Category Archives: Tax

Crimes of a Monster: Your Tax Dollars at Work

Is ours a government of the people, by the people, for the people, or a kakistocracy rather, for the benefit of knaves at the cost of fools?

— James Russell Lowell, 19th century American poet/critic/editor/diplomat, in a 1876 letter to Joel Benton.

Let us not mince words.

We are living in an age of war profiteers.

We are living in an age of scoundrels, liars, brutes and thugs. Many of them work for the U.S. government.

We are living in an age of monsters.

Ask Donald Trump. He knows all about monsters.

Any government that leaves “mothers and fathers, infants and children, thrashing in pain and gasping for air” is evil and despicable, said President Trump, justifying his blatantly unconstitutional decision (in the absence of congressional approval or a declaration of war) to launch airstrikes against Syria based on dubious allegations that it had carried out chemical weapons attacks on its own people. “They are crimes of a monster.”

If the Syrian government is a monster for killing innocent civilians, including women and children, the U.S. government must be a monster, too.

In Afghanistan, ten civilians were killed—including three children, one an infant in his mother’s arms—when U.S. warplanes targeted a truck in broad daylight on an open road with women and children riding in the exposed truck bed. They had been fleeing airstrikes on their village.

In Syria, at least 80 civilians, including 30 children, were killed when U.S.-led air strikes bombed a school and a packed marketplace.

In Yemen, a U.S. drone bombed a caravan of vehicles on their way to or from a wedding, leaving “scorched vehicles and body parts … scattered on the road.” As investigative journalist Tom Engelhart documents, that 2013 bombing was actually the eighth wedding party (almost 300 civilians dead) wiped out by the U.S. military, totally or in part, since the Afghan War began in 2001. “Keep in mind that, in these years, weddings haven’t been the only rites hit,” notes Engelhart. “US air power has struck gatherings ranging from funerals to a baby-naming ceremony.”

Then there was a Doctors without Borders hospital in Kunduz that had 12 of its medical staff and 10 of its patients, including three children, killed when a U.S. AC-130 gunship fired on it repeatedly. Some of the patients were burned alive in their hospital beds.

Yes, on this point, President Trump is exactly right: these are, indeed, the crimes of a monster.

Unfortunately, this monster—this hundred-headed gorgon that is the U.S. government and its long line of political puppets (Donald Trump and before him Obama, Bush, Clinton, etc.), who dance to the tune of the military industrial complex—is being funded by you and me.

The blood of innocent civilians is on our hands whether we choose to recognize it or not.

It is our tax dollars at work here, after all.

Unfortunately, we have no real say in how the government runs, or how our taxpayer funds are used.

We have no real say, but we’re being forced to pay through the nose, anyhow, for endless wars that do more to fund the military industrial complex than protect us, pork barrel projects that produce little to nothing, and a police state that serves only to imprison us within its walls.

The only alternative to paying one’s taxes is jail, and there are few people willing to go to jail for a principle anymore.

Still, while we may not have much choice in the matter of how our taxes are used, we still have a voice and a vote, and it’s time the American people made their voices—and their votes—heard about the way our taxes are used and misused by this government of wolves and thieves and liars.

Consider: we get taxed on how much we earn, taxed on what we eat, taxed on what we buy, taxed on where we go, taxed on what we drive, and taxed on how much is left of our assets when we die.

Indeed, if there is an absolute maxim by which the federal government seems to operate, it is that the American taxpayer always gets ripped off.

This is true whether you’re talking about taxpayers being forced to fund high-priced weaponry that will be used against us, endless wars that do little for our safety or our freedoms, or bloated government agencies such as the National Security Agency with its secret budgets, covert agendas and clandestine activities. Rubbing salt in the wound, even monetary awards in lawsuits against government officials who are found guilty of wrongdoing are paid by the taxpayer.

Not only are American taxpayers forced to “spend more on state, municipal, and federal taxes than the annual financial burdens of food, clothing, and housing combined,” but we’re also being played as easy marks by hustlers bearing the imprimatur of the government.

With every new tax, fine, fee and law adopted by our so-called representatives, the yoke around the neck of the average American seems to tighten just a little bit more.

Everywhere you go, everything you do, and every which way you look, we’re getting swindled, cheated, conned, robbed, raided, pick-pocketed, mugged, deceived, defrauded, double-crossed and fleeced by governmental and corporate shareholders of the American police state out to make a profit at taxpayer expense.

Yet as Ron Paul observed, “The Founding Fathers never intended a nation where citizens would pay nearly half of everything they earn to the government.”

The overt and costly signs of the despotism exercised by the increasingly authoritarian regime that passes itself off as the United States government are all around us: warrantless surveillance of Americans’ private phone and email conversations by the NSA; SWAT team raids of Americans’ homes; shootings of unarmed citizens by police; harsh punishments meted out to schoolchildren in the name of zero tolerance; drones taking to the skies domestically; endless wars; out-of-control spending; militarized police; roadside strip searches; roving TSA sweeps; privatized prisons with a profit incentive for jailing Americans; fusion centers that collect and disseminate data on Americans’ private transactions; and militarized agencies with stockpiles of ammunition, to name some of the most appalling.

Meanwhile, the three branches of government (Executive, Legislative and Judicial) and the agencies under their command—Defense, Commerce, Education, Homeland Security, Justice, Treasury, etc.—have switched their allegiance to the Corporate State with its unassailable pursuit of profit at all costs and by any means possible.

As a result, we are now ruled by a government consumed with squeezing every last penny out of the population and seemingly unconcerned if essential freedoms are trampled in the process.

As with most things, if you want to know the real motives behind any government program, follow the money trail. When you dig down far enough, you quickly find that those who profit from Americans being surveilled, fined, scanned, searched, probed, tasered, arrested and imprisoned are none other than the police who arrest them, the courts which try them, the prisons which incarcerate them, and the corporations, which manufacture the weapons, equipment and prisons used by the American police state.

It gets worse.

Because the government’s voracious appetite for money, power and control has grown out of control, its agents have devised other means of funding its excesses and adding to its largesse through taxes disguised as fines, taxes disguised as fees, and taxes disguised as tolls, tickets and penalties.

The government’s schemes to swindle, cheat, scam, and generally defraud Americans have run the gamut from wasteful pork barrel legislation, cronyism and graft to asset forfeiture schemes, the modern-day equivalent of highway robbery, astronomical health care “reform,” and costly stimulus packages.

Americans have also been made to pay through the nose for the government’s endless wars, subsidization of foreign nations, military empire, welfare state, roads to nowhere, bloated workforce, secret agencies, fusion centers, private prisons, biometric databases, invasive technologies, arsenal of weapons, and every other budgetary line item that is contributing to the fast-growing wealth of the corporate elite at the expense of those who are barely making ends meet—that is, we the taxpayers.

Those football stadiums that charge exorbitant sums for nosebleed seats? Our taxpayer dollars subsidize them.

Those blockbuster war films? Yep, we were the silent investors on those, too.

Same goes for the military equipment being peddled to local police agencies and the surveillance cameras being “donated” to local governments.

In other words, in the eyes of the government, “we the people, the voters, the consumers, and the taxpayers” are little more than indentured servants.

We’re slaves.

If you have no choice, no voice, and no real options when it comes to the government’s claims on your property and your money, you’re not free.

You’re not free if the government can seize your home and your car (which you’ve bought and paid for) over nonpayment of taxes.

You’re not free if government agents can freeze and seize your bank accounts and other valuables if they merely “suspect” wrongdoing.

And you’re certainly not free if the IRS gets the first cut of your salary to pay for government programs over which you have no say.

It wasn’t always this way, of course.

Early Americans went to war over the inalienable rights described by philosopher John Locke as the natural rights of life, liberty and property.

It didn’t take long, however—a hundred years, in fact—before the American government was laying claim to the citizenry’s property by levying taxes to pay for the Civil War. As the New York Times reports, “Widespread resistance led to its repeal in 1872.”

Determined to claim some of the citizenry’s wealth for its own uses, the government reinstituted the income tax in 1894. Charles Pollock challenged the tax as unconstitutional, and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in his favor. Pollock’s victory was relatively short-lived. Members of Congress—united in their determination to tax the American people’s income—worked together to adopt a constitutional amendment to overrule the Pollock decision.

On the eve of World War I, in 1913, Congress instituted a permanent income tax by way of the 16th Amendment to the Constitution and the Revenue Act of 1913. Under the Revenue Act, individuals with income exceeding $3,000 could be taxed starting at 1% up to 7% for incomes exceeding $500,000.

It’s all gone downhill from there.

Unsurprisingly, the government has used its tax powers to advance its own imperialistic agendas and the courts have repeatedly upheld the government’s power to penalize or jail those who refused to pay their taxes.

All the while the government continues to do whatever it likes—levy taxes, rack up debt, spend outrageously and irresponsibly, wage endless wars that make no one safer but fatten the bank accounts of the defense contractors—with little thought for the plight of its citizens.

Somewhere over the course of the past 240-plus years, democracy has given way to kleptocracy (a government ruled by thieves), and representative government has been rejected in favor of a kakistocracy (a government run by the most unprincipled citizens that panders to the worst vices in our nature: greed, violence, hatred, prejudice and war) ruled by career politicians, corporations and thieves—individuals and entities with little regard for the rights of American citizens.

The American kleptocracy continues to suck the American people down a rabbit hole into a parallel universe in which the Constitution is meaningless, the government is all-powerful, and the citizenry is powerless to defend itself against government agents who steal, spy, lie, plunder, kill, abuse and generally inflict mayhem and sow madness on everyone and everything in their sphere.

This dissolution of that sacred covenant between the citizenry and the government—establishing “we the people” as the masters and the government as the servant—didn’t happen overnight.

It didn’t happen because of one particular incident or one particular president.

It has been a process, one that began long ago and continues in the present day, aided and abetted by politicians who have mastered the polarizing art of how to “divide and conquer.”

By playing on our prejudices about those who differ from us, capitalizing on our fears for our safety, and deepening our distrust of those fellow citizens whose opinions run counter to our own, the powers-that-be have effectively divided us into polarized, warring camps incapable of finding consensus on the one true menace that is an immediate threat to all of our freedoms: the U.S. government.

We are now the subjects of a militarized, corporate empire in which the vast majority of the citizenry work their hands to the bone for the benefit of a privileged few.

