The answer has been right in front of us all along. What matters is the place, and what happens in a place. The earth is big, as a system, it is described best in terms of its solar system. It is better to make sense of the earth in small ways, one with people we know who want and need to create good places.
Rex L. Curry
Density is a science term. Compacity is a measure places like the New York Metropolitan Area. New York City on the other hand has a fairly distinctive line around it, and that defines it reasonably well.
People know exactly where they are in the NYMA and when not. Boundary lines separate one thing from another and the stuff that makes the NYMA separate from everything else is tied to the density of things per unit of land or water. At some point, the area is not dense enough to be called metropolitan. These many densities combine to form measures of compacity, of everything we know and to the detriment of humanity, it still remains a vague notion.
Politics and Plans
Lines are also the subject of power. I am a researcher more than a practitioner. The lines in the world of politics and plans distinguish one leader’s area from another. Leaders may be political representatives or other types that reveal areas of distinct responsibility for services such as police, fire, and sanitation or how water, gas, electricity, and bytes serve your community. The lines are multi-linear they can define you by your zip code or the train line you use as equivalent to career routes to and from places that shape human life.
The Synergy Project
The premise of combining stories and writing about the compacity of urban life and the many opportunities it offers includes elements of personal political leadership essential to educate and inspire the will to create change on a scale so massive it appears impossible. It is not.
Economists have value systems, just like other people. To the economist, the affordability of housing and its price is relative to the cost of production, not the ability of people to buy or rent. The economist also knows that housing is essential, however, when the cost of production exceeds a household’s income capacity for acquisition or rent by over 50%, the value system of the housing rights advocate is activated.
Demands for public intervention by the economist or housing rights advocate occurs in the political economy. The result is a range of subsidies or incentives for people seeking housing and the corporate producers offering it. Economists have long lists of variables affecting a household’s capacity for mobility on a spectrum ranging from a positive transition away from being “rent burdened” to outright homelessness. The failure to intervene in some markets leads to displacement from high cost to lower cost areas and most evident during extreme disruptions observed around the world. The refugee crisis is stimulated by violent conflict, the refugees in the United States go unnoticed, and wrongly defined as individual human failures and certainly not as victims of an evil force or the soft violence inherent to capitalism.
The experience of both economists and housing rights advocates intersect on the selection of interventions. The economist uses sophisticated formulas based on whether units are valued below or above construction costs over specific evaluation periods. The national economist concludes this analysis with a description of a healthy and affordable housing market in the nation as a whole. The housing rights advocate within smaller regional markets points to downward pressure on wages and the costs of household displacement. These are difficult social costs to measure because the impact is in neighborhoods and displacement cycle data is decennial. In tight markets, weak wage growth and displacement costs can be severe enough to fully separate householders from their homes. The evidence base for this remains largely anecdotal but rises from one tragic number. In New York City, and every year for decades it sits at 40,000 people, mostly women with children who are homeless and as it stays at this number year after year. Only one conclusion is possible -homelessness a production function of urban living.
New York City’s first homelessness crisis arrived suddenly in the early 1980s and like the voices calling out, the “subprime crisis” warnings were unheeded. When buildings throughout Manhattan known as SROs (single room occupancy) became marketable for more profitable uses, hundreds of people fell into the streets. The burden of that shift fell on the city agencies heavily and its large of WW I and WWII armories became shelters. As the crisis matured, many supportive housing programs formed followed by the construction of low-cost hotels throughout New York’s five boroughs supported in part by city funding for families in short-term distress. The enormity of capital that was in part responsible for causing displacement and homelessness averted a humanitarian crisis but it did not solve the problems of displacement, it absorbed displacement to further urban reinvestment processes.
The tragedy of capital and its workings are easy to spot in the eyes of the housing rights advocate. In looking at the issue of housing and community development through their eyes it is easy to see why the literature on democratic socialism has become more and more abundant. Quotes from the socialist literature such as the following appear in internet discourse and as widely as Season 5 Episode 5 of “The Americans.”
His labor is therefore not voluntary but coerced; it is forced labor. It is therefore not the satisfaction of a need; it is merely a means to satisfy needs external to it.
Affordability advocates point to the 80+ percent increase in visits to Marxist.org since 2009 (statistics) as an indicator of people searching for answers. They would argue the rising cost of shelter is not only separating families from their homes but from their local economies as well, creating food deserts and deteriorating conditions in services where there should be vibrant neighborhoods. The economist might agree on these facts but would argue the call for political change is not built successfully on distress factors. The percentage of income for shelter is only a benchmark of affordability. This factor does not define the problem well, only one of its symptoms. The economist’s definition examines the range of construction costs associated with housing and the correct response to affordability would be to build more housing to increase supply while also acknowledging the frustration of housing rights advocates regarding existence of affordable housing, that is not where people need it or have low-cost access to it or from it for jobs.
Economist says the social cost of new housing cannot be lower
than the cost of construction it is because it impinges on gains accrued when the
price of housing is significantly above the cost of construction. To the economist,
the social costs are those imposed on consumers for which they are not
compensated or charged. The housing rights advocate, on the other hand, cannot
easily quantify social gains attached to a course of inaction only the action
that prevents loss. Numerical values are not readily assigned for food needed
but not eaten, child care services not provided, transit unavailable or the
costs of displacement from one home to the next and the next or ultimately into
institutionalized shelters. Built into the tragedy of capital lies the
misfortune and heartbreak of people made invisible.
Dense housing markets suggest to the economist that supply limits are due to high costs for land and construction. Another view sees high costs in regional suburban markets where land is abundant, that restrictive zoning, fees, review and approval processes are the principal causes of increased construction costs. Both definitions of the problem seem accurate, leading to the question of how it is possible to produce more housing in both markets when paired for comparison of initiatives in specific regions? Housing markets such as New York City and San Francisco are unique because conditions of demand create a significant divergence between prices and costs. Adaptations in dense markets alter the ratio of height from 1:7 to 1:17 (see Park Avenue.) No such change in ratio occurs in lower density regions. Dense markets increase rent pressures on low-and-moderate income households, however, safety valve measures such as Rent Stabilization reduce these pressures with triggers tied to inflation and specific capital improvements. These practices slow the problem but do not stop its pace.
While low densities often associate with upper-income demand for amenity and land these costs appear to have more to do with zoning than the marginal cost of land. Economists admit that data linking zoning to production costs is difficult to develop. The Wharton Land Use Control Survey (1989) has been followed up and subsequent publications under the title of Wharton Residential Land Use Regulation Index (WRLURI) provide added support for this position (Joseph Gyourko). For the housing rights advocate, the regulation connection to high development cost is a plain fact on the heads side of the housing coin but in the game called “heads I win, tails you lose,” the regulatory protector on the tails side (the game).
Paul Davidoff (1946-1985) was one of those housing rights advocates who recognized the cost structures imposed by zoning and other land use regulations mattered a lot. He opened the Suburban Action Institute in the late 1970s and transformed it into the Metropolitan Action Institute in the 1980s. The idea was to conduct research and prepare litigation everywhere in the metro-region that would increase access to suburban communities for people with disadvantages by breaking down exclusionary zoning rules. He saw them as unfair, regulatory constructions that refused to understand or plan to serve the needs of people already holding a set of comparative disadvantages. In this sense, the nation’s affordable housing crisis would not exist if advocates for change could exhibit and expose the injustice aimed at young people, minorities and women, further aggravated by skin color. Effective change requires an attack on the barriers built by human prejudices that continue to remain unchallenged decades from the passing of leaders like Davidoff.
For the economist, the price of housing across the nation remains close to the physical costs of construction Edward L. Glaeser examines the “plenty of affordable housing in the wrong place” issue as one of the economists who routinely parses housing data with highly refined tools. His lean toward density as a provider of affordability links to data that strongly suggests how zoning, and other land-use controls, are more responsible for high prices and exclusion. The title of his most popular book tells the story people need to hear – Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier.
Davidoff’s instincts placed the burden for change on the urban planning and architecture community and he criticized its lack of leadership. He brought about changes in the professional planner’s code of ethics accordingly. Davidoff knew that planners and architects have a capacity for envisioning futures that people can share, believe in and fight to achieve and yet failed to take a leadership position remains. Turning to litigation and legislation for political social change is the least powerful route without a dedicated political movement back by professionals that know how to change prejudicial behavior and correct wrongs. Legislation and litigation are rarely dispositive of any question without the strategic use of political action.
The economist takes social and economic change as a matter of professional observation, that all things require a sense of equilibrium to achieve useful observations of human economic behavior. For the economist, the evidence is always suggestive and never fully definitive for changing policy. For the housing rights advocate its more radical forms of resistance to oppression, social injustice is needed. Both actors are sensitive to the outright chaos embedded in the postures of conflict from financial bullying to dirty little wars. Both, on the other hand, are capable of a “facts are friendly” approach to the demands for social change.
Financial Herd Immunity
Billionaire Mike Bloomberg (NYC’s Mayor 2002-2013) is one of those “facts are friendly” leaders. He combined the problems defined by the economist and the housing rights advocate by going directly at zoning and in a big way. In reviewing his options for a housing strategy he looked at the Federal Budget and reportedly said, ah bupkis, and then examined the steady boom in the NYC’S residential real estate market and went all in on the “inclusionary zone” idea already well advocated by the city’s nonprofit housing advocates. In this New York City model, “if you give a little” in this case square feet of floor area, you could, “get a little” in almost affordable housing. It would prove to be the displacement force of his era. Even with the 2008 Recession in his headlights, NYC’s housing market rebounded dramatically and the price, regardless of the impact of the Great Recession would continue the agony of homelessness.
His background in the production of econometric data for sale on the “Bloomberg Terminal” put him among the 1% wealthiest. (see Writer’s List and Timeline). In becoming mayor, he took a special interest in housing, but rather than turn to the city’s housing agency for answers, he moved to produce significant reforms aimed at housing production through the Department of City Planning. In this agency, he could produce incentives for private development and expose the facts of housing production cost, leading to a ten year battle for his Inclusionary Housing program that would become mandatory for the entire city built on the proof of its success.
At the end of Mayor’s third term his administration could take credit for 175,000 new and rehabilitated housing units, the pace of which has not lessened in the administration of Mayor De Blasio. (2014, 2020, and a possible third term) His administration of the Housing New York (HNY) plan claims 109,766 affordable homes financed since its inception in 2014 through June 2018. The prospect of a floor area addition within strict design parameters for new housing through zoning created ways include 20 percent or more units of a project for modest income households. This factor alone outweighed the constraint of production costs as the supply of new and rehabilitated housing amounted to over one million units of housing over the first two decades of the 21st century. (Assuming 20%= 380,000 units, then 100% is well over 1million.)
New York City’s housing history from 2000-2020 should tell all observers that balance can be achieved in the eyes of the economist. In the vision of the housing rights advocate serious affordability questions remain. In this plan, 80% of the housing is unaffordable to a couple with two kids if they earn less than $85,000 a year when affordability is measured by 30 to 35 percent of income used for housing. The number of households below that threshold (such as two rookie cops in 2018) will either gain the skills to compete for these incomes or stand quietly in the line leading to the day to day battle against the deterioration of their shelter, routine harassment and the specter of displacement and the threat of homelessness.
Policies that reduce production costs do well with zoning
reform incentives. LEED/SEED environmental incentives lower operating costs as
do tax reductions. The direct production of deeply subsidized housing occurs using
those tools and substantially reducing (or eliminating) the cost of money. This
is useful for two reasons. It sustains an
in-house knowledge base of production costs and it serves the city’s most
vulnerable populations with hope. Building small numbers of heavily subsidized housing
units has a trivial impact on average housing prices but it is a win-win for all
city’s with large and flexible capital budgets.
New “York’s also has a “city within the city” managed by the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA). The deterioration of 175,000 apartments in this arena for a very low-income and aging population is a growing concern. NYCHA’s situation is emblematic of a national predicament. The nation’s legacy of social housing has become a kind of “trap” based on race, poverty, and destinies defined by zip code.
The movement toward a reform zoning regime in high-cost areas facing greater stress in their capital budgets in suburban areas face consequences on two fronts. The first is knowing full well that the deterioration of the older single family stock and supportive infrastructure is ongoing and likely to absorb displaced households from their core cities as prices/rents fall. The second front is to make zoning changes politically feasible through initiatives such as mass transit based high-density housing development. Other forms of compensation regarding the reduction in housing prices due to this change in low-density areas are therefore likely, but less palatable.
The NYU Furman Center is an excellent source of independent, evidence-based analysis of housing and its affordability.
Furman serves the core data analysts as well as the ordinary concerned citizen of New York City with training that helps Hithe housing rights activist drill down to neighborhoods of specific concern for information.
Well-reasoned articles on issues such as the effect of migration of higher income residents on displacement in specific areas are plentiful at the Furman Center. The rise of 19th c. macro- and. micro-economics from economists such as John Maynard Keynes describe how the demand for housing creates housing. Others such as Jean Baptist Say describe how the supply of housing creates its own demand. These worldviews have been injected into public policy for many decades and both are being severely altered by the idea that differences of degree matter greatest in the small things that alter human life or all life. The interest in growth continues to castrate the truth, degrade the environment and destroy beauty. This is where the numbers lie despite their accuracy. Affordability will soon become a far greater function of location and the energy function of “buildings” among all the other buildings. Attendance to community needs will require a radically altered view of growth. We live in cities yet have only the vaguest idea of what they are now or must become for generations to come.
The next post in this series (GND) will of necessity look at housing within its larger systems and within which our homes will be rethought. The Green New Deal (GND) is a comprehensive idea to counter the worst ideas under the heading of “climate denial.” A draft is here as a Google Document outlining the creation of a select committee. An excellent summary of its content and potential is from the Haas Energy Institute (here).
The glory of American style politics and the power of its global businesses and industries is unchallenged. They have yet to respond to the demand for a strong public investment in mitigating the risks associated with climate change.
