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“Are Robots Stealing Your Job?” is the Wrong Question

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 15/11/2019 - 2:35pm in

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Andrew Yang says, “Yes, Robots Are Stealing Your Job” in an op-ed at the New York Times. Paul Krugman thinks they’re not and advises, “Democrats, Avoid the Robot Rabbit Hole.” This is, of course, a classic case of asking the wrong question. The real question is: will robots burn down your house and kill your […]

IPA unsure about free speech (repost from 2014)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 15/11/2019 - 8:05am in

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In the light of the Morrison government’s attempts to extend secondary boycott laws to cover boycotts by consumers, investors and advertisers, I thought I would repost this piece from 2014. I’m inclined to agree with Chris Berg (link broken unfortunately) that all restrictions on secondary boycotts should be scrapped. In particular, that applies to bans imposed on unions under Sections 45D and 45E of the Trade Practices Act.

John Quiggin

The reaction of the Institute of Public Affairs to the Abbott governments backdown on the race-hate proviions Section 18C has been, by its own admission, intemperate (“white hot anger” is the description they used; I think I also saw “ice-cold rage”.

By contrast, the IPA has been much more ambivalent on freedom of speech. I noted a while ago, this piece suggesting that environmentalists who questioned the viability of the coal industry could be prosecuted either under securities legislation or as an illegal secondary boycott. This view isn’t unanimous however. Following some Twitter discussion (must get Storify working properly for things like this) Chris Berg pointed to a piece he’d written arguing against such a use of secondary boycott legislation (and against such legislation in general).

I was, naturally interested in how Freedom Commissioner and former IPA fellow Tim Wilson would respond to proposals to suppress free…

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Publication lags

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 15/11/2019 - 6:45am in

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Among the many thoughts prompted by the bushfire disaster one relates to the shift from the “Defend or Leave” approach that was recommended in the 2000s, to the current policy of “evacuate before it’s too late”.

In the aftermath of the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires, I did some work on this topic with a colleague, Tyron Venn. Our conclusion was summarised in the title of our paper “Early evacuation is the best policy“. We included a discussion of how climate change would make the problem worse.

When we first adopted this title, it represented advocacy of a radical shift in policy. But the time taken to prepare the paper, followed by several rounds of refereeing, and getting it published meant that, when it came out in 2017, it was old hat. And the referees raised so many quibbles about the climate change section that we had to drop it.

I don’t really know how to deal with this problem. Peer review is essential. But the process is so slow, particularly in economics, that papers addressing current policy problems can’t easily make it through in time to be relevant.

Considerations on Rent Control

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 15/11/2019 - 5:11am in

(On November 13, I was invited to testify before the Jersey City city council on rent control. Below is an edited version of my testimony.)

My name is J. W. Mason. I have a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, I am an assistant professor of economics at John Jay College of the City University of New York, and I am a Fellow at the Rosevelt Institute.

My goal today is to present some general observations on rent regulation from the perspective of an economist.

Among economists, rent regulation seems be in similar situation as the minimum wage was 20 years ago. At that time, most economists  took it for granted that raising the minimum wage would reduce employment. Textbooks said that it was simple supply and demand — if you raise the price of something, people will buy less of it. But as more state and local governments raised minimum wages, it turned out to be very hard to find any negative effect on employment. This was confirmed by more and more careful empirical studies. Today, it is clear that minimum wages do not reduce employment. And as economists have worked to understand why not, this has improved our theories of the labor market.

Rent regulation may be going through a similar evolution today. You may still see textbooks saying that as a price control, rent regulation will reduce the supply of housing. But as the share of Americans renting their homes has increased, more and more jurisdictions are considering or implementing rent regulation. This has brought new attention from economists, and as with the minimum wage, we are finding that the simple supply-and-demand story doesn’t capture what happens in the real world.

As of 2019, there are approximately 200 cities in the US with some type of rent regulation. Most of them are in three states — New York, New Jersey, and California. Other areas where rent control was once widespread, such as Massachusetts, have seen it eliminated by state law.

A number of recent studies have looked at the effects of rent regulations on housing supply, focusing on changes in rent regulations in New Jersey and California and the elimination of rent control in Massachusetts. Contrary to the predictions of the simple supply-and-demand model, none of these studies have found evidence that introducing or strengthening rent regulations reduces new housing construction, or that eliminating rent regulation increases construction. Most of these studies do, however, find that rent control is effective at holding down rents.

A 2007 study by David Sims and a 2014 study by Autor, Palmer, and Pathak both look at the effects of the end of rent control in Massachusetts, after the passage of Question 9 by Massachusetts ballot referendum in 1994. Sims found that the end of rent control had little effect on the construction of new housing. He did however find evidence that rent control decreased the number of available rental units, by encouraging condo conversions. In other words, rent control seemed to affect the quantity of rental housing, but not the total quantity of the housing stock. Unsurprisingly, Sims also found significant increases in rent charged after decontrol, suggesting that rent control was effective in limiting rent increases. Finally, he found that rent controlled units had much longer tenure times, supporting the idea that rent control promotes neighborhood stability. Autor and coauthors reached similar conclusions. They also found that eliminating rent control also raised rents in homes in the same area that were never subject to the controls, reinforcing the idea that rent control contributes to neighborhood stability.

