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America Is Not Broke, Revisited

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And just a few weeks ago, a Georgist colleague, Josh Vincent, who's been working on Land Tax reform with cities and municipalities, mostly in Pennsylvania, but also elsewhere through the organization he currently heads, led a two-day seminar at the Henry George School too. The first of nine short videos of that presentation can be found here:

Gaffney calculates there is $5.3 trillion in rent in the U.S., available this year, and every year (of course, it may go up or down somewhat depending on current economic conditions). I quote Gaffney and other Georgist experts in my book as well.

So, America is Not Broke, which is not only the apt title of my book, but of a flyer I and members of my former Georgist group, Common Ground-NYC, handed out by the hundreds in 2011 in Zuccotti Park, when it was occupied.

Yet, here we are, in the middle of one of the most contentious election seasons ever, led, or nearly led, by two supposedly anti-establishment candidates: Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. While Trump is a rentier who perhaps understandably will not reveal the secret of his wealth in Land Rent collection, he has railed against the banks regularly. Yet, we've heard nothing from him about the alternative of Public Banking, not even when the best example of that is the Bank of North Dakota, in red-state North Dakota since 1919. We've heard nothing from him about the trillions locked up in government accounts by a supposedly broke set of federal, state and local governments. Does he just not know? I sent him my book a couple of months ago and have the signature confirmation to prove it was received (Sanders received my book last June). Perhaps he's been too busy to read it.

Bernie Sanders is aware and supportive of Public Banking, though he's only talked, very briefly, of the smaller subset banking reform of postal banking (also in my book) during the campaign. He's recently appointed S&L super-regulator William Black as an economic advisor, which should help support his efforts to break up the big banks and reform the others. But why is there no mention of the Public Banking alternative? Why is there no mention of the CAFRs or of monetary reform, including the bills H.R. 2990 introduced by his Congress colleague, Dennis Kucinich in 2011, or another colleague when Sanders was still a Congressman, Ray LaHood, and his highway-financing bill with interest-free money, H.R. 1452? And why does Sanders push for lower property taxes, when the real answer is two-tiered property taxes and taxes on the land portion only, to encourage efficient use of land and the increased production of buildings (untaxed)?

None of the economic reforms either candidate is talking about -- let alone the milquetoast reforms of Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton -- come close to the impact of these 4 super-reforms. At best, they are regulatory changes, overdue and probably welcome (the Devil is always in the details), but not systemic. The people I mentioned above, and many others, growing all the time, have put forward monetary and land reform proposals in concrete terms, even reaching the level of Congressional and local bills. Yet the public is largely uninformed by the mainstream media, except for some occasional sideways endorsements like the Time magazine article of 3 years ago (and no follow-up that I'm aware of).

Is the reason that it is just too big, too radical for us to wrap our heads around? That may be part of it, but I've given lectures all over the northeast for years, on TV and radio (17 shows last fall to promote my book), to all kinds of people, and I can tell you, they generally get it when it's presented clearly and succinctly. One thing does come up in Q&A which may offer a clue: I get regularly asked, or more accurately, told, that the powers that be will never change, that the system is hopelessly corrupt. Is this resignation realistic or self-fulfilling? The system is thoroughly corrupt. Of that there can be little doubt anymore. And by that I don't mean just that there are politicians with their campaign hands out, demanding cash to support Wall Street or the big banks. There is that, and all the leading candidates are scrambling to say they are opposed to that, whether or not they will actually do anything about that if elected remaining to be seen (I have the most faith in Sanders in that regard, who has been denouncing pay-for-play and Citizen's United for as long as he's been in office, and refuses to take corporate and big donor cash in the current campaign).

But there are huge, systemic changes possible, still consistent, even more so, with our stated beliefs in fairness, meritocracy, and honest accounting.

A lot has been made of the public's pessimistic attitude, of the belief that America's best days are behind us. Perhaps we cannot accept good news even when it's fairly and persuasively presented? If so, no politician can fix that. We have met the enemy and he is us.

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Scott Baker is a Managing Editor & The Economics Editor at Opednews, and a blogger for Huffington Post, Daily Kos, and Global Economic Intersection.

His anthology of updated Opednews articles "America is Not Broke" was published by Tayen Lane Publishing (March, 2015) and may be found here:

Scott is a former President of Common Ground-NYC (, a Geoist/Georgist activist group. He has written dozens of articles for (more...)

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