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G20 Hamburg: An Opportunity to Share Success, or End of the Established Order?

by John Brian Shannon

There are many things in the economic and political world that are going ‘right’ at the present time and there are many things going ‘wrong’ and depending upon where you are in the world, you see the glass as half-full or half-empty.

Where you are financially… likely determines your views on economics and politics.

In the colonial and postwar eras, if you were happy and supportive of democracy it’s because you lived in a thriving economy in the West or Japan  — and if you were unhappy you lived in a colonial or post-colonial nation with a ‘frontier’ economy, which is to say, you were dirt poor and local warlords were more powerful than your own government.

However, that’s changing.


Globalization Changed the World

Especially since the advent of globalization 2.0 (FYI: globalization 2.0 began in 1974 with the creation of the Petrodollar) wealth shifted from industrialized nations to developing nations along with millions of jobs that were offshored in the pursuit of higher profits for Western corporations — profits which were then distributed among relatively small numbers of rich shareholders.

Over many years this caused wealth to ‘trickle upwards’ and is responsible for the creation of the 1 percent economic class.

Consequently, in America (which always has reliable stats) the 1 percent in that country enjoy more wealth than the bottom 80 percent combined!

Here’s a nice, short video that demonstrates this; Keep in mind, this video was made in 2009. Things are much worse now… and people wonder why political change occurs?

The total wealth of the United States was 54 Trillion dollars in 2009. Let’s see how it was distributed…

As long as we keep in mind that things are getting more dire each year, that will about cover inequality in America and explain the recent and major political changes there — with surely more change to come.


Growing Inequality Isn’t Being Addressed

Inequality is even worse globally. Although different in absolute numbers than America’s situation, the disparity between rich and poor is even greater.

Even today, 71 percent of the world’s population exist on less than $10 per day and 9 million per year die of starvation and a lack of clean drinking water.

That’s Failure by Any Standard!


All the good work by NGO’s over decades of time aside, it’s a catastrophic indictment of our entire civilization. It seems to be a case of; ‘We can do better, we just can’t be bothered’.

To illustrate the disparity that remains in the world let’s look at the present trend, lest you think world leaders are doing anything to solve the problem.

Share of the world's total wealth for the Top 1 percent and the Bottom 99 percent. Image courtesy of OXFAM.

Share of the world’s total wealth for the Top 1 percent and the Bottom 99 percent. Image courtesy of OXFAM.

It’s pretty clear this is the Number One problem in our century and that it isn’t going to be solved at the G20 Hamburg summit. And if the 20 most powerful nations on Earth can’t solve it year-after-year (look again at the trendline) then it isn’t going to be solved.

I think it’s a pretty safe bet that it isn’t ever going to be solved.


Therefore, Let’s Be Realistic and Deal With the Symptoms

Now that we’ve ‘gone realistic’ we can settle ourselves down and figure out a way to compensate the ‘losers’ of globalization, which used to be the bottom two economic quintiles in each developed nation but are increasingly the bottom three economic quintiles. Yes, the middle class is being hollowed-out and sooner than you think there won’t be a middle class.

(You know, the middle class? The group that was mainly responsible for paying for most of the infrastructure built in the postwar era and for paying many of the entitlements enjoyed by developed nation citizens)

Fortunately, it’s an easy fix.


In the next 10 years, one-in-every-eight jobs will be lost in developed nations to technology — whether robots on assembly lines, or computers or other technologies, it’s happening now. In some ways those jobs are already gone.

With the flick of a wrist, corporations could accelerate their Automation / Mechanization / Computerization (AMC) program and do it over the next 40 months instead of the next 10 years. That’s a very sobering thought.

politics tag, Statista chart -- Technological advances replace old jobs at risk.

“According to Bruegel, the impact of new technology on old areas of employment is set to become increasingly important in the long run. It has already shaped labor markets in the past and will continue to do so in the future, especially in Europe. Bruegel defines computerisation as a job that is “potentially automatable over some unspecified number of years, perhaps a decade or two” and they have predicted the likelihood of this occurring in the EU. “Niall McCarthy

(Side-story on the graphic: In the European example, all the countries in red and orange are countries where technology is replacing traditional labour jobs. But those newly-unemployed workers simply travel to London or Paris and take jobs from the workers there because they are willing to work for lower wages. Which increases unemployment and welfare rates in London and Paris. You see? Nothing happens in a vacuum. It’s all connected)


If AMC adoption were to suddenly increase

Of course, GDP would leap forward, corporations would make astonishing profits, relatively small numbers of Western shareholders would reap even more dividends further enriching the 1 percent, and developed nation corporations would have the ability to better compete with developing economies.

