Unreasonable Women &emdash; Whos
Copyright © 2002 by Jeff
The facts below are pattern-recognition tools meant to
enable the reader to see whats just over the horizon if we
continue on the reasonable path now embraced by both
major political parties. As chronicled below, the management of the
nations affairs has been a disaster. Absent dramatic change,
that disaster is destined to deepen. We consider that
The Management of Domestic Policy
- We know how to reduce the human footprint by 90% but
were making no steps in that direction. For example,
weve constructed 100,000 hugely energy-inefficient buildings
since 1980 that could be retrofit to save 90% of their energy use,
paying for the retrofit.
- More than 75,000-plus manmade chemicals are now in use
worldwide; all are heading somewhere. Where? More than 500
measurable chemicals are found in our bodies that were not in
anyones body before the 1920s, including a range of
endocrine-disrupting chemicals linked to an array of adverse (and
transgenerational) health effects, including weakened immune
systems, reproductive problems, metabolic maladies and functional
deficits in intelligence, sexual function and behavior. EDCs are
largely the downstream result of hydrocarbon-derived products
(EDCs are also known as "gender benders").
- Relying on trend data suggesting that almost half of U.S.
males and one-third of females will contract a non smoking-related
cancer, Dr. Samuel Epstein, a cancer specialist, documents as the
causal factor our non-optional exposure to carcinogenic elements,
resulting in a particularly high incidence of cancer among
children. Breast cancer now strikes one in eight women, up from
one in 25 since our mothers era. Autism is up 278% in
California in the 1990s.
- With 4% of the worlds population, the US generates 25%
of the pollution that contributes to global warming.
- A 2.7 mpg increase in the nation's light-vehicle fleet would
end the need for Middle Eastern oil. Instead, average consumption
fell again in 2002, to 20.4 mpg and the Department of Justice
filed suit against California to halt its newly proposed fuel
efficiency standards. A key objective of the war against Iraq is
to lower the cost of oil, increasing its use.
- The U.S. relationship with oligarchy-run Russia includes that
oil-driven objective, even as one-third of Russians live on $38 or
less per month, a key reason Russia has emerged as a source of
weapons of mass destruction (imagine scientists supporting
families on that basis).
- With Washingtons commitment, we reached the moon but
weve yet to see any commitment to the obvious: the need to
shift from a hydrocarbon to a hydrogen economy.
- We manufacture 17 million cars each year but were told
its impossible to make 10 million windmills over the next 20
- We began the 1980s $900 billion in debt &emdash; already a
huge burden on our children. That debt was projected to top $6523
billion in 2003 but thats before the largest one-year budget
swing in history, adding $330 billion for a total of $6853 billion
&emdash; and thats before the full fiscal cost of the War on
Terrorism, the War in Iraq or Homeland Security.
- At every turn, that increase in debt has been structured to
make the already-rich far richer (only 4 percent of U.S. taxpayers
received interest on government bonds). Imagine interest on $6853
billion. The war effort fails even to include an excess-profits
tax (as in WWII).
- Forbes reports that $91 million was required to make
their Forbes 400 list in 1982. Average wealth was then $200
- In 1981, a Reagan/Bush "supply side" tax stimulus was enacted
at a projected cost of $872 billion -- 100 percent
deficit-financed. That leveraging-up of the economy included a
long-term strategy (conceded by Budget Director Dave Stockman)
that was meant to reduce the size of government by reducing its
- By 1986, average Forbes 400 wealth topped $500
- Clinton/Gore embraced a deficit-financed supply-side tax
stimulus at a cost of $270 billion. By 2000, $725 million was
required to make the Forbes 400 list where average wealth
topped $1.4 billion.
- From 1998-2000, the wealth of the Forbes 400 increased
an average $1.9 million per day or $240,000 per hour, 46,602 times
the minimum wage.
- Tax cuts enacted in 2001 came with a fiscal cost of an
additional $1,350 billion, one-half of which will benefit the
topmost 1 percent.
- Making those cuts permanent will cost $4,000 billion
commencing in 2010. Half the benefits will flow to the topmost 1
percent -- at a time when baby boomers most need those
- Repeal of the estate tax will cost another $740 billion
commencing in 2011. Half the benefits will flow to the topmost
one-hundredth of 1 percent while dramatically reducing charitable
bequests, de-capitalizing the nonprofit sector and creating a
fiscally induced financial aristocracy. In 1999, half of all
estate taxes were paid by 3,300 estates, 0.16 of the total, while
a quarter of the taxes were paid by 467 estates worth more than
$20 million each.
- The fiscal cost of tax subsidies for retirement plans now
averages $110 billion per year (a projected $553 billion, FY
2002-2006). To date, pension fiduciaries have allowed executives
to skim at least $500 billion while embracing an investment model
that put $1,540 billion in the hands of just 400 families (the
wealth of the top 30 families has grown 10-fold).
