Monday, October 15, 2018

EXPROPRIATION AS A REMEDY



I have been worrying about the dual economic disaster threatening America:

1. The skyrocketing federal deficit: In 2018, the federal government is spending over one trillion dollars more than it makes. Its cumulative debt has reached $22 trillion, which is 105% of its GDP. This year, the government spends about $315 billion dollars in interest to finance its growing debt. This is 8% of the total federal budget. Imagine how much our government could do with all this money - schools, infrastructure, health care, scientific research, space exploration, saving the environment, etc.

And of course, each year the finance charge increases. In time, financing the debt will become the government’s largest obligation. Eventually, the (near) TOTALITY of the government’s budget could be spent on interest payments. In sum, utter and total bankruptcy. This happens to countries from time to time - France before its 1789 revolution, Argentina, Greece and other countries more recently, etc. America is in a vicious downward spiral.

2. The country’s obscene maldistribution of income and wealth: We have by far the largest number of billionaires of any country, and also a poor underclass unmatched by most other advanced nations: Among the 36 OECD countries (the countries most comparable to the US), we rank 5th in income equality, as measured by the Gini Index. Only Chile, Israel, Mexico and Turkey are worse than we are! (See List of Countries by Income Inequality).

 So here is how this dual problem could be solved:

The first thing that comes to mind is simple: Raise taxes massively and progressively, so as to bail out our broke government, and so as to place the greatest burden on those who can most afford it. To be sure, this would only have to be temporary- say 20 years or so. Once the government’s $22 trillion debt has been retired, taxes can be reduced.

* * * * * * *

But I have another idea.

I have been playing with some numbers:

There are about 560 billionaires and multi-billionaires in the US, plus 11 million (multi-) millionaires.

First, let’s talk about the (multi-)billionaires:
These people’s wealth could be sharply reduced, while still enabling them to continue to sustain lives of unimaginable opulence.
Take Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder and chief executive. He is currently the richest individual on the planet, at an estimated $162 billion. This fortune is greater than the GDP of 155 countries, i.e. 80% of the world’s countries. Only about 20 countries in the world have total national economies that are larger than Jeff Bezos’ net worth (See List of Countries by GDP).
Were the government to confiscate 99% of his wealth, it would still leave him with $1.5 billion, certainly a comfortable amount, no?

Now you scream: Horror! Marxism! Communism! Yep. Call it expropriation too, if you wish. Or confiscation. Whatever. Even the ancient Roman concept of Proscription comes to mind. Back then, when Roman dictators such as Sulla and Augustus needed to raise cash to bail out the state, they picked up a few hundred wealthy patricians, expropriated them, and for good measure also murdered them all.

Of course, we don’t want to carry out bloodbaths in the 21st century. We could merely carry out some form of (partial) expropriation. We would treat Bill Gates (Microsoft; $93 billion), Warren Buffet (Berkshire Hathaway, $87 billion), Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook, $78 billion), Larry Ellison (Oracle, $60 billion), the Koch brothers (David and Charles, each $60 billion), Michael Bloomberg ($50 billion), Larry Page (Google, $49 billion), Sergey Brin (Google, $48 billion), Rob, Jim and Alice Walton (Walmart, each worth $46 billion), Sheldon Adelson (Las Vegas Sands, $40 billion), Steve Ballmer (Microsoft, $40 billion) and the other multi-billionaires the same way - let them keep 1% of their wealth.

Take for instance Larry Ellison, founder of Oracle, net worth $60 billion. He owns the island of Lanai, which he bought for $300 million. I have been there, it’s a nice island. Not all that small. There is a town, churches, harbors, a school and maybe some stores, I presume. It’s a bit difficult to see how Larry can own all of this; sort of like a king? But hey, he might as well keep Lanai.

These top 15 richest Americans are together worth a total of $965 billion = nearly 1 trillion = .9% of total American wealth. The combined wealth of all Americans is $110 trillion (See Wall Street JournalThe average net worth of these 15 individuals is $64 billion.