Adding injury to the ongoing insult of having our tax dollars misused and our so-called representatives bought and paid for by the moneyed elite, the government then turns around and uses the money we earn with our blood, sweat and tears to target, imprison and entrap us, in the form of militarized police, surveillance cameras, private prisons, license plate readers, drones, and cell phone tracking technology.

All of those nefarious government deeds that you read about in the paper every day: those are your tax dollars at work. It’s your money that allows for government agents to spy on your emails, your phone calls, your text messages, and your movements. It’s your money that allows out-of-control police officers to burst into innocent people’s homes, or probe and strip search motorists on the side of the road, or shoot an unarmed person. And it’s your money that leads to innocent Americans across the country being prosecuted for innocuous activities such as raising chickens at home, growing vegetable gardens, and trying to live off the grid.

Just remember the next time you see a news story that makes your blood boil, whether it’s a child being kicked out of school for shooting an imaginary arrow, or a homeowner being threatened with fines for building a pond in his backyard, remember that it is your tax dollars that are paying for these injustices.

So what are you going to do about it?

There was a time in our history when our forebears said “enough is enough” and stopped paying their taxes to what they considered an illegitimate government. They stood their ground and refused to support a system that was slowly choking out any attempts at self-governance, and which refused to be held accountable for its crimes against the people. Their resistance sowed the seeds for the revolution that would follow.

Unfortunately, as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, in the 200-plus years since we established our own government, we’ve let bankers, turncoats and number-crunching bureaucrats muddy the waters and pilfer the accounts to such an extent that we’re back where we started.

Once again, we’ve got a despotic regime with an imperial ruler doing as they please.

Once again, we’ve got a judicial system insisting we have no rights under a government which demands that the people march in lockstep with its dictates.

And once again, we’ve got to decide whether we’ll keep marching or break stride and make a turn toward freedom.

But what if we didn’t just pull out our pocketbooks and pony up to the federal government’s outrageous demands for more money?

What if we didn’t just dutifully line up to drop our hard-earned dollars into the collection bucket, no questions asked about how it will be spent?

What if, instead of quietly sending in our checks, hoping vainly for some meager return, we did a little calculating of our own and started deducting from our taxes those programs that we refuse to support?

If we don’t have the right to decide what happens to our hard-earned cash, then we don’t have very many rights at all.

If the government can just take from you what they want, when they want, and then use it however they want, you can’t claim to be anything more than a serf in a land they think of as theirs.

This was the case in the colonial era, and it’s the case once again.

Two Minutes to Doomsday

Not since 1953, when the U.S. and the Soviets exploded thermonuclear bombs, has the world been such a powder keg!

Only recently, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved the Doomsday Clock forward 30 seconds. It now registers two minutes to midnight. Verily, it’s lights out when the clock strikes 12:00 midnight. Ka-boom, it’s over!

What’s going on?

Hitherto, in the aftermath of the Cold War, the clock was set all the way back to 17 minutes to midnight. Thereafter, it wasn’t until 1998, when India and Pakistan staged back-to-back nuclear weapon testing, that the famous timepiece moved forward into single digits once again. It’s important to note that resetting the clock is not a frivolous undertaking. A group of distinguished scientists make that decision.

Here’s the rationale for the move closer to the dreaded midnight hour: Upon the election of Trump, the Science and Security Board for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists reset the Doomsday Clock to 2 ½ minutes to midnight. That was based upon extraordinarily provocative nasty destabilizing verbiage from the president himself. Indeed, he is commander in chief, ahem.

Thereafter, following the self-crowning glory of Trump’s inauguration, which was an absolute bust, especially as worldwide protests in the streets vastly outnumbered the inauguration, global risks have measurably increased with leaders Trump and Kim exchanging simplistic infantile barbs at every opportunity.

Not only, it’s also a fact that global risks have compounded via U.S.-Russian relations, featuring more conflict than cooperation, as the two Super Powers crank up tensions: (1) continuing NATO military exercises along borders, (2) undermining the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, (3) upgrading nuclear arsenals, and (4) eschewing arms-control negotiations. Truly, America is in conflict within all categories that ricochet into holocaust.

On a Global basis, tensions have increased over the South China Sea. Pakistan and India continue building larger nuclear weapon arsenals. And, in the Middle East, the U.S. is driving a stake into the heart of the Iranian nuclear deal.  Meanwhile, and increasingly so, cyber threats risk outages of infrastructure power grids and water sources.

Exasperating this perilous world scenario, there is the real threat of fundamental breakdown in the international order because of U.S. behavior, torpedoing trustworthiness amongst nations whilst also undermining, and, in fact, ridiculing, a very sober Paris 2015 climate accord.  In point of fact, U. S. leadership has turned deceptive and unreliable to predict or discern between sincerity and mere rhetoric, inter-meshed within goofy twitter messages. Confusion and conflicting policy statements confront allies with despair.

Further endangering the world community, it is all too evident that the Trump administration is true grit for neoliberal spirits. In fact, it is speculated that if the Science and Security Board for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists computed risks of holocaust based upon the tenets behind rampant neoliberal capitalism, the clock would be reset to one minute before midnight. Indeed, especially under Trump, and especially with a big tax cut combined with rejection of any effort whatsoever to tame global warming. The biosphere is at a heighten level of risk under Trump.

The case can be made that the planet is at peak risk because of neoliberal socio-politico-economic policies that are equal in weight to the threat of nuclear holocaust. Neoliberal capitalism runs roughshod over the social contract and ignores ecological responsibility. For certain, there is no profit to be found in social contracts or ecological caretaking.

As a result, after 35 years of hardcore neoliberalism, the ecosystem is exhausted, frayed, and starting to collapse. Indeed, neoliberal principles of privatization of public assets, rugged individualism, and free-market dicta scrunch every class below the one percent whilst tossing aside ecological concerns into the gutter. Similar to a hefty steamroller, neoliberal ascendency literally flattens the social contract and tosses aside care for the biosphere.

The brand spanking new tax cut leveled at propping up corporations and the super rich exposes $1.5T in new governmental debt. Ipso facto, government must be cut to the bone to satisfy Republican dogma. Hence, the middling classes will be screwed, as the poor get decimated. Socially conscious and ecologically beneficial government will be, and is already, ripped apart. The checks and balances that keep the ecosystem humming, like the EPA, are systematically ravaged via executive order whilst giving the finger to the Paris 2015 climate accord.

This ongoing massive unraveling of guardianship for the ecosystem is smack dab in the crosshairs of a mean-spirited Ayn Rand-type conspiracy, taking full control over America. Rule via decadence is taking America back to late 19th century socio-politico-economic principles, “when men will be men.” As it happens, Trump is turning loose the most boorish elements of the transnational elite.

Meanwhile, the planet simmers with overheating symptoms, and emits an orang-ish glow because of massive chemical saturation, threatening civilization down to its core. The biosphere can ill afford the world’s largest economy rejecting remedial efforts. If the Science and Security Board for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists gave equal weight to ecosystem debasement as it does nuclear threats, the Atomic Clock would bust a spring.

Alas, because of excessive levels of CO2 emitted by humans with resultant global warming, which the Trump group exacerbates, the planet is weak in the knees, especially where people don’t see it, as for example,  (1) The all-important Atlantic ocean conveyor belt circulation pattern, aka: Thermohaline, has already started to slow down way ahead of schedule because of global warming, (2) Oceans have lost 40% of plankton production over the past 50 years, threatening loss of one of the major sources of oxygen for the planet, (3) In 2017, the Gulf of Mexico’s Dead Zone, where oxygen is so weak that fish die, is the largest ever at 8,800 square miles, (4) Kelp Forests in the ocean, the equivalent of terrestrial Rain Forest, are being wiped out from Tasmania to California, (5) Greenland experienced total surface melt for the first time in scientific history, (6) The massive Arctic meltdown threatens runaway global warming (“RGW”) as methane hydrates are exposed, bringing in its wake burn-out agriculture, (7) Irreversible Antarctica ice sheet collapse has commenced.

But still, overshadowing all threats to civilization, positive climate feedbacks are starting to influence the global warming process, meaning the planet itself is on autopilot, emitting one molecule of CO2 via hands-free positive feedbacks for every two molecules of CO2 emitted by human activity.1 This one fact alone is reason enough to move the Doomsday Clock much, much, much closer to midnight.

Postscript:  “There are growing signs that the Pentagon and the CIA are pressing ahead with preparations for a preemptive war against North Korea, including the use of nuclear weapons. There have been multiple reports in the American corporate media of behind-the-scenes discussions between the US military and intelligence apparatus and the Trump administration of the feasibility of a so-called “bloody nose” attack, involving US air strikes on North Korean nuclear facilities, with the expectation—however ill-founded—that they would not provoke a full-scale war.2

  1. Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
  2. Alex Lockie, news editor, Business Insider: “US Stealth Bombers in Guam Appear to be Readying for a Tactical Nuclear Strike on North Korea,” Defend Democracy Press, January 28, 2018.

Preparing For The Coming Transformation

The year 2017 has been another active year for people fighting on a wide range of fronts. The Trump administration has brought many issues that have existed for years out into the open where they are more difficult to deny – racism, colonialism, imperialism, capitalism and patriarchy and the crises they create. More people are activated and greater connections between the fronts of struggle are creating a movement of movements. These are positive developments, bright spots in difficult times. They are the seeds of transformative change that we can nurture and grow if we act with intention.

The crises we face have been building for decades. They are reaching a point of extremism that will create an even greater response by people. What that response is, where it goes and what it accomplishes are up to all of us to determine.

The overreach by the plutocrats in power may bring a boomerang effect, energizing the population to take action and demand the changes we desire and need. We may reach a moment, a turning point, when the movements for economic, racial and environmental justice, as well as peace, can win significant changes, beyond the comfort zones of those in power. The boomerang will only occur if we educate and organize for it, and its size will also depend on us.

We have no illusions that this work will be easy. Those in power will do all that they can to derail, misdirect and suppress our efforts. Our tasks are to resist their tactics and maintain our focus on our end goals. This requires understanding how social movements succeed and being clear in our demands for transformative change.

We see several key areas where people are energized to work for changes that are opportunities to expand the current movement of movements into a powerful force that will overcome the stranglehold by the corporate duopoly parties. This is the first of two articles to help prepare us for the work ahead. In the second article, we will describe these key issues in greater depth and what we need to do to create the transformative moment we need.

The Long Development of this Transformative Era

The era of transformation has been developing over many decades. If we view it through presidential administrations, a frame of reference used commonly in the United States, we see that both major parties represent the interests of the wealthy and corporations, not the majority of the population, and that they effectively divide and weaken popular movements.

