UN chief praises China’s G20 summit leadership

The 11th G20 Summit is to be held on Sept. 4-5 in China’s eastern city of Hangzhou, is expected to make an action plan on implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and to focus more on development issues with an aim to inject new impetus into the world economy and promote global consensus on development.

The theme of the summit is: “Toward an Innovative, Invigorated, Interconnected and Inclusive World Economy”

G20 Summit, China - UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon attends a press conference at the Climate Action Special Executive Session. Hangzhou, China
G20 Summit, China – UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon attends a press conference at the Climate Action Special Executive Session. Hangzhou, China

UNITED NATIONS — UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday spoke highly of the Chinese leadership in focusing the upcoming summit of the Group of 20 (G20) on promoting green growth and bolstering the presence of developing countries.

Continue reading UN chief praises China’s G20 summit leadership

The Politics of ‘Out’

Reposted from JohnBrianShannon.com

The 1 percent are already ‘In’ and for obvious reasons. Now, what about the 99 percent?

Widespread dissatisfaction among very large numbers of people is manifesting itself in various ways around the world.

We’ve seen it in politics, in regards to the Occupy Wall Street protests, the Scottish referendum, the Arab Spring, Syrian uprising, in the deepening distrust of globalization and free-trade agreements, lower voter turnouts, and most recently, in the Swiss referendum in 2014 to not join the European Union, in the recent Brexit referendum result, and in the potential for ‘Grexit’ from the European Union.

But it wasn’t always that way. In the postwar world, people from all walks of life and in every country ‘pulled together’ towards a common and better future. Sure, the Cold War interrupted that mood. But in the broadest possible context, the Cold War served to sharpen competition and increase the overall flow towards a better civilization.

When the Cold War ended, Earth’s then-population of 6 billion took a collective deep breath and said; “Now we can get somewhere!” — in regards to creating the kind of world anyone would be proud to live in.

But 26 years on, we have fallen massively short of those aspirations. And it’s becoming more apparent and it is grating on people, moreso with each passing year.

The 1 percent

Politics: In 2016, the richest 1 percent will own more wealth than the rest of humanity combined. Image courtesy of Oxfam International

Instead of a giant leap forward for the human race, we had trillion dollar wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that were based on falsehood (the U.S. Iraq Study Group said so) a major recession caused by the unethical and perhaps illegal actions of ‘too big to fail’ financial institutions (but only one person has gone to prison) we had democratic voices being dragged away from peaceful and legal #OWS rallies, we have dangerous people trying to re-ignite the Cold War because it used to be good for the military-industrial-complex economy (so why not try that again?) we suddenly have a 1 percent cohort that owns more than HALF of the world’s wealth (by 2030 they will own 76% of the world’s wealth if measures aren’t taken) we have more outsourcing of jobs (and therefore a larger proportion of low-paying jobs) and we have unelected, elitist, bureaucrats in Europe telling the rest of the continent where to go and what to do.

And that isn’t the half of it.

“It is time for the global leaders of modern capitalism, in addition to our politicians, to work to change the system to make it more inclusive, more equitable and more sustainable.  

Extreme inequality isn’t just a moral wrong. It undermines economic growth and it threatens the private sector’s bottom line.  All those gathering at Davos who want a stable and prosperous world should make tackling inequality a top priority.” 

Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild, Chief Executive Officer of E.L. Rothschild and chairman of the Coalition for Inclusive Capitalism, who spoke at a joint Oxfam-University of Oxford event on inequality in 2015

(So far, not a single recommendation has been implemented)

Consequently millions of people are losing faith in and blaming globalization when in fact globalization isn’t the problem.

Twenty-six years after the Cold War has ended, our civilization is so much less than it could be that it boggles the mind.

The 1 percenters and their acolytes can’t understand what all the fuss is about.

And I understand that! Their lives are so far removed from reality that; Let the peasants eat cake.” doesn’t begin to describe the disconnect they have with the other 7.2 billion people on the planet.