It won’t solve the problem of the 1 percent sucking up all the wealth because as U.S. and European corporations make larger profits, the 1 percent will receive higher dividends.

But the ‘losers’ of globalization — ‘the shrinking middle class’ that are rapidly becoming members of the fourth and fifth economic quintiles — can be compensated.


Compensating the Hollowed-out Middle Class

Why should they be compensated? Because developed nation governments allowed millions of jobs to be given to developing nations (via legislative inaction) when corporations began to offshore jobs in significant numbers in the 1970’s.

But we can solve it now, exactly as President Nixon predicted (and tried to do while in office) by instituting a 5 percent tax on every robot and job-stealing mechanized device based solely on the value of the work performed (just like an income tax on individuals) to fund a Guaranteed Basic Income (GBI) for unemployed adults.


What do Smart People like Bill Gates say?

Smart people like Bill Gates are also calling for this plan, and one of the best reasons for it is to maintain social cohesion so that we don’t lose our country (via revolution) in the mad dash by small numbers of corporate shareholders for larger dividends.

The GBI would replace ALL social welfare programs, many of which are duplicated at the federal and state levels, some cities have additional income schemes that exist concomitant with other levels of government. In many cases there is duplication and even benefit fraud via intimidation of the people who run those small-scale city programs.

Every adult citizen in America (to use the U.S. for an example) that is unemployed would receive $1088 per month — but only once they exhausted their unemployment insurance benefits. As America is a nation of workers it’s safe to assume that they would still be working if their jobs weren’t already offshored by greedy U.S. corporations and their shareholders.

Also, every retired person who is trying to live on less than $1088 per month would have their monthly income topped-up to $1088 per month via the GBI program. (Just put low income pensioners on the GBI and be done with it)

It isn’t enough to get rich on! But it is enough to live on at a very basic level and allow unemployed adults to stay ready for any job opportunity that may appear.

The bonus here is that local shopkeepers would love it as every cent would be spent on groceries and medicine, on clothing and haircuts for job interviews, and to pay for phone/rent/internet access. The GBI’s secret is that it would be a real boon to local economies!

In the UK, the amount could be set at £1088 per month, while EU countries could set their GBI at €1088 per month.


Tax the Robots!

It’s so simple to fix the vast inequalities that are getting worse with each passing year. TAX THE ROBOTS!

And cancel the many overlapping, inefficient, and abuse-prone welfare programs by turning them into one automated program that pays every unemployed adult $1088 per month (after they have exhausted their unemployment insurance benefits) and to top-up the monthly income of pensioners to $1088 per month.

It’s so simple, even a politician could do it!


Keep Workers Viable Until Needed for the U.S. $1 Trillion National Infrastructure Program

All G20 countries could enact a similar policy. Keep your former workers alive and viable (who after all, are only ‘former’ workers since millions of their jobs were offshored by corporations with their government’s approval) by using a GBI and they will be ready and willing to return to work — a different kind of work than manufacturing, but still, paid work — where they can be part of a great national infrastructure renewal program lasting at least one decade.

Most developed nations are at the stage where Generation I and Generation II infrastructure needs replacement and upgrade. It isn’t glamorous, but it is ultra-important. By the time that’s accomplished, Gen III infrastructure will be needing upgrades or outright replacement. See how that works? See all the people working on national and state/city infrastructure projects? Yes, working people are not unemployed people. It’s so simple.

Tax the robots, pay the GBI to unemployed adults, and rebuild and upgrade the national infrastructure — all paid for by a nominal tax on robots and other job-stealing devices. Now that’s a plan that benefits everyone!


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Why be Interested in a Better Future?

by John Brian Shannon | August 15, 2016

Why build a Better World?

Imagine for a moment the unforeseen has occurred, and lying in the middle of the road is your body covered by a white sheet.

Yes, you got hit by a bus only minutes ago. And now, body-less for the first time in your existence, your spirit is hearing the words of the ‘keepers of spirits’ as you watch the paramedics put your body into the Ambulance.

They tell you that you’ll sleep for 20-years and then be awoken in time to be born in the normal manner, but to a different set of parents, exactly 20-years from today. Happy Birth Day!

