Response to Jeffrey Sachs

Mr Sachs still seems to believe in the growth fairy. Developing world economies are going to grow for a while longer, but in the west, fast growth is over, and there is no real growth, just more funny money in the hands of the 1%.

Our crisis is not just ecological. It is also one of inequality. Evidence is very clear, inequality torpedoes economies as well as ecological collapse. We are in a crisis that only more democracy can heal. We can use less and share more only if the power of the 1% is checked by the community. We can not have industries blackmail a community with the old song and dance you shall have jobs if we can poison you. Communities must always have the right to say no to inappropriate development and yes to community investment.

Human beings already use way too much of the earth’s productivity to keep ecosystems healthy, we are living off the capital, not the yearly productivity of the earth. When the primary forests are completely gone, when the rural people have all been displaced, growth will be gone for everyone, not just those in the west where growth has already disappeared.

I ponder all the time whether there is a physical solution, or if changes in human consciousness about our place in the universe must come first. All I do know is that we must not do smart growth, but smart shrinkage in my neighborhood if we want to end hunger.

Response to Scott Mackay’s commentary

This morning I was listening to the radio and heard a commentary on the RI economy by Scott Mackay.  Mackay was spouting the usual propaganda offered to us by the ruling class.  We have to cut taxes and get folks working again.  Excuse me, but we have heard this before and it still does not work.

The conventional wisdom, the dominant paradigm,, the only ideas acceptable in the public square or in the commercial media are that if we could only make the world safer for the 1% we could have good times (fast economic growth) in Rhode Island and that the biggest problem that RI has is that it does not kow tow to the 1% enough because the unions will not let the corparados screw the workers.  Scott, I expect better of you, some real analysis and some real inquiry into the causes of our economic situation.

We need to ask a few new questions and have a different discussion this year.  Since we are already talking about the 1% and the 99%, we could talk about how the 99% have done under the corporate reign that began with Reagan in the 1980’s versus how the 1% has done.  There is NOTHING in the actions of workers since that time that in any way compares to the harm done to the American economy that the 1% has caused simply through rigging the system so that they get all the new wealth and everyone else gets poorer.   That is prosperity?

Would you at least ask the question about the role increasing inequality plays in messing up economies?  More and more authors are pointing out how inequality in the economy drives the growth out. Have you read any of that material?  They make a pretty convincing case that only when there is actual community participation in decisions on the economy can you achieve a sustainable prosperity in the age of climate change.

Have you tried to apply this new understanding of the role of inequality in gumming  up an economy to the standard wisdom being spouted in Rhode Island for the umpteeth time?  Have you asked how any of the proposals from the chamber of commerce, the various foundations and commissions, from the RIEDC or legislature will decrease inequality?  Or is it because no one wants to know the real answer, the one that says all of the ruling class ideas on how to fix the economy are based on a planet that no longer exists, in which true democracy is just an obstacle to prosperity.  Which Congress have you been watching for just how crazed the 1% and their lap dogs are?

Some more basic truths need to be applied to the conventional wisdom in RI.  The conventional wisdom says decrease regulations (I talked of taxes indirectly  in the previous paragraphs and will not repeat that case here).  but this morning, very close in time to your commentary there was a discussion of just how bad the air pollution in China is right now.  It is a true killer smog.  Just like places in the US got 50 years ago that caused us to try to get out of the stone age of regulations in which the rich could do anything and won every court case.  We made great progress, with cleaner technologies almost always providing for more efficient industrial processes and better profits, but to this day the loonies on the right demand less regulation and more right to pollute, destroy wetlands, over fish, and destroy the climate.  That gives us a country like China in which a small elite make the rules, they apply them selectively, and while the resistance to the rich grows every larger, the growth that the leaders crave gets eaten up  fixing the problems the over development is causing.  China may be eating up to 50% of its growth dealing with the damage each year.  Is your goal to return RI to that condition in pursuit of growth?

The road to prosperity does not pass through lower corporate taxes and deregulation, as much as I, like everyone in Rhode Island knows of rules and laws that just plain are hard to navigate and make life a bit crazy for innovators.  The road to prosperity begins with understanding that economic growth is essentially over in the west.  It is more than likely that wages in the west will start to settle down towards the global mean while incomes in the poorest parts of the world continue to rise, a bit.  We now have jobless recoveries in between bubbles.  Workers are obsolete, even college educated young people can not find jobs and are likely to be only loosely attached to the conventional job market for many years to come.