After Bill Clinton’s administration loosened regulations on finance, setting the stage for the 2008 crash, brought in trade agreements like NAFTA and weakened the social safety net, and George W. Bush’s administration expanded military aggression around the world and the domestic security state, as well as further enriching the wealthy, people were hungry for change. Barack Obama effectively built his ‘hope and change’ campaign around this desire, vaguely but eloquently promising what people wanted. His words allowed people to imagine that a transformation was coming.

Obama raised expectations, but he did not fulfill them. His cabinet was made up of Wall Streeters from Citigroup. He continued and expanded foreign wars, the wealth divide grew and tens of millions went without healthcare even after his private insurance-based Affordable Care Act became law. The frustration that had been building during the Clinton-Bush years burst onto the scene with Occupy, Fight for $15, Black Lives Matter, debt resistance, immigration reform, Idle No More and other fronts of struggle.

After Occupy, the media told us the people’s struggle went away, but, as we show in the daily movement news reporting on Popular Resistance, all of those struggles expanded. The corporate media’s failure to cover the national mass protest movement does not change reality — the resistance movements continue, are growing and are impacting popular opinion and policies.

Where We Are and What We Must Do

In 2013, we wrote a two part series describing the status of the movement and what the movement must do. In the December 2013 article, “Closer than We Think” we described the eight stages of social movements, an analysis by long-time civil rights and anti-nuclear activist, Bill Moyer. The movement had gone through the “Take-Off”, Stage Four of the social movement when encampments covered the country, seemingly overnight, and brought the issues of the wealth divide, racist policing, climate change, student debt and other issues to the forefront. The meme of the 99% against the 1% illustrated the conflict between people power and the power holders. We passed through Stage Five, “the Landing,” where the encampments disappeared and people asked, “What happened? Did we accomplish anything?”

Our second article in January 2014 focused on the tasks of the movement and explained that we were now in Stage Six, the final stage before victory. This is a long-term phase that could last years where the goal is to build broad national consensus of 70% to 90% support among the public for the goals of the movement and to mobilize people as effective change agents.

During this phase, the contradictions in the system become more obvious to people. For example, as the United States and world experience the harsh realities of climate change in massive storms, widespread fires, droughts and famine, the government’s response is inadequate. When Obama was president his administration was an anchor on the world, weakening international climate and trade agreements. His secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, used her influence to promote fracking. The Trump administration has gone further, denying climate change, erasing words and phrases that describe it from government reports, silencing scientists and undermining the inadequate steps made to confront climate change that were put in place in the Obama era.

The inadequate response to the climate crisis is one example of many multiple crisis situations that exist in which the government does not respond, responds inadequately or even takes actions that make these crises worse. In some cases, the power holders go too far, as we see in the recently passed tax bill, designed to protect the donor class, and in abusive police practices as the racism and violence of our society are exposed. The overreaction in the end helps build the national consensus we need to achieve our objectives.

The contradictions arise because there are obvious solutions to each crisis we face, but those in power refuse to put them in place. National consensus for these solutions grows during this phase, and the failures of the money-dominated political system become more obvious.

As a result, a transformative moment is building now. It can be seen in the 2016 presidential campaigns where people showed frustration with both corporate parties. Electoral challenges inside the parties showed populist anger based on hundreds of millions of people struggling every day to survive in an unfair economy. Donald Trump built his campaign around economic insecurity from the right and Senator Bernie Sanders did the same from the left. Now, Trump is betraying conservative populists with economic and healthcare policies that add to their insecurity and with the wealthiest cabinet in US history serving the interests of Wall Street, the self-interest of elected officials and adding to the distrust of the DC duopoly. The realization of Trump’s betrayal is only beginning to show itself in the lives of those who supported him.

The Democrats have been struggling to come to grips with how they lost to Donald Trump. A large part of the party is in denial, blaming their failures on the fiction of Russiagate — claiming the Russians were responsible for their loss rather than a widely-disliked candidate who represented Wall Street and war for her entire career. The Democrats continue their internal divide: the divide between Wall Street donors who want the party to serve their interests and voters who want the party to represent their interests. Invariably the Democrats will be unable to turn their backs on their donors and will nominate a fake change agent who will spout popular progressive rhetoric and dash those hopes when in office.

It is critical for us to step out of the limitations of two and four year election cycles and recognize that social transformation does not arise by electing the perceived least evil. Social transformation occurs through a people-powered movement of movements that arises over decades of struggle and shifts the political reality so that the power holders must respond.

Issues Driving the Backlash 

There will be a backlash. It will look to the Democrats like a backlash against Trump’s extremism, but it will be broader. It will be a backlash against the extremism of the corporate duopoly. Their bi-partisan policies always put the wealthy and big business interests first. The boomerang will be built on the conflict between the necessities of the people and the planet vs. the greed of the wealthy.

There are a number of fundamental issues that are priorities for large majorities of the population, around which people are mobilizing and where national consensus is developing. They have the potential to connect our movements into a powerful force.

One of our tasks is to develop clear demands so that we cannot be side-tracked by false or partial solutions. If these fundamental issues are addressed through bold and transformative solutions, they will shift the political culture and our political system in a significant way towards the people-powered future we need. They will create change at the root causes of the crises we face.

These transformative issues include economic inequality, lack of access to health care, ensuring Internet freedom and a people’s media, confronting climate change and environmental disasters, ending US Empire and militarism at home, and addressing domestic human rights abuses, whether it is exploitation of workers, mass incarceration, racism or disrespect for Indigenous sovereignty. Throughout all of these issues there is a thread of racial injustice so our struggles must not just solidify around class issues, but must also solidify around the necessity of ending systemic racism.

We will address these issues and next steps in greater depth in the first newsletter of the new year. We wish all of you a peaceful week and hope you are able to spend time with loved ones. We are committed to being with you through the struggle and to doing all we can to stop the machine and create a new world.

Making the Golden Years Golden for All Americans

Congress created individual retirement accounts (IRAs) in 1974. Four years later it added 401(k)s. A third variety, Roth IRAs, won approval in 1997. Together the accounts dominate America’s private retirement system.

Today we’re a hugely unequal society. Updating our private system could reduce inequality, and help make the golden years golden for all Americans.

Let’s begin with the millions of workers we’re not even giving a chance:

The 1974 bill aimed to provide a workplace retirement plan for all private-sector employees not otherwise covered. Forty-three years later over 70 million workers, mostly low- to middle-income, still lack a workplace option.

They deserve at least two. One would be a broad stock market index fund like the S&P 500. For savers who put safety first, the other would be a bond fund holding only Treasury debt. Enrollment would be automatic with an opt-out provision. Pre-tax contributions would be made via payroll deductions. Gains would accrue tax-free, taxes payable on withdrawal (the same as all current accounts except Roths).

States could set up accounts on their own (as Oregon already has), but Congress could do the job in a single stroke. Both 2008 presidential candidates, Senator John McCain (R-NV) and Barack Obama, endorsed a federal Automatic IRA plan. Obama later included the idea in a budget outline, but it never went any farther.

It should have. Well into the 21st century, private retirement accounts should be a worker’s right: they should come with the job, period.

Now let’s add more luster to the golden years with smarter retirement account rules.

Congress should lower the age for required minimum distributions (RMDs) from the current 70 1/2 to 65. That would dovetail with the Medicare eligibility age and with common sense and the common good. An aging population is putting Medicare and Social Security in a fiscal bind. Revenues from the new rule should be dedicated equally to the two programs.

Taxable required distributions aren’t a penalty; they’re a payback to the Treasury for decades of pre-tax contributions and tax-free growth. It would help all seniors if the payback started sooner. (No, RMDs won’t exhaust retiree savings. It takes voluntary withdrawals far larger than the required minimums to do that.)

Moving on to fairness, it’s important to remember that tax breaks redistribute income. Those who get them count on other taxpayers to make up the revenue shortfall (or else there’s simply less to go around). Retirement breaks flow lopsidedly to the well-off. Putting it all together, there’s a strong case for the GOP idea of a sharply lower cap on annual 401(k) contributions.

Would anyone lose any sleep if the current $18,000 maximum were cut to $10,000, to $7,500? It’s one thing to help workers who need help. It’s another to over-subsidize the retirement savings of the haves, and lose current tax revenues in the bargain.

Lastly, we should wind down a fiscal deception.

Congress should remove Roth IRAs, Roth 401(k)s and Roth rollovers (conversions of other accounts into Roths) from the retirement mix. Existing Roths should follow the rules that govern all other plans: required distributions, taxable at ordinary income rates. If that can’t happen, at least stop offering Roths and require (tax-free) distributions from current accounts.

Fiscal hawks should cheer the reform, which would guarantee lower federal deficits in future decades. Roth contributions are taxable, so the Treasury takes in more money initially. But the gains are permanently tax-free, leading to multi-billion-dollar losses in the long run (and retirement accounts are primarily about the long run).

Fairness would also get a boost. It’s inequitable to exempt Roths from required distributions and taxes on gains.

Len Burman is a tax expert and former director of the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. In 2006, analyzing the repeal of the $100,000 income limit on Roth conversions, he called it an “especially insidious” fiscal gimmick. Roth accounts, he wrote, are a downstream disaster: “The revenue losses…are exceedingly poorly timed. They reduce federal revenues at the same time that the baby boomers are aging….[The accounts] will place a large and growing portion of the tax base off limits…just when our children and grandchildren will most need tax revenues.”

Roths were a flimflam from the beginning, “a conscious, contemptible manipulation of the budget rules;” so said John Buckley, former chief Democratic counsel to the Committee on Ways and Means. The Treasury would be billions better off without them.

Let’s use our smarts and our hearts. Let’s make retirement accounts the last, golden part of the American Dream.

P.S. In April 2012, the House Committee on Ways and Means held a hearing on tax reform and tax-advantaged retirement accounts. I filed a statement at the hearing recommending that required minimum distributions begin at age 65 instead of 70 1/2. Here’s a link to the statement.

Financial Tyranny: “We the People” Are the New Permanent Underclass in America

When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men in a society, over the course of time they create for themselves a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.

― Frédéric Bastiat, French economist

Americans can no longer afford to get sick and there’s a reason why.

That’s because a growing number of Americans are struggling to stretch their dollars far enough to pay their bills, get out of debt and ensure that if and when an illness arises, it doesn’t bankrupt them.

This is a reality that no amount of partisan political bickering can deny.