A 2007 study by Gilderbloom and Ye of more recent rent control laws here in New Jersey finds evidence that rent controls actually increase the supply of rental housing, by incentivizing landlords to subdivide larger rental units.

A 2015 study by Ambrosius, Glderbloom and coauthors also looks at changes in New Jersey rent regulations. As with the previous study, they find that rent control in New Jersey has not produced any detectable reduction in new housing supply. However, they also find that many of these laws,  because of their relatively generous provisions, in particular vacancy decontrol, only limit rent increases on a relatively small number of housing units. 

The most recent major study of rent control, by Diamond McQuade, and Qian in 2018, uses detailed data on San Francisco housing market to look at the effect of the mid-1990s change in rent control rules there. They suggest that while the law did effectively limit rent increases, and had no effect on new housing construction, it did have a negative effect n the supply of rental housing by encouraging condo conversions. 

The main conclusions from this literature are, first, that rent regulation is effective in limiting rent increases, although how effective it is depends on the specifics of the law. Vacancy decontrol in particular may significantly weaken rent control. Second, there is no evidence that rent regulations reduce the overall supply of housing. They, may, however, reduce the supply of rental housing if it is easy for landlords to convert apartments to condominiums or other non-rental uses. This suggests that limitations on these kinds of conversions may be worth exploring. Third, in addition to their effect on the overall level of rents, rent regulations also play an important role in promoting neighborhood stability and protecting long-term tenants.

Let me now turn to the question of why the textbook story is wrong. There are several features of housing markets and of rent control that help explain why the simple supply-and-demand model is inapplicable.

First, these arguments misunderstand the goal of rent regulation. In part, it is to preserve the supply of affordable housing. But it also recognizes the legitimate interest of long-term tenants in remaining in their homes. A rented house or apartment is still a family’s home, which they have a reasonable expectation of remaining in on terms similar to those they have enjoyed in the past. Just as we have a legal principle that people cannot be arbitrarily deprived of their property, and just as many local governments put limits on how rapidly property taxes can increase, a goal of rent control is to give people similar protection from being forced out of their homes by rent increases. 

Second, and related to this, there is a social interest in income diversity and stable neighborhoods. In the absence of rent control or other measures to control housing costs, an area that sees rising productivity or improved amenities may see a sharp rise in rents and become affordable only for higher-income households. Besides the questions of equity this raises, there are economic costs here, as it becomes difficult for people holding lower paid jobs to live within commuting distance; an area that becomes more homogenous may also lose the social and cultural dynamism that caused the improvement in the first place. Similarly, the evidence seems clear that in the absence of rent regulation, turnover among tenants will be higher, leading to less stable communities and discouraging investment by renters in their neighborhoods. The absence of rent regulation may also create political obstacles to efforts to increase housing supply, attract new employers, or otherwise improve urban areas, since current residents correctly perceive that the result of any improvement may be higher rents and displacement. Rent regulation removes these conflicts between the social interest in thriving, high-wage cities and the interests of current residents. This makes it an important component of any broader urban development program.

Third, rent regulations in general affect only increases in rents. When a new property comes on the market, landlords can charge whatever the market will bear. And when they make major improvements, again, most existing rent regulations, including the current Jersey City law, allow them to recapture those costs via higher rents. So what rent control is limiting are the rent increases that are not the result of anything the landlord has done — the rent increases that result from the increased desirability of a particular area, or of a broader regional shortage of housing relative to demand. There is no reason that limiting these windfall gains should affect the supply of housing.

Fourth, in many high-cost areas, housing supply is relatively fixed. The reason that existing homes in many large cities cost multiple times more than the costs of construction, is that the ability to add new housing in these areas is very limited, by some mix of regulatory barriers like zoning, and physical or economic barriers. In economists’ terms, the supply of housing in these areas is inelastic  – it doesn’t respond very much to changes in price. This fact is widely recognized, but its implications for rent regulation are not. In a setting where the supply of new housing is already limited by other factors  – whether land-use policy or the capacity of existing infrastructure or sheer physical limits on construction –  rent regulation will have little or no additional effect on housing supply. Instead, it will simply reduce the monopoly profits enjoyed by owners of existing housing.

Fifth, housing is very long-lived. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the average age of a tenant-occupied residential structure in the US is 42 years. In much of the northeast and in older cities, the average age will be greater. The fact that housing lasts this long has important implications. No one constructing new housing is thinking about returns that far out. Most business investment is expected to repay its costs in less than 10 years. Housing construction may have a longer payback period — as we know, much construction is financed with 30-year mortgages. But the rents 40 or more years in the future are simply not a factor in the construction of new housing.  This means that there is a great deal of space to regulate the rents on existing housing without affecting the decision to build or not build

The bottom line is that rents in the everyday sense are often also economic rents. When economists use the term rent, they mean a payment that someone receives from some economic activity because of an exclusive right over it, as opposed to contributing some productive resource. When a landlord gets an income because they are lucky enough to own land in an area where demand is growing and new supply is limited, or an income from an older building that has already fully paid back its construction costs, these are rents in the economic sense. They come from a kind of monopoly, not from contributing real resources to production of housing. And one thing that almost all economists agree on is that removing economic rents does not have costs in terms of reduced output or efficiency. 

