Fracking Worse Than You Think: Delusional America and Special Interest Gangs

fracking water

Mam, your water’s just fine, a pungent gasoline smell is normal nowadays. news.nationalgeographic.com

A recent peer reviewed study has revealed that greenhouse gas emissions from drilling and fracking are 50% worse than previously thought. According to the Harvard study US fossil-fuel-industry methane leaks are dramatically higher than the official estimates have claimed. Not surprisingly, the coal seam gas industry in Australia (one of the largest in the world) has rejected the study outright.

The report, published in the US journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, directly challenges the EPA’s decision to cut its methane emission (produced from fossil fuel extraction) estimates by 25% for 1990 – 2011. The report states that:

We find that [methane] data from across North America instead indicates the need for a much larger adjustment of the opposite sign

Fracking is altering the climate far faster than we first thought. However, before we continue with fracking, let’s first understand the difference between Australia’s coal seam gas and America’s natural gas.

Coal Seam Gas Vs. Natural Gas:

As an end-use product, coal seam gas is the same as natural gas...The only difference between CSG and natural gas is in the way that it is formed by nature. CSG is composed predominantly of methane and small percentages of nitrogen and carbon dioxide. The coal seam is both the source and the reservoir, which is different from the sandstone reservoirs of conventional oil and shale gas. As coal forms over millions of years, large quantities of methane-rich gas are generated and trapped in coal seams by water and ground pressure. CSG is trapped in the coal in tiny fractures, or cleats, under hydrostatic pressure. CSG is extracted at low pressures from coal.
Shale gas is methane held within shale layers, rather than a coal seam. Shale is much harder than coal and always requires fracturing ('fracking') to allow the gas to flow.
fracking graphic

Seems pretty technical boys, just throw in all the chemicals you can’t pronounce. http://www.usatoday.com

While natural gas produces less CO2 than coal, the savings become irrelevant when considering the amount of methane that is sprayed into the atmosphere from methane leaks at well sites and while transporting the fuel. The reason for all the worry is that methane traps about 20 times more heat over a 100 year period compared to CO2, despite remaining in the atmosphere for less time.

Related Article: What is the Solution to Smog? A Vacuum! 

A natural gas addiction has infected the U.S. with fracking spreading across the country like a viral epidemic. Fracking is the process of harvesting natural gas, or shale gas.  It involves mixing dangerous chemicals with large quantities of water and sand and injecting the mixture into shale wells at extremely high pressure. It is for this reason that fracking is believed to be poisoning well water all across the U.S. and in other areas of the world. According to the NRDC (Natural Resources Defence Council):

Over the last decade, the industry has drilled thousands of new wells in the Rocky Mountain region and in the South. It is expanding operations in the eastern United States as well, setting its sights most recently on a 600-mile-long rock formation called the Marcellus Shale, which stretches from West Virginia to western New York.  Fracking is a suspect in polluted drinking water in Arkansas, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming, where residents have reported changes in water quality or quantity following fracturing operations.

fracking U.S.

The U.S. is ripe for the fracking! http://www.geomore.com

Immense wells of shale gas are spread across most of the U.S. mainland.  These sites each undergo several fracking pumps. Although the media portrays natural gas as the new and improved, next-gen, problem free energy source, it couldn’t be further from the truth. Pipeline incidents and injuries abound and reports of polluted drinking water continue to pop up across the nation with greater frequency. Studies have directly linked shale gas fracking to:

The EPA still has not issued its report on the effect of fracking on drinking water. Despite all of the science pleading with us to reconsider our actions, fracking continues unimpeded.

Related Article: A Cheaper Alternative to Pollution

 

Fracking Denial and Delusions

By far the worst issue surrounding fracking is that as a whole, we still seem to have no clue that fracking is even taking place, let alone destroying the water supply and decimating the health of 1000’s of people as well as the land.  I suppose this isn’t surprising though as many nations are just as clueless about climate change. Afterall, climate denial is a real thing, actively and directly supported by a large number of the 90 institutions that are responsible for climate change since the industrial revolution. So, why shouldn’t the natural gas and fracking industries involve the same type of nonsense?

 

fracking climate

Superhuman denial abilties…
http://www.frankejames.com/

The truth is that human beings, especially us good ol’ Americans, will buy into anything given the opportunity. People are often fooled into passionate belief, and the denial campaigns and propaganda of billion dollar industries do a great deal of fooling.

