Tenants March To Stop Giveaways To Wall Street Landlords

Margie Mathers, a housing activist with MH Action, speaking at the Tenant March on Washington, July 12, 2017.

By Aditi Katti for Inequality.org – It was a brutally hot and humid day in the nation’s capital and Margie Mathers needed a cane to get up to the podium, but the Florida senior had a story she was determined to tell. “When I moved into our manufactured housing community in North Fort Myers, it was a beautiful, peaceful place,” Mathers told the crowd of around 1,000 activists who’d converged on the city for a July 13 Tenant March on Washington. “Now I have neighbors who are really struggling. They’re taking their medications every other day instead of every day and not eating the food they need to be healthy.” What changed? Her development had been purchased Equity LifeStyles Property Inc., a private equity firm specializing in developments where residents own their trailer homes but rent the land under them. This new landlord quickly jacked up Mathers’s monthly rent to $630, from $230 just four years ago. To fight back, Mathers became involved with MH Action, which is organizing owners of manufactured homes to protect the affordability and quality of their communities. This group co-sponsored the Tenant March, along with more than a dozen others, including New York Communities for Change, Community Voices Heard, People’s Action, CASA de Maryland, and the Center for Popular Democracy. Organizers reported that marchers came from 16 different states.

How Big Is America’s Employee-Owned Economy?

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By Thomas Dudley for Fifty By Fifty – Before we jump into EO, let’s take a look at the size of the American private sector. Each year, every business operating in our economy is counted by the U.S. Census Bureau. The results are summarized in the Statistics of U.S. Businesses (SUSB). According to the SUSB, in 2014 there were 5.8 million businesses employing 121 million Americans in the private sector. Not all of these businesses would be eligible to be employee-owned — for example companies setup by a lone freelancer. Looking at firms with at least 5 employees, we find 2.2 million businesses employing 115 million Americans. Now thinking about employee ownership, the most general notion of EO would include everyone who has any ownership stake in their place of work. There are numerous forms of ownership, but stock ownership is the core of American capitalism. After all, it is the stock owners who are entitled to a company’s profits and who elect the board of directors. If we define EO as encompassing everyone who owns at least one share of stock in their employer, we cast a wide net. This definition includes everyone from a low-level employee who owns a few shares in their 401k, to a partner at a law firm, to a CEO who owns 100% of their business. It’s reasonable to assert that over 99% of businesses in America employ at least one person who owns at least one share of stock.

'Democracy Vouchers' Amplify Low-Income Voices

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By Josh Cohen for The Guardian. If money amplifies the voices of wealthy Americans in politics, Seattle is trying something that aims to give low-income and middle-class voters a signal boost. The city’s new “Democracy Voucher” program, the first of its kind in the US, provides every eligible Seattle resident with $100 in taxpayer-funded vouchers to donate to the candidates of their choice. The goal is to incentivize candidates to take heed of a broad range of residents – homeless people, minimum-wage workers, seniors on fixed incomes – as well as the big-dollar donors who often dictate the political conversation. This August’s primary is the trial run for the program. But before Seattle can crow about having re-enfranchised long-overlooked voters, it must contend with conservative opposition.

Tesla’s Big Battery Will Change Power And Politics

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images/ Elon Musk unveiling new Power Pack

By Lloyd Alter for Tree Hugger – We have written previously about how Tesla will kill the duck in Australia in 100 days or it’s free. Now more detail has come out about what is being called the world’s largest battery, that Elon Musk is building. It will store energy generated at a big wind farm and deliver power during peak hours in South Australia. Tesla said it “will help solve power shortages and manage summertime peak load to improve the reliability of South Australia’s electrical infrastructure.” Elon Musk told a press conference how his $50 million bet on the 129MWh battery will work: You can essentially charge up the battery packs when you have excess power when the cost of production is very low … and then discharge it when the cost of power production is high, and this effectively lowers the average cost to the end customer. It’s a fundamental efficiency improvement for the grid. I have complained that electric cars really don’t change all that much, but the work that Musk is doing on batteries like this is going to be world-changing. Politicians do not want to recognize this; in the USA right now, Energy Secretary Rick Perry is “studying,” as David Roberts of Vox puts it, “whether baseload power plants (mostly coal and nuclear) are being unfairly pushed off the grid, thus threatening grid reliability, national security, and our precious bodily fluids.”