Finally, I would like to offer a few design principles for rent regulation, based on my read of the literature.

First, rent control needs to be combined with other measures to create more affordable housing. The main goals of rent regulation are to protect renters’ legitimate interest in remaining in their homes; to advance the social interest in stable, mixed-income neighborhoods; and to curb the market power of landlords. Other measures, including subsidies and incentives, reforms to land-use rules, and public investment in social housing, are needed to increase the supply of affordable housing. These two approaches should be seen as complements.

Second, there are good reasons that most existing rent control focuses on rent increases rather than the absolute level of rents. Rent control structured this way allows new housing to claim the market rent, giving the developer a chance to recover the costs of construction. Rent increases many years after the building is finished are more likely to reflect changes in the value of the location, rather than the costs of production. From the point of view of allowing existing tenants to remain in their homes, it is also makes sense to focus on increases, rather than the absolute level of rents.

Third, since rent regulation is aimed at the monopoly rents claimed by landlords, it should allow for reasonable rent increases to reflect increased costs of maintaining a building. At the same time, there is a danger that landlords will engage in unneeded improvements if this allows them to raise rents more than they would otherwise be allowed to. A natural way to balance this is to adjust the allowable rent increase each year based on some measure of average costs or a broader price index, as in the current Jersey City law.

Fourth, for rent control to be effective, tenants also need to be protected from the threat of eviction or other pressure from landlords. To give renters genuine security in their homes, they need an automatic right to renew their lease, unless the landlord can demonstrate nonpayment of rent or other good cause.

Fifth rent control is more likely to have perverse effects when the controls are incomplete. When rent regulations do reduce the supply of affordable rental housing, this is typically because they have loopholes allowing landlords to escape the regulations. In particular, vacancy decontrol or allowing larger rent increases on vacancy significantly reduces the impact of rent control and may encourage landlords to push out existing tenants. There is also some evidence that landlords seek to avoid rent regulation by converting rental units into units for sale. To avoid these kinds of unintended consequences, rent regulations should be as comprehensive as possible, and options to remove units from the regulated market need to be closed off wherever possible. 

Thank you.

The economics behind the motivation to migrate : Income gaps and inequality in the U.S. and Central America’s Northern Triangle

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 15/11/2019 - 1:00am in

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In the past two years, the surge in undocumented immigrants from Central America’s Northern Triangle has been covered extensively by most news outlets. The stories of these migrants from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras involve compelling and often perilous human experiences and intense reactions to the issues involved.

Apart from the political and social views about immigration, there are fundamental questions to ask that may have some economic answers: What is the main motivation for these migrations? And why are people willing to put themselves and their families at great risk to migrate to the U.S.?*

The graph above shows the ratio of per capita income in the U.S., the intended destination for many of these migrants, to per capita income in the three Northern Triangle countries: El Salvador (in blue), Guatemala (in red), and Honduras (in green). The gaps are huge, as expected, but also quite varied, with clear movements over time.

Some history: For El Salvador, during most of the 1970s, the ratio was below 10. But, as a result of the civil war (1979-92), the gap surged to 17.5 by the late 1990s, which coincides with the migration of many Salvadorans to the U.S. (especially to L.A., D.C., N.Y., and Houston.) Ever since, the ratio has remained at the high end of its trajectory, around 15. Guatemala has a similar pattern: The ratio steadily rose from around 11 in 1980 to more than 18 in 2005, and it also has remained at a higher level. In Honduras, the poorest country in Central America, we see even more dramatic disparity: The ratio for Honduras has never been lower than 17.5. It reaches its peak of 28.4 in 1999, and as of today it’s at 25.

The income gaps between the U.S. and the three source countries reveal the magnitude of the potential earnings migrants could gain and the potential improvements migrants could experience in their living conditions. That is, the data suggest that increased migration is motivated by economic considerations. Obviously, these migrants wouldn’t expect, if they managed to enter and remain in the U.S., that they’d attain the average income of U.S. residents. Undocumented workers with much lower labor market qualifications would receive much less than the average. So the ratios in the above graph seem to greatly overestimate income gains. But consider that the countries in the Northern Triangle have traditionally had enormous internal economic disparity, and many immigrants are from the poorer segments of the population. So the ratios could greatly underestimate the earnings gains.

The second graph conveys income disparity by showing the Gini coefficients for El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, as well as for the U.S. (The previous FRED Blog post also used Gini coefficients, a very common indicator of inequality: The higher the Gini, the more concentrated the income distribution: A value of 100% indicates perfect inequality, in the sense that all income would be concentrated with one person [or the tiniest fraction of the population]. A value of 0% indicates perfect equality, a state in which everyone has the same income.)

For most of these years, the Gini coefficients for these countries are very high. Guatemala and Honduras maintain similar levels over time, above 50%, with very slow improvement. In the early 1980s, El Salvador was on par with them; but since the end of the war, its inequality seems to have trended down dramatically. In fact, by the end of the sample, El Salvador exhibits less inequality than the U.S. But it should not be surprising that very poor countries have many desperate people and generate the economic motivation to migrate.

