Economics As If Future Generations Mattered

Creating a commons ethic for ecological restoration and social justice
by Carolyn Raffensperger, Kaitlin Butler

Photo: Raul Lieberwirth/flickr/cc

What are the principles needed to guarantee that we are fair to future generations?

We have turned a corner on climate change– a wrong turn– and it is happening more rapidly than we have predicted. Climate change is already disrupting society, ecosystems, and national economies. We have altered so much of our Earth that we now threaten our own survival.

We know the catastrophic risks we are passing onto future generations and we wonder, with anxiety and grief, what will become of our planet. We ask ourselves, “what can I do?”

“The message that solutions to climate change and environmental degradation is up to the individual directly conflicts with what people are witnessing.”

One of the key barriers to taking action on the paramount issues of our time is that these problems are the end result of entrenched cultural, economic and social systems. The message that solutions to climate change and environmental degradation is up to the individual directly conflicts with what people are witnessing: the health and well-being of their bodies and their communities coming a distant second to powerful economic interests.

Current economic calculations do not recognize the full cost to the Commons – the cultural and natural heritage we share that is the foundation of our economy.

Yet growing numbers of people are waking up to the reemerging Commons ethic, which holds that human systems must be aligned to match ecological ones. People believe that future generations have the inalienable right to a healthy planet, and many are now seeking ways to withdraw their consent to the politics and policies that lead to a toxic future.

A rights-based approach to human systems like the economy allows us to open our discussion to questions like: What is the economy for? What are the principles needed to guarantee that we are fair to future generations? What tenets make justice and the protection of the Commons more likely?

The  Women’s Congress for Future Generations, to be held Nov. 7-9 in Minneapolis, is joining the groundswell of individuals and organizations calling for the arraignment of our capital-driven, infinite-growth paradigms, and adopting different economic principles which many Indigenous cultures have lived by for centuries. This gathering builds and extends on the first Women’s Congress held in Moab, Utah in September 2012.

Attendees of the Moab Congress drafted a living Declaration of the Rights of Future Generations and corresponding Bill of Responsibilities of Present Generations. The goal of the upcoming Congress in November is to infuse the Declaration with an even deeper analysis of economic and environmental justice.

Participants at the Congress will bring forward ideas to help shift the way we care for and relate to our Earth–ideas such as moving environmental law out of free market private property law into rights law; caring for the Commons, the Precautionary Principle, and Free Prior and Informed Consent. Congress goers– both men and women–will imagine different economic principles that counter dominant but destructive paradigms.

Some of the new principles to be discussed are:

  1. The Earth is the source of our life and our economic activity.
  2. The Commons, the cultural and natural heritage we share, are the foundation of economics, which presupposes: a) a role of government as the trustee of the commons; b) Laws and rules governing economic systems must first protect the commonwealth; c) Concepts such as economic growth, which ignore the cost to the commons are evolutionary dead-ends.
  3. Justice within generations and justice between generations must be linked to economic justice.

This is a conversation about the definition, boundaries, and acceptance of limits. And, these are a few of the tenets that flow from these economic principles:

  1. Measure the right things:  Currently we do not measure the health of the Commons. Pollution and disease count as good for the economic GDP.
  2. Polluter Pays:  The one who pollutes or damages the commons shall be held responsible and pay for restoration.
  3. No Debt to Future Generations without a Corresponding Asset:  We cannot ask future generations to pay for our messes.  We can share with them the costs of assets like parks, art, clean air and water.
  4. Audit, Account for and Fund Commons Assets.

If one accepts the incontestable truth that present generations inherit an Earth left from previous generations, and that we are all eventually ancestors, then our lives are a simultaneously defined by inheriting and bequeathing.

Facing another incontestable truth that our Earth is finite allows us to expand our point of view to include a “bigger picture,” which tells a story with a common goal: It is a story of an incredibly interconnected living systems on which we are dependent, not dominant. The story of human development that has recalibrated its systems to match those of nature itself. The story  of a civilization that thrives on stewardship and care, generation after generation into the far future.

