Informed, Active, Citizenship Required 

Saturday, October 23, 2004

My fellow Americans. Today we face a growing trend of corporate power in the World leaving unprecedented wealth in the hands of the few while an alarming number of average hard working people are surly and steadily working harder and harder for less and less capital and opportunity. This global corporate trend is striping governments of power and its citizens of wealth.

Never before, in modern history, has such a large problem been so ignored. Indeed, this problem is the root of many of the World's challenges today, including war, terrorism, disease, poverty, and Earth's eroding environment. Because information is overwhelmingly distributed by these same corporate powers, passive recipients rarely become aware of these issues. Indeed, it takes a good deal of effort to seek information unfiltered by corporate entities that hope you never catch on.

The last time an unregulated corporate force was slowly working to consume the
World's resources without properly compensating the people who work so hard to provide them, a rouge group of intellectuals caught on to the scam and revolted. Today, Americans call them the Founding Fathers. Thanks to them, we can now revolt with our votes instead of our blood. But even that basic right is trending into the hands of corporate power, slowly slipping away from the hands of We The People. Citizen apathy has allowed this, and citizen action can stop it before it's too late.

Public officials govern with the consent of the citizens, and none deserve blind loyalty. Kneel before your creator, but hold the fire under your politician's feet. And never confuse the two. Actively pursue information from sources other than Television and Radio, share your information with as many people as possible, and VOTE VOTE VOTE!

Liberty, privacy, and opportunity for all depends on an informed and active citizenry demanding their preservation. Don't ever forget that it is not only your right, but your duty, to peaceably assemble and petition your government for a redress of your grievances. Unfortunately, this is a right that goes away if unused.

Fool's Gold, The Bush Tax Cuts 

Sunday, October 03, 2004

There once was a little boy, age 6, walking toward an ice cream truck with a tattered old dollar bill. A (somewhat) clever 14 year old walked up to him and said, "Hey kid, how would you like to have 4 shiny new sparkly pennies for that one measly old tattered dollar?" The boy's face lit up. The prospect of more money and newer money excited him and he immediately took the deal. Of course, he never got his ice cream. He had been robbed. Worse yet, he happily aided the robbery.

You and me laugh at this. Of course the key to the scam depends on the naivety of the boy and his naturally occurring desire to get the most valuable things. At age 6, he simply didn't understand that the dollar represented an equivalent to 100 pennies. All he knew was that he had more items, and better-looking items. His naive greed had caused him to devalue his wealth even though he was aiming to increase it.

This was actually based on a true story, and I told it to make a point. If you laughed at that kid you now understand why I laugh (and cry) over people who vote for candidates who promise you the Bush Tax Cut. It's essentially the same scam, but much more complex. Due to its complexity, most people have the naivety (and greed) of that 6 year old boy and cheerfully support the theft of their wealth. The key to the scam is based on three elements: most people don't know the difference between wealth and money, most people think that more dollars automatically equals more wealth, and most people want the most dollars they can get. So before I explain the scam, we must first visit the issue of wealth and money.

When I was a kid I wondered why those fancy little green pieces of paper were so important to everyone. I would ask what money was, and how it could be of value. The answer I’d always get was, “Well, it used to represent the amount of gold locked up in Fort Knox, but now it’s just worthless paper and they just print more anytime they need more.” As it turns out, most perfectly intelligent adults believe this myth. I believed it well into my adulthood. But it’s not true.

The concept of wealth emerged when humans realized they often needed or wanted something they couldn’t get without help. The barter system was born naturally; it’s a system of direct trade. If you have control of farm land, I’ll help you maintain it if you feed me. I give labor (your need, my wealth) and you give food (my need, your wealth). But this is a flawed system because it’s dependent on me having something you need before I can barter for something you have. If you had enough labor, I would not have access to your food. To make its flaw even clearer, think of it in today’s context. I’m a software developer, that’s my base wealth (being able give the service of software development). But if we had a barter system I could only obtain other wealth from people who needed software development in trade. Or I might find someone who has some wealth I don’t need but will trade it for software development work, then trade that wealth (assuming it retains its value) with the person who has the real wealth I want. It gets complex and difficult quickly – and such a system makes overall wealth worth less because it is harder to get (thus less demand for it).