* “I cannot help feeling self-conscious as I try to answer these questions from the comforts of my office. But my aim in this FRED Blog post, as in every other FRED Blog post, is to show how using data from FRED can provide some objective, big-picture perspectives, even on this highly charged issue.” —Alexander Monge-Naranjo

How these graphs were created: For the first graph, search for and select “GDP per capita for the United States in constant dollars” (series ID NYGDPPCAPKDUSA). From the “Edit Graph” panel’s “Edit Lines” tab, use the “Customize data” tool to search for and add “GDP per capita for El Salvador in constant dollars” (series ID NYGDPPCAPKDSLV). Then add the formula a/b. Repeat these steps for Guatemala and Honduras. For the second graph, search for and select “Gini index for El Salvador” (series ID SIPOVGINISLV), and do the same for Honduras, Guatemala, and the U.S. From the “Edit Graph” panel’s “Format” tab, choose “Mark type” square with a width of 5 and a “Line style” width of 1 for all.

Suggested by Alexander Monge-Naranjo.

Rentier capitalism is breeding neo-fascism. Vote wisely!

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 15/11/2019 - 12:09am in

The UK’s General Election is more about class than at any time since 1945. Yet few want to say so. The media focus on the characters of the leaders and posturing on Brexit. But as in other countries, the election is really about the crisis in the Global Transformation, the point at which the inequalities and insecurities have become such that neo-fascist populism is the only feasible option for the rentiers, plutocrats and elites gaining from the rentier capitalism that they have nurtured since the 1980s.

They cannot achieve their goal alone, of course. They must play on the discontent of what remains of the previous working class, the industrial proletariat, and the relatively uneducated part of the new mass working class, the atavistic part of the precariat.

The Atavists, as explained elsewhere, are those who have fallen out of the old working class or who had parents who were in it or who come from communities dominated by that. They listen to populist rhetoric because it is easy to comprehend and a convenient way of absolving themselves of responsibility for their predicament. They are prepared to be the foot-soldiers for Brexit, for law-and-order, for xenophobia and punishing perceived scroungers dependent on benefits.

They constitute a feeding ground for politicians allied to financial interests and billionaire plutocrats who have been the primary beneficiaries of rentier capitalism. This is an inevitable outcome of a period when governments and international institutions have promoted financial deregulation and economic liberalisation.

It began with a rousing commitment to ‘free markets’, ostensibly to boost ‘economic growth’. It has ended with the most unfree markets and dysfunctional growth that depletes resources, disregards and destroys the environment, generating unrelenting growth in inequality and insecurity. Those promoting it must lie more, to cover up for the fact that the institutions created by the economic winners are anti-free market. Thus, the model now rewards solely the owners of property – financial, physical and, above all, intellectual. And, as shown in a new book, it turns what was not property into private property, by a further phase in the plunder of the commons, the loss of uncommodified nature, public social amenities and services, and public institutions of culture, common law and knowledge.

In these circumstances, the ideal populist sought by the plutocracy and libertarian thinkers, is someone who either believes in the model or who can lie about it convincingly enough to appeal to the Atavists and elites gaining from rentier capitalism. The supreme art of the populist is the ability to blame outsiders for the insecurity and inequalities that have nothing to do with them. They may have found their ideal in Boris Johnson.

Whatever the exact rhetoric of its populist representatives, the primary cause of the drift to neo-fascism today in Britain as in the USA, Italy, Germany and elsewhere is the power and resultant corruption of financial and corporate capital. Neo-fascism differs from its predecessor of the 1930s in eschewing any socialism, and involves a drift to authoritarian rule in favour of ‘public order’ (over personal liberty), national capital (rhetorically at least) and limited rent-sharing between property owners and ‘the people’.

What induces enough people to support neo-fascist politicians for them to win – say, about 35% of those who vote – is a background alliance between the ultra-winners of rentier capitalism, who can fund their campaign, manipulate the media and pay for consultancies to sell sound-bites, and the ultra-losers in the class generated by rentier capitalism.

Progressives aghast at this drift must articulate a narrative about rentier capitalism and offer a strategy to dismantle that and overcome the insecurities and inequalities that lead the Atavists to support neo-fascism or who do not see the inherent dangers. So far, progressive critics have failed the historical challenge, although Labour, the Greens and SNP have good shopping lists of potentially progressive policies on offer.

Consider where we are historically – the crisis point in the Global Transformation, analogous to Karl Polanyi’s Great Transformation. But whereas Polanyi traced the evolution of national industrial capitalism, today’s transformation is about the forging of international tertiary capitalism. The key is to see each as starting with an era of dis-embeddedness, when finance and capital involved in the new technological revolution aid their political representatives to dismantle old systems of regulation, redistribution and social protection that had limited inequalities and insecurities, for the benefit of the mass working class and bourgeoisie.

This threefold dismantling happened in the 19th and early 20th centuries, when finance and industrial capital were in control. It generated the Gilded Age. But finance and monopolistic capital could not stop taking more, favouring repressive measures to support themselves. Their hubristic greed destroyed society. The losers organised in two directions – one to restore Yesterday, which bred fascism, and one to create a new Tomorrow, which fostered state socialism and communism. Both offered a sad deviation from the Enlightenment values of civilisation.