Failure to act is not the question; thousands of ideas are flowing in the digital winds; hundreds of ideas are being demonstrated. The current stream of investment is significant but confusing, as if finding a technical “one-off” or a strategic “winner” may be at the heart of the problem. There is no magic bullet.
Without Salmon, the forest will not flourish.
Without the coalescence of tactics specific to every climate region of the earth, the failure will be confirmed by the earth, its rising seas, violent storms, floods, and fires. The choice to select a positive climate future has not been made. The choice offered is to wait and have it forced upon an unknown, potentially terrifying percentage of the population. Only one choice is rational and humane.
New Deal (GND)
Only a political risk is implied by this unknown. Taking steps toward ideas like the Green New Deal is a risk because it may or may not prevent the displacement of the American worker by the technology needed for success. No action could be politically deadlier, but post mortem condition in Congress is not the problem. If political representatives are unwilling to bring America’s climate regions closer to a sustainable future, then the task is simple: to elect leaders who have courage.
This is no ordinary battle. Every representative in the House will be pushed or pulled in this direction through 2024. A rough first draft of the legislative role is a GoogleDoc (here). It outlines the creation of a select committee recently named Crisis Climate Committee.
The GND goal is to decarbonize the economy with Keynesian style short-term bursts of large scale public investments, coupled with federal employment guarantees. The GND will be implemented as an evidence-based, outcome-driven, and performance measurement process. The FDR Library well documents the New Deal’s development as an idea for its time. The depth of its creativity in the public interest was in response to a complex set of human needs, environmental challenges, and opportunities. The library created an Interactive Periodic Table of the New Deal for the study of its history. Readers are invited to bring reviews and comments to this site regarding its relevance.
The first step toward a GND as a public initiative requires a big preemptive warlike change in policy. That change is planned to occur for full implementation by 2020. Achieving the goals implied by the GND implementation will result in a national, energy-efficient carbon-reducing energy grid built on a massive expansion of renewable power sources with an evidence base built on the current use of and implementation of all known systems designed for the use of renewables. These sources will define a rate of x% percent per year to establish outcomes to predict when renewable sources serve 100% of the national power demand.
The performance measures of individual renewables will determine future combinations of private and public investments. Specific energy conservation steps will contribute to goal accomplishment implemented through an energy use inventory of all residential and industrial buildings. Steps to ready all buildings for state-of-the-art renewable energy systems will be the measure for reduction levels by climate sectors of the United States as follows:
Climate Sector reports will establish baseline reductions in GHG emissions through manufacturing, agricultural, and other industries processes.
Climate Sector reports will define, locate, and score specific infrastructure investments to repair and improve the nation’s transportation grid and related infrastructure that yield the highest reduction in GHG emissions.
Climate Sector reports will examine the water. Too much or the lack of it is at the center of climate change impacts. High priority investments in local-scale agriculture in communities across the country will include infrastructure to ensure universal access to clean water and protection from the damage it can cause.
The goal of decarbonizing the economy will include methods for a GHG drawdown process. Investments in known and proposed measures will define the potential for GHG mitigation. The evidence and performance measures for this determination are abundant.
If an ordinary, albeit intense blog such as the Urbanist (here) can demystify the process, a practical public process can be implemented.
Support for investments in green technology, through industrial, professional, and scientific expertise, and in the creation of products and services of a 100% renewable energy economy in the United States reimagines a new theory of “economic base” (Charles Tiebolt). It is worth trillions in global trade volume, if (and this is a big f’n “if,”) a viable and useful understanding of the growth of metropolitan governments occurs and develops in regions throughout the United States (read here from a half-century ago).
The media outlets Vox, The Atlantic, The Intercept, Axios, ProPublica covered the early efforts to create a GND. The field is wide, from its millennial “this changes everything” upstart sunrise movement organizers, to blue wave reps like AOC, and the support of the old, such as Al Gore. Ultimately, the GND is subject to the instincts of Nancy Pelosi where the idea for a GND fell into the lesser priority world of Congress like the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, and one hot button later became the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis headed by Kathy Castor (FL 14th) an unchallenged seven-term representative from Tampa Bay.
Crisis (danger + opportunity)
I don’t know when the idea of global conquest seemed possible or even thought of as accomplished in history. I do know it as the conscious decision of many actors over four thousand years or so.
The distinct spheres of human decision-making occur through deep social and cultural connections built on a cognitive view of evidence widely shared but rarely proven. These views can be right or wrong but consistently perceived correctly by the party that holds the view. Think of that sphere as “Pinky.” In another sphere, which I would like you to think of as the “Brain,” are the decisions made in professional silos. As an example, economists will influence decision-making based on combinations of economic factors such as costs or benefits, profits, and losses measured by currency and a period.
Perhaps the most useful decision making sphere is the one that drives for a big transformation. The impetus is drawn from exposure to incorrect, “Pinky-like” beliefs established by the first sphere’s cultural recurrences. The stimulus for specific action draws from the second sphere’s failures, where “The Brain’s” leadership reveals how traditional practices’ collapse. Whether the market for these experiences is in currency, ideas, or both, the demand for something new and transformative takes hold. The geologist’s understanding of time and the anthropologist examination of humanity have suggested we name this transformation the Anthropocene.
“The era of geological time during which human activity is considered to be the dominant influence on the environment, climate, and ecology of the earth.” Oxford English Dictionary.
Andrew C. Revkin’s lifetime of reporting produced a perfectly tuned review of his global experience as the observer of the growing pains of humanity as follows:
Greta Thunberg’s argument “listen to the scientists” speaks to the quality of her education at her young age. It is not “which scientist” it is recognizing how the body of evidence is established. It takes time, criticism, and continuous improvements in their methods and conclusions that eventually become indisputable.
“After tens of thousands of years of scrabbling by, spreading around the planet, and developing tools of increasing sophistication, humans are in surge mode and have only just started to become aware that something profound is going on.
“It’s surely our responsibility to do everything within our power to create a planet that provides a home not just for us, but for all life on Earth.” “The truth is: the natural world is changing. And we are totally dependent on that world.”
David Attenborough’s conclusion is clear in these two quotes. We now exercise power to “create a planet” and remain unknowingly dependent on those changes.
The authors in the following (long list and growing) visit New York City routinely. Perhaps they would enjoy a sponsored conference or a workshop on persuasion. The question on persuasion is direct. Who among them make the most sense on the “design” for change. No matter how smart they are if nothing happens the design and implementation was about book sales. Sad. Comment here or the LinkedIn site here to participants.
Recall Robert Gutman
I would like you to recall Robert Gutman to start off. The point being, to define measures of inequality in design practice. The intellectual rigor of his research has much to offer. In Architectural Practice he established useful controls for a wide range of factors that affect “life in architecture” such as poverty, residential mobility, and education.
Thousands of practitioners in the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry may have been influenced (albeit briefly in a classroom) by Robert Gutman’s ratio of professionals to the urban population (Princeton Arch Press 1988). The central point was about 98% of the population never gets to meet or talk with an architect or engineer – ever. To set a relevant tone for making urban design a contribution to sustainability, re-read and update the legacy of Robert Gutman.
Questions such as the following should be aimed at people such Adolfo Carrin Jr., White House Office of Urban Affairs (a planner) or Shaun Donovan, an architect (HUD) and their global counterparts . Believe me, they are familiar with “bottom feeding” architecture and planning. There is no courage in this industry outside an undergrad jury room. The question is whether this weakness should be allowed to continue as an acceptable part of the overall community development puzzle.
Question One: How possible is it to locally (if not globally) alter fee structures to represent a new set of values (carbon reduced, energy saved, life cycle defined) and to implement levels of public leadership that will effectively produce massive changes in the “live-work/play” behavior of humans over the next century? If not, why not? Get a handle on that, and the second question might be definable within architecture, engineering and construction (AEC).
Question Two: How can this industry change the existing contours of civic representation? Without a doubt, we live in a house that we all build, but unlike the other service professions, AEC produces places for million of people in recurring development events in increasingly massive domains that are interspersed with isolated, poorly linked and evaluated public realms that advance human capacity beyond “the hive”. The built environment is becoming tragically illogical by failing to address a greater sense of balance in the market of ideas for living if not, a broader social system for full participation in life itself will not take place.
The Global Urban Challenge
The first stage of a humanitarian crisis is the general denial of facts. As a result, defining the first question offers hope for finding and accepting new methods for recognizing resilience as the first step toward sustainability. The second stage is aimed at all biological beings facing short- or long-term ecological crises. The focus on the technology of “life, work/play” will not define ecological problems. Essentially, there is no fix without a vastly broader sense of responsibility.
Given this foundation several other questions require development as follows: What policy changes within New York would the following folks recommend? (fiscal, land use, zoning) How would they implement a regional strategy?
Position: Consumer-driven change will work, given the right iPhone type app at the right time.
To understand the full impact of a single consumption choice, the question “Is this good for the Earth?” is impossible to answer for the lack of life cycle data. The moment of consumption is well past design, or production and ahead of use and disposal. Daniel Goleman defines this “being good” problem in his book, Ecological Intelligence and describes “industrial ecology” as way to act ecologically – confronting a complex global challenge that is embedded in personal consumption choices and in doing so, alter the forces that drive design and production, as well as, demand new cycles of responsible disposal and retention. Did you just think of all that plastic floating in the Pacific? I did, it was not about waste, it was about currents.
The Entropy Problem is the Solution
Beyond advancing the bonded rationality embedded in individual consumption choices, the virtual backbone of consumption remains the connection between railways, expressways and the power- and water-grids. Will the ecological intelligence approach work to improve the quality of decisions that will make the 50,000 miles of national expressway infrastructure less dysfunctional, or 225,000-mile national rail system useful, or does it keep 200,000 miles of national grid power from routine catastrophic failure or plug up a very, very leaky water grid? Maybe as an intellectual exercise, but politically no f’n way.
The scale of coordination among states and multi-state regions to address these questions is well beyond the power of individual consumer choice. The mega-city structure of these regions and the mix of private, government and public benefit corporations serving as ad hoc, impromptu, expedient, makeshift, cobbled together regulatory bodies do not appear to have a capacity for rational thought, let alone ecological intelligence. The timing of their failure requires study, nothing else.
Sim Van der Ryn and Stuart Cowan said it best in Ecological Design when they contrasted sustainability defined technologically as opposed to ecologically (pp. 18-23) Here they summarized David W. Orr’s position on ecology.
First, people are finite and fallible. The human ability to comprehend and manage scale and complexity has limits. Thinking too big can make our human limitations a liability rather than an asset.
Second, a sustainable world can be redesigned and rebuilt only from the bottom up. Locally self-reliant and self-organized communities are the building blocks for change.
Third, traditional knowledge that co-evolves out of culture and place is a critical asset. It needs to be preserved, restored, and used.
Fourth, the true harvest of evolution is encoded in nature’s design. Nature is more than a bank of resources to draw on: it is the best model we have for all the design problems we face.
Technology is zero sum when placed in a priority higher than these four principles of change.
Do Not Forsake the Following
Peter Droeg finds the question of technology is useful but probably secondary. He is the author of The Renewable City: A Comprehensive Guide To An Urban Revolution and offers up the tool kits on city greening cities that have been around since the 1970s. The kicker is they were not implemented for the lack of “payback” and other reasons.
Mitchel Joachim seeks to integrate ecological design, but Dr. Joachim wins Time Magazine’s Best Invention (2007) for work with Smart Cities Group Compacted Car. As a partner in the nonprofit design organization Terreform, Fab Tree Hab project, an so on, he baits the Sprawl vs. Urban Center debate as a choice: is it better to spread over the landscape or produce dense compact cities. It depends.
Aside from the “unstoppable both” answer and the more jargon than juice issue, is anything going on here other than too much talent chasing after too much money or is it more hubris. I’m talking about the kind of technology that is embedded in Tom Perkins’ Maltese Falcon (the $100M sailing ship that can be sailed by one person) Even he is embarrassed.
Mike Davis would seriously disagree about the “urban solution” to the “global challenge” question in Planet of Slums. As an urban theorist Davis takes a global approach to the poverty that dominates the planet’s urban population. The list is growing from Cape Town and Caracas to Casablanca and Khartoum. Davis argues health, justice and social issues associated with gargantuan slums like Mexico City’s estimated population of 4 million seem invisible in world politics. He writes,
“The demonizing rhetoric of the various international wars on terrorism, drugs, and crime is so much semantic apartheid: they construct epistemological walls around gecekondus, favelas, and chawls that disable any honest debate about the daily violence of economic exclusion.”
Mike Davis in Planet of Slums
Statistics showing the number of “mega-slums” or “when shanty-towns and squatter communities merge in continuous belts of informal housing and poverty, usually on the urban periphery” have been forming since the 1960s. Davis paints a bleak picture of the upward trend in urbanization and a severely negative outlook for urban slum-dwellers. Can you say, pandemic?
Matthew Kahn wrote Green Cities: Urban Growth and Environment to frame the process of rapid urban development and sprawl as a source of concern about economic exclusion and environmental health. Are they mutually exclusive? Most policies pursue both, but Kahn suggests it is naive to do so. Is Kahn the best person to ask the tough questions about the costs?
Douglas Farr’s recent publication, Sustainable Urbanism: Urban Design with Nature (2007): Wiley ($75 – 304 pages) is his admitted first “draft”. The debate is open, case studies are available, but the initial steps toward a neighborhood-based “excellence” process on the long list of techniques worthy of implementation are outlined well. Doug will be the first to tell you that it is “hell” out there, especially after spending a decade on a relatively simple process of trying to make it easy to walk from one place to the next. New Yorkers know intuitively that so many solutions to the problems of the glog lie quietly inside our tiny realm of thought islands. (glog? – the blogged globe).
Peter Newman and Isabella Jennings most recent work, Cities as Sustainable Ecosystems, Principals and Practices. (2007) explores urban design as a resource for streaming energy, materials, and information into a new urban system. Newman and Jennings recognize that “a system” can only be described in terms of larger more complex systems. In this brief introduction (296p), urbanization as a system presents a series of human/non-human “man against nature” interactions that are being inexorably overwhelmed by the larger ecosystem. Nevertheless, Newman and Jennings make a case for an urban solution to the global challenge that is compelling.
