The Progressive Ensign

insights and analytics to build an economy that works for all

Page 2 of 16

Higher Ed Fading for Low Income Students

(Editor Note: Insight Bytes focus on key economic issues and solutions for all of us, on Thursdays we spotlight in more depth Solutions to issues we have identified. Fridays we focus on how to build the Common Good. Please right click on images to see them larger in a separate tab. Click on the Index Topic Name at the beginning of each post to see more posts on that topic on PC or Laptop.)

Photo: qz.com

Public colleges and universities have been the foundation of our society opening new opportunities for better lives, careers and mobility for students at all income levels.  Yet, for low income students the dream of a higher education degree and a better job is fading fast.  A non- profit research organization, New America, just released a report noting how low income students continue to struggle with the rising cost of education. It is true that the cost of higher education for all students has accelerated, in particular since the Great Recession. However, for lower income families the price increases have been especially acute.

Sources: New America, U.S. Department of Education – 10/31/18

The cost for low income students rose by at least $1000 in four years from the 2010 – 2011 to 2015-2016 periods for about 50 % of the public universities in the study. The report further notes a disturbing trend:

“The number of public universities that charged in-state freshmen with family incomes of $30,000 or less at an average net price under $10,000, has fallen from 361, or 62 percent of the schools examined, to 279 or 48 percent.”

Students at all income levels now carry a debt load of over $1.5 trillion dollars – the highest debt load recorded over the past twenty years.  This debt is keeping students from being hired if they have a poor credit record, purchasing a home or moving out from their parents’ home to an apartment.  New household formations are continuing to decline over the past 5 years. Unlocking the potential of our students to ensure they can begin their careers and families with a good financial start is crucial to the long term economic growth of our country and the happiness of our young people.

Next steps:

We believe that education in the U.S. is actually the Fifth Estate after The Press, and the three major branches of federal government.  We noted our concern about access to education in June post, “Funding Education to Common Good Levels Will Increase Prosperity and Reduce Civil Conflict.”  The National Center for Children in Poverty estimates that 40 % of all children aged 12 – 17 years old in the U.S. or 9.7 million are living in low income families.  This is a huge number of our young people not reaching their full potential while we miss their contributions and boost to our economy.

In that post we observed funding needs to be at magnitudes greater than today to make up for almost a 50 % reduction in state funding since 1975:

The key factor in how well education is building the common good across all income levels is funding.  Since 1975 funding by state and local governments for higher education has dropped from 60.3 % to to 34.1 % in 2010. The last eight years has seen this figure continue to drop close to 24 %. Public colleges and universities have coped with the unprecedented drop in state and local funding by raising tuition year after year to the point where students are now carrying the highest level of student loan debt ever at $1.5 trillion. Families can’t keep up with the tuition increases.”

We saw federal funding as necessary to balance the inequity across states:

“Total education US federal funding accounts for only 14 % of education spending vs OECD countries where national general funding is allocated across regions at 54 %. “

Or New America recommends that all federal higher education programs be combined together to support families and students based on a families’ ability to pay for their child’s higher education:

“At New America, we have also offered a much more ambitious approach. In our 2016 report Starting from Scratch, we proposed replacing the country’s federal financial aid system—Pell Grants, federal loans, and higher education tax credits—with a new federal-state partnership program that would eliminate unmet financial need for all students. Instead, the price students would pay would be limited to their Expected Family Contribution, the amount the government determines a household can afford to contribute toward the education of their children. Federal, state, and institutional funds would make up the difference between students’ EFC and the net price at the participating institution. “

We need high quality alternatives to a college education as well.  A study by the National Center for Education Statistics showed that 46 % of low income students did not attend college, many for financial reasons but also due to lack of interest or to start working.  From all income levels many high school graduates are not interested in a traditional college education, we need an empowering and certified apprenticeship program along the model that Germany has established to better meet the needs of corporations and give all non-college graduates opportunities for a well-paying job and career.

We as a society need to take responsibility for providing an education framework, access and funding so that all citizens can learn, progress and contribute fully to our society. Certainly this is the essence of a democracy our founding fathers envisioned of a well-educated citizenry building our country and economy that works for all.