(For the record, none of it was caused by the 1 percent — they are merely the beneficiaries of the trickle-up economy — therefore, we can never blame them for the problems of the 99 percent)

Ongoing troubles with Russia, China, #OWS, the global economy, Brexit, etc. are just the beginning of our problems. Five years out and ten years out, we will look back longingly to the 2010-2016 timeframe where we had these relatively minor problems to contend with!

We need a new global vision, one that is orders of magnitude better than the present mediocre vision, so that 7.2 billion people will say to themselves, Now this; I can support and work diligently towards.”

The present vision of; Let’s keep making corporations and the 1 percent richer and richer at our expense, getting into conflicts with Russia and China for no reason good enough to justify the risks involved, and unelected and elitist technocrats ruling the Earth (seems to be a growing trend) all so that we can feel grateful to have a low-paying job and a declining middle class?

That’s not a vision! That’s the path to economic suicide!

While there won’t be revolutions there is likely to be widespread voter dissatisfaction and a much lower level of ‘buy-in’ to our civilization from everyday citizens. That alone, is enough to cause irreparable damage to our world.

Everyone has a different idea about why the former Soviet Union failed;

Some say it was the sudden drop in oil prices (not really, that was merely the straw that broke the camel’s back) some say it was Western plots (slight attribution there) while some said its fall was due to their failure in Afghanistan (embarrassing, but not Warsaw Pact demolishing by any standard) or by other, unspecified means.

But no, the real reason for the failure of the former Soviet Union was passive defiance by Soviet workers, whose favorite (quietly-spoken) saying was;

“As long as they pretend to pay us, we will pretend to work.”

And that is everything!

Once it became obvious to Soviet workers that the Soviet Union was ‘no longer working’ for their best interests, they employed a sort of ‘passive defiance’ in return for the crass neglect they felt they had endured, which lowered the USSR’s productivity to such an extent that all it took was a few months of low oil prices and some sniping from U.S. politicians for the whole thing to implode.

Now, 26 years after the fall of the Soviet Union, Western workers are beginning to think in terms of ‘passive defiance’ and may soon follow the path of those Soviet workers.

Long story short; There are very real reasons for the growing dissatisfaction and the disconnect between 7.2 billion people on the one hand — and the 1 percent, their acolytes, and the elitist technocrats that serve them, on the other hand.

The grievances of that many people can’t simply be waved away in a ‘Let them eat cake’ kind of way.

We need a grand and new vision, one that is orders of magnitude better than the present non-vision, and one that 7.2 billion people will urgently wish to support.

Anyone up for that?

If not, we’re already on the path to lose everything we’ve built.

by John Brian Shannon


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Regionalism: The Next Step for Globalization

Reposted from JohnBrianShannon.com

Globalization was inevitable. Both the positives and negatives of globalization were inevitable. And we’re now moving into a more mature phase of globalization — a phase where common sense must play a larger role.

After all, does it make more sense to import onions from thousands of miles away in Chile or Indonesia for example, or to grow them on the rooftop of your local big box grocery store?

Think of the CO2 emission savings alone as one way of many to demonstrate how unrestricted globalization works against our common good.

Regionalism
Regionalism can lower costs, improve profits and create more local jobs for workers, while improving product freshness and delivery times.

For years I’ve talked-up the benefits of ‘Regionalism‘ where the largest share of goods and services are provided to consumers and business by producers and manufacturers within that economic or geographic region.

It’s not only in regards to fresh produce. With 3D printing and a regional facility ‘the latest thing’ can be manufactured in minutes, regionally, although the online order may have been received thousands of miles away — resulting in faster shipping and larger numbers of (regional) jobs, as opposed to the One Big Factory model, building ‘the latest thing’ in Shenzhen, China.

Of course it works both ways.

For Chinese consumers who want the latest Ford F-150 pickup truck, does it make sense to have one shipped from thousands of miles away in North America, or does it make more sense that Ford builds an assembly plant in China (and hires local workers) and fills orders from there?

I think there is still more growth to be milked out of globalization, but the next logical step is Regionalism which will cut costs, improve profits, and give consumers and business more and better choices. In high unemployment jurisdictions I would expect to see rates fall — perhaps dramatically, while low unemployment jurisdictions may see tiny improvements.

