Love Your Work Jen

This is exactly how it works here in Australia in relation to taxing mining, addressing climate change and other issues, and she says it more succinctly than a 3 page rant from yours truly.

Attribution: Jen Sorensen

Issue of the Day – Asylum Seekers

Some previous background on this issue can be found in an earlier post The Cruelty Index, and the associated video of the same title on YouTube.

This is a really tough issue, because we definitely want to be firm with lawbreakers, but not resort to cruelty, incredible amounts of monetary waste, or becoming international lawbreakers ourselves. Unfortunately this is exactly what we are doing with this government, or the last, for that matter. But there are solutions.

You can take it from me, or go to a more reputable source, like Mr. Julian Burnside QC, who published details of an approach that is fair, just, and not cruel or wasteful of money around the time I was last talking about this.

It’s personally an issue I have been trying to put forward solutions to since 2000 when the Howard government was throwing out “Babies Overboard”. I sent my ideas in writing in great detail at the time to a bloke named Mark Latham, who was trying to become the next Prime Minister at the time. But they were ignored, as the non-intelligent are prone to do with good ideas.

Actually, I am being unfair to Mark, as I don’t think the ideas even made it to the man himself, but I did get them into a brief exchange with the aide that operated his email account.

As an immigrant myself, I wanted to come up with a proposal that is:
• Firm on lawbreaking. In this case the people smugglers who operate boats for money to deliver asylum seekers to Australia;
• Humane and in-line with our international obligations;
• Fair from the perspective of the average Australian citizen; and,
• Fiscally sound, and even beneficial to the country in the medium term.

The first part of my solution is firm application of the law to people smugglers, who I believe can be classified as pirates under the law of the sea. The Australian Navy or Customs vessels that intercept asylum seeker boats shall take the vessel under control, capture and take all personnel on the vessel into custody and safety scuttle the vessel at sea. All passengers shall be taken to the nearest safe port where the government is a party to the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees. In many cases this will be Christmas Island, as a lot of our SE Asian neighbours are still not signatories to the convention, and frankly ought to be ashamed of themselves.

Once all vessel passengers are onshore, they shall be processed to determine valid asylum claims, criminal records, and complete health screening. This will include interviews with all passengers to make every effort to identify the people smugglers.

People smugglers will go into mandatory detention and prosecution, regardless of their age and have all assets stripped. Children amongst this group will be returned to their family in their home country, where this can be established, and after full interrogation and processing. Adult people smugglers will get life without parole, or the harshest penalty allowed for pirates following successful trial.

All remaining vessel passengers will be classified as refugees and processed for relocation to an acceptable interior location until such time as their asylum claims have been fully processed and put on a basic allowance from Centrelink. Housing can either be purchased on the basis of the allowance, or provided from surplus accommodation available in a host location.

Any local government area can apply to host refugees up to a limit of a small percentage of their population, if they can demonstrate availability of work for a portion of refugees they want to take. Infrastructure upgrades from the federal government to local communities will be made available to ensure the refugees can be housed, provided basic health care and schooling (mandatory for all ages unless proficiency in English and a skill can be demonstrated) where they will be hosted.

Any refugees being hosted on a temporary basis that are found to break the law in a significant way, or are serial offenders in minor lawbreaking will be sent to mandatory detention and deportation/prosecution at the first opportunity available. In short, fit in or fuck off.

All refugees will be allowed to work, pay taxes and fund superannuation, in a manner similar to people on 457 visas. Refugees that have valid asylum claims assessed will be provided with residency visas that require them to stay in the original hosting community for a period of at least three years, prior to being free to move anywhere they choose. Businesses and states that want to sponsor temporarily hosted refugees may apply to do so as they would people on 457 visas and relocate them for work.

If conditions improve in the home country of refugees during the period of temporary hosting to the satisfaction of the Australian government, refugees may be returned to their home country at no cost to themselves. Any refugee that wants to voluntarily return to their home country in the period from initial processing but before the three year period of temporary hosting is up may be returned to their home country at no cost to themselves.