Related Article: Climate Change too Fast for Evolution 

Let’s consider climate change again: Many Americans continue to believe that climate change is either a hoax or an over-dramatized issue.  This ignorance is a wrench in the spokes of global progress, especially in light of increasingly volatile weather patternsincreasing extinctions in land and marine lifewarnings from scientists across the globe; and the potential loss of trillions of dollars due to the costly effects of climate change.  This is cognitive dissonance in its purest form: we know the facts, but we are refusing to change.

 

Crony Capitalism and Special Interest

Despite America’s lack of progress in reducing emissions, most Americans’ desire a green, renewable energy policy. This applies to fracking as well; a large number of Americans are completely against it. Unfortunately though, oil, coal, and gas companies are at the top of the special interest dole list.

Special interest comes in the form of better government subsidies, tax cuts, court rulings, and allowances. We all know it takes place, and it has been widely practiced and wildly accepted. It is called crony capitalism, and it has been an an ongoing, yet somehow overlooked problem in America.

Related Article: Team Red = Team Blue

fracking george bush

No. Well, for the entertainment value, yes. bigdanblogger.blogspot.com

When Bush appointed Dick Cheney to lead an energy task force to revolutionize America’s energy policy, Cheney quickly organized a private meeting with fossil fuel giants at the head of the fracking movement. Companies such as Exxon Mobil, Conoco, Shell Oil, BP America and Chevron made the top of the list.  Today, these companies are still given billions of dollars in tax cuts and subsidies despite raking in hundreds of billions of dollars in private profit. According to PBS:

In 2005, Bush, who has received more from the oil and gas industry than any other politician, signed an energy bill from the Republican-controlled Congress that gave $14.5 billion in tax breaks for oil, gas, nuclear power and coal companies. The Energy Policy Act of 2005, which was based on recommendations by Cheney’s energy task force, also rolled back regulations the oil industry considered burdensome, including exemptions from some clean water laws. All of this transpired only one year after Congress passed a bill that included a tax cut for domestic manufacturing that was expected to save energy companies at least $3.6 billion over a decade.

During the time that Bush and Cheney, both of whom are former oil executives, have been in the White House, the oil and gas industry has spent $393.2 million on lobbying the federal government. This places the industry among the top nine in lobbying expenditures. The industry has also contributed a substantial $82.1 million to federal candidates, parties and political action committees, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. 80 percent of the industry’s contributions have gone to Republicans.

It is clear that special interest is taking place and is supporting companies in defiance of America’s health, wealth, and overall best interest. The truth is that a complete multi-industry infiltration of the U.S. government has taken place. Men and women with stake in the fracking, agriculture, pharmaceuticals and more are casting votes and making decisions that directly benefit the industries and leave citizens stripped of their money and power.

 

Monsanto the Usurper

The most obvious example of a corporation infiltrating the U.S. government is that of Monsanto. Monsanto, in case you didn’t know, is responsible for destroying thousands of local farms, using known harmful herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides, using chemicals responsible for colony collapse disorders in bees, and much more.

Related Article: The Senate is Useless and Should be Dismantled

Monsanto and Monsanto products are banned in several countries.  Numerous petitions to cut government ties to Monsanto have circulated, yet to no avail.  I wonder, why they didn’t succeed?

First, follow this link to view a list of 71 senators who voted against your right to know if what you are eating is GMO. Oh, and that’s despite 90% of the population saying they would be in favor of mandatory labeling.

fracking monsanto us

Whoa, there must be some huge cracks in the U.S. government for these people to slip through. https://www.facebook.com/GrowFoodNotLawns

Next, check out the following list of U.S. government/Monsanto ties and the answer will be obvious.

David Beier 
MONSANTO POSITION: Head of Government Affairs for Genetech, (Now Monsanto)
FEDERAL POSITION: Chief Domestic Policy Advisor to Vice President Gore

William Conlon:
MONSANTO POSITION: Worked for Monsanto’s Legal Team
FEDERAL POSITION: Department of Justice

Sam Skinner:
MONSANTO POSITION: Worked on Monsanto’s Legal Team
FEDERAL POSITION: Department of Justice

Robert Fraley:
MONSANTO POSITION: Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer
FEDERAL POSITION: Serves as advisor in public agencies, including the USDA, among others

Michael A. Friedman:
MONSANTO POSITION: Senior Vice President for Clinical Affairs at G.D. Searle &Co. (Merged with Monsanto)
FEDERAL POSITION: Acting Commissioner of the FDA

Marcia Hale
MONSANTO POSITION: Director of International Government Affairs
FEDERAL POSITION: Assistant to President Clinton and Director of Government Affairs

Arthur Hull Hayes:
MONSANTO POSITION: Consultant to Searle’s (merged with Monsanto) Public Relations Firm
FEDERAL POSITION: Previously was FDA Commissioner

