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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Sun Feb 19, 2012, 09:33 AM

52. Another "modest" proposal for the wealth of our nation


http://www.alternet.org/economy/154192/it%27s_time_we_get_to_cash_in_as_equity_owners_of_our_common_wealth/?page=entire

It's Time We Get to Cash in as Equity Owners of Our Common Wealth

... So why don’t we pay everyone some non-labor income — you know, the kind of money that flows disproportionally to the rich? I’m not talking about redistribution here, I’m talking about paying dividends to equity owners in good old capitalist fashion. Except that the equity owners in question aren’t owners of private wealth, they’re owners of common wealth. Which is to say, all of us.

One state—Alaska—already does this. The Alaska Permanent Fund uses revenue from state oil leases to invest in stocks, bonds and similar assets, and from those investments pays equal dividends to every resident ... It’s therefore no accident that, compared to other states, Alaska has the third highest median income and the second highest income equality.

... A major source of revenue could be clean air, nature’s gift to us all. Polluters have been freely dumping ever-increasing amounts of gunk into our air, contributing to ill-health, acid rain and climate change. But what if we required polluters to bid for and pay for permits to pollute our air, and decreased the number of permits every year? Pollution would decrease, and as it did, pollution prices would rise. Less pollution would yield more revenue. Over time, trillions of dollars would be available for dividends.


Goes on to talk about "dividends" from our banking system, airway rights, etc.

It's not that his idea is so terrible - for sure, our air/water/airwaves/land (think of all those cheap leases out west for grazing)/mines are part of our "Commons" and rightly our common wealth. But the article assumes that we can continue indefinitely "extracting" wealth one way or another from our "commons" - it notices no limits to growth, assumes we have plenty of time to clean up our air, and pretty much assumes that things will go on as they are. Nor, I think, does it touch real inequality - Bill Gates would still be stratospherically rich! Hurrah for him - no "class warfare here!"

To illustrate to what degree this proposal actually supports the status quo, he touts Alaska for it's "second highest income equality" but Alaska's Gini coefficient is about 0.422 while NY's is about 0.499 - sorry, I don't think that's a huge difference (I say "about" because I used WIKI for the Ginis). For a real difference, look at the Gini for the Scandinavian countries, which is in the 0.20's, while the US is in the 0.40's.

There is one more radical idea buried in the article:

Banks are another large recipient of our collective largesse. I’m not talking about bail-out funds; I’m talking about the hugely valuable right we give banks to create money out of nothing. Banks do this (with our generous permission) by lending roughly seven times the money customers deposit (this is called ‘fractional reserve banking’); they then charge interest on these magically minted dollars. This gift to banks is justified on the grounds that it injects needed cash into the economy, but a comparable boost could be achieved by giving people new government-issued dollars — for example, by wiring money to their bank accounts — and limiting bank lending to money actually on deposit. Fresh money would then trickle up through households rather than down through banks.


This rather echoes something I think every time Obama comes out with another of his boring proposals for more tax breaks for the Corps if they just will "do the right thing" - whatever the version of the right thing is today: the Corps are already sitting on huge profits - why not just give money to the people instead of the Corps, so the people can buy some of the things they need? (To my mind there's nothing more telling about what a true 1%er the Big O is than his constant prostrations before the all-holy "Market" and seemingly infinite willingness to hand over more and more of our $$ to the Corporate Masters of the Universe.)

This would, at least, have the virtue of alleviating some of the hardship down here in the 99% short-term. But it's no real solution - it too, presupposes we have time and lots of it to "fix" the death of the earth our insane consumption has caused - and we don't. (It also strikes me that the old usage of "Consumption" to denote TB is a good metaphor for our "consumption")

You know, thinking of this article and the one Demeter posted earlier that I replied to, it strikes me that a few of the more intelligent and aware of at least the conventional "Liberals" among TPTB are starting to get a little scared? Starting to think that we need to do something about the raw gaping wounds oozing on the rabble? Maybe more on that thought later.


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