(Concerning Some Modest Economic Proposals)
To participate in THE CONSENSUS PROJECT:
> Read PART THREE below; > state your thoughts about the numbered consensus items by clicking on “LEAVE A REPLY” at bottom of this page. At the least, please give each Consensus Item a score in a range of 1 to 5, where 1 = Hate it and 5 = Love it. (NOTE: Further details on these and many other proposals for changing our economy are available in the book Populist Corrections accessible on this blog’s home page.)
> Repeat for PART FOUR (next weekly posting to this blog).
> If these proposals interest you please Invite Others into The Consensus Project by clicking on the media icons at the end of each Part (email is under the “+” icon). After 100 people respond, I will post summaries on fixypopulist.com for all to see. Thank You.
* * *
PART THREE: PRECLUDING RETURN OF THE PROBLEM
So, having started the ball rolling toward a steady-state economy, let’s explore where else it might roll to the equitable benefit of all our nation’s people for a change. At the very top of the list, absolutely essential for any ethical economy, are two basics:
1. Economic Rights. [The Consensus Project #11] A defined benefit of American citizenship will include assurance in federal law of enough income to buy adequate 1) food; 2) clothing; 3) shelter; 4) health care; 5) transportation; 6) insurance mandated by law; 7) college education or savings but not both at the same time; and 8) an economically secure retirement. Every American has a right to these basics. Together, they represent the foundation level of the much-touted “American way of life.” You don’t have it unless you can afford to buy all eight of these.
From 1776 onward we Americans have always preached much about “liberty,” but we have been mostly silent about the economic fundaments that make our liberty possible and meaningful. “Political liberty” is a meaningless concept for any American who lacks an economic living income adequate to buy these eight basic human needs. Any American forced to repeatedly choose between food, medicine and rent is not free. Who cares to get out and go vote when the old car has broken down, there’s no money to fix it, the refrigerator’s empty and the kids are crying? Sadly, our schools don’t teach the important difference, and intimate relationship, between economics and politics—a basic distinction everyone needs to understand.
2. A Living Wage. [The Consensus Project #12] Throughout the nation every co-op and entrepreneurship employing fulltime workers will be required under federal law to pay not less than a “living wage.” A living wage is defined as the level of income needed to purchase all eight economic rights. Since the cost of living varies in different regions, the federal government will annually update the average cost of economic rights in each region and will publish National Living Wage Regional Baselines (NLWRB) for all to see. That takes care of the decreasing majority of Americans who are employed fulltime…
..but it does not take care of all the increasing numbers of people forced into part-time, seasonal, or on-demand work. They include on-demand mini-mart, Walmart and Amazon employees, restaurant workers, seasonal farm laborers, and others engaged in the so-called gig economy who increasingly lose the ability to plan their own private time. Although their employers can be required to pay the Living Wage rate for these workers—when they work—many seldom experience a normal forty-hour week, or even a whole month fully employed. This is unavoidable for some, such as pickers on fruit and vegetable farms—when a crop is picked, it’s picked, so the worker must go find more work somewhere else. Restaurants might be required to pay Living Wage instead of the prevailing pittance that unreasonably expects workers to “make it in tips,” but restaurant patrons come and go, so many owners of smaller restaurants cannot ensure steady payouts when their own cash flow is unsure.
INNOVATIONS for part-time and seasonal workers. No, whole new ideas—your ideas—are needed. How can we ensure that seasonal and part-time workers enjoy a living income like everybody else? Assuring adequate income is foundational to our new U.S. economy. One logical assumption is that after earning whatever wages they can earn each month, the balance of a living income would be paid from a special federal government fund established (like Social Security) for that one purpose. Perhaps each such worker would “earn investment in the system,” and perhaps employers of such part-time workers would pay a matching amount into the fund—there are many ways to finance such a fund. At the same time, in equal fairness to All The People, the age-old welfare bugaboo must be faced: How can any system prevent a few parasitic louts from simply under-working and unfairly mooching off the tax-paid special fund (i.e., impoverished counterparts of the corporate parasitic louts like the big-big-bankers who come whining for government bailouts when they tank the economy)?