Memo To CEOs: Invest in the Company, Not Yourself

(Editor Note: Insight Bytes focus on key economic issues and solutions for all of us, on Thursdays we spotlight in more depth Solutions to issues we have identified. Fridays we focus on how to build the Common Good. Please right click on images to see them larger in a separate tab. Click on the Index Topic Name at the beginning of each post to see more posts on that topic on PC or Laptop.)

Photo: wikipedia.org

To: CEOs – S & P – 500

From: The Progressive Ensign

Subject: Stock Buybacks Are Out of Control

Date: November 5, 2018

Congratulations, this past quarter you knocked earnings out of the park, profits were higher in particular, though revenues lower and you did well by raising stock prices to new highs in September via stock buybacks.

Source: Standard & Poors – 11/4/18

Ok, you did well on stock compensation too with soaring stock prices.  You can take that trip to Cancun, buy a boat and a villa for extended stays.  You have worked hard, your team has gone all out to make your companies successful, and worked harder.  Remember, while you were traveling and making decisions on sales, financing, product development and marketing they are actually designing, building, shipping, selling and supporting your products and services.

Sources: The Labor Department, The Wall Street Journal, The Daily Shot – 11/5/18

Next, you have not been making the investments in capital equipment , R & D and innovation to move companies along and be prepared for more overseas competition or increase productivity. Thanks for moving wages higher for less than high school educated workers recently they still aren’t enough to keep up with inflation though. If you can increase productivity we can give workers raises without it hitting the bottom line an increasing cost, and earning would be stabilized or even get better. You wouldn’t need to use financial gimmicks like stock buy backs to take stock off the market, and goose the price so earnings look better on a per share basis.  Between 2010 and 2017 S & P companies spent 51 % of their operating earnings on stock buy backs.  That’s money just hyping stock nothing else.  Note that business investment is continuing to decline with lower highs and investments flat since 1998.

Sources: The Wall Street Journal, The Daily Shot – 11/5/18

Your joy ride on $1 trillion of stock buybacks needs to end.  We want to see a plan by the end of the month on how you will use that $1 trillion dollars in meaningful long term ways such as raising wages, job training, purchasing new equipment and systems, and innovating new products.  You are basically taking away the future of your workers and the country for your short term gain. Show by quarter how you will implement the plan and get your businesses actually growing again (in real dollars not financial gimmicks), workers supporting their families in sustainable lifestyle and making America stronger.

P.S. By the way, it is time to end your constant borrowing, rates are going up, and you spent most of the money on stock buybacks or other goodies not investing in the company.  You are mortgaging the future of the business by taking on a record amount of debt.  Please submit a plan for retiring this debt as part of your financial plan for investing in the company by the end of the month.

P.P.S.  For those of you ( a minority) who are not doing stock buybacks, thank you, and you who are spending on capex and raising wages thanks a lot!  Just submit a set of graphs showing your investments so we can show the other CEOs how it is done – as a best practice.

Dignity of Presidency We Can Agree On

(Editor Note: Insight Bytes focus on key economic issues and solutions for all of us, on Thursdays we spotlight in more depth Solutions to issues we have identified. Fridays we focus on how to build the Common Good. Please right click on images to see them larger in a separate tab. Click on the Index Topic Name at the beginning of each post to see more posts on that topic on PC or Laptop.)

Image: YourLittlePlanet.jpg

A recent survey by the Public Religion Research Institute, showed that nearly 70 % of all Americans agreed that the dignity of the presidency had been damaged by  POTUS.  Even, GOP members agreed with this finding by 40 %.  Another point most Americans agree on is that the President should be more consistent with previous presidents by a wide margin of 69 %, the majority of GOP members agreed by 57 %.

We look to our Chief Executive to set the tone for national discourse on critical issues facing the country – not abusive language, mocking, and divisive rhetoric most of which is untrue.  It is heartening to see that most Americans see what is happening today as being out of bounds in the dignity and behavior of the present Chief Executive.  Americans still have respect, and support a President who is seen as fair, truthful and exemplifying dignity.

If we can’t get the building of civil national discourse going at the top – let’s start building from the grass roots up.  The following observations on building service in our lives is attributed to Mother Teresa:

“If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway, What you spend years building, some could destroy overnight.  Build anyway.  The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow. Do good anyway.  Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough. Give the world the best you have got anyway. You see, in the final analysis it is between you and your God…anyway.”

