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If Greed is Good. Why is it Killing Everyone?

Kansas Soon to Become New "Mad Max" Wasteland.

The Basic Principle of the Economy in Rojava: Involve Everyone in Production

The basic principle of the economic policies of the Assad regime in Rojava was to keep the people poor and deprived in order to maintain their dependence. The Jazira [Cizîrê‎ / Cezîre] and Kobanî [Kobanê] cantons served as the breadbasket of Syria. Before the revolution, forty percent of the wheat consumed in the country came from Rojava, and agriculture is still people’s primary source of income. From Derik [Dêrik / Al-Malikiyah] to the east of the Jazira Canton, to Serekaniye [Serê Kaniyê / Ras al-Ayn] in the west, fields stretch alongside the roads, along with the sources of petroleum in the Rmelan [Rumelan / Ramelan / Rimelan] region. Before the revolution, sixty percent of the petrol used in Syria came from the Jazira region.

Rojava is a region left impoverished despite its riches. The first town I saw in the lands of the region was Afrin [Afrîn / Efrîn‎]. The cantons had not yet been established when I visited in September 2013. When I arrived at the city bus terminal after crossing the border from Kilis with smugglers, I stood and simply looked around for a while. I was struck by the level of poverty and deprivation. Not only in Afrin, but also in the towns of the Jazira Canton where I stayed for a long time, I felt as if I was watching an old movie. The flimsy houses and shops that lined the streets and avenues were far from modern.

The Economic Academy of Rojava is the central institution for economic life in the autonomous enclave. The board members of the academy describe the politics of the Assad regime like this: “The Syrian regime saw the resources of Rojava as its warehouse. Wheat was cultivated here and purchased by the state, which then had them processed in a different region and only then sold to the people. No factories or workshops that would enable the processing of the agricultural goods that grow in the Jazira Canton were allowed.

This is the basis of poverty and deprivation on which the Rojava Revolution sought to establish an economy. Of course, these were not just results of the economic policies of the Assad regime. It is also necessary to consider the war that has ensued since the first day of the revolution. According to regime sources, seventy percent of the budget is reserved for defence. A third factor is the embargo. The border is closed between Rojava and Turkey. Only the entry point at Nusaybin has been intermittently opened for humanitarian aid. The border to the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan near the town Semalka is only sporadically opened for a very short time and then closed down for months because of the politics of the KDP (the Kurdish Democratic Party) of Iraqi Kurdistan, which opposes the Rojava revolution.

The economy of Rojava is geared towards providing for the poorest and those without possessions. Its basic principle is the participation of everyone in production. In the words of a minister of economics: “If a single loaf of bread is manufactured in Rojava, everyone will have contributed to it.”

This model is defined as the communal, or social economy. Cooperatives represent the foundation of this model. These cooperatives were built on land that was previously nationalised by the regime, which was reclaimed since the start of the revolution. This makes up 80% of the autonomous territory.

In fact, the economic domain was the last one to be organised in Rojava. As the administrators of the Academy say, the provision of security for the people has inevitably been the top priority. The first step was the foundation of the Rojava Centre for Economy. Units were created in every town with the participation of engineers and economists with relevant expertise, along with other volunteers. Seed companies were set up to improve the agrarian economy and enable the villagers to carry on cultivating the soil.

The administrators at the Academy describe the model they want to create: “We reject the capitalist economy, but we are not adopting the economic model of real socialism either. Ours is a communal economy based on cooperatives. We do not block private initiatives but we are following a policy that prevents the formation of monopolies.

What does the constitution say?

The Rojava Social Contract states: “Everyone has the right to the use and enjoyment of his private property. No one shall be deprived of his property except upon payment of just compensation, for reasons of public utility or social interest, and in the cases and according to the forms established by law.”

Article 42 defines the principles of economic organisation, alluding to the the socialist principle of ‘each according to his need’ as follows:

The economic system in the provinces shall be directed at providing general welfare and in particular granting funding to science and technology. It shall be aimed at guaranteeing the daily needs of people and to ensure a dignified life. Monopoly is prohibited by law. Labor rights and sustainable development are guaranteed.

