Averting The Apocalypse: Lessons From Costa Rica

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By Jason Hickel for Local Futures – Earlier this summer, a paper published in the journal Nature captured headlines with a rather bleak forecast. Our chances of keeping global warming below the 2C danger threshold are very, very small: only about 5%. The reason, according to the paper’s authors, is that the cuts we’re making to greenhouse gas emissions are being cancelled out by economic growth. In the coming decades, we’ll be able to reduce the carbon intensity of the global economy by about 1.9% per year, if we make heavy investments in clean energy and efficient technology. That’s a lot. But as long as the economy keeps growing by more than that, total emissions are still going to rise. Right now we’re ratcheting up global GDP by 3% per year, which means we’re headed for trouble. If we want to have any hope of averting catastrophe, we’re going to have to do something about our addiction to growth. This is tricky, because GDP growth is the main policy objective of virtually every government on the planet. It lies at the heart of everything we’ve been told to believe about how the economy should work: that GDP growth is good, that it’s essential to progress, and that if we want to improve human wellbeing and eradicate poverty around the world, we need more of it. It’s a powerful narrative. But is it true?

Now Available: 2017 Workers To Owners Impact Report

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By Staff of Democracy At Work Institute – “The collaborative came together in 2016 to respond to a moment of generational opportunity. In the next 15 years, hundreds of thousands of businesses employing millions of people will be sold, consolidated or closed as Baby Boomer business owners retire. Our goal is to ensure the safety of these community economic anchors and local jobs, and to catalyze a wave of business conversions to cooperative employee ownership, which has been proven to increase equity in our most vulnerable communities” says Democracy at Work Institute Executive Director Melissa Hoover. This report shows tangible outcomes of the worker cooperative model, including growing press coverage, interest from minority business support organizations, implementation by the economic development community, and policy support at federal, state, and regional levels. The data contained in this report includes the latest data available, with the majority of information through Q2 of 2017 and select information we have collected from Q3 2017. Throughout the report we see a coordinated, strategic effort that, even in its short life, has moved the dial on employee ownership conversions, raising awareness and enlisting partners. The report points toward a promising future, prompting a greater investment of time and resources paired with a close eye on trends and deeper analysis.

40% Of Detroit Has No Internet, They Are Creating Their Own

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By Kaleigh Rogers for Motherboard – Being stuck without access to the internet is often thought of as a problem only for rural America. But even in some of America’s biggest cities, a significant portion of the population can’t get online. Take Detroit, where 40 percent of the population has no access to the internet—of any kind, not only high speed—at home, according to the Federal Communications Commission. Seventy percent of school-aged children in the city are among those who have no internet access at home. Detroit has one of the most severe digital divides in the country, the FCC says. “When you kind of think about all the ways the internet affects your life and how 40 percent of people in Detroit don’t have that access you can start to see how Detroit has been stuck in this economic disparity for such a long time,” Diana Nucera, director of the Detroit Community Technology Project, told me at her office. Nucera is part of a growing cohort of Detroiters who have started a grassroots movement to close that gap, by building the internet themselves. It’s a coalition of community members and multiple Detroit nonprofits. They’re starting with three underserved neighborhoods, installing high speed internet that beams shared gigabit connections from an antenna on top of the tallest building on the street, and into the homes of people who have long gone without. They call it the Equitable Internet Initiative.

Relative Poverty Rate Increased By 1.3 Points In 2016

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By Matt Bruenig for People’s Policy Project – Every year the Census Bureau publishes the official poverty rate and the supplemental poverty rate. The official rate groups all related people in a household into one unit, adds up all the cash income that flows into that unit (except tax credits), and then compares that income amount to a poverty line that varies based on the number of people in the unit. The supplemental rate works similarly except that it takes the cash income concept from the official rate, adds cash-like benefit incomes and tax credits to it, and then subtracts taxes paid, child support paid, child care expenses, work expenses, and medical out-of-pocket expenses. The supplemental rate uses a poverty line that varies geographically and by the number of people in the family unit. In addition to the official and supplemental rates, it can be useful to look at something called a relative poverty rate, which is more commonly used across the world. The relative poverty rate figures provided below are derived in the following manner: Each family’s income is determined by adding cash income, cash-like benefit income, and tax credits, and then subtracting taxes paid and child support paid.

Landmark Study Links Tory Austerity To 120,000 Deaths

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By Alex Matthews-King for Independent – The paper identified that mortality rates in the UK had declined steadily from 2001 to 2010, but this reversed sharply with the death rate growing again after austerity came in. From this reversal the authors identified that 45,368 extra deaths occurred between 2010 and 2014, than would have been expected, although it stops short of calling them “avoidable”. Based on those trends it predicted the next five years – from 2015 to 2020 – would account for 152,141 deaths – 100 a day – findings which one of the authors likened to “economic murder”. The Government began relaxing austerity measures this year announcing the end of its cap on public sector pay rises and announcing an extra £1.3bn for social care in the Spring Budget. Over three years the additional funding for social care is expected to reach £2bn, which Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said was “patching up a small part of the damage” wrought by £4.6bn cuts. The study, published in BMJ Open today, estimated that to return death rates to their pre-2010 levels spending would need to increase by £25.3bn. The Department of Health said “firm conclusions” cannot be drawn from this work, and independent academics warned the funding figures were “speculative”. However local councils who have been struggling to fund care with slashed budgets urged the Government to consider the research seriously.

