Poverty—and the stressof being poor—is killing people every single day
The extreme levels of American poverty and inequality are ripping apart once-interdependent communities with mental health and homelessness problems, and with a surge in drug and alcohol and suicide “deaths of despair.” (Photo: κύριαsity/flickr/cc)
A White House report recently proclaimed that the “War on Poverty is largely over and a success.” United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley said it was “ridiculous for the United Nations to examine poverty in America.”
Well-positioned Americans must talk like this, of course, because admitting the debilitating state of poverty in America might provoke feelings of guilt for 35 years of oppressive economic policies. Wealthier people need to take an honest look at the facts. They need to face reality as it sadly exists in America today.
1 in 7 Americans is Part of the World’s Poorest 10%
According to the Credit Suisse 2018 Global Wealth Databook, 34 million American adults are among the WORLD’S POOREST 10%. How is that possible? In a word, debt. In more excruciating words: stifling, misery-inducing, deadly amounts of debt for the poorest Americans. And it goes beyond dollars to the “deaths of despair” caused by the stresses of inferior health care coverage, stagnating incomes, and out-of-control inequality.
It could be argued that Scandinavian countries face the same degrees of debt as Americans. But far less of the debt is for health and education costs. And the Scandinavian safety net is renowned for its generous provisions for all citizens.
Half of Us are In or Near Poverty
$1 in expenses twenty years ago is now$1.25. $1 in earnings twenty years ago is now still $1.
More and more Americans are facing financial difficulty. Estimates of adults living from paycheck to paycheck range from half to 60 percent to 78 percent. Any sign of a recession would be devastating for most of us.
It’s estimated that a typical U.S. household needs about $60,000 annually to meet all expenses. That’s only manageable if two adults are working full-time for $15 per hour. Beyond that, little cushion exists. No American adult in the bottom 40% has more than $31,124 in total wealth, including house and car and savings (Table 3-4).
Booming Economy, Low Unemployment, and Other Deceptions
While 1 in 7 Americans is part of the world’s poorest 10%, nearly 3 in 7 Americans are part of the world’s richest 10%. The economy is booming for THEM. Yet the Wall Street Journal has the arrogance to claim that “Americans traditionally left behind…are reaping the benefits..”
How about the “jobs for everyone” fantasy? The official unemployment rate, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) itself, is based on employees “who did any work for pay or profit during the survey reference week.” The BLS workforce includes contingent and alternative employment arrangements that make up about 10% of the workforce. It includes part-time workers (even one hour a week!), who make up about 16% of the workforce. And, inexplicably, it fails to count as unemployed those who have given up looking for work — 4% more Americans than in the year 2000.
Many of today’s ‘gig’ jobs don’t pay a living wage, and most have no retirement or health benefits, no job security, no government regulations backing them, and usually a longer work day, with many people putting in 10- to 12-hour days for $13 per hour or less. According to a New York Times report, “41.7 million laborers — nearly a third of the American work force — earn less than $12 an hour, and almost none of their employers offer health insurance.”
Safety Net Failures
While it’s true that the U.S. spends a greater percentage of its GDP on social safety net programs than developing countries, Americans generally have to face much higher costs for housing, heating, transportation, child care, and other basic expenses.
Beyond this, there are significant shortcomings in American social protections, as pointed out by the UN. These include the “shockingly high number of children living in poverty” and the “reliance on criminalization to conceal the underlying poverty problem.” Furthermore, with the call for work requirements comes the realization that the job market for the poorest Americans is “extraordinarily limited.”
Poverty: Not Just a Number
Poverty is living without health care, and choosing the life-threatening alternative of opioid painkillers. Poverty is the stress of overwhelming debt; the steady decline of jobs that pay enough to support a family; the inability to afford a move to a desired neighborhood; the deadening impact of inequality on physical and mental well-being. The United Nationsdescribes America as a nation near the bottom of the developed world in safety net support and economic mobility, with its citizens living “shorter and sicker lives compared to those living in all other rich democracies,” with the highest infant mortality rate in the developed world, the world’s highest incarceration rate, and the highest obesity levels. Low-income Americans are often surrounded by food deserts, with insufficient access to clean water and sanitation, and with the pollutionlevels of third-world countries. The poorest among us are even susceptible — unbelievably — to rare tropical diseases and once-eradicated scourges like hookworm.
