Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Minimum income will be tested again

http://qz.com/437088/utrecht-will-give-money-for-free-to-its-citizens-will-it-make-them-lazier/

"A group of people already receiving welfare will get monthly checks ranging from around €900 ($1,000) for an adult to €1,300 ($1,450) for a couple or family per month. Out of the estimated 300 people participating, a group of at least 50 people will receive the unconditional basic income and won’t be subject to any regulation, so even if they get a job or find another source of income, they will still get their disbursement, explained Nienke Horst, a project manager for the Utrecht city government. There will be three other groups with different levels of rules, and a control group that will follow the current welfare law, with its requirements around job-seeking and qualifying income.
The experiment seeks to challenge the notion that people who receive public money need to be patrolled and punished, said Horst. The traditional criticism of basic income is that it does not incentivize people to work, and thereby damages the economy."

I'm becoming a strong believer in the idea of a universal minimum income.  Hopefully more research and experiments will be done to test this idea.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

How to really help the poor

http://blogs.reuters.com/great-debate/2015/06/17/new-data-reveals-which-approach-to-helping-the-poor-actually-works/

"In education, we’ve learned that while some organizations in poor countries give out free uniforms and others scholarships, in Kenya a simple anti-parasite pill that kept children healthy enough to learn was 20 times as cost-effective as the uniforms, and 51 times as cost-effective as scholarships. Our local teams tracked the children into adulthood, and found that the children who received the anti-parasite pills went on to earn over 20 percent higher wages as adults than their peers who didn’t. In India and sub-Saharan Africa, where governments are implementing these programs, over 95 million children have now received the pills.
Yet poverty, and especially extreme poverty, is difficult to eliminate. The poorest of the poor have more problems than just lacking a regular income. Because they usually experience multiple challenges at the same time, we decided to look at the Graduation approach. Organizations employing this approach had been offering participants a 'productive asset' (an asset that generates income, such as livestock or supplies to sell in a small store), training on how to use it, healthcare to keep them healthy enough to work, a small amount of food or money to support themselves while they learned to make a living (so they didn’t have sell the asset immediately, merely to eat), access to a savings account to build up a buffer for future emergencies, and weekly coaching in areas like overcoming unexpected obstacles and meeting their savings goals."

There is no easy way to deal with poverty, but trickle-up actually works.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

To help any economy, help the poor

http://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/jun/15/focus-on-low-income-families-to-boost-economic-growth-says-imf-study

"The idea that increased income inequality makes economies more dynamic has been rejected by an International Monetary Fund study, which shows the widening income gap between rich and poor is bad for growth.
A report by five IMF economists dismissed “trickle-down” economics, and said that if governments wanted to increase the pace of growth they should concentrate on helping the poorest 20% of citizens.
The study – covering advanced, emerging and developing countries – said technological progress, weaker trade unions, globalisation and tax policies that favoured the wealthy had all played their part in making widening inequality 'the defining challenge of our time'."

Strangely, that's what a lot of religious leaders have taught.  it makes sense.  If the rich get all the money, you have a huge castle with all the wealth inside, and everybody else outside just struggling to survive.  If the lower income people get money, they spend it all over the place because they need to buy food, clothing, etc.  and hopefully have some left for a movie or book or something.

It's getting hard for governments to lie

https://news.vice.com/video/selfie-soldiers-russia-checks-in-to-ukraine

Russia's Putin insists that there are no Russian troops fighting in Ukraine.  But he hasn't been able to keep his own soldiers from disproving this lie.

When so much information from so many sources is available at everyone's fingertips, all it takes is for somebody to put the pieces together.

"As the conflict in Ukraine continues, so too does Russian President Vladimir Putin's denial of any Russian involvement. But a recent report from think tank the Atlantic Council used open source information and social media to find evidence of Russian troops across the border.
Using the Atlantic Council's methodology, VICE News correspondent Simon Ostrovsky follows the digital and literal footprints of one Russian soldier, tracking him from eastern Ukraine to Siberia, to prove that Russian soldiers are fighting in Ukraine."

Friday, May 8, 2015

the future of cities

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/enrique-penalosa/cities-future_b_7216732.html

"We have had cities for more than 6,000 years. Until very recently, a child could walk without fear anywhere in them. In 1900, nobody was killed by a car in the United States. . .because there were no cars. Just 20 years later, as Peter Norton, a professor at the University of Virginia, found in his book "Fighting Traffic," more than 200,000 people were killed by cars. In 1925 alone, cars killed about 6,000 children. Cities and life in cities had changed. We should have started to make cities different to accommodate cars, where every other street would be for pedestrians only, for example. But instead we just made the streets bigger and bigger.
It is a truism to say that cities are for people. The urban challenge for the next few decades is to truly make them so, by doing things like turning half of every road into pedestrian-and-bicyclists-only space, or making every other street usable only by walkers and cyclists.
Much of the discussion about our urban future will probably refer to the distribution of that most valuable physical urban resource: road space. Democratically, every citizen has an equal right to road space, regardless of whether he or she has a car or not. How should road space be distributed between pedestrians, bicyclists, public transport and cars?"

Monday, May 4, 2015

No more Freedom of Assembly for You!

http://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2015/5/countries-across-world-are-revoking-freedom-of-assembly.html

"Spain is only the latest 'democracy' to consign freedom of assembly to the dustbin. While earlier eras of protest and riot sometimes wrested concessions from the state, today the government’s default response is to implement increasingly draconian laws against the public exercise of democracy. It raises the question: How many rights must be abrogated before a liberal democracy becomes a police state?
In Quebec, where student strikes against austerity once again disrupt civil society, marches are being declared illegal before they’ve even begun. At the height of the last wave of student strikes in 2012, the Quebec legislature passed Bill 78, which made pickets and unauthorized gatherings of over 50 people illegal, and punished violations with fines of up to $5,000 for individuals and $125,000 for organizations. Similar fines are once again imposed on protesters.
Last October, a new law was passed in Turkey allowing police to search demonstrators and their homes without warrants or even grounds for suspicion, a much looser definition and harsher punishment for resisting arrest, and making covering your face at a protest or shouting particular slogans crimes punishable by years of jail time. This February in London police forced climate protest organizers to hire private security for marshaling a rally, making protesting not a free public right but an expensive private service.
The list goes on: France banned Palestine solidarity demonstrations; police in Australia gained the power to ban protesters from appearing in public spaces for a year, even if they work or live there; and Egypt, Ukraine and Russia’s governments have outlawed protest entirely. Mexico’s congress approved 'la ley antimarchas', which, if ratified by the state-level governments, will modify the constitution so that any unauthorized gathering would be illegal: the constitutional end to freedom of assembly. All of this in 2014."

Monday, April 13, 2015

Are Free Range Kids bad?

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/free-range-kids-and-our-parenting-police-state/2015/04/13/42c30336-e1df-11e4-905f-cc896d379a32_story.html

"The Silver Spring siblings were about 2 1/2 blocks from their home Sunday when Montgomery County police got a call reporting them — gasp — playing alone.
'The police coerced our children into the back of a patrol car and kept them trapped there for three hours, without notifying us, before bringing them to the Crisis Center, and holding them there without dinner for another two and a half hours,' their mom, Danielle Meitiv, said to her Facebook friends. 'We finally got home at 11 pm and the kids slept in our room because we were all exhausted and terrified'.”

Could the police be sued for kidnapping?  As I recall my childhood, the main rule was to be home at a certain time.  We ranged far and wide, but kept to that one rule.