CC-BY-SAThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

The Stakes in THIS Election Could NOT be Higher!


The Federal budget deficit may be down, but because of all the various deficits, the debt has continued to rise under President Obama but at a much lesser rate. Evidence continues to show that the Great Recession, President Bush’s tax cuts, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq explain most of the deficits that have occurred on Obama’s watch.  However, Republicans continue to blame President Obama for ALL our budgetary woes, figuring if they say that enough folks will begin to believe that and once again, put them back in the driver’s seat.


On April 10, 2014, the House passed budget resolution HConRes96 for fiscal year 2015 [Vote 177: 219(R) - 205 (12R + 193D)].  That resolution has not yet been taken up in the Senate as a budget already covering fiscal year 2015 was authorized within the Bipartisan Budget Act passed in December 2013.

HConRes96 was introduced by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI). Titled “The Path to Prosperity,” this $3.7T budget blueprint outlines a House Republican wet dream for spending and tax priorities which they believe will produce a balanced budget by 2024. Overall, Ryan’s plan would cut roughly $5.1 trillion from federal spending over the next decade, with nearly $3 trillion coming from repealing the health care law, voucherizing Medicare and block-granting Medicaid along with a few other safety net programs.

HConRes96 incorporates Republican ideology with respect to spending and tax reform, imposing significant reductions to safety net programs that will affect more than just seniors.  The Republican’s tax reform act would have only two tax brackets for individuals at 10% and 25%, with the corporate tax rate at 25%. What’s unclear is whether any corporate loopholes were closed and whether even more corporations will have a net-zero effective tax rate as a result of the reduction in the corporate tax rate. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) claims the reform provisions would allow 95% of taxpayers to avoid itemizing, and instead claim a larger standard deduction. Really?  With this plan in place, taxpayers would no longer be able to claim deductions for state and local income taxes, the maximum allowable deduction for mortgage interest deductions would be lowered to $500,000 over 4 phases, and charitable deductions would be subject to a 2% of “adjusted gross income” floor for taxpayers who might attempt to claim such deductions.


Discretionary Spending
(Base Outlays)
FY 2015 House Bgt Resolution   $3.7T $1.014T $380B
Current Policy (FY 2015) $3.8T $1.027T $485B

Budgets are a statement of priorities and clearly, Republican priorities are not in helping Americans or in maintaining our nation’s infrastructure.  Take a look:

  • The 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA) set limits or “caps” on annual discretionary funding through 2021, imposing separate caps for defense and non-defense funding. In addition, the BCA mandated automatic further reductions — called “sequestration” — after Congress failed to adopt a more comprehensive deficit-reduction plan by January 2012.  HConRes96 abides by the overall spending limits established in the BCA for FY 2015, but not in its “equal-part split provision” between military and non-military spending. Accordingly, their imposed austerity formula would reduce the discretionary budget to $310B below sequester levels through 2024.
    • Results in a net $791B DECREASE for non-defense budgets (infrastructure, education, transportation, etc.)
    • Results in a net $483B INCREASE in defense budgets (war, weapons, etc.)
    • Reduces overall discretionary spending by $5.1 trillion over ten years
  • Repeals the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act which would eliminate provisions for the Health Insurance Marketplace, reopen the Medicare donut hole, remove provisions that allow children to remain on their parent’s policy until age 26, and allow the Insurance companies to return to their onerous practice of denying coverage claiming “pre-existing” conditions as well as not raking in excessive profits by premium overcharges (just to name a few key provisions).
  • Eliminates the Corporation for National and Community Service [It's core programs -- Senior Corps, AmeriCorps, and the Social Innovation Fund, would thus, be eliminated.]
  • Makes use of “dynamic scoring” (a time intensive process) for the first time—the macroeconomic effects of which are highly uncertain since just some (not all) of the channels through which proposed policies would affect the economy were considered.
  • Assumes an additional $175 billion in deficit reduction from a “fiscal dividend”