Oh, and, this part is important. You won’t have any of your present memories, you may be born anywhere in the world, you may be a different ethnicity or gender, you may be born within any socio-economic group — and your parent or parents might be the poorest on that particular continent or the richest, or anywhere in between. All these variables and more will be matters of chance.

For now, let’s assume that the above paradigm is true.

But what if you died and came back tomorrow?

‘Well’ you say, ‘It depends where I was born, and how highly my parents rank in that country.’

If you came back tomorrow; There’s only a 1 percent chance that you’d be a brand new member of the 1 percent. Did you know that the 1 percent manage to exist on more than $1179. per day, per person? How do they manage it?

Some 29 percent of the people alive today live between $10. and $1178. per day, per person.

And there’s a 71 percent chance that you’d be born into a family that lives on less than $10. per day, per person.

That’s our world in 2016.

Know your annual income?
Find out which percent group you belong to on this interactive CNN chart

You found your goat! Image courtesy of Mongolia on Pinterest.

You found your goat! Image courtesy of Mongolia on Pinterest.

Today, you’re more likely to be born into poverty, maybe living on the desolate Mongolian steppes.

Hey! In your previous life you always liked goats and always wanted to pet one. Now you can be a goat-herder for the next 64 years! Which is the average life expectancy of Mongolian males who live in yurts (tents) on the edge of the Gobi Desert.

Or maybe you’d be born as one of the Roma (formerly called gypsies) the poverty-stricken people who roam all over Europe, in sight of luxury every day, but never able to experience it.

Or maybe you’re born into a Muslim family trapped in present-day Syria. Better start studying that Koran as soon as you learn to read, I hear they don’t tolerate slackers there.

On the bright side, you have a 29 percent chance of being born into a family that exists on anything between $10. per day, per person and $1178. per day, per person. You rock!

Just remember that you won’t get to choose any of this, nor prepare for it in advance. It’ll be completely random. Nor will you have any memories of your previous life.

What if you came back 20-years from today?

One wonders what kind of world will exist 20-years from now. Hopefully, you’ll be one of the people who used your time wisely in this decade to help create a better future for all humanity — not only for yourself and your immediate family — but for people who are being born on every continent, at every economic strata.

If you knew today that you were going to be reborn in 20-years with a family and country chosen for you at random, what would you do today to help create a better future for all humanity?

In 2016, 7.4 billion people live on this planet and 1 percent of the world’s population own more than 50 percent of the world’s total wealth.

But in 2035, 8.8 billion people will live on this planet; And if present trends continue, the 1 percent will own more than 80 percent of the world’s total wealth.

Leaving only 20 percent of the world’s total wealth to be distributed between the remaining 8.7 billion in 2035.

If you expect to be alive in 2035, let’s hope you’ve used your time wisely in this decade to help create a better future for all humanity.

Share of the world's total wealth for the Top 1 percent and the Bottom 99 percent. Image courtesy of OXFAM.

Share of the world’s total wealth for the Top 1 percent and the Bottom 99 percent. Image courtesy of OXFAM.

The 1 Percent are ‘In’ and for Obvious Reasons

by John Brian Shannon | June 16, 2016

The 1 percent are already ‘In’ and for obvious reasons. Now, what about the 99 percent?

The 1 percent

In 2016, the richest 1 percent will have more wealth than the rest of humanity combined. Image courtesy of Oxfam International

Widespread dissatisfaction among very large numbers of people is manifesting itself in various ways around the world.

We’ve seen it in regards to the Occupy Wall Street protests, the Scottish referendum, Arab Spring, Syrian uprising, in the deepening distrust of globalization and free-trade agreements, lower voter turnouts, and most recently, in the potential for Grexit and Brexit from the European Union.

But it wasn’t always that way. In the postwar world, people from all walks of life and in every country ‘pulled together’ towards a common and better future. Sure, the Cold War interrupted that mood. But if anything, and in the broadest possible context, the Cold War served to sharpen competition and increase the overall flow towards a better civilization.

When the Cold War ended, Earth’s then-population of 6 billion took a collective deep breath and said; “Now we can get somewhere!” — in regards to creating the kind of world anyone would be proud to live in.

But 26 years on, we have fallen massively short of those aspirations. And it’s becoming more apparent and it is grating on people, moreso with each passing year.