Building Red-Green Alternatives: Can Commons Challenge Neoliberalism From Below?

Inger. V. Johansen, Tom Kucharz, Satoko Kishimoto / Photo: Bettina Gram

By Inger V. Johansen and Gitte Pedersen for Transform! – Following on from our fruitful experience at the 2016 conference, when the issue of Commons was discussed as an integral part of the economic and ecological alternatives we are seeking to develop, we made Commons the focus of this year’s conference. We decided to address the subject from different perspectives, including how to use Commons in transforming society and the limitations involved in doing so. This was an extremely successful conference. We even managed to incorporate Commons into our general debate on alternatives, linking it to the all-important red and green strategic perspectives of our conferences. Nevertheless, we have concluded that, here in Denmark, it is still difficult to raise the debate on Commons at conferences. In this country, Commons is almost exclusively discussed in a few closed political and academic circles. The number of participants at this conference was fewer than on previous occasions, with a decrease in young people in particular. We believe that this reflects the problem. We simply need more time and discussion before we are able to focus specifically on the issue of Commons once again. In the future, we will therefore choose to integrate Commons into the overall themes of the conferences and debate. We strongly feel that we need more debate on privatization and remunicipalization, which is a big issue in Denmark.

Seattle Makes History – Passes ‘Tax The Rich’ Income Tax

Kshama Sawant addresses a crowd of "tax the rich" supporters outside at a rally before the vote.

By Andre Roberge for Progressive Army – Even though this may seem like cut-and-dry common sense legislation, this ordinance still has an uphill battle ahead of itself. Former Washington State Attorney Rob McKenna laid bare the main issues as follows: 1.[The city] would also have to persuade the Supreme Court to ignore an existing state statute that prohibits counties, cities … from imposing a tax on net income. 2.[What they] would have to do is persuade the Supreme Court to overlook its own precedent. The precedent alluded to above deals with a 1930s Washington Supreme Court decision that states “income is property, and the state’s constitution declares that all property must be taxed uniformly.” Since Seattle’s proposed income tax is a progressive tax and not “uniformly” distributed onto all tax brackets, the Supreme Court would have to redefine property. Some critics have gone even further.

Renewable Energy Is Becoming So Cheap US Will Meet Paris Commitments

Why insist on coal as solar gets cheaper?	(AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

By Zoë Schlanger for Quartz – Research analysts at Morgan Stanley believe that renewable energy like solar and wind power are hurtling towards a level of ubiquity where not even politics can hinder them. Renewable energy is simply becoming the cheapest option, fast. Basic economics, the analysts say, suggest that the US will exceed its commitments in the Paris agreement regardless of whether or not president Donald Trump withdraws, as he’s stated he will. “We project that by 2020, renewables will be the cheapest form of new-power generation across the globe,” with the exception of a few countries in Southeast Asia, the Morgan Stanley analysts said in a report published Thursday. “By our forecasts, in most cases favorable renewables economics rather than government policy will be the primary driver of changes to utilities’ carbon emissions levels,” they wrote. “For example, notwithstanding president Trump’s stated intention to withdraw the US from the Paris climate accord, we expect the US to exceed the Paris commitment of a 26-28% reduction in its 2005-level carbon emissions by 2020.” Globally, the price of solar panels has fallen 50% between 2016 and 2017, they write. And in countries with favorable wind conditions, the costs associated with wind power “can be as low as one-half to one-third that of coal- or natural gas-fired power plants.”

