Category Archives: J. D. Alt

WORLD without BANKS

By J.D. Alt

Sometimes it helps, if you want to see and understand something more clearly, to imagine the world without it. I just finished a book (“Rethinking Money” by Benard Lietaer and Jacqui Dunne) that was so thoroughly confused—and confusing—about how the U.S. private banking system “creates our money” (but perversely refuses to create enough of it) that I felt an overwhelming need to try to clarify, in my own mind, what the private banking system actually is. That’s when I got the idea of imagining a world without private banks at all—and trying to see at what point, and for what purpose, they become useful or, perhaps, even necessary.

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National Retirement Infrastructure – Part 2

By J.D. Alt

1. Why we can afford it—2. Why we need it—3. How we can build it

2. Why we need it.

What is retirement anyway? For most people it seems to be the end of that middle period of their lives where some business, or institution, or civic entity has paid them Dollars in exchange for their labor or personal services. This “Dollar-earning-in-exchange-for-work” period can end at various points in a life-span, for various reasons planned or unplanned: Some of us become disabled by health catastrophes in our 40s or 50s, some find the particular skill we learned or developed over the years is suddenly no longer in demand (and it’s much too late to start over again). Many people are forced to stop providing their labor or services at a certain age by retirement rules designed to create employment openings for the younger generation coming along behind. While a few are fortunate enough to continue earning Dollars in exchange for their services right up until the very end—entertainers, writers, highly specialized professionals come to mind—the vast majority of U.S. citizens all share the same basic fate: at some point in time, with many years or even decades remaining in our life-span, we will cease earning Dollars in exchange for our labor or services.

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National Retirement Infrastructure

By J.D. Alt

1. Why we can afford it—2. Why we need it—3. How we can build it

1. Why we can afford it

We, who face mass retirement at the same moment our life-expectancy has been stretched far beyond the retirement savings we managed to set aside during our working years—and anticipating that future generations will face equal, or even more difficult retirement circumstances—we offer to provide the initiating, planning and management efforts required to build, for our collective use, a permanent “National Retirement Infrastructure.” This infrastructure will provide us with housing and social accommodations over the next several decades and, subsequently, be passed on to the next generations inevitably to follow.

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The Sinking of Norfolk

By J.D. Alt

How would Thomas Piketty propose to save the city of Norfolk, Virginia? He teaches us, ad-nauseum, that what the U.S. collective state has to spend on such things as sea walls, flood gates, elevating infrastructure and roadways, buying-out property owners so they can relocate to higher ground, etc., etc., is limited to the number of tax dollars that can be collected from U.S. citizens—as if the collective state itself were like a club, and if the clubhouse needs repairing, the club members must first pay a special assessment of dues—or, alternatively, the club can borrow dollars from the supply of Capital owned by the wealthiest  1% of its membership, or (as a creative alternative) the rebuilding effort could be structured in such a way that the newly elevated Norfolk would pay rent to the one percent in perpetuity for the privilege of living above sea-level.

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Essay Contest for Congress

By J.D. Alt

alt-ryanI’d like to propose an Essay Contest that might inform us better than any news talk show or presidential debate what we’re up against with our National Budget—and what might be the best course of action we should consider. Everyone in Congress should be required to participate, governors and state legislators who might become future congressional leaders should be encouraged to join in, and op-ed economic analysts invited to submit. The essays would be posted on a Congressional website established specifically to enable the public to vote on the best explanation of the topic. The topic I propose is this:

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“COST” & CONFUSION

By J.D. Alt

Even the most progressive proponents of climate change mitigation frame their argument with the proposition that the “cost” of mitigation today is far less than what the “cost” of climate change will be down the road if we fail to act now. While it sounds compelling, this argument perpetrates a deep confusion about what “cost” means when applied to the idea of inventing, designing and building the carbon-neutral infrastructure and energy systems that climate mitigation will require. This confusion, in turn, makes it more difficult for the political process to make rational decisions.

To illustrate, we need look no further than the recent United Nations IPCC report which, for the first time, not only details the potential catastrophe of climate change by the end of this century, but projects a “cost” for preventing that catastrophe from unfolding. This “cost” is calculated as a percentage of annual global GDP.

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GROAF & CONTRAKSHUN

By J.D. Alt

Recently I came across a passage from John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath: One of the Joad-clan migrant farmer characters, upon learning that “there’s a newspaper fella near the coast, got a million acres,” replies—“If he needs a million acres to make him feel rich, seems to me he needs it ‘cause he feels awful poor inside hisself.”

I don’t think I’ve ever heard or read a more succinct description of the underlying reality of the income-inequity issue that has moved to the front page of our national dialog. As part of that dialog, I keep trying to frame a case for radical change that the status quo will actively embrace—for the simple reason that if that were to happen, the radical change itself would be more likely to occur—but also, I realize now, because the status quo “feels so awful poor inside hisself”, it will never embrace radical change unless it believes the change will make it feel richer—and, finally, because from my perspective MMT uniquely makes this paradoxical set of relationships possible.

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A Business Strategy Long Overdue

By J.D. Alt

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The Washington Post recently reported that Day Care now costs more—in 31 U.S. states—than a college education. In a fit of logic rarely exhibited in today’s journalism, the article explains that since it takes the average family eighteen years to save enough for a child’s college education, that same child now needs to start saving for his or her own children’s Day Care beginning at age eight. The article didn’t mention—I suppose because they thought it was obvious—that this necessity is against America’s child labor laws. And, of course, Little League Baseball would be devastated.

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Rescuing the 1%

By J.D. ALT

lsaverIn an earlier essay I suggested we just forget the 1%. This was an idea not entirely supported by the commentary that followed. On reflection, I’ve decided it isn’t the right approach after all. What we really need to do is rescue the 1%.

They may seem like the last people who need rescuing, but when you consider the facts it becomes clear they really do need to be tossed a life-preserver. The problem is their basic business model is self-annihilating. This is not a new observation in history, but it is worth thinking through again. CEOs and board members are required by fiduciary law to maximize profits for their shareholders. If they fail to aggressively pursue this goal with every business decision, they might actually get sued by an angry shareholder deprived of his maximum return on investment. So maximizing profits is the order-of-the-day—every day. This imperative has been dramatically reinforced (and distorted) over the past three decades—as explained and illustrated by William K. Black—by evolving corporate compensation rules awarding huge bonuses to upper level managers based on the short-term profits their business and “accounting” strategies are able to generate.

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The Oppressive Free Lunch

By J.D. Alt

alt-lunchTrying your best to balance the Federal Budget with a limited number of Tax Dollars—and doing so while visibly displaying great compassion for your fellow citizens in the hope they might reelect you—requires some very special thinking skills. These unique skills of rational analysis and gentle compassion were on display recently when Congressman Paul Ryan gave a speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference laying the ground work for his forthcoming efforts to cut the deficit by “reforming” the welfare system.

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