But there are another 545 billionaires and multi-billionaires in America. Their total number is 560.
(See List of Americans by Net Worth).  These remaining 545 (multi-)billionaires are worth another $2 trillion. Altogether, America’s 560 (multi-)billionaires are worth $3 trillion = nearly 3% of all US wealth.

And what about the next wealth brackets? America’s 11 million (multi-)millionaires own 70% of the country’s wealth = $84 trillion (See Wealth Inequality in the United States)

So here is how the confiscation/expropriation/proscription could go:

1. (Multi-)billionaires: 99%. This would leave even the poorest (multi-)billionaire with a wealth of $10 million. Not so terribly paltry, right?

2. As to the 11 million (multi-)millionaires: Here, confiscation could be graduated, with a maximum of 50%. Thus, no (multi-)millionaire would be left with less than half a million, while many would remain far wealthier than that, since this group contains all individuals whose worth ranges from $1 million all the way up to $999 million.

The total expropriation package would deliver $42-$44 trillion into the hands of the government. Presumably mostly in the form of investments.

Now remember, the obligations which the government has been unable to meet are twofold: (A): a $22 trillion accumulated debt and (B) annual deficit spending of $1 trillion.

If the government now invests this windfall and makes an annual profit of, say, 6%, that would amount to $2.5 trillion per year, which could be used as follows:

1. Fully fund a zero-deficit annual budget (no longer suffer a typical annual shortfall of $1 trillion).

2, Use the remaining $1.5 trillion to pay down the debt, wiping it out entirely in 15 years.

Voila, problem solved.

* * * * * * *

PS: You may say that this article is delusional, and you may be right.

However, remember this: At this very moment, the British Labour Party is proposing EXPROPRIATING all companies of 10% of their equity, for starters (See The Economist, Sept.-Oct. 2018: 16).

As to INCOME redistribution: Policies at least as drastic as what I propose  have been in effect, and not just under radical Bolshevik regimes, but in the good old USA: By the end of the Great Depression and during World War Two, the marginal tax rate of income above today’s equivalent of $3 million was 94%! (See: When Income Was Taxed at 94%: How FDR Tackled Debt and Reckless Republicans). Today, respectable economists such as Thomas Piketty are perfectly comfortable with redistribution schemes of such a magnitude.

© Tom Kando 2018;All Rights Reserved

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Saturday, September 29, 2018

Boys will be Boy and Girls will Self-Objectify

by Madeleine Kando

Today was the lengthy Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in which both the accuser, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and the accused, Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh give testimony about Ford’s sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh.

What makes a high schooler think that he has the right to lure a girl into a bedroom, lock the door, turn up the music and, as his inebriated buddy eggs him on, tries to take off her clothes and have intercourse with her against her will?

Some commentators reacted to the Kavanaugh case with the old ‘Boys will be boys’ excuse. Really? Boys might be rough or break things, but as far as I know, the definition does not include trying to rape a girl.

Kavanaugh’s nauseating actions, if they are true, are the result of what some of Kavanaugh’s high school peers described as ‘a widespread culture of sexual objectification of women’ at the all-male prep school that Kavanaugh attended. But before you can sexually objectify a person, don’t you need to objectify her first, to treat her like an object?

Objectification *

According to my favorite philosopher, Dr. Martha Nussbaum, there are several ways to treat a person as a thing:

The first type Nussbaum calls ‘instrumentality’, i.e. treating a person as a tool for someone else’s purpose. The second type is called ‘inertness’ , which means that a person lacks autonomy and self-determination, so you can do what you want with her, like one of those sex dolls. Another way to objectify is to treat someone as interchangeable with someone else of the same type, like models on a runway.

One of the worst ways to objectify someone is to ignore its boundaries or bodily integrity. It is permissible to break up, smash, or break into. And obviously the concept of ‘ownership’, treating a person as something that is owned and can be bought and sold, is as old as mankind itself.