Over 80 % of Americans believe in God or some higher spiritual force.  Maybe we start with the universal understanding that as spirit beings we need to be building our communities, families and relationships with each other.

Let’s start building regardless of whether we receive a positive response in return or our motives are suspected.  The world needs nothing less than the best we have to give today to bend the arc of universal justice toward equality and peace.

Administration Drug Price Reduction Plan – Good Start

(Editor Note: Insight Bytes focus on key economic issues and solutions for all of us, on Thursdays we spotlight in more depth Solutions to issues we have identified. Fridays we focus on how to build the Common Good. Please right click on images to see them larger in a separate tab. Click on the Index Topic Name at the beginning of each post to see more posts on that topic on PC or Laptop.)

Image: blog.medicareright.org

The GOP Administration has announced a new drug price reduction program that will use a basket of prices that 16 nations pay for certain drugs in the Medicare Part B Plan (hospital and health services plans) to determine the price the federal government will pay.  Biotech drugs which are extremely expensive, yet have high efficacy are to be targeted.  The price reductions will be phased in over a 5 year period.

The difference between what the U.S. pays for many often prescribed medicines is huge as the following chart shows:

Sources: Bloomberg, The Washington Post – 10/26/18

How did U.S. prices get so much higher than other nations?  Simply, the other countries negotiated  tougher than we did. The pharma industry lobby in Washington spends tens of millions of dollars every year to persuade lawmakers and the White House to give drug makers complete pricing freedom.  In effect, Americans are paying for the low prices other countries receive where the drugs are being sold with low margins or below margin.  Pharma companies do not have a problem with this inequitable situation as long as they make money.

For example, in the U.S. Genentech, a division of Roche, prices a single dose macular degeneration drug Lucentis at $1000 while the same exact bio medicine – Avastin costs 10 times less.  The firm says that the extra testing for the eye version requires a higher price.  This premise disputed by scientists who worked in the Lucentis division and left in part due to the greed of management.

The administration is also planning on developing ways to give the private sector more leverage in negotiating prices with drug makers.  Plus, HHS wants to create new policies that would reduce incentives for doctors to prescribe expensive drugs.

Next Steps:

We applaud the GOP Administration for taking on the drug companies and their money making over all else approach to drug pricing.  The pharma companies most affected are stung by the plan and charged it with ‘socializing medicine’.  We don’t see their gouging prices to Americans as fair and equitable, so controlling prices to reasonable margins is common sense not a value shift of the health industry.

A good place to start cutting costs is to end prescription drug TV advertising like over 100 countries worldwide ban – that would allow the firms to cut billions off prices each year.  Next, they need to end stock buybacks which take shares off the market to increase share price.

Sources: Leerink Group, Market Watch – 10/30/18

These are the top 6 of all pharma firms wasting money on goosing their stock price with stock buybacks to increase stock compensation to executives while patients get hit with soaring drug prices.  Nearly $100 billion dollars spent in the last year would go a long way to bringing down the price of drugs.  When the industry cries it does not have funding for research it needs to start here and drug advertising if they tried harder to find the money they could.  The executives just don’ want to take a pay cut and run their firm with reasonable margins, yet are fine with driving patients into bankruptcy or adding thousands of dollars of debt to patient accounts.

The GOP plan does not go far enough, all medicines purchased by Medicare and HHS should be negotiated.  The negotiating authorization for HHS has been in numerous bills in Congress repeatedly defeated in by the drug lobby.  Congress needs to pass the bill, and get moving with a fair drug pricing model, with complete transparency from insurers and pharmacies to patients.  The federal government can learn from the assertive approaches many states are taking by looking a efficacy based pricing to bring prices within reason as well.

It is time the pharma industry took a hard look at its financial engineering and redesign a more equitable pricing and reasonable profit model for patients, hospitals and suppliers.

Our Leaders Set the Tone of Civility, Yet We Can Change It

(Editor Note: Insight Bytes focus on key economic issues and solutions for all of us, on Thursdays we spotlight in more depth Solutions to issues we have identified. Fridays we focus on how to build the Common Good. Please right click on images to see them larger in a separate tab. Click on the Index Topic Name at the beginning of each post to see more posts on that topic on PC or Laptop.)