The HConRes96 budget plan matches the total FY 2015 discretionary spending cap established in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013, which set separate caps for defense and non-defense discretionary spending. For fiscal years 2016-2024, the plan reduces total discretionary spending caps $310B below the sequester levels, entirely derived from cuts to non-defense programs. Additionally, the plan repeats a maneuver seen in previous budgets to shift $483 billion of sequester cuts from defense items to non-defense ones, thereby restoring defense budgets to pre-sequester levels. Non-defense discretionary spending would remain $1.15 trillion below pre-sequester levels.

HConRes96 calls for comprehensive tax reform to simplify the tax code and thus lower rates for individuals and businesses. Basically, they intend to reduce revenues remitted to the government anticipating that growth will be spurred on.  That premise hasn’t worked since it was introduced by St. Reagan as a sure-fire method to fix all our nation’s ills, but no matter, they plan to

  • Replace the current individual income tax structure with two rates: 10% and 25%,
  • Reduce the corporate tax rate to 25% (no mention of closing tax loopholes), and
  • Repeal the alternative minimum tax (AMT) which was originally designed to keep wealthy taxpayers from using loopholes to avoid paying taxes.

Entitlement / Mandatory Spending Reform
HConRes96 calls for a number of changes to entitlement programs that predominantly serve low-income populations and seniors.


HConRes96, if enacted would convert the Medicaid program into a “block grant program.”  But that Medicaid expansion that provided millions with access to healthcare — that would be rolled back and not funded via their fixed-value block grant program.  Republicans claim much of Medicaid spending is wrought with waste and fraud because the federal bureaucracy can’t provide adequate oversight.  Thus they believe that by “block granting” funds to each state, it would give them more flexibility to tailor their Medicaid programs to “empower recipients to get off the aid rolls and back on the payroll.”

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – SNAP (food stamps)

HConRes96, if enacted would convert the SNAP program into a “block grant program” as well.  Once again, Republicans believe SNAP suffers from a flawed structure that promotes fraud and abuse.  Thus, they believe that if States receive more money if they enroll more
people in the program—so their incentive is to get people onto the rolls.  To remedy that perceived problem, this budget would require that eligibility be indexed to inflation, that time limits be imposed on eligibility and that eligibility must be conditioned on work requirements (no exception is noted in Rep. Ryan’s Path to Prosperity explanation for HConRes96 as to those who may be physically disabled and incapable of “working”).

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

HConRes96 rescinds any authority the administration thinks it has to provide for waivers of the work requirement of the TANF program. It assumes that the Republican majority under President Clinton were correct in requiring robust work requirements for the TANF program—which  they believe led to the largest sustained reduction in child poverty since the onset of the “Great Society.” Again, NO exceptions are noted with respect to those individuals who may be physically disabled and incapable of “robust work requirements.”


For all the Republican disdain regarding the Affordable Care Act Health Care Exchanges, their proposal as to how Seniors should access health care would be through “Medicare Exchanges.”  Currently, administrative costs are low as there is no “profit motive” incorporated into the costs to serve our senior population.  But should the Republicans prove successful in turning over Medicare to the private sector insurance companies, the cost to serve will rise, some seniors will be forced out of the market and die because they can’t afford the premiums, the co-pays and/or the medications, and denial of services will once again become the norm that many will fight and die fighting.

While their proposal won’t affect those currently receiving Medicare, it will establish a 2-tier system, where those born in 1959 or later will be given a choice of private plans competing alongside a traditional fee-for-service option.  Once they make a choice, a voucherized premium support payment would be provided directly to the insurance provider to either pay for or to offset the premium cost of the chosen plan.

Social Security

While Rep. Ryan’s HConRes96 budget doesn’t call for direct privatization of Social Security like his past budget, this budget does call for the Administration and Congress to submit proposals to provide long-term solutions for the solvency of Social Security.

