Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “jobs”

There Back: Killer Cantaloupe – Roger Ingalls

I’m starting to sound like a broken record with my reoccurring posts about the far reaching poisoning caused by industrialized farming. Today, a single mega-farm can have a single quality oversight and people across the country will get ill or die. It happens two or three times a year.

Here are my previous posts on the subject:

1)      Killer Cantaloupe, September 2011

2)      A Toilet Bowl of Food, June 2011

3)      Strawberries to Die For, September 2001

It’s August 2012 and here we go again with two more occurrences of produce poisoning; a lettuce recall due to E.coli and cantaloupe illnesses due to salmonella. These recent events have caused death and sickness across multiple states.

When will we learn that a centralized food system is not only environmentally disastrous but also puts too many people at risk? It’s amazing that we continue to endorse this food system.

Responsible farming has given way to energy intensive factory farms and as a result, there’s been a change in how food animals are raised and crops are grown. Instead of many decentralized mom-and-pop farms feeding the local population, we now have a small quantity of mega-farms supplying the far reaches of the country.

The solution is locally grown food. If an E.coli, listeria or salmonella outbreak does occur, it is locally contained and only a few people are affected. In addition, local production simulates the economy, creates jobs, uses less energy and has a smaller impact on the environment.

We have choices. Save your life, your family and the planet by buying locally produced goods.

America Wants You – A Call To Arms

I write a lot about war veterans. My next novel, Unwanted Heroes, focuses on the treatment and support (or lack thereof) of war veterans. I lived in Israel for twenty years where there is national service – everyone serves 2-3 years plus a yearly requirement for up to four weeks of training and tour.

Perhaps because everyone serves, there is a national consensus to help veterans when needed. In fact, it is probably considerably a disadvantage when competing for a job if you have not served.

So it is disappointing to hear that US troops are having considerable difficulties finding jobs when they leave the armed forces. Certainly, it is part of an economic climate where companies are loath to hire new personnel, but I can’t help feeling that something more needs to be done to at least level the playing field for those who were defending our country instead of accumulating degrees and internships.

Enter AMERICA WANTS YOU, which is “a unique private sector initiative that is teaming up with corporate America to find job opportunities for those men and women who have served in our country’s military.”

The idea was inspired by an ABC News series called “Made in America,” which promoted US-made products as a way to create jobs for Americans. 

There are many celebrities involved and a groundswell of corporate support. This is an exciting combination and should be an example of how we can lift the entire country out of the recession.

With the politicians too involved in their election cycle, cooperation will need to come from elsewhere.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

Would taxing the (super) rich a little more be fair?

Economists always talk about “margins” or “marginal this” and “marginal that.” What does this really mean and how does this concept apply to real life?

It’s like this: Imagine you’re ten years old and your mom brings you late for dinner on Tuesdays, after your little league practice. Your mean older brother has already eaten two of the pork chops (or vegetarian schnitzel, if you prefer) that your dad grilled on the barbeque and there’s only one left. Your brother wants it, but your parents intervene and give it to you. Was this a good decision?

It should be pretty obvious that it was. But why, exactly? In technical terms, the decision was a good one because you would get more “marginal utility” from your first pork chop than would your brother from his third.

What might be an even simpler food-based analogy is the good-old pizza story. How much satisfaction do you get from your second piece of pizza (after you’ve only eaten one)? Compare that to the satisfaction you get from your eleventh slice (after you’ve already eaten ten). Can you see the difference?

Getting back to economics, how much would the lifestyle of a multi-millionaire improve if he or she all of a sudden received an extra thousand dollars? How much would your lifestyle improve with an extra thousand? I’ll bet there’s a difference. That’s because the marginal utility of a thousand dollars is much higher for the average person than it is for a wealthy person. I think this example could be taken much further. I’m going to say that the marginal utility of $1,000 to the average American adult is much higher than the marginal utility of $100,000 to a multi-millionaire.

OK, are you ready for some fun? Let’s do some math! Let’s forget about millionaires. Most whine that they don’t “feel” rich anyway. Forbes Magazine says that there are 403 BILLIONAIRES (yes, with a B) in America, with a combined net worth of 1.3 Trillion dollars. That divides up to an average of 3.2 billion each. Do you think you could somehow get by on $100,000 per year? These people could “survive” at that level for 32,258 years on average without ever making any more money (not accounting for inflation which is predicted to be pretty bad starting in the year 8011).

My question is simple: What is the marginal utility of the third billion dollars out of $3.2 billion? How much does a person’s life improve if he or she has $3.2 billion versus a mere $2.2 billion? Does it enable a person to buy a third private jet, or a sixth summer mansion? What if that money were used to employ people to repair our nations aging and rotting infrastructure? That would mean over 8 MILLION jobs that would pay $50,000 for one year, or 800,000 jobs at $50,000 for ten years.