Sexual Objectification **

History is pockmarked with cultural practices that objectify women. From genital mutilation to foot binding in China, it has caused so much pain and suffering that it is beyond belief. It is a small and logical step to go from objectifying someone to sexually objectifying them. In a revealing video: The Sexy Lie, Dr. Carolyn Heldman describes how the media (movies, newspaper, video games, etc.) have become over-saturated with sexual objectification of women.



Is this due to us becoming more and more visually oriented? Let’s be honest, women are a lot more visually appealing than men. But why should they be sexually objectified? Why see women as sex objects rather than what they really are: beautiful renditions of the human form?

The real problem is that normalization of female objectification in American culture has caused women to self- objectify and see themselves as objects of desire for others.

Self-objectification ***

I have experienced sexual objectification first-hand. Being the daughter of two photographers, I felt the daily pressure my looks placed on my self-perception. The days that I woke up and found my face less than perfect, slight bags under the eyes or puffy eyelids, that day would be a bad day. Whenever I would see someone look at me, I would want to melt into the pavement, become invisible.

Did other girls feel that way? Why was my roommate a successful TV anchor? Where did she find the self-confidence to go out there and show her face in public every night. She did have an inch of make-up spliced onto her face, but she looked good, smelled good, had beautiful jet-black hair, spoke with the confidence of a man. Where was I? I was fretting in my dark bedroom about my pimple and the invisible bags under my eyes.

This is the story of countless young girls who have unwittingly soaked up the culture of objectification and made it their own. Self-objectification is a tragic event in one’s life, considering that we only have one life to live.****

So you see, it is a vicious circle. Objectification leads to sexual objectification which leads to self-objectification, which leads to objectification etc. If you see yourself as an object, others will do likewise. Hence, it is within a woman’s power to break the cycle.

Men who are equally uncomfortable with the objectification of women, speak of breaking out of the ‘Man Box’, the cult of masculinity, in which men are taught to suppress their feelings, to seek power over others, etc. Tony Porter, co-founder of, A Call To Men, an organization dedicated to prevent violence against women, says that men are brought up to distance themselves from what it is to be a woman. There is a lack of interest, which easily leads to objectification.

So you see, Kavanaugh’s alleged sexual misconduct is a symptom of a deep-seated disease in American culture. Objectification and sexual-objectification, which leads to self-objectification fit together perfectly, like the pieces of a puzzle.

Neither men nor women benefit from the increasingly detrimental effects of this arrangement, but habits die hard. Some sections of society (mostly male and white) are so addicted to these habits that it will take some vigorous prying before the decay can be removed.

In other words cultural norms need to be changed and although it may take some time, man made ideas are just that: man made. They are not given to us by God, no matter what our male dominated, patriarchal system wants you to believe. leave comment here

Footnote: * The action of degrading someone to the status of a mere object. Objectification more broadly means treating a person as a commodity or an object without regard to their personality or dignity. ** The process of representing or treating a person like a sex object, one that serves another’s sexual pleasure. *** The psychological process by which women internalize people’s objectification of their bodies, resulting in them constantly criticizing their own bodies.*** The Beast of Beauty Culture: An Analysis of the Political Effects of Self-Objectification. Read more...

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Historical Analysis of the Trump Phenomenon



My friend Dr. Paul Ten Have, retired professor of sociology at the University of Amsterdam, keeps sending me Dutch articles about the evils of Trumpism. For example Trump Plunders Public Property.

This article describes the damage done to our national parks and to the environment by the various measures introduced by the Trump administration to (re-)open many areas for industrial exploitation.

Much of what Paul sends me is old hat. Dutch intellectuals and the Dutch media are apparently unaware that there is a vast domestic resistance in America - one which I believe comprises a majority of Americans. Most of us have long been aware of the issues which Paul “brings to my attention” and we have been fighting Trump and his base tooth and nails for two years.

A more interesting recent Dutch article is Trump: Chaotic, Narcissistic and Effective: This article also provides a familiar litany of Trumpian horror stories: E.g. the evisceration of the environment, the Mafia-style corruption of everyone in and around the White House, the racism, the undermining of laws and courts, the rape of the economy by the kleptocracy, etc. But in addition, this article also dares to suggest that the Trumpites ARE in fact achieving many of their nefarious objectives. This is both alarming and refreshing. Read more...

