The Robin Hood Tax

Taking inspiration from economist James Tobin, the new UK campaign for a “Robin Hood Tax” is a great example of the type of social movement for economic reform we need across the world. A global Robin Hood tax is a crucial part of transition from a growth-based economy to one that is people-based. This type of financial policy can be instuted to actually help eliminate poverty and hunger, fight climate change, and put social equality into a system that rewards greed instead of good.

By taxing a minuscule amount of each financial transaction (we’re talking half a percent – 0.5%) you could raise up to $500 billion or more a year, reduce speculative investing (the kind that promoted the recent Great Recession), and put the banks in check (those guys we just bought out with taxpayer money that made $5 million bonuses).

Check out the video here:

Citizen or Consumer? A Year in Reflection

One year ago I started writing out of passion (and some anger). My how things have evolved! This blog has seen 75 posts in the last year, some of them great, some of them alright, some perhaps less so. I have tried my best to write about the issues important to me: a sustainable society, a healthier planet, a ethcial economy, and a more just world.

I have also learned so much about life, happiness, sustainability, and where I want to be in the world. More importantly, I have learned there is quite a large group of people out there feeling the same way, and we are all beginning to see the division between economic growth and true prosperity. What do you think? I would really value your input on ways I could make this blog better, both in function and in form. Please comment on this post or email me!

Since today marks Steady State Revolution‘s one year blogiversary I decided to take a look at the very first post and revise it with some fresh ideas (and hopefully improved writing skill). Here’s the 75th post on the 1-year blogiversary!

Citizen or Consumer?

The US Consumer Unit
The US Consumer Unit

Yesterday was the start of the “Christmas Shopping Season.” Aside from the typical trampling of an elderly person at a Wal-mart, this day signifies the beginning of the American Consumer’s busiest time of the year. Between today and New Years we Americans will increase our waste by 25%.

Each year we start sooner and sooner with our Christmas consumption, this year marketers started preparing for the season around Halloween. The average consumer spends about $1,100 a year on gifts, over $800 worth of which is holiday-related purchases. This means 73% of all our gift-related buying is done in the holiday season. That’s a lot of consumption.

Consumerism accounts for a large cog in the economy. Consumption drives the sales of goods, which is incentive to produce more goods. Producing goods is the basis our growth model. In order to grow the throughput (GDP) of our economy, we must increase the production and consumption cycle. What better way to do so than to make it your intuitive nature to spend? What if we could find a way to move people from identifying as themselves, or their jobs, but instead as what they buy? From this the American Consumer is born.

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Neoliberalism as a Waterballoon

You too can try this experiment in your house with some simple materials! This is a great short and informative video about neoliberalism, the economic thought that has been triumphed for awhile, that encourages more private economic control instead of public. Of course, we might point out that the economic system is not sustainable – neither ecologically or financially.  Enjoy this video:

Copenhagen: Some Assembly Required

Copenhagen Needs Some Help
Copenhagen Needs Some Help

The countdown is on with now just under 55 days until the much anxiously awaited Copenhagen Climate Conference where world leaders (we hope it’s the leaders, not delegates) will work on drafting a follow-up to the Kyoto Protocol that expires in 2012 (and a serious agreement is needed).

Nations know that there is no excuse for waiting, binding action must be taken at Copenhagen. Not only to maintain a decent standard of living and healthy planet for ourselves, but for our children. However, in order to realize this green dream we must recognize the inherent problems with our current system. Otherwise, we will continue to feed the growth machine without making ourselves happier and while making the world worse for our children.

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Maximum Wages: Focus on Achievements Instead of Bonuses

The New Economics Foundation‘s blog posted this last Friday about creating a salary cap for everyone. Steady state policies would encourage a maximum and minimum wage in order to create a fair distribution of wealth.

Creating a wage cap changes the focus – another common theme in our discussions. We have seen the destruction created in the wake of profit maximization policies all around our recession-laded land. Instead of constantly trying to make more money (phantom wealth), we can worry about more important issues:

“an executive’s performance has to be judged against achievements other than personal accumulation. So, instead of status derived from higher incomes, the desire to excel can instead be directed toward the social contribution and environmental performance of the bank or company involved.”

This does not remove the ability for you to receive promotions and bonuses, or further your career. It is a matter of scale – it is unjust for a CEO to make 500 times their entry level employee, they are not actually worth 500 other employees.

As Herman Daly and Joshua Farley put it,

“Distribution of wealth is about how we divide up the economic pie, and it’s critically important for a steady state economy in which the pie is not growing. Economic growth has been used as an excuse to avoid dealing with poverty. Without growth, there are no more excuses. People who are too poor tend not to care about sustainability. If daily life is a struggle for basic needs, there’s not much time or energy to consider the future. On the flipside, people who are excessively wealthy tend to consume unsustainably.

A key policy for ensuring fair distribution of wealth is to establish a cap on personal income. Such a cap would eliminate the worst cases of conspicuous consumption and curb overall throughput of resources in the economy. An income cap would also prevent the social unrest that comes from huge gaps between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots.'” (Ecological Economics)

Read the nef Triple Crunch blog post here.

Update August 18, 2009: nef’s follow-up post and the movement you should support to create a High Pay Commission.

Accountability in Media?

Jon Cramer on Daily Show
Jon Cramer on Daily Show

The financial crisis is largely attributed to the collapse of the housing market and reckless leveraging of bad securities. Recently Jon Stewart began a campaign on The Daily Show to expose the effects of our corporate-owned media’s influence on this crisis, namely CNN (no link to them for a reason).

Our media should be a protected, locally-sourced, community-driven industry. It should not be corporate owned, money-driven. Radio and TV were once a community service, now they are a community annoyance.

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Fair Distribution: Ending the Wealth Gap

Tax cuts in 2006 gave 70 percent of their benefits to the top 5 percent of Americans

The growth-centered nature of our world economy is relatively new. For most of human history, growth has been slow and almost stagnant. Over the last 200 years (essentially since the invention of fossil-fuel driven machines) that has changed significantly and our growth has largely benefited us: increased our health and means. That is, until sometime between the 1950s and the 1980s when growth become uneconomic and actually harmful to our happiness.

Today, most of that “economic” growth now goes to the Liquidating Class, the top 1 percent of our economy. According to some Northwestern University economists quoted in Bill McKibben‘s book Deep Economy, “the top 1 percent of wage earners ‘captured far more of the real national gain in income than did the bottom 50 percent'” between 1997 and 2001.

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Quaker says “Go Humans Go”?

Quaker Billboard
Quaker Billboard

I can’t help but think that it is an oddly ironic slogan to appear in an economic crisis. Is the Quaker Oatmeal guy trying to give us some socioeconomic encouragement? Is he trying to tell us to “get back into the game” and buy/consume more?

We all could use a cheerleader from time to time, right? When times get tough it’s nice to have someone on our side to rally us  “into the game.” As time gets tough economically, who better than the Quaker Oatmeal guy, right?

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