Health Care

HConRes96 would extend the Republican’s YOYO (You’re On Your Own) philosophy by repealing of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as part of long-term spending reductions and savings.  They intend to replace that by enacting medical-liability reform.  In other words, by drastically limiting any compensation you might be able to get should some incompetent surgeon ruin the remainder of your life.  And then the ironies of all ironies, they propose to stomp the crap out of State’s rights argument by enacting legislation that allows anybody and everybody to buy any inadequate policy they want across any state line.

The priorities outlined in Ryan’s “Path to Prosperity” budget are not what is valued by the American People at large.  We value education for our children and jobs so we can support those same children.  We believe the income inequity between the uber-rich and the rest of us needs to be addressed and that all of us deserve a fair and equitable wage for our labors. We believe that we should all share in the cost to maintain our nation’s infrastructure regardless of one’s placement on the social ladder or that corporations need to contribute to maintenance of the infrastructure they’ve come to depend upon to bring their goods to market. We do not believe that every response to something perceived by some to affect our “national (corporate) security should be met my military force, but more frequently should be met instead with diplomacy and compromise.  And, yes, we believe that we deserve access to affordable health care at reasonable costs regardless of our ages.

Your vote in this mid-term election is critical.  If Rep. Ryan’s priorities for America don’t represent YOUR priorities for yourself and your family, then you need to make every effort to make it to the polls this election and cast your ballot accordingly.  CD2’s Rep. Mark Amodei has voted lock-step with the GOP on everything they’ve brought to the floor or that they’ve tried to kill in conference committee.  If you don’t agree with the priorities set forth by the GOP leadership, then you need to cast your vote to send Mr. Amodei packing by casting your vote for Kristen Spees instead.

Other Resources:

Free Flu Shots Available October 29

Flu-Shot-Graphic_350pixels_web.fwFree flu shots will be available at a walk-in clinic that will be set up at the West Hall of the Convention Center on Wednesday, October 29th. The clinic is being provided by the NV Division of Public and Behavioral Health (DPBH). Clinic hours for the free flu shots will be from 5 pm to 9 pm.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that everyone older than six months receive an annual flue vaccine.  Those who are at the highest risk of developing serious complications such as pneumonia from the flu are:

  • People with chronic medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, and chronic lung disease; as well as their caregivers and close contacts.
  • Pregnant women
  • People 65 years of age and older.

For more information, call the Humboldt County Community Health Clinic at (775) 623-6575.



What We All Can Do To Give Women And Families A Fair Shot At Getting Ahead

— by CAP Action War Room

Fifty years ago, most families were able to pay their bills, save for their children’s education and plan for their own retirement—all on one income. Now most women work outside the home and are either the sole breadwinner or share the role equally with their partner. Times have changed, yet many of our policies remain outdated and disconnected from the challenges women face.

CAP Action, along with American Women, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, and the Service Employees International Union have announced the launch of Fair Shot Action, a new resource that will focus on ensuring that policymakers and candidates for elected office are responsive to the increasingly pivotal role women are playing in the economic stability and overall well-being of families by advocating for concrete solutions that can improve women’s lives.

The pillars of the Fair Shot Action campaign consist of 21st century policies that are essential to the overall economic stability and well-being of families. They include:

  1. Work-Life Challenges and Workplace Flexibility, such as paid sicks days, workplace flexibility laws, and paid family and medical leave which recognize the dual demands faced by today’s workers.
  2. Fair Treatment in the Workplace, including ensuring equal pay for equal work, raising the minimum wage, and strengthening existing laws against pregnancy discrimination to help women and their families get ahead.
  3. Healthy Families & Nondiscrimination, by closing the Medicaid coverage gap and getting all states to expand Medicaid, while at the same time working to make sure that women have access to preventative healthcare including contraception without co-payments.

FairShotClick here to become a fair shot voter today.

Fair Shot Action will continue to engage women and men across diverse constituencies, to ensure that voters are equipped with tools to push legislators and candidates to take actions in support of women’s economic security and women’s health, and to coordinate activity between other national and state organizations.