One thing is clear—our new Living Wage system must have two distinctive parts, one for fulltime workers and another for part-time and gig workers. Your creative thinking is needed, dear reader. Think it over, write your good ideas in the Comment section below and let’s see what develops when multiple minds focus on how Americans can help each other… When everyone receives a Living Wage the government can stop publishing poverty statistics, and payday lenders will be outlawed for the brigands they are.
Making and supplying our own national product needs. [The Consensus Project #13] Entrepreneurships may sell whatever they want to so long as it’s legal. By contrast, co-ops will be required to select from among, and provide in their respective regions, the vast range of legal goods and services all Americans need. For example, one co-op may elect to sell clothing, another to build houses, another to manufacture farm and lawn tractors. With 327 million Americans and rising yearly, we are our own best market. Manufacturing our own national needs for pots and pans, shoes and clothing, cell phones and televisions, cars and furniture and fabrics of all kinds—instead of importing them from far away overseas nations—will create tens of millions of new jobs across the USA. All our new jobs will pay not less than a living wage, and that’s for starters before raises and promotions.
And then we will wholly cease importing from other countries all the products we can make for ourselves—which is virtually everything every American household needs—just like we used to do before the economists bamboozled us into corporatized globalization that serves only corporations, makes their controllers rich, and reverses the natural dynamics of demand (stimulus) and supply (response) to impoverish the rest of us and limp along as a penurious “service” economy. Mygod.
Abolish international trade agreements. [The Consensus Project #14] Starting immediately, the enormous U.S. manufacturing capacity we used to have—the world’s most massive free-enterprise industrial capacity that was frittered away in dumb trade agreements driven by a lunatic economic ideology of austerity—will be rebuilt with a wartime urgency equal to 1942. And all (all) international trade agreements will be summarily abrogated, including but not limited to: AFTA, CAFTA, DR-CAFTA, GAFTA, NAFTA, SAFTA, TAFTA, SHAFTA, APTA, MEFTA, CEFTA, COMESA, SICA, SADC, MERCOSUR, TPP, GCC, FTAA, G-3, US-SAUC, EFTA-SACU, and EU-ACPS (no fooling, all but one of these are real). With an absolute national policy to import only the few raw materials that we cannot provide for ourselves, tariffs (like unions and welfare) will no longer be needed. Those U.S. producers foolishly grown dependent on exporting their products may find it prudent to look around and consider how they can sell their products in a way that better serves their own countrymen.
Enable practical matching of supply with demand. [The Consensus Project #15] The federal government will annually publish a list of all the goods and services that must be available to ensure every citizen has access to the eight economic rights. Other products irrelevant to economic rights will not be precluded, but they will not be on the list. Every co-op will use that list to select which good(s) and service(s) it wishes to make and/or sell. After this process initially sorts out and settles down, if the combined strength of all co-ops is insufficient to supply all domestic needs for goods and services, any unmet needs in any region will be assigned to that region’s entrepreneurships—which of course will remain free to sell whatever else they want to. As patriotic responsibility, all entrepreneurships and co-ops doing business in the USA will be expected to place their highest priority on meeting the consumer needs of the American people. Individual citizens will of course remain free to order pots and pans (etc) internationally from foreign sellers, if they’re willing to pay the shipping cost, provided that such foreign goods may not be priced lower than equivalent goods made inside the USA.
Abolish advertising. [The Consensus Project #16] Advertising of every nature—be it manifested visibly, audibly, electronically or subliminally—will be abolished throughout the United States and let us breathe a collective good riddance to this mercantile-greed-driven counterfeit stimulator of spurious, non-authentic consumer over-demand that in turn drives colossal over-consumption which in turn drives colossal over-pollution that in turn drives global warming which is killing our civilization in slow motion. Any attempt by any seller to persuade any American to buy anything that American might not otherwise of his/her own free will and uninfluenced volition have chosen to buy may be prosecuted as a misdemeanor. Internet pop-up ads and commercial phone calls at suppertime will constitute a felony. Entrepreneurships and co-ops will remain free to give public notice of their goods, services and prices in their front windows and on their websites, and any innovative person may freely create online billboards whereby shoppers can compare local prices.