One of the first new laws created by the Jewish Bolsheviks when they took over Russia was to make “antisemitism” punishable by jail or death.
The Jewish senator from New York, Chuck Schumer, has introduced House Resolution 1697 – known as the Israel Anti-Boycott Act. This legislation is in direct conflict with the 1st Amendment right to freedom of speech and targets those who are critical of Israel with draconian prison sentences and fines:
“American citizens are set to be fined up to $1 million or imprisoned for up to 20 years for criticizing Israel or supporting the BDS boycott, thanks to new legislation sponsored by Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer.
Anyone guilty of violating the new prohibitions will face a minimum civil penalty of $250,000 and a maximum criminal penalty of $1 million and 20 years in prison under the new law.
According to the ACLU, the Cardin legislation would “bar U.S. persons from supporting boycotts against Israel, including its settlements in the Palestinian Occupied Territories conducted by international governmental organizations, such as the United Nations and the European Union.
It would also… include penalties for simply requesting information about such boycotts. Violations would be subject to a minimum civil penalty of $250,000 and a maximum criminal penalty of $1 million and 20 years in prison….This bill would impose civil and criminal punishment on individuals solely because of their political beliefs about Israel and its policies.”
Although this bill was first introduced in 2017, it continues to gain traction with more co-sponsors recently signing on.
One of the first new laws created by the Jewish Bolsheviks when they took over Russia was to make “antisemitism” punishable by jail or death. Despite its freedoms, the United States is now following in Russia’s footsteps, with Jews like Chuck Schumer leading the charge.
One hundred years later, we find ourselves in a very similar situation – proposed Federal laws protecting Jews from criticism. Only criminals and liars are afraid of being criticized.
What other ethnic group is powerful enough to demand such draconian laws to protect them from criticism?
In September, China’s share of US Treasuries holdings had the highest decline since January as ongoing trade tensions with Washington forced the world’s biggest economy to take measures to stabilize its national currency.
In September, China’s share of US Treasuries holdings had the highest decline since January as ongoing trade tensions with Washington forced the world’s biggest economy to take measures to stabilize its national currency.
Still the biggest foreign holder of the US foreign debt, China slashed it’s share by nearly $14 billion, with the country’s holdings falling to $1.15 trillion from nearly $1.17 trillion in August, according to the latest data from the Treasury Department. The fall marks the fourth straight month of declines. China is followed by Japan, whose share of US Treasuries fell to $1.03 trillion, the lowest since October 2011.
Washington has accelerated the Treasury issuance to avoid potential growth in the federal deficit due to the massive tax cut pushed by President Donald Trump, as well the federal spending deal approved by the government in February.
Chinese purchases of US state debt have been decreasing over recent months. The latest drop comes on top of the escalating trade conflict between Beijing and Washington over trade imbalance, market access and alleged stealing of US technology secrets by Chinese corporations. So far, the US has imposed tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods and Beijing retaliated with tariffs on $60 billion of US goods and stopped buying American crude.
The parties are reportedly set to resume trade talks at the G-20 meeting of the world’s developed economies that will begin in Argentina on November 30. So far, Beijing has presented a list of possible concessions. On Friday, the US president said he would leave out “four or five” of the big items the US wants.
“China wants to make a deal. They sent a list of things they are willing to do, which is a large list and it is just not acceptable to me yet. But at some point I think that we are doing extremely well with respect to China,” Trump told reporters.
Summary: A new paper proposes resonance may contribute to human consciousness.Source: The Conversation.Why is my awareness here, while yours is over there? Why is the universe split in two for each of us, into a subject and an infinity of objects? How is each of us our own center of experience, receiving information about the rest of the world out there? Why are some things conscious and others apparently not? Is a rat conscious? A gnat? A bacterium?
These questions are all aspects of the ancient “mind-body problem,” which asks, essentially: What is the relationship between mind and matter? It’s resisted a generally satisfying conclusion for thousands of years.
The mind-body problem enjoyed a major rebranding over the last two decades. Now it’s generally known as the “hard problem” of consciousness, after philosopher David Chalmers coined this term in a now classic paper and further explored it in his 1996 book, “The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory.”