This is a fair, firm and economically beneficial system that meets our international commitments and is no picnic for refugees. It should be applied to all, regardless of their manner of arrival. It will also be economically beneficial to Australia in the medium to long term because it can be statistically demonstrated that immigrants (regardless of their reason for arrival) cost a country a small amount in the first several years they are here, but pay back into the system much more in the 5 to 10 years after that. Don’t trust me on that, look it up. Immigrants, especially refugees, are extremely grateful to have an opportunity to start fresh, and can be educated on our rule of law, the benefits of learning English, and often bring skills and capabilities with them that we need. How much would some small towns with seasonal harvest work benefit from a workforce that was available and interested? Often refugees are also doctors, tradies and intellectuals like artists. We can use all three of those in small towns, or at least all the ones I remember.

In summary, we need not be a pushover to resolve the issue of asylum seekers, and can absorb them in a manner that is organised and beneficial for both the host and the refugee, while dealing appropriately with criminals.

An Honest and Fair Mining Tax

Hey, today I want to talk to you about a serious issue that we have been mislead about and had ignored in serious examination by the media. I want to talk to you about how the public is regularly screwed out of taxes and fees the government ought to be collecting on big mineral extraction businesses. Because the mining industry spent $20 million on an ad campaign when we last spoke about the mining tax, the labor government wimped out, and let mining lobbyists write the legislation, so you know what that said. They all paid little or nothing on that in the first year it was in.

The miners ads said that if we put mining tax (actually called the minerals resource rent tax) up the economy would collapse, and Australian businesses would all go down, when the mining industry closed up all over the country. Real wrath of god type shit.

The truth is, the mining tax should more accurately be called the resource super profits tax (RSPT), and here is how it was supposed to work in its original form:
1. First up, it gives a fair rate of return for the mining company. They pay no resource super profits tax until
they get 6% return on capital back themselves as profit. You’d have to be Warren Buffet
2. After that, the Australian public, which owns the finite resource, is given a 40% share of the profits.
3. It eliminates a confusing bunch of confusing royalties and fees paid to the states at present, and all royalties
presently paid to the states would be rebated.

But let’s look at the main point of contention, the 40% rate. A RSPT would not “kill off mining and related small businesses” as claimed by the mining industry ads. How do I know this? Because it has happened before, and right here in Australia. Remember the wailing and gnashing of teeth when Australia set the tax rates on all the offshore gas we are now developing for shipment to eager customers.? . . . . . Yeah, I didn’t think so, but it happened, believe me. And guess what, the guys moving the LNG are paying a super profits tax very similar to what is proposed for land based mineral extraction under the RSPT.

So on April 5, vote the Australian Democrats, because the resource super profits tax is just part of what we call sustainable prosperity, and a fair return for all of Australia.

Spot On

I don’t actually comment on culture much, although I have my views. Sometimes though, you could comment, or you could just pass on those who you are surprised are residents of Dallas, TX but are appreciative that they are there.

You rock, Dale.

Woah there big fella!

OK, in an otherwise excellent post about the out of touchness of CEOs, Vyan goes way too far by saying:

“As a matter of fact most Investment people like Perkins, Zell or even Mitt Romney don’t actually do any real “work” at all, because their Money Does their Work For Them in the form of gaining interest and paying dividends.”

This is kinda bullshit. As a Director and company owner, I worked my way up from the bottom of a business I built myself with no outside investors gifting me anything, or inheriting the whole show. As a result of that, I also have a significant retirement investment account I manage myself and do quite well at, thank you. But if you think for a second that all the research, analysis and planning that I do to make sure I meet or exceed the markets I invest in isn’t work, then fuck you. If you think I shouldn’t use the advantage I have in intelligence, patience and opportunity to make the most of my time, money and ideas, then once again, fuck you. If I am smarter than you and as a result have a better job and am on the way to financial independence and you don’t like it, {ahem} well, you know the drill. It’s ok, I don’t need to be loved by all, but I bet I will be included in many people’s zombie plans, so I sleep OK.

What you should be focusing on is whether the whole package of labour, capital and ideas I am putting into a business and assess whether I am duly compensated for that. A good basis has always as a multiplier of the CEO salaries in comparison with the average worker salary. Way back after WWII it used to be in the 40s. When Ronnie the Raygun took office in the USA, it was 78. Its over 4000 today. Hmmmmmm, but what does the peak CEO do for the world? Isn’t he responsible for making the whole economy work, keeping liquidity maintained and other superhero type shit like that? well, fuck no obviously.

The same guys that inflate the big bubbles in the economy, overheat them with outright fraud and then watch as the fuckers explode while counting their fees based on the transaction, not the OUTCOME of the transaction, get 4000 times the average worker in their companies. And I understand that Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman’s actually spends the large amount of any given week wandering around the house in his undies eating chips, drinking beer and playing whatever Call of Duty is currently hot. And hey, I got no problem with that. You are basically describing my perfect weekend several times a year. But it ain’t worth 4000 times, is all I’m saying.