Many Americans can no longer afford health insurance, drug costs or hospital bills. They can’t afford to pay rising healthcare premiums, out-of-pocket deductibles and prescription drug bills.

They can’t afford to live, and now they can’t afford to get sick or die, either.

To be clear, my definition of “affordable healthcare” is different from the government’s. To the government, you can “afford” to pay for healthcare if your income falls above the poverty line. That takes no account of rising taxes, the cost of living, the cost to clothe and feed a household, the cost of transportation and communication and education, or any of the other line items that add up to a life worth living.

As Helaine Olen points out in The Atlantic:

Just because a person is insured, it doesn’t mean he or she can actually afford their doctor, hospital, pharmaceutical, and other medical bills. The point of insurance is to protect patients’ finances from the costs of everything from hospitalizations to prescription drugs, but out-of-pocket spending for people even with employer-provided health insurance has increased by more than 50 percent since 2010.

For too many Americans, achieving any kind of quality of life has become a choice between putting food on the table and paying one’s bills or health care coverage.

It’s a gamble any way you look at it, and the medical community is not helping.

Healthcare costs are rising, driven by a medical, insurance and pharmaceutical industry that is getting rich off the sick and dying.

Indeed, Americans currently pay $3.4 trillion a year for medical care.  We spent more than $10,000 per person on health care in 2016. Those attempting to shop for health insurance coverage right now are understandably experiencing sticker shock with premiums set to rise 34% in 2018. It’s estimated that costs may rise as high as $15,000 by 2023.

As Bloomberg reports:

Rising health-care costs are eating up the wage gains won by American workers, who are being asked by their employers to pick up more of the heftier tab… The cost of buying health coverage at work has increased faster than wages and inflation for years, pressuring household budgets.

Appallingly, Americans spend more than any developed country on healthcare and have less to show for it. We don’t live as long, we have higher infant mortality rates, we have fewer hospital and physician visits, and the quality of our healthcare is generally worse. We also pay astronomical amounts for prescription drugs, compared to other countries.

Whether or not you’re insured through an employer, the healthcare marketplace, a government-subsidized program such as Medicare or Medicaid, or have no health coverage whatsoever, it’s still “we the consumers” who have to pay to subsidize the bill whenever anyone gets sick in this country. And that bill is a whopper.

While Obamacare (a.k.a. the Affordable Care Act) may have made health insurance more accessible to greater numbers of individuals, it has failed to make healthcare any more affordable.

Why?

As journalist Laurie Meisler concludes:

One big reason U.S. health care costs are so high: pharmaceutical spending. The U.S. spends more per capita on prescription medicines and over-the-counter products than any other country.

One investigative journalist spent seven months analyzing hundreds of bills from hospitals, doctors, drug companies, and medical equipment manufacturers. His findings confirmed what we’ve known all along: health care in America is just another way of making corporations rich at consumer expense.

An examination of an itemized hospital bill (only available upon request) revealed an amazing amount of price gouging. Tylenol, which you can buy for less than $10 for a bottle, was charged to the patient at a rate of $15 per pill, for a total of $345 for a hospital stay. $8 for a plastic bag to hold the patient’s personal items and another $8 for a box of Kleenex. $23 for a single alcohol swab. $53 per pair for non-sterile gloves (adding up to $5,141 for the entire hospital stay). $10 for plastic cup in which to take one’s medicine. $93 for the use of an overhead light during a surgical procedure. $39 each time you want to hold your newborn baby. And $800 for a sterile water IV bag that costs about a dollar to make.

This is clearly not a problem that can be remedied by partisan politics.

The so-called Affordable Care Act pushed through by the Obama administration is proving to be anything but affordable for anyone over the poverty line. And the Trump administration’s “fixes” promise to be no better. Indeed, for too many Americans who live paycheck to paycheck and struggle just to get by, the tax penalty for not having health insurance will actually be cheaper than trying to find affordable coverage that actually pays for care.

This is how the middle classes, who fuel the nation’s economy and fund the government’s programs, get screwed repeatedly.

When almost 60 percent of Americans are so financially strapped that they don’t have even $500 in savings and nothing whatsoever put away for retirement, and yet they are being forced to pay for government programs that do little to enhance their lives, we’re not living the American dream.

We’re living a financial nightmare.

We have no real say in how the government runs, or how our taxpayer funds are used, but that doesn’t prevent the government from fleecing us at every turn and forcing us to pay for endless wars that do more to fund the military industrial complex than protect us, pork barrel projects that produce little to nothing, and a police state that serves only to imprison us within its walls.

We have no real say, but we’re being forced to pay through the nose, anyhow.

George Harrison, who died 16 years ago this month, summed up this outrageous state of affairs in his song Taxman:

If you drive a car, I’ll tax the street,
If you try to sit, I’ll tax your seat.
If you get too cold I’ll tax the heat,
If you take a walk, I’ll tax your feet.

Don’t ask me what I want it for
If you don’t want to pay some more
‘Cause I’m the taxman, yeah, I’m the taxman

Now my advice for those who die
Declare the pennies on your eyes
‘Cause I’m the taxman, yeah, I’m the taxman
And you’re working for no one but me.

In other words, in the eyes of the government, “we the people, the voters, the consumers, and the taxpayers” are little more than indentured servants and sources of revenue.

If you have no choice, no voice, and no real options when it comes to the government’s claims on your property and your money, you’re not free.

Consider: The government can seize your home and your car (which you’ve bought and paid for) over nonpayment of taxes. Government agents can freeze and seize your bank accounts and other valuables if they merely “suspect” wrongdoing. And the IRS insists on getting the first cut of your salary to pay for government programs over which you have no say.

It wasn’t always this way, of course.

Early Americans went to war over the inalienable rights described by philosopher John Locke as the natural rights of life, liberty and property.

It didn’t take long, however—a hundred years, in fact—before the American government was laying claim to the citizenry’s property by levying taxes to pay for the Civil War. As the New York Times reports, “Widespread resistance led to its repeal in 1872.”

Determined to claim some of the citizenry’s wealth for its own uses, the government reinstituted the income tax in 1894. Charles Pollock challenged the tax as unconstitutional, and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in his favor. Pollock’s victory was relatively short-lived. Members of Congress—united in their determination to tax the American people’s income—worked together to adopt a constitutional amendment to overrule the Pollock decision.

On the eve of World War I, in 1913, Congress instituted a permanent income tax by way of the 16th Amendment to the Constitution and the Revenue Act of 1913. Under the Revenue Act, individuals with income exceeding $3,000 could be taxed starting at 1% up to 7% for incomes exceeding $500,000.

It’s all gone downhill from there.

Unsurprisingly, the government has used its tax powers to advance its own imperialistic agendas and the courts have repeatedly upheld the government’s power to penalize or jail those who refused to pay their taxes.

Irwin A. Schiff was one of the nation’s most vocal tax protesters. He spent a good portion of his life arguing that the income tax was unconstitutional. He paid the price for his resistance, too: Schiff served three separate prison terms (more than 10 years in all) over his refusal to pay taxes. He died at the age of 87 serving a 14-year prison term. As constitutional activist Robert L. Schulz noted in Schiff’s obituary, “In a society where there is so much fear of government, and in particular of the I.R.S., [Schiff] was probably the most influential educator regarding the illegal and unconstitutional operation and enforcement of the Internal Revenue Code. It’s very hard to speak to power, but he did, and he paid a very heavy price.”

It’s still hard to speak to power, and those who do are still paying a very heavy price.

All the while the government continues to do whatever it likes—levy taxes, rack up debt, spend outrageously and irresponsibly—with little thought for the plight of its citizens.

The national debt is $20 trillion and growing. The amount this country owes is now greater than its gross national product (all the products and services produced in one year by labor and property supplied by the citizens). We’re paying more than $270 billion just in interest on that debt annually. And the top two foreign countries who “own” our debt are China and Japan.

To top it all off, all of those wars the U.S. is so eager to fight abroad are being waged with borrowed funds. As The Atlantic reports:

For 15 years now, the United States has been putting these wars on a credit card… U.S. leaders are essentially bankrolling the wars with debt, in the form of purchases of U.S. Treasury bonds by U.S.-based entities like pension funds and state and local governments, and by countries like China and Japan.

If Americans managed their personal finances the way the government mismanages the nation’s finances, we’d all be in debtors’ prison by now.

Still, the government remains unrepentant, unfazed and undeterred in its money grabs.

While we’re struggling to get by, and making tough decisions about how to spend what little money actually makes it into our pockets after the federal, state and local governments take their share (this doesn’t include the stealth taxes imposed through tolls, fines and other fiscal penalties), the police state is spending our hard-earned tax dollars to further entrench its powers and entrap its citizens.

For instance, American taxpayers have been forced to shell out $5.6 trillion since 9/11 for the military industrial complex’s costly, endless so-called “war on terrorism.” That translates to roughly $23,000 per taxpayer to wage wars abroad, occupy foreign countries, provide financial aid to foreign allies, and fill the pockets of defense contractors and grease the hands of corrupt foreign dignitaries.

Mind you, that staggering $6 trillion is only a portion of what the Pentagon spends on America’s military empire.

That price tag keeps growing, too.

The 16-year war in Afghanistan, which now stands as the longest and one of the most expensive wars in U.S. history, is about to get even longer and more costly, thanks to President Trump’s promise to send more troops over.

In this way, the military industrial complex will get even richer, and the American taxpayer will be forced to shell out even more funds for programs that do little to enhance our lives, ensure our happiness and well-being, or secure our freedoms.

As Dwight D. Eisenhower warned in a 1953 speech:

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some fifty miles of concrete pavement. We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. This is, I repeat, the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron. […] Is there no other way the world may live?

This is still no way of life.

Yet it’s not just the government’s endless wars that are bleeding us dry.

We’re also being forced to shell out money for surveillance systems to track our movements, money to further militarize our already militarized police, money to allow the government to raid our homes and bank accounts, money to fund schools where our kids learn nothing about freedom and everything about how to comply, and on and on.

Are you getting the picture yet?

The government isn’t taking our money to make our lives better. Just take a look at the nation’s failing infrastructure, and you’ll see how little is being spent on programs that advance the common good.

We’re being robbed blind so the governmental elite can get richer.

This is nothing less than financial tyranny.

“We the people” have become the new, permanent underclass in America.

It’s tempting to say that there’s little we can do about it, except that’s not quite accurate.