John L. Henshaw:
MONSANTO POSITION: Director of ESH Quality & Compliance
FEDERAL POSITION: Senior Advisor to U.S. Secretary of Labor

Rob Horsch:
MONSANTO POSITION: Vice President of Product and Technology Cooperation
FEDERAL POSITION: Advisor to the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy

Michael Kantor:
MONSANTO POSITION: Board of Directors, also represented Monsanto as a lawyer
FEDERAL POSITION: U.S. Secretary of Commerce

Gwendolyn S. King:
MONSANTO POSITION: Monsanto Board Member
FEDERAL POSITION: Commissioner of SSA 1989-1992

Richard J. Mahoney:
MONSANTO POSITION: CEO of Monsanto for 14 years
FEDERAL POSITION: Serves as Director of U.S. Soviet, Japanese and Korean Trade Councils, a Member of the U.S. Government Policy Committee

Margaret Miller:
MONSANTO POSITION: Oversaw the Approval of rBGH, was a top Monsanto scientist
FEDERAL POSITION: In, 1991, Margaret was appointed Deputy Director of the FDA

George Poste:
MONSANTO POSITION: Sits on Monsanto’s Board of Directors, previously a Monsanto Animal Specialist
FEDERAL POSITION: In 2002, Poste was appointed head of Bioterrorism division of Homeland Security

William D. Ruckelshaus:
MONSANTO POSITION: Member of the Monsanto Board of Directors
FEDERAL POSITION: In 1970, he was the first Chief Administrator for the EPA, later the acting director of the FBI, then Deputy U.S. Attorney General

Donald Rumsfeld:
MONSANTO POSITION: Previous CEO of Searle (merged with Monsanto), he successfully had ASPARTAME legalized while in that position.
FEDERAL POSITION: Appointed to Secretary of Defense in 1975, then appointed to Secretary of Defense again in 2002

Suzanne Sechen:
MONSANTO POSITION: Worked on Monsanto-funded rGBH in connection with her graduate work at Cornell University
FEDERAL POSITION: FDA Reviewer on Scientific Data

Robert B. Shapiro:
MONSANTO POSITION: Previously the President and CEO of Monsanto, Chairman and CEO of Nutrasweet, and Chairman and CEO of Monsanto
FEDERAL POSITION: Previously Served as President’s Advisory Committee on Trade Policy and on the White House Domestic Policy Review of Industrial Innovation

Islam Siddiqui:
MONSANTO POSITION: Former Vice President of CropLife America, which represented Monsanto
FEDERAL POSITION: Chief Agricultural Negotiator for the Office of the Trade Representative

Michael Taylor:
MONSANTO POSITION: Former Attorney for Monsanto for seven years, previous h Head of the Monsanto Washington D.C. Office
FEDERAL POSITION: Former FDA Deputy Commission for Policy. In 2010, appointed by the FDA as a senior advisor of the FDA Commissioner

Dr. Charles Thomas:
MONSANTO POSITION: Previous Monsanto Researcher in charge of the Manhattan Project, creating the atomic bomb. Later, became Monsanto’s Chairman of the board.
FEDERAL POSITION: Previously Served as a consultant to the National Security Council and as a U.S. Representative of the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Commission

Clarence Thomas:
MONSANTO POSITION: Former lawyer for Monsanto, a notorious chemical polluter. Thomas would later cast the decisive vote in 2000 on the Supreme Court, ratifying the stolen election that put George W. Bush Jr. into office
FEDERAL POSITION: In 1991, was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court

Anne Veneman:
MONSANTO POSITION: Previously served on the Board of Directors of Calgene, a Monsanto Biotech subsidiary
FEDERAL POSITION: In 2001, was appointed Head of the USDA

Jack Watson:
MONSANTO POSITION: Former Staff Lawyer with Monsanto in Washington D.C.
FEDERAL POSITION: Chief of Staff to President Carter

Seth Waxman:
MONSANTO POSITION: Hired by Monsanto to prosecute two Farmers who fought against Monsanto’s Seed Policies in 2002
FEDERAL POSITION: Former U.S. Solicitor General

Dr. Virginia Weldon:
MONSANTO POSITION: Retired Senior Vice President for Public Policy at Monsanto
FEDERAL POSITION: Previously, was a member of the FDA’s Metabolism & Endocrine Advisory Committee

Rufus Yerxa:
MONSANTO POSITION: Former Chief Counsel at Monsanto
FEDERAL POSITION: In 1993, was nominated as U.S. Deputy to the World Trade Organization