Chalmers thought the mind-body problem should be called “hard” in comparison to what, with tongue in cheek, he called the “easy” problems of neuroscience: How do neurons and the brain work at the physical level? Of course they’re not actually easy at all. But his point was that they’re relatively easy compared to the truly difficult problem of explaining how consciousness relates to matter.
Over the last decade, my colleague, University of California, Santa Barbara psychology professor Jonathan Schooler and I have developed what we call a “resonance theory of consciousness.” We suggest that resonance – another word for synchronized vibrations – is at the heart of not only human consciousness but also animal consciousness and of physical reality more generally. It sounds like something the hippies might have dreamed up – it’s all vibrations, man! – but stick with me.
All about the vibrations
All things in our universe are constantly in motion, vibrating. Even objects that appear to be stationary are in fact vibrating, oscillating, resonating, at various frequencies. Resonance is a type of motion, characterized by oscillation between two states. And ultimately all matter is just vibrations of various underlying fields. As such, at every scale, all of nature vibrates.
Something interesting happens when different vibrating things come together: They will often start, after a little while, to vibrate together at the same frequency. They “sync up,” sometimes in ways that can seem mysterious. This is described as the phenomenon of spontaneous self-organization.
Mathematician Steven Strogatz provides various examples from physics, biology, chemistry and neuroscience to illustrate “sync” – his term for resonance – in his 2003 book “Sync: How Order Emerges from Chaos in the Universe, Nature, and Daily Life,” including:
When fireflies of certain species come together in large gatherings, they start flashing in sync, in ways that can still seem a little mystifying.
Lasers are produced when photons of the same power and frequency sync up.
The moon’s rotation is exactly synced with its orbit around the Earth such that we always see the same face.
Examining resonance leads to potentially deep insights about the nature of consciousness and about the universe more generally.
Sync inside your skull
Neuroscientists have identified sync in their research, too. Large-scale neuron firing occurs in human brains at measurable frequencies, with mammalian consciousness thought to be commonly associated with various kinds of neuronal sync.
For example, German neurophysiologist Pascal Fries has explored the ways in which various electrical patterns sync in the brain to produce different types of human consciousness.
Fries focuses on gamma, beta and theta waves. These labels refer to the speed of electrical oscillations in the brain, measured by electrodes placed on the outside of the skull. Groups of neurons produce these oscillations as they use electrochemical impulses to communicate with each other. It’s the speed and voltage of these signals that, when averaged, produce EEG waves that can be measured at signature cycles per second.
Gamma waves are associated with large-scale coordinated activities like perception, meditation or focused consciousness; beta with maximum brain activity or arousal; and theta with relaxation or daydreaming. These three wave types work together to produce, or at least facilitate, various types of human consciousness, according to Fries. But the exact relationship between electrical brain waves and consciousness is still very much up for debate.
External electrodes can record a brain’s activity. NeuroscienceNews.com image is adapted from the Conversation news release.
Fries calls his concept “communication through coherence.” For him, it’s all about neuronal synchronization. Synchronization, in terms of shared electrical oscillation rates, allows for smooth communication between neurons and groups of neurons. Without this kind of synchronized coherence, inputs arrive at random phases of the neuron excitability cycle and are ineffective, or at least much less effective, in communication.
A resonance theory of consciousness
Our resonance theory builds upon the work of Fries and many others, with a broader approach that can help to explain not only human and mammalian consciousness, but also consciousness more broadly.
Based on the observed behavior of the entities that surround us, from electrons to atoms to molecules, to bacteria to mice, bats, rats, and on, we suggest that all things may be viewed as at least a little conscious. This sounds strange at first blush, but “panpsychism” – the view that all matter has some associated consciousness – is an increasingly accepted position with respect to the nature of consciousness.
The panpsychist argues that consciousness did not emerge at some point during evolution. Rather, it’s always associated with matter and vice versa – they’re two sides of the same coin. But the large majority of the mind associated with the various types of matter in our universe is extremely rudimentary. An electron or an atom, for example, enjoys just a tiny amount of consciousness. But as matter becomes more interconnected and rich, so does the mind, and vice versa, according to this way of thinking.