- Over the past 30 years, Fortune magazine reports that
the average pay of the top-paid 100 executives (i.e., where the
bulk of pension funds are invested) skyrocketed from $1.3 million
to $37.5 million, or from 39 times the average employees pay
to 1,000 times.
- The nations share of after-tax income received by the
topmost 1 percent nearly doubled from 1979-1997. Over that period,
the average income of the richest fifth jumped from nine times the
income of the poorest fifth to 15 times. By 1998, the richest one
percent had as much combined income as the 100 million poorest
Americans. The top fifth of U.S. households now claim 49.2 percent
of national income while the bottom fifth gets by on 3.6
- Between 1983 and 1998, half the total gain in real income (47
percent) flowed to the topmost one percent while 12 percent
trickled-down to the bottom four-fifths. Sixty percent of the
income gains captured by the top one percent went to the top 0.1
percent while almost half that flowed to the top 0.01 percent --
13,000 taxpayers with annual incomes of at least $3.6 million. By
1999, the topmost one percent was pocketing 19.5 percent of
- At one end of the market-fundamentalists food chain, the
annual pace of personal bankruptcies continues to hold steady at
1.4 million for each of the past five years, an average 7,000 per
hour as household debt topped $7.6 trillion in 2001, a
record-breaking 73% of GDP, while home mortgage foreclosures
reached a 30-year high. At the other end, expecting brisk sales,
Chrysler launched over the July 4th 2002 weekend its $300,000
Maybach luxury sedan while high-end boatyards report strong
demand for super-luxury yachts, 150-feet or longer. On 9/11, ten
of them were berthed in a Hudson River boat basin adjoining the
World Financial Center, one block west of the World Trade
- Fast-widening wealth and income disparities fueled one another
as households worth $5 million doubled between 1983 and 1998 while
those worth at least $10 million quadrupled, all with the help of
retiree savings turbo-charged with massive tax subsidies.
- Money managers have thrived on tax-subsidized fees for
managing funds that by 2000 exceeded $17 trillion, over half that
due to tax subsidies provided for retirement savings. By 2000,
money managers and stockbrokers accounted for 71 of the
nations top 400 political contributors. Of the top-ten zip
codes for campaign contributors, five run up the posh East Side of
Manhattan, home to the nations money management and media
elite. One fifth of the 275,000 households worth more than $10
million live in the New York area.
- Wall Streets proposal to partially privatize Social
Security would redirect job-tax revenues into financial markets
where, from 1983 to 1998, 53 percent of market gains flowed to the
top 1 percent of households.
- By using pension assets to chase short-term returns with no
concern for long-term economic distribution results, pension
fiduciaries created one family in Arkansas (the five heirs of
Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton) who now have $100 billion. Having
invested retirees savings (and massive fiscal subsidies) in
a way that concentrates wealth and income, taxpayers are now
pressing for Medicare prescription drug coverage &emdash; financed
with a tax on jobs. Where will seniors fill those prescriptions?
Heres a hint: Wal-Mart has more than 2,500 drugstores.
- Now that the Bush Administration has given Bill Gates a pass
on what a Reagan-appointed judge found to be a clear monopoly,
Gates may be back on track to become a trillionaire by March 2005
and a quadrillionaire (a million billion) by March 2020 (according
to Wired). By 1999, Gatess fortune stood at 1.4
million times the net assets of the median household, already well
beyond the 1.25 million to 1 ratio achieved by John D.
- Meanwhile, the typical American works 184 hours longer than in
1970 (an additiional 4-/12 weeks) and is paid roughly 10 percent
more &emdash; much of which they plowed into ripped-off retirement
plans. The bottom 20 percent continue to see their incomes
- With more people falling into lower-income brackets, the
five-year fiscal cost of the earned income tax credit is projected
to top $178 billion (FY 2002-2006), creating another fiscal
crowding-out phenomenon that consumes $35.5 billion per year in
- Social Security, a tax on employment, is now the largest tax
paid by 80% of Americans (90% of GenX) while the national economic
policy remains full employment. The largest tax hike of the past
two decades was enacted in 1983 after Alan Greenspan chaired a
presidential commission that persuaded Congress to raise the
Social Security tax, already the nations most regressive
tax, a flat tax now levied on the first $80,400 of
- Since 1980, prison outlays have increased at a pace six times
that for higher education. In 1973, the U.S. imprisoned 350,000
people nationwide. By 2000, the prison population exceeded two
million or roughly 687 per 100,000 (6,926 per 100,000 for
African-American men). Europe-wide, the imprisonment rate is
60-100 per 100,000. Florida spends more on corrections that on
colleges. Californias prison spending is projected by the
Rand Corporation to top 16 percent of its budget by 2005. Prison
guards were the second largest contributor to California Governor
Gray Daviss 2002 campaign (first in 1998)..