Renewables Generated More Power Than Nuclear In March And April

A new rate settlement in Colorado could help boost rooftop installations like this one in Boulder. Credit: Getty Images

By Eric Wesoff for GTM – Solar farms planted on an abandoned nuclear plant site or powering a coal museum or atop a strip mine offer stark images of the ascendance of renewables. But forget metaphorical images — utility-scale renewable electricity generation in March and April actually surpassed nuclear for the first time since July 1984. (Ronald Reagan was president, and “When Doves Cry” was the No. 1 hit on the radio.) Recent months have seen record generation from wind and solar, as well as increases in hydroelectric power because of 2017′s wet winter (note that these numbers, from the Energy Information Administration, do not include distributed solar). Most of the time, conventional hydroelectric generation is still the primary source of renewable electricity. But one of the takeaways from this data set is the emergence of wind in the last decade as a material slice of the energy mix. The U.S. wind industry installed more than 8 gigawatts in 2015 and did it again in 2016. The country now has over 84 gigawatts of installed wind capacity. Another takeaway is the relatively diminutive contribution from solar, which falls between geothermal and biomass in its annual contribution. The U.S. installed 14.5 gigawatts of solar last year, up 95 percent over 2015.

Our Best Shot At Meeting Paris Goals? Make Energy Public

“Cities and towns that want well-run water and sanitation services, low-cost access to the internet, and affordable housing should keep those operations public.” Photo by Charles Cook via Wikimedia Commons.

By Sarah van Gelder for Yes! Magazine – Mayors across the country have vowed to deliver on the goals of the Paris climate accord in defiance of President Trump’s decision to back out. But how can they, realistically, when the national government is questioning climate science and promoting coal, fracking, and pipelines? Simply put: Make energy public. Instead of privatizing city services, as some policymakers have long advocated, a new report shows that public ownership gives cities and towns the best shot at meeting renewable energy and efficiency targets. “Reclaiming Public Services: How Cities and Citizens are Turning Back Privatization,” a study by the Amsterdam-based Transnational Institute, challenges the ideas that governments are ineffective service providers, that private companies are more efficient, and that austerity budgeting and reductions in public service are inevitable. Cities and towns that want well-run water and sanitation services, low-cost access to the internet, and affordable housing should keep those operations public or run by local nonprofits, the report found. If these services are now private, the institute recommends “re-municipalization.” The report is based on research involving 1,600 cities in 45 countries that have chosen public ownership over corporate ownership, especially of their energy and water systems.

Financial Industry Split On Speculation Tax

(Photo: Funny Solution Studio / Shutterstock)

By Sarah Anderson for Inequality.org – Wall Street lobbyists have the luxury, at least for now, of largely ignoring calls for a U.S. tax on financial speculation. While Senator Bernie Sanders made such a tax a centerpiece of his presidential bid, the Republicans who now control Washington are focused on delivering tax cuts — not increases — to their banker friends. But in Europe, it’s another story. Ten EU governments have committed to imposing a small tax on stock and derivatives trading as a way to raise massive revenue for urgent needs while also encouraging longer-term sustainable investment. And while the European negotiations over tax design have dragged on for several years, they are now close enough to cutting a deal to make industry opponents genuinely worried. The financial lobby is putting particularly intense pressure on the new French president, Emmanuel Macron. A former banker, Macron is viewed as a potential weak link in the coalition that has been working to develop the tax. To help counter this pressure, 52 senior financial professionals have broken rank with their industry peers and released a joint statement in support of financial transaction taxes (FTT). The signers include Lord Adair Turner, the UK’s former top financial regulator, Rob Johnson, president of the New York-based Institute for New Economic Thinking and the former managing director at Soros Fund Management…

G20 Is Desperately Trying To Save A Failed World Order

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By Nick Dearden for Aljazeera – The Hamburg G20 might go down in history as the moment the international elite just couldn’t hold it together any longer. For years, leaders of the most powerful countries have come together to cooperate on how to run the world: the G6, G7, G8, G20. Their watchword was stability. Holding it together was far preferable to allowing an international free for all. Agreeing among themselves was preferable to cooperating with small, poor and troublesome nations at the United Nations. That’s why they invented this system of global policymaking. But the global elite has fractured. In the run-up to the Hamburg G20, the talk was of the global strongmen who had taken centre stage, for whom diplomacy was simply war by other means. The power of Trump, Putin, Erdogan and their ilk derives from a form of nationalism that believes global rules are for the weak. The G20 came to prominence in 2008 after the financial crash meant the richest G8 countries needed the wealth of emerging nations to stabilise the world economy. The likes of Saudi Arabia and Turkey were granted a seat at the table. In London in 2009, they patted themselves on the back on a jobwell done. But their reforms were too timid, too beholden to the free-market ideology that caused the crash in the first place. Today that crash haunts this G20 like a ghost that won’t be exorcised.