Photo: cityofhomer-ak.gov

It is next to impossible to have a national conversation toward the Common Good when our POTUS is using threats, invective, fear, hate, mocking and inciting violence as political tools.  The national media repeats all these negative, destructive emotions which invite and give permission to those who would breed and support divisiveness and lack of compromise.  We need to wake up to the fact that the combination of authoritarian politics and instant media will undercut the voices of reason and compromise creating hurricane force headwinds for any reasonable proposal.

Our founding fathers saw that compromise was a critical element in the success of the American experiment which is why they designed a ‘compromise forcing’ structure to our government – Congress, Supreme Court, and President.  They did not want to create a parliamentary democracy as a structure because they saw the majority wielding too much power in both the legislative and executive. Yet the Elite minority and mega corporations run the show in Washington. We have a borderline authoritarian Executive branch, an uncompromising Congress and lifetime conservative appointments to the Supreme Court.  The Electoral College system undermines our democracy by allowing a President to be elected without  a plurality of votes.  The installation of a President who does not represent the selection of the majority of the people sets the stage for more divisiveness because the majority feels their ideas have been left out of the political process. Even worse is the loss of legitimacy toward the Executive branch and the policies and programs it implements.  Citizens then go after these illegitimate policies and those administering them with even more angst applying uncivil tactics to be heard.  Accosting our elected officials, and agency leaders in restaurants by heckling them or otherwise making their normal day to day life miserable is not the way to build bridges of communication, understanding and respect.

What is the antidote to this incivility?  There are at least two things we can do.  First, Melanie Rudd, an assistant professor of marketing t the University of Houston found in her studies on happiness that people felt better after they had done something kind or good for someone else.  This observation makes sense as we all can experience this feeling in our lives particularly if we grew up in a family where our parents demonstrated how service and acts of kindness made our lives happier.  Or, at work when our company leaders support charitable causes ‘doing the walk for cancer research’ etc.

Second,  as in our family or at work our identification with a group doing good things helps to create ‘kindness contagion’.  Jamil Zaki, assistant professor of psychology at Stanford University has studied kindness contagion in depth. He found that kindness can be transmitted , “We find that people imitate not only the particulars of positive actions, but also the spirit underlying them.”

So maybe by doing good things in service to others, in a group we can change the underlying spirit today toward civility, compromise and consensus moving our country forward.

Wall Street Expects A Cash Return, Leaving Employees Out

(Editor Note: Insight Bytes focus on key economic issues and solutions for all of us, on Thursdays we spotlight in more depth Solutions to issues we have identified. Fridays we focus on how to build the Common Good. Please right click on images to see them larger in a separate tab. Click on the Index Topic Name at the beginning of each post to see more posts on that topic on PC or Laptop.)

Photo: wikipedia.org

Today, employees don’t share in the profits or success financially the way they did the past. Forty years ago, Sears offered their sales staff commissions, bonuses and retirement plans enough for many of them to retire on $1 million in today’s equivalent dollars. Amazon recently announced raising all workers to $15 @hr, yet they are eliminating stock and bonus plans.  Hourly staff will be left with little for retirement except what little they can save.

What is driving management to not share company financial success with employees, or increase investments in productivity which would support a raise in wages?  One factor is Wall Street expectations of corporate management to keep the cash machine cranking full speed.

Sources: The Daily Shot, The Wall Street Journal – 10/25/18

Companies that invested in capital equipment to increase productivity or R & D to innovate were penalized by Wall Street investors driving their stock price down.  Note that on the lower chart the relative performance of investment focused on capex companies versus cash return in buybacks and dividends is 6 % less and has been falling since a year ago. Executives quite often receive as much as 80 % of their compensation in stock options based on stock performance and earnings targets.  Spending money on expenses by increasing wages, capital equipment purchases or innovative research reduces profits and does not provide more funding for stock purchases to drive the stock price up.

Next Steps:

Our post this past Labor Day notes how Wall Street wields power over the economy, and drives executive decisions on allocation of resources.

Wall Street, the citadel of capital,  wields supreme power focused on profit throughout our economy and control of our government. Corporations pander to financial leaders with ever higher profits manipulated by stock buybacks juicing the value of share prices. Management ensures investors are pleased with financial results using loose financial gimmicks and laying on record debt. While workers have seen their wages stagnate for 30 years since the 1980s.