Biological organisms can quickly exchange information through various biophysical pathways, both electrical and electrochemical. Non-biological structures can only exchange information internally using heat/thermal pathways – much slower and far less rich in information in comparison. Living things leverage their speedier information flows into larger-scale consciousness than what would occur in similar-size things like boulders or piles of sand, for example. There’s much greater internal connection and thus far more “going on” in biological structures than in a boulder or a pile of sand.
Under our approach, boulders and piles of sand are “mere aggregates,” just collections of highly rudimentary conscious entities at the atomic or molecular level only. That’s in contrast to what happens in biological life forms where the combinations of these micro-conscious entities together create a higher level macro-conscious entity. For us, this combination process is the hallmark of biological life.
The central thesis of our approach is this: the particular linkages that allow for large-scale consciousness – like those humans and other mammals enjoy – result from a shared resonance among many smaller constituents. The speed of the resonant waves that are present is the limiting factor that determines the size of each conscious entity in each moment.
As a particular shared resonance expands to more and more constituents, the new conscious entity that results from this resonance and combination grows larger and more complex. So the shared resonance in a human brain that achieves gamma synchrony, for example, includes a far larger number of neurons and neuronal connections than is the case for beta or theta rhythms alone.
What about larger inter-organism resonance like the cloud of fireflies with their little lights flashing in sync? Researchers think their bioluminescent resonance arises due to internal biological oscillators that automatically result in each firefly syncing up with its neighbors.
Is this group of fireflies enjoying a higher level of group consciousness? Probably not, since we can explain the phenomenon without recourse to any intelligence or consciousness. But in biological structures with the right kind of information pathways and processing power, these tendencies toward self-organization can and often do produce larger-scale conscious entities.
Our resonance theory of consciousness attempts to provide a unified framework that includes neuroscience, as well as more fundamental questions of neurobiology and biophysics, and also the philosophy of mind. It gets to the heart of the differences that matter when it comes to consciousness and the evolution of physical systems.
It is all about vibrations, but it’s also about the type of vibrations and, most importantly, about shared vibrations.
I’d had enough. It was October 2017, and I’d been wondering what the point of my job was for far too long, and while I’m sure there was something meaningful somewhere and to someone in what I was doing day-to-day, it had certainly lost meaning for me. For all the good that writing another academic research paper would do, I thought I might as well be cycling to Bhutan.
The idea of cycling to this small country nestled in the Himalayan foothills is one I’d had for many years. Bhutan is famous for deciding to value its population’s happiness and well-being over economic growth. As an academic researcher focused on understanding happiness and well-being, the journey looked to me to be something of a pilgrimage.
Before I quit, I’d spent more than ten years at different universities, trying to understand what the most important contributors were to well-being. But what I found was that I was burnt out. Given the nature of my research, the irony of this was not lost on me. I needed to do something different. I wanted to travel; to explore and understand happiness through a non-academic lens. But I wanted to connect the research I’d been doing over the years with what was happening, or indeed not happening, in the world.
Purpose and meaning
When I began my research, I was motivated by the importance of the subject. Most people I knew wanted to be happy and so, I thought, my research might help people to do that. I did what academics are incentivized to do: publish in the best peer-reviewed journals (indexed by academic readership and citation counts), as well as bring in research funds. I also did things such as engage with people outside of academia that might not ordinarily read my research – the public, the media, governments, policymakers – things I wasn’t always incentivized to do, but nevertheless did because they contributed to a personal sense of purpose and meaning.
When it comes to living happy and fulfilled lives, we humans need meaning, we need purpose. People who feel there is a deeper purpose and meaning in what they are doing in their day-to-day lives tend to be happier, healthier, and more satisfied. Research shows, for example, that a life orientated towards meaning brings greater satisfaction than a life oriented toward hedonic pleasure. Those that have a strong sense of purpose in life live longer, and having a strong sense of purpose may be just as good for your health as engaging in regular exercise. Some would even conceive that purpose is, by definition, a key aspect of happiness itself.