If we have jobless, bubble growth, is it actually growth?  But this is the only thing offered to us by the conventional wisdom.  So let us start to try to figure out how to create jobs even as the economy shrinks.  Two related places to start, ecological healing and food security. Which are completely integrated into the work to slow and adapt to climate change.

in other words building community resilience, growing more food, using less energy, recycling everything, is not to be the fringe or frill on the economy, it is the main course.  If Rhode Island wants prosperous communities, the only smart thing is to begin the process of ecological healing, restoring forests, soils, fisheries, watersheds, and clean transportation infrastructure.

The conventional wisdom will not get us there.  The conventional wisdom calls for austerity, deregulation, lower taxes on the rich.  Can someone tell me how that slows climate change and helps us adapt?  Can someone tell me how that does not lead to ever faster destruction of the ecosystems that feed us?   Can someone tell me how it reduces inequality in the community and allows communities to protect themselves from corporate greed and power?

Scott, I am waiting for a better analysis, one that actually asks the important questions rather than parroting the received wisdom. .




The ecology/economy interface in 2013

Greg Gerritt  1/1/13

Had a very interesting morning, reading about the next economy and walking in the woods along the Seekonk.

The reading was a mixed bag.  Some articles in the book “The Coming Transformation” edited by Kellart and Speth, an editorial in the Projo based on its long  series of articles on the economy (continuing its prescription that will not fly), and my weekly dose of ecoRI news, with reports on the Green economy and smart growth.

The trip to the river was excellent.  The mix of sun and clouds as the sun rose in the east, an eagle and a set of coyote tracks going along the same trail I was using.  In the three days since the snow the lone coyote track was the only thing on that trail.  It occurred to me that it might be nice for someone else to see the coyote trail so I tried not to step on it, but it was difficult. The trail, which I know quite well, is relatively broad, but it only has one good track for traveling the side hill.  The coyote was in that one track, so if I wanted to avoid the footprints, I had to walk off the real track, and it was clearly noticeable, I was just a bit off balance the whole time.

The eagle needs comment only because this year you see one nearly every day along the Seekonk, whereas when I moved to town 16 years ago I did not see any in this spot for several years.  Over the last 15 years they have become more and more common along the Seekonk, with at least 3 seen regularly this winter.

Getting back to following the trail, the coyote and I both followed a trail that was shaped by the contours of the hill (as modified by the trail maker).  The economic trail the Projo offers us ignores the contours of the land, offering us a vision of what the 1% would have us do to enrich them.  The environment, poverty, people, irrelevant.  We shall replace the people of RI with some mythological ready for business automatons that shall lets us pollute and steal to our hearts content.  They never explain how this benefits anyone other than the 1%.  They have been saying the same thing for at least 50 years, low taxes, bust unions and all will be right with the world.  If it worked so good, everyone would have been there years ago. There is no vast left wing conspiracy in the US with enough power to undermine the capitalists if they had anything of value to offer.  The Projo needs to understand that only economies with economic equality as a goal and practice can go forward successfully in the 21st Century.  As long as we try to enrich the rich, the RI economy is going to stay dormant.

Strike two for the Projo, and for all of the other commentators I read, is the continued expectation of economic growth.  If all the growth is pumped up funny money based on treating workers like dirt, financial shenanigans like looting pension funds and tax breaks for the rich, and the destruction of the global forest, can it really be called growth if more and more Rhode Islanders struggle to make ends meet? And the planetary systems are more and more damaged and less and less productive. 93% of the growth in income in the US over the last 5 years has gone to 1% of the population.  Do the math, If the second through the 10th percentiles did just a little better over that time, the other 90% actually lost income.  The economy being offered by the Projo, and the smart growth advocates is guaranteed to fail the community and the planet.  The fiscal cliff is just the latest farce in this tragedy.  There has to be a better way, and there is.

My goal for 2013 is to make sure that in Rhode Island the economic alternative to the global capitalist order that is eating the planet and poisoning the poor gets noticed and becomes more integrated into how we think about the economy and what we do to improve it.  Towards that end there will a conference on October 12 2013 Ecological Healing, Ecological Economics, Economic Justice:  Creating prosperity for the 99% in Rhode Island.  You should all put that in your calendar and make plans to attend.