Although I agree with international trade agreements in principle, TPP seems excessively weighted toward corporate interests and not toward consumers or national sovereignty. For that reason I’m against it. The cloud of secrecy surrounding TPP certainly hasn’t helped. And the fact that someone of the rare and high calibre of Elizabeth Warren has doubts about it, tells me everything that I need to know about it. Full stop.

However, any trade agreement that enhances trade flows while enhancing national sovereignty and can show a distinct benefit to consumers and business alike should be aggressively pursued.

For me it isn’t about abandoning globalization, it’s about globalization reaching its full potential without destroying sovereignty, consumer trust, and entire segments of the economy.

It’s more about continuing to grow globalization (whenever that makes sense) and adding regionalism to the mix (wherever that makes more sense) and enhancing national sovereignty.

The day that Apple Computer is building iPhones in factories in every region of the world, that Ford Motor Company has assembly plants in every second country, every piece of clothing is manufactured regionally to the designer’s exact specifications, and most fresh produce is grown within 100 miles of its target consumer, that’s when we will see the maximum benefit from our investment in globalization.

We are where we are in regards to globalization and it has been a qualified success. But the potential of globalization + regionalism is one whole order of magnitude greater.

by John Brian Shannon

Image courtesy of www.intechopen.com Creative Commons Attribution License

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Japan’s Abenomics: 3 out of 5 Arrows

by John Brian Shannon originally published at JohnBrianShannon.com

If the fundamentals of an economy are sound, any conceivable shock to an economy will eventually dissipate and normal economic flows will resume. (Every economist knows this)

Unfortunately for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan he inherited an economy where the fundamentals were unsound, and more than one economic parameter was out of alignment. Which is a different way of saying the Japanese economy was going to fail on his watch, or early into the next Prime Minister’s watch.

The unexpected shock of the Fukushima-Daiichi meltdown and the subsequent shuttering of Japan’s entire nuclear power plant fleet didn’t help Japan’s economic matters. Some 29% of Japan’s electricity was produced by those (cheap to operate) nuclear power plants. Many of those n-plants are now undergoing decommissioning, or are still offline.

Mr. Abe’s Three Arrow policies were necessary, timely, and for what they are, effective. In retrospect, there was no other way for Japan to proceed. The country’s economy would have imploded had the Prime Minister not acted so appropriately.

When Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took office in December 2012, he announced a strategy – comprising three “arrows” – to overcome the economy’s combination of slow growth and low inflation: [1] very easy monetary policy, [2] a short-term fiscal stimulus, and [3] structural reforms to labor and product markets. But the government’s economic policies (so-called Abenomics) have not fixed Japan’s problems and are unlikely to do so in the future.” — Professor Martin Feldstein writing in Project Syndicate

However, I suspect that even Shinzo Abe knew that it would take more than Three Arrows to reset Japan’s economy. But they are a great start to putting Japan’s economic fundamentals where they need to be.

It will take two more ‘Arrows’ to return Japan to a balanced state — the ‘steady state’ where a fundamentally sound economy can withstand moderate political or economic shocks.

Mt Fuji from Yokohama, Japan. Image courtesy of comeonoutjapan com
Mt Fuji from Yokohama, Japan. Image courtesy of comeonoutjapan com

Arrow #4 must surely be an inheritance tax of some significance. Japan’s diminishing population pyramid means that domestic demand will continue to taper. An inheritance tax can help to counter that loss in government revenue.

With falling tax revenue due to a shrinking population, the government needs money to operate — providing the same infrastructure, but to a shrinking population. In Japan’s case an inheritance tax of 25%-50% will allow the government to maintain services in the face of falling income tax and other tax revenues.

Arrow #5 must be raising corporate taxes. Voters will not accept the twin assault of higher inheritance taxes and an already proposed Value Added Tax increase from 8% to 10%.

That will only result in widespread public disaffection and Prime Minister Abe being voted out of office after doing so much good work.

If voters are expected to shoulder a higher tax burden then corporations must also pay their fair share. If that means that corporate dividends for wealthy investors are a few cents lower, well, that’s just too bad.