There’s a revolution coming, and things have gotten so out of balance in the balance between the return on money, ideas and labour in the world, that when it does occur, it’s going to be quite a shock to some, if the balance is corrected.

I Could Be Fucking Brilliant

Yeah, things I propose in detail one day can become the policy of nations a couple days later, completely unknown to me at the time I derived the concept.

Cull The Beasts!

So, I’ve had a serious look at the shark cull issue, and want to add some analysis as a longer term lover of killing and eating beasts of all sizes. There is what appears to be an OK summary of the facts on The New Daily, and you can read them all for yourself and decide.

I wanted to read some more, as I was not convinced either way, and I want to avoid being biased, so I am going to need to see the estimates of the actual fall in $ from tourism directly attributable with Australia being seen as “dangerous” and then pull out of that body of danger that would surely include spiders, snakes, jellyfish, crocs and plants that are dangerous in this broad red land, and try to come up with something exceeding the $22 million anual cost estimate in the articles “for’ case.

And then I need to be able to answer the question, when exactly did tourists become fearful homebodies, and not see dangerous as a draw card?

I think it might be suss to spend $22 million for a reduction of 1 person killed per year so we can return to our normal rate of humans killed by sharks. Even if we could prove that what we proposed would do what we want it to. And the case for that is not good {cough, cough, by-catch, cough}

However, the facts on the side of which species are threatened and endangered are pretty solid. Here’s the “red list” details you might be familiar with from the IUCN, based on shitloads of peer reviewed evidence collection from scientists. Yeah, I know, those fucking scientists and the UN again. It’s like living with your mom, reading me regularly isn’t it?

So after examining the data, basically it’s easier to count the number of non-threatened species than threatened or endangered ones. For the common man, put it this way: you see a shark, I pretty much guarantee it’s either harmless and overfished to decimation by someone, or has lost or is losing habitat to the point that it is being killed out from fear and complacency and numbers are dwindling. Trust me, just about the last thing you want to be in this world is kinda slow, basically harmless, and look like a shark.

The sum of Colin Barnett’s current argument is that Australia is being seen as too dangerous and is losing more than $22 million a year due to fear of surfing at one south coast surf spot, and he has a constituency there that has raised it as a big deal to him. Well, I got news for you folks down south. There are a bazillion good surf beaches on this tropical island continent of ours. If yours just happens to be currently or permanently experiencing a high concentration of sharks where you like the curl, too fucking bad. Basically, you are saying that your right to surf right there trumps the right of another species to exist. And I am not being theatric. Lets say there were only 3700 humans left in the world. That’s the number of Great Whites estimated to be swimming around in the pool that covers 66% of the planet’s surface.

Now, I know humans are fucking scary, but if there were only that few, I’d be doing everything I could to save them. They are a peak predator and they are an indicator species for the health of the ecosystem. Honestly, this is just like the controversy I have run into everywhere I’ve lived. Doesn’t the grizzly bear, mountain lion, grey wolf, shark, tiger, black rhino and every other fucking scary peak predator, or even those just holding up their part of the food chain, deserve enough space just to survive? Do we demand, as humans, access to all the space in the world, anytime that it suits us to a point where we drive other species to extinction? We are one bleak fucking species if that’s the case.

But there is an alternative, you know, If government feels that the ‘do nothing’ case is not strong enough and is compelled to fuck with something.

If you want to go all ultra-protectionist and remove the dangerous killer from the water, outlaw swimming and surfing.

Pay People Not To Work

I have a radical idea that is, on the face of it, an absolute wowser to your common capitalist. But I think I actually heard that it was tried, or is being used, in some measure by the Germans, well-known capitalists who live in Europe. Doesn’t matter, I am going to derive from first principles.

Some facts:
“At over $446 billion per year, Walmart is the third highest revenue grossing corporation in the world. Walmart earns over $15 billion per year in pure profit and pays its executives handsomely.
Wal-Mart’s poverty wages force employees to rely on $2.66 billion in government help every year, or about $420,000 per store. In state after state, Wal-Mart employees are the top recipients of Medicaid. As many as 80 percent of workers in Wal-Mart stores use food stamps.”