Yet, Wall Street is beginning to change with major leaders beginning to recognize the need to invest in corporations that take social responsibility and worker value as core principles.

We need to require corporations to report on how they are building employees as assets and worker contribution to increasing company value.  The next step is for Wall Street to recognize social responsibility in their investments as Blackrock, CEO Larry Fink, has in a letter to CEOs of companies in their portfolio that he will be looking beyond profit, for implementation of policies by management in sustainability and worker advancement.

Harry Truman had the right perspective:

Our most productive asset is our labor force.”

Millennials Demand Virtual Health Services – Upending the Present System

(Editor Note: Insight Bytes focus on key economic issues and solutions for all of us, on Thursdays we spotlight in more depth Solutions to issues we have identified. Fridays we focus on how to build the Common Good. Please right click on images to see them larger in a separate tab. Click on the Index Topic Name at the beginning of each post to see more posts on that topic on PC or Laptop.)

Image: meddeviceonline.com

By 2020 there will be 83 million millennials in our country becoming the largest generational group.  As they take ever more powerful positions in our society their demands on the healthcare system will focus on virtual services. They grew up using the Internet, with its culture of immediate access, virtual relationships and convenience.  Millennials expect their healthcare services to provide the same types of services as they regularly use on the Internet – Internet healthcare.  For them the baseline is using technology as the platform for accessing, using and paying for services.

Harris Survey for Salesforce – 2015

The millennial generation want to use as their framework for health services all the Internet services they enjoy now: patient reviews, online appointments (including specialists), using mobile phones for services, use apps to manage their wellness, use wearables for monitoring health, 3D printing of devices ie hearing aids, teleservices like video chat with a doctor, and pills that monitor internal organs that are swallowed.

The present system is organized around a primary care physician (PCP) who is the gatekeeper and co-manager of the patient’s health program. All patient records are with the PCP and the healthcare provider, records are not accessible from anywhere in the ‘cloud’.  The core guiding principle being that all medical services need to be integrated, not disconnected for increased efficiency, effectiveness and safety.

Artificial Intelligence adds another innovation level to delivery of health services. The AI industry is looking to serve the needs of millennials in healthcare by offering ‘neural network’ based medicine of expert databases and access to the ‘right treatments’ at the click of a button or the swipe of a phone app.

Next Steps:

The implications for changing the present PCP, doctor oriented system toward an on-demand patient based system are revolutionary.  One challenge will be how to maintain continuity of care when the patient is using virtual services from multiple providers, while ensuring effective care and safety.  The human body is one complex entity made up of multiple systems, all integrated tightly to work together. If one system is off balance or damaged other systems maybe impacted, which is why the PCP based system was established.  Doctors, not patients are trained to see the interactions of various human body systems, and to know when and how to bring in a specialist to treat a condition.  Yet, how will placing tests, treatments and services at the touch of an app by a patient change the doctor – patient relationship? Will quality of care be maintained?   Will high quality care only go to the technology savvy patient who knows how access all the health services to obtain a complete health solution? Are we going to be comfortable with AI – a physician advisor robot prescribing medications, treatments, surgery? In this virtual world of services who is responsible for maintaining continuity in care?

The virtual world of medicine does offer ways for reducing the cost of healthcare dramatically to thousands of patients. The U.S. spends 41 % more as a percentage of GDP than OECD countries while life expectancy is 4 years less.  Yet how will the present system of layered providers, drug – pharmacy managers and hospitals respond to Internet based healthcare?  Will they just use this myriad of disconnected services to charge even more because it will be difficult for the patient to manage costs the same way a health care provider does today. Do we want to place the patient in the center of healthcare delivery of services?  The economic dislocation of every health care service provider will be profound and huge. How will we make sure that all our citizens are included and not just those with Internet access?  So, what will our health sector plan be?

A few salient points need to be kept in mind in developing a sound policy.  The patient does not have the expertise of a physician who has attended years of training, internship and practice before treating patients.  Replacing the physicians role in the delivery of healthcare needs to be done carefully and in some cases certain conditions are off limits. Ensuring the safety of medicines, treatments and invasive procedures needs to be paramount in any system change.  Patients need to be given options, for example the patient may not want a robo physician advisor and wants a human doctor of his or her choice.

