October 2008

The good ol’ United States of America is in debt up to its eyeballs.  Who are we in debt to?  Japan and China are at the top of the list of lenders.  Hubdub.com has posted a list of the top ten, including the amounts the U.S. owed as of June 2007.  Hang onto your hats as you read this list and ask yourself, “What’s going on in the Cayman Islands?”

This is money we have to pay back . . . with interest.


Phineas F. A. Pickerel


On 10/17/2008 The Morrison County Record published an article titled: District 12B Candidates Debate Energy. I appreciated the information the paper provided to voters on this subject and have to say that I was startled and alarmed by the comments made by 12B candidate Mike LeMieur.  

According to the article LeMieur stated: “The whole state of Minnesota should invest in nuclear power, too,” LeMieur said. “There are no carbon emissions at all, it’s very efficient, and I just disagree with Al’s vote against the proposed amendment. We are one of the only states in the country that has a ban on new nuclear energy, and the House failed to change that.”

It is perhaps a very good thing Rep. Al Doty was at the capitol holding the line on new nuclear energy production as opposed to Mike LeMieur. While the Republican candidate is correct regarding the lack of carbon emissions, I hardly see an increase in the volume of spent nuclear waste accumulating on temporary storage pads across the country as a wiser, planet friendlier, cost effective option.

Twenty-five years after Congress passed the National Nuclear Waste Storage Act and mandated the establishment of an underground repository, long term storage of the nation’s nuclear waste still remains in question. To date, American ratepayers have contributed approximately $28 billion to the national Nuclear Waste Fund without result. At present, there are approximately 169 million Americans living within 75 miles of temporary nuclear waste storage sites in 39 states.

I am tired of politicians enacting short-sighted solutions that leave our children and grandchildren to mop up after our generations failed policies.  Adding more nuclear waste to the American landscape without a long term storage solution is not only bad policy; its poor leadership.

Minnesota Public Radio

Reblogged from Public Citizen’s Blog and well worth reading.

Cross-posted at Eyes on Trade

By Todd Tucker

Today is Blog Action Day on Poverty, and it seems like a good opportunity to remember the impact that our failed trade policies have had on the world’s poor.

  • The worldwide gulf between rich and poor has widened under current trade policies
  • Long-standing economic theory predicts that trade increases inequality in developed countries, but not in developing countries. However, during the era when the corporate globalization policies were implemented worldwide, income inequality between developed and developing nations, and between rich and poor within developing nations has increased. Research by 2007 Nobel Laureate Eric Maskin recently confirmed this trend. In 1960, the 20 richest nations earned per capita incomes 16 times greater than non-oil-producing, less-developed nations. And by 1999, this gap had more than doubled. The richest 1 percent of the world’s population is 2,000 times richer than the poorest 50 percent.  
  • One United Nations study concluded that, “in almost all developing countries that have undertaken rapid trade liberalization, wage inequality has increased, most often in the context of declining industrial employment of unskilled workers and large absolute falls in their real wages, on the order of 20-30 percent in Latin American countries.” World Bank projections show that the WTO Doha Round could make matter even worse, with only a few large developing countries likely to gain, while many countries and regions would be likely to suffer net losses.
  • Progress on growth and social development in poor countries slowed during the corporate globalization era. Increasing economic growth rates mean a faster expanding economic pie. With more pie to go around, the middle class and poor have an opportunity to gain without having to “take” from the rich – often a violent and disruptive process. But the growth rates of developing nations slowed dramatically in the current globalization period. For low- and middle-income nations, per capita growth between 1980 and 2000 fell to half that experienced between 1960 and 1980. The slowdown in Latin America was particularly extreme. There, income per person grew by 75 percent in the 1960-80 period, before the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank began imposing a package of deregulation, investment, and trade policies similar to that found in NAFTA and the WTO. Since adopting these policies, per capita income growth in Latin America plunged to 6 percent in the 1980-2000 period.
  • Even when taking into account the longer 1980-2005 period, there is no single 25-year window in the modern history of the continent that was worse in terms of rate of income gains. In other world regions, growth also slowed dramatically. In Sub-Saharan Africa, income per person actually shrank 15 percent, due to implementation of the neoliberal policy package as well as a variety of other contributing factors. Improvement measured by human indicators – in particular, life expectancy, child mortality and schooling outcomes – also slowed for nearly all countries in the current period as compared with 1960-80. Pro-FTA analysts consider these outcomes to have been a significant factor in the numerous Latin American elections where critics of current globalization policies prevailed (see here and here).
  • Poverty, hunger and displacement on the rise during the neoliberal period. The share of people living on less than $2 a day rose in Latin America & the Caribbean, the Middle East & North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa and Eastern Europe over the 1993-2001 period, while the share living on less than $1 a day (the World Bank’s definition of extreme poverty) grew in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East & North Africa.
  • According to the Food & Agriculture Organization, in 1996 “world leaders committed themselves to what was considered an ambitious but attainable intermediate target: to halve by 2015 the number of undernourished people in the world from the 1990 level. Ten years later, we are confronted with the sad reality that virtually no progress has been made towards that objective. Compared with 1990-92, the number of undernourished people in the developing countries has declined by a meager 3 million – a number within the bounds of statistical error.”
  • As nations have begun adopting NAFTA-WTO style policies, the displaced rural poor have had little choice but to emigrate to wealthy countries or join swelling urban workforces. As a recent exposé in the pro-NAFTA New Republic put it, “as cheap American foodstuffs flooded Mexico’s markets and as U.S. agribusiness moved in, 1.1 million small farmers – and 1.4 million other Mexicans dependent upon the farm sector – were driven out of work between 1993 and 2005. Wages dropped so precipitously that today the income of a farm laborer is one-third that of what it was before NAFTA. As jobs disappeared and wages sank, many of these rural Mexicans emigrated, swelling the ranks of the 12 million illegal immigrants living incognito and competing for low-wage jobs in the United States.” Indeed, a review of Mexican income growth rates, inequality, and manufacturing value-added shows that Mexico fared better before neoliberalism’s introduction relative to outcomes post-neoliberalism and post-NAFTA (see here and here).
  • Developing countries that did not adopt the neoliberal policy package fared better. In sharp contrast, nations that chose their own economic mechanisms and policies through which to integrate into the world economy had more economic success. For instance, China, India, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Chile (and Argentina since 2002) have had some of the highest growth rates in the developing world over the past two decades – despite largely ignoring the directives of the WTO, IMF and World Bank. It remains to be seen what will occur if these countries implement the corporate globalization policy package. It is often claimed that the successful growth record of countries like Chile was based on the pursuit of NAFTA-WTO-like policies. But nothing could be farther from the truth: Chile’s sustained rapid economic growth was based on the liberal use of export promotion policies and subsidies that are now considered WTO-illegal.
  • . In the early 1990s, proponents of the WTO and NAFTA touted these pacts as keys to poverty reduction in developing nations and a more equitable global economic system. That same argument is being raised again today to promote the Doha Round WTO expansion.