Christopher Leinberger work, The Option of Urbanism: Investing in a New American Dream. (2007) Chris is within driving distance of Detroit and must, therefore, be compelled to write a book with this title. Top on his list of problems to solve is the lack of affordability in communities where walking to most services is available and mass transit for the remaining specialized services affordable and comfortable. Concerns regarding recent land use policies in NYC now support as many as nineteen different forms “drivable sub-urbanism” in New York City that seriously challenges the existing walkable urbanism structure. Local leadership is failing as developers (who only know how to do it their way) continue to be very pocketbook persuasive with policymakers. What is that other book – Retrofitting Suburbia?
Kim Moody has prepared a detailed summary of political/fiscal policy From Welfare State to Real Estate: Regime Change in New York City 1974 to the Present. (2007). The book summarizes the transformation of political and fiscal power by the Financial Control Board following the 1974 Fiscal Crisis. Since then, the budgetary powers of New York City Planning Commission and the Department of City Planning’s are in the hands of the New York State government whose “fiscal order” has become a national embarrassment. Several questions require development as follows: Even though he believes it is “nearly too late” to make policy changes that would effectively address the economic “bifurcation” of New York, we are compelled to ask what might be done? How would he implement a regional strategy that also recognizes the impoverishment of older urban centers throughout the region?
Collaboration in Urban Design and Planning was recently extolled in Part III “The Design and Planning Components (Levels of Integration)” in the second edition of The Built Environment: A Collaborative inquiry into Design and Planning (2007) edited by Wendy McClure and Tom Bartuska, Washington State University.
Glenn Beck and Kevin Balfe wrote An Inconvenient Book (Threshold Editions, $26.) The tough solutions to problems such as global warming, poverty, and political correctness are described. Many weeks on NYT bestseller list. I suggest following it up… via James Lovelock vs. James Hansen? Panel and workshop?
ULI’s Army (always used their Dollars and Cents series but this caught my eye)
Getting Density Right: Tools for Creating Vibrant Compact Development. The tools for compact development, are in place for New York City, yet walkable communities remain strangely incomplete. What is missing? According to NMHC, the key to improvements in leadership from local officials and neighborhood activists. The “frontline” obstacles to compact development are many. A review of this resource is needed. Get it, read it, report and review. It is $40 with a DVD of startup presentation materials.
Robert Wright in Nonzero – The Logic of Human Destiny (New York: Pantheon Books 2000) draws parallels between the trials and errors in the evolution of life and the determination of human culture to form a moral architecture. The competitiveness for “place” through the manipulation of resources ultimately demands a social, if not a moral framework for trade and exchange.
For the most part, this relationship is the stuff of embedded knowledge – that which we “just know” but don’t talk much about in our day-to-day discourses. Wright suggests this social data frames the trajectories of community through selection. Well examined, these processes become predictable and will ultimately lead to nonzero. Why? Our capacity to produce increased system complexity is grounded in the reality of trends in the evolution of organic form. It is also a confirmation of the inevitability of convergences in the emergence of civilizations.
Life as we know it emerged from the inorganic to organic, to biological, and ultimately to physiological specializations producing the psychological – the mind. In this continuum, the next stages of human history will be defined by the globalization of trade and communication technologies. Yet, is the human transcendental destiny defined by expanding our potential to shop? Is this a world with meaning, is it worth having? Where is the glue to bind these survival and pleasure imperatives to a moral reality? The argument in Nonzero is the application of design as the teleological determinant.
The nearly irredeemable corruptions of systems that would process and manipulate physical material, including DNA may be balanced best by seeding human capacity with the information management resources to see, feel and define the spiritual transformations that are interwoven into these choices. We are now entitled to answer “of what community am I and my family apart? We should also be entitled to ask and answer “of what community will I become a part by the making of these choices?”
In Makeshift Metropolisby Witold Rybczynski allows his teaching interests to lay down a lecture without admitting that at this stage in human history — people really need to be protected from what they want — Americans especially. As other top-level designers who succeed in a big way, I think Rybczunski writes to compromise with the realities of success as a teaching moment, nothing more. You see it in the choices he makes — to think once again on his own terms, or at least free of his client’s terms in a way that justifies the work of being incremental in a failing urban landscape.
The urban world is a physical and intellectual experience that fuels periods of vast prosperity, civic responsibility, investor confidence and an intangible sense of “pride of place” regardless of economic status. Cities are the catalyst for millions of experimental expressions of human thought and desire. They range from the myopia of projects for rapid capital returns to the grand visions of civil self-reforming society freely admitting mistakes and moving on with confidence. Within these many experiments, perhaps the greatest question confronting the expansion of global urban-ism is whether it is capable of containment. Is the city a physical entity that can stop expanding. Were this possible, it would give the city-entity a new ultimate purpose to focus on the intellectual capacity of humankind and to recognize one key priority. Protecting the diversity of the wilderness requires this separation.
We tend to forget that the market is never right until it corrects in what some call the race to the bottom in corporate governance. It also suggests that the aggregate of individual decisions eventually become overwhelming in every system. Turn the econometric function of this fact on the earth as a whole and the rate of resource consumption is approaching the equivalent of 1.4 earth per year in 2011 and takes approximately 18 months for the Earth to regenerate what we use in one year. The level of correction this model suggests is painful to contemplate with a new sense of enjoyable abundance.
I fear, like so many before him, that Witold Rybczynski will force himself or will be forced into the survivalist fringe of Paolo Soleri’s Arcosanti or the anarchy of Larry Harvey’s Black Rock City to be true to his word. One is physical proof of intellect the other is a call to the intellect for proof, both illustrate how messy humans will get just to make a disjointed point.
The Planner’s Network Book Club also selects great readings….check them out… A parallel group and an occasional joint session could produce excellent results. Please consider participating in the development of this resource.
Ah, so you’ve scrolled to the end breezing through all of the great thoughts of the thoughtful and yes, nothing has happened in the physical world, save a few hints here and there.
Persuasion is the responsibility of communication. The writer’s list project asks what can writers do with a list of billionaires coupled with some “hot button examples” and interest in shifting the narrative in ways that improve the focus of new media on questions of democracy and great wealth.Scroll or read down to see a list of billionaires.
~ On the Future of Democracy ~
Hundreds of writers focus on American democracy, yet the ability to conference meaningfully toward a collective capacity for persuasion has yet to be successful due to journalism’s “reporting” rule. It will be shattered soon. Examples of how and when the rule-breaking might begin are sought. Here are a few that interested me. I am sure there are many more to be found.
The Economist’s chief editor (Zanny Beddoes) maintains the anonymity of many writers, so they may “speak with a collective voice.” Kathrine Viner’s leadership of The Guardian seeks many readers’ participation using “be digital-first” and “free to the edge” strategies. Small groups snatch-up specific issues organized by the Open Markets Institute. Mission: to “expose and reverse the stranglehold that corporate monopolies have on our country.” The Volokh Conspiracy (out of the Washington Post into Reason) is forming a conference of writers on exposing the absurdities of journalism and irrationality of law in a Democracy. The first family son at the New York Times (A.G. Sulzberger) will find new ways to speak truth to power about lies.
After 160 years of publication, The Atlantic reflected on its 1857 mission statement and summed it up with a set of core principles. Knowledge is partial and provisional and subject to analysis, scrutiny, and revision. Reasoning guides opinion with facts; ideas will have consequences, sometimes with world-historical consequences. The long version is here.
When The Atlantic hired Ta Nehisi Coates, he managed to convince the editors that their enormous megaphone has been held by plundering thieves for all of its 160 years. It would be necessary to act on this knowledge long-buried, ridiculously rationalized, and intentionally forgotten. I would love to have been in the room for that one, but I can hope and wait for the movie, I suppose.
All journalists need to be understood in the context of action demanded in the vitally important vision of the world held by Ta Nehisi Coates. I spent some time with Vann R. Newkirk II, Adrienne Green, Adam Harris, Reihan Salam, Gillian B White, and Matt Thompson. I cannot speak to Ta-Nehisis Coates’s experience. I can read his books or any essay and fully understand the power of his voice and my hope for his influence. Meet him here in 2018 and here in 2017.
Am I Too Impatient?
The talent is not missing; there are many others. The big institutions in a democracy understand how governance’s quality weakens without writers’ fearlessness, but they also know they are often helpless in the din of voices. Where is the table for them to share a vision? They explore uncertainty with the creativity needed to fund that work. Where is the table?
Reinventing journalism in news organizations offers an opportunity to build a list of cooperative persuasion leaders. Starting with online publications is the short, natural step. However, the leaps needed to create an exchange between investigative journalism and longitudinal analysis of scholars remain. Before I get to some examples, let me add a personal story.
Big-brush/sweep machines clean the streets of New York on alternate days, and if a car is in the way, a “ticket” for $45 (pre-pandemic now $64 post-pandemic) is distributed. People make way for the machines. I was late on one of those alternate-side days by exactly six minutes to see the fine laid on my windshield in its bright orange envelope. I said, “You guys are perfect!” The officer smiled and shot back, “Oh, no, honey, it’s just because there are so many of us!” Writers are like New York’s clean street officers with one exception, they are not as persuasive, and they don’t get results. Here are those examples:
One: The Confidence Trap: David Runciman says Democracy favors complacency, especially if accompanied by trust. A crisis tests trust by producing an opportunity to muddle through just enough to make measurable improvements.
Two: In Nation of Devils, Stein Ringen describes “democratic government” as a contradiction defined by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). At best, the law displays a cloudy vision of an opportunity to develop policies for a healthier nation. The ACA’s details did not stop other capitalist democracies: Germany, Japan, UK, and Switzerland. All built national health care systems worthy of imitating. The U.S. “repeal and replace” quagmire spanned a decade only to reveal the mediocrity of American democratic governance.
Three: In The Last Vote, Philip Coggan describes how the social contract commitments made after WWII became bankrupt at conception. Nevertheless, the prospect of continued global chaos coupled neatly with interest in building a stable central bank system to sustain a permanent global borrowing cycle.
Four: David Post, like many writers on “the law” has a different concern. His In Search of Jefferson’s Mooseties the importance of Democracy to that of the Internet with the effect on the practices of democracy becoming a grinding combination of legal constructions built on precedent. Without national boundaries, cyberspace domains change the world every day.
Inclined to Take Action?
Being a witness to a homeless family being more economically creative with a $10,000 stake in a food truck than all of Goldman Sachs is heartbreaking. It should also be instructive and that it has meaning. Super wealth is an institution established through slavery and investment in it. It drives the first steps, makes the rules, and imagines why “bad” gets first dibs, and in the history of governance, it tends to get authoritarian.
Facebook’s network platform is free in trade for your customer data. That use led to a violation of privacy norms. It was in the fine print. The classic elements of a crisis: shock, denial, depression, anger, and a final stage, acceptance, swept across our minds and changed our experience in its use.
The financial crisis after 2008 exhibited the last two and most worrisome stages that spill into the violence of despair. That is why Steve Brill’s or Eric Posner’s observation of economies over their lifetime cannot change the world or get agreements on steps. Ideas like “quantitative easing” are effective, yet in a word – academic. They are the managers of the climax in the hazy relevance of the denouement. Books prove good facts are no longer enough.
The anger/acceptance stages of the 2008 crisis continue to rip the sparkle off the per capita income metric, and the product moving forward appears in a long list of appalling disasters. Yet, this is where it gets interesting. The world map shows where wealth creation and democracy as linked. The map of the states indicates the concentrations of that wealth.
The Democracy Index (world map above) is worthy of a detailed look at motives using the filter provided by three issues, 1) energy by type of use, 2) concentrations of wealth by micro-location, and 3) careful attention to the discourse of nations in which events are arranged in the plot, also known as “wagging the dog.” Self-governing societies will find applications to internet communications that extend a democratic republics’ capacity once protections from intrusions posed by authoritarian regimes are established.
New York, New York
La Salle, Texas
McKenzie, North Dakota
Westchester, New York
Union, South Dakota
Teton? Kanye West, Kim Kardashian, Harrison Ford, Sandra Bullock, Brad Pitt, Tiger Woods, Uma Thurman
The Brookings Institution (here) compiled a map of the United States to look at geographic areas of prosperity, using a combination of data sets to reveal an index of “vitality” as part of The Hamilton Project. The map combines a county’s median household income, poverty rate, unemployment rate, prime-age employment rate, life expectancy, and housing vacancy rate. It presents a Vitality Index as a measure of a place’s economic and social well-being. I found it fascinating for comparison regarding the general location of the 1%.
The “red vs. blue” model of democrat and republican political party behavior by county or state tends to ignore sophisticated communication fraud levels at a global scale. Conflicting economic remedies from the political left and the right are abstractions aimed at preventing social conflict. Tension is natural to diversity and a good thing in many ways. Still, it can worsen when associated with the corruption of thought inherent to high concentrations of wealth and poverty.
The gap is more than economic (have and have not); it includes the “knowing” from the “unknowing.” The 1994 book Making Democracy Work by Robert D. Putnam (w/Leonardi and Nanetti) is a twenty-year look into Italy’s civic traditions. They found Democracy works by reinforcing regional identities and trust. The reach of ordinary ideas about how democracy works well draws out shared experiences.
The reach of reasonable self-governance they found no longer competes in a global economy. It is under attack. The evidence is in the range of experiences not shared. The range for this knowledge moves from mysterious offshore accounts to the helplessness of refugees that grow in total numbers and places. When a different way of life is upon a people, it occurs in one of two ways, creatively by the attentive or forcefully by the thoughtless. Both are embedded in the human heart and the sheer force of Nature’s DNA, the purpose of which is can only be understood in ten-thousand-year chunks of time. We witness distracting matches between authoritarian bullies and capital supremacists, the tolerance for which is unforgivable.