The other major point is our political processes are way behind what technology innovators are creating today, dramatically impacting what our healthcare choices will be tomorrow.  Our political processes need to be brought up to date, and forward looking if we are to have any chance at making intelligent decisions about our healthcare delivery system.  We need to take this opportunity of a shift to Internet based health care to ensure that everyone receives good quality health care, at a reasonable price and will not go bankrupt in the process.

Major Corporations Underfund Pensions While Pocketing Stock Buybacks

 

Photo: marketplace.org

Five major corporations, among many others were examined by Danielle DiMartino Booth, in the Quill Intelligence blog,  The Daily Feather – Boeing, GE, American Airlines, Lockheed Martin and AT &T on their spending for pensions versus stock buybacks.

Sources : Bloomberg, Quill Intelligence – 10/22/18

The underfunded pensions ranged from just 62.4 % funded to a high of 79.6% for Boeing. Compared to explosive stock buybacks the pension underfunding is not acceptable.  This typifies the character of corporate America taking care of its own executives who are well compensated in stock plans versus workers who are given the financial leftovers.  When corporations purchase their stock from the open market  the price of the stock often goes up because the shares are effectively taken off the market.  Most executives have earnings and stock price targets as part of their compensation plans.

Goldman Sachs forecasts for all of 2019 about $1 trillion in stock buybacks.  Stock buyback funds are not going into raises for workers – which are the lowest they have ever been in a growing economy 2.5 % over the past 10 years.  When inflation is considered the wage raises are basically stagnant causing workers to fall further behind financially.  Workers are strapped by the high cost of auto loans, credit card debt and increasing healthcare premiums.

Stock buybacks means that corporations are not investing in innovation to increase productivity.  Productivity has stagnated since the Great Recession between 1.5 to 2.3 % per year, not enough to boost wages or keep prices in check for many sectors.  With 70 % of the U.S. economy provided by services businesses it is increasingly important that businesses invest in services innovation because services are a challenge to reduce costs or increase quality.

Next Steps:

We have been against stock buybacks from a pure transparency and valuation perspective to begin with – stock prices have been artificially inflated by as much as 20 % some experts believe.  Soaring valuations mislead investors into thinking a company on an earnings per share basis is performing better than it actually is. Stock buybacks do exactly nothing for the economy except to line the pockets of  executives who already make 300 % more than the average employee.  The trillion dollars going into stock buybacks are better spent on pensions to ensure workers can retire, or receive wage increases to make ends meet, or invest in equipment or innovation in research and development to increase productivity.   Stock buybacks were allowed by a former E.F. Hutton executive, named to head the SEC during the Reagan administration.  Now, would be a good time to end the malpractice and for the good of workers and the economy invest stock buyback funds in the future of America.

Toward A Solutions Focused National Dialog

(Editor Note: Insight Bytes focus on key economic issues and solutions for all of us, on Thursdays we spotlight in more depth Solutions to issues we have identified. Fridays we focus on how to build the Common Good. Please right click on images to see them larger in a separate tab. Click on the Index Topic Name at the beginning of each post to see more posts on that topic on PC or Laptop.)

Photo: better-angels.org

On the right we have a president who mocks a woman who was sexually assaulted at a campaign rally, on the left protesters stalk legislators at restaurants and taunt them while they eat.

What’s happened to our national dialog?  Why can’t we talk to each other in a way that sets up a supportive communication channel leading to solutions?  Abraham Lincoln saw the need for civil dialog to bring a divided nation together in his first inaugural address:

We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory … will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

Recently, volunteers from the left, right and political persuasions across the board were represented at a conversation day hosted by Better Angels in Washington D.C.  The host group takes its name from the Lincoln quote focusing not on changing people’s minds but instead on just helping people to understand and respect each other – on common ground.  The founder, David Blankenhorn, started the group in Ohio after he had become friends with a gay man and changed his position on same sex marriage as a result.  Blankenhorn has developed seven habits of good discourse to keep the dialog on a positive level even in fierce disagreement.  He sees deep polarization due to multiple factors: “The intellectual habits of polarization include binary (Manichaean) thinking, absolutizing one’s preferred values, viewing uncertainty as a weakness, privileging deductive thinking, assuming that one’s opponents are motivated by bad faith, and hesitating to agree on basic facts and the meaning of evidence.”