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

A Hawaiian Hurricane

by Madeleine Kando

Princeville, Hawaii, August 24, 2018

It is very early morning here in Princeville, on the North shore of Kauai. Usually this is just the right time to watch a spectacular sunrise from our deck - the sky filled with pink colored clouds peacefully drifting by, the ocean the color of emeralds and the waves gently tossing themselves over the black lava rock.

But today the sky is grey and so is the ocean. Hans is still asleep. He has come down with the flu as soon as we arrived and has not stopped coughing and sneezing since then. I don’t want to wake him, so with my first cup of Kona coffee in hand, I check the local news on my laptop, wondering what happened to the promised sunrise.

The local weather channel shows a visual of a monstrous hurricane approaching the Hawaiian islands, with wind speeds approaching 135 miles per hour. Nah, it cannot be that bad if it only moves at 5 miles per hour. A person can walk faster than that. It will probably veer away and find another spot in the Pacific to do what hurricanes do. Read more...

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Ata Lives On

by Madeleine Kando

It was an intense three days when our whole family got together to spread my mother Ata's ashes. Before she died, she told us that she would like her ashes to be spread where Jack London had lived, in upper Sonoma County in California.

This was not an easy request since my mother was cremated in Holland, which means that her ashes had to travel 6,000 miles. At first, there was talk of compromise - wouldn’t it be more practical to find a nice secluded beach in North Holland, near the assisted living where she had spent the last 20 years of her life?

But as usual, one of the Dutch angels that I previously wrote about, came to the rescue. She spread her large angel wings and together with her husband, she flew across the atlantic to bring the ashes and help honor Ata’s last wish.

You might argue that the place where someone’s ashes are spread is of no consequence. After all, the person is no longer around, it’s just a heap of dust, so what does it matter where it ends up. Read more...

Thursday, August 9, 2018

To Cut or not to Cut: the Circumcision Debate

by Madeleine Kando

Thank God I am not a man, especially a Jewish man. And thank God I wasn’t born in the United States as a man, or I would have joined the millions who have undergone a medical procedure that irreversibly alters the body for the rest of one’s life, without personal consent. It’s called circumcision.

A few days ago a friend told me about a researcher at Harvard University who was fired as a result of a show he performed called Sex & Circumcision: An American Love Story. It is a gripping, 2 hour long explosion of anger by a young American male who went under the knife as an infant. Eric Clopper is Jewish, but that doesn’t mean much in a country where as recently as 2010, 77% of baby boys were routinely circumcised as part of the delivery process.

Since then I haven’t done much else with my time than learn about circumcision and what it really is. What is it’s history? Why is it so prevalent in America and not in Europe?

I have to admit that I now know more about male genitalia than I do about my own equipment, so at the risk of sounding presumptuous, I will share with you what I have learnt.

The word ‘circumcision’ comes from the Latin circumcisus, past participle of circumcidere "to cut round, to cut off". What exactly gets cut off, you may ask, when circumcising an infant in America in 2018? Read more...

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

The Nobel Prize:The Great Intellectual Flight from the Old World to the New


         
1. INTRODUCTION:
The Nobel Prize has existed for 117 years. In that time, a total of 916 prizes have been awarded to individuals and organizations, with some receiving the Nobel Prize more than once. (See: Nobel Prize).

In this article I  examine the national, ethnic and gender  composition of the laureates. I examine TRENDS over time,  and I show how the allocation of  Nobel awards  reflects the history and the evolution of the world over the past 117 years. (See: Nobel Laureates).

This article is not an exercise in nationalism or chauvinism. To the contrary, you’ll see that there is probably no more international population on the planet than the  body of Nobel laureates. But to demonstrate this, it is necessary to identify each laureate’s background. This is the first objective of this article. A second, and related, objective is to demonstrate the changing composition of this population and to show that the trends over time   reflect the world’s geopolitical  and cultural evolution.
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