- Federal statisticians predict that one of every three adult
black males can anticipate being sentenced to a federal or state
prison at some time during their lives. Nationwide, 1.4 million
black males (13 percent) can no longer vote due to felony
convictions (one of three in Alabama). In 1865, African-Americans
owned 0.5 percent of the nations net worth. By 1990, their
net worth totaled on percent.
The Management of Foreign Policy
- Every person on the planet has 50% less water than they did 40
years ago, and will have 50% less again in the next 10 years. The
U.S. response: silence.
- The number of AIDS orphans in Africa now tops 11 million
enroute to a projected 50 million, roughly the population of
California. The U.S. response: silence. Instead, we're going to
war to create more orphans, both here and in the Middle East.
- Since 1985, economic decline or stagnation has affected 100
countries, reducing the incomes of 1.6 billion people. For 70 of
those countries, average incomes are less in the mid-1990s than in
1980, and in 43, less than in 1970.
- Three billion people presently live on $2 or less per day
while 1.3 billion of those get by on $1 or less per day. With
population expanding 80 million each year, World Bank President
James D. Wolfensohn cautions that, unless we address the
"challenge of inclusion," 30 years hence we could have five
billion people living on $2 or less per day.
- The UN reports that two billion people suffer from
malnutrition, including 55 million in industrial countries. These
trends suggest that, in three decades, todays globally
dominant neoliberal brand of globalization could
create a world where 3.7 billion people suffer from malnutrition,
including 100 million in developed countries.
- The UN Development Program (UNDP) reports that roughly $35
billion per year is sufficient to address the minimal conditions
required for the flowering of human potential worldwide: safe
drinking water, adequate sanitation, sufficient nutrition, primary
education, basic health care, and family planning for all willing
- By comparison, $35 billion is nine percent of the FY 2003
budget for the Department of Defense, or roughly what the U.S.
spent in 1999 to maintain the military readiness of its nuclear
arsenal, a decade after the fall of the Berlin Wall. For the
developed world to raise $35 billion would require foreign aid
totaling 0.7 percent of those countries combined GDP, as
compared to an average 0.22 percent presently contributed by donor
countries (0.13 percent by the U.S.).
- Worldwide, the richest 20 percent presently account for 86
percent of global consumption while the poorest 20 percent get by
on 1.4 percent.
- Since 1985, economic decline or stagnation has affected 100
countries, reducing the incomes of 1.6 billion people. By the
mid-90s, the income of the most well-to-do one percent (50 million
people) equaled the combined income of the poorest 57 percent (2.7
- In 1960, the income gap between the fifth of the worlds
people in the richest countries and the fifth in the poorest was
30 to 1. By 1998, the rich/poor gap had widened to 74 to 1.
- At present rates of investment, the UN estimates that even
universal access to safe drinking water cannot be expected before
2025 in Asia, 2040 in Latin America, and 2050 in Africa &emdash;
thats after a half-century of development assistance.
- UNDP reports that 1.1 billion people lack safe water. Adequate
sanitation is lacking for 2.3 billion. According to the UN Food
and Agriculture Organization, 36,400 people die each day from
conditions related to malnutrition; most are children under five.
One in seven children of primary school age is out of school.
Universal access to primary health care for children remains a
distant dream, even in the United States.
- Yet because of a lack of fiscal resources in developed
countries, development experts propose that the human family wait
another half-century to address critical human needs that were
first identified a half-century ago.
- Meanwhile, todays emerging markets
development model is poised to replicate U.S. wealth patterns
worldwide. In the four years to 1999, the worlds 200 richest
people doubled their wealth to a combined $1 trillion (the
combined income for the worlds 2.5 billion poorest is
roughly $1 trillion). By 2000, the three richest Americans had
personal wealth equal to the combined GDP of the worlds 48
- Where this development model is considered a success, the
economic distribution results are clear: 61.7% of Indonesias
stock market value is held by that nations 15 richest
families. The comparable figure for the Philippines is 55.1
percent and 53.3 percent for Thailand.
- The 30 most developed nations channel $362 billion a year in
subsidies to their own farmers while (a) restricting agricultural
imports from developing countries, and (b) insisting that debtor
nations repay their loans in foreign currency, which they can earn
only by exporting.
- According to a World Bank study, the elimination of import
barriers against textiles, sugar and other key exports of
developing nations would raise their export earnings by more than
$100 billion a year. That is sufficient, had those restrictions
been removed since 1982, to repay all debts presently owed.