    This just in from our sometime Fish Wrap Correspondent, Black Molly.  Seems the Little Falls City Council is due to hear a conditional use request tomorrow night (October 13, 2008) at 7:30 p.m. at City Hall for the proposed placement of a 190-foot mono-pole telecommunications tower at 107 13th Street Northwest.  That location appears to be in a block just south of Pine Grove Park and Zoo, basically across the street from the entry side.  Here’s what Black Molly has to say about the issue in her letter to the City Council:

    To:  Jake Depuydt, Mayor Cathy VanRisseghem, Little Falls City Council Members, Bruce Kiesling

    I’m writing in regards to the proposed placement of a 190-foot mono-pole telecommunications tower at 107 13th Street Northwest in Little Falls.  If I’m not mistaken, this address is located across the street from Pine Grove Park, which means that a tower of this size will certainly be noticed by those visiting the park.  After all of the money that has been spent to make improvements to the park and zoo, why would the City allow a tower to be installed that would mar the aesthetics of one of its visitor attractions?

    As you ponder this question, consider a similar situation that has been the subject of some hand-wringing over the years.  Billboards, also known as “Litter on a Stick,” have become a visual distraction for those entering the City of Little Falls, especially on Highway 10 south of town, where they are practically stacked one on top of another.  While the existing billboards fall outside of the City’s jurisdiction, they serve as a cautionary tale about how zoning issues, if not given enough forethought, can get out of hand.  Do we really want mono-pole communications towers cropping up willy-nilly all over the city without any regards to the overall historic aesthetic that the City has been attempting to achieve for decades?

    That said, I am not against progress.  In order to remain competitive in a wireless world, it’s obvious that we are going to need tall structures that can accommodate telecommunication services, be they mono-poles or the pre-existing water towers.  Instead of deciding upon such projects one at a time, as they come before the Council, I would like to see the Little Falls City Council examine the issue of mono-pole placement and find a suitable location for said towers – perhaps in the industrially-zoned areas.  Then, the City needs to remain committed to its decision and not grant every conditional use permit or request that comes up, as this effectively nullifies the ordinance or zoning restriction that has been passed.  The exception should not become the rule.

    For these reasons, I’m urging you to deny the conditional use request for the placement of a mono-pole tower at 107 13th Street Northwest.

    If you feel strongly about this issue, one way or the other, be sure to attend the Little Falls City Council meeting tomorrow night at 7:30 p.m.

    The legals are a fine place to swim,

    Phineas F. A. Pickerel