When you take coal out of the ground, it will be taxed as it goes into commerce… Raise one tax, reduce another. You tax the bad, you tax pollution instead of productive work… We’re proposing that all the monies that are received from the carbon tax go back to all Americans, either by offsetting the payroll tax or through a rebate to all Americans, kind of like the Alaska Permanent Fund.” (via Paul Martin)
The Los Angeles Times (May 28): “While all the added costs under cap-and-trade go to companies, utilities, and traders, the added costs under a carbon tax would go to the government, which could use the revenues to offset other taxes. So while consumers would pay more for energy, they might pay less income tax, or some other tax.”
The Huffington Post (June 27): “They’re being showered with government subsidies to develop and deploy carbon capture and sequestration (CCS), whereby the emissions from coal-fired power plants are collected and stored underground. It’s technologically precarious and enormously expensive, but with taxpayers footing the bill, what the hell?”
FROM THE ARCHIVES
From Gutenburg Project
Eric Freyfogle, College of Law, U of Illinois: “To get people to mix labor with the land we need to protect the value of their labor. There is far less need to protect the land’s speculative value for future development… [M]any observers have reached these economic and moral conclusions. Among them was the late 19th-century economist Henry George, who based his enormously popular writings on this line of reasoning.” (APA journal, Planning & Environmental Law, 2006 June, Vol. 58 No. 6, via Chuck Metalitz via Bill Batt)
From Resurrection by Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910): “Henry George’s fundamental position recurred vividly to his mind and how he had once been carried away by it, and he was surprised that he could have forgotten it. The earth cannot be any one’s property; it cannot be bought or sold any more than water, air, or sunshine. All have an equal right to the advantages it gives to men… he formed a project in his mind to let the land to the peasants, and to acknowledge the rent they paid for it to be their property, to be kept to pay the taxes and for communal uses.”
Gamasutra, Ian Bogost (April 3): “In 1903, thirty years before the initial release of Monopoly as we know it, Elizabeth Magie Phillips designed The Landlord’s Game, a board game that aimed to teach and promote Georgism, an economic philosophy that claims land cannot be owned, but belongs to everyone equally. Henry George, after whom the philosophy is named, was a 19th century political economist who argued that industrial and real estate monopolists profit unjustly from both land appreciation and rising rents. To remedy this problem, he proposed a ‘single tax’ on landowners.”
It’s All For Sale
Subtitled, “The Control Of Global Resources”, it’s by James Ridgeway (2004). Five companies dominate the US petroleum industry. Five control the worldwide trade in grain. Two have a corner on the private market for drinking water. In terms of actual dollars, trade in heroin, cocaine, and tobacco ranks alongside grain or metals. There are more slaves in the world today than ever before. Resource by resource, It’s All For Sale uncovers and discloses who owns, buys, and sells what. Some resources—such as fuel, metals, fertilizers, drugs, fibers, food, forests, and flowers—have, for better or worse, long been thought of as commodities. Others—including fresh water, human beings, the sky, the oceans, and life itself (in the form of genetic codes)—are more startling to think of as products with price tags, but as Ridgeway shows, they are treated as such on a massive scale in lucrative markets around the world. Vandana Shiva calls it, “Essential reading for the ecology movement, the justice movement, the peace movement, and all who believe ‘Our World is not for sale.’” (Katipo Books website)
FCC defends EM auctions
“Spectrum Auctions Do Not Raise the Price of Wireless Services: Theory and Evidence” is by Evan Kwerel of the Office of Plans and Policy, Federal Communications Commission (2000 October). “A widely held misconception about auctions for spectrum licenses is that they will raise the price of wireless communications services. If licensees pay for their licenses instead of getting them for free, it is argued that they would have higher costs and that these costs would be passed on to their customers in the form of higher prices. This conventional wisdom is, however, contradicted by both economic theory and empirical evidence.” (via Heartland’s Institute’s Joe Bast) It’s good to know that Ricardo’s Law is still true after all these years (two centuries).