Toby Moffett:
MONSANTO POSITION: Monsanto Consultant
FEDERAL POSITION: U.S. Congressman (D)

Dennis DeConcini:
MONSANTO POSITION: Monsanto Legal Counsel
FEDERAL POSITION: U.S. Senator (D)

Josh King:
MONSANTO POSITION: Director, International Government Affairs
FEDERAL POSITION: White House Communications (Clinton)

Carol Tucker-Forman:
MONSANTO POSITION: Monsanto Lobbyist
FEDERAL POSITION: White House Appointed Consumer Advisor (Clinton)

Linda Fisher:
MONSANTO POSITION: Vice President, Government & Public Affairs
FEDERAL POSITION: Deputy Administrator EPA (Clinton, Bush)

Lidia Watrud:
MONSANTO POSITION: Manger, New Technologies
FEDERAL POSITION: USDA, EPA (Clinton, Bush, Obama)

Hillary Clinton:
MONSANTO POSITION: Rose Law Firm, Monsanto Counsel
FEDERAL POSITION: U.S. Senator (D), Secretary of State (Obama)

Roger Beachy:
MONSANTO POSITION: Director, Monsanto Danforth Center
FEDERAL POSITION: Director USDA, NIFA (Obama)

 

How to Patch a Sinking Ship

It appears that industries spanning every sector, including fracking, agriculture, pharmaceuticals and more are playing a game with the U.S. government, swapping players each season for their own sake, not mine and yours. When congress, the congress of the people, stops acting in the people’s best interest we have a serious problem. Right now we are in the heart of the danger zone. What are we to do?

permaculture fracking system

So, let’s make this happen immediately. shadesofgreeninc.org

In a capitalistic society you are a consumer first and foremost.  A capitalistic society feeds on your spending, and it feeds you with the sweet satisfaction of ‘things.’  You have power in your purchases; use your buying power to support sustainability-minded companies. If companies are getting away with infiltrating and orchestrating sections of the government, then why not make sure they are excellent companies willing to appease, not disease the masses.

Buy local, support the little guy. Sure, it may sometimes be more expensive, but try not spending your money on a few of your monthly non-essentials and you’d be surprised how quickly your savings add up.

Related Article: Income Inequality in America

Become more independent and deplete your dependence on ‘the system’ by making purchases with awarenessFind satisfaction in the little things and start wanting less. Become more aware of how each and every decision you make affects the rest of the world.  Imagine that everyone else on planet Earth is you; what effect would you like to have on yourself?

Grow a garden, go foraging for food, or keep honeybees. Learn about permaculture and begin practicing a zero-waste lifestyle. It’s way easier than you think, and is actually really fun.

Arguably the most important thing you can do is vote. Contact your elected officials  and tell them what you think. Demand that they act as your representative, not a rogue speaker. Help fight fracking by joining organizations that fight to stop it.

Educate yourself and spread awareness about issues that are important to you.

Consider. Constantly consider the effect you are causing.

 

 

 

Source:

http://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/harvard-fracking-study-rings-methane-alarm-bells-in-australia-20131126-2y87s.html#ixzz2lu8UBq6R

http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2013/03/12/factbox-csg-australia

http://epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/gases/ch4.html

http://www.dartgas.com/content/Document/Factsheets/What%20is%20CSG.pdf

http://www.nrdc.org/energy/gasdrilling/

http://www.nature.com/news/is-fracking-behind-contamination-in-wyoming-groundwater-1.11543

http://www.nicholas.duke.edu/news/radioactive-shale-gas-contaminants-found-at-wastewater-discharge-site

http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2012/04/fracking-could-cause-elevated-levels-of-air-pollutants-near-gas-wells/256158/

http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/2012/03/reproductive-problems-death-animals-exposed-fracking

http://www.npr.org/2012/01/05/144694550/man-made-quakes-blame-fracking-and-drilling

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/blogpost/post/monsanto-petition-tells-obama-cease-fda-ties-to-monsanto/2012/01/30/gIQAA9dZcQ_blog.html

http://www.businessinsider.com/epa-data-links-groundwater-contamination-fracking-2012-10

http://www.dangersoffracking.com/

http://www2.epa.gov/hfstudy

http://www.fractracker.org/map/

http://www.climatecentral.org/news/americans-uninformed-about-fracking-says-new-study-16762

http://www.pewresearch.org/2006/02/28/both-reds-and-blues-go-green-on-energy/

http://www.pbs.org/now/shows/347/oil-politics.html

http://www.organicconsumers.org/gefood/countrieswithbans.cfm

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/blogpost/post/monsanto-petition-tells-obama-cease-fda-ties-to-monsanto/2012/01/30/gIQAA9dZcQ_blog.html