None of this is Persuasive
The worldviews formed by individual writers, small academic teams, and think tanks serving billion-dollar clients lack persuasive power. Demands to “lop off their heads” lack merit for most, and only a few rise above their own purposeful din. The result is a failure to communicate and implement remedies to a range of well-defined problems. To soothe my own heart, I collected about a hundred individual Twitter feeds of the large social change institutions under subject headings (policy, voting, taxes, human rights) to prepare brief monthly summaries and evaluate their helplessness. Maybe a summary of 140 character statements over a period of time will reveal a pulse. I put them together in what I like to call the Tweet-o-Rama.
What are the questions that lead to improved decision making that result in effective action? We know writers such as Tom Friedman gets his questions by extracting detailed accounts of global conditions. Wealthy Lexus drivers in aging cultures live alongside regions and nation-states that cherish olive trees because they are poor and young. Writers can take the market abstractions of global warming and climate change and make them concrete for the average person, not with facts, but with hope. They can convince 80,000 people in Houston that floods will be routine in their neighborhoods. They can lead them to organize and join millions of other households in hundreds of other regions subject to firestorms, drought, pestilence, and addiction. Who are the writers that will lead people away from actions contrary to their well-being in the caveat emptor world of American Democracy?
What Can You Do? Name Writers & Develop Themes
I want you to pursue one idea as a member of a writers’ group (here when it is ready). The people on the writer’s list will focus on one group of people in America who function in an overlapping set of groups loosely defined by the phrase “political elite.” Why is this important? We know the terms; one percent of American households control more wealth than the ninety-plus percent of all other households and 38% of the nation’s total wealth. Statistically, the one percent represents 1.3 million households, but homing in on 12% (160,000 households) gets to the top of the elite pyramid. These are households with $25 million or more in annual wealth accumulation (2010). As nearly half of all billionaires are Americans and the rest can be found visiting just a few of its cities, the “roost principle” will connect people to place with a bit of due diligence. The ten counties in the table above yield a significant number of opportunities. Wyoming has no income tax, so know that the celebrities listed are among the lower-income and are, for the most part, second-home ranch owners.
To find the top one percent, go to where the average household income is high and wait. Questions that cause the askance look, a hitch in the step, pupils widening of people in service to wealth work well. Chosen “birds of a feather” communities must be completely understood. Getting close requires hooks, levers, and some demographic imagination. The elite households in the $25 million and way above Paradise Papers group are definable (with exceptions) as people capable of creating a high office candidate (president, governor, senator). The “elites” shoulder tap is heavy – a military deployment to corporate interest areas, the management of armament/gun control emotions, even the disruption (or development) of the public interest in a sustainable and affordable system of healthcare could be a subject of interest.
Digging into the lives of people who own wealth feels personal. It isn’t. If the 1% is to be more than an economic abstraction, the work, purpose, and privileges of these super-rich members of our society require analysis beyond the “who and wow lists” available now. (See source: How Much.) For example, the wealthiest zip code is Fisher Island, located just off Miami. The island is accessible only by ferry or water taxi for its 500 households, and many of the units are investment properties with guest rents averaging $800 to $1,200/day. The island is just 193 acres, its tidy apartment buildings house at peak occupancy of about 1,400 people putting the population density at 46,000 per square mile. Nearby Miami Beach is only 5,000 people.
Who understands these contradictions well? More importantly, who are the best persuaders? Who or what injects actors onto the playing fields of social change. I want names that force a local debate. A successful dialogue often concludes with goals, objectives, and strategies. Local self-interest problems stimulate debate, and solutions will produce dialogue.
Two columns below the “Bumper Year Chart” provide examples. Of the wealthiest 100 people globally, there are 32 Americans ($12B to $100B) in the column on the left (1-32). On the right column (31 Americans), there is a list of the poorest of the rich ($4B and $5B)—the names on the list that follows a link to a Bloomberg.com profile. The task of writing thoughtful insights concerning the behavior of the elite holders of wealth is an impossible one. Where is the starting point that discovers message controls? The third name on the list below is Buffet. He offers one idea on how to make some progress in understanding the idea that facts are essential in how Senator Patrick Moynihan (NY-D) talked about them. The Senator often observed that we are entitled to our opinion, but we are not entitled to our own facts.
Warren Buffet’s factual logic makes him confident about the future. Despite challenges that link the concentration of wealth to the lack of engagement in reversing intolerable poverty, he and Berkshire Hathaway companies remain billion-dollar beneficiaries that prefer GDP growth over all other indicators. His argument for a positive future is how he connects the rising tide of the annual GDP per capita. The optimism of “averages” draws from population growth of 0.5% (births minus deaths) and 0.3% through immigration for a total of 0.8%. A modest increase of 2% in real GDP without nominal gains produced by inflation would allow for a 1.2% growth in GDP per capita. Amortized over 25 years $59,000 GDP per capita in 2017 becomes $79,000. Buffet says, adding $20,000 is good news. His four words at the start of the 2020 pandemic were, “Never bet against America.”
The forces that continue to force wealth to the top to prioritize global wealth outside of a regulatory framework tend to discount the leading producer, a healthy and productive population. One can hear Buffet saying, ‘being blind to that is how you shoot yourself in the foot,’ but the following quote from his article in Time Magazine(1.15.18) are the facts he presents on why the nation could end up with a severe limp.
“…the Forbes 400 paints a far different picture. Between the first computation in 1982 and today, the wealth of the 400 increased 29-fold–from $93 billion to $2.7 trillion–while many millions of hardworking citizens remained stuck on an economic treadmill. During this period, the tsunami of wealth didn’t trickle down. It surged upward.”
Mike Bloomberg: Time Magazine(1.15.18)
The writer’s compensation is absolute freedom with no master other than the fellowship of those who seek a fragment of truth worth exploring. For example, Bloomberg reported in December that 500 of the wealthiest people on earth became $1 trillion richer in 2017. The louder point was that it was “more than four times” the 2016 increase. The chart below shows an average of $2.7 billion per day was added.
Critics pointed to it as “shrugging off” growing economic, social and political divisions. The U.S. has a significant presence on the index, with 159 billionaires who added $315 billion, an 18 percent gain that gives them a collective net worth of $2 trillion. The total amounts to a 23 percent increase on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index of the world’s 500 wealthiest people. This compares neatly with a 20 percent increase in the MSCI World Index and Standard & Poor’s 500 Index. One in every 20 Americans is a millionaire.
The highest density of people who would consider a million a small amount live in a city-state known as Monaco, where almost 20 percent of households have assets totaling at least $30 million. The wealth tracking firm, Wealth-X, is a business that focuses on where the super-wealthy enjoy the privileges and benefits of tax havens along with the risk-taking of casino gambling.
The world’s residents are becoming the product of computational methodologies built to manage metadata on all forms of consumption. Example: Bloomberg has the power to keep himself off the list. The reason being “he’s giving it all away.” The simple truth is no one person could be as productive as his wealth expresses, and no one person, plus a charitable board, can be very productive in giving it away. That is what a democracy is designed to figure not, not fifteen well-intentioned people in a Manhattan boardroom.
The global aggregators of surveillance capitalism provide data loops that require something in trade, with mouthful sentences like that you need a box. The concealment of those on the list above is nearly total, but the wealth these individuals acquired in 2017 was enabled by invading your privacy. I have a box – it sits between me, my family, business, community, and network, and the rest of the world as I determine. In this box, I place my total data stream as I decide. Nothing leaves or enters that box without my permission. It was expensive, but worth every penny.
A refined example of positive responsiveness is Browder’s DoNotPay. It offers “deep learning” artificial intelligence capabilities to help people in the U.S. and Great Britain prepare and file legal documents such as small claims suit against a credit report agency such as Equifax. The AI will also write formal complaints to an insurance company and other related proceedings managed by law. Providing communal service platforms meeting a specific self-interest helps to put consumers in charge. The development of the GoodGuide and many other applications for that handheld computer called “phone” have similar interests in connecting the content of products to environmental impact and consumer preference.
These two forces – the data aggregators and consumption guides will continue to mature. As a nation of laws, American social and economic history illustrates the tension between the two regulatory structures these forces represent. The first regulatory response focuses on the concentration of wealth with antitrust laws that expanded from the New Deal through WWII and conclude with the formation of public agencies such as the Environmental Protection Administration. Managing the growth and excesses of large corporate monopolies led to a need for a significant government response to assure public welfare. The environment and the economy improved.
The second regulatory structure sustains productivity with systems for economic fairness. Public resources such as Patent Law enforce monopolies on a product-by-product basis to support a wealth concentration process. Since the mid-20th century, the global integration of trade and communications is fast, and the regulatory framework is slow.
The exposure of absurdities in protected wealth as an indicator of productivity is sharply evident for the lack of results. For example, is it possible to believe an individual can be as productive as an annual increase of $2 billion in earnings suggests? Is it absurd to think a small board of directors managing $20 billion in annual charitable giving can do so with a few studies? They might usefully address a human need with effectiveness. Still, other than gaining a somewhat narcissistic sense of satisfaction, the processes are designed by tax law to support hundreds of small boardrooms incapable of concerted and coordinated implementation. Thus, they may feel “democratic” yet debate regarding the future of millions of people from these little hideaways of probable caring remain slaves to a sophisticated national system for establishing equilibrium.
National policies support local efforts to prevent the percentage of dirt poor households from getting above 15% in the nation but not by region. Those who find themselves on the short and foul end of the inequality stick are part of a continuous computational analysis under the Poverty Rate heading. The public policy concern focuses on containing and, in some cases, ‘hiding’ concentrations of poverty. The reasons were given, such as global competitiveness at the start of the 21st century, assure those on the long, pointed end of that stick will behave in the common interest. They no longer feel trustworthy, as wealth and self-interest are without inhibitors. Here is a chilling example. If the earth had 100 people – One person has 50% of all the money, 56 people have no internet access, 14 people cannot read, 13 people have no clean water (via Vala Afshar). A lot of these of “100 people” percentages to review (here), such as 86 can read and write, 14 cannot, or of 100 people, 5 speak English as a first language.
Overwhelming inequality is the breaking point of every society, whether it is a few thousand or a billion people. A half-century has passed since the University of Chicago’s thinkers of the 1960s and 1970s argued for economies of scale (Milton Friedman, Alan Greenspan, and Richard Posner). As highly persuasive economists, they proved this practice would yield cheaper goods and services to consumers. The winning methodology altered the antitrust policy by placing measures of economic efficiency above all else. The counter-argument warned that top levels would produce large corporations and inhibit the decentralized development of a democratized society and impetus of reform movements in the overall economy.
The U.S./China rapprochement of 1972 and aftermath neatly symbolizes the result of this pathway. The Yale Law Journal examines the issue in a detailed analysis of Amazon’s business model as an antitrust paradox. The resulting excessive concentration of private power in nearly every category has continued since then. (See American Antitrust Institute).
Walmart gets 25% of all dollars spent on groceries in the U.S. In 2015 they began their online version of Amazon, knowing the problems of Sears.
Jeff Bezos (richest on the planet) started Amazon with investors in 1998. Low-profit margins ruled until 2017 when $60 billion in sales revenue yielded $1 billion in profit.
CVS, Walgreens, and Rite-Aid have 99 percent of the pharmacy market, and two of them want to merge; one is attempting to purchase Aetna, a large insurance corporation.
Each year Amazon’s online business model captures a growing percentage of online spending (40% – 2015). It is leading the revolution of spending from “brick to click.” More are on the way.
Google and Facebook claim 64 percent of online ad revenue.
Google claims 64 percent of all search engine traffic.
Bloomberg reported the top 500 billionaires added over a trillion dollars in 2017.
The extraordinary possibilities of capitalism exhibited in a democracy are evident in the list above. Strong contradictions form how one-person/one-vote struggles with dollars per vote, pay-to-play, and so on. The former is a central principle of democracy, the others of capitalism. The contradictions are deemed acceptable with one proviso, a free and unfettered press. Frightening.
Writers have a media consumption preference that bundles into silos. Some like finding dark Toffler-laden tea laced with culture-war confrontations, misleading data; others like the opposite. Media trends build on event coverage. From top-tier media to social media posts, data platforms “reason” by an algorithm with print, sound, and voice information. The meaning of it eventually emerges in people but plucking concrete data from the digital realm reveals a person’s name, named places, dates, times, and all other numbers linked to them hidden in a meta-group. Ideas are inherently abstract, but when directly associated with one or more people, they become authentic. With it, I can pick your favorite car, including the one you can afford, and the GPS coordinates of both.
Industry’s use of media is specific to the needs of its users in the digital revolution. Journalists prepare news with feeds; businesses prepare annual reports with technology, and both pull concrete data from a wide range of outlets to measure changes in the world. Each provides strategic opportunities to maintain accuracy, cross-referenced by time, date, place, and sources. In all fields, but especially in advertising, public relations, and corporate Wall Street, the actions are taken are proof of persuasive communications down to the microsecond.
Time is everyone’s money. My analysis of media companies and their compilers focus on the tiers of persuasion that want the public to trust government leadership. For example, the economics of political media services track and drive press-mentions and then analyze them for impact. Message repeat processes produce trust, even if the message is a lie. Confidence, on the other hand, requires a relationship with journalists in specific industry areas. The resulting “lists,” cross-referenced with legislation not only provides opportunities for exposure but also produces alternatives in a vastly expanded media environment.
Building insight into competitor’s and partners’ strategies is the essential component of understanding the distinctions in the style of messaging. Building collaborative media relations occurs best by connecting resources such as experts in various industries to establish themes, niche components, and trending topics. Ways to stay on top of the television, radio, newspaper, or blog news cycles on politics occur by increasing interactions with journalists that purvey issues specific or parallel to their areas of interest. Vehicles such as e-alarms will demand responses as part of an item coverage process quantifiable for impact successes. The abstractions described above are the shrill whispers of many (list), so here are some concrete examples.