County and city governments may elaborate this ad ban endlessly as they see fit, and will be authorized to collect fines as big as they like from violators of ad bans. The range of taxable possibilities extends to—and is by no means limited to—roadside billboards, tobacco signs on barns and beverage signs on windows, digital pop-ups on computer screens, radio and TV commercials including Superbowl insanity, brand-name blimps above fairgrounds, brands printed on shoes, bellies, clothing and hats, the front page of newspapers, bumper stickers, political ads that can be replaced with stump speeches, unwelcome telephone solicitations from unknown, unwanted and deceptive solicitors at suppertime, neon-lighted cacophonies surrounding Times Square and the Las Vegas strip at great cost and waste of otherwise useful electrical energy, and ads personally targeting individuals based on intrusive analysis of their private purchase records. All these and more, among the multitudinous forms of advertising and marketing everywhere on U.S. soil and in tattoos and in the very ether surrounding us, shall be hereafter consigned permanently and comprehensively back to that hell from which they sprang.
Abolish profit. [The Consensus Project #17] The concept of “profit” will be abolished in the USA, and all excess of income over expenses will henceforward be defined as “surplus.” In the co-ops, all that formerly vanishing profit siphoned off to stockholders and CEOs will stay in the co-op to be re-invested in its business viability and employee salary increases. The seven-times multiplier effect of money thus retained and locally spent will revivify local economies in thousands of communities across the nation. Entrepreneurs may use their surpluses as they please.
Abolish stock markets. [The Consensus Project #18] With corporations and their stocks become moot, all stock markets of every nature will be abolished in the USA. Abolition will be attended by appropriate public celebrations including observation that the chancy stupidity of gambling never was any way to run the economy of the world’s greatest nation or manage its gigantic budget and even more immense national wealth. It becoming necessary then to invent productive uses for the empty offices formerly used by the gambling, speculating, lying and cheating denizens of Wall Street, those long-wasted spaces will be converted to very-low-rent (VLR) apartments.
Wall Street itself as the ultimate symbol of capitalistic predation will be turned into environmentally pleasant pathways for pedestrian strolling. Good topsoil will be hauled in to make dozens of street-wide vegetable gardens any citizen may rent for $29.17 a month with proviso that zinnias and marigolds must be planted around each garden’s borders, with thornless berries an option. New York City will be invited to regulate activities on this nicer kinder Wall Street, albeit tardy in the breach. Need for the federal government to continue pretending to do so will be flewn a’wee, as they say.
Co-op manager selection & Pay scale. [The Consensus Project #19] All co-op executives, managers and supervisors will be chosen by vote of the employees who will be working under them. All candidates for these positions must first qualify by passing an environmental intelligence test designed to see if they have any. A co-op’s top executive may be paid up to eight times more than the lowest-paid employee of that co-op—and that’s all—and all other employees will be paid within that range. Every employee top to bottom may also receive bonuses provided everybody gets them at the same time, plus, if they earn them, individual merit raises.
Co-op governance. [The Consensus Project #20] Co-op employee-owners will by majority vote decide their co-op’s operating policies and procedures, and every employee will receive annual training in the best ways to achieve business success. Constant innovation in every co-op will be pursued through suggestion programs that mandate at least one suggestion from every employee every month, and no relevant topic whatsoever will be exempt from suggestion. Absolutely no government bailout will ever be allowed for the business failure of a co-op or entrepreneurship. The public interest will be protected by 1) the 5% Rule and 2) examining failed co-ops for fraud or misconduct (criminal statutes of course apply).