http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_27635.cfm

http://justlabelit.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Mellman-Survey-Results.pdf

http://www.monsanto.com/whoweare/pages/robert-fraley-bio.aspx

http://organicconsumers.org/monsanto/revolvedoor.cfm

http://www.rense.com/general33/legal.htm

http://www.aiard.org/meetings/2004forum/horsch.htm

http://www.monsanto.com/whoweare/pages/gwendolyn-king-bio.aspx

http://www.nytimes.com/1983/08/02/business/talking-business-with-mahoney-of-monsanto-farm-subsidy-complications.html

http://organicconsumers.org/monsanto/revolvedoor.cfm http://www.gao.gov/assets/200/196503.pdf

https://webapp4.asu.edu/directory/person/629659

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donald_Rumsfeld#Career_in_government_.281962.E2.80.931977.29

http://www.gao.gov/assets/200/196503.pdf

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_B._Shapiro

http://www.gao.gov/assets/200/196503.pdf

http://www.nap.edu/booksearch.php?booksearch=1&record_id=4548&term=monsanto&chapter=338-353

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/07/supreme-court-monsanto-seeds_n_1946361.html

http://www.organicconsumers.org/corp/veneman.cfm

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/20/business/justices-signal-a-monsanto-edge-in-patent-case.html?_r=0

http://beckerexhibits.wustl.edu/mowihsp/bios/weldon.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rufus_Yerxa

http://www.organicconsumers.org/corp/foremancfa.cfm

http://one.gaslandthemovie.com/take-action/contact-elected-officials

 

 

 

https://wondergressive.com/news/90-companies-responsible-climate-change/

https://wondergressive.com/news/fooling-people-into-passionate-belief/

https://wondergressive.com/news/warning-weather-hazards-ahead/

https://wondergressive.com/news/unprecedented-changes-and-extinctions-occurring-in-marine-life/

https://wondergressive.com/news/climate-change-too-fast-for-evolution/

https://wondergressive.com/news/costly-climate-changes/

https://wondergressive.com/news/ask-an-astrobiologist-global-warming-and-what-to-expect/

https://wondergressive.com/news/indiana-blue-laws-exemplify-crony-capitalism-time-to-punish-politicians/

https://wondergressive.com/news/mystery-of-the-dyingdisappearing-honeybees-solved/

https://wondergressive.com/news/bowman-monsanto-court-case/

https://wondergressive.com/news/afraid-to-wake-up-conquering-fear-and-living-the-lives-we-want/

https://wondergressive.com/news/the-wonderful-healthier-life-changing-and-life-lengthening-world-of-fasting/

https://wondergressive.com/news/awareness-and-dealing-with-rejection/

https://wondergressive.com/news/edible-landscapes/

https://wondergressive.com/news/healthy-honey-bees/

Indiana Blue Laws Exemplify Crony Capitalism

The set-up and continuation of the current economic crisis in America has numerous sources. A particularly aggravating one is best described as crony capitalism, in which a supposedly free-market system is actually undermined by blatant political favoritism. The government picks winners and losers in the economy at the expense of the market and what benefits consumers. High-profile and massively expensive examples of this type of cronyism can be seen in the Too Big To Fail bank bailouts and the federal intervention to prevent GM from floundering. Another can be seen in Obamacare, a.k.a the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, in which individuals are forced to purchase health care coverage from large insurance companies and face penalties if they don’t.

This type of economic intervention can also be found in smaller, though no less maddening doses. My home state of Indiana has some of the most onerous “blue laws” in the nation. While a dozen states prohibit the sale of distilled spirits on Sundays, the Hoosier State is the only one that also bans the sale of beer and wine as well. In addition, it’s the only state to regulate the sale of alcohol based on temperature—although grocery stores can sell beer, only liquor stores can sell it refrigerated.

This NPR piece details the current struggle in Indiana between convenience stores and liquor stores. Predictably, the dispute is about money and market share, a battle too often fought through cronyism. Convenience stores and gas stations, represented by the Indiana Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association, have filed a federal lawsuit for the right to sell cold beer. Liquor stores are lobbying to preserve the blue laws in order to maintain their monopoly.

Dave Bridgers, vice president of Thorntons, an Indiana chain of gas stations and convenience stores, says that the laws reduce choice for customers and eliminates competition, leading to changes in how his company will do business. Bridgers states:

Not having the ability to sell what our customers want impacts our bottom line. We will continue to invest in other states, where laws are more business friendly to our company, and where it makes the most economic sense.