Work is an important source of purpose and meaning for many people. When people get made redundant or become unemployed, much of the loss in well-being they experience is often due to the loss of purpose and meaning, rather than the loss of income. Even if there is no deeper personal purpose and meaning in the actual work itself then there is much to value in our daily social interactions and the structure that work provides us, although they are easily overlooked.
It is purpose and meaning that helps people get up each day and it doesn’t necessarily have to be specifically about work. Purpose and meaning can take many different forms and is deeply personal. It might be looking after family, following a hobby, passion, or faith. Purpose and meaning is also an important source of resilience, helping people get through the difficulty and challenges that are an inevitable part of life.
The importance of purpose and meaning is well recognised. In the UK, for example, one of the four questions that the government’s Office for National Statistics asks in its Well-Being Survey is: “Overall, to what extent do you feel the things you do in your life are worthwhile?” To which people are asked to respond on a scale from zero “not at all” to ten, “completely”. In the UK the mean score to this question is about 7.8, suggesting people feel their lives are relatively worthwhile. However, there is variation around this mean. Around 15% of the population answer a score of six or less on this question and this level has been relatively stable.
Walking the talk, being authentic
It has always felt important to me to apply my research findings to my own life. My research consistently showed that once basic needs are met, having more money is only weakly related to happiness and well-being, relative to other things such as relationships, health (mental and physical), and our personality characteristics. Taking this on board, I have decided not to take better paying jobs or strive for promotion (one of my first ever published papers demonstrated that promotion can have detrimental effects on one’s mental health) for the sake of it. Instead, I tried to create a life where I had more space to focus on those aspects of life I knew to be the most important for well-being.
Another important contributor to our well-being is something psychologists term authenticity. Authenticity reflects our tendency to live in line with our beliefs and values rather the demands of others, of society. So in following what I believed to be true from the research I and others were doing I was doubly rewarded; I was happier.
I felt despondent. What was the point in writing another academic paper? Perhaps, I thought, I ought to be doing something a bit different. Not only to rediscover meaning and purpose, but to continue striving for an authentic existence and, through that, perhaps a little more happiness too. It was then that I finally decided that it was time to leave my full-time job at the university and to start my cycling odyssey to Bhutan.
A kingdom of happiness
We might not hear about them very often, but there are actually many places in the world where economic growth is not so overtly favoured above other things. It might be just a few people who have decided to live together and put their well-being above economic gain; there are small communities, towns and cities already doing this. But in the case of an entire country – Bhutan – the stated central aim of government is to increase happiness and well-being.
In 1972, the fourth king of Bhutan, King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, first expressed the idea in an interview. He said: “Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross Domestic Product.” Initially, Gross National Happiness was a concept rooted in the country’s spiritual traditions, and government policies would be evaluated based on their supposed influence on well-being rather than its economic effect.
Back in 1972, however, there was little in the way of reliable metrics to compute the influence of a policy on well-being. So the idea of increasing happiness remained more of a philosophical concept. Nevertheless, the happiness concept became embedded in the policy-making process. Some of the decisions that arose from this approach included a ban on television (up until 1999), making tobacco illegal, and restricting tourism to preserve the country’s culture.
The Bhutanese have since developed a Gross National Happiness Index to measure the country’s collective level of well-being – this has been the government’s goal since its constitution was enacted in 2008. The index has direct links to policy making and it is meant to provide incentives for the government, non-governmental organisations, and businesses to operate in ways that increase the happiness index. For example, environmental protection is enshrined in its constitution, which puts a limit on profitable industries such as logging.
Nevertheless, the case of Bhutan continues to inspire conversations as to what should be the purpose of society and how countries can measure success. Bhutan also illustrates what might just be possible if there were the political will.
The journey, not the destination
Against this backdrop, I set off from the UK in October 2017 with the barest of essentials packed onto a bicycle and my route, you might say, has been circuitous. As I write I am in Canada, and it was important for me to travel across South and North America, as I wanted to pass through other places that, much like Bhutan, are exploring new ways of living and where the economy does not necessarily dominate political and social life.
I also wanted to visit Canada, which has an exemplary national index of well-being that was developed in conjunction with citizens. It was developed as a bottom-up process with clear and direct links to policy. From a research perspective we know that autonomy and having a voice is important for well-being and I have learnt from personal experience how important it is to feel heard.