Instead of a giant leap forward for the human race, we had trillion dollar wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that were based on falsehood (the U.S. Iraq Study Group said so) a major recession caused by the unethical and perhaps illegal actions of ‘too big to fail’ financial institutions (but only one person has gone to prison) we had democratic voices being dragged away from peaceful and legal #OWS rallies, we have dangerous people trying to re-ignite the Cold War because it used to be good for the military-industrial-complex economy (so why not try that again?) we suddenly have a 1 percent cohort that owns more than HALF of the world’s wealth (by 2030 they will own 76% of the world’s wealth if measures aren’t taken) we have more outsourcing of jobs (and therefore a larger proportion of low-paying jobs) and we have unelected, elitist, bureaucrats in Europe telling the rest of the continent where to go and what to do.

And that isn’t the half of it.

“It is time for the global leaders of modern capitalism, in addition to our politicians, to work to change the system to make it more inclusive, more equitable and more sustainable.  

Extreme inequality isn’t just a moral wrong. It undermines economic growth and it threatens the private sector’s bottom line.  All those gathering at Davos who want a stable and prosperous world should make tackling inequality a top priority.” 

Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild, Chief Executive Officer of E.L. Rothschild and chairman of the Coalition for Inclusive Capitalism, who spoke at a joint Oxfam-University of Oxford event on inequality in 2015

(So far, not a single recommendation has been implemented)

Consequently millions of people are losing faith in and blaming globalization when in fact globalization isn’t the problem.

Twenty-six years after the Cold War has ended, our civilization is so much less than it could be that it boggles the mind.

The 1 percenters and their acolytes can’t understand what all the fuss is about.

And I understand that! Their lives are so far removed from reality that; Let the peasants eat cake.” doesn’t begin to describe the disconnect they have with the other 7.2 billion people on the planet.

(For the record, none of it was caused by the 1 percent — they are merely the beneficiaries of the trickle-up economy — therefore, we can never blame them for the problems of the 99 percent)

Ongoing troubles with Russia, China, #OWS, the global economy, Brexit, etc. are just the beginning of our problems. Five years out and ten years out, we will look back longingly to the 2010-2016 timeframe where we had these relatively minor problems to contend with!

We need a new global vision, one that is orders of magnitude better than the present mediocre vision, so that 7.2 billion people will say to themselves, Now this, I can support and work diligently towards.”

The present vision of; Let’s keep making corporations and the 1 percent richer and richer at our expense, getting into conflicts with Russia and China for no reason good enough to justify the risks involved, and unelected and elitist technocrats ruling the Earth (seems to be a growing trend) all so that we can feel grateful to have a low-paying job and a declining middle class?

That’s not a vision! That’s the path to economic suicide!

While there won’t be revolutions there is likely to be widespread voter dissatisfaction and a much lower level of ‘buy-in’ to our civilization from everyday citizens. That alone, is enough to cause irreparable damage to our world.

Everyone has a different idea about why the former Soviet Union failed;

Some say it was the sudden drop in oil prices (not really, that was merely the straw that broke the camel’s back) some say it was Western plots (slight attribution there, IMHO) while some said its fall was due to their failure in Afghanistan (embarrassing, but not Warsaw Pact demolishing by any standard) or by other, unspecified means.

But no, the real reason for the failure of the former Soviet Union was passive defiance by Soviet workers, whose favorite (quietly-spoken) saying was;

“As long as they pretend to pay us, we will pretend to work.”

And that is everything!

Once it became obvious to Soviet workers that the Soviet Union was ‘no longer working’ for their best interests, they employed a sort of ‘passive defiance’ in return for the crass neglect they felt they had endured, which lowered the USSR’s productivity to such an extent that all it took was a few months of low oil prices and some sniping from U.S. politicians for the whole thing to implode.

Now, 26 years after the fall of the Soviet Union, Western workers are beginning to think in terms of ‘passive defiance’ and may soon follow the path of those Soviet workers.

Long story short; There are very real reasons for the growing dissatisfaction and the disconnect between 7.2 billion people on the one hand — and the 1 percent, their acolytes, and the elitist technocrats that serve them, on the other hand.

The grievances of that many people can’t simply be waved away in a ‘Let them eat cake’ kind of way.

We need a grand and new vision, one that is orders of magnitude better than the present non-vision, and one that 7.2 billion people will urgently wish to support.

Anyone up for that?

If not, we’re already on the path to lose everything we’ve built.

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