In ‘the west’, the post-1945 era was one of re-embeddedness, with a new combined system of regulation, to protect the mass class, the proletariat, of redistribution, through progressive income tax, and of social securitybased on labour. Although elements of each had existed, none had been powerful or effective before the period of dis-embeddedness.

Now consider the Global Transformation, which began in the 1980s with the neo-liberal economics revolution. Once again, finance rose to power, liberated by Thatcher’s Big Bang of 1986 and the neo-liberal capture of the institutions steering globalisation – the IMF, World Bank, the US Federal Reserve and big finance on Wall Street and the City of London.

Rentier capitalism evolves when financial is unregulated and when it can assist corporate capital to create institutional structures and policies that not only channel more income to property owners but also support political representatives, who will act in their interests. The most spectacular success achieved by global finance and US corporate capital was the passage in the World Trade Organisation of TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) in 1994, which globalised the US IP system, enabling multinationals to extract vastly increasing rentier income from the global economy. This has been augmented by governments giving billions of dollars in subsidies to rentiers, by finance’s construction of a system of private indebtedness and by privatising the commons. Meanwhile the technological revolution has aided corporations to globalise labour systems and induce a spread of online labour that has helped lower real wages and the social income of those relying on labour.

In those circumstances, consider the three mechanisms for re-embedding the economy in a good society. How would a desirable regulatory system look? Bear in mind we are in tertiary, not industrial capitalism. Regulations that focus on formal ‘workplaces’, as in industrial capitalism would give limited protection. They must focus on strengthening people’s Voice in all spheres of life. Regulations on minimum wages and 32-hour weeks, for example, will have minimal effect, and could be perverse. Regulations should enhance and protect work that is not labour; the former is tilted to resource preservation, the latter to resource depletion.

As for a system of redistribution, the previous system cannot be resurrected. Inequality was moderated by collective bargaining, minimum wages (via Wage Councils) and progressive income tax. None could work well in open tertiary capitalism. Fiscal policy should be shifted to reduce rentier income and to combat the causes of ecological decay and deprivation of the commons. This points the way to carbon taxes, wealth tax and land value tax.

As for social security, we must recognise that labour-based social security went into terminal decline in the 1990s, led by New Labour favouring targeted means-tested benefits aimed at the ‘deserving’ poor and child poverty. The inevitable, predicted outcome was workfare and the viciousness of Universal Credit, the endgame of means-testing and behaviour-testing.

So, a new system of social security must necessarily involve revival of principles of universalism, in benefits such as basic income and in public subsidised services. The Green Party has taken a lead in proposing a full basic income within the lifetime of one or two parliaments, Labour has come out in favour of basic income pilots and the SNP has already put money into doing preparatory work for such pilots. Labour has also come out in favour of universal basic services.

Characteristically, immediately the Labour proposal for piloting basic income was published, the Tories claimed it would cost £4.5 billion. That is a blatant lie. In my report for John McDonnell proposing five small-scale pilots, the cost was and is no more than £25 million, i.e., less than 0.1% of what they claim. Most of the media took the Tory claim without checking.

In conclusion, we are faced with a crisis of awesome proportions. If the right-wing rump of the Conservative Party wins the General Election, the drift from rentier capitalism to a neo-fascist authoritarianism will be predictable. The only parties offering elements of a strategy for re-embedding the economy in society are the Greens, Labour and the SNP. Vote wisely!

The views in this piece do not necessarily represent the collective views of PEF, but the views of the author.

This piece is cross-posted from Open Democracy. Photo credit: Flickr/Mike Fleming.

The post Rentier capitalism is breeding neo-fascism. Vote wisely! appeared first on The Progressive Economy Forum.

Como a família Alcolumbre enriqueceu com grilagem e devastação no Amapá

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 14/11/2019 - 4:03pm in

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A influência dos Alcolumbre no Amapá fica clara logo que se pousa em Macapá. Reinaugurado em abril, o aeroporto internacional Alberto Alcolumbre foi batizado em homenagem ao tio já falecido do atual presidente do senado, Davi Alcolumbre. O nome foi aprovado em 2009 a partir de um projeto de lei proposto pelo próprio Davi na época em que era deputado federal.

A família, que agora encabeça o Senado com Davi, também se destaca pelo sucesso na especulação imobiliária na região. A especialidade: grilagem de terras públicas. Como mostram processos judiciais, aos quais o Intercept teve acesso, há desde a apropriação de terrenos do Departamento Nacional de Infraestrutura de Transportes, o Dnit, até a compra de áreas já griladas por multinacionais e agora em disputa na justiça.

O caso mais flagrante é o do primo do senador, Salomão Alcolumbre, o Salomãozinho. Ele também tentou entrar na política e disputou a eleição de 2014 como suplente na chapa ao Senado do emedebista Gilvam Borges. Entre as propriedades que declarou à Justiça Eleitoral destaca-se um imóvel na margem esquerda do rio Pacuí, na zona rural de Macapá. Mas não é um imóvel qualquer: a área, na verdade, pertence à União, mais precisamente ao Instituto Nacional de Colonização e Reforma Agrária, o Incra.

As terras em nome do Incra são destinadas a assentamentos de camponeses. Declarar a posse da terra – como se fosse assentado – é uma maneira de conseguir a propriedade delas depois, quando vier a regularização fundiária. É um hábito que, na família, parece ser hereditário.