I’ve flown some of the way (across oceans) but cycled most of it in a bid to make the journey authentic and purposeful. Not only did I think cycling would be good for my own well-being (physical and mental) but because it is a form of travel that has minimal ecological impact and therefore would not harm the well-being of those around me. Plus, my experiences traveling on a bicycle before I began this journey showed me that it is a fantastic way to meet people. It is a fairly unusual form of travel in some parts of the world and it draws interest and builds connections.
People can often make a place. I knew that the people I met would form an important part of my trip and I wanted to create long lasting connections, which are of course an important component of a happy life. These connections have come through sharing experiences of what it means to be happy – sharing my own research and personal experiences of happiness and also being willing to hear about the experiences of others, from the people I have met in the street and the plazas to the people making policy decisions.
There are many people who are interested in implementing programmes and happiness policies into their own lives and the lives of others as a means to genuinely promote happiness and well-being in the area where they live.
When I spoke with people involved in policy decisions in Costa Rica, for example, we discussed the country’s involvement in the Wellbeing Economy Alliance. This is an organisation that resembles the G7 group of countries, but rather than a focus on the size of the economy, these countries – including Costa Rica, Scotland, New Zealand and Slovenia, among others – aim to promote well-being.
My journey has been undeniably amazing on a personal level. Each day can bring something different, unexpected, challenging, and that demands a lot psychologically. Suddenly I might find myself in the home of a person I met in a plaza sharing food with their family. The next day I could find myself sitting in my tent alone but in the company of a beautiful night sky. There have been some truly special moments and, through these, I have often felt happy and learnt many interesting things about myself. For example, that I am much more than just an academic, and that sometimes what we perceive ourselves to be can limit what we can be.
Yet it has not been easy, and has definitely not been a holiday. My journey has involved a substantial amount of physical effort and at times deep challenge. About two months into my trip I got bitten by a street dog in a tiny village in Peru. The need to deal with the physical effects aside (treating the wound, getting to a hospital, getting vaccinations), the experience reallyaffected me psychologically.
I wanted to come home. I was struggling to find the emotional strength I needed to get through. I felt alone. But I persevered and I put my ability to do so down to eventually finding the support I needed (both locally and from back home), as well as having that clear sense of purpose.
I’m glad I persevered with the journey as all the other experiences I’ve since that incident and the people I have met have been enormously enriching and given me a greater feeling of wholeness. Plus, an important part of happiness is dealing with adversity and building resilience for when difficult things happen, as they inevitably do.
Now, I’m in Canada and, in truth, I’m surprised I’ve made it this far. I often wonder whether I’ll ever actually make it to Bhutan; there are many more mountains to climb and seas to cross. Lately, I’ve been having a difficult time on the road – it’s been a year and I deeply miss the surroundings of home, friends and family.
Maybe I don’t actually need to go all the way to Bhutan. Maybe what I’ve done is enough. Either way, I can rest assured that happiness is found in the journey – not the destination.
Dianne Feinstein is “easily one of the most evil people I ever met. She is the Dragon Lady with no f***ing heart.” Jello Biafra formerly of the Dead Kennedys
Previously, I explained that Dianne Feinstein had traded some old railroad ties in the desert for the gold in the Chocolate Mountains of southern California as part of her Desert Wilderness Preservation bill. It should have known as “how big a kickback will I get on $100s of billions in gold?”
Currently, her husband won a $985,142,530 contract to connect Madera and Fresno on California’s high speed rail linking San Francisco to Los Angeles. That is $35 million a mile and does not include land acquisition and rolling stock.
She was for six years the top Democrat on the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies (or “Milcon”) sub-committee, where she may have directed more than $1.5 billion to those two military contractors, URS Corporation and Perini Corporation controlled by her husband.
We have already given Feinstein and friends billions. Is there no limit to what we are expected to give her?
At one time she was a member of the Trilateral Commission and the Council on Foreign Relations.
She is convinced that Julian Assange belongs in jail.
She was against Gay marriage before she was for it.
As mayor of San Francisco, she refused to participate in a Gay Pride parade because she wanted to run for office statewide.