On the other hand, the confidence provided by this capacity for prediction includes a form of arrogance that fails to recognize the enormous power of the outlier within the overall data framework. Viewing a young man shot down in the street sustains substantial influence because it was repeated repeatedly. Documented improvements between law enforcement officials’ behavior and the conduct of people in confrontation with the norms of society have occurred. Our generation’s dynamics require trust derived from the balanced exposure of wins and losses, but always toward better ways to confirm human dignity during its failures. Trust remains a reasonable objective, and there are people such as Eric Liu fighting to provide it as a product.
Thanks to media platforms such as TED, we can encounter Eric Liu and get to know him without ever meeting. His mission (see him here) as the founder of Citizen’s University is to train people in the art of urban living as, “pro-social, problem-solving contributors of a self-governing community.”
He says we must ‘find ways to “show up” as vital citizens of a community for one reason – the constant examination of our democracy creates the change essential to sustaining our freedoms to do so. Continuing this vitality in the city from suburb to dense core provides opportunities to explore change and power. Liu defines power as it relates to change and describes it unapologetically as the capacity to make others do what you would have them do.
Dr. Margaret Mead’s observation of how small groups change the world offers no guarantees on how well, thus the need to pay attention. The evidence is in one aspect of the need to build new kinds of political awareness. The congressional elite represents one of those small groups. Some of the evidence is the use of rules and legislation that contradict a constitutional promise of public well-being in trade for private security. The congressional median income is well over $1 million, but the annual salaries are under $200,000 for all 534 members apart from the Speaker of the House.
Moving toward a perfect union is confronted hostage and quid pro quo tactics as the source of power. That they appear directed by those who cannot cope with the realities of our democracy is of great concern. Such dispensation will not bring peace to their society or ours. The ordinary citizen senses this as a kind of in their bones evidence. The raw competition for capital supplants the more useful search for agreements and compromises at the core of peace and security politics. The loss of democracy is at stake in The rise of authoritarian practices hints strongly at a loss of democracy and its principles of fairness
More Hot Button Examples
The ordinary citizen can get updates when legislation is introduced and scheduled for debate or votes, even when it gets new cosponsors or hearings because outfits such as GovTrack that will send them to you by email. With your “sign up” to a proposed law, notification of the entire process as it starts toward the POTUS desk is provided in hour inbox. A good example is the quality of questions available when this is done by a small group of writers interested in a topic. For example, a few seconds will produce a map such as the one below.
Questions: Where are nuclear reactors in the Northeast? Why do you ask?
On Jan 29, 2018, Rep. Eliot Engel [D-NY16] introduced H.R. 4891: Dry Cask Storage Act of 2018 with co-sponsors from New York. The bill was referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, which will consider it before sending it to the House for consideration. With this, information a citizen can be ready to ask about Dry Cask Storage, what they are, how are they produced, where will they be placed over the next century, and most importantly, why this legislation now? Casks are for spent nuclear fuel that has been “burned” in a nuclear reactor. They remain “hot” for centuries. Since Yucca Mt., NV closed in 2009; all those red dots are still producing “burned” fuel rods. Local storage appears to be the necessary result. Citizens can seek out those who have made the determination that the development of nuclear electric power is a public dollar priority and decide what it means to include local storage.
Disjointed energy policies create expensive highway repairs and inefficient mass transit. The fossilized power grids, roads, and rail in the United States symbolize the nation’s growing income inequality and support hostile polarization. The time for a strong pull from the heart of people as Americans is now. It may stop them from pushing themselves into the falsehoods of “taking a side” on every aspect of energy policy. First, it will be necessary to examine this “taking sides” problem.
For example, litigators for wealthy clients use “due process” to stall reform, and they are winning. The guarantee of due process grinds down reform efforts through a maze of courts. Arguments for improving worker safety or regulating the discharge of chemical waste can last decades. Clever due process litigiousness in energy policy turns to high stakes trading and away from long term community prosperity. Legislative and financial engineering results in two societies, a small well-protected class and the hopeful. As the list of threats to human health and well-being grows, the nation’s trust in a better future is a factor held well past its due date. Wealth streams to the top echelons at an astounding rate. It may be the rate itself that encourages bankers and brokers to put the welfare of homebuyers and small businesses at risk simply to sustain trade. The darkest example is the exposure of the NINJA home mortgage scheme to bundle loan securities despite a “no income no job application”. Is there a “side” regarding this behavior, other than right and wrong?
Get a Start Button
The global overshoot problem is due to human consumption. Kate Raworth offers methods and arguments for a more beneficial economy. She sees it built on regenerative and distributive systems designed to meet individual and community essentials. The step toward essential from food and water to the production and shedding of complex materials, human use patterns extend beyond the earth’s ability to provide. The solutions to these problems have two expectations. The first is the apocalyptic solution. Individuals, communities, and nations build on fear of destruction and deploy a disturbing “fitness” for survival policy. The second is a hopeful focus on scientific and technological interventions occurring throughout history. Various direct actions and mitigations can leverage the overshoot problem into an opportunity for human advancements in global asset management.
A few minutes of her talk (here) leaves you with agreement on nine ecological crises facing human settlements. Climate change is an “easy one” with known solutions. Getting to effective implementation is the challenge. Even if it is incremental, it must recur and thereby exhibit control over a process.
Leadership organizations represented by the Bipartisan Policy Center and the Partnership for Public Service dedicate resources for performance-measured actions. Their politics deal with big issues such as ozone depletion (global) and deadly air pollution (local), while climate change, ocean acidification, chemical pollution, nitrogen, and phosphorous loading continue. They evaluate global threats such as freshwater withdrawal, land conversions, and the loss of biodiversity. All of this without a measure for a political change capable of demanding prevention as the alternative to repairs after the fact. Known ecological ceilings prove prevention works, but it also links to taxation and the cost of living that leads to local bets on quality housing, health, education, public safety, as well as important protections from fraud, violence, and lies.
Comprehensive well-being remains a local power through specific actions. The lack of compromise, consensus, and political resolve for others well-being who are in trouble stands as a central problem nationally, but not in your neighborhood. However, other actors are taking a global gamble on the low odds of an active resistance capable of lopping off heads yet retain a capacity to sustain the commons’ morality.
A thought experiment. List all the things as regenerative components from the following priorities: water, food, health, energy, education, income and work, peace and justice, political voice, social equity, gender equality, and networks. Each has a social foundation defined by its participants with the power to design requirements that meet their unique local locations’ demands. Apply a set of decision tree questions (Yes/No) that directly link a local or regional regenerative need and global concern. I like the idea of starting with the decisions produced by large corporations’ public powers and the private behavior of the super-wealthy.
Motivation and Instruction?
“The wealth of the “one percent” is a problem because their instructions to money managers are boring. Examples might be hey, “don’t lose my money,” or “assure my estate’s growth rate is ahead of inflation with minimized levels of risk.” There are exceptions, of course, but not enough of them to resolve the risk, gender, and racial wealth gap. The problems in ordinary working people’s experience are reminders that access to reasonably level playing fields are requirements. It used to be your favorite “Anchorman” could be trusted, leading to everyone wanting to be an anchor.”
The inequality of wealth and opportunity among different regions of the United States are like those across neighborhoods of the nation’s large cities or the earth. The city solves big problems in thousands of small ways. Aggressive efforts in the production and preservation of affordable housing, effective deployment of resources for immigrant families, an extensive re-investment in public education, and a diversity of people capable of standing shoulder to shoulder against forces that would divide are urban tools against intolerance and hatred. Subsequently, the security of future generations is possible unless they are asleep or put there.
I request the names of independent writers on American democracy and the names of the elite among the one percent of interest to them. Each writer will be interested in a specific set of these elite actors (via political position, corporate employment, or investment behavior). One or a combination of no more than two of the following subject areas will drive content: Human Health, Social Welfare, Banking, Finance, Insurance, Real Estate, Foreign Policy, International Relationships, Global Climate, Energy and Defense.
Businesses understand goal attainment for ideas like sustainability. The elite are those who set out to acquire the enormous wealth held by Post WWII American people. The idea of compelling the formation of that wealth to benefit the rest of the world follows an established model – destroy, build, repeat. William Simon’s A Time for Action (1980) presents the financial details tested against long-term political experience and his core belief that governments that give businesses everything they want can also take it away. Regulatory relief and the aftermath of the 2008 recession proved that the government had to put back a ton of cash. Its many actors slipped into the financial fog of litigant confrontation. Insert expressions of freedom into this give-to-take governance problem, and you have a Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, and Independent dialogue. The Simon-vein of political give and take compromise is reason enough to implement a sustained “what’s next” analysis of the current situation, but this alone is not persuasive.
An elite household recently produced a candidacy and a presidency on an apparent disrespect for the politically elite, and therein lays the new opportunity. The relationship that the elite has to the issues of the day will give writers a clear opening for a strategic narrative capable of turning the suppositions of the conservatives regarding political power into a set of unique American propositions based on an appreciation for reason and argument.
The political confusion summarized in Tom Sowell’s Economic Facts and Fallacies adds a lot of fuel to the idea that nothing matters more than winning the argument now. Creating this condition is the sole criterion for success. The ability to persuade in the moment or a few weeks or days before an election, a board meeting, or a declaration of war aims to release resources immediately. Such activities are the enemy of creative imagination; they feed thirst and hunger with no thought of drought, they satisfy in increments with a poor view of the fragmented structures that lay in the wake of every act of selfishness.
If American Democracy is no more than a flash in the history of human freedom, it will be a bright one. Alternatives to “he said, she said,” culture-war banter will reduce disdain and distortion, and contentiousness. One source of this problem is the grouping of “people like us” in communities. Cultural segregation has been ongoing since WWII and encouraged through national urbanization policies, the practice of “steering” in real estate, and widespread support for belief systems that sustain the isolation of people. These highly selective forms of seclusion reduce the desire for tolerance and interest in moderation.
Determine Persuasive Capacity
Writers should not avoid using a tabloid-like approach regarding news of the elite and their link to the pocketbook experience of the 99%. Therefore, the use of dates, times, and numbers in ways that make sense. One example: the billionaire’s list shows wealth as a multiple of the national household median income to elites. Multiply 1.7 million times $60,000, and you have a wealth of Amazon’s Jeff Bezos around 2015. This forces one question. How is it possible for one person to be that productive? It won’t be easy to unite writers as a highly trained paparazzi aimed at billionaires, but it will happen for two reasons.
In my Literary Criticism (Class 457), Prof. James demanded a thoughtful and thorough examination of written work. From the first sentence to the last, he asked his students to tease out themes. If we saw symbolism or meaning, our expressions had to come through each character’s experience as reflected compared to our time and place in Room 342 every Tuesday in 1972. In non-fiction work, the same principle is applied. I learned to reduce a three-thousand-word policy paper to 200 words or less with dates, numbers, named places, and people. An idea is concrete if linked to a person(s) by name; otherwise, it remains abstract. In concrete terms, you know that I took a class in 1972, where Prof. James taught lessons on the uses of concrete data in literary criticism.
Writers know how to be concrete. The enemy of this effort in persuasive writing will be too many words. I know, I know.
The second reason is more complex and subject to the contest of assumptions. Over the last three decades, we have become accustomed to the world described best in Deborah Tannen’s 1999 book, The Argument Culture. Since then, hostility combined with the discipline of 140 characters and the power to broadcast them globally leaves one remaining issue – getting as many people as possible to pay attention for a few minutes. In a cross-disciplinary sense, the theme of her bestseller, You Just Don’t Understand, catches sight of the debate on the future of American democracy. Add Patricia Turner’s worldview (I Heard It Through the Grapevine) and Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to Me, and the reasoned and well-channeled description of sex and race in America provides the footing for moving writers forward like a force of history fully capable of persuading their readers to resist authoritarian “divide and rule” solutions to governance.
A note with questions to writers with the hope that a few will be persuaded to act.
The challenge to truth is not “the lie,” but algorithms that can target the people to act on a specific issue for the best effect quickly. A revolution in the revenue stream is how the bulk (99%) of new paid advertising in media is alongside user-selected content. No one is non-targetable or immune from a story, whether true or false. Producing stories out of “news farms” based in like Macedonia will look the same as value-driven news agencies such as The Guardian, The Economist, The Washington Post, or the New York Times. Paywall or not, these and some 120 newspapers in the nation have begun a ready, fire, aim, and re-aim process to secure their financial and editorial independence and to safeguard the journalistic freedom and the liberal or conservative values that free them of commercial interference or political control.
Access to an expanding list of recommended writers is (HERE). To suggest names, use this address: click here. As the file acquires thematic consensus (12-18 mo.) and an internal sense of balance, a process that looks to the quality of change described below might begin with persuasive skills.
“For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act not only to create new jobs but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun, the winds, and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And, we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. All this we will do.”
President Barack Obama – Inaugural Address (1.20.2009)
Political leadership will always be a force capable of producing extreme attitudes. It can also generate moderate views, rightful independence, and outright nonconformance. A new up, down, from the top-down or bottom-up image is needed. It also needs to be as sideways and as wiggle-waggle as possible to help us think and perhaps laugh at the absurdity in much of our discourse. An active localism result and its new and innovative approach will not eliminate the violent polarization represented by the depressed who find themselves lost, perhaps criminally insane in the malaise of disagreement. Animosity does not acquire toward political conformity or year to year compromise. Negotiation, tolerance, and kindness, on the other hand, work. Where do you find it? I know where because of one truth and one goal, the big cities yield a solid shoulder to shoulder acceptance of the work before us, and when they of if cities ever get their power back, the nation will be healed.
“Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and senators and congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country.”
Whistleblowers support on questions of security weaknesses; and vulnerabilities in intelligence agencies and a long list of critical energy and arsenal facilities. No tweets, facebook, etc. just hard work truth. No tweets by NSWBC
Tax is spending, and therefore the question of many organizations is rightly on the subject of what and then on who. A 2013 report by the Congressional Budget Office (here) illustrates a modestly progressive tax structure.
“In 2013, average household income before accounting for means-tested transfers and federal taxes was $20,000 for the lowest quintile and $292,000 for the highest quintile. After transfers and taxes, those averages were $33,000 and $215,000.”