Now of course these figures are exaggerated somewhat. Some of that money would have to be spent on equipment, materials, etc. But I think the point makes itself. But here’s the kicker (and it’s a big one)… The billionaires would BENEFIT MORE from this scenario than they presently do by keeping that extra billion dollars. Why? Well, besides having better roads, water supply pipelines, sewage handling and treatment, and many other elements of the quality of life, there would be millions more people with the means to buy their products and services. In fact, the billionaires could probably recoup their “investment” (more or less) in just a few years in dollar terms, but the benefit to their country would outweigh that many times over.

So, I ask again: Would taxing the rich be “fair”?

-Tom Rossi

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Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

Tom also posts on thrustblog.blogspot.com

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Killer Cantaloupe

When will we learn that a centralized food system not only is environmentally disastrous but it also kills people? I blogged about an E. coli breakout in June, poisonous strawberry production earlier this month and now in late September, I’m writing about an outbreak of killer cantaloupe.

Killer Cantaloupe…it sounds like a bad title for a 1950’s era B-horror movie. Unfortunately, this Listeria-laced deadly fruit is scary and real. To date, up to 16 people have died and close to 100 are seriously ill. The incubation period for Listeria can take as long as 70 days so it is forecasted that many more people will become sick and potentially die. So far, 18 states are affected by the cantaloupe that came from one farm in Colorado.

It’s amazing that we continue to endorse a food system where one farm can make so many people sick across the country. We have choices. We can buy food from locally grown sources.

Let’s briefly review the benefits of local food:

1)      It is healthier because it tends to be organic and free of fuel-based fertilizers and pesticide.

2)      It is harvested when rip and sold within 24 hours so it’s more flavorful and has more nutrients. Factory farmed produce is picked weeks in advance and then ripened with ethylene gas before being sold.

3)      Locally grown food (as with all locally manufactured products) employs more people and improves local economies.

4)      It is environmentally friendlier than factory produced food. Factory farms are energy intensive, use chemicals and goods are transported up to 1500 miles creating a large carbon footprint. The run-off from factory farms acidifies waterways and negatively impacts the eco-system. In addition, these big farms inefficiently use water and create soil erosion.

I sound like a broken record because this subject comes up a lot in my posts. But it is important, especially now that the frequency of food borne illness is increasing. This doesn’t need to happen. We have choices and all we need to do is think before we buy.

Save your life, your family, the planet and neighborhood jobs by buying locally produced goods.

-Roger Ingalls

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Roger Ingalls is well traveled and has seen the good and bad of many foreign governments. He hopes his blogging will encourage readers to think more deeply about the American political system and its impact on US citizens and the international community.

The Great Deception

Who benefits from the childish playground feuds between the Republicans and the Democrats? While the two major political parties are busily spitting on each other and promoting their agenda like a Kardashian C-List entertainer, Big Business is quietly getting away with murder. Have our political leaders become so blind, they can’t see what Big Business is doing?

No, they know exactly what’s going on, it’s by design. It’s a deceptive puppet show. Our elected officials are willing marionettes controlled by corporate puppeteers, just like a junky is a willing slave to their dealer.

But why would Big Business produce such a show and finance politicians? One word – deception.

“All warfare is based on deception”, Sun Tzu, The Art of War.  Just like a magician uses a distracting hand motion to set up a trick, corporations steer their funded politicians into polarizing issues to create a media frenzy. While we’re all watching the show, the real action is taking place behind Washington’s closed doors. And don’t forget, your favorite media network or newspaper is probably a subsidiary of some big multinational corporation.

Let’s take a closer look at this deception by focusing on America’s largest company, General Electric. The top corporate tax rate is 35%, yet G.E. paid zero taxes in 2010 on $5.1B profits for its US operation and claimed a $3.2B tax credit. How is this possible? G.E. assembled a large tax department headed by a former Treasury official, and staffed by personnel from the IRS and Congressional tax-writing committees.

It’s been reported that General Electrics’ lawyers and lobbyists were deeply involved in rewriting portions of the corporate tax code that were signed into law by George W. Bush in 2004. When certain tax loopholes were set to expire in 2008, G.E. successfully persuaded Rep Rangel to keep them and shortly thereafter, G.E. announced a $30M donation to NY schools with $11M going to Mr. Rangel’s district. Of course G.E. says their tax benefits are good for American jobs, but they’ve reduced their US workforce by 20% since 2002.

By receiving great incentive to invest their money offshore, we are now facing, as a nation, one of the most jobless futures of the last eighty years.  We won’t hear it in the media – Big Business now pulls most political strings, and controls most “news” outlets – but soon we may be taxed so multinational corporations can receive subsidies to create jobs here in the US.

In other words, we’ll be paying to get our own jobs back.

–Roger Ingalls

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Roger Ingalls is well travelled and has seen the good and bad of many foreign governments. He hopes his blogging will encourage readers to think more deeply about the American political system and its impact on US citizens and the international community.

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