Now, consider what happens for real if you pay people money with no work requirement at all, many of who are living at or below the poverty line in the USA (and apparently, a shitload from Wal-Mart). An epidemiologist in the Cherokee Nations did. Now honestly, knowing a fair few people in my life, my thesis before reviewing the data and analysis would likely include: “A whole bunch of people with no money skills would blow the cash on things which made their lives not significantly better, or on things that are actually harming them.”

More facts:
“Jane Costello, an epidemiologist at Duke University Medical School, saw an opportunity. The tribe elected to distribute a proportion of the profits equally among its 8,000 members. Professor Costello wondered whether the extra money would change psychiatric outcomes among poor Cherokee families.
When the casino opened, Professor Costello had already been following 1,420 rural children in the area, a quarter of whom were Cherokee, for four years. That gave her a solid baseline measure. Roughly one-fifth of the rural non-Indians in her study lived in poverty, compared with more than half of the Cherokee. By 2001, when casino profits amounted to $6,000 per person yearly, the number of Cherokee living below the poverty line had declined by half.”

And if you look deeper into the details, it makes me glad to say I was oh so wrong in my original thesis. It turns out, the psychiatric health affects long term on the children alone pretty much pays for the program by itself. And beyond that, the change in economic environment for al the children really relieves the stress they and their parents face everyday that improves the social outcome for all members of the household greatly.

[Just a scary science guy side note. Don’t you just fucking love that some of the best economic studies are done by epidemiologists?]

Now, consider another fact. The poor (and even the lower middle classes) basically have little or no access to leveraged capital on reasonable terms. Now I could have just said fucking loans, but I wanted to make a point. The poor have no capability to do as the rich often advise them and “…pull themselves up by their bootstraps, borrow money from mom and start a business”. But if they pool a small amount of their stipends, they possibly could fund a startup and make a life for themselves. And then, hopefully knock off a couple of sprogs and keep the whole machine a rolling along. But probably not turn into the Wolf of Wall Street, I’m guessing.

Bottom-line, economically there is a lower limit, beyond which if you sink, that direct redistribution of wealth to you, with no specific cause*, is good for society on an individual and collective basis. If we expand the amount of cash in hand of the poor, and do it for no specific reason, we will get an increase of GDP in an area where we want it spent right now, in consumption by the middle class of goods and services, then when things get better for the bulk of the economy and unemployment naturally falls, and the program costs less.

Or, at least it will until the next bubble created by rich bankers and CEOs bursts, and puts a lot of people out of work again. Remember that. It is not the workers who get rich off the bubble schemes, fraud and cronyism that the rich play with other rich that bankrupts a country. So let’s not blame the workers first when they are out of work. Let’s just pay them a stipend until they get another job of their own free will. Because they will. Most people want to work on something, and like to feel natural achievement of productivity and mastery of skills or tasks. Others want to learn a trade for the first time, or switch from one career to another, because that’s what we want them to do macro-economically to address I thing the conservatives like to call “structural unemployment” caused by technology or a shift in culture of a large population (or nation state if you want to go that far). Once again, not caused by workers’ somehow borg-like evil, when they collectively bargain.

Now, when things get better and unemployment is low, conservatives will then (with some justification) look at the remaining 3 or 4 % of the population and say, “How come I still have a large amount (in actual numbers of human beings) of people who cannot, or will not, play along with the system as designed.” It’s a fair question, and has a fair answer, that I believe can be satisfied through the assistance of additional empirical data from health, welfare and education institutions. I don’t have it at present, but am interested in examining any you have.

I suggest that the premise that any significant portion of the 3-4% that remains is indolent or criminal by nature will not be bourne out by the data. The truth is, I suspect, that a large majority of the remaining persons have a genuine problem that keeps them from working, and they just need help. And guess what? That’s OK and you are in for a full stipend of a subsistence wage as well, my friend, if that’s you.

Let’s make the stipend for the unemployed and those who cannot work high enough that they can survive, and suggest that the minimum wage set by any company be above a (non-mandatory figure). Any company that wants to pay less than the suggested minimum anywhere is free to do so, but unemployment insurance for workers will not be time limited and will be at a value that is between the subsistence rate and the suggested minimum wage (or what I call a living wage) based on their demonstrated commitment to find work, or re-skill themselves. The federal government will set the subsistence rate, and the state governments can set the suggested minimum.

Then, let’s see predatory and parasitic companies like Walmart thrive, and the population does worse, or not.