LA Times & Bulgaria
The Sofia (Bulgaria) Echo (June 25): “Subsidies create a culture of dependence and do not stimulate innovations and an enterprising spirit among market players. Subsidies are the reason for making short-sighted decisions and sustaining unprofitable and losing productions. European policy on banana production stimulates producers in France and Spain to increase output, although their costs are many times higher than the costs of Latin American producers. In the long run, without relying on EU officials for support, these producers will go bankrupt.”
Los Angeles Times (April 8): “Go ahead and rage at the peanut farmer, but in the government-handout economy – a world of concentrated benefits and distributed costs – he’d be a fool to say no to that money, and his representative in Congress would be a fool not to deliver it.”
Los Angeles Times (June 25): “Conservatives don’t like farm subsidies because they’re a waste of taxpayer money and interfere with free trade. Consumers don’t like them because they inflate food prices. Anti-poverty activists don’t like them because they encourage American farmers to overproduce certain crops and dump them on the world market, putting farmers in poor countries out of business. Even most U.S. farmers don’t like them because its benefits are distributed so unevenly; the top 20% of recipients collect 84% of crop payments, and roughly two-thirds of American farmers don’t get any subsidies at all. There are alternatives, particularly the bipartisan Farm 21 bill introduced in the Senate by Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.) and in the House by Ron Kind (D-Wis.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) and Dave Reichert (R-Wash.). It would end crop subsidies and instead put the money in ‘risk management accounts’ – sort of like Individual Retirement Accounts for farmers – and end government payments entirely within seven years.”
The Twinkie offense
New York Times (Michael Pollan, April 22): “The Twinkie is basically an arrangement of carbohydrates and fats teased out of corn, soybeans, and wheat – three of the five commodity crops that the farm bill supports, to the tune of some $25 billion a year. (Rice and cotton are the others.) For the last several decades – for about as long as the American waistline has been ballooning – US agricultural policy has promoted the overproduction of these five commodities. The reason the least healthful calories in the supermarket are the cheapest is that those are the ones the farm bill encourages farmers to grow. By making it possible for American farmers to sell their crops abroad for considerably less than it costs to grow them, the farm bill helps determine the price of corn in Mexico and the price of cotton in Nigeria and therefore whether farmers in those places will survive or be forced off the land, to migrate to the cities or to the United States. The public-health community has come to recognize it can’t hope to address obesity and diabetes without addressing the farm bill. The environmental community recognizes that as long as we have a farm bill that promotes chemical and feedlot agriculture, clean water will remain a pipe dream. The development community has woken up to the fact that global poverty can’t be fought without confronting the ways the farm bill depresses world crop prices. Voting with our forks can advance reform only so far. It can’t, for example, change the fact that the system is rigged to make the most unhealthful calories in the marketplace the only ones the poor can afford. To change that, people will have to vote with their votes as well.” (via Bruno Moser)
Say “no” or say “share”?
Some wanna-be defenders of Earth rely on the same tactic that got Nancy Reagan ridiculed: “just say no”, as in “no” to misplaced development. It didn’t work for Nancy, it doesn’t work for “greens”. What would work is to propose a way for people to both receive profit from Earth and to live within natural constraints.
Presently, we profit only when we develop – needs of the ecosystem be damned – or when we sell out and move on – integrity of the community fabric be damned. An alternative is to share the region’s natural values. That is, owners would pay in land dues (or land taxes) to the public treasury according to the value of the land they claim and residents would get back rent dividends (like Alaska’s oil dividends) in equal shares. Most people – not owning oil fields or downtown blocks while living on sites of less than average value – would come out well ahead.
The land dues would make it unprofitable for absent owners to exploit or speculate. Alert residents, enjoying receipt of rent dividends, will want to keep sufficient space open since that’d maximize the region’s value. Thus without changing popular bottom line values, environmentalists can align profit with planet.
People sharing ground rent is not new. The words “own” and “owe” were one. Our ancestors understood landowners owed rent to their community, unlike contemporary property rightists who claim the socially-generated value of land for themselves exclusively.
When we get offended, our first response it to oppose. But our opposition goes unheeded if people still need to meet their needs the same old way. To succeed, we need to show others a win/win for all.
Private property a right?