Prosperity Through Keystrokes: Understanding Federal Spending

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By Steve Grumbine. It has long been known that our electoral system and methods of voting are corrupt, untrustworthy, and easily manipulated by less than savvy politicians, state actors, and hackers alike. The answers to many of these issues is the same answer that we would need to push for any progressive reforms to take place in the United States: namely, we need enlightened, fiery, peaceful, and committed activists to propel a movement and ensure that the people rise, face their oppressors, and unify to demand that their needs be met. What is not as well-known, however, is how a movement, the government, and taxes work together to bring about massive changes in programs, new spending, and the always scary “National Debt” .

Experts Explain How Wall Street Loots The Economy

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By Pam Martens and Russ Martens for Wall Street on Parade. If you feel lost in the cacophony of contrasting claims that Wall Street was adequately reformed under the Dodd-Frank legislation of 2010 or that it remains an insidious wealth transfer system for the 1 percent, then you need to invest one-hour of your time to listen carefully to some of the smartest experts in America address the topic. A free one-hour video is now available (see above) which should settle the debate once and for all that the Dodd-Frank legislation of 2010 has failed to deliver the needed reforms to Wall Street’s corrupt culture and fraudulent business models and that nothing short of restoring the Glass-Steagall Act is going to make the U.S. financial system safe again. Don’t let the grainy quality of the video turn you off (it was made from a live webinar): the integrity of the voices will quickly reassure you that you are watching something powerful and critical to the future of the U.S.

Voters Say ‘Yes’ To City Run Broadband In Colorado

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By Jon Brodkin for ARS Technica – Industry groups tried to convince voters to reject the municipal broadband network; the city’s mayor called it a “misinformation” campaign by the broadband incumbents. “I was very encouraged with the passage today, and particularly with the headwinds of incumbents trying to misinform the electorate,” Mayor Wade Troxell said, according to The Coloradoan. The anti-municipal broadband group, called “Priorities First Fort Collins,” spent $451,000 campaigning against the broadband network ballot question. Priorities First Fort Collins received nearly all of its funding from the Colorado Cable Telecommunications Association and a group run by the city’s chamber of commerce. Comcast is a member of both groups that funded the anti-municipal broadband campaign, while CenturyLink is a member of the chamber. The pro-municipal broadband group in Fort Collins, the Fort Collins Citizens Broadband Committee, spent less than $10,000 in the campaign. “This is another David vs. Goliath battle,” Glen Akins, who helped lead the Citizens Broadband Committee, told Ars last week.

Organic Farm Co-op To Be World’s Largest Food Producer Using 100% Renewable Energy

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By Staff of Co-operative News – Organic Valley is creating a solar partnership that is set to increase overall usage in Wisconsin by 15%, and will incorporate insect-friendly habitat. Organic Valley, America’s largest co-operative of organic farmers, is set to become one of the largest food companies in the world to source 100% of its electricity from renewable sources. The co-op is collaborating with the Upper Midwest Municipal Energy Group (UMMEG) and OneEnergy Renewables to create the solar community partnership. Together, the partners will initiate over 12 megawatts (MW) of solar installations in Wisconsin. The electricity created by this partnership will not only enable Organic Valley to cover 100% of its electric energy needs from renewable sources by 2019 but also increase overall solar energy use in Wisconsin by 15%. Beyond the 12 MW project portfolio, an additional 17-plus MW expected to be constructed as well, resulting in nearly 30 MW of new solar in the region. Organic Valley will purchase renewable energy credits from the solar projects near their headquarters and distribution centre enabling the co-operative to be fully renewable-powered. It is hoped the partnership will deliver lower and more stable electric costs for all participants, alongside the environmental benefits of renewable power. Additionally, the solar community partnership will adopt pollinator-friendly solar standards, which Organic Valley says reflects its commitment to “animals, people and the planet”.

Five Ways Co-ops Are Countering Corporate Power In Cities

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By Nick Stumo-Langer for Next City – As local economies suffer from market concentration in economic sectors ranging from retail to banking, cooperatives across industries are helping to strengthen communities and keep resources local. This is nothing new; cooperatives have a long history of serving local needs. Today, the cooperative ownership structure continues to create equal economic opportunity and counter concentrated corporate power. From innovative business arrangement to community-owned renewable energy, here are five ways cooperatives are making a difference. 1. Cooperatives allow local resources to improve neighborhoods. In northeast Minneapolis, a “DIY Downtown” was born to revitalize a neighborhood long-blighted by disinvestment and distant ownership. The Northeast Investment Cooperative (NEIC) created a neighborhood reinvestment program where any Minnesota resident could join the cooperative for $1,000, and invest even more by purchasing non-voting stock. After just a year, NEIC bought two vacant properties and sold one to a local bike shop and owns and manages the other which it rents to a cooperatively owned brewery and a bakery. These businesses were in turn financed by a local Minneapolis bank. This process kept property ownership and management local.