There are a few things we can do (demand transparency, reject cronyism and graft, insist on fair pricing and honest accounting methods, call a halt to incentive-driven government programs that prioritize profits over people), but it will require that “we the people” stop playing politics and stand united against the politicians and corporate interests who have turned our government and economy into a pay-to-play exercise in fascism.

We’ve become so invested in identity politics that label us based on our political leanings that we’ve lost sight of the one label that unites us: we’re all Americans.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the powers-that-be want to pit us against one another. They want us to adopt an “us versus them” mindset that keeps us powerless and divided. Trust me, the only “us versus them” that matters anymore is “we the people” against the police state.

We’re all in the same boat, folks, and there’s only one real life preserver: that’s the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

The Constitution starts with those three powerful words: “We the people.”

The message is this: there is power in our numbers.

That remains our greatest strength in the face of a governmental elite that continues to ride roughshod over the populace. It remains our greatest defense against a government that has claimed for itself unlimited power over the purse (taxpayer funds) and the sword (military might). As Patrick Henry declared in the last speech before his death, “United we stand, divided we fall. Let us not split into factions … or … exhaust [our strength] in civil commotions and intestine wars.”

This holds true whether you’re talking about health care, war spending, or the American police state.

The First Nine Months of Donald Trump’s Presidency

For the past nine months, we have seen widespread attacks on the common good. The latest assault is the Republicans’ proposed tax reform, a huge transfer of wealth to the richest one-tenth of one percent. This legislation would also greatly increase the national debt, supposedly a major red line for Republicans. In addition, President Trump continues to: 1) slow action on climate change; 2) support fossil fuels; and 3) weaken the protections of clean air, water and soil. Trump and the Republicans have repeatedly tried to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The repeal would have eliminated coverage for millions while increasing costs for millions more. Trump now is using an executive order to withhold subsidy payments, harming more Americans. White supremacists, especially males, believe they have support from the White House. They are pleased by Trump’s continuation of the ongoing large-scale deportation of Hispanic immigrants and by his repeated attempts to keep Muslims out.

The U.S. spending on the military was already out of control, and the Pentagon cannot account for over $6.5 trillion. Despite the already unnecessarily huge military budget and astonishing unaccountability, Trump proposed a large increase and Congress raised that amount even more.

These items give a hint of the scope of the disaster we are experiencing. Given these and other issues that deserve much more media attention, I find it hard to reconcile the focus that some media still place on the questionable allegations of Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s emails. I wonder what has happened to journalistic standards when the mainstream media repeatedly has treated allegations as facts.

U.S. intelligence agencies and others have searched for proof of this Russian hacking for well over a year. An early January 2017 intelligence report was touted as proof, but it provided no solid evidence, only an assessment, i.e., a best guess, in support of the allegation. Moreover, the report was presented as being done by 17 U.S. intelligence agencies, but was actually performed by handpicked analysts from three agencies — the CIA, FBI and NSA. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence was also involved. Remember the George W. Bush administration used bogus sources and cherry-picked intelligence to support the claim that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Unfortunately the media a vital role in promoting this disinformation.

There have been numerous other highly suspect claims of Russian activity, for example, an alleged threat to the power grid that was quickly knocked down, an attempt to hack voting systems in 21 states, and the use of Facebook and other social media to influence the election and to create disharmony.

Why is this unsubstantiated hacking allegation still being pushed? I doubt that it is really driven by concern about protecting our political system from outside influence. For example, Israel and its supporters have exercised undue influence on our system for decades with little concern expressed. In addition, given that outside interference is terrible, why aren’t we outraged over the history of U.S. interference in elections of and collusion in coups against many other nations? This history includes the blatant collusion by the Clinton administration in Russia in 1996. People elsewhere see this hypocrisy.

If we are serious, a few of the many steps we can take to improve the integrity of our elections are: 1) ensuring that all citizens are allowed to vote; 2) using paper ballots; 3) providing public funding of campaigns; and 4) having a nonpartisan group run the Presidential debates.

I think there are two more probable reasons why the inept Democratic Party leadership, much of the U.S. establishment, and much of the mainstream media have for still promoting this allegation. One refers mainly to domestic considerations and the other focuses on the foreign arena. The contention of the hacking of the DNC swiftly became the basis of a claim of collusion between Trump and Russia. The charge distracted attention from the DNC’s efforts to undermine the Bernie Sanders’ campaign. After Hillary Clinton lost the election, the Democratic Party leadership continued to focus attention on its unproven claim of Russian hacking. This focus diverted attention from the Democratic Party’s need to reform itself into a party representing everyone, not just the wealthy. Perhaps some also view the collusion allegation as a way of building support for impeaching Trump.

Regarding the foreign policy area, the allegation of Russian hacking fits nicely into an ongoing PR campaign to convince Americans that Russia is our enemy. Russia, under President Vladimir Putin, has dared challenge worldwide U.S. supremacy. In addition to economic sanctions, a military response to this challenge is possible and the U.S. public must be prepared to accept and support it.

If there were no Russian hack of these emails, those creating and benefiting from this allegation while knowingly increasing the risk of a nuclear conflict, are beyond the pale.

Wealth over work, $28,684 to $1

On September 27th, media reports outlined the tax plan hammered out in secret by the GOP’s so-called Big Six. The morning of the 28th, the writer Stephen King tweeted his scorn: “Same old same old. The fat man’s busy dancing while the poor man pays the band.”

The poor man doesn’t really pay the band, but there’s plenty of reason to second King’s emotion.

The proposals reaffirm the Republican obsession with shoving more money into the pockets of people whose pockets are already bulging. The haves, and only the haves, would reap billions by repealing the alternative minimum tax and the estate tax. More would go in the same direction by taxing the income of pass-through businesses at 25 percent.

Worst of all, the proposals make not even a gesture toward eliminating the biggest single contributor to income inequality in America: lower taxes on income from wealth than income from work. Income made sitting by the side of the pool (capital gains and dividends) gets taxed at a lower rate than income from wages. For taxpayers in the top bracket, the preferential rate amounts to a break of roughly 40 percent (23.8 percent on investment income vs. the top marginal rate of 39.6 percent on ordinary income). The tax break for the everyday well-off is even greater, 15 percent vs. 28 percent, a savings of over 46 percent.

Candidate Trump promised a big gesture, ending the carried interest loophole that lets hedge fund managers mislabel their income as capital gains.  They’re “getting away with murder,” he said. They are, and the crime pays big-time.

It’s true, of course, that the rich hand over by far the biggest share of individual income taxes in America. It’s also true that an ever-greater portion of their income flows from wealth rather than work. That means a major tax break on ever-more billions: driving up the net incomes of the super-rich and the merely rich, driving up inequality, pushing effective tax rates on the upper reaches so low that Warren Buffett says his office workers pay at a higher effective rate than he does.

It also means that work is taxed more than it should be, or that wealth is taxed too little, or both. Steven M. Rosenthal, a senior fellow at the Tax Policy Center, frames the issue starkly: “We’re taxing the rich much too lightly because we tax capital so much less than labor.”

Trump is a golden example of who strikes gold under the GOP plan. Bloomberg News denounced “The Trump Tax Reform’s Pass-Through Boondoggle,” calling it “a great deal for the Donald Trumps…of the world.” Leaked pages from the president’s old tax returns show that he paid an alternative minimum tax of $31 million in 2005—a tax he now wants to repeal. The Trump family, of course, would benefit “yugely” if the estate tax gets the ax.

Tax expert and author David Cay Johnston founded a news service to focus on “what the President and Congress DO, not what they SAY.” In an article on that website, Johnston showed what happens (and what presidents and Congresses knew would happen) when tax policy favors wealth over work. He used IRS data to compare “the very highest income Americans in 1961 and 2013 with the vast majority, the 90%.”

His calculations may surprise taxpayers of all incomes:  in real terms, adjusting for inflation, effective rates have dropped sharply over those 52 years. The 90% paid an average 9.6 cents out of every dollar in 1961, but only 7.6 cents in 2013. The 400 richest paid 22.9 cents in 2013 compared to 42.4 cents in 1961.

“That’s a rate cut of 19.5 cents per dollar,” Johnston wrote, “that’s almost 10 times as large a tax-rate cut applied to a lot more dollars.” It lifted the 2013 tax savings for the super-rich to an average of $51.6 million.

The gusher came after-tax.  Comparing 2013 to 1961, the income of the top 400 rose on average by $195.4 million. For the 90%, the average rise was $6,812. “Now here comes the…ratio that may take your breath away. For each dollar of increased after-tax income enjoyed by the vast majority in 2013, the top 400 enjoyed $28,684 more. That’s $28,684 to $1.” (The ratio was even greater with Social Security taxes factored in.)

Trump’s proposed tax cuts are now masquerading as GDP growth hormones. Modest cuts, if any, are being touted as a middle-class bonanza. The real bonanza will stream even more to wealth, not work.

$28,684 to $1. And the GOP wants more.

Protesting Against Adani: The National Day of Action

Melbourne

“Be careful, you might get run over.”  So squawks an administrator from the local RMIT University as she dashes towards Princess Park, Melbourne. The need for this jet propulsion enthusiasm is clear: a gathering is being organised in the park, amongst other venues, in a national day of action. The bogeyman? The Indian monster mining concern, Adani.

Across some 45 venues in Australia, protestors gathered, banners flown, speeches given. “I have a two-year old daughter,” exclaimed Bondi surf life saver Simon Fosterling at the Sydney end of the protest on Saturday, “and I don’t want to have a conversation with her in 10 years time and the mine’s gone ahead and she says to me ‘dad, why didn’t you do something’.”

Adani is one of many examples how a world after democracy works, with a country’s functionaries – in this case Australia’s – no better than bureaucrats pushing the agenda of the unelected, giving funeral orations on sovereignty. Exit democracy; welcome lobbies and sweetheart deals.

When members of parliament enthusiastically extend their hands to a company which has little intention of being left to the predations of the free market, we know that the world has been inverted.  Natural economic selection might be what is promoted by the free-traders, but the practice is a fiction.

Behind many a significant Australian politician is a staffer, a lobbyist, or an obscure official with some profane tie to the natural resource industry. (Think Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk an Adani lobbyist and Bill Shorten’s former chief of staff Cameron Milner.

In Australia, those against market intervention, coddling and backing fortunate “winners” against unfortunate losers, don different hats when it comes to certain industries. In those instances, parliamentarians become socialists for the corporation, divvying up tax dollars for those engaged in sacred pursuits, especially those renting the earth.

