Real estate speculation undoes the economy

Response to an essay by Jim Russell


Until we stop confusing real estate speculation for economic development we shall continue to have too many people who can not afford a place to live. I do like Jim Russell’s point about neighborhoods with global versus neighborhoods with local economies. Unfortunately our governments only cater to the global neighborhoods.


As long as our expectation is that with each transaction the price of real estate is going to go up, we are never going to have affordable housing. Until we get used to real estate being priced lower in each transaction we are going to continue to chase our tail and never create a viable economy for a world going through climate change and in need of locally self reliant agriculture and food security. And the rent is still too damn high.

Response to pro jo series on the economy May 2014

Rhode Island will be unable to strengthen its middle class as long as it listens to the policy advocates for the 1%. As a close observer of the economic development process in Rhode Island and elsewhere, it is clear that those practicing economic development have an extraordinarily narrow view of development based on assumptions about planet Earth and Rhode Island that are no longer applicable.

Rhode Island is very unlikely to experience rapid economic growth. Our population is relatively stagnant, immigration and births roughly balancing deaths and emigration. Our infrastructure is old, we have not been a prime investment zone in 120 years. Climate change is going to make things quite interesting. Basing economic development plans on ever rising values of real estate creates the greater inequality that grinds down the economy even faster. The plan to give ever lower taxes to the rich does not work under these conditions. It lines the pockets of the wealthy as the rest of us get poorer.

Rhode Island is going to have to start its economic renaissance by accepting lower growth, sharing better, healing ecosystems, focusing on reducing our carbon footprint and increasing our food security. Free trade and a great business climate will not help communities in a low growth place. They increase inequality and speed up ecological damage.

Only an economy baed on ecological healing, economic justice, and economic democracy will bring prosperity to the communities most in need of it now.

Fowlers toad mating calls and note



May 11 2014

Last year I thought I figured out that the Fowler’s Toads start mating when he temperature at night reaches 60 degrees. This past week i started checking in the evening to see if mating season had begun, with no action earlier in the week as the temperatures in the evening were in the low 50’s. Last night it was warm enough for the first time, and as predicted the toads were calling.

The buzzes are the Fowler’s toads, but there are several other things calling that i could not see and could not identify. Anyone with knowledge of what else is calling, please let me know. Thanks.


Checked again on the evening of the 11th, Toads were calling, going to try to check when it gets cooler later in the week too.  See if I have the temperature thing down.


Prosperity Op-ed May 2014

I have seen a steady stream of words claiming that if Rhode Island would just do what the rich folks want us to do, everything would be okay. Rather than calling it doing the bidding of the 1% the think tanks give it a bit of a veneer and call it the business climate. Whatever you call it, the prescriptions called for by the propagandists for the ruling class are almost exactly the opposite of what Rhode Island needs to create prosperity. According to a variety of authors including the Business Curmudgeon and Kansas Inc, the Kansas state agency tasked with economic development, there is absolutely no evidence that undoing environmental regulations does anything useful for the economy, and cutting taxes has an effect so small that you probably would not notice. The Business Curmudgeon is very clear about how little value is generated by these reports


” In fact, we are reluctant to touch any state or city business climate studies–although we will. With very few exceptions, most should never be read. Period! Most rankings are little more than bullets fired at an enemy–and like all bullets, they should be dodged. Most indexes and rankings will decide for you what is valued in a business climate and toss out all the rest. … in the process the reader becomes cannon fodder in the polarization of America. If nobody read this stuff, it might eventually go away. – See more at: ”


On the other hand there is an abundance of evidence linking strong regulatory climates with healthier economies beginning with Stephen Meyers classic 1991 study. The innovation generated by the need to clean up, combined with efficiencies generated by not throwing things away, has had a huge positive effect on many bottom lines even before we discuss the economics of the health and well being benefits that strong regulations bring. A number of studies have shown that the various sections of the Clean Air Act provide economic benefits ranging from 4 to 1 to 40 to 1 more than the costs of compliance in our communities.


Beyond bludgeoning us with the business climate, economic development efforts in Rhode Island are mostly misguided because they seek goals that do not match current conditions There is pretty good evidence that places like Rhode Island that saw their industrial development peaks more than 100 years ago, have sprawled away from urbanism, and have few natural resources that can be mined or drilled for have a long term drop in growth rates that are not amenable to reversal by business climate methodology. The more Rhode Island thrashes around for growth by giving the rich the tax cuts and loose wetland regulations they want, the less likely we are to achieve community prosperity.


Understanding the slow growth environment we find ourselves in, and understanding that in order to achieve prosperity iRhode Island will need to heal ecosystems, reduce economic inequality ( the literature on how rising inequality undermines economies is growing rapidly) , reduce our use of fossil fuels, adapt to climate change and dramatically improve our food security, one has to wonder why so many in government and business continue to offer the same tired formula they have offered Rhode Island for 30 years, when all it has brought us are things like 38 Studios and nearly brought us a billion dollar debt for a white elephant container port in Quonset that was only averted when the people rose up to stop the elite from acting stupid with our money.


Clearly following the business climate think tanks prescriptions will prevent us from reducing inequality and getting ready for the changing climate, The World Bank has recently discovered that in low income communities making sure the fruits of development accrue to the community rather than get captured by outsiders, and practicing economic democracy, in which the community members have a voice and a vote in how money is invested in the community, is the only way to create the triple bottom line win-win-win our communities need.