Add another crazy idea. If you earn over $200,000 in gross income a year, you have to spend at least one day (or eight hours cumulative a year) in a hotel casino with $10,000 of your money in chips. I’m not saying you have to play. Have a meal, get a massage, whatever. But spend the one day. It will be easy for most of the rich to do. I bet Warren Buffet would do it. That would probably drive tax revenues up and draw on those that can best afford to lose money gambling directly. Isn’t that what regulated casinos are for in society?

* – note that no specific cause means none stated to the applicant applying for the stipend. It would be listed as cause “not otherwise specified” in the statistics. We want no stigma attached to the application for benefits. People can self-report for disability or other categories if they so choose, but there will be an option for not specifying and getting the basis benefit.

Views On The Shape Of The World Differ

That’s the headline in the mainstream media when some complete nutbag wants to claim the earth is flat and they are heavily committed to providing “balance” to every conflict. In that environment, we get the current slide toward anti-science positions around the world, and the fact that the number of people questioning climate change is actually going up in stupider countries {cough, cough, USA, cough}.

So, we now are at the point where there is no way we are going to stave off the inevitable, and those on the side of empirical evidence and scientific theory probably ought to just focus on zombie plans, according to the latest UN Report on Climate Change.

Unfortunately, I don’t expect that effort to go much better. Sorensen has is spot on, I reckon . . .

Screen Shot 2014-01-22 at 8.01.32 am

Ever Feel Like A Mechanic . . .

Reading the news this morning from the USA, “… House passes $40 billion cut to the food stamp program over the next 10 years”, and having seen the recent news from only a couple of days ago that was analysed across the business media across the political spectrum of perspectives, as represented in the following graph leads me to that position I am in occasionally with a client, where I end up saying, “See, now here’s your problem right here”

Productivity

Now, when I read that graph I arrived at what I believe to be an obvious conclusion. Clearly, however, many of the supposed experts who examined the same data arrived the conclusion: “Yes, that was pretty effective. Now what we want to do is make sure that the poor fuckers who have gained nothing for their input in increased productivity over the last 40 years now can’t even have the pittance that has been provided food assistance to keep them going when we heap out largess to the farming industry every few years. That’s the way you balance a budget.”

Really, at this point I don’t see how any other objective conclusion could be reached other than that this is one big natural experiment in psychohistory with the following thesis: How far can you push a (lower) middle class before they actually do start rioting in the streets and stringing up bankers they can find when they loot lower Manhattan?

I mean fucking honestly. There is no one I could find disputing the data in the graph above as I have been reading about the update in the research that I first read a year ago. Sure the WSJ puts quite a different spin on it than does The Nation, but neither dispute the facts. The middle class has lost any gains due to productivity for 40 years so that those supplying capital and those that run the major companies in the world can enrich themselves vastly. And, unless there is some significant outcry and political movement in the near future, the US may actually be at the point in society where they will let the poor and working poor starve (and freeze) to death. Fuck em, right? They won’t riot, they’ll be too hungry and tired from working their two fast food jobs. And fuck the new indentured class too – those students that thought they would get a leg up by borrowing to go to uni and instead found their aren’t any jobs in their field or anything similar, and they aren’t allowed to go bankrupt so they can just fight for a couple of those Walmart jobs themselves for 30 years to pay off their debt.

What will it take until someone says directly to the power, “See what you got here is a problem with your minimum wage. Unless you raise your minimum wage, you aren’t going to reduce the need for food stamps. And if you don’t raise that minimum to something like a living wage, your middle class (that drives 70% of GDP growth) is going to disappear.”

You might also want to consider the motivation and interest in continuing to participate in a civil society for folks in the middle and lower end of the spectrum. What would motivate someone to work a job at Taco Bell and a job at 7-11 for a grinding ability to just stay out of poverty their whole life as opposed to something illegal, when clearly those who are too big to jail would call it foolish.

Then consider how there always seems to be this exasperated search for motive when someone brings a shotgun into the office. I wonder if a society so steeped in inequity and so desperate to maintain access to guns doesn’t realise how close it is to an MO for a mass murder on a daily basis. Sure, you could say that all these people are random crazies, but then they aren’t covered for mental health care or even institutionalisation since Reagan’s time either. You are just getting used to how bad things have gotten for the majority, how disconnected ‘leaders’ are from subjects, and only lack a spark to set a lot on fire.