Be it a fawning Labor government in Queensland (water rights and royalty concessions) or the accommodating Conservative government in Canberra (a huge loan), Australian politicians have been salivating at every chance to throw money at the Indian concern.  This is rampant corporate colonialism, and the natives have arms widely stretched in almost treasonous welcome.

The glowing achievement of this effort will be a near billion dollar loan for the company, footed by the Australian tax payer via the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility.  The money will subsidise a proposed railway line from the mine site in the Galilee Basin to Abbot Point coal port.

The effort is all the more impressive in its soiled quality given the steadfast refusal by the banking sector to fork out anything for the corporation.  Adani’s efforts have so far failed to convince any major bank that their Australian coal venture is a sound one.  Coal is seeing its last days, and only the dinosaurs continue worshipping at its shrine.

The impetus for some of the organisers behind the Saturday protest came from the juicy outlining of Adani’s exploits in the ABC’s Four Corners program, though Stop Adani and a range of groups have been busy documenting the company’s exploits for some years.  The court record of the company, spanning employment, environmental and criminal law, is thick.

The ABC team did much in revealing the nature of Adani’s corrupt modus operandi while also receiving a disconcerting welcome at the hands of police whilst being detained in an Indian hotel. But it also revealed a stunned former Environment Minister, Jairam Ramesh, who could barely believe that Australia’s public purse was being allied to the company’s venture.  “I’m very, very surprised that the Australian government, uh, for whatever reason, uh, has uh, seen it fit, uh, to all along handhold Mr Adani.”

A central fear about its proposed operations is what will happen to the environment, most notably the already imperiled Great Barrier Reef.  Ravaged by coral bleaching and climate change, the reef’s fragile existence is further threatened by an Indian family’s private interests.  Imagine, for instance, a repeat of the 2011 oil spill off the coast of Mumbai, where an unseaworthy vessel carrying 60,054 metric tonnes of Adani coal found its way to the bottom of the ocean.

Added to that the company’s reluctance in pursuing cleaning up operations, and the picture gets gloomier, given that 60 million tones of coal could be passing through the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage area.

The company’s operations over the years reveal a persistent track record of ecological criminality and despoliation, thinning out tourism industries, destroying beaches and poisoning rivers.  To this can be added contentious and patently dangerous employment practices, some involving child labour.

To add a delightful rounder to the resume, Adani is also adept in its bookkeeping.  Evading taxation is one of its fortes, with Environmental Justice Australia and Earthjustice noting how “13 of the 26 Adani subsidiaries registered in Australia are ultimately owned in the Cayman Islands.”  This must surely be the more ironic, if fiendishly brilliant endeavour: to avoid paying tax while receiving tax funds.

Saturday saw the release by the Stop Adani group of polling figures by ReachTEL that 56 percent of Australians were against the mine. (This, of course, is hardly overwhelming opposition, but counts as something.)

The movement against Adani has found public voice, and gathering momentum.  Environmental prudence is finally finding steam, supported by apocalyptic visions of poisoned reefs and river beds.  The political agents of mismanagement are, however, ready to do their worst.  Mining fundamentalism remains in charge.

Doctors’ Capitalist Ethos and the Fight for a Fairer Tax Code

Doctors’ aggressive opposition to a more equitable tax code reflects a capitalist ethos that’s often been at odds with public health.

The Canadian Medical Association, Coalition of Ontario Doctors, Ontario Association of Radiologists, Canadian Association of Radiologists and Ontario Medical Association all joined the newly formed Coalition for Small Business Tax Fairness. The Canadian Chamber of Commerce, Canadian Taxpayers Federation and Canadian Federation of Independent Business are also part of this large coalition established to scuttle a government initiative to lessen tax advantages for wealthy small business owners and remove loopholes that incentivize incorporation for high paid professionals (two thirds of doctors have a corporation to reduce their taxes).

The government’s proposal would restrict business owners’ ability to lower their tax rate by sprinkling income to family members — who do no work for the firm — in lower tax brackets. The changes would also limit certain companies’ investments in stocks and real estate and the ability to convert a corporation’s regular income into capital gains, which are taxed at a lower rate. The government says the proposed changes would have almost no impact on anyone making under $150,000 a year, but doctors often make $300,000, $500,000 or more and the higher the income the greater the savings under the current rules. According to a summary of the 2014-15 fiscal year, 500 Ontario doctors received over $1 million from the provincial government with the top-biller claiming $6.6 million.

Currently high paid doctors and other professionals often pay lower taxes rates than nurses. That injustice and the Ontario Medical Association president’s claim the proposed tax changes would harm patient care prompted the Canadian Nurses Association to endorse the government’s tax plan. The CNA noted, “should the proposed changes pass, provincial and territorial governments should see an increase in revenues which can be invested in strengthening our publicly-funded health services, which in themselves employ thousands of salaried, highly-skilled professionals who pay their fair share of personal income taxes.”

While nurses defend public healthcare, doctors have long promoted a capitalist model of medicine that maximizes their wealth and power. In 1962 doctors in Saskatchewan, the birthplace of Canada’s universal healthcare system, went on strike for 23 days to block Medicare and other health reforms that weakened their power over medicine. After working to stymie the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation’s proposed health reforms for two years, in July 1962 doctors withdrew their services and launched a massive public relations campaign when the government introduced its long promised health improvements. As part of the research for The Year We Became Us: A Novel About the Saskatchewan Doctors Strike Gary Engler examined the Moose Jaw Times Herald’s coverage of the work stoppage. The rhetoric was over the top. One editorial was headlined “Legal Profession Next to be Socialized” and another “The Day That Freedom Died In Saskatchewan”. That story claimed, “the people of Saskatchewan are now awakening and find that their province has been slowly, and in recent months much more rapidly transformed from a free democracy into a totalitarian state, ruled by men drunk with power.”

(The Saskatchewan doctors’ fight against Medicare was assisted financially by the American Medical Association, which has long been a major obstacle to public health insurance in the US. According to Stan Rands in Privilege and Policy: A History of Community clinics in Saskatchewan, “by 1920 the American Medical Association, fearing that public financing would lead to public control of medical practice, had opposed health insurance regulation by any state or federal government. The AMA saw health insurance as a threat to its independence and, like the CMA, proposed that health insurance be carried through private companies.”)

Fortunately, the CCF (NDP predecessor) government remained steadfast and the doctors lost their battle against universal health insurance, which was extended to the rest of the nation a few years later. But, the Saskatchewan doctors won a number of concessions, notably fee-for-service billing. Unlike Britain where most doctors are salaried employees of the National Health Service, Canadian doctors are overwhelmingly paid per visit/x-ray/operation. Remunerated based upon the number of clients they see, doctors have a financial self-interest in treating rather than preventing ill health.

Careful consideration of the efficacy of every test or treatment, which should underpin all medical evaluations, is too often overlooked when financial benefits are to be had. In fact, one reason drugs are over-prescribed is that doctors are generally paid the same whether they stay with a patient for two or twenty minutes. While a prescription can be written in seconds, it takes time to fully understand an individual’s health history and to offer them ways to avoid illness.

Doctors draw their income and prestige largely from curative medicine, but advances in life expectancy and overall health have largely been shaped by improved public health measures such as sanitation, pollution controls, workplace safety regulations, infection control standards, etc. Further improvements will most likely come through broader sociological dynamics such as reductions in inequality and poverty, or improvements in education, healthier food systems, exercise-oriented urban planning, etc. In Betrayal of Trust: The Collapse of Global Public Health Laurie Garrett estimates that “86 percent of increased life expectancy was due to decreases in infectious diseases. The same can be said for the United States, where less than 4 percent of the total improvement in life expectancy since the 1700s can be credited to twentieth century advances in medical care.” While Garrett may be overstating her case, public health measures that seek to prevent illness is what works.

By aligning with corporate lobbyists opposed to a more equitable tax code, doctor associations have provided an opening to those who believe a mistake was made at the dawn of Medicare. Like almost everyone whose income comes from public funds, doctors should be paid a salary. This would better align their interests with Medicare, public pensions and many other social programs that have improved overall health as well as working class Canadians who overwhelmingly support a fair tax system to pay for improved government services.

The World Beyond Capitalism

A New Idea Addresses Some Old Problems

The chron was conceptualized to solve the biggest problem in Capitalism: labor costs. Controlling labor costs to maximize profitability has unleashed the forces of Capital against the world’s population. Globalization is a direct result of capital institutions’ need to control costs and undermine the bargaining power of workers in developed regions by creating competition with workers from less developed regions. Implementation of the chron will eliminate labor costs for Capital because people will essentially pay themselves through their effort. It will also eradicate the exploitation of workers in developing regions. The chron will enable people from all regions to be paid to a common standard. It will immediately lift the standards of living for billions of people and facilitate the transformation of our world into one in which the benefits of modern civilization can be enjoyed by all.

Right about now, critics are probably foaming at the mouth or simply incredulous at the idea of paying people in their own time. “Sounds like another crazy socialist idea,” is probably the thought. “If we pay everyone with their own time, then everyone will essentially be paid the same amount relative to how much they work regardless of what job they perform, right?”

Yes… and no.

Not One Money, But Two

The issue of taxation always brings into question for whom and at what rates would it be most fair. Should the rich be taxed more? Are the non-rich shouldering their fair share? The chron answers a couple of interesting questions regarding taxation. The first one is: what is the fairest way to tax earned income?

The answer is: You don’t. Ever.

Everyone owns their own time. To place a tax on something that fundamentally belongs to the individual can only be considered theft. If I turn my time into productivity and thus currency, society already benefits from my efforts; what right does anyone, particularly a government, have to claim any portion of that? Only the threat of force makes such a proposition remotely feasible. In this respect, libertarians are correct. What is earned as a result of a one’s effort should not be able to be claimed by any other entity. In other words, taxation on income that is earned, particularly if it is in a currency like chron which is simply a validation of something which already rightfully belongs to the individual, is fundamentally criminal.

That’s great! So that nips the whole taxation thing in the bud, right?

Actually, no. In the world of the chron, taxation will still be very necessary. So how would taxation be handled in a “chronist” economy? Like fiat currency now, not all chron will be earned. Many will be acquired as a result of exchange for goods and services or investment returns. Chron acquired in this fashion would be taxable as they were created as a result of passive rather than direct effort. However, unlike taxation in its current form, taxation of chron will serve a specific, critical purpose, which will later be examined.

So, there are actually two kinds of money in the world, that which is earned through work and that which is accumulated through exchange. Chron which are earned are called “eChron” as in “earned chron.” Chron that enters into the process of exchange are called “xChron” or “exchanged chron.” The chron life cycle involves two main processes: the first is the creation of chron through work and the second is the exchange of chron for goods and services.

