Sunday, November 13, 2011

Global Super-Rich Stash: Now $25 Trillion

Nation of Change: The Global Super-Rich Stash: Now $25 Trillion.
"The 12 lawmakers on this congressional super committee — six Republicans and six Democrats — are trying to trim $1.2 trillion off federal red ink over the next ten years. On their chopping block: Medicare, Social Security, and assorted other programs essential to the well-being of America’s 99 percent.
No one knows how much budget-cutting pain the panel will be recommending. But panel members could actually avoid all that pain — and raise over $1 trillion in new money for investing in America — simply by subjecting all U.S. individual net worth over $30 million to a modest wealth tax. 
An annual 5 percent wealth tax on this overage would raise over $293 billion a year, or $2.9 trillion over the next decade — more than double the $1.2 trillion the super committee is so desperately looking to find.

The most amazing part of this? America’s ultra rich could easily pay this 5 percent annual wealth tax for the next ten years and remain as rich as ever.

That’s because wealth begets wealth. All those trillions of dollars America’s ultras are currently holding don’t sit under some mattress. The ultra wealthy have those trillions invested in assets that generate short- and long-term returns."
Still, taxation is not the ultimate weapon in the War on Poverty, it's only one link of an interdependent logistics chain. Without post-industrial methods of sustainable circulation, nothing will change for the daily subsistence of the 99%.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

"The process has clearly begun" - The Economist

Remember the times you pondered the Star Trek economy back in the 60's and thought, "yeah, whatever; it'll be 20, 30, even 50 years before that happens." Guess what? It's been 50 years and our smartphones are way smarter than those chintzy communicators. But don't worry, if you lost count reelin' in the years, The Economist hasn't:
This is what Jeremy Rifkin, a social critic, was driving at in his book, “The End of Work”, published in 1995. Though not the first to do so, Mr Rifkin argued prophetically that society was entering a new phase—one in which fewer and fewer workers would be needed to produce all the goods and services consumed. “In the years ahead,” he wrote, “more sophisticated software technologies are going to bring civilisation ever closer to a near-workerless world.” 
The process has clearly begun. And it is not just white-collar knowledge workers and middle managers who are being automated out of existence. As data-analytics, business-intelligence and decision-making software do a better and cheaper job, even professionals are not immune to the job-destruction trend now underway. Pattern-recognition technologies are making numerous highly paid skills redundant.
Radiologists, who can earn over $300,000 a year in America, after 13 years of college education and internship, are among the first to feel the heat. It is not just that the task of scanning tumour slides and X-ray pictures is being outsourced to Indian laboratories, where the job is done for a tenth of the cost. The real threat is that the latest automated pattern-recognition software can do much of the work for less than a hundredth of it. 
Lawyers are in a similar boat now that smart algorithms can search case law, evaluate the issues at hand and summarise the results. Machines have already shown they can perform legal discovery for a fraction of the cost of human professionals—and do so with far greater thoroughness than lawyers and paralegals usually manage.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

What Postscarcity has to do with AIDS, Malaria, Polio, and Poverty

Whenever a cause is seen as sufficiently urgent -- such as millions of people dying if we don't do something dramatic, immediately -- suddenly postscarcity is almost no problem at all, there's enough of whatever is needed to address the blight, in a very short time. In the LA Times, Magic Johnson explains:
"We're on the verge of opening a seventh AHF Magic Health Clinic," he says, referring to his AIDS Healthcare Foundation-sponsored storefronts. "All these people all over the country can come in and get their HIV meds for free. Can you imagine?"
Yes, we can imagine, Magic, and we can imagine this urgency applying directly and immediately to the epidemic of poverty in America, and worldwide. John Perkins, author of Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, "24,000 people die every single day from hunger and hunger related diseases. At least 24,000."

As with many bleak statistics, we don't like to acknowledge them too publicly; the Deaths from Poverty numbers are likely understated, yet that is still nearly 9 million people dying from poverty every year. How many die from AIDS every year? The high estimate from international AIDS charity, Avert, is 2.1 million for 2009, about 5,700 per day. Tragic? Of course. Unacceptable? Of course.
"When he was asked in a televised interview who owned the patent to the [polio] vaccine, Salk replied: "There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?" (Wikipedia). Yet, today Monsanto seems determined to patent the entire world's food supply." This contrast neatly illustrates the fundamental standoff between the pragmatic postscarcity and inertial scarcity world views. 
The good news is, we can save those 9 million dying every year from poverty without any of the expense or complexity of formulating and distributing modern pharmaceuticals. To make an immediate difference, to begin saving lives TODAY, what we need to do is declare the basic human right to a subsistence basic income and declare it in effect by reason Humanitarian Emergency. We are talking about a plague 6 times the magnitude of AIDS.
"Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." - PKD
Perhaps if people haven't been able to comprehend the argument from logic and reason, they may need a slogan to get behind. I'm we can do better, but here's a first take, "If you're against the Basic Income Guarantee you are sentencing 9 million people to death again, this year alone; you killed 24,000 yesterday and are in the process of exterminating that many again, today. By your current philosophy and actions, you are steadfastly committed to growing that number, every day and every year, for the rest of your life. That about sums it up, right?"