In summary, the means of production in Rojava, with its factories, land, forests, water and underground and above ground resources, are the property of the Democratic Autonomous Administration. The Rojava Revolution is not opposed to private property. However, the political and ideological hegemony of the communes and cooperatives, which are regarded as the political, social and economic organisation of the people, and the main power of the revolution, the poor and the dispossessed, show today that the direction of development is towards expropriation.

One of the economic goals of the revolution is to prevent monopolisation. How will this be achieved?

This question is one I have asked both members of the economic academy as well as officials in the ministry of economy. They have stressed that, “The goal is to found cooperatives for everybody in all areas of life and to further spread the communal economy.”

The board members of the academy added:

Rojava is a place in which almost no monopolisation, industrialisation or even heavy industries ever existed. There are small investments, however. We strive not to destroy these investments with an approach of real socialism, but to win it over for the needs of society. We started the communal economy with this in mind, and we use it as a weapon against private property. The basis of our politics is the communal economy. The more we promote it and develop it further, the more private property gets weakened. The more we develop our own system, the better we can oppose monopolisation of private property. We have strengthened the will of the people on the political battle field, and we have weakened the state apparatus. It was the same with the economy. Our aim is to further develop our system. One of the first measures against monopolisation were trade cooperatives.

The cooperatives are connected to the communes. The communes are the basic management tool of the Rojava Revolution. They are of great importance, because they are building a life in which everybody participates in government, and the state apparatus becomes superfluous.

The question of how and where the cooperatives are founded depends on the needs of the families that live in the communes. First, how useful a cooperative can be in a certain place for the local families. The Economic Committee which is attached to the TEV-DEM [Kurdish: Tevgera Civaka Demokratîk; English: Movement for a Democratic Society] prepares a plan. Then the concept is presented to the communes near the location of the proposed cooperative, or to a council of communes. The communes or the councils have the task of finding poor families and families in need to take part in the cooperatives. The commune determines the employees of the cooperative. In fact, the cooperative is connected to the commune. Afterwards, the economic centre of Rojava gives half of the needed money and the seeds to the cooperative as a loan. Each cooperative is thus founded with the means of the revolution. All these steps toward the foundation of a cooperative are done by the Economic Centre and the Autonomous Administrations in collaboration. The cooperatives keep 70-80% of the income when they sell their products. Only 20-30% is given to the Economic Centre of Rojava.

The project of the cooperatives is relatively new. Before they were founded, a different model was applied in the transitional stage before the establishment of the cooperatives. During the time between the seizure of power by the people and the foundation of cooperatives, the land was used by individual operators. 50% of the product was taken by the autonomous government, while the other 50% remained with the operator. Additionally, the operator was obliged to put down a deposit in exchange for the land.

Dozens of cooperatives have been founded so far. In Serêkaniyê, over 30,000 dunams [decares] of land was transferred to the cooperatives and harvested. In Derîk, the greenest town of Rojava, the cooperatives planted over 50,000 fruit trees. In Amuda [Amûdê / Amouda], over 20,000 households were organised under agricultural cooperatives.

Alongside the general cooperatives, women’s cooperatives affiliated with the women’s communes have also been founded. Here the objective is to integrate women into social production. Above all, the Rojava Revolution is a women’s revolution. What makes it distinct this way is the creation of military, political, and economic mechanisms that empower women and their participation in the revolution. The women’s cooperatives are one of these mechanisms.

In summary, the revolution aims to supplant the capitalist economy through the communal economy, just as it seeks to make the state redundant by organising the community in communes and bringing everyone into positions of power.

All of this is taking place under conditions of siege, embargo and war. Revolution is also the practical unfolding of this dream. In which case, just picture what the Rojava Revolution could achieve in conditions where the siege and war are overcome.

The Basic Principle of the Economy in Rojava: Involve Everyone in Production

Kansas’s conservative experiment may have gone worse than people thought

When Kansas Republican lawmakers voted to raise state taxes last week, they were not only rebuking their own governor, they were tacitly admitting that his tax cuts hadn't produced the economic boom their proponents promised.

It is not just that tax cuts didn't achieve their purpose, though. New research suggests that the cuts were, in fact, counterproductive.

A working paper by economists at Oklahoma State University suggests that cutting taxes actually may have damaged Kansas's economy, resulting in fewer jobs, reduced incomes and a slower pace of growth.

