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Re: Common Ground Meeting Recap

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  • Scott Baker
    Hello fellow economic reformers! (names withheld by request): We had a great meeting Saturday, 1/22/11! Now, 6 hours is really too long, and I promise to have
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 30, 2011
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      Hello fellow economic reformers! (names withheld by request):

      We had a great meeting Saturday, 1/22/11!  Now, 6 hours is really too long, and I promise to have a smaller agenda next time (in March), but I think you will agree the enthusiasm and materials covered were well-worth the time! 
      -- We learned that Goldman Sachs pays no property tax, often no income tax, and doesn't even outperform the market with the millions the state invests with them.  All this for millions in annual fees!  Goldman Sachs should pay their Tax!  I'll have a sample letter in the near future, but let's decide on the best targets - Matt Tiabbi of Rolling Stone might like another crack at the "Giant Vampire Squid" sucking America dry.  I can put an article in Huffington Post. Who else?

      -- Andrew Mazzone (star teacher at the Henry George School) showed us just how distorted are the incomes and assets of the ultra-rich extractive classes and how some 50% on NYC Gross Metropolitan Product comes from derivatives of financial speculation, in large part on Land, somewhere. 

      -- We had good enthusiasm for t-shirt and other memorabilia creation.  We have since had one meeting of the subcommittee and are close to an initial design - a T-shirt that reads: HENRY GEORGE: AMERICA'S GREATEST ECONOMIST plus whatever else we'd like it to read - within reason, of course.  Andrew has contributed $300 to seed this effort!  I've attached some possible art starts, but this is only a beginning. 

      -- We saw a great film, "A Snowmobile for George" which showed how political gain is made from the people's pain. And with disregard for the Land too, as we saw from the fracking examples.  Our after-movie speaker, Joel Kupferman, Esq. was great too, and he showed how toxic Ground Zero truly was, and who covered that up and who suffers from this cover-up, to this day.  One thing became very clear from the film: the "controversies" that effect our health and the environment are often manufactured by political operatives like Karl Rove to divide us and to capture votes from their "base."  Another thing is clear too: those who don't care for the People, don't care for the Land either.

      *** UPDATE TO LVT LEGISLATION ***

      The LVT bill is our single most important effort right now.  Passage of this bill will free up billions in vacant land values.

      From Rita Rowan:
      By phone to office of Assembly member Linda Rosenthal to follow-up on her bill to create a 5th tax class for vacant/underused land:
      Legislative aide Jonathan Davis reported that the bill does not yet have a new number but that he would e-mail me when a number is assigned. He claims that the bill will definitely voted out of committee by the spring of this year.  He feels certain that it will be passed when it goes to the floor.
       
      We will continue our support efforts to keep pressure on this issue.  Our letter writing can be effective.
       
      By phone to office of Melissa Mark-Viverito of New York City Council.  Her bill, Intro 48 that provides for an annual vacancy survey was recently introduced.  It is basically a substitute for the earlier anti-warehousing bills 693 & 694.  It differs from these bills in that the latter requires the owners to register their properties and the M-V bill requires the city to undertake an annual vacancy survey at city expense.
       
      The bill is totally opposed by Speaker Quinn because she claims that it will be too expensive, costing the city millions.
       
      Her legislative aide Joel Taranto feels the bill is dead because of this opposition.  He had no information on the former bills but was negative about their prospects as the main sponsor member (David) Yassky is no longer in office so the bills will need new sponsorship to be revived.
       
      That possibility will probably depend on Scott Stringer's support.  Lindy and Josh are doing some work for him.  They should be able to do a heads up for us on their prospects and advise whether we should continue our support or drop them.
       
      It would be interesting to know how costly the bills will be and if this is an issue in contrast to the M-V introduction.

      Now, the second bill is struggling, partly because it requires $$$ to conduct a survey, but mostly because of entrenched pro-warehousing interests, who would like to keep their vacant property, untaxed, unused, and unavailable (that is, the Land underneath it) to the citizens of New York, whose commerce and activity is what give the Land its value to begin with.  We will keep an eye on this one too, and respond accordingly.  Speaker Quinn needs to represent the interests of ALL New Yorkers not the special interests of the few and powerful.

      Special Update on the Destructive Effects of Governor Cuomo's Property Tax Cap

      In a move that will do to New York State what proposition 13 did to California, Governor Cuomo has agreed to sign new legislation to cap the overall property tax at 2% or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower.  This boon for speculators and land-hoarders proves the Governor has no clue about economics or the Land cycle.  Mark the year 2011 on your calendars.  It will be as significant for New York as proposition 13 year 1978 was for California.
      Read more about this act of economic self-destruction here:
      http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/31/nyregion/31taxcap.html?ref=nyregion

      We at Common Ground-NYC will submit over a dozen letters this week calling for a correct elimination of taxes on buildings and productive activity, but an increased tax on Land, as the true way to stabilize the state's finances, grow the economy, end the vicious boom-bust cycle, and achieve economic justice.  I fear that will not be enough, however.  If you care about our state, please call, write, or email your representative about this travesty of natural law.  I attached a sample letter - already signed by 16 attendees of the last CG meeting - for inspiration.