- In 1999, G-7 leaders announced the debt initiative for Heavily
Indebted Poor Countries, aiming to cap debt service for each of
the worlds 41 poorest countrys at 15-20 percent of
export earnings. By comparison, after World War I, the victors set
the limit on German reparations at 13-15 percent of exports,
triggering a recession that led to WWII.
- Financial experts report that at least $5 trillion (possibly
as much as $15 trillion) is hidden in tax havens, ensuring that
many among the most well-to-do can harvest the benefits of
globalization without incurring any of the costs. If rule-making
identified the owners of those funds, held in an estimated 1.5
million offshore accounts (up from 200,000 just since the late
1980s), an annual "freeloader fee" of just 3.5 percent, less than
the typical value-added tax, could generate $175 to $525 billion
each year for development assistance.
- Relying on advice provided by our Chicago Boys,
Russia saw $150 billion in assets stripped out of its privatized
firms while 12.5 million men in their prime have disappeared
&emdash; due to suicide, alcoholism, a failing health-care system
and destructive behavior.
- UNDPs 1999 assessment: "we have entered an era of
grotesque inequality." Their recommendation: "Development that
perpetuates todays inequalities is neither sustainable
nor worth sustaining."
- In all three ecosystems suffering the worst declines (forests,
freshwater and marine), the most severe damage has occurred in the
southern temperate or tropical regions. Thus, we must add to
todays fast-widening economic divide the fact that
industrial nations, located mainly in northern temperate zones,
are primarily responsible for the ongoing loss of natural capital
elsewhere in the world, one of the most dramatic redistributions
of wealth in history.
- In its July 2001 report, the International Panel on Climate
Change confirms that relentlessly rising global temperatures --
due primarily to hydrocarbon use in the worlds 30 most
developed economies &emdash; are poised to create catastrophic
conditions worldwide. Agriculture, health, human settlements,
water, animals &emdash; all will feel the impact on a planet
thats warming faster than at any time in the past
millennium. Throughout the 1,000 pages of predictions in the
panels 2,600 pages of analysis, one theme remains constant:
the poor of the world will be hardest hit.
- According to GEO 2000, a 1999 UN environmental report:
"The continued poverty of the majority of the planets
inhabitants and excessive consumption by the minority are the two
major causes of environmental degradation." The report reflects
the assessment of 850 specialists and thirty environmental
- The free enterprise component of democracy is founded on the
sensible notion that free markets provide an opportunity for free
people to freely express their free choices and thereby enjoy the
dignity of self-determination, democracys most treasured
freedom. At present, the globally dominant neoliberal
map fails to match the territory.
- To equate markets with expression of the common will is
misleading, even deceptive. Markets dont respond to people,
but to people with money and wealth. Embrace a policy mix,
like todays, that concentrates both, and that mix is
destined to undermine both self determination and markets, the
moral foundations of free enterprise democracies.
- Similarly, private enterprise is based on the sanctity of
private property as a bedrock component of democracy. Yet private
property depends for its legitimacy on its lack of exclusivity.
Embrace a policy mix, like todays, that concentrates
ownership, and that mix is destined to endanger both private
enterprise and democracy.
Anyone not outraged is out to lunch. Anyone not profoundly
saddened is profoundly ill-informed. Yet now that even
community-based radio broadcasting has been converted into a
financial property &emdash; and consolidated -- we find that a single
firm, Clear Channel, owns 1,200 radio stations where HardRight icon
Rush Limbaugh dominates drive-time eardrums, crowding out other
perspectives like nothing ever experienced in American politics.
After several decades of Reverse Robin Hood policies embraced by
both political parties, our children face a future
thats dangerously dysfunctional: socially unjust, economically
unworkable, politically destabilizing, fiscally devastating,
culturally ruinous and ecologically unsustainable. According to a
broad range of social, fiscal, cultural, political and environmental
indicators, the worlds "richest" nation is experiencing a
steady 20-year decline across a broad array of key quality-of-life
indicators and in numerous living systems.
As American politics waits for Americans to wake up &emdash; as
they will -- we face record-breaking debt, record-breaking trade
deficits, reduced government services, a crumbling and under-funded
infrastructure, and three major public-sector programs &emdash;
Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid &emdash; expected to double as
a share of the economy, putting unimaginable pressure on tax rates,
the economy and the budget. And thats before taking into
account the financial burden of waging a faraway and weakly justified
The results make it clear: systemic corruption accompanies support
for a model that is itself systemically corrupt. After two full
decades of market fundamentalism wed to fiscal crowding-out, the
future our children face amounts to intergenerational financial and
ecological terrorism. Weve heard the rhetoric from
both parties. A child-honoring society requires better
results. In a nation whose charter insists that ours is a system
meant to endure "for the ages," we will remain unreasonable until we
detect some semblance of decency and plain, sane common sense.
November 21, 2002