If you’re the first person on a planet, and no one else will ever follow you, you neither have nor don’t have the right to own it all or exploit it all, since there’s nobody else there to suffer the consequences of your actions. Human rights exist only when there’s more than one person, putting them in competition for the same opportunity. Rights are a way to settle competing claims.
If I’m responsible enough to respect your rights, then they actually exist. If you respect mine, mine exist. Rights and duties are the flip side of each other.
And rights are equal. If you’re first and own all, that does not mean me, who comes second, loses my right to the same opportunity. You ever see the movie Whale Rider? In one scene, some tough motorcycle guys are sitting on a bench. When another shows up, they don’t fight; the seated ones slide their big butts over and make room. Eventho’ they all could’ve torn anyone from limb to limb, they quite naturally yielded ground and settled their competing claims peacefully, unconsciously.
A good way to settle two or more rightful claims is mutual compensation – you pay me what yours is worth annually in an open market and I do the same for you: we all pay land dues in to the common kitty and we all get rent dividends back.
Animals, humans too, need privacy and a place on Earth to call their own. So yes, there is a right to private property in land. Yet it doesn’t exclude the same right of everyone else. And the dues/dividend scheme is the most efficient way to settle competing claims.
How to get attention
David W Burdick, Portland economist (Apr 19): “What are the major categories of products and services purchased in the world (as a percentage of world GDP). Its a key figure for my presentation coming up soon.”
Editor: The World Bank site should break it out, or the UN. In the US economy, according to the official website of the US, it’s not any manufactured good or popular chain stores but FIRE (Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate). I suspect most economies are the same.
Tom Sherrard, San Diego ret. Lawyer (April 15): “This is the Georgists’ first problem: how do we get the attention of a growing number of people? We know how HG did: how do we do it today?”
Editor: Lose the identity of taxists. First focus on what it is you’d like to tax or somehow charge for, and that is the worth of Mother Earth, that multi-trillioin dollar flow of all the money we spend on the nature we use. Economists call it “rent” which misleads most people. So invent new words like other world-shakers did, coining “ego”, “dianetics”, “sexism”, “Reagonomics”, etc. Call it “society’s surplus”. Whatever, once you focus public attention on this natural bounty, the public will know what to do with it. At our easy urging, they’ll be happy to share it all out fairly. Then you can talk about losing the counterproductive taxes and subsidies.
Oregon reacts to action
The Oregon legislature considered a bill, HJR 45, which would lift the lid on the property tax. Several urged legislators to lift the lid only on land value while keeping the cap on built value. For writing, thanks to David W Burdick, Portland economist, Howard Kronish, Portland ret., Christine Yun, Portland supporter, Dr. Mason Gaffney, UC-Riverside, Al Sheahen, LA ret./BIG activist, Gilbert Herman, Connecticut ret., Wendy Rockwell, Costa Rican elected official, and Godfrey Dunkley, South African businessman and activist.
Lenny Dee, organizer of Onward Oregon and the Oregon Bus Project (May 20 & 21): “I’ve always thought the concept of givings would help turn the Oregon’s Measure 37 [compensate landowners for no growth] conversation. We’re adding technology to our site to create Conversation Circles. When it goes live you’d be welcome to post and see how folks respond.”
Laine Young, BS, MES, Landlinks Consulting LLC and organizer of Orenco Urban Farm, a Permaculture Site (May 14): “I don’t know you, but I’ve been watching the dialogue and appeals for action for Measure 37. I wholeheartedly agree that land-grab and undermining our planning process must be balanced with an equally strong message about sharing (a lesson lost for many of us after leaving our parent’s home) and 7-generations view of what we leave as our legacy. Let me know if there is an effort worth getting involved in.”
BlueOregon, the web discussion of progressive Oregonians, posted my guest editorial, “Environmental-ists: For or Against Reforming the Property Tax?” (May 29) which first appeared in The Progress Report. It generated about a dozen responses the first day, more later, evenly split between those who got it and those who thought they did. Seems unlearning must precede learning. Australian geoist Karl Williams wrote, “I’ve just read your great guest piece and would love to reprint it the Aussie journal Progress.” (Any other re-printers?)