      State Banking Update:

      Ellen Brown has just written an update on Huffington Post about the gathering momentum for State Banking.  Washington State now has a bill, to be discussed at a public hearing, Tuesday, January 25, on creating a State Bank for Washington.  Washington State Representative Bob Hasegawa, a prime sponsor of the Washington legislation, said:
      "The concept (is) to keep taxpayers' money working here in Washington to build our economy. Currently, all tax revenues go into a 'Concentration Account' held by the Bank of America. BoA makes money off our money and we never see those profits again. Instead, we can create our own institution and keep taxpayers' dollars here in Washington, working for Washington."
      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ellen-brown/washington-state-joins-mo_b_813019.html
      Well, I don't have a petition for creating a State Bank in Washington, but I do have one for New York, here:
      Close New York State's budget Gap with money from its own agencies by setting up a State Bank
      Check it out, sign it if you'd like, and click on the links to see where hundreds of billions could come from, instead of being channeled into money-losing investments, as I showed Goldman Sachs has done since 2004, during the last meeting.

      There is a brand new video showing the origin of the Bank of North Dakota:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L75oinBuY1g
      You can also see how China essentially uses a State Bank, on a national scale, to power their Great (Economic) Leap Forward:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ln-BV4dT_7g
       
      *** LATEST UPDATE ***

      This is the latest from the hearings, posted by one of our 200 Public Banking advocates in the Public Banking Group (invitation only):

      Report from my notes on Wash. pb bill hearings:

      “Blue ribbon commission plans for WIT (Washington Investment Trust) to be completed by 12/1/11.

      WIT to be fully operational by 7/13. 

      Same terms for loans as a regular bank.   I asked myself why on this, then found out as the hearings progressed that a big theme was that the regular banks don’t want “unfair” competition from a public bank.

       Margarita Prentice, the senate sponsor, said her main concern was to increase state revenue.

      Hasegawa presented it as good, smart government, in the best interests of the state.

      He said it would be modeled as closely as possible on BND, because proven to work. Later on, though, he said what we could do with the bank would be limited only by our imaginations.

      He showed the BND video and did a power point.  Said a public bank would be more responsible and less risky.  Emphasized access to credit and symbiotic relationship with commercial banks.  Said BND had 1.1 billion revenue surplus this year, with no debt to service, whereas  Washington had 1.7 billion of debt to pay interest on. He mentioned that it is a popular idea, with a bill “dropped “ in Oregon last week and one this week in Hawaii.

      Then the bankers had their turn.  They said it:

             Is unconstitutional

             Will put public funds at risk

             Would not save banking service costs

             Would not apply good standards when making loan. (what gall!)

             Would unfairly compete with banks because it would not pay taxes or FDIC

             Would present capitalization problems for state.

             Would create unnecessary bureaucracy.   (Without huge bonuses!)

      In general the bankers’ arguments  lacked credibility in light of no such problems with BND.

      2 former executives with BND spoke. Said they had a strong working relationship with banks, facilitating loans that commercial banks wouldn’t make.  Acted like mini-fed.  Did not make undue risky loans.

      Someone from a business group said 79% of small business people are for it. The guy from the Center for Innovation said their analysis showed it would increase lending  without increasing non-performing loans, would increase jobs and state revenue.

       

      That was the Senate.  In the house Hasegawa emphasized that instead of parking the money with BOA, the money would work for state through fractional reserve lending, using Wa tax dollars to build Wa .  He said he learned in talking to BND people that it is a long term investment and needs to be run by financial experts, not economic development people who have never seen a project they don’t like. (This runs counter to Hasegawa’s statement that we’re only limited by our imaginations.) 

      The bankers added a little in the house, saying that WIT would be unfair to banks in ways that BND is not, directly competing with banks.  They again emphasized that funds would be safer in regular banks, that there is no need to change, that the system works well now.  (It does????)

      The chairperson said people could ask the bank reps questions later because “you are here all of the time anyway”. They got up from their chairs with grins.

      Brian Derdowski spoke convincingly, saying the bill  won’t cost much , is just exploratory and is worth a try.

      Dennis Eros told them we don’t want to be leaving our money in the care of BOA, which has written 600,000 fraudulent robo-signed foreclosure documents.

       

      My uneducated guess is  that it  will probably pass the senate.  Hasegawa has a powerful presence and has done a hell of a lot of homework. Margarita Prentice, the sponsor, seemed strongly in favor and to be influential. I know from an email that Sharon Nelson is strongly in favor and she is the majority whip. The house seemed iffier to me in some ways – the bankers seemed to have more sway.


      The cause of economic reform will never be easy.  We will forever need to be vigilant, as the lure of unearned income will always be great.


      I'll have further updates in the weeks to come.  The next major event by Common Ground will be the presentation of Lindy Davies film: "Walking the Common Ground of New York" followed by a slide show on current conditions surrounding Land Value Taxation in NYC, at the Henry George School on February 18th, at the Henry George School, at 6:30-8:00.  This will be your chance to ask questions and learn specifically about the hidden value - some $33 billion - in vacant NYC property currently being almost entirely untaxed (<.4%).


      In the weeks to come, I'll have further updates and a date for our next meeting.  We will continue to work for economic reform between meetings too.


      Scott Baker - Op Ed News Journalist/Senior Editor; Huffington Post Blogger; Author; President: Common Ground - NYC; Coordinator: Public Banking Initiative

      Petitions:
      -- Set up a Land Value Tax & untax ALL productive activities to make California Healthy, Wealthy, and Prosperous
      -- Set up a State Bank For Florida
      -- California Dreaming: Set up a State Bank with abundant CAFR funds
      -- Complete the East Side Manhattan Greenway from 38-61 Streets and save bikers, help the environment, and clear up traffic
      -- Tax Vacant & Unused Land to Return its value to the Community
      -- Untax Production and Wages while taxing the use/abuse of natural resources. Polluters pay while workers and entrepreneurs profit from true production
      -- Close New York State's budget Gap with money from its own agencies by setting up a State Bank




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