By raising inheritance taxes and corporate taxes, the government should hit zero-deficit within 3 years.

At that point the Japanese economy will return to a ‘steady state’ where it can flourish as a fully functioning economy.

Although I’m a fan of massive stimulus; At the early onset of economic downturns, massive government intervention works well, but continuing to massively stimulate an economy for longer than 5 years, we reach a point of diminishing returns in the 6th or 7th year.

That is why, in order for government intervention to be most effective, it must be massive, it must be early, and it must continue for 5 years or less. (Less is better)

Other economic levers must also be applied. We can’t expect stimulus to solve fundamental problems with the economy.

If the economy hasn’t got it’s fundamentals in order, massive stimulus only warps the equation — but in fairness — it gives the country’s leaders five years to get those fundamentals in order.

Therefore, my prescription for Japan’s ailing economy is ‘take two more arrows and aim for zero deficit within 3 years.’

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has the credibility and the political energy to get it done. Leaving it for the next Japanese Prime Minister isn’t an option.

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A Time for Tariffs in the Globalized World?

by John Brian Shannon
(Originally published at JohnBrianShannon.com)

A long time ago when there were unicorns, there was a justifiable need for international trade agreements to spur trade, increase movement of capital flows and to promote movement of labour — but mainly to gain access to potentially larger markets in both developed and developing nations.

International trade agreements like NAFTA and even today’s TPP are throwbacks to a day when we didn’t have all of that. Many global economies then were practically closed markets, with few exceptions.

It’s almost the opposite these days — globalization has certainly prevailed — and it’s the rare country that isn’t buying or selling wares from around the world on a daily basis.

North Korea is a closed market, so is Japan (nominally) although it is a huge exporter, and only a handful of other countries could be considered ‘closed markets’ in any substantive sense.

In your home country you can probably buy a car, a music player, clothing, food, and almost anything else — and it likely wasn’t built, created, or grown, in your country.

Globalization has succeeded wildly and we now live in a globalized world.

How’s it working?

For the people in developed nations it has meant 25-years of inexpensive goods on store shelves — goods that were either built, created, or grown, in developing nations, which has been a real bonus for developed world consumers — and it has also benefited workers in the developing world.

Unfortunately, it also led to many high-paying jobs being sent overseas, resulting in higher unemployment and worse social ills than that in some developed nations.

Liberalized international trade has become all that it could be

Which is fine. It’s served it’s purpose and we now have open markets around the world with levelization of trade, capital, knowledge, labour, and general market equilibrium — if not market symbiosis.

But there isn’t much more room for globalization to grow. Other than tidying-up some intellectual and property rights regulations, we’ve arrived at our free trade destination. We’re already living in the globalized economy.

Where do we go from here?

There are a number of things that can strengthen our domestic economies without turning back the clock to the (almost) closed economics of the 1960’s.

Ten Ways to Make Our Country Better and Stronger – While Helping Citizens to Succeed and Live Happier Lives

The Ten Ways: Increasing Intellectual Rights, Increasing Government Revenue Streams, Preventing Obscene Government Debt, and Enhanced Government Services Designed to Move the Bottom Economic Quintiles Towards Middle Income Status