The basic premise of the chron from a taxation standpoint is that any chron which is earned as the result of work, or eChron, should never be taxed in any way. A person’s time belongs to them; the idea that any entity can claim another’s time as a tax is anathema to this premise. However, once eChron have been exchanged for goods and services, they become part of the greater exchange economy and thus are converted to xChron. In the exchange economy, profit acts as a tax on the consumer by creating a surplus which is claimed by the provider of goods and services in most commercial exchanges. As profit is the net of revenues minus expenses, there is no effort truly associated with it. The best way to describe profit is “a convenience tax,” a determination of value and demand for payment by the provider of goods and services simply for having conveniently provided those goods and services. This is not necessarily a negative thing as profit acts as the incentive that drives the market economy.

However, profit is, for all intents and purposes, “free money”; it can be used in many ways, from making business improvements to increasing incentives to rewarding investors. However, in an economic environment featuring the chron as currency, the major expense of labor is eliminated, greatly increasing profit potential. Since chron represents actual value as opposed to potential value, ensuring their responsible use is essential. To prevent irresponsible accumulation and encourage responsible use, taxation can be very effective. As the chron in the economy accumulate, taxation may even become vital to their guaranteed productive use in society.

What’s important to understand about the chron is that its use does not preclude the profit motive. Unlike the bartering and pseudo-bartering of other time-based currency systems, the chron is actual money. It can be utilized exactly like fiat currency and is perfectly compatible with current models and methods of trade, commerce, and investment. In other words, the chron is perfectly compatible with market-style economics. For example:

Regarding the earlier “socialism” question of people essentially being paid the same amount relative to how much they work regardless of what job they perform, the answer was both yes and no. The chron is an elegant solution because everyone will essentially make the same amount of earned chron for their work, regardless of what job is performed. So, both the doctor and the janitor in a hospital will make the same number of eChron if they work the same number of hours. Salaried workers in any discipline will make the exact same amount of eChron if they have negotiated the same work week in hours (note: the chron can be applied to both wage- and salary-based compensation models).

However, people with skill-sets in higher demand can be compensated with additional xChron which would come directly from the revenues of the organization hiring for the skill-set. For instance, while a doctor and janitor will make the exact same 2,400 eChron over a forty hour work week, the hospital may choose to compensate the doctor an additional 1,200 xChron per week for a total of 3,600 total chron per week. The chron system has a built-in fail-safe to prevent excessive supplemental xChron compensation because all xChron are taxable. Taxation on xChron can be applied in a variety of models tailored specifically to address overcompensation or over-accumulation.

The chron is the ideal currency for a market-style economy. It is far superior to fiat currency because it fundamentally makes markets smarter.

Smarter Money

What if, rather than selling you an item for $5, I sold it to you for 5 minutes of productive effort? Wouldn’t that type of transaction create a more intimate understanding of the relative value of the transaction? Wouldn’t it allow you to have a greater understanding of the exchange relative to the time and effort required to complete it? For example:

If I loaned you 500 xChron and charged 24% interest, would you feel comfortable repaying back an additional 2 hours of your time and effort on top of the 8 hours and 20 minutes required to repay the principal of the loan? What if the interest was 99%? Also, extending the loan itself requires little effort; however, it will, in the best scenario, take about a business day of actual work to repay. Would you say that you have a better understanding of how the debt directly impacts your time and effort?

In our current economic system, it is difficult to correlate money to time and effort when it comes to resolving debt. Money is an abstraction that prevents a true understanding of value because it is an inherently poor measure of value. In other words, money is a particularly dissociative concept because it isn’t worth anything in and of itself and only arbitrarily measures value for any given circumstance. So, borrowing money often doesn’t seem like that big a deal.

However, the figures mask the real burden of debt. Using the example of the $500 USD loan at 24% interest, a person making the worldwide average of $18,000 USD per year with 15% disposable income would need to perform roughly eleven weeks of productive effort to repay the loan. In this instance, the loan represents almost three months of time converted into productive effort.

When you think of it from this perspective, it’s clear that, when you are given a loan, you are actually being “advanced” your own time. So what then does the interest on that loan represent? It is basically a tax on your time and effort; it is the time and effort you give freely to a creditor for the convenience of converting the time and effort you already own into a fungible asset called “money.”

So, what could be considered a “fair” amount of interest on a debt? Historically, the act of collecting any interest on debt has been considered a negative practice called “usury.” Usury was considered to be an unethical practice that indentured or even enslaved those in debt by saddling them with an interest burden that was excruciatingly difficult or even impossible to repay. It’s difficult to determine in any given circumstance what a “fair” amount of interest on a loan is.

However, the chron creates a direct correlation to time and effort that allows individuals to have more useful information in any transaction. When you know exactly how much something costs in relation to your own time and effort, you are more likely to make better financial decisions. The chron also exposes the predatory nature of compound interest; would people tolerate a tax on their time and effort that compounds?

By having currency directly correlate to time and effort, people will be able to make financial decisions with a better understanding of their ramifications. The chron significantly reduces the need for people to have extensive knowledge of finance to effectively manage their own money; it allows for a perpetual real-world understanding of how all financial transactions entered into by a person will affect that individual in time and effort.

Health is Time

As previously stated, the chron allows a level of precision in economic mathematics that would be unprecedented. The move from multiple currencies that are valued subjectively and arbitrarily to one that is objective and precisely measured will allow very detailed insights into work, standard of living, and enterprise, the likes of which have never existed in economic study.

The chron is particularly useful when it comes to value-setting and pricing models. Setting prices with fiat currencies is by its very nature grossly imprecise. From resources and materials to labor, all facets of determining value with fiat currencies are arbitrary as a result of being set by markets. However, almost all facets of production can be measured in time with strong correlation to effort; complex or inefficient methods of production or productivity will generally be more time intensive while the reverse will be true for highly scaled and efficient methods of production or productivity. For the most part, setting the value for products or services is a simple equation of time invested in production or effort plus profit denominated as chron.

However, the chron exposes one particular area of the economy for which pricing is inherently difficult and results in severe distortions. In fact, the distortions are so great in the U.S. that the entire system has just undergone a very unpopular overhaul… the area is health care.

If you envision a world in which productive effort as measured in time is money, then it is clear that health is probably the single most important factor to an economy. It’s no secret that the staggering costs associated with health care motivated the creation of the Affordable Care Act, more famously (or infamously) known as Obamacare. The hope was that, by subjecting health insurance costs to greater market forces, substantial reductions in those costs would result. However, the chron reveals that the value of life simply can’t be fairly quantified. How do you fairly price health tests or treatment? When it comes to improving health or saving lives, what is fair market value for services? If a doctor saves your life, is there any price that can be paid to even the scales?

The answer would have to be “no.” A physician could realistically lay claim to anything you produce after the fact as a result of having saved your life. In some ancient cultures, saving a life resulted in the person whose life was saved becoming indentured to the person who saved them. Even in chron, a person would have to pay a lifetime’s worth in order to equalize the scales and that would be counter-productive to actually having been saved in the first place. Even in the event that a healthcare worker is not saving a life, what is the value of preventative medicine, physical therapy, or convalescent therapy?

What the chron reveals about health care is that it should be performed as a public service. It validates the concept of single-payer health care. In a chronist system, all healthcare would be provided on a completely not-for-profit basis. This should not preclude the use of xChron for additional compensation to attract doctors or others with valuable skill-sets; it just means that the goal of hospitals and other such entities should be to price their services in such a manner as to only cover expenses and liabilities.

What about veterinary services? Can the life and health of a pet truly be quantified? It’s likely that, for most people, particularly pet owners, the answer is no. For that reason, such services should also be offered on a not-for-profit basis.

Passion > Incentives

The previous section regarding healthcare begs the question: what will keep the world from settling into a cozy stagnation of everyone performing low-skilled work to make a basic yet dignified living in chron? The answer is the same thing that motivates everyone who does something they love for free which ends up positively affecting others. The simple fact is that people like to be productive and contribute. Many are motivated to tackle the challenges of the world not because of the promise of wealth, but simply for the chance to achieve. The need to validate ourselves is part of our inherent psychological profile as a species; humans simply seem to feel better about ourselves when we make useful contributions which benefit ourselves, our families, our communities, and our society.

Our current economic system is likely stifling massive amounts of intellectual and creative power. The chron was conceptualized partly as a way to unleash that power by leveling the psychological and emotional barriers erected by the current economic paradigm. With the relative guarantee that our productive effort will, at minimum, ensure a dignified, relatively secure life, the fear and shame created by the capitalist/fiat currency system will then be channeled collectively into a force that will transform our planet. With the collective energy of our inspirations and passions unfettered, humanity will be prepared to fully achieve its potential and take our place among stars.

The World Beyond Capitalism

In case you hadn’t guessed it, there is a greater purpose to the conceptualization of the chron than just creating a more equitable world. What are the ultimate benefits of a chronist economy and why is such a change essential?

The chron is really a pretty simple concept: it seeks to resolve the contradictions of the current economic system by creating an objective, absolute currency system for true value-for-value exchange. In the end, it obsoletes the grossly imprecise and arbitrary practices of market pricing by encapsulating the value produced in society as a result of effort directly into the currency. The chron represents “time + effort”; time is an objective measure while any productive effort related to that time is valued as intrinsically equal to all other productive effort as its true value is beyond quantification. By creating money from the bottom up, the capacity for a dignified standard of living is possessed by everyone. With the shackles of the stress and shame of struggling for the basic necessities of survival removed, the full weight of human power and innovation can be brought to bear on the challenges we face in ensuring our continued survival as a species.

The chron will herald a new era of “smart” money by personalizing it and, thus, tying it directly to the concept of responsibility. It has the potential to alter perceptions and decision-making in profound ways. For instance, consider political campaign finance… would people accept the spending of billions of chron, their time and effort, for the grossly distorted and negative political theater produced in today’s economy?

Also, would people accept a small cadre controlling massive amounts of realized productive value for their own benefit? Billions of chron would represent tremendous amounts of productive human effort. It stands to reason that people would demand that those chron be used for more than the personal enrichment of another. They would want those chron to solve problems and tackle big challenges because, indeed, the human race has many.

In the end, the chron may be the key to the continued survival of the human race.