Nevertheless, income in the top 20% is highly skewed toward the very top of the distribution. Among households in the bottom half of the highest quintile (the 81st to 90th percentiles), average income was only $157,000; among the 1.2 million households in the top 1 percent of the distribution, however, it was $1.9 million. Much of this is due to exclusions, deductions, preferential rates, and credits in the federal tax system. Revenues are therefore much lower than they would be otherwise without a structure of tax rates riddled with individual and corporate “tax expenditures,” a term is used to include all redistributed revenues.
The earned income tax credit paid to low-income households is significant. However, the mortgage interest deduction (MID) even with the new $10,000 cap is an annual expenditure far greater than the annual budget of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Similar tax expenditures include many forms of financial assistance for specific activities, entities, or groups of people (see amounts here).
When the phrase “squeeze the middle-class” is heard, the table below is what it looks like by quintile. The table summarizes the federal role in managing income distribution. Two significant transfers are involved, one is designed to prevent starvation and related forms of desperation in the lowest quintile with average incomes around $20,000 as a matter of humanitarian policy, the other is aimed at the higher quintiles in the hope that added revenue in the hands of the wealthy will sustain the middle 60% of households.
major tax expenditures considered are distributed unevenly across the income
scale. Over half of the combined benefits of those tax expenditures accrue to
households with income in the highest quintile (or one-fifth) of the population. CBO estimates find seventeen percent goes to
households in the top 1 percent of the population. In contrast, 13 percent of
those tax expenditures will accrue to households in the middle quintile, and
only 8 percent will accrue to households in the lowest quintile.
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) passed 2017 shifted the benefits
of tax expenditures to higher-income households in a variety of sophisticated ways
that make it look like the ordinary household is getting a break, however, it
is the percentages for the top income groups in the distribution that make it
unfair if balance is used as a measure.
The Tax Policy Center (TPC) is a joint venture of the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution. The Center is organized to provide independent analyses of current and longer-term tax issues. It communicates its analyses to the public and to policymakers in an accessible manner.
“Congressional control by political party is deemed necessary because agendas are set for the day-to-year influence of expenditures at home and the world through the administration of billions in revenue, and trillions in the structure of investment debt.”
Rex L. Curry
The Evidence of Power
Political power is evident in the 98% incumbency rate for the House and Senate, followed by the seniority rule that determines agenda powers through committee leadership by the majority party. The average replacement rate of a member in either party is in the mid-twenties in the House. That known, very little changes in Congress other than the fight to obtain a majority in the Senate where only a third of its members are challenged in six-year cycles and replacement is through death.
Political power is evident in the quality of American life from that of the neighborhood down streets from where you live to every remote military outpost on the earth and in space. America has not known the horror of war on its doorstep, but it has known the death of its children over two world wars, and a nearly countless number of other little wars. The traditional controls used to manage balance are losing the maintenance of ordered power. Following is a brief four-paragraph history of politics over the last decade to illustrate this concern, so don’t let your eyes glaze over. It tells you what makes thieves giddy.
Just as the warnings of a Great Recession took hold of the economy in 2008, the Democratic Senate seat number in January 2009 was 55 Democrats plus 2 Independents equaling 57 Senate seats. (Kennedy D-MA was dying, and Franken’s D-MN election is in a recount delay). During this time, efforts by the Obama Administration (2008 to 2016) to pass a reform package defining the abuses of the FIRE sector and stimulus funding to repair the damage.
No Republicans in the House voted for the stimulus, but it passed. However, in the Senate the Democrats didn’t have 60-vote “control” to pass this legislation, three Republicans (Snowe, Collins, and Specter) voted to break a filibuster to move toward passage creating the conditions leading to a strong recovery. Nevertheless, it was in 2009 that close observers began to worry about the quality of governance in our democracy. A plan began to make Obama a one-term President.
When Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) recovered from ill health, he returned on July 21, 2009, but even then, Democrats still only had 59 members. Kennedy’s empty seat was temporarily filled by Paul Kirk but not until September 24, 2009, to give Democrats 60 votes (at least potentially) in the Senate. Democrats did have “total control” of Congress, but it lasted all of 4 months, from September 24, 2009, through February 4, 2010. Control by Democrats ended when Scott Brown, a Republican, was sworn in to replace Kennedy’s Massachusetts seat marking the beginning a Republican takeover of congressional power following the 2012 re-election of Obama.
In 2013, the Senate’s two chiefs were Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-NV) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). McConnell’s effort to make Obama a one-term presidency failed and a long series of Republican filibusters against his agenda and nominees began along with a sense of unyielding discord. To force the issue, Reid invoked the ”nuclear option” to “get work done.” For the entire history of the Senate, a two-thirds “super” majority was required to amend the rules or pass legislation. The “nuclear option” allows the Senate to override a rule with a simple majority. Parliamentary rules are conflict-reducing devices. One of the most critical aspects in the Senate is the belief in the 60-vote rule to close debate or end a filibuster. The value represented is clear – discussion debate and occasional obstruction achieve consensus and reasonable agreement on the use of power. The simple majority (51) turned the process into a blunt reduction of conflict instrument and little else. Observers of the process continue to critique the failure to govern.
Though the 2014 midterm election, the Republican majority control of the Senate and the House was complete. The 2016 election also put the Presidency in the Republican wing. Unlike the Democrat’s four months of “total control,” the Republican Party has held “total control” for two years and has conducted its business without opposition until the midterm elections of 2018.
The Republic failure to repeal the laws offering an opportunity to provide health care for all Americans was followed by a massive tax reduction for the wealthiest Americans and two appointments to the Supreme Court. Half of the new law’s tax break for ‘small business’ will go to filers earning over $1 million according to a report for a Senate hearing prepared by the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation (HERE).
The facts, on the other hand, are covered-over using the following types of incomplete comparisons in governance via Tweet. In this context, and on the point of taxation, the flow and purpose of information aimed at the people could not have become more deviant. For example:
“The Tax Cuts are so large and so meaningful, and yet the Fake News is working overtime to follow the lead of their friends, the defeated Dems, and only demean. This is truly a case where the results will speak for themselves, starting very soon. Jobs, Jobs, Jobs!” @realDonaldTrump
The facts are the rate of job growth in the United States has remained the same as it was in the last two years of the Obama administration after reforming banking regulations in trade for chunks of bail-out cash.
Control Balance Desirability
I don’t think this is a strange idea. Life holds a hammer. Take a long look at the social psychology of Congress using the control balance theory. This may help to account for personalized aberrations of congressional and presidential behavior as a ratio related to the seriousness of their actions in group membership. Our 535 members are not the high-minded disinterested purveyors of intelligence, but they do not fail to come to terms with what is happening in their moment when conflict is inevitable. In this condition, power can only be challenged by power.
The control balance idea was developed by Tittle 1995. In 1995, the idea of control ratio imbalances theorized the seriousness effect of deviance if it was removed from individuals. His subsequent book, Tittle 2004, Major Revision replaced this idea with “control balance desirability” of groups. If this could explain the types of deviance of powerful actors such as government officials, elected representatives, and agency staff it could light the way to keeping the Republic whole.
Control balance measures the increase in deviance as “control ratios” become imbalanced. The effect of imbalance in control ratios is reflected in other variables such as how irregular motivations relate to constraints on deviant acts. Examples abound under the heading of corruption.
The concept of control ratios applies to chemistry, even architecture. The ratios occur by dividing one type of flow into another. In the social psychology of government, these flows form in media and can be defined as positive or negative by measures of observers. As a currency for ideas, facts, and opinion the flow may range from the detailed critiques of “think tanks,” to the degrading insults and slurs of the “bot-driven” Facebook and Twitter platforms. The data across the board thereafter exhibits the desirability of control balance as defined by increases or decreases in conflict.
Conflict is inevitable. In the world of words alone conflict is acceptable within the limits agreed to be rational discourse. Deviance is an instrumental behavior often employed to improve the control ratio. The introduction of a theory of “control balance” on the other hand, provides new explanations for deviant behavior of actors with a typology by which different individual acts suggested in the flow of words become categories. These acts will group as either repressive or autonomous actions. In the context of seriousness (e.g. not joking) each will function in a range that will stretch from serious “working papers” to “twitter feeds.”
Now, look at Congress and center on its perceptions of control via majority. The acquisition of a desirable control balance provides a data flow ratio in the governance entity. It has exact measures of the amount of control exercised relative to the amount of control experienced. Given the impossibility of rational objectivity in social situations, the challenge to accept is to establish a realm of reasonable conflict.
Senate Republican Watch
Andrew Gounardes (D) bested incumbent Marty Golden (R) to become the next Senator for New York’s 22nd District covering Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst, Marine Park, Gerritsen Beach, Gravesend and parts of Sheepshead Bay, Borough Park and Midwood.
House Democrats Watch
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez can’t afford rent in DC until her salary kicks in. Her comment on this situation said it all. “There are many little ways in which our electoral system isn’t even designed (nor prepared) for working-class people to lead.”
One of the contradictions for Ocasio-Cortez is the average income for a congressional representative is now over $1 million but the annual salary is under $200,000.
“Until Tuesday, I will be focusing on the existential elections we face, helping to take back the U.S. House of Representatives and the New York State Senate.”
Democrat Mathlyde Frontus won the competitive race for the open 46th Assembly District seat against Republican opponent Steve Saperstein. The district includes Coney Island, Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and a portion of Brighton Beach.
“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.”
John Muir, My First Summer in the Sierra (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1911, pg. 110) Sierra Club Books 1988 ed. See all of Chapter 6 on the Sierra Club website.
At the close of the century, the World Watch Institute’s call to “minimize consumption” and “maximize well-being” set the best tone with the fewest words. Dense environments can reduce consumption — per cap/per km/per day –24/7/365. The dense city alters the structure of consumption on many levels. So how do we create a renewed sense of abundance in life using these constraints? Remember John Muir.
Urbanization takes about a third of the earth’s surface and about forty percent for food. The remaining twenty-plus percent is the trickiest as a hodgepodge of fragmented spatial leftovers, it is a “SLAP” in the face to everyone from John Muir to those who walk in his footsteps.1
Beyond deserts and high mountain ranges, there are seeds for change, thousands of accessible places, Alaska’s wild glory, and “parks” from New York City’s Central Park all the way up to Yellowstone and Yosemite National Parks. Our land use policy tends to give “the wilderness” a boundary and, most vexing of all, nearly ignores the simplicity of our need for it as a thing separate and untouched.
The name John Muir is synonymous with the importance of wilderness. The tool was to be conservation, but today the river that cut the Grand Canyon no longer reaches the ocean. Muir put it this way in my head, the wilderness is the only way to look directly into the face of God and like it. He could not have imagined we would turn that privilege into our most vulnerable link to the incompetent use of land, labor and capital
There are three leaders working 24/7/365 to get more Democrats and Independents in the House and Senate. They are Nina Turner, the new president of Our Revolution, Maurice Mitchell, the new national director of the Working Families Party and Yvette Simpson, the new chief officer of Democracy for America. They share concerns for the dignity of the American worker and family, and they represent a unique political triumvirate. If they can protect one another, build an agenda for 2020 and start winning the future for the people left behind or pushed away it will be about more than politics.
The depth of their shared experience as dynamic African-American leaders will be measured by how well they inject the people’s intellect into movements for change, but one other thing they have in common is a little scary. They seem woefully inadequate to the task and appear slightly ineffectual in the scraps of video available. Perhaps, it is their lack the money for digging into the demography and mysteries of votes and power. Standard polling analysis can be replaced by the analytical skills of a grassroots organizational structure but, do they have it? Some of the poor impression is theirs to own, but the main problem is with us. What do they need to prove? Can they lift their organizations into positions of great power? Winning elections is no longer sufficient. It is about winning regions and they are mostly urban. What will that look like? What must we do shift power across multi-state regions?
Homelessness/Displacement is a Production Function of Cities
Most of the poor and struggling families around the world are in the outlying urban areas both near and far from the dense core of economic forces that push and pull people away. The vast ability of dense urban areas cities to create demand also cause a maze of economic disruptions that displace and break families. In much of the world, the human byproduct of this displacement is evident in large informal settlements. The housing market is failing to provide housing to one-third of the world’s urban population. Why do they get pushed? Do they know? No, and no one is telling them, even in America.
“There is a cultural movement in the white working class to blame problems on society or the government, and that movement gains adherents by the day.”
One person knows a lot about the economics of this is Bruce Katz, Director of the Center on Urban Metropolitan Policy at Brookings, a century old, centrist purveyor of fact. There are five short presentations and one long video by Katz (HERE). It will take about 30 minutes to watch this selection. He may sound libertarian, but he is just the messenger. I recommend listening to him before reading further. If you’d rather not, here is the super short version and why a triumvirate, such as the three imagined here is essential.
Skilled civic engagement in regional growth is a cultural phenomenon with specific strategies. First, retain the residence of threatened populations in the core. This is not about winning, it is about not loosing. Second, draw down every opportunity to inject the reality of displacement pressure into the political heart of regional leaders. Third, this is a “no news is good” issue. Capable leadership will flee, equity holders will cash out, take their young and move far too soon into lower-cost environments (south and southwest). You need them. Encourage them to stay and fight.
“Raymond Vernon, the Regional Planning Association’s Director of the New York Metropolitan Region Study turned to Harvard University’s Graduate School of Public Administration to interpret and publish findings for a broad audience in 1960. Its publication not only marked the emergence of the “mega-region” it denoted the arrival of “big data” – a vast supply of social and economic information that would lend vital insight into the workings of 22 counties and three states of the New York Metropolitan Region.” Density Chapter VI
RPA was founded in 1922. The idea of a “core” is assumed to be the five boroughs of New York City. It is not, it is composed of four New York counties and one in New Jersey (Hudson). For a quarter-century, the value of “a dense core” lost resilience and the physical deterioration of its neighborhoods tore through entire city blocks and ruined the lives of its most vulnerable families, but not the capacity of many communities to organize, adapt and fight back. During this period (1960-1985), NYC began to reinvent itself at every level of human interaction. Its institutions confronted complex questions of fairness and created positive results in social justice, economic and environmental equity. This was not a victory of national leadership in recognition of its urban future, this was a “peoples” battle and it was won hard and in blood.