So “wealth” in essence is anything that is desirable, and capital wealth is anything that can continually produce more wealth (e.g. I can keep coding software in trade of other wealth). Food, land, transportation routes, timber, minerals, fossil fuels, and the overall health and skill sets of the people are all examples of a land’s natural wealth. What the people do with all that natural wealth, and how they do it, is the man made wealth of the land. To solve the barter problem, and create more wealth, currency was invented. Currency enables indirect trade. A trusted institution (The Federal Reserve on behalf of a citizen elected government in our case) evaluates the overall wealth of the land, breaks it up into units (dollars and cents in our case) and distributes it through loans (using one’s capital wealth as collateral), grants, and government jobs. With money in existence, you can take your capital wealth of labor and trade it with only one source (a job). That job gives you a bunch of IOUs we call dollars. They are IOUs of the marketplace, and can be redeemed anywhere in America (or in other lands that trust American currency). Thus, you have access to wealth in the marketplace equal to the amount of value your capital wealth can create in any given time period. It’s called indirect trade. It creates greater wealth because wealth becomes more accessible and thus in higher demand. Dollars are merely certificates that represent the overall wealth of a marketplace. Having dollars means that the marketplace owes you that much wealth. But as the marketplace changes value, there are only two options: change the value of the dollars, or change the amount of dollars in circulation. You can’t just print more anytime you want – it would naturally cause the dollar to devalue (in fact, one of Hitler’s last ditch attempts to win his war was to try and print enough counterfeit money from other nations to crash their economies). When the value of the marketplace decreases each dollar in it becomes worth less because all combined dollars in a trusted marketplace must equal the value of that marketplace. So you either take dollars away, or you make them worth less (because more dollars are split up among less wealth).

Every American, being an equal citizen of The United States of America, is born with a guaranteed minimum capital wealth: You’ll have food, shelter, clothing, and health care until age 18 (or when you’re too disabled to provide for yourself, and when you’re over age 65), you get a high school education and guaranteed higher education loans, your labor is guaranteed minimal capital wealth, you have access to police to protect you from crime, you have first responders to help in emergencies, you have clean air, clear water, safe food, reasonable access to energy sources, you have free (or cheap) access to transportation routes, access to communications (with free speech), access to books (libraries), access to courts to settle criminal and civil disputes, you have the right to pursue more wealth, and you have a military that protects you from foreign threats. This “minimum capital wealth” that every American has is the foundation of the protection of your rights, your liberties, and your right to pursue more wealth. It is the only thing that guarantees everyone the opportunity for capital gain (if you're not rich and you'd like to be, the minimum capital wealth is the best doorway of opportunity for you). The minimum capital wealth is the "plug in the bathtub" for all the great wealth of America. If the minimum capital wealth is reduced, all wealth is reduced. People with a lot of wealth already don't mind much, that just means less people will be a threat to their bottom line. They'll take the cut in wealth because they can afford it, and it gives them more stability.

In the game of capitalism, no matter how much wealth someone has, someone else with a better idea can compete with that person for that wealth. The minimum capital wealth is what makes that possible. But those that have wealth already don't like the fact that some clever young gun with a great idea can compete for their wealth. And so they came up with the Bush tax cut plan to preserve their wealth and trick average folks out of their minimum capital wealth (and thus strip them of opportunity to compete).

When government borrows money to pay for itself, all wealth declines in value. This is because the money is borrowed from the marketplace where that money could have been invested in real ventures. Also, wealth declines because each citizen's tax dollars now go partly to paying that debt instead of running government. Most importantly, wealth declines because taxpayers (via government, the creator of currency and arbiter of the marketplace) become a source of capital gain to investors. This means our government is handing over its wealth to private investors slowly but surly with every dollar borrowed.

Additionally, because of the shortfall in tax revenue, not even borrowing money has covered the costs. Bush has cut funding to many of the crucial programs that ensure the stability of your minimum capital wealth, thus reducing its value. In short, Bush has taken more wealth from your bottom line than dollars he has given you with a tax cut. You have accepted four shiny new pennies in exchange for the tried and true dollar. If you support it, and vote based on in, you're that 6 year old (or you're one of those preserving the above average wealth you've already accumulated).

Average Americans often support the pro-corporate, pro-rich policies of the Republican party because they hope to someday be in a position to benefit from them. But do they realize that the polices are actually greatly reducing their chances of becoming wealthy?

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