Nas duas vezes em que disputou o mesmo cargo, como suplente do ex-presidente José Sarney, Salomão, o pai de Junior, morto em 2011, também declarou entre seus bens a posse de terras públicas. No caso, três propriedades foram apresentadas como partes de terras devolutas, ou seja pertencentes ao estado, mas sem destinação específica. As informações constam do livro Partido da Terra, conforme pesquisa do autor Alceu Luís Castilho no TSE, o Tribunal Superior Eleitoral.

Búfalos e R$ 1 milhão em multas

E não é só a apropriação do patrimônio público. A área de 108,22 hectares que pertence ao Incra, conhecida como Fazenda São Miguel, na Vila Santa Luzia do Pacuí, está embargada pelo Ibama, em função da devastação da flora, desde 2016. Um rebanho de búfalos, que Salomãozinho também fez questão de declarar à Justiça Eleitoral, ajuda a piorar a situação. Na própria declaração de bens, ele cita como benfeitorias feitas no local a construção de três casas de madeira e de um curral.

Pela devastação, o instituto aplicou uma multa de R$ 109 mil a Salomãozinho, que ainda não foi paga. O valor corresponde a 10% do total de multas que a família Alcolumbre recebeu nos últimos dez anos por descumprir a legislação ambiental, segundo dados do próprio Ibama. Essas multas somam mais de R$ 1 milhão em um estado que gosta de se vender como verde – 70% do território do Amapá é composto por áreas protegidas.

‘Ele colocou porteiras para restringir o acesso aos locais de pesca, disse que é para evitar roubos de gado. Mas ele não é dono dos rios.’

Fotos feitas por ribeirinhos mostram a devastação provocada nas margens do Pacuí, um afluente do Gurijuba, que deságua no Amazonas. A vegetação invade as áreas de igarapés e dificulta o acesso dos barcos e o uso de redes nos locais de pesca. “Os igarapés ficaram tomados pela vegetação e apenas pequenas canoas para até duas pessoas conseguem passar por eles, sem espaço para lançar redes”, explica Kalebe Pantoja, presidente da Associação de Agropesca do rio Pacuí, que estima que ao menos 5 mil moradores de comunidades tradicionais dependam diretamente da pesca na região.

A solução encontrada pelos moradores foi pescar nos lagos formados na época de chuvas em áreas alagadas dentro da fazenda que o primo de Alcolumbre alega ser dele, o que causou um novo problema com Salomãozinho. “Ele colocou porteiras para restringir o acesso aos locais de pesca, disse que é para evitar roubos de gado. Mas ele não é dono dos rios”, me disse Kalebe, lembrando que a área faz parte do leito do rio.

Segundo o pescador, a polícia usa voadeiras pilotadas por funcionários da fazenda para reprimir a pesca na área. “Eles fiscalizam o pescador, impedem a pesca regular inclusive, mas fazem vistas grossas ao desmatamento dos fazendeiros. Um sargento chegou a participar dessas ações mesmo estando de férias. Depois, se aposentou e virou o gerente da terra dele”, diz.

O interesse na fazenda da MMX

O papel de “especuladores rurais” dos Alcolumbre fica claro em dois processos envolvendo terras em disputa por grandes empresas. Em um deles, a José Moura & Cia, pertencente a Marcos, José e Hanna Alcolumbre Moura, e a André Alcolumbre Ltda. compraram uma terra que pertencia à MMX Mineração e Metálicos, fundada pelo empresário Eike Batista. A compra foi realizada enquanto a MMX requisitava na justiça a reintegração de posse da área.

A ação começou em 2011, quando a MMX tentava na Justiça estadual a reintegração de posse da Fazenda Pau Furado, na região do rio Matapi, em Santana, uma área importante para navegação – o Matapi é afluente do Amazonas. A empresa alegava que havia adquirido a propriedade em 2008 e a utilizava como reserva florestal até a ocupação do terreno por posseiros, em 2010.

As duas empresas da família Alcolumbre pediram para serem incluídas como parte interessada no processo no dia 14 de março de 2016, o que foi aceito pelo juiz do caso dois meses depois. Mas o documento de aquisição da terra é datado de janeiro de 2013, mais de três anos antes, o que indica que o contrato pode ter sido assinado retroativamente. Afinal, se as empresas já eram proprietárias formais da área, por que a espera de três anos para contactar a Justiça e entrar no processo? Na época da suposta compra, em 2013, por sinal, a MMX já tinha sido vendida e revendida, caindo nas mãos da Zamin Ferrous, que controlava uma unidade de processamento de ferro no estado.

O processo tramita na Justiça Federal, porque o juiz a cargo originalmente considerou que a União deveria ser incluída na ação. Motivo: a disputa também envolve terras públicas por serem margens de rios navegáveis. Por lei, essas áreas pertencem à União, o que não parece um problema para os Alcolumbre.

Posse ‘velha, justa, mansa e pacífica’

A atuação dos Alcolumbre é semelhante em um processo que tramita na Justiça estadual, na cidade do Amapá, no mesmo estado homônimo. Mais uma vez, eles compram uma terra sem ter certeza da propriedade, pois a propriedade está sob litígio. A empresa envolvida é novamente uma multinacional, entre as principais em atividade no estado: a Amcel, pertencente ao grupo japonês Nippon Paper, que lucra plantando e vendendo troncos de eucalipto.