The 535 people at the federal level of representative leadership are ignorant of this fact, or at least behave that way by deferring to state powers and urban leaders. The triumvirate(s) model suggested here can be reorganized as a stateless organization, they are capable of creating policies, projects, and priorities that strengthen multi-state regions and agencies of the urban core. The values born of these political alliances could build a useful federal response and end its retrenchment and failure to envision a new America.
America is more than its 50 states; it’s a network of 363 economically integrated metropolitan areas (click map above). Regional development policies are thousands of times more relevant to the future economic and social health of working-class America than the set of lines drawn by cartographers to establish the Republic a couple of centuries ago.
The boundaries of the states were formed using an imaginary grid that stretches across the earth. The intent of this coordinate scheme is to locate or identify precise geographic positions. The idea dates to 190–120 BC, it was used to draw uniform boundaries of the American states, and today your phone knows where you are to within a meter. The states are arbitrary constructs of uniformity and similar size, the metro-regions are far more synonymous with the health of the nation and in a metaphorical sense they are “circles.” The circle looks inward. It is an object that shows its boundary to the world, the grid does not. This is the organizing principle upon which triumvirates will develop their power. The voters of these regions are majority blue, Democrats and Independents. The organizational realignment toward multi-state economic regions will take a while, in the meantime, several strategic components require special attention.
Is a “rainbow coalition” possible? The presumption that it exists is wrong; it does not exist. All the appetizers, entrees and fixings are laid out in the kitchen, but supper has yet to find the dining table, even the one that is in the kitchen. The foundation for celebrating this high quality of change within the American diversity spectrum is barely recognized or touched let alone stirred with any fondness. We have no language, no string of words for it and it dates to 1984.
Building a foundation for American diversity is developing in two places, universities with civic engagement policies for incorporation across their curriculum from STEM programs to the more traditional centers. The leaders are in law and political science who carry the strongest interest in a sustained discourse on democracy and its institutions. The second place occurs in the city where the language of diversity is improving followed by state and federal elections that exhibit serious divisions and therein lies the dark side of the social justice coin.
Counting over several years and multiple election cycles, the U.S ranks 27th out of 35 economically developed countries in voter turnout. Volunteerism in community service ranks low at 20 to 25% of households, and it is top heavy in the higher income ranges. More recently, threats to the well-being of working families have increased civic engagement activities, especially in urban areas. These facts were so widely apparent that it led to the creation of the American Democracy Project (ADP). It started with colleges and universities in 2003 and remains a nonpartisan initiative of AASCU in partnership with The New York Times. The knowledge resources on this subject are online and free for digital distribution (HERE). An author’s presentation on the 2017 edition is (HERE). As these efforts are failing, a viewpoint on why is outlined (HERE) for comment. American civic engagement practices for dealing with problems is the problem. The plug has yet to slip into the outlet, the power is there but the switch is missing and there appears to be no endurance limit on self-oppression.
Problems: Ships in the Night & The Lost Soul of the 60s
We have the radar for the existence of other ships in the Democracy, thousands of them but that is about all. Here is one example. To Kill a Mocking Bird (1960) is one of the most read books in America and widely assigned in schools. White people think the attorney Atticus Finch was a hero but to the African-American, he is a stone looser, yet Aaron Sorkin is willing to use his exquisite use of language and force that point into the debate of how we must “all rise,” the last two words in the play. The demand is to get to a better American place (read a PBS interview (here). Where is the language that makes it possible to call out or openly condemn people that tacitly support a culture of hate and malice? The American psyche is far too easily driven into little camps and throwing a big tent over it remains as unpalatable as always. It is the language in that “tent” that matters.
When thousands of people like the Mayor of Jackson Mississippi enter your world, the tent can get more interesting. (The first 5 min. or so on video here will give you the idea.) Jackson has 170K pop. 80% Black and a third Asian. Getting past platitudes and on to education and housing in Jackson will be his issue. New leadership like this will help others to see through the dark clouds others attract.
Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia (D) is the current (2/19) example of the potential for a zero-tolerance policy of racism and bigotry and follows the rise of murderous forces in America. A “Unite the Right” rally by white supremacists in the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia (2017) and a church in Charleston, South Carolina (2015) are the most egregious examples.
Since the beginning of the digital revolution, the ability to study, think, act, and respond together became sets of very useful Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC). Gatherings of online learning communities can follow this model and search for the common ground that brings people face to face. If the self-isolation remains, groups will struggle to form beyond encouraging references to Margaret Mead’s opinion that it is the only way change happens. Maybe so, but it is not enough. Building the triumvirate(s) will work. Here are some examples
Intervention & Improvisation Planning
Americans need an intervention regarding addictions to racial ignorance. Where is the tough-love slap in the face that makes everything clear and gives us back our senses? This intervention is possible. It will be done with superb care on the ground yet to be found for a foundation unlaid and a building we can barely envision. It will be done as if all the oppressed, unlucky or struggling rainbow of people in this nation could stand all at once and scream NO to its pandering leaders, and yell in one sweet sound, “we are the change we seek, we are the change we seek!”
Parables of Brokenhearted Fatalism
Nina Turner (Our Revolution) puts it this way. When “the hunter,” writes the story, there is no story of the lion. Political movements are similar. It can use filters that leave people out who think they are in. Like the term “hunter,” labels such as “neoliberal” or “self-reliant” simultaneously attracts people to power they cannot acquire. In tracking the lion, the hunter knows what the lion is willing to submit to and uses it to the exact amount needed to achieve the injustice of its death. The hunter’s brand is visible, control the narrative of bravery and therefore secure its benefits and power. The lion’s story is direct; death is food. Death is the gift of her pride’s survival.
If we are the lion, our revolution is underway but we barely notice unless there are videos of a shooting. Being African-American and politically progressive should be a natural fit, “if” there is a family history of engagement in fights against social and economic systems that insist on a second-class citizenry defined by gender, income, color in the rainbow, one at a time or all at once. We do not forget the people who died in resistance to this condition. They are the builders; they own the long national history of this change. We hold them as gifts and if we can, we will add chapters. Do not accept the idea that we now live in unheroic times.
We do not speak of the blood horror, hopelessness and fear it took to get those moments that make the change. A great joy rests with its victories, each of them rings triumphantly. Today we watch scrapings from historic speeches, we read books, listen to the old songs and examine pictures about the cost of resisting oppression. Today, over a half-century later it appears those who take a black life are becoming unpunishable and at worst made legal actors in a much broader attack. The pain of soft oppression is a sense that something was taken and replaced with addictions and threats of despair. All of us have had “the talk” with our young about protests and lawful police orders.
Listen to the Songs of Dissent
America’s history of death and pain rings achingly for each loss. The bell rings if we resist “lawful orders,” it rings loud in friendly fire, and it rings until we cannot hear at all. Following difficult times, it is in our nature to bring out the good in ourselves and find reasons to celebrate our sacrifice but the movement today is very different. There are more ways to assure the story of the lion than I can count, and there are now thousands who can damn the old hunter’s lies. If this is not enough, what needs to be new, what needs to be different? I have an odd suggestion that worked for me. Skip the ads and listen for answers by listening to a collection of songs called “Outskirts of the Deep City.”
The “speechwriters” approach to change that follows may make more sense.
The average, everyday person will talk about issues and events but often lack the will to act. Modern political analysts understand the events leading to changes that improve lives. Actions do not come easily without the experience of working for the prospects that succeed. Change politics can fool you. it will ask you to stare at the beak of the Eagle on America’s Seal and love your country. The new politics of change will put you in the grasp of her talons; make you the builder of her nest of arrows and hold you in her branches of peace and victory. What needs to be in the new regional politics?
A voice of unification for the working family that restates American values of fairness with justice. Better education for your kid? A wage scale that keeps up with costs? How about better protection from ill health, big pharma, and corporate greed? When we face threats to our well-being, who will be there? Look left, look right and say I will be there for you, I will be there. What needs to be different? We are the change we seek.
At this time in history, most Democrats and Republicans (save a few) can only equivocate and obstruct. If 2020 is going to be an opportunity, the “be there” time is now. Maurice Mitchel (MM) is now the National Director of the Working Families Party. (WFP). He is one of those “go” leaders with extensive experience in movements beyond, in front of and behind elections. He will continue to expand our understanding of what a democracy can do. He can see the irony when both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump say, “the system is rigged,” and it says one thing to him and me. We need very new super-glue politics.Th
The Challenge: Do Big Things
What is exposed here? If we are to remain a democracy, we are challenged to do big things. First, increase the number of voters by 1,000%, crush all forms of voter suppression and stop playing short can-kicking games. There needs to be an ass where there is a can. Watch MM give his mildly nervous presentation here from a NetRootsNation.org conference. All the right words are all in a row, but he needs the kind of heart that beats in Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to get the sound we need. Beautifully edited by MoveOn.org (here)
There is a better sound in Maurice here as he defends the Working Family Party (WFP) from an attack by the three-term Governor of New York State because of WFP support for Cynthia Nixon in a primary. Challenging the governor happened for one important reason, it is time to say “No” to the oligarchs and those who say yes to them. At the heart of it, Maurice defines what has gone wrong with the Democratic Party in the nation as it is in NYS. Maurice would not be taking anything away from Alexandria if he repeated her reminder that New York leaders of the past had led the progressive movement with great courage. The entire WFP requires voices that do not speak of defenses against attacks to define injustice. The math is easy, the foolishness of the peacemakers exposes their failure as change makers. If you hear, “Five-hundred or so American billionaires are not the cause of America’s problems.” It is time to share everything, every strategy, and tactic. It is time to offend with relish and know all the actors who are firm in their purpose and who might face death in the anarchy we all detest.
After Yvette Simpson lost her bid for Mayor of Cincinnati, she acquired a new position as Chief Executive of Democracy Now (January 2019) as described in a news story interview (here). Yvette Simpson’s membership of the Democratic establishment represents the party’s better self because individuals from diverse backgrounds who seek public service expect to be Democrats. The record is improving slowly, but the proof is the problem. The majority of every Congressmember’s senior staff is not diverse. This was not widely circulated news until the members in Congress became more diverse.
Can a Democracy care for all people and meet unique needs without sowing division and discord? What I learned from Yvette was the calculus of a representative government requires a variety of navigation skills throughout a campaign without end. She knows no one on the progressive side of the equation is better at grassroots engagement. She notes that if you run you cannot knock on doors, you must walk the race. Winning is face to face, not face to the screen. She believes in the power of “we.” Her experience proved to her that the road made by walking is formed best with a bold and unapologetic agenda aimed at making changes that people want in their lives. It was once summed up as rights, first to the pursuit of life, second to liberty and third happiness. Winning a primary but losing a run for Mayor gave her insight into the challenges of 2020 hopefully aimed at the Senate as a priority. Will the triumvirate(s) be up to speed and ready to respond?
Think About Mega-Region Infrastructure
The growing economic success of central Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan is also the story of large, diverse cities in multi-state regions that hold a significant share of the two or three state population. For decades disinvestment in the infrastructure of dense urban regions presents hidden dangers. Not spending where spending is needed exposes failures of transit services to and from these centers. Auto congestion where and when it is hated the most. A rising cost of housing, including deteriorating conditions in the suburbs, the displacement of low- and moderate income people into suburban neighborhoods, and sporadic increases in urban homelessness. The more significant sources of stress are evident in the protests of working poor teachers in decaying schools alongside troubled police and fire services and other first responders racing into a long list of preventable social and environmental problems of life-threatening severity. Pick-up a copy of the International Journal of Critical Infrastructure Protection and all of this is very well documented.
Death, Taxes and Social Justice
Putting added reduced tax cash flow into the hands of wealthy people and corporations are not coming to the resolution of any of these problems. They are without accountability; the board members of the super large foundations are out of touch with the broad national dialogue needed to keep our democracy responsive, instead of their wallets. Yes, new partnerships are there, but the old lines of privilege remain unchallenged and taxing them is failing because loop-hole land will never go away without reinventing America. If the horrible truth is super high tax revenues collected by the government don’t work, so what needs to change?
We live in a society where the most important things go unsaid. For example, the question on the table in a substantial foundation’s boardroom is “Are we failing in our quest for social stability?”. What is known but never said aloud is, “Well, if large groups of the society get upset and start causing trouble with disruptions of the economy and endangering their own lives and the lives of others, we have fully equipped local police forces with enough riot gear and other tools that could conquer a country.” Can you hear that lungful exhalation flow across that confident conference table? Look again out of the conference room’s vast windows overlooking a landscape of terror that could be unleashed, then turn to the doorway as it opens. Meet your new master, the authoritarian who can only keep this crowd at bay with your foundation’s loyalty. Impossible you say? Not according to world history.
It’s Their Fault
It is their fault, but it is not about money. If you hear, “Several hundred multi-billionaires are not America’s problem” an economist in a rabbit hole is baiting you. Don’t go there. Of course, high taxes don’t work, government (city, state, federal) have never been able to get much above 20% of America’s GDP from the very beginning of this measure. Using the 20% rubric, the GDP in 2018 will top $21 trillion to yield on average $6 trillion in annual revenue. The interest paid on the national debt is $364 billion. (10/1/18, through 9/30/19). The total public debt is around $17 trillion.
Individuals, businesses, and foreign central banks are its owners of America’s debt with 90 percent of it in Treasury bills, notes, and bonds. (Details here.) The five wealthiest counties in the Northeast surround Washington, D.C. In this case, wealth pays for weal to get the wealth. Four of residential counties are in VA (Loudoun, Fairfax, Falls Church, Arlington) and one is in MD (Howard). For more, see the U.S. Census press release, 12.6.18 (CB-18-18).