In the media
Michael Strong, CEO and Chief Visionary Officer of FLOW, Inc, promotes Women’s Empowerment Free Zones where at least 50% of the land gains are distributed to women’s credit institutions and to health and education vouchers for women and children. In his “Sustainability in a Bright Green Future”, he cited Alan Durning of Sightline and our work. Tom Greco, author on consensual currencies, posted our article, “An Introduction to Geonomics” (Feb 23). The Robert Schalkenbach Fdn. hired me for an essay on attitudes towards property and environment during the debate over Oregon’s Measure 37 and to edit the monthly Georgist News and the daily Progress Report.
The Democratic Freedom Caucus responded June 18 to my comment: The call to limit government worries some people not because they want big government but because they don’t want big business, big religion, big military – or little lynch mobs. The issue is not size but coercion. Power cannot be banished. It can only be concentrated or spread around. That’s what we’re for, precluding a big government or big anything by empowering individuals with full rights and responsibilities. John: “Outstanding. I applaud your common sense.” William Cerf: ”This is so well spoken and really speaks to why I’m a Libertarian Democrat.”
Christian Butterbach of Germany (May 20): “I thank you. I am mostly on your side (geolibertarianism is almost never mentioned or taken seriously; if libertarians did, they would have to change too much of their ideology). I was happy to discover your site and hope to be able one day to get back at all this.”
Newcomers, old stayers
The fall Geonomist elicited enough renewals and newals to cover the costs of copying and postage: from super stalwarts Jing Chen (Canadian prof), Marion Sapiro (ret. CA prof) and Artie Yeatman (PA organic farmer), supporters Brian Beinlich (Oregon programmer), three friends of John Morales (ret. of Panama Canal), and subscribers Mario Cordero (Costa Rican American), John Fisher (ret. Canadian), Mark Nedleman (West Coast personal organizer), and Joan Sage (ret. Philadelphia), among others. Big thanks to all for re/joining, donating, and granting. If you don’t see your name above and know it belongs there, just send a check. We’ll know what to do with it.
The Robert Schalkenbach Foundation has contracted with us to produce the monthly e-newsletter, The Georgist News. It’s free, fact-packed, and timely. If you’d like a sample copy, let me know.
WHERE FROM HERE?
What you can do
Scott, The Roots, Oregon father (Apr 5): “Would like to get up to Portland to meet you in person. Your writings have had a profound effect on my understanding and am forever grateful for that. It took some time before Henry’s concepts sunk in but when they finally did they sunk all the way to the core. Given enough reflection, it is impossible for anyone to deny the Truth underlying the concepts. I was able to deny it for almost two years. For some reason it just didn’t click; strange when I think back about it. Lindy Davies was also a large part of my awakening as was Alanna Hartzok. Anyway, no turning back now – impossible. When it grabs you, it really grabs you. Thanks again.”
Editor: You echo Tolstoy, who kept a photo of George on his desk, warned the Czar that refusing to fairly share land and its rent would lead to revolution, whose dying words to passengers on a train were to tax land alone, and wrote: “People do not argue with the teaching of George, they simply do not know it. And it is impossible to do otherwise with his teaching, for he who becomes acquainted with it cannot but agree.” And thanks for the kind words. Would be great to meet you, too, and any other readers passing thru. Drop by whenever you can.
Greg Young, Missouri caregiver (April 13): “What it would take to get you to come to Springfield, MO before or after your St Louis talk. Call or write as soon as possible. Thanks.”
Editor: Thank you. All it takes, as always, is lucre. Won’t move mountains but it will me to any audience. Like the Conference of Georgist Organizations in Scranton PA the last week of July. It features a dialog of theologians and geoists. To join us, visit their website.
What else you can do
Rita Rowan, Common Ground NYC Chapter (April 10): “I’d like to get a hard copy of The Geonomist. I’d like to make a small donation to pay for it. Or better still, I could buy a regular subscription.”
Joan Sage, ret. (Apr 5): “Does one write a check to The Geonomy society?”
Editor: Yes, as often as one wishes. Our bank accepts any permutation, including Forum on Geonomics, The Geonomist, etc. Also, we are enrolled at Pay Pal.
Dear Forum on Geonomics (an educational IRS 501(c)(3));
The bottom line: Secure Earnings, Share Earth