Fortress World Of Capitalism vs. Beautiful Possibilities Of Cooperation

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By Cynthia Kaufman for Common Dreams. Our beloved world is entering an increasingly unstable period, full of dangers and also full of possibilities. In many countries, old political parties are crumbling faster and anyone thought imaginable. Old geopolitical alliances have come unglued as the US comes to exercise its role as world hegemon in new and unpredictable ways. The development of the internet, of mobile phones and of apps has led to incredible disruption of many aspects of many societies: from how we pay for and listen to music, to how we consume and propagate information and news, to how we shop for almost anything. All that is solid is melting into air. At this crossroads it is possible that the global community will move in the direction that the dominant social forces seem to be pushing us towards.

Bringing Power To The People: The Unlikely Case For Utility Populism

Solar panels installed on a Pennsylvania farm, thanks to a USDA grant (U.S. Department of Agriculture / Flickr)

By Kate Aronoff for Dissent – One glaring omission in the postmortem handwringing about the 2016 election is the fact that most poor people in America—of all races and genders—simply didn’t vote. They were prevented from doing so by a number of structural barriers—voting restrictions, second and third jobs, far-flung polling locations—as well as a lack of excitement about two parties they saw as having abandoned them. Enter: twenty-first-century electric cooperatives, a perhaps unlikely player in the contest for power between progressives and conservatives in the heart of so-called Trump country in rural America. If there’s one thing poor, rural communities tend to have in common, it’s where they get their power—not political power, but actual electricity. Over 900 rural electric cooperatives (RECs)—owned and operated by their members—stretch through forty-seven states, serving 42 million ratepayers and 11 percent of the country’s demand for electricity. They also serve 93 percent of the country’s “persistent poverty counties,” 85 percent of which lie in non-metropolitan areas.

Making Employee-Owned Enterprises Part Of The Income Inequality Solution

One of five banners entitled The Worker in the New World Order, painted for the founding convention of ICEM (International Confederation of Chemical, Energy, Mine & General Workers’ Unions–now merged into INDUSTRIALL). Dedicated to then-imprisoned Nigerian oil workers. Copyright © 1995.  Mike Alewitz

By Mary Ann Beyster for Democracy Collaborative – With income inequality in the United States at record high levels, employee ownership is increasingly being lauded as a potential solution to spreading wealth more broadly. Most recently, research from the National Center for Employee Ownership released in May shows that employee owners have a household net worth that is 92 percent higher than non-employee owners. They also make 33 percent higher wages, and are far less likely to be laid off. But employee ownership requires new investment in order to get to scale. A new report by Mary Ann Beyster, president and trustee of the Foundation for Enterprise Development (FED), published by the Fifty by Fifty initiative of The Democracy Collaborative, examines the investing landscape for potential opportunities in employee ownership. The report, Impact Investing and Employee Ownership, reports on the results from six months of research showing that the opportunities for impact investors to support employee ownership are limited, but that an investing infrastructure is beginning to emerge across asset classes.

On International Day, UN Promotes Cooperative Solutions For Social Inclusion

Coffee Handlers at Cooperative Café Timor Sifting Coffee Beans. Photo: UN Photo/Martine Perret

By Staff UN News Centre – 1 July 2017 – Cooperatives help to build inclusive economies and societies, and can help to eliminate poverty and reach the other Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the head of the United Nations labour agency today said, marking the International Day of Cooperatives. “Let us draw on the strengths of cooperatives as we pool efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda and make sure that no one is left behind,” the Director General of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Guy Ryder said, referencing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which includes the SDGs. Decent work is a fundamental mechanism for inclusion and social justice, Mr. Ryder said, noting that decent work is embedded in the SDGs. “It means being particularly attentive to the situation of working women and men who are at risk of exclusion and poverty, including persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples, migrants and refugees,” he said, highlighting this year’s theme for the Day, which is to ensure that no one is left behind. Cooperatives allow people to create their own economic opportunities through the power of the collective, the UN has said, but there are still more areas where cooperatives’ potential can be explored.