America’s “good faith and credit” is highly respected, 30-year “treasury bonds” sell with ease. Credit is another word for trust so, bottom line, the money is there to do what we want. The first question becomes what is the right stuff” How much investment in a secure future, maintenance of existing assets, and care for the vulnerable. Where the U.S leadership has placed its political brain is not helping the nation to find out. Why?
To challenge the status quo, what forces might rise that would seek alternatives to income taxes?
Putting Money in the Wrong Pockets
In 2012, Jim Sorenson put $13 million into a business school in Utah and created the Sorenson Impact Foundation where they quietly work on a long list of projects that would make every candidate for sainthood happy. Other things like program-related investments (PRIs) vetted by the business school, “select and develop business models for high-impact, early-stage social enterprises capable of reaching underserved populations.” I love mouthfuls like that, but what is wrong with it, what is missing in philanthropy? According to Forbes, not a thing (Here).
If you read that Forbes article, then you know the objective of all foundations is to “go to scale,” and that means two things, the more obvious is to spread money all over the globe with a goodwill website to prove it. The other is to make wise social impact business investments and get universities to establish a methodology for measurements and publish the results. Highly respected multi-billionaires like Jim Sorenson and all the other billionaires in his moral class think they know what the right stuff is or needs to be, so he like many others create these hopeful puppy dog foundations. I can look up all the billionaires and foundation staff; I can know where they live, play and work nationally and internationally. They are the wealthy residents of a tiny planet without a clue.
Bottom line, what is wrong, what is missing? The hundreds of multi-billionaires are missing in the vapor of their wealth. A wrong-headed street-intellect assumption is they have formed an oligarchy and now vie to rule the world, distracting us with their wonderfulness. The truth is far dire; they have tucked themselves away in their boardrooms happily overlooking their private empires of goodness, adapting and maneuvering to sustain themselves among one another, while all the while the world is burning, slowly almost imperceptibly into ash and dust. So, bottom line, yes, it is their fault, and this is important, except for a few they didn’t mean it.
What is missing, I want you to join in this practice. Below is what I have so far. You can give advice or list wrongs, make rights, just click here.
Pay close attention to the big picture, I hear a staffer saying “It’s just so impolite to be alarmist,” They are wrong, rude is important right now.
Step on another charity’s toes, stop being so nice. One word, “Unjust.”
Spending fortunes on accountants, tax attorneys, and lobbyist only assure private capital will sustain the line that reads “goodwill,” on income statements and balance sheets. Think again, goodwill is insufficient.
Contributing to all 535 members of the legislative government (retirees and agency staff) enough to keep their campaigns afloat (or not) or to point them in other directions is the best way to control citizens, not unite them.
Not paying any damn attention to the small picture. Take a long walk through your community, and then to a place designated as underserved and in need of charity. Ask why? Get back to me.
Realize that despite amassing of billions of dollars in a personal fortune, no one person on this fragile earth could be that productive in any sense other than god-like.
I have no interest in tracking them down, although there is a project aimed at doing so. (here). Our charity must believe they will find the “right stuff,” otherwise they face incurable insanity. Our job is to be persuasive regarding the need to make course corrections essential to the survival of next generations. I know about the hideaways in the mountains and the means to get there. I do not know who is worse off, those without sanctuary or those forced to say, “Mine is full, you are not selected?” Want to add to the list? Click here.
The USA is not the America Tonight Show. The adjective (above) describes giving your name to something. It is also called identity politics, so you get people who are Trump Republicans. Identity is much bigger than a person, a color, religion, political philosophy or favorite late-nite TV show host. A claim of leadership in the name of dignity for all life produces a replaceable leader. Arguments are won (or should be) on the facts of the day, week, year and decade, not charismatic leadership, bullies or the learned helplessness of their constituents. For example, we win the war of words when we describe the death of young minds and the heart lost in persons beaten low by hate. We win when we force all to hear the frightened whispers from the mouth of hunger. We win when we describe the violence embedded in climate change or assault rifles and how randomly either can take anyone’s home or life at any time or place, one of them used to be in God’s hands, today, both in are ours. We win if all these voices are unified not by fear but in a single call to defend the dignity of the human person. Stand on this path and you will know methods that move all of us forward and away from the confusion that divides us.
The three organizations and leaders briefly mentioned here know these methods. In listening to them I know this is Our Revolution, we are the Working Families of this nation, and the demand for Democracy for America is now. We win when our unity is theirs and theirs ours. Calling for an accord does not create unity. The phrase, “the people united will never be defeated” begs the question. What is causing our downfall, our defeat? To keep our democracy, we must be the change we seek and to begin, form triads. Triangles form the strongest structures, tripartite coalitions are a step forward. So if our revolution is to be composed of working families working to assure our democracy remains useful nationally, these three among many others need to find and build local triads.
The voting record from any combination of election districts for offices in cities, states, and Congress by voter and candidate reveal a set of cultural signifiers useful to the practice of removing identity politics toward a healthier method of governance. If the triumvirate’s network is true, if the depth is there, it can conduct this analysis across state lines and recognize the issues of working people step across all the other lines used to divide Americans.
The traditional roots of the old identity way are made sustainable by the quiet assurance of a 98% retention rate among incumbent candidates all the way up and down the political spectrum. So, I am not talking about politics. This is about change. Being conservative or progressive comes naturally to people from low to high income for two reasons. Households are “conservative” because every change tends to be loudest when it is for the worse, and progressive because it is a way to seek out useful and if not, virtuous change that will protect the family. One of the more complex examples of change follows:
The retention of wealth by the wealthy began in 2016, it was legislated in 2017 and became law on January 1, 2018. The expectation of tax reductions for corporations an increase in wages, they have not. The bet is that a few extra dollars in the working families tax return suffice. That it is billions among the super wealthy remains an abstraction. The national revenue is increasing, but the federal budget is still ripping holes in the safety net that helps a growing number of households protect family health, old age, and their financial security. Why? Uncontrolled congressional spending.
The subtle implementations of the attack on so-called entitlements is unclear, but the lion’s strategy, in this case, is easy to spot, go for the slow and weak ones in the herd. The human problem with this kind of attack is the lack of fairness in compliance and the complicity of the herd. In these transactions, this failure should not be lost. Nevertheless, do not allow the debate to move away from the cap held by the hunter regarding issues. Taxes are not paid for social security from incomes over $138,000. Where is the security in that equation? If the answer remains, the revenue is still insufficient. What is missing?
Roots, Roots and More Roots
In my small part of the world, I have organized a tool to implement one of our best methods. I have one or more persons in every election district able to build or join a canvas team and be on the ground for a candidate. You can see an early version here. Security is a growing issue. Sign up here if you are in the district. Instructions follow.
This canvas method is easy to implement, more so in a blue majority city and state and it grows exponentially through a natural network of friends and family. It reveals the enormous power of democracy with personal decisions to work for a specific candidate (city, state or federal) on a routine basis for a limited period every two, four and six years. If tools like these are deployed in the metro-regions, with a clear understanding of the unique economies of each, the ability to produce change people need and want. If not, the answer is clear, try again, and again, and again because we are the change we seek.
The deep concerns of people are not articulated well by most current leaders, especially those who are dependent on identity politics and tenure in office. We should ask why but do not. Leaders acknowledge our concerns but we still allow them to remain fuzzy about accountability to benchmarks or criteria from year to year. There are no triggers or penalties in exclusive political alliances based on religion, race or social background. This tendency allows leaders who see a lack of basic employment with a living wage only pushing a few into desperation. The lack of health insurance protection bankrupts “only a few” families. Our safety in the community, the affordability of our housing, and the failure to educate our young, only hurts “a few families.”
The promise to sustain the two largest safety nets American’s ever fought to acquire serves everyone even but even the vast “we” of Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid is under attack. The subtlety of the attack, even the logic of it will read to divide not unite. I want to be able to say it all began in 2018. This is when just enough people realized the rise of opposition politics and the resistance found ways to diagnose all the reasons for a lack of movement on working family concerns and the honest needs of ordinary people. The first pronouncement is to put a number on “only a few.” We are now that few, there of millions of us and we vote. The second is to learn how not turn against “the other” in this movement, fight for scraps or fail to fight for the few. Those of us who can create moments and events, year after year will rip the mantle off the shoulders of the tenured leaders if needed. It all began in 2018. As it goes for the few, so it goes for us all.
At a political rally, I overheard a leader say, “We need more facts to make that decision.” It was the response that got my attention. “You’re a damn fool, we don’t need any more damn facts, just walk out that door and look around. There are your damn facts. We have got to get to work and it starts now. Do you hear me? If you walk out that door you can smell it. Tsunami’s don’t come with a warning until it’s too late.” The third benchmark for the growth of a progressive movement is swift decision making. Do not wait another day, rush to the defense of neighbors and all those struck down, stand in the light of MLK and seek his justice.
Reflections on Success and Failure
Some professionals study organizational development in such depth they have become almost impossible to understand. But I did come across one article in the reasonably accessible Harvard Business Review that gives me hope. Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman use massive amounts of business data, solid regression to the mean stuff and much more (consultancy). On the question of diversity, they compared leaders’ self-ratings with their ratings by bosses, peers, and subordinates. These ratings reveal leaders assume they are better at valuing diversity than they are. Take that to heart, the social change movement is never doing as good a job as its leaders want, and there are good reasons to be aware. Defending the movement demands the public’s exposure to your failures.
To understand the cause of poor decision making, Zinger and Folkman used data on leaders and compared the behavior of those who were perceived as making poor decisions with those perceived as making very good decisions. Whether leading a major international corporation or a scrappy nonprofit organizing committee, several traits tend to hold true. Following is a description of the common paths that led to poor decision making from the most to least significant. Laziness tops the list, some of the signs are not checking facts or confirming assumptions. Next, not anticipating negative events reduces the ability to defend. When a leader is indecisive it tends to be costly to an organization due to missed opportunities. Leaders that remain locked in the past will make decisions with assumptions that are no longer true. Lesson: Always look forward.
Among the lesser causes of poor decisions are in failures to align “dots” in an organization’s membership. The overall strategy of the organization often referred to as a lack of strategic alignment deals with the leader’s isolation breaking down important interpersonal relationships and dependencies. Similarly, over-dependence on one person who is waiting for another, who in turn is waiting for someone else leads to poor decisions. A leader’s lack of technical depth will reduce the use of high-level expertise within an organization, and if it is there, people need to know. It’s always the coverup. Statistically, the least named cause of poor decisions was found to be a failure to communicate the what, where, when, and how associated with their decisions. I wish Nina, Maurice, and Yvette all the success in the world as they head into 2020 with the capacity to produce swift and effective decisions for their organizations.
Next, I think it will be fun to have a good look at those that have shattered glass ceilings in their hometowns. They are inside the beltway for the next two years. Ordinary observers can find out what they have in common other than the obvious and if they can lay the ground and build the foundation for a significant change in the culture by the means necessary.
Social Impact Measures
The following three paragraphs are speech lecture-like. Nevertheless, they represent the standard by which I believe our glass breaking, culture changing, the newest members of Congress should be evaluated. I’m open to other ways, but I will fight for the following in the spirit of the office.
The purpose of leadership is assurance that change is manageable.
They entered Congress with a personal theory of change. We all use it to adapt to our environment according to need and want, as well as, evaluation of performance. Results are measures to indicate the quality of adaptation in one of three ways, positive, neutral or negative. Change through experiments reinforce the positive and reduce the negative. We are cognizant of the trial and error world in which we and our family, friends and coworkers’ function. From child play to professional practice we learn that we control what we can make recur.
I can get Sally to laugh and Bill to chase me every time, and that’s as a grown up. I also know the reverse of that is impossible. The information gathered through experience is routine and enough. You can work through personal skill sets on this question by recalling past actions in getting (or not) a date with a person of interest back in your school days or a “contract” more recently. Knowing how to lead yourself is the prerequisite for enjoying the leadership of others. I like to say “no one is as smart as all of us” and do so often.
Measure complex social impacts
The number of people and dollars involved in business and government require confidence to take action. There are consequences at every step. Seeking to alter negatives in society or to improve positive elements requires careful thought and experimentation. In this setting, dialogue gets to the capacity of individuals in business or government to collect reliable information, review methods of data acquisition, analyze and predict results. Confirmation of concrete benefits from people with these skill sets leads to investment decisions as mere possibilities. At this point, choice and timeliness come into play involving the number of options made available.
Confidence in research and planning allows trials and testing to proceed
The changes sought are thereby proven to the satisfaction of the decision makers and it becomes their legacy all the way through implementation. Comparison with alternative trials within or in opposition will minimize risk or advance the position of competitors. Given the period of work, in weeks or decades, the institutional response is to claim an impact and advocate for its continuation with confidence.
To reduce the abstractions of these three components, two recent events will illustrate the human problem inherent in the science of this practice. Science obscures additional motives by building silos. As 2018 ended, the incarceration practices of the federal government were reformed. In practical street intellect, this meant the 30+ year enforcement of harsh drug laws that achieved the re-enslavement (imprisonment) of African-Americans (mostly men) for nonviolent crimes would end (Watch 13 again).
The public investment in a huge federal prison system has consequences, however, accountability for this practice as a racial strategy is practically nil. Creating a big door through which cops and prosecutors could quietly push young men into federal prison (and still do in city/states) was easy to ignore due to a tacit agreement on both sides of the issue. Here it is in one sentence over the procession of two ounces of Marijuana. “We have 15 to 25 mandatory years on you that can go to seven maybe five with the name/location of your boss.” A generation of lives lost and for what, “El Chapo?”
The second event involves the language code that embeds a similar level of bigotry and racism. As the close of 2018, the word was “wall.” Create a wall to protect our borders from the demons to the south. Street-intellect reads that as keep out the Spanish speakers, the Mexicans, Hondurans and everyone else. The super short-term political trend exhibited here reveals consequences without the accountability to reason and practical solutions. An orderly process for dealing with immigration is consumed by the rhetoric of violence and a symbol upon which the POTUS45 can lean.
Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed Let it be that great strong land of love Where never kings connive nor tyrant’s scheme That any man be crushed by one above. “Let America Be America”