Following through on his promise, Thorntons hasn’t opened a new store in Indiana since 2006. The company has instead decided to expand into Ohio and Kentucky, with many stores located near the border in or around Louisville. Many Hoosiers, and I happily include myself as one of their number, frequently cross state lines to circumvent Indiana’s blue laws.

John Livengood, president of the Indiana Association for Beverage Retailers, argues that eliminating the blue laws would be ruinous for the liquor store industry. He estimates between 25-50% of stores would be shuttered were it not for their existence. He argues that since Sunday is a popular day to go grocery shopping, allowing consumers to purchase groceries and alcohol in one stop would render the liquor stores obsolete. By lobbying the government to preserve the blue laws, he thinks he can keep these stores in business.

This is the crux and curse of crony capitalism: Rather than competing for customers by providing superior products and services, two rival industries are instead lobbying to curry government favor—one to repeal a law and the other to maintain it.

Both sides feel a very real need to divert valuable resources into politics. They are both aware of the government’s formidable power to pick winners and losers in the market. With Washington’s blessing and intervention, even shoddy business models can—perhaps briefly—be successful in the market. For examples of this in one industry alone, look at Solyndra and at least 18 other green companies that went bust despite receiving substantial financial assistance from the Fed.

As tempting as it is to blame businesses and K Street for the problems of political favoritism, the blame truly lies with the government itself. Lobbyists ask Washington for special treatment that would help their industries because they know the government has the power to grant those favors. If the government were truly restricted in its power, say—if they actually followed the Constitution,  businesses would cease to lobby because they would know that it would be unprofitable to continue to do so.

Ginning up government favor with promises of both votes and money, lobbyists can be viewed as a teenage kid with a heroin problem. The kid goes to his parents—Washington in this analogy—and asks them for cash to help him out, with the promise that he’ll go to rehab and clean up next week. The kid doesn’t ask his neighbors because he knows that they have no reason to give it to him and that it would almost assuredly be a waste of time. The parents end up forking the money over. They are encouraging their kid’s behavior and will likely see him again with his hand held out wearing a fake-sorry frown.

This “Gimme! Gimme!” behavior needs to be punished if we are to see less of it, however, it is unfair to punish the special interests groups, as they are only asking for favors. Politicians are the ones actually granting them in return for campaign donations and loyal votes. Just like the kid with the smack problem, why shouldn’t lobbyists ask for special favors? The gravy train is certainly flowing, as Congress spent $16.5 billion on special pork projects in 2010 alone. For this behavior to stop, the politicians need to be punished for doling out unconstitutional favors.

Blue laws are written by state and local legislatures (famously, Jack Daniel’s is distilled in dry-as-a-bone Moore County, TN) and they operate under a different set of rules than policies dictated by Washington. However, the current struggle in Indiana is indicative of the larger problem of crony capitalism in the nation. More and more industries are fighting for market share and favorable treatment by lobbying legislatures rather than competing for customers by lowering prices, increasing quality or providing additional services.

However, when the government gives out billions of dollars of special favors each year, it’s awfully hard not to put your hand out, with a wink and a smile, and shout “Gimme!”

 

 

 

Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Too_big_to_fail

http://www.latimes.com/business/autos/la-fi-hy-taxpayers-loss-gm-bailout-20130607,0,3122760.story

https://wondergressive.com/2013/02/21/obamacare-and-the-49-employee-company/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_law

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2013/07/03/193865442/Indiana-Convenience-Stores-Sue-To-Sell-Cold-Beer

http://www.ipca.org/

http://www.indianabeverageretailers.org/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K_Street_%28Washington,_D.C.%29

http://blog.heritage.org/2012/11/06/green-graveyard-an-in-depth-look-at-governments-bad-bets-on-19-now-bankrupt-companies/

http://www.cbsnews.com/htdocs/pdf/2012_Pig_Book.pdf

 

Income Inequality in America: Red Herrings and Wealth Envy

 

The issue of income inequality in the United States has again crept into the blogosphere through a viral video created by user politizane using data from Michael I. Norton and Daniel Ariely. It attempts to illustrate how far off the actual levels of inequality are compared to what people think is the reality and what they believe is the ideal distribution of wealth. Its creator then implicitly implores the viewer to think of ways to end this injustice by flattening out the perceived malapportionment.

My first response to the largely non-issue of inequality is a very blunt “So what?” As income inequality has increased, the standard of living has also surged to the point where it’s almost meaningless to talk about “the poor” in America these days. However, more important than the message of the video itself is its tacit endorsement of leveling the distribution of wealth in America, a proposition that is largely impossible without forcefully taking it away from the Haves.