  1. We and our trade partners — should sign a simple trade agreement to protect intellectual property rights, one that includes universal patent, trademark and copyright protections. The point is to get it done now while it is still relevant. There’s no point in bothering with it if we wait, as all the secrets (the patents, trademarks and copyrights) will be ‘out of the box’ and in the general marketplace. (The rule must be that we don’t trade with nations that won’t sign and abide by those laws)
  2. We and every country we trade with — should pass legislation to allow a simple 5% tariff on every imported and exported good — from supertankers full of oil, to consumer electronics, to clothing — in short, everything. This simple tariff would replace all other import and export taxes/tariffs/levies and related charges. Billions of dollars of goods are imported and exported every month and the tariff revenue stream can be used by the federal government; To improve productivity by funding R&D, and to improve government services and infrastructure — or used to raise national GDP and quality of life for citizens, by reducing unemployment and to lower taxes on the poor and working poor.
  3. We and our trade partners that don’t already have a national Goods and Services Tax (of 7% for example) on all retail goods — should implement one immediately. This revenue can contribute to the overall economy to improve services and infrastructure, reduce unemployment, and lower taxes on the poor and working poor, and should be shared 50/50 with states or provinces — who after all, would be the parties responsible for collecting it.
  4. We, and every country we trade with — should pass legislation making deficits of more than 4% of GDP illegal, at the federal, state, and municipal level. This prevents obscene government spending and prevents the trap of eternal debt servicing costs, once interest rates rise. Which they always do.
  5. Our own country and every country that we trade with — should no longer charge income tax on those who earn less than the equivalent of $25,000. per year.
  6. We and our trade partners — should pass legislation to the effect that every worker has the right to a minimum of 25 weeks of full-time employment, per year. Yes, it would require a job-sharing programme managed at the state level. Some workers may receive layoff notices in order to accommodate unemployed workers. On the positive side, long-term unemployed people could then contribute to the economy (and to their own personal income!) for a minimum of 25 weeks per year. In countries like Sweden, this is common in industries that can’t keep all of their workers employed, and it is normal for two workers to share the same job for many years (6 months ‘on’ and 6 months ‘off’) so that over the course of a year, every worker in the country will have worked a minimum of 6 months. Which keeps their skills sharp, makes them eligible for automatic unemployment insurance benefits during their layoff, and lowers the welfare rate to near-zero.
  7. Most government unemployment insurance programmes around the world pay 66% of a worker’s salary during periods of unemployment, often after a significant wait and a worker’s claim can be turned down for any number of strange reasons. It’s inhuman. Workers pay into unemployment insurance — it’s not their fault that there are millions more people looking for work than there are jobs available — because their jobs have been sent overseas since the advent of globalization. In some countries, a brilliant solution exists whereby workers can opt to pay into a private unemployment insurance programme, one that can top-up their unemployment insurance payments to 99% of their normal salary for the equivalent of 1 or 2 cents per dollar earned. The employee merely indicates how much extra unemployment insurance coverage he or she wants to purchase, and the deductions are automatically made from their wages and directed to the private unemployment insurance company. The private insurer also begins paying unemployment benefits from the first day of a worker’s layoff. Workers no longer need subsist on 66% of their normal income while unemployed. (Imagine working in the fast-food industry, living on subsistence wages, then getting laid off due to a slowing economy, and then having to exist on only 66% of your already subsistence-level wage!) NOTE: In Sweden, both the government-run unemployment insurance plan and the private unemployment insurance plan make a respectable profit, every year. That’s how easy it is to do, when it’s done properly.
  8. Every city, town, village or county in the country should have the option to receive a free website from the federal government — for as long as certain information is continuously updated by the local jurisdiction. Simply by typing in the name of a jurisdiction into a search engine, anyone should be able to find the local time, weather, federal, state, city, village or municipal phone numbers and addresses, emergency services and other essential services (like Hospitals and Veterinary Clinics) and employment information for that city, town, or region. Standardization is key so that workers looking for work, or visitors to a region can quickly navigate to and access important services without a frustrating search (or fruitless search, because not all jurisdictions have their own site or mobile-friendly site — but you don’t know that until you do an hour’s searching and discover that there isn’t one!) Quick access to important phone numbers and addresses can save lives and help to increase productivity.
  9. Streamlined government websites for self-employed people to set-up and begin working in one day with a minimum of confusion, stress and red-tape.
  10. Legislation to require internet service providers to provide basic internet plans of $10. per month with low entry barriers — enough to check emails, find a job, find rental accommodation, and perhaps practice the preferred local language in hopes of finding a job. The internet is an essential service in our era, and those entering the workforce or returning to work after illness, etc. need to be able to start somewhere.

It’s easy to look around the world to see what’s working well in other jurisdictions and write similar legislation.

Legislators in Sweden and Norway don’t have two brains nor any other super powers, that we know of. If they can manage to get these things done, so can we. And if we can’t, we’re not half as great as we imagine ourselves to be.

But we are! Therefore, all we lack is the will to act. So let us act, and help our country to leap forward by one order of magnitude.


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