Personnel and robots. [The Consensus Project #21] Executives, managers and supervisors will have their performance annually evaluated by the employees working under them. For every employee of every rank, promotions, demotions, firings, annual job performance rating and eligibility to receive merit pay raises will be decided by the supervisor and fellow employees because nobody knows better than the workers who works and who sloughs off. Whether “tenure” is to be recognized in higher education or other professions will be decided by each state without assumption that years spent in a job ensures competence in that job. Since co-ops do not exist to boost profit by cutting cost, whenever a robot might be brought into a co-op’s production process and result in a loss of one or more jobs, the dollar benefit of adding the robot will be compared to the communitywide economic-multiplier benefit of the job(s) and Living Wages that would be eliminated by that robot, and where financial gain is less than fifty percent (50%) the default bias will be to keep the job(s).
Cooperatives Bank of America. [The Consensus Project #22] The Federal Reserve System, that bastion of top-down economic nudging, will be summarily abolished and its assets immediately converted into a new Cooperatives Bank of America (CBA) to serve as the nation’s central banking and financial oversight agency. Being of utmost interest to the nation and every citizen, the CBA will be an independent federal agency subject only to joint governance by Congressional legislation passed by two-thirds majority in House and Senate plus Executive assent.
The CBA will maintain local and regional branch offices in every corner of the nation, constantly assessing economic wellbeing and the public interest in each region. With responsibility to promote employee-owned co-ops as the heart of economic stability in the USA, and ensure that co-ops always serve the common national interest, the CBA will help co-ops plan for how best to meet local-regional product and service needs and will financially support their development of ability to do so. CBA programs will teach employees how to run co-ops, will encourage co-ops to form regional self-help networks, and assist them in doing so. The CBA will encourage and promote development of community credit unions and food unions supplied by innovative farmers’ markets.
The CBA will establish incentives for co-ops to address U.S. policy priorities, and will publish an Assessment of Progress Toward National Priorities every four years with the results widely distributed one year before each presidential election. The CBA will ensure that all entrepreneurial and co-op banks offer only simple savings, checking and loan functions—and nothing more—and maintain reserves of not less than thirty-three percent (33%) of deposits. Credit unions and entrepreneurial banks will not be allowed to lobby, not nobody nohow, or to form associations to circumvent these rules, though their employees as private citizens may say whatever they want to anybody who will listen.
The CBA will enforce new rules for honest, open, understandable financial reporting by co-ops, banks and all other organizations doing business in the USA. In general, so-called “proprietary information” will be abolished in favor of full and open information sharing among co-ops. Co-ops will constantly inform each other of “what works best” for the public good, and this information will be available to entrepreneurships. Nobody (nobody at all) may issue any bonds until the CBA certifies that the bond issuer can for sure repay the obligation without any risk to taxpayers who might otherwise be on the hook in event of default as ever before. The CBA will assist the U.S. Department of State in a major new U.S. policy initiative to assist developing countries interested in replacing corporations with co-ops and other features of these U.S. economic changes.
Co-ops recycling & agricultural reform. [The Consensus Project #23] Before any new co-op may begin doing business, it must find ways to put all its waste byproducts to good use. Every co-op will accept its own products back for recycling when they’re finally worn out. All (meaning absolutely ALL) plastics used in the USA must be recycled so they’re kept out of the environment and severe penalties will apply for violations. All (ditto) organic and food wastes generated by agriculture- and food-related co-ops and restaurants in the USA must be composted and used to enrich soils, with a goal of eliminating seventy-five percent of chemical fertilizers within six years.
Co-ops producing food crops will place highest priority on edible vegetables for Americans. Monoculture farming and industrial-scale food animal production will be abolished over the next five years. Chemicals and pharmaceutical drugs at any level above parts per trillion in the American food supply chain will be outlawed. Converting private lawns to gardens will be strongly promoted, and all government subsidies for industrial-scale agriculture will be summarily abolished.
* * *