A Amcel entrou, em setembro de 2018, com uma ação de reintegração de posse da fazenda Itapoã I. A empresa alega que detinha a posse do imóvel desde 1998 de forma “mansa e pacífica” – um eufemismo, já que a área também é pública e o seu processo de regularização ainda tramita no Incra. O local, segundo a Amcel alega, era usado como reserva florestal até ser ocupado pelos atuais moradores.

Além das terras em margens de rios e a das áreas pertencentes ao Incra, os Alcolumbre também não veem problema em se adonar de terrenos da União em beiras de estradas federais.

O contrato anexado ao processo mostra que os Alcolumbre compraram a área em outubro de 2018, um mês após o início do processo. A José Moura & Cia, representada por Marcos Alcolumbre Moura, e as empresas agroindustriais Alegria e Castelo, ambas de Pierre Alcolumbre, pagaram R$ 5,75 milhões à vista, via transferência bancária, pela fazenda de 20,4 hectares.

Além das terras em margens de rios e a das áreas pertencentes ao Incra, os Alcolumbre também não veem problema em se adonar de terrenos da União em beiras de estradas federais. Em 2015, o Departamento Nacional de Infraestrutura de Transportes, o Dnit, entrou com um processo contra Salamãozinho para recuperar quase 2,5 mil m² usados por sua rede de postos de gasolina na beira da BR-210, a Perimetral Norte.

Assim como no caso dos rios, áreas vizinhas a rodovias federais também são propriedade do governo. Com trechos construídos no Amapá e Roraima, totalizando pouco mais de 400 quilômetros, a rodovia foi planejada durante a ditadura para ligar os dois estados com áreas do Pará e Amazonas. Ela não foi concluída porque seu trajeto original passava por diversas áreas indígenas. Nos anos 1970, suas obras causaram mortes entre os Yanomami, em consequência da invasão de suas terras.

Negócios entre primos

A vida dos Alcolumbre é cercada por negócios em família. Davi tem como suplente no Senado o irmão Josiel, apelido de José Samuel. Ele é sócio da TV Amazônia, retransmissora do SBT no estado. A sua família materna, a Alcolumbre (o sobrenome paterno de Davi é Tobelem), controla ainda outras emissoras de rádio e TV no Amapá. A Organizações José Alcolumbre é dona da TV Macapá, retransmissora da Rede Bandeirantes. O tio que dá nome ao grupo chegou inclusive a ser preso em 2006, pela Operação Alecto, da Polícia Federal, que investigava corrupção, tráfico de influência e crimes contra a fazenda nacional.

Nas eleições de 2014, os primos Davi e Salomãozinho concorreram em lados diferentes – Davi pelo DEM e o primo pelo MDB. Mas uma rede de postos de gasolina aproxima os dois parentes. Era nos postos de Salamãozinho que o então deputado federal gastava toda a sua cota de gasolina, como mostrou uma reportagem do Estado de S. Paulo sobre possíveis irregularidades na prestação de contas da verba de combustíveis do Congresso. Não que esse tenha sido o único problema nos gastos públicos de Davi na época. O parlamentar ainda foi alvo de dois inquéritos no STF, acusado de irregularidades na prestação de contas na eleição de 2014. Os processos foram arquivados.

Os problemas nas declarações de gastos de Davi não ficaram no passado. Nos quatro anos de seu mandato como deputado federal, entre 2011 e 2014, o parlamentar declarou, segundo reportagem da revista Época, gastos de R$ 594 mil no hotel Mais, em Santa Rita, bairro de Macapá, cidade onde mora. A diária mais cara do lugar é de R$ 140. Nos quatro primeiros anos de seu mandato como senador, ele gastou outros R$ 312,5 mil no hotel. Entre 2014 e 2015, Davi pagou também R$ 83,9 mil para a mesma empresa dona do hotel, a HG Mendes, de Hamilton Gonçalves Mendes, pelo aluguel de um Mitsubishi Outlander (um veículo zero quilômetros do mesmo modelo custa entre R$ 143 mil e R$ 213 mil, conforme as especificações). Quase um ano depois do empréstimo, o SUV foi transferido para a Salomão Alcolumbre & Cia, empresa do primo Salomãozinho, segundo informações do Detran do estado.

Não há informações detalhadas sobre os gastos do senador neste ano. Diferentemente da Câmara, o Senado faculta aos parlamentares a decisão de tornar públicos os comprovantes das despesas de seu mandato. Isso acontece desde 2016, em razão de uma decisão do então presidente da Casa, Renan Calheiros, em parecer mantido este ano como o aval de Alcolumbre.

O senador, por meio de sua assessoria de imprensa, afirmou que não vai se manifestar. Salomãozinho não foi localizado.

The post Como a família Alcolumbre enriqueceu com grilagem e devastação no Amapá appeared first on The Intercept.