The Final Frontier

Conceptually, once a chron is produced, it can never be destroyed. Indeed, the human experience is built on the collected experiences of every event that has ever happened and it has been shown that fate has often turned on the simplest of words or actions. The chron produced by an individual will affect the existence of humanity long after their originator has passed away. Much as the artistic value of a great painting can long outlive the one who painted it, chron will continue to circulate and build our society beyond lifetimes. More importantly, everyone, regardless of their immediate impact on society, has the potential to positively impact history. The less ambitious need feel no guilt as to how they use their lives; as long as they have engaged in productive effort, their time can be reused for great things even after death. In the form of chron, time can be “re-spent” indefinitely. In this fashion, the chron is a form of immortality.

Right about now, some may wonder at the practicality of the inflationary aspect of the chron. If chron are never destroyed, won’t their value essentially become worthless?

The chron, though inflationary, will be subjected to the deflationary pressure of population decline. As Buckminster Fuller so astutely determined, increases in quality of living conditions correlate directly to decreases in birthrate. In other words, the better people live, the fewer children they produce. The chron will facilitate widespread improvements in the standards of life for billions around the world which will subsequently cause the overall world population to significantly drop, placing deflationary pressure on chron production.

Chron production can also be controlled in other ways, such as mandatory ages for entering into the workforce and retirement as well as fewer mandated hours per work week. It’s also likely that, with a high standard of living being far more attainable in a chronist economy, some people will just work less and devote more of their time to leisure pursuits.

Likely, the most effective way of dealing with chron supply will be taxation. The amount of productive effort, both actual and potential, of which society is capable is immense; chron production will likely quickly outpace society’s ability to absorb them. To ensure the proper balance of chron in society, chron can be removed via taxation and “deactivated.” Much as kingdoms of the past used treasuries to store surplus wealth, national treasuries can store chron and release them strategically for a variety of purposes. For instance, there will be many people who, as a result of accident or disease, are not able to do productive work. In these instances, a government provided “social safety net” could easily cover their treatment and/or living expenses. In this fashion, the work of society can be used to support those who are truly less fortunate without negative impact.

A vitally important aspect of the chron is that it is an impeccable store of value because it represents value itself. It stores the value of productive effort just as history does. The chron is inflationary, debt-free money that will always be intrinsically valuable. In the years ahead, that will be tremendously important.

Time is Running Out

Whether we understand it or not, we are in a race against time. At this point in history, the statistical odds of the human race going extinct at some point are 100%. The only way to improve those odds in our favor is to become a space-faring culture. It is imperative for the human race to embark on a scientific and technological endeavor to colonize other worlds. With fiat currency saddled by debt, it is tremendously expensive to fund such a purpose in our current economic system. The forces of the market have barely motivated us to duplicate the space exploration achievements of almost half a century ago. The cost is too high and the pace of development is too slow in our current economic paradigm to ensure we can develop the technology and lifestyle necessary to avoid extinction. Our efforts must be accelerated to give ourselves a fighting chance.

The chron guarantees the funding necessary to meet that challenge. As an inflationary currency, the chron money supply will grow quickly enough to create the surpluses needed to fund the massive-scale projects necessary for extra-planetary colonization. As the chron is also inherently debt-free currency, future generations will not be saddled with the burden of repayment and the subsequent destruction of time/effort value. In other words, the chron allows us to shoulder the financial demands of these endeavors “up front.”

In the world of the chron, technology will still play a vital role. But rather than deprecate work and displace the worker, its role will become clearer as a tool that serves society rather than drives it. It will play a vital role in performing work that is too tedious or dangerous to be performed by humans. It will facilitate the elimination of fossil fuels as our primary energy source thus reversing centuries of ecological damage. The advancements of technology will bring a standard of living to billions of people that they could only have hoped to enjoy in our current economic system. And, ultimately, it will lead us to other worlds; massive new machines will allow us to terraform worlds while nano-machines will augment our immune systems, providing protection against extraterrestrial microbes as humans reach distant planets and expose ourselves to alien ecosystems. While the institutions of capital used technology always with an eye on driving down labor costs and creating new consumers, technology as an industry will finally get the chance to fulfill its purpose as a force for unambiguous, positive change.

Capitalism was once essential, but now we have outgrown it. It’s time to embrace a new economic system that will not enslave our children with debt and shame. It’s time to embrace a new economic system that will unlock the potential of the human species and allow us to save the home we have while enabling us to find new homes among the stars.

Why It Matters

The truth is that the chron is not inflationary, it is expansionary. The chron will initially alter the complexion and psychology of the world by eliminating poverty and empowering people to fulfill their potential. As surpluses are developed, it will be used to incentivize people and groups to develop the technology necessary to spread humanity into outer space. In other words, the abundance of chron will actually motivate the expansion of the human race.

A new class of social elite will develop. They will be vanguard of humanity, the ones who personally assume the challenge of developing and using the technologies that will expand the human race to the universe. They will be engineers, scientists and explorers. They will have grown up in a world without want, one that allows art and culture to flourish because human potential is allowed to grow and breathe. Strong traditions will develop again and, as the psychology of the world changes, families will learn to be closer to one another again.

Everything won’t be roses, though. Beautiful ground is just as fertile a place for weeds as it is for flowers. Bigotry and prejudice may flourish in a world where people have the time to truly contemplate perceived differences. Will the new elite be revered as pioneers or envied for the wealth and status they will accumulate as a result of being the trailblazers for humanity?

It is highly unlikely the chron will solve every problem faced by humanity. However, what it will do is let the genie out of the bottle. We live in a world in which our economic system thrives on the concept of scarcity though technology defeated it not too long ago. Using technology, our planet has more than enough resources to comfortably provide for everyone, everywhere. The sad truth is that we are perpetually fighting a psychological war against poverty. Not just including the rich but especially the rich. We are terrified of want, but we’ve already won the war. Capitalism served its purpose, now it is time to let it go. Our economy is designed for scarcity, yet there are practically infinite resources in the Universe. Our economy should reflect the reality of our existence…  that there is a great, big Universe out there waiting for us to experience it. If we are going to save our species and give our progeny a chance to survive, it is imperative that we end Capitalism and implement a better way.

Not the End, but the Beginning

I wrote this essay because it needed to be written. I think it is apparent that there are fundamental problems in our current economic system and I decided to devote a few brain cells to figuring out how to fix it. Maybe the chron isn’t the answer, but I hope it will get people to really think about the question in fundamentally different ways. We live in perpetual boom and bust cycles. Despite the amazing progress made in the last few centuries, the world is still plagued by crime and misery. Albert Einstein once stated that the definition of insanity was to do the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. It’s time to do something different to change the result.

Capitalism is a fundamentally amoral system. It doesn’t care if harm is done as long as profit is achieved. We’ve created a system of laws to rein in its worst impulses, but many of them still slip through the cracks. Most crimes are simply extensions of Capitalism, the forces of competition involved in creating supply to meet demand. The illicit drug trade is one such stark example. Many other crimes and vices are a result of the psychological distortions created by Capitalism. Frustration and hopelessness created in an economic environment that has no respect for the value of time and life motivates indulgences in a variety of forms. “Sex, drugs, and rock and roll” are a mantra; escapism is not only a way of life, but big business as well. The forces of Capital built up the world and the collateral damage was acceptable because it brought us so far, so fast. But everything has a price. Global warming, pollution, and devastating ecological damage are the results. In a world in which we are all connected, the need to create profit commodifies the most important “capital” of all: Humanity.

I wanted to conceptualize a solution that invests everyone. Industry and commerce should appreciate the chron for removing labor costs from the equation. Libertarians and those on the economic right should appreciate the chron for its self-deterministic qualities that encourage personal responsibility; it offers no free rides, people still have to work to make a living. The chron emphasizes that social safety nets should, at the very least, be voluntary; no government should be able to mandate how someone uses their time and effort. It also has the potential to obsolete some social safety nets by removing the competition between Capital and Labor entirely. Proponents of the left should appreciate how the chron places money creation directly into the hands of the people, finally giving them the power to set their own course. Social conservatives should appreciate the chron because of its potential to severely reduce crime, indulgence, and social excess. Governments should appreciate the chron because it still requires central authorities to manage the validation process. With less economic tension worldwide, governments and militaries will likely shrink. People will then be invested in making sure the people representing them are actually “thought leaders,” people who can truly guide the collective efforts of humanity to greater heights of development and civilization.

I’ve barely scratched the surface of the chron in this essay. There is so much more it can reveal about our society. For instance, the chron presents a natural solution for the death penalty. Rather than execution, a reasonable alternate is that a person can become an indefinite ward of the state. Such persons could be utilized for excessively dangerous work by the state or otherwise have their productive effort utilized. They could never own their own time again.

In this vein, restitution rather than punishment could be an acceptable alternative for economic crimes. For instance, thieves could make financial restitution to their victims in chron through prison work programs. Rather than being incarcerated for specific terms, criminals convicted of economic and financial crimes can work off their debt until it is fully paid. Such a system would likely discourage large-scale theft.

The chron is also a powerful concept in cases of wrongful conviction. In the event such an injustice is committed and the person is exonerated by new evidence, they can then claim their chron back from the state. With the chron, the value of a person’s lifetime efforts are always preserved; even one wrongfully convicted could rebuild their life with the chron created by their work in prison.

A chronist economy also greatly improves the chances for rehabilitation of criminals by reducing recidivism. In a world in which labor pays for itself, many jobs that were once too expensive for capital to assume, particularly those associated to resource reclamation, can be performed by former prisoners or others who may not be able or willing to perform other types of work. Reclamation efforts, such as mass clean-ups or deconstruction of fixed capital, such as old factories or even whole cities, will have a massive, willing pool of labor who will not have to bear a stigma for performing an honest day’s work. In the capitalist system, former prisoners struggle to find their place in a world that is hostile to them even after they’ve paid their debt to society. In a chronist economy, their efforts will be welcomed, giving them the real opportunity to start anew.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I think the chron is an amazing concept with stunning possibilities. I intend to write more about how it can be utilized for a variety of pricing and economic models. Applying the chron to the areas of writing and book publishing is an interesting challenge. I’ve already created a scenario allowing the chron to be applied effectively to blogging and journalism. I hope that others, particularly economists, will find value in this concept and expand on it.

So this is the end … or the beginning. The chron may not catch on right away, but it is more than likely that a cataclysmic event, such as a world-wide economic collapse, will cause everyone to rethink the sense of our current economic system. I wrote this essay for that day. If the chron finds widespread acceptance sooner, that would be great. However, if not, I hope this serves as a place to start if the worst should ever happen.