A Worker Co-op For Returning Citizens

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By J. Gabriel Ware for Grassroots Economic Organizing – The United States has the world’s highest incarceration rate, with more than 2.2 million people in prison. And within the United States, the highest incarceration rate belongs to Washington, D.C. There, a new worker-owned business cooperative hopes to reverse those numbers, offering former prisoners opportunities for employment and healing. Though co-ops that employ formerly incarcerated people already exist, Tightshift Laboring Cooperative is the first Washington, D.C., co-op formed and operated by ex-prisoners. The co-op offers an array of manual labor services, including residential and commercial cleaning, hauling and moving, and landscaping. It also uses eco-friendly products to provide customers with affordable, high-quality cleaning services. It’s more than just a business to Juan Reid, a former inmate who co-spearheaded the cooperative. For him, Tightshift is about helping former inmates recover, find work, and counter prisoner stigmatization in the workplace. Reid, 36, was sentenced to 14 years in prison for aggravated assault when he was just 18 years old. He spent the last seven of those years in solitary confinement, an experience he says was torture and a form of “dressed-up” slavery.

The Public Bank Option – Safer, Local And Half The Cost

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By Ellen Brown For The Web of Debt – For those few politicians who are aware of the banks’ magic money tree, the axiom that the people should own the banks – or at least some of them – is a no-brainer. One of these rare politicians is Phil Murphy, who has a double-digit lead in New Jersey’s race for governor. Formerly a Wall Street banker himself, Murphy knows how banking works. That helps explain why he has boldly made a state-owned bank a centerpiece of his platform. He maintains that New Jersey’s billions in tax dollars should be kept in the state’s own bank, where it can leverage its capital to fund local infrastructure, small businesses, affordable housing, student loans, and other state needs. New Jersey voters go to the polls on November 7. That means New Jersey could soon have the second publicly-owned depository bank in the country, following the very successful century-old Bank of North Dakota (BND). Other likely contenders among about twenty public banking initiatives now underway include Washington State, which has approved a feasibility study for a state bank; and the cities of Santa Fe in New Mexico and Los Angeles and Oakland in California, which are exploring the feasibility of their own city-owned banks.

Newsletter - From Neoliberal Injustice To Economic Democracy

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By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers. This week, we will focus on positive work that people are doing to change current systems in ways that reduce the wealth divide, meet basic needs, build peace and sustainability and provide greater control over our lives. The work to transform society involves two parallel paths: resisting harmful systems and institutions and creating new systems and institutions to replace them. Throughout US history, resistance movements have coincided with the growth of economic democracy alternatives such as worker cooperatives, mutual aid and credit unions.

Myths About Rooftop Solar Are Outshining The Reality

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By Jessica Herrera for High Country News – It’s undeniable that renewable energy is booming, changing the way we get our power and shifting us away from fossil fuels that damage the environment. Yet in my home town of Tucson, which gets nearly 300 sunny days every year, a lot of plentiful Arizona sunshine is going to waste. And it isn’t just happening in the Copper State. Across the West and throughout the U.S., in the face of this rapidly changing energy market, investor-owned utilities and some energy co-ops are impeding the transition. They’re trying to protect their profits and coal-fired power-plant investments at the expense of the wellbeing of people and the planet. These power companies support lobbying groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council and Edison Electric Institute, which spout myths about renewable energy. In Florida, a Koch brothers-funded consultant encouraged the use of “political jiu-jitsu” to mislead the public and policy makers about solar. Perhaps one of the most misleading claims is that solar energy customers don’t pay their fair share for grid services and that everyone else pays the price. This “cost shift” claim has been repeated over and over again.

Huge Mobile Home Park Co-op Deal Puts Residents In Charge

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By Suzanne Potter for Public News Service – HALIFAX, Mass. – In a deal that is the largest of its kind, this week a group of 700 Halifax residents bought the mobile-home park where they live for $27 million – and they’ll turn it into a co-op run by a nine-person board. The deal at Halifax Estates was facilitated by specialists at the Cooperative Development Institute, a nonprofit that helped the residents get a loan and form their co-op board. Thomas Choate, a cooperative housing specialist at the CDI says the board collects rents on the mobile-home spaces and decides how to put the money to good use. “With the surplus that they have in any particular year, they have agency to point that surplus where they would like in that community,” he says. “And also, rather than an investor having the profits to themselves, the homeowners often can keep their rents lower.” The homeowners, many of whom are seniors, don’t have to put up any money, although they are collectively liable for the loan. The rent on the spaces tends to be at or below market rate, since the profit motive has been removed. In addition, the co-op board screens new residents. In this way, Choate says many lower-income communities have been able to stamp out persistent problems with drug and crime.