Distinguishing among the national and global factors that affect a state's economy is difficult, but the paper is some of the most specific and detailed research yet on the consequences of the cuts for ordinary Kansans.

Gross state product — a measure of the overall size of Kansas's economy — increased about 7.8 percent less than it would have had Gov. Sam Brownback (R) not cut taxes, according to the paper, which is being reviewed for publication. The number of Kansans working has increased 2.6 percent less than it would have otherwise, the results suggest. Brownback's policies also reduced the share of the state's population participating in the labor force.

Reduced taxes forced the state to spend less, which could have brought down the overall level of demand for goods and services in the state, the economists believe. At the same time, concern about whether the state would be able to balance its budget might have deterred businesses from making major new investments.

The authors also studied Wisconsin, where Gov. Scott Walker (R), a 2016 presidential candidate, also cut taxes. Although those cuts did not have as clear a negative effect on the state, they did not appear to benefit Wisconsin's economy, either.

“Both experiments seem to not be working,” said Dan Rickman, who wrote the paper along with his colleague Hongbo Wang.

An underperforming economy

Brownback brought down taxes beginning in 2012, allowing wealthy taxpayers to pay the same marginal rate as the middle class by eliminating the uppermost of the three brackets in Kansas's income-tax scheme. He also allowed taxpayers to exempt income from small business, with the goal of fostering entrepreneurship in the state.

The governor and his Republican allies said that these changes would have benefits for ordinary Kansans.

“Our new pro-growth tax policy will be like a shot of adrenaline into the heart of the Kansas economy,” Brownback wrote in 2012.

Since then, however, Kansas's economy has consistently lagged behind that of neighboring states and the country as a whole. Brownback, though, has argued that Kansas's poor performance is a result of other factors, and that the tax cuts are beginning to have their intended effect despite those obstacles.

It is difficult to identify the cause of a downturn in a state's economy. Local conditions and global forces can combine in ways that are not easy to observe or understand. In Kansas's case, a strong dollar relative to foreign currencies has made U.S. agricultural exports more expensive, which is bad news for the state's wheat farmers.

One approach would be to compare Kansas to other agricultural states in the Great Plains, but there are important differences. States such as Oklahoma and North Dakota have come to rely on more shale-gas production, while Kansas has long had an important aerospace sector.

Instead, using historical data from a variety of other states with similarly structured economies, Rickman and Wang created an index to use as a point of comparison for Kansas. This composite benchmark almost exactly mimics the actual data from Kansas before Brownback took office, showing that it is a useful indicator of the broader economic forces affecting the state's economy in general.

After Brownback started cutting taxes, though, the data on the state's economy diverges from the benchmark. That suggests Kansas's economy performed worse than what would have been expected without the tax cut.

“It's an important piece of work,” said Jared Bernstein, who served as chief economist to Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and was not involved in the study. “If we were trading in the currency of facts, Kansas never would have tried — never would have undertaken — this experiment.”

What went wrong

Economists were not surprised by the results of the research. As the government in Kansas was forced to reduce its expenditures, the state's employees, suppliers and contractors had less money to spend. That, in turn, limited overall demand in the state.

Meanwhile, economists generally think that any benefits from reducing taxes are likely to accrue only over the long term. Because Rickman and Wang could use only five years of data, they might not have been able to identify any of those benefits, argued Aparna Mathur, an economist at the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute.

Often, however, policymakers do not have that much time. As budget deficits increase, investors begin to worry about how the government will make up the difference. That uncertainty can become an economic burden in itself in various ways, discouraging people from starting or expanding their businesses.

Brownback, for instance, was forced to increase sales taxes halfway through the experiment to raise more revenue, which probably did not inspire confidence among retailers and consumers in Kansas. Likewise, President Ronald Reagan later had to undo many of the ambitious tax cuts he passed in the first year of his administration to keep deficits in check.

The proposal House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) put forward last year could also damage the economy over the long term, as deficits inflated by Ryan's tax cuts could make taking out loans more expensive for ordinary firms and households, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.

Noting that the results of the new study were more ambiguous for Wisconsin than for Kansas, Mathur argued that Wisconsin policymakers relied on more realistic projections about how their tax cuts would affect the state's budget and prepared accordingly.