Income inequality in the United States simply isn’t scary or even an undesirable condition. In fact, it has been one of the drivers of innovation in this country, a phenomenon that helped everyone become wealthier as technological advances eventually trickled down to even the poorest in our society. The US during the Gilded Age in the late 19th and early 20th centuries had large amounts of inequality, personified by mega-rich barons of the day like Vanderbilt, Carnegie, Ford and Rockefeller. Despite this, the quality of life improved dramatically for everyone regardless of social standing. In 1850 the average life expectancy in the US was 39.5. By the end of the century it had risen to around 49 and was nearly 60 by 1930.

This boost in the standard and quality of life was accompanied with a transformational technological boom that dramatically altered the way people lived. Even completely ignoring the end of slavery and the obvious progress blacks made towards racial equality, is there anyone who really thinks that 1850 was a better time to be born than in 1900? And to think, all of the cultural, financial and industrial advancement occurred in spite of—or perhaps because of—wealth inequality. The video gives another example: the narrator states that in 1976 the top 1% had 9% of the nation’s wealth, compared to 24% today. Considering how much “fairer” the country was back then, how many of you would rather be living in 1976? Hands? Anyone?

Another problem with the video lies in its fallacious depiction of poverty in America. When illustrating the actual distribution of wealth, the narrator describes the poorest Americans as being “down to pocket change.” While there is poverty in the US and I do not intend to denigrate the people living through tough times, the fact of the matter is that poverty in America looks dramatically different than actual poverty.

Poverty is when meeting the basic needs of food, shelter and clothing is a constant struggle. People living in war-torn Afghanistan are impoverished, as are those that live in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro or the slums of Jakarta. Most poor people in the US are only poor in relation to rich people, because thankfully this type of extreme poverty is exceptionally rare in America.

The Heritage Foundation produced a very illuminating study of the realities of the more than 30 million Americans who are defined as “in poverty” by the Census Bureau. Using figures from 2005, they listed household amenities and documented what percentage of poor households separately owned each item. Over 60% owned a cordless phone, clothes dryer, at least one DVD player, more than one television AND cable/satellite service, at least one VCR, air-conditioning, microwave, stove, oven and refrigerator. Of these poor households, 38.2% had a personal computer, about 30% had Internet access and over half had a cell phone, all astonishing numbers.

Is it really appropriate to call someone poor if they can sit in their air-conditioned house and sip a cold, refrigerated beverage as they surf the net? Honestly, if 17.9% of “poor households” own a big-screen TV, then perhaps it’s time to redefine what being poor actually means.

The implications of the video and the sentiment behind it are also disturbing. Over somber music, the narrator details the actual distribution of wealth in the nation and makes pleas “to find something that is fair for hardworking Americans.” Clearly, politizane thinks wealth inequality is unfair and harmful, a societal ill that needs rectifying.

The really scary part is how some people plan on “fixing” the fiscal unbalance. France has already created a 75% upper tax rate on income over one million euros that has led some to flee the country in order to keep their money. Switzerland has also recently made it illegal to pay a CEO too much, with a penalty of up to three years in jail.

Raising taxes on the rich and penalizing “excessive” compensation smacks of petty wealth envy, punishment for the crime of having more money than someone else. The top 1% already pays 37% of federal income taxes, and the top 5% pay 59% of the total. Just how much more should they have to pay in pursuit of “fairness?”

Politizane’s video does mention the “Dreaded Socialism” and how it’s unnecessary to fully implement that failed philosophy. However, any attempts to redistribute wealth from Washington must, at their core, be socialistic. Confiscating wealth in order to be more equitable is inherently immoral, especially when Washington spends so recklessly and inefficiently that they give drunken sailors a bad name. After all, trillion dollar deficits are the new norm and Congress has failed to pass an actual budget three years in a row, with Obama’s last attempt being voted down 99-0 in the Senate.

Trying to reallocate wealth through higher tax rates, salary caps, or any other conceivable method is hazardous, unethical and largely pointless. Rather than reflexively freaking about income inequality, politizane and others who share his concerns should take a deep breath and realize that it simply isn’t the great boogeyman that they fear it is. In fact, it actually helps drive the standard of living up for everyone, because as the rich buy products that only they can afford (e.g. cellphones in the ’80s), soon enough the technology is cheap enough to positively influence all of us.

Income inequality is nothing more than a red herring meant to inflame wealth envy into hatred of the rich. By ignoring this myopic view of society and realizing that other people’s wealth is no one else’s business, hopefully we can continue to enjoy the unprecedented advances in technology that make the Internet Age such a marvelous and truly progressive time to be alive.