Dianne Feinstein was first elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1969. She won one of her elections by campaigning late the night before election day at sado-masochistic bars. She got the whip vote and was smart enough to do it so late that the news media could not get the story out to the voters. This was at a time when the SF Coroner’s office admitted that 10% of all unnatural deaths were the result of sadists cutting off the circulation of their sexual partners. The coroner ran classes to educate the sadists as to the correct methods of tying up people. Establishments were set up with doctors and nurses on call so masochists could receive immediate medical attention. Unfortunately for America she defeated Quentin Kopp for President of the Board of Supervisors in 1978. On November 27, 1978 Mayor Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk were assassinated by ex-Supervisor Dan White and she became Mayor of San Francisco. Mr White used the Twinkie defense and was convicted of manslaughter as opposed to murder. He served less than two years of a 5 to 7 year sentence.
The Talmud told the Jews that they could rob the Gentiles as soon as they of control of their government. Feinstein is living proof that the Talmud does guide the behavior of many American Jews.
Israel Shahak: The Laws Against Non-Jews In 2 Minutes
For a generation, big box stores have swept across America, using predatory pricing and other dirty tricks to kill the independent retail sector; they used their corporate lobbying muscle to tempt cities and towns into handing out massive corporate welfare checks to lure them to town, and now, with the help of hustling contingency lawyers, they are promulgating a property-tax scam called “the dark store theory” that is cutting their taxes in half or more, with further reductions every year, and no end in sight.
The “dark store theory” holds that property taxes on thriving, super-profitable big box stores should not be based on how much the property sold for, plus the capital investment, minus depreciation — instead, these stores should be valued based on the selling price of nearby failed big-box stores that have been sold at knock-down prices.
Big box stores used their generous municipal subsidies to overbuild across American towns, creating a glut that resulted in widespread closures after the financial crisis. Because big box stores are so terribly built — shoddy construction, weird layouts, and not even enough freight docks to use as a warehouse — the shuttered stores sell for a tiny fraction of their book value.
But even though the big boxes are shuttering their stores like crazy, the remaining stores are still profitable — thanks to the overinvestment in big box stores during the rampup phase, all the local retail that might have competed with the remaining stores has collapsed. That leaves locals with no choice but to drive longer distances to the remaining stores to shop, meaning that the predatory mega-retailers now get to spend less to do the same business.
Entrepreneurial corporate lawyer/consultants like Detroit’s Michael Shapiro (who is credited with inventing “dark store theory”) and Minnesota’s Robert Hill have made a fortune for themselves and for big box stores by filing costly court challenges to the stores’ tax assessments, arguing that their property taxes should be based on the price of the abandoned, unsuccessful nearby stores, not on the standard formula of sale price plus improvements minus depreciation.
These lawyers seek reductions of fifty percent or more on property tax bills, and return year after year to drive those bills even lower. The small towns they hit — who often can’t afford to litigate against multinational, private-equity-backed retail giants — roll over.
Towns that have granted these tax concessions are going broke. Ste St Marie, MI has slashed city pensions; Escanaba, MI has cut its library hours; and so on. Meanwhile, town residents and small businesses are facing rising tax bills as their cities seek to close the gap left by the sweetheart treatment the big boxes are getting.
Wisconsinites in 24 towns voted to end “dark store theory” tax treatments in ballot initiatives in this month’s elections. But that’s only a few towns in one states, and meanwhile the epidemic rages on.
Still, it’s going to be tough: Don Millis, a prominent tax attorney who represents retailers and a lobbyist for the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, the top advocacy group for big business in these parts, sits on the legislative committee assigned to review the issue.
Other states have proposed legal fixes, too, but in Indiana, the one state that managed to pass anti-dark store theory legislation in 2015, lobbying pressure led to its weakening the year after it was passed. The state tax board has continued to sympathize with retailers, who keep launching appeals.
If Wisconsin managed to change its laws, Hill told me, lawyers like him would just redouble their efforts. “That’s when we’ll grab the pitchforks and get the Constitution involved,” he said.
“Our citizens should know the urgent facts…but they don’t because our media serves imperial, not popular interests. They lie, deceive, connive and suppress what everyone needs to know, substituting managed news misinformation and rubbish for hard truths…”—Oliver Stone