“Maybe the larger lesson is: Let’s not cut taxes all the way to zero,” Mathur said. “Let’s not cut taxes to zero without having a great plan to make up the taxes in the short run.”

Kansas’s conservative experiment may have gone worse than people thought

Grenfell Tower: results of fire investigation may not be published for years
London mayor tries to calm residents’ and families’ concerns by promising that interim findings will be released over the summer

A fire investigation report into the devastating blaze at Grenfell Tower in west London will not be released publicly until the opening of full inquests into those who have died – which could take years.

The communities secretary, Sajid Javid, attempted to reassure residents and locals from north Kensington and the wider public when he announced on Friday that the interim findings of investigations by fire officers could be ready soon. Javid said the findings would be passed to local authorities and ministers to aid with emergency inspections of 4,000 tower blocks across the UK, many of which are covered in cladding similar to that on Grenfell Tower.

But the London fire service said no interim findings from its fire investigation report or the report itself would be made public. A spokeswoman said it would be released to coincide with the full inquests on the dead, which may not begin for years. “The report will not be in the public domain until that inquest is complete,” she said. “There is no timeframe for when the inquest will be, but certainly not in the short term.”

The inquests are also likely to be superseded by the public inquiry that was announced by Theresa May. A public inquiry could take place before the inquests.

But the London mayor, Sadiq Khan, responding to the anger visible during the demonstrations on Friday outside Kensington town hall, said people needed answers much sooner. He said: “They need some interim answers before any public inquiry comes to conclusions. They need some answers this summer.”

Police are conducting a criminal investigation into the blaze, which has left at least 30 dead, with another 70 missing. At the scene on Friday, Commander Stuart Cundy said the number of fatalities would rise further during a detailed search of the wreckage of the tower.

Heckled by residents, who were demanding to know how many people were unaccounted for, Cundy released some details from the inquiry. He said police officers had accessed the flat where the fire had begun and there was nothing to suggest that the fire had been started deliberately. He vowed that police would “get to the answer of what has happened and why”, adding: “If criminal offences have been committed, it is us who will investigate that.”

Cundy said 12 bodies were in the mortuary, but a number still remained in Grenfell Tower, where a dignified and careful retrieval operation would take place in hazardous conditions. But, he said, this could take many weeks.

He said the victim in hospital had died despite the best efforts of medical staff. At least 24 people are being treated in hospital, 12 of whom are in a critical condition.

Detectives have asked for early guidance from the special crime division of the Crown Prosecution Service, which is understood to involve any charges that might be considered and the evidence required to bring any prosecutions. A CPS spokesperson said: “A police investigation is under way and we are providing support and advice as required.”

A former senior prosecutor has said the evidence that had emerged so far about the disaster supported criminal charges of gross negligence manslaughter. Nazir Afzal, the former chief crown prosecutor for the north-west and former acting chief crown prosecutor for London, said: “I would expect criminal charges to follow. The tower is a crime scene and should be treated as a crime scene.”

Afzal said prosecutors and police would consider the criminal culpability of those responsible for the management and maintenance of the block of flats, and those responsible for the building materials, such as the exterior cladding and for the building work. “All have a duty of care. If they have been grossly negligent and that led to a loss of life, then it can be argued that they have committed manslaughter,” he said.

Residents demanded that Cundy explain why more information had not been released on the numbers missing and why more identities had not been confirmed. He answered: “I will only say something that I know to be true. I know at least 30 people who have died, and sadly I do believe those numbers … will increase. As soon as we can, we will share that with the families and wider community.”

Cundy said it was difficult to ascertain the exact numbers missing. Family liaison officers were with 36 families, and efforts to establish accurate figures were continuing.

David Lammy MP, who lost a friend in the disaster, piled pressure on the police. In a letter to the Met commissioner, Cressida Dick, Lammy, the MP for Tottenham, wrote: “I also call on you to confirm that the scope of the criminal investigation will be comprehensive, including but not limited to investigating the actions of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation, Rydon [the firm that oversaw the cladding work], and all contractors and subcontractors involved in any aspect of refurbishment work at Grenfell Tower.

“Will you also confirm as a matter of urgency that the full public inquiry announced by the prime minister yesterday will not impede the work of this criminal investigation?”

Grenfell Tower: results of fire investigation may not be published for years

Source: ONTD_Political

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