 

 

 

Sources:

http://www.people.hbs.edu/mnorton/norton%20ariely%20in%20press.pdf

http://mappinghistory.uoregon.edu/english/US/US39-01.html

http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2011/07/what-is-poverty

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-19626188

http://www.economist.com/blogs/schumpeter/2013/03/switzerland%E2%80%99s-vote-executive-pay

http://taxfoundation.org/article/summary-latest-federal-individual-income-tax-data-0

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/2chambers/post/senate-rejects-obama-budget-republican-alternatives/2012/05/16/gIQAUA3WUU_blog.html

You Might be a Psychopath; Psychological Catch 22

In this TED talk from Jon Ronson the destruction of the field of psychology and strange answers to the psychopath test are discussed. Set to eerie music and unsettling visuals this talk is intriguing to say the least. It also brings up many important questions. Is the psychopath test a catch 22? Is everyone a psychopath?

Ronson says that Scientologists are trying to destroy psychology. Scientologists claim it is a pseudo-science that can’t be trusted. Their evidence? A man, Tony, who feigned insanity at his criminal trial to be placed in a lush cozy hospital for the mentally ill instead of jail. Their assertion is that he faked too well, and now can’t get out. It’s an incredibly insteresting look at mental illness and the abnormal behaviors of the human race.

“Tony said that it’s a lot harder to convince people that you’re sane than you’re crazy”

“You know they’re always looking for nonverbal cues to my mental state. But how do you sit in a sane way? How do you cross your legs in a sane way? It’s just impossible!” Tony says that one of the points on the psychopath check list is not feeling remorse, but if you say you feel regret and remorse, the psychologists claim you are being cunning and manipulative, which is another one of the points on the psychopath check list. He was caught in this catch 22 for fourteen years before the psychologists decided it was safe to release him into society, decidedly still a psychopath.

Ronson goes on to discuss capitalism and the characteristics presented in successful capitalists.

“The reason why is because capitalism at its most ruthless rewards psychopathic behavior. The lack of empathy, the glibness, cunning, manipulative. In fact capitalism perhaps at its most remorseless, is a physical manifestation of psychopathy.”

This video may get you worrying about your mental state, but I wouldn’t fret too much about it. All human behavior is relative.

North Korean Propaganda About the Western World is Sadly Accurate

North Korea has recently released a propaganda video illustrating the consumeristic and capitalistic world of the West.  It sent shivers down my spine. In an endless attempt to better ourselves and our world, we may as well learn from any and all sources.

Strangely, the video is hauntingly accurate.  It is weird to think that a video produced in such an underdeveloped, struggling, downright crazy country can present so much truth about the life of the West in one package. Take a look in the mirror.  You have been born and raised in this society.

That being said, I am by no means claiming that North Korea is a great country.  It is a country founded on the deception of its citizens and a refusal to cooperate with the world at large (sound familiar?).  The North Korean government starves its citizens of healthy food and jobs on a massive scale in favor of an expensive, standing military (sound familiar?). Don’t get me wrong, despite working in South Korea right now, I don’t want to be anywhere near North Korea as it now stands.

Instead of talking about how much better we are than other cultures in the world, why don’t we compare ourselves to… our selves.  Growth and evolution (on an individual, communal, national, and global scale) for the sake of being the best we can be, not just one-uping someone else!

North Korea Propaganda About the Western World is Sadly Accurate

 

North Korea has recently released a film illustrating what it sees as Western propaganda; revealing the consumeristic and capitalistic world of the West.  The poignancy of the video sent shivers down my spine. In an endless attempt to better ourselves and our world, we may as well learn from any and all sources.

The video is hauntingly accurate.  It is weird to think that a video produced in such an underdeveloped, struggling, downright crazy country can present so much truth about the life of the West in one package. Take a look in the mirror.  You have been born and raised in this society:

That being said, I am by no means claiming that North Korea is a great country.  It is a country founded on the deception of its citizens and a refusal to cooperate with the world at large (sound familiar?).  The North Korean government starves its citizens of healthy food and jobs on a massive scale in favor of an expensive, standing military (sound familiar?). Don’t get me wrong, despite working in South Korea right now, I don’t want to be anywhere near North Korea as it now stands.

Instead of talking about how much better we are than other cultures in the world, why don’t we compare ourselves to… our selves.  I’m talking about growth and evolution (on an individual, communal, national, and global scale) for the sake of being the best we can be, not just one-uping someone else!

 

Sources:

North Korea Propaganda Video

Vice: Inside North Korea

The New York Times: North Korea Abandon Deal with US

United States Military Budget