Community Articles from 2017
A Bank Even a Socialist Could Love
By David Dayen
Posted April 21, 2017
Wall Street banks have used shady financial instruments to extract billions from unsuspecting localities, helping devastate places like Jefferson County, Ala. Making the wrong bet with debt, like the Kentucky county that built a jail but couldn’t fill it with prisoners, can cripple communities.
Even under the best conditions, municipal bonds—an enormous, $3.8 trillion market—can cost taxpayers. According to Ellen Brown, the intellectual godmother of the public banking movement, debt-based financing often accounts for around half the total cost of an infrastructure project. For example, the eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge cost $6.3 billion to build, but paying off the bonds will bring the price tag closer to $13 billion, according to a 2014 report from the California legislature.
Public banks reduce costs in two ways. First, they can offer lower interest rates and fees because they’re not for-profit businesses trying to maximize returns. Second, because the banks are publicly owned, any profit flows back to the city or state, virtually eliminating financing costs and providing governments with extra revenue at no cost to taxpayers. More…
We Are the Parasite
By James Hunter
Posted April 20, 2017
The human race has become a parasite that is killing its host. The host is Gaia. This is the central political fact of our times.
Two important political ramifications derive from the above fact. First, it is pointless to take the superficial struggles between Democrats and Republicans seriously. Both parties are dominated by the parasitic mentality. The capitalist dogma, and specifically the neoliberal consensus, which is not seriously questioned by either party, is parasitic to the core.
Trump, for all his many and very real faults, promised that he would seek a rapprochement with Russia, and a de-escalation of the cold war. His recent attack on Syria, which brings us much closer to nuclear war with Russia, proves that this was just idle talk. The shadow government owns him now, as it owned Hillary from the beginning. All the major players within the two major parties will be brought under the control of the shadow government, or be destroyed. It is imperative that a power base outside either party be established. More…
What a State-Owned Bank Can Do for New Jersey
by Ellen Brown
Posted April 15, 2017
Consider the possibilities, for example, for funding infrastructure. Like most states today, New Jersey suffers from serious budget problems, limiting its ability to make needed improvements. By funding infrastructure through its own bank, the state can cut infrastructure costs roughly in half, since 50 percent of the cost of infrastructure, on average, is financing. Again, a state-owned bank can do this by leveraging its capital, with any shortfall covered very cheaply in the wholesale markets.
In effect, the state can borrow at bankers’ rates of 1 percent or less, rather than at market rates of 4 to 6 percent for taxable infrastructure bonds (not to mention the roughly 12 percent return expected by private equity investors). The state can borrow at 1 percent and turn a profit even if it lends for local development at only 2 percent—one-half to two-thirds below bond market rates. More…
Get to Know the BATS: Teachers Fighting Privatization
By Marla Kilfoyle and Melissa Tomlinson
Posted April 15, 2017
With the appointment of billionaire school privatization advocate Betsy DeVos to US Secretary of Education, the fight for education justice has stepped into hyper speed. We have never needed solidarity like we do now. Get to know one network of teachers who are partnering with others and taking things into their own hands.
Chris Christie once told a Badass Teacher that he was “sick” of people like her. It was his response to the question posed by her sign: Schools in NJ are among the top 3 in the country. Why does Governor Christie portray our schools as failure factories? “You know what, “he said, “I’m tired of this. I’m so sick of you people. What do you want?”He pointed his finger in her face, “just go do your job.” More…
Real Freedom Through Food and Water Self-Sufficiency
by Paul A. Phillips
Posted April 6, 2017
In recent years a number of practical, innovative methodologies for cultivating and harvesting food and water have arisen. These small setups have allowed individuals and groups to be independent and self-sufficient.
They offer healthier alternative lifestyles to our electronic-based daily existences allowing us to connect to Mother Nature. Further, they provide alternatives to the big food and big agricultural corporate-based profit-driven owned and controlled industrial monocultures with their health and life-threatening toxins:
These food and agricultural mega-corporations with their mass-produced junk foods, synthetic pesticide toxins and genetically modified crops causing diseases and allergies, threatening species diversity and ecosystems… have failed to save the world. -If allowed to go on they could bring disastrous consequences for all of us. More…
Small Acts of Scientific Civil Disobedience
by Margaret Beaton
Posted April 3, 2017
Big science publications put important peer-reviewed research behind expensive paywalls. But some scientists have found creative ways around them. Traditionally, scientists publish their findings in peer-reviewed academic journals in order to share their research with peers and with the wider public. These publications range in scope from behemoths like Science and Nature to more niche journals like Aquatic Toxicology or the Journal of Number Theory. The vast majority of these publications are behind paywalls, and access to individual articles can cost $20 to $40.
The website Sci-Hub enables users to search for and download journal content directly, bypassing publisher paywalls. Over 19 million cumulative users access hundreds of thousands of articles each day through Sci-Hub. The site has been compared to the music sharing service Napster and, just like Napster, is being hit by lawsuits from publishers; publishing giant Elsevier won an injunction against the site last year. For now, Sci-Hub’s founder (a graduate student) refuses to shut it down. More…
Humans Made the Banana Perfect—But Soon, It’ll Be Gone
by Rob Dunn
Posted April 1, 2017
No this is not an April Fools story. On a plate, a single banana seems whimsical—yellow and sweet, contained in its own easy-to-open peel. It is a charming breakfast luxury as silly as it is delicious and ever-present. Yet when you eat a banana the flavor on your tongue has complex roots, equal parts sweetness and tragedy.
In 1950, most bananas were exported from Central America. Guatemala in particular was a key piece of a vast empire of banana plantations run by the American-owned United Fruit Company. United Fruit Company paid Guatemala’s government modest sums in exchange for land. With the land, United Fruit planted bananas and then did as it pleased. It exercised absolute control not only over what workers did but also over how and where they lived. In addition, it controlled transportation, constructing, for example, the first railway in the country, one that was designed to be as useless as possible for the people of Guatemala and as useful as possible for transporting bananas.
The company’s profits were immense. In 1950, its revenues were twice the gross domestic product of the entire country of Guatemala. Yet while the United Fruit Company invested greatly in its ability to move bananas, little was invested in understanding the biology of bananas themselves. More…
In a Rust Belt Town Where Tuition Is Covered, Economy Begins to Revive
by J. Gabriel Ware
Posted March 29, 2017
After Kalamazoo, Michigan, offered college tuition for nearly all high school graduates, dropout rates declined and the city’s population began to rebound.
By many measures, the program has succeeded. The population began to rebound almost immediately, while dropout rates declined, particularly among African American women. Over its first 10 years, the Promise invested more than $75 million in 4,000 students, and at least 90 other communities across the U.S. have created Promise scholarships based in some way on Kalamazoo’s program. Barack Obama even considered it a model for a federally funded free community college program.
Realtors even began posting yard signs featuring the Kalamazoo Public Schools logo and the phrase “College Tuition Qualified” in front of homes. More…
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