Le Mesurier Gets Cross

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 14/11/2019 - 1:27pm in

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Perhaps the only fact on James Le Mesurier about which I would agree with the MSM war cheerleaders is that he was a very busy man. It is remarkable therefore that he found the time and inclination to follow “Philip Cross” on twitter. Given that “Philip Cross” has virtually never posted an original tweet, and his timeline consists almost entirely of retweets of Nick Cohen, David Aaronovitch and openly pro-Israel propaganda accounts, why would Le Mesurier bother to follow him?

“Philip Cross” has never posted any news other than to retweet columnists. He has never given an insight into a story. In addition to James Le Mesurier, why then were all these MSM journailsts following “Philip Cross” from before “he” gained notoriety for his Wikipedia exploits?

Oliver Kamm, Leader Writer The Times
Nick Cohen, Columnist The Guardian/Observer
Joan Smith, Columnist The Independent
Leslie Felperin, Film Columnist The Guardian
Kate Connolly, Foreign Correspondent The Guardian/Observer
Lisa O’Carroll, Brexit Correspondent The Guardian
James Bloodworth, Columnist The Independent
Cristina Criddle, BBC Radio 4 Today Programme
Sarah Baxter, Deputy Editor, The Sunday Times
Iain Watson, Political Correspondent, The BBC
Caroline Wheeler, Deputy Political Editor, the Sunday Times
Jennifer Chevalier, CBC ex-BBC
Dani Garavelli, Scotland on Sunday

Prominent Freelancers

Bonnie Greer (frequently in The Guardian)
Mason Boycott-Owen (The Guardian, New Statesman)
Marko Attilla Hoare (The Guardian)
Kirsty Hughes
Guy Walters (BBC)
Paul Canning

What attracted all of these senior MSM figures to follow an obscure account with almost no original content? No reasonable explanation of this phenomenon has ever been offered by any of the above. What a considerable number of them have done is to use the megaphone their plutocrat or state overlords have given them, to label those asking this perfectly reasonable question as crazed conspiracy theorists.

This week, on the day of Le Mesurier’s death, “Philip Cross” made 48 edits to Le Mesurier’s Wikipedia page, each one designed to expunge any criticism of the role of the White Helmets in Syria or reference to their close relationship with the jihadists.

“Philip Cross” has been an operation on a massive scale to alter the balance of Wikipedia by hundreds of thousands of edits to the entries, primarily of politically engaged figures, always to the detriment of anti-war figures and to the credit of neo-con figures. An otherwise entirely obscure but real individual named Philip Cross has been identified who fronts the operation, and reputedly suffers from Aspergers. I however do not believe that any individual can truly have edited Wikpedia articles from a right wing perspective, full time every single day for five years without one day off, not even a Christmas, for 2,987 consecutive days.

I should declare here the personal interest that “Philip Cross” has made over 120 edits to my own Wikipedia entry, including among other things calling my wife a stripper, and deleting the facts that I turned down three honours from the Crown and was eventually cleared on all disciplinary charges by the FCO.

I hazard the guess that at least several of the above journalists follow “Philip Cross” on twitter because they are a part of the massive Wikipedia skewing operation operating behind the name of “Philip Cross”. If anybody has any better explanation of why they all follow “Philip Cross” on twitter I am more than willing to hear it.

The “White Helmets” operation managed for MI6 by Le Mesurier was both a channel for logistic support to Western backed jihadists and a propaganda operation to shill for war in Syria, as in Iraq or Libya. Wars which were of course very profitable for arms manufacturers, energy interests and the security establishment. It should surprise nobody that Le Mesurier intersects with the Philip Cross propaganda operation which, with the active support of arch Blairite Jimmy Wales, has for years been slanting Wikipedia in support of the same pro-war goals as pushed by the “White Helmets”.

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The post Le Mesurier Gets Cross appeared first on Craig Murray.

“Should liberal capitalism be saved?”A debate between Martin Wolf & Yanis Varoufakis, Today, London, Wincott Foundation

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 14/11/2019 - 11:27am in

On November 14, 2019, The Wincott Foundation will host an evening debate at the Financial Times to celebrate its 50th Anniversary. This special event takes the place of the usual annual Harold Wincott Memorial Lecture.

The Foundation was set up in honour of Harold Wincott, who was widely regarded as the finest economic journalist of his day. Writing first in the Investors Chronicle and then, between 1950 and his death in 1969, in the Financial Times, Wincott argued persuasively for the virtues of liberal capitalism at a time when many policy-makers and economists looked to government intervention as the principal means of solving Britain’s economic problems.

With the idea of liberal capitalism again under attack, The Wincott Foundation has invited Martin Wolf, chief economics commentator of the FT, and Yanis Varoufakis, former Greek finance minister, to debate the question ‘Should liberal capitalism be saved?’ It promises to be a fascinating and lively exchange, moderated by Merryn Somerset Webb, editor-in-chief of Moneyweek and FT columnist.

The event will be attended by leading financial journalists, economists, business people and regulators. An audio transcript of the debate will be published on this site.

Why philosophy and methodology matter for economics

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 14/11/2019 - 11:20am in

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from Lars Syll A critique yours truly sometimes encounters is that as long as I cannot come up with some own alternative to the failing mainstream theory, I shouldn’t expect people to pay attention. This is, however, to totally and utterly misunderstand the role of philosophy and methodology of economics! As John Locke wrote in An […]

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