New resources include Fair Shot Voter, an online tool where voters can pledge support and commit to act on policies that affect women and their families. As part of the campaign, the website will also allow voters to share their story about why these issues matter to them, tactics that constituents can use to engage with legislators, and resources that help voters find information on state and local records on these issues.

BOTTOM LINE: It’s time for our workplace policies and public polices to keep up with our changing workplaces and families. We need women and their families to be at the center of our policy debates–and for politicians who forget to be held accountable. It’s time for all of us to become fair shot voters.

This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.

With $10.10

On 10/10, 10 Facts About A $10.10 Minimum Wage

—by CAP Action War Room

Friday, October 10th, was National Minimum Wage Day in honor of the efforts by progressives to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. At $7.25 an hour, today’s minimum wage is worth 30 percent less than the $1.60 minimum wage of 1968. It has been five years since the last increase in the federal minimum wage and nearly three-quarters of Americans support an increase, yet we have seen no progress. Just this morning four former Republican US Representatives announced their support for an increase in the federal minimum wage. The article begins, “When the cost of living goes up, so should wages. It’s common sense.”

Despite the fact that 22 previous increases in the minimum wage have passed through Congress with bipartisan support, Republicans in Congress have tied the issue up in partisan politics, ignoring the needs of their hard working constituents.

To continue with the theme, we’ve put together 10 key facts you should know about raising the minimum wage.

  1. Raising the minimum wage would allow 28 million American workers to see their wages increase by a total of $35 billion.
  2.  A $10.10 minimum wage would lift approximately 4.6 million workers out of poverty.
  3. The country’s GDP would increase by $22 billion over the phase-in period of the increased wage.
  4. Over that same period approximately 85,000 jobs would be created.
  5. Six million working mothers would see their wages increase and 14 million American children would see an increase in their family’s income.
  6. Since the last increase in the minimum wage, prices have skyrocketed: groceries are 20 percent more expensive, a gallon of gas is 25 percent more expensive and tuition at a community college is 44 percent more expensive than it was in 2009 at the time of the last increase.
  7. Federal spending on poverty programs, specifically spending on SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) would decrease by $4.6 billion a year.
  8. Sixty percent of business owners agree that the federal minimum wage should be increased, and 82 percent of business owners already pay their workers above the minimum wage.
  9. More than 600 economists, including seven Nobel Prize winners support raising the minimum wage and argue that it has little to no effect on business.
  10. Seventy three percent of Americans support raising the minimum wage to $10.10.

BOTTOM LINE: Raising the minimum wage isn’t just good for workers who earn the minimum wage, it’s good for the American economy. What minimum wage workers need—what the American economy needs—is for lawmakers to put aside partisan politics and get behind creating an economy that works for everyone, not just the wealthy few. The answer is simple: give hard working Americans a wage they can live on. Raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10.

This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.

The Jobs Report

Each month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics puts out a report called the “Employment Situation.” It’s what tells us how many jobs were created in the past month, and what the unemployment rate is.

This month’s report is in, and the numbers are strong:

The economy created 248,000 jobs in September. And the unemployment rate dropped to 5.9 percent, the lowest rate since July 2008.

And while we don’t put too much stock in any one report, there’s a clear trend here.

Check out this month's economic progress.

This month’s report was a clear indication of how far we’ve come since the recession, but we’ve still got more to do. We know that many Americans aren’t feeling enough of the benefits of this recovery. That’s something President Obama addressed yesterday, when he laid out his plan for a new foundation for America’s 21st century economy.

Thanks to the determination of the American people and the decisions of President Obama’s administration, our economy is stronger than it’s been in years: Businesses have added 10.3 million jobs over 55 straight months, the longest streak on record.

The unemployment rate has fallen to 5.9 percent. That’s a number many economists didn’t think we’d see for years.

We’ve still got more to do, but this is news worth sharing: new jobs, a lower unemployment rate, and historic progress.