We underline the last point, agreement on basic facts is missing from much of our dialog today.  As most Americans get their news from non-journalist sources: Facebook, Google, and Twitter.  These social media outlets sprung onto the news stage from opinion based businesses, run by entrepreneurs who are more programmers whose interest is in creating opinion platforms not fact based platforms.  Facebook, Google and Twitter are now scrambling to find journalists and news professionals to rein in the runaway opinions and falsehoods that proliferate on their sites.

As a society we are left with only a few major national newspapers, the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, the Washington Post for thoughtful in depth analysis, Major television news organizations are more focused on sound bites than drilling into issues in any depth.  The PBS News Hours does bring in experts from multiple points of view on an issues to create context and deeper understanding of the topic.  Yet, the audience of social media is in the tens of millions while PBS News Hour is seen by a far smaller audience.

Where do we go today? Better Angels, Spaceship Media and Institute for Civil Discourse all host conversations across the political divide.  Yet, it is a huge cultural issue tearing apart the fabric of our democracy.  To repair our democracy and return our federal government to the people requires seeking the common good over all our basic positions – or we can never reach enough consensus to move ahead as a unified society.

Rethinking How We Get From Home to the Grocery Store

(Editor Note: Insight Bytes focus on key economic issues and solutions for all of us, on Thursdays we spotlight in more depth Solutions to issues we have identified. Fridays we focus on how to build the Common Good. Please right click on images to see them larger in a separate tab. Click on the Index Topic Name at the beginning of each post to see more posts on that topic on PC or Laptop.)

Photo: texastribune.org

In a recent seminar by Climate One, an environmental conversation group, sponsored in San Francisco, one participant pointed out “the greenhouse gas reduction potential is huge.  Greenhouse gases from transportation are about 28% of all greenhouse gases in this country. “  Certainly changing how we get from home to the grocery store and everywhere will have a significant impact on climate change and greenhouse gas diffusion into the atmosphere.

While a few of us walk to the market bringing home our groceries in a cart with a basket, 99 % of all grocery trips are made by one person in a two-ton car, spewing out carbon gases.  Of course, most Americans still live in suburbs, sprawled out with single family homes connected by streets and freeways to shopping centers where the grocery store is located.  We buy a house in the suburb, buy a car to get around and that’s about all the thought we put into it.

We need to start thinking beyond the present urban map and transportation model centered on the single passenger car.  How about electric scooters?  They are shareable, we setup a logon on our smartphone, pick up a scooter left by a previous user and head on our way. Just leave the scooter there on the sidewalk when we arrive for the next person to use it.  In a minute or two, they are riding and are off on their trip.  Bikes are being shared in cities all over the U.S. with some bikes motorized to handle longer trips.

A short trip in a car on average costs about $8 one way, while an electric assisted bike costs just $2 per trip. There are cargo bikes available as well that can handle larger loads.  Of course, weather is an issue as these sharable scooter and bike solutions are growing popular in the Southwest and West.  Public transit, a bus or subway maybe the answer for rainy or snowy days.

Uber and Lyft are rethinking their business models to include electric scooters, and bikes. A customer logs on to their app for all personal transportation needs is their vision. They already offer shareable rides at a discount. Instead of buying a car, people are living closer to work and shopping in densely populated cities where owning a car is actually a costly liability.

New sharable transportation models combined with driverless cars would not only change transportation but our city maps as well.  Urban planners are already building denser housing near transportation hubs, providing bike lanes off away from parked cars and more bike pathways used exclusively by bikers.  The economic consequences are significant, the new car and used car markets would begin to shrink,  financing and insurance businesses for auto loans would decline.  New businesses using sharable transportation system would spring up for delivery, assisted transportation for doctor appoints or dropping off kids a practice.

Most importantly, using sharable transportation vehicles, bikes and scooters would make a significant impact to reduce carbon gases across the planet.  We may be able to finally, get ahead of the climate change curve and return our planet to more livable temperatures

Thinking creatively to solve our major problems like Climate One does in conversation mode with all points of view represented is refreshing.  The dialog during this seminar was focused on ‘can do’  and ‘make it happen’ while being sensitive to safety issues, city regulators and other businesses.  If we could have more of this civil solution oriented tone in our national dialog we could solve the big problems in front of us, as we always have the past two hundred and forty years.

Page 2 of 16

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén