• Unleash American Innovation -- Restore Price Integrity to the Energy Market

    Brian Merchant of Treehugger

    In order to create the 30 Million Jobs this country needs, we know we must match the problems we face with the money we have to the people that we have looking for work.  If you put those all together, guess what happens?  You get solutions, and you create jobs.

    Two of the greatest challenges facing our country — no matter who is in the White House — is America’s lack of energy independence and our gross energy inefficiency.  We’ve been mulling over the issue for a while, and today we’re excited to unveil our new plan:the Defense Energy Project.  

    We’ve got two simple goals with this: first, create a jobs program that helps veterans returning from wars (often over foreign oil) creating clean energy and energy efficiency and independence.

    The second component of the Defense Energy Project is this: expose the true cost of hydrocarbons (including the cost of the wars that we fight) and the environmental toll energy production takes on our country.  This will help restore price integrity to our energy markets with the discussion of a plan called “fee and dividend.”

    How would “fee and dividend” work?  In short, fossil fuel producing companies would pay a fee, which would be pooled into a national fund.  That fund would be directly distributed equally to every American — all 311 million of us.  We would effectively be taxing energy waste and rewarding with a dividend energy efficiency.

    Joining us to discuss the plan is Dr. James Hansen from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Brian Merchant, contributing editor for Treehugger, and author of the article “Unearthing the True Cost of Fossil Fuels.

    Restoring Price Integrity in the Energy Market

    “It is no secret we dump tens of billions of dollars directly into the pockets of big oil every year in the form of subsidies, tax breaks, direct from our pockets to theirs,” Brian Merchant explained on The Dylan Ratigan Show. “That is a small fraction of the cost.  Even though it amounts to billions of dollars and totaled as many as $500 billion over the last 50 years or so, the real costs are the indirect ones. The oil industry can’t operate without the u.s. military providing security presence.”

    “$7.3 trillion just for aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf over the past couple decades,” Dylan pointed out. “That is not a cost a lot of people recognize — the American taxpayer footing the bill for but the oil company gets a huge deal. They get to use that as their own personal security detail. It’s a huge cost for American taxpayers,” explained Brian.

    The Enormous Advantages of the Fossil Fuel Market

    Dr. Hansen also pointed out some other costs to fossil fuels outside of the security and war costs.  ”Human health damage from air and water pollution from fossil fuels is huge.  It sits on hundreds of billions of dollars per year.  In addition, there is the cost of climate change, which is going to be borne mainly by our children and grandchildren,” he explained.

    Dr. Hansen suggested that the costs taxpayers be reimbursed for all the costs of fossil fuels that are borne by the public.  He explained:

    “The climate is already beginning to change. The way we should deal with this is by putting a price on the fossil fuel emissions by collecting a flat fee on oil, gas, coal, at the source, the domestic port of entry. That money should then be distributed uniformly to legal residents of the country.  I would give one share to each legal adult resident of the country and half a share to children up to two per family. If you did that, then more than 60% of the people would get more in their dividend than they’d pay in increased energy prices. Those people who pay special attention trying to minimize their fossil fuel use, using clean energies, energy efficiency, they would do very well.

     Brian believes restoring hydrocarbon price integrity in the markets would have a huge effect on the rate of transtition to more efficient fossil fuel use and alternative fuel use.  

    “The advantages of the fossil fuel industry are enormous,” Brian explained.  ”They’re enormous and politicians complain about a little tiny subsidy for a solar company. They’re not seeing the whole picture. If there is even a modicum of price integrity restored to this scenario we would see American innovation unleashed. We would see clean tech solutions. We would see a whole new outpouring of funding into a new sector.  This would be a job creator… this would do kind of all of the things that need to happen in this sector so America can get a foot forward,” he said.

    How Would “Fee and Dividend” Work?

    With entrenched interests across the fossil fuel industry, how would we mitigate the most acute political resistance from the biggest payers? Dr. Hansen explained it this way:

    If we put a fee that we collected at a rate of $15 a ton of carbon monoxide per year, and increasing $10 a ton each year, at the end of ten years, that would be $115 a ton.  The amount collected would be close to $600 billion a year.  If you distributed that among all legal residents, that would be between $2000 and $3000 yearly.  So, a family with two or more children would get between $6000 and $9000.  This would be deposited monthly to their bank account, or if they don’t have one, to a debit card.

    This would reduce our fossil fuel dependence by 30% in ten years — an equivalent to more than 10 times the amount of oil that would be carried by the Keystone XL pipeline… and would make our industry more competitive. That’s what we need to do. In order for the economy to work most efficiently, you need to have the true costs for the fuels that are being used. You don’t want to subsidize them because all of those subsidies are coming out of the taxpayers’ pockets.

    What do you think of the Defense Energy Project?  Email us at dylan@dylanratigan.com, and we’ll feature some of your responses over the coming days.  You can also find us on Twitterand Facebook.

    You can watch the entire segment with Brian Merchant of Treehugger.com and Dr. James Hansen of the NASA Goddard Space Institute here:


     

    - Meg Robertson is a digital producer for DylanRatigan.com.  You can find her on Twitter @megrobertson.

  • The Greedy Bastards antidote to rigged energy


     

    by Brian Merchant

    For decades now, fossil fuel company executives and D.C. politicians have worked together to ensure that coal and oil prices stay low enough to keep the American people hooked. In his new book Greedy Bastards, Dylan Ratigan explains how “vampire industries” like oil and coal have forged “an unholy alliance with government based not just on the money that they contribute to political campaigns and spend on lobbying, but on their ability to hypnotize us with false prices.”

    Industry gets tax breaks, subsidies, military support in volatile regions, the right to use our air and water like a sewer, and assurance that the government will clean up its environmental messes. Politicians get campaign contributions, a steady flow of dirty energy, and a talking point to brandish about how they kept gas affordable.

    But the American public just gets screwed.

    We get stuck with a dirty, polluting energy regime; one that enriches a few one percenters while making the public sick and hobbling American innovation. As Ratigan puts it in his book, a handful of greedy bastards are fleecing Americans with a “Very Bad Deal”. Fossil fuels seem cheap and convenient now, but when we get hit with the true costs—of a spoiled environment, of missing out on vital future industries like clean energy, of a mounting public health burden, of possible war—we’ll see we were had.

    The rigged market for fossil fuels
    Just how rigged is the fossil fuels market? In a word, overwhelmingly.

    Experts believe that oil companies alone receive $10-40 billion in handouts yearly. A conservative study from the Environmental Law Institute found that from 2002-2008, oil companies received $72 billion of taxpayer’s hard-earned cash. Another report from Management Information Systems, Inc found that between 1950 and 2010, $594 billion was spent directly subsidizing fossil fuels—and the lion’s share of that, almost two thirds, went to the oil industry. Coal, too, receives billions of dollars in annual federal handouts.

    Clearly, government assistance distorts the price of fossil fuels, making them artificially cheaper. But those direct subsidies are nothing compared to the enormous costs the public indirectly pays for fossil fuels.

    For one, our taxpayer dollars fund the cleanup of the industry’s accidents and disasters. In an interview, Dylan Ratigan told me that greedy bastards in the energy world are “masters” of transferring the long tail risk in their businesses to the public:

    “They transfer that two tenths of a percent chance that the nuke melts down or the oil spill happens, or whatever the abomination is, to the state. The state takes that risk, and allows the limited regulation and all of the profits from the extraction of the energy resources to go to the energy companies, because they fund the politicians.”

    Mining, transporting, and burning oil, gas, and coal also inflicts major damage to the environment and public health—and we pick up the tab. A 2009 report from the National Research Council showed that fossil fuels impose $120 billion of annual costs on the public every year. Air pollution takes a massive toll on public health—it causes respiratory problems, widespread illness and death, and leads to a huge number of missed work days. The prognosis from a Harvard study, the first to analyze the full life-cycle impact of coal, is even bleaker.

    That report’s lead author, the late Dr. Paul Epstein, told me in an interview that “Between the land disturbance, the mountaintop removal, the processing … and the combustion, we estimate that this is costing the American public somewhere between a third to half a trillion dollars in health costs and deaths.”

    Yes, that’s ‘trillion’ with a ‘T’. Every year.

    In fact, coal is so economically disastrous that the mainstream journal American Economics Review found that the electricity generated from coal actually does more damage to the economy than the electricity is worth. Grist’s David Roberts notes that “Coal-fired power is a net value-subtracting industry. A parasite, you might say. A gigantic, blood-sucking parasite that’s enriching a few executives and shareholders at the public’s expense.”

    Finally, taxpayer-funded military expeditions have played a crucial role in securing fossil fuel supplies and transport routes—a cost to the public registered not just in billions of dollars but in American lives.

    According to Ratigan’s calculations, the price of gasoline is around $10 too cheap per gallon when all unaccounted-for costs are included. Other projections put the figure even larger. And there are a wide range of estimates of the “true” cost of coal: Depending on how you factor in the costs of climate change, it could be between a few additional cents per kWh to a whopping ¢26.89 extra per kilowatt hour—the high-end estimate from the Harvard study. By way of comparison, the average American paid ¢11.54 per kWh on their residential electric bills last year. In other words, if prices accurately reflected all of the actual costs of burning coal, coal-fired power plants would be dead in the water.

    Using the example of oil, Ratigan writes that such distortion results in a situation where “the free market can’t help [us] decide if it’s worth switching from gas to another fuel, because the market isn’t free, it’s rigged.” Similarly, investors, homeowners, and utilities can’t decide whether it will pay off to invest in clean energy and efficiency when the price of burning coal, which still supplies nearly half the nation with electricity, is so cheap.

    Which is why we’ve got to restore price integrity to commodities like oil and coal—we’ve got to prevent fossil fuel companies from dumping their costs on us, level the playing field for clean energy technologies, and give Americans the choice they deserve over what powers their lives. Which means we’ve got to increase the price of gasoline and coal-fired electricity.

    Restoring price integrity: fee and dividend
    Lower your pitchforks for a second, hold back with the tar and feathers. What if there was a way to make fossil fuels companies pay their fair share—while putting extra cash in American pockets?

    It’s called ‘Fee and Dividend’. The plan is simple: charge oil, gas and coal companies a small, annually increasing fee on fossil fuels sales—then collect the fees and evenly distribute them amongst the American people. The idea has the support of not just environmentalists, but scientists, politicians, and free-market conservatives.

    Jim DiPeso, the Republicans for Environmental Protection’s Vice President for Policy and Communications,sings its praises: “Transparent. Market-based. Does not enlarge government. Leaves energy decisions to individual choices … Sounds like a conservative climate plan.”

    Dr. James Hansen

    NASA’s Dr. James Hansen, one of the world’s top climate scientists, alsoadvocates this approach. Hansen describes it as a “flat, across-the-board rising fee on carbon emissions” that would be levied on fossil fuels at a domestic mine or port of entry. Hansen wrote to me to explain the impact fee and dividend would have:

    “The price of fossil fuel energy will rise, but with today’s fossil fuel uses, over 60 percent of the people will get more in their dividend than they pay in increased energy prices. People who have several houses or fly around the world all the time will have costs that increase more than their dividend. People will tend to make consumer and lifestyle choices that minimize their carbon emissions—this will happen naturally via the prices that they see.”

    That way, when fuel prices rise to reflect their true costs, the public will have a buffer—in fact, the majority of Americans will earn money from the policy. And they’ll earn even more if they use less fossil fuels. A public website could be created to track the fees collected on fossil fuels, and Americans could see exactly how much they stand to earn.

    As DiPeso explains, “Those who wish to use carbon-based energy with abandon would be free to do so – knowing up front that they would pay the environmental and other costs of using lots of carbon-based energy rather than shift those costs onto their fellow citizens.”

    It’s a win-win. Not just for individual Americans, but our economy at large: Nonpolluting industries will benefit from a leveled playing field, American innovation will be unleashed, and jobs will grow in the clean energy sector.

    “The carbon fee should rise over time to a level that covers the full cost of fossil fuels to society—by the time it gets there we will have generated better energy technologies and improved energy efficiency,” Hansen says.

    Now, it’s not a perfect solution—farmers and folks who live in rural areas would be hit harder than those in urban areas, who already rely less on fossil fuels. A fair way to help cover those costs—perhaps tax breaks for energy efficient machinery upgrades—must be worked out with citizens in fossil fuel-dependent regions and occupations.

    From securing oil to securing our future

    We also need to eliminate the massive fossil fuel subsides for coal, oil, and gas companies. This too has widespread bipartisan support. Obama calls to repeal oil subsidies just about every year, and Republicans, Independents, and Democrats alike support ending the handouts—but the unholy alliance between industry execs and the politicians they finance keeps them in place.

    And, of course, we’d have to tackle what’s perhaps the biggest oil subsidy of all: U.S. military assistance to fossil fuel companies. This is a deeply entrenched system, and no single piece of legislation could likely disrupt the long-standing symbiosis between Big Oil and the military.

    But we could start by launching a jobs program designed to help vets get work in the energy efficiency and clean energy sector. A group called Operation Free is already fighting a battle along those lines: Founded by veterans, it helps other vets organize to fight for clean energy policies that will lead to true energy independence, to ensure that their children won’t have to fight the same oil-tinged wars that they did.

    In many European nations, where the oil industry doesn’t have as powerful a grip on politics, gasoline routinely costs two or three times as much. Governments levy gas taxes that better reflect the true cost of oil, which then spurs industry to develop cleaner, more efficient cars. This leads to less pollution, healthier communities, job transference to more productive industries, and a more competitive economy. We could do the same in the United States—in fact, we’ve got to.

    Now, plenty of skeptics will insist that these ideas aren’t “politically feasible”. The plan is too ambitious, it will never pass the dysfunctional Congress, it’s too … yawn. Over the last year, we’ve watched as brand new spaces for novel approaches to politics have been blown wide open—Occupy Wall Street suddenly brought the nation face to face with its own income inequality and the safe-housing of corporate greed. The same could happen for energy and pollution. In a recent discussion, former US Energy Secretary Bill Richardson told me we need an “Arab Spring for the environment”. Indeed, across the nation, concerned citizens arebeginning to rally against the cushy alliance between D.C. and the fossil fuels industry. Who can blame them?

    Americans are paying through the nose on their tax returns and health bills to help Big Oil and the political elite maintain the illusion that cheap, dirty energy is a bargain. But enough is enough, and time is of the essence. We’re paying for wars, pollution and handouts to massive multinationals—instead of allowing the free market to reward the innovators and industries that will lead us to energy security. To stop the vicious cycle, we must unravel and reset the rigged market for oil and coal, revealing their true costs once and for all. We must loose the nation from the stranglehold of its aging, fossil-fueled energy regime.

    As Ratigan says, “There’s no greater path to freedom than energy independence.”

    This post originally appeared at Treehugger.com on February 7, 2012.

    Related Articles

    Auction 2012: The Hidden Costs of Energy (1/31/12)

    Auction 2012: Energy Fear Factor with Dan Froomkin (2/1/12)

  • Tour Diary: 30 Million Jobs Tackles Florida Housing Crisis

    The 30 Million Jobs tour rolls on, and this week we’re in South Florida.  The sunrises in Florida may be goregous, the beaches beautiful, but it’s a paradise in peril…

    IMG_2126

    We kicked off our Wednesday show focusing on one big issue: America’s mortgage mess and foreclosure crisis.  According to RealtyTrac, one out of every 360 homes in Florida is in foreclosure, compared to one out of every 634 homes nationally.

    Even if they’re not in foreclosure, many Florida homeowners are in trouble.  This is a state where more than half of all homeowners are underwater — almost double the national average.  That means people can’t move to find new job opportunities elsewhere, and it also means they can’t keep up with their payments.   As Dylan talked about with mortgage analyst Jack McCabe and DE AG Beau Biden, we need some big solutions, and we need them now. A stable and healthy housing market is directly tied to our push for 30 Million Jobs and renewed American prosperity, and we’ll keep on this issue!

    Here are a few behind the scenes shots of the show from Monday, January 25th here at the Mondrian Hotel in Miami Beach, Florida.  If you want to see all the photos, they’re on Flickr here:

    Steve, Dylan, Sasha, Brian and Mary
    Producers Steve, Brian and Mary working with Dylan before the show.

    Not a bad spot for a conference call!
    Now this is the right way to do a conference call!

    IMG_2151
    Dylan and the always dapper Jonathan Capehart!

    Imogen Lloyd Webber & Jonathan Capehart
    Imogen Lloyd Webber and Jonathan Capehart before their hit.

    Nice shot of the set!
    Major equipment to make this all happen!

    Dylan and Jack McCabe
    Dylan and mortgage analyst Jack McCabe talking mortgages, of course.

    Dylan and Rep. Ted Deutch of Florida
    Dylan and Rep. Ted Deutch of Florida.

    IMG_2210
    Dylan and John Wonderlich, Policy Director of The Sunlight Foundation.

    Brian, Sasha, Meg, Dylan and Steve
    Show team with Dylan — Brian, Sasha, and Steve Friedman.

    Parting Shot!
    Parting shot – sunset!

    Meg Robertson is a digital producer for DylanRatigan.com.

  • Dylan on ABC's The View: "We Have Two Sets of Rules in This Country"

    Dylan was on ABC’s The View yesterday as part of our Greedy Bastards launch.  Check out the video below as he talks with Barbara Walters, Joy Behar, Elisabeth Hasselbeck and Sherri Shepherd.

    They opened up with Dylan’s rant from last August, and Elisabeth asked Dylan what got him to that point. “I was in the middle of finishing the banking chapter of that book, and I literally was in the middle of having to document all of the backwards arrangements,” when it came to the banking system, Dylan explained. “My biggest gripe is that we have two sets of rules in this country — whether it’s getting access to American Idol, or whether it’s getting access to the American tax code, whether the laws in our government are made for your benefit or not. It has become so apparent I think, to all of us, that both political parties have been participating in creating two sets of rules. That’s the most fundamentally un-American thing, and that’s why I got so emotional,” said Dylan.

     



    Dylan also talked about some of the bigger themes in Greedy Bastards.

    “In order for America to have prosperity, it’s got to have investment.  Money has got to be coming into the country.  And the walls — the gates that prevent that from happening are your tax code, your trade policy, and your banking policy.  And right now our banks are not lending to America, our trade policies are not putting money to America, and our tax policies are not encouraging investment,” explained Dylan.

    Thanks to everyone from The View for having us – it was a blast!  Here are some behind the scenes shots from the visit:

    Meg Robertson is digital producer for DylanRatigan.com, and was thrilled to be within ten feet of Joan Rivers yesterday.


  • Mitt Romney's State of the Union challenge on the mortgage crisis

    by Eliot Spitzer and Dylan Ratigan

    Finally, a presidential candidate came out and honestly addressed the biggest problem in our economy, the enormous debt overhang in our mortgage market. A few days ago, Mitt Romney was at a forum in Florida talking about foreclosures, and his comments were actually refreshingly honest about our housing and banking situation and the need for a debt write-down.

    We're just so overleveraged, so much debt in our society, and some of the institutions that hold it aren't willing to write it off and say they made a mistake, they loaned too much, we're overextended, write those down and start over. They keep on trying to harangue and pretend what they have on their books is still what it's worth.
    Mitt Romney was pointing out that the banks are carrying debt on their books at inflated values. When was the last serious politician to make that point, openly? There's more.

    In some cases, if the debt is not in something you can service, it's like you have to move on and start over away from those debts. It's helpful if you get an institution that's willing to work with you, but if you don't you have no other option.
    Romney is now saying that if you can't pay your debts and your lending institution won't work with you, walk away. Perhaps this isn't so surprising, though, as Romney is an expert in debt restructuring. This is actually just common business sense.

    And finally, he offered a real solution to the mortgage debt crisis.

    The banks are scared to death, of course, because they think they're going to go out of business... They're afraid that if they write all these loans off, they're going to go broke. And so they're feeling the same thing you're feeling. They just want to pretend all of this is going to get paid someday so they don't have to write it off and potentially go out of business themselves."

    This is cascading throughout our system and in some respects government is trying to just hold things in place, hoping things get better... My own view is you recognize the distress, you take the loss and let people reset. Let people start over again, let the banks start over again. Those that are prudent will be able to restart, those that aren't will go out of business. This effort to try and exact the burden of their mistakes on homeowners and commercial property owners, I think, is a mistake.

    This is the right approach to the problem. If you force the banks to recognize losses on the mortgage debt they are holding, then all of a sudden they will have an incentive to write down debt. Otherwise, a bank will do anything it can to maintain the fiction that the debt is worth 100 cents on the dollar, including lie, harass, and robo-sign.

    There are ample reasons for cynicism, the cup overfloweth with them, perhaps. Still, what's shocking about these comments is how casual they are, as if it's common knowledge that the banking system is still insolvent and that our debt loan cannot be paid back. Among financial elites, it in fact is common knowledge. Tim Geithner noted this when he talked about Lehman Brothers and the "air in marks" on the debt it was holding on its books. And Martin Feldstein on the Republican side and Alan Blinder on the Democratic side are both arguing for debt write-downs. Everyone knows this has to happen, that the accounting manipulation needs to stop. But Mitt Romney actually said it.

    We're pretty sure that Romney will walk these comments back if necessary, since he holds positions only insofar as they are convenient. Since at that same forum he called out for praise one of the most bank-friendly state officials in the country, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, we can probably measure his adherence to this common-sense approach in micro-seconds.

    But what this episode shows is that the solutions to our crisis are understood. In the book Greedy Bastards, the question of restructuring debt is considered in detail. We need a debt deal, as Romney inadvertently noted. More fundamentally, getting rid of the accounting gamesmanship will lead to a healthier economy because it will align financial assets with real economic assets. As another example, credit default swaps are linking American banks excessively to an unstable Eurozone. Credit default swaps are in fact yet another accounting game designed to further balance sheet fictions. Dick Grasso offered his solution to this obvious problem. We can, according to Grasso, simply declare these contracts online gaming, and void them.

    What Americans should be taking from this episode is that finance, while complex, is not conceptually hard. If it's a lie on the balance sheet, it's going to be destructive to ordinary people. If you stop the balance sheet lying, the economy will do better. But while Mitt Romney might have said this out loud, they all know it behind closed doors. Our question is, who will be the first to make this a policy reality?

     

  • MIAMI & DC: Upcoming "Greedy Bastards" Book Tour Events (Updated!)

    We’ve got two public Greedy Bastards events coming up, and we’d love to have you there!  If you don’t live in DC or Miami, don’t fret — more will be announced soon when we come to other cities around the country.

    Leavin' on a jet plane... Greedy Bastards style!


    MIAMI: Wednesday, January 25

    7:00 PM Event
    LOCATION: Books & Books
    265 Aragon Avenue
    Coral Gables, FL 33134
    Tickets NOT required.
    For info visit Books & Books website, or call 305-442-4408.

     

     

    WASHINGTON, DC: Wednesday, February 1st

    7:00 PM Event
    LOCATION: Sixth & I Historic Synagogue
    600 I Street NW, Washington DC 20001
    MORE INFO:  To purchase tickets visit: www.sixthandi.org
    Or contact: Jackie Leventhal, jleventhal@sixthandi.org / 202-408-3100
    (Note: Receive two FREE tickets with the purchase of the book at Sixth and I; individual tickets are $10)

  • 'Greedy Bastards' becomes New York Times best-seller... only 30 million jobs left to go...

    Dylan with Steve Friedman, Executive Producer of DR's Show. (He was also the EP for the Today Show for many years!)

    By Tanya Hayre

    After a whirlwind two weeks of launching his new book, 'Greedy Bastards,' Dylan Ratigan can officially add the term 'New York Times best-selling author' to his bio. The Times released their list this morning and 'Greedy Bastards' came in at number 9!

    In between book signings and media appearances, Dylan has also launched a new venture - the '30 Million Jobs Tour.' So, what 30 million jobs have to do with 'Greedy Bastards'? Dylan has coined the term "connect the dots" to explain the correlation between the two.

    Dylan Ratigan with a copy of his New York Times best-selling book, 'Greedy Bastards'

    Though he can explain it far better that I can, in layman's terms: 'The Dylan Ratigan Show' is traveling around the country to demonstrate that, there are, sectors and examples or what Dylan refers to as “cradles of innovation” of successful models of education, health care, and energy. Through his show on MSNBC, Dylan is highlighting areas of the country that are booming, i.e. - Silicon Valley and it's working model of fresh, new ideas and innovation. If we take the smaller models of what is working (nationally adopting the formula that makes Silicon Valley so successful), perhaps we can create new jobs and showcase that (in Dylan's words) "we are a nation flush with potential."

    That logic Dylan has adapted is what he details in his book 'Greedy Bastards' – that there are systems holding back this potential, starving it of necessary capital. 30 Million Jobs is the number of jobs we need for full and complete U.S. employment.

    If you're scratching your brain trying to make sense of this, come see Dylan in person while he's on his book tour and he'll explain it and sign a copy of his book for you. Check out his schedule of events around the country here.

    For more information, please check out the 'Greedy Bastards' webpage here. Keep up with Dylan on twitter at@DylanRatigan. You can follow me @TanyaHayre.

     

     

     

     

     

  • My 30 Million Jobs tour: Every problem is a job

     - 

    This week, I'm launching the 30 Million Jobs tour. We're taking the Dylan Ratigan Show on the road, and going all over the country to demonstrate that we are a nation flush with potential. We'll visit what I call "cradles of innovation" all over the place -- in education, health care, and energy -- mini-ecosystems where innovators and pioneers are taking resources and capital and using it to improve the world. We will also show what I detail in my book -- Greedy Bastards -- the systems holding back this potential, starving it of necessary capital.

    30 Million Jobs is the number of jobs we need for full and complete U.S. employment. We start our tour in California's Silicon Valley -- one example of our country's cradles of innovation. Where most people see a problem, the people I'm spending time with see a job. And it's pretty clear that, once we end the corruption in our banking, tax, and trade policies, we will have more than enough work for the 30 million people who need it.

    Let's begin with energy. When it comes to stationary power generation efficiency, we're at 34%, according to the U.S. Department of Energy Information Administration. That means two out of every three units of electricity we use are tossed out, with nothing to show for it. Generating efficiency gains will take work, and thankfully, we have plenty of people that are unemployed. The problem here is that there is no investment in the sector - t's a desert landscape desperate to be irrigated by a flow of capital. Remember, capital isn't just the central banks and governments. It's private businesses, personal accounts and most importantly, all human potential. The river exists -- its massive, some might say even infinite. It is surging with potential if we only release it. Right now, as I document in my book Greedy Bastards, this flow is going into the pockets of status quo interests because of rigged tax, trade, and banking policies. But there's no reason it couldn't instead go towards bumping up our energy efficiency to 60%, 70% or even 90%.

    Or take health care. We all know how screwed up the health care system is. But spending time with Dr. Jeffrey Brenner in Camden, New Jersey, or at the Mayo Clinic, shows that this is a choice. Brenner has demonstrated, through his hotspotting work, that we can dramatically reduce costs by targeting the small number of extremely high cost patients. And the Mayo Clinic, with its innovative team-oriented approach to health, is relentlessly bringing evidence on outcomes into its practice. These are models for us.

    Education is another arena where innovation is bursting out all around us. Take the Khan Academy in San Francisco, which flips the traditional model of teaching on its head. Rather than a teacher lecturing students and assigning homework, the Khan Academy offers supremely good lectures online, and then enables classroom time to be a workshop where students get help from teachers. It lets teachers teach, and students learn at their own pace. But importantly, the philosophy behind the Khan Academy strategy is "expect failure, demand mastery" -- failure is NOT penalized, but getting 70% on a lesson quiz means you don't move on to the next lesson. The lessons are about learning, not bureaucratic testing regimes. Again, reconfiguring our education system will take enormous amounts of work, but fortunately, we have plenty of unemployed people that want to work. All it takes is the right financing flows. And that's what my 30 Million Jobs Tour is about.

    There's plenty of sun to grow these ecosystems of innovation. We have the know-how. But the river of capital that can enable and scale these models is being held back by three major barriers: man-made levies of bank, tax and trade policy auctioned off by our bought election system. We, in our Greedy Bastards behavior are creating these gates and in the process are holding back the flow of capital by incentivizing credit speculation, job outsourcing, and corrupt pricing on almost every major U.S. service. We auction tax benefits and subsidies through the money and political system to ensure that. But this too is a choice. We will also show in this tour the fights in our electoral and political process, the gerrymandering and corruption, the noble activism and citizen work to get money out of politics.

    By using our values of shared visibility, integrity and choice we can achieve aligned interests and demand real, comprehensive trade, tax and bank reform to break down those barriers. And in the process, we will unleash a flow of investments to irrigate these cradles of innovation and yield solutions to our problems while building millions of jobs for America.

    Join us, as we explore this fascinating place called America. It is brimming with potential. And it is us.

  • Dylan at the KPCC/Crawford Family Forum in Los Angeles

    The Greedy Bastards tour continues, and Tuesday night was a great one. LA’s KPCC Radio & the Crawford Family Forum held a talk, which was co-hosted by the nice folks at Rarebird Lit.  Not only was the conversation one of the most extensive and in-depth we’ve had so far on Greedy Bastards, they recorded the entire conversation, which you can listen to up top or download here.

    Also fun: here are some photos from the event. If  you want to check out the full set or share there, they’re over on our Facebook page, and on Flickr.

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    Up on stage with the awesome and funny Matthew DeBord.

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    Saying hi to our friend David DeGraw and his beautiful family. (Cute!)

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    The crew at KPCC/Southern California Public Radio – amazing job guys!

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    Friends from @OccupyLA in the house. #miccheck

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    Totally self promotional, sorry. Please buy our book, it’s good.

    Thanks again to everyone we met tonight for the amazing event.  (When do we get to come back?)

     

    Meg Robertson is a digital producer for DylanRatigan.com.

  • Occupy the dream: The mathematics of racism

    by Russell Simmons and Dylan Ratigan

    As we celebrate the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr, it appears we are a far less prejudiced country than we once were.  Individual expressions of racism are less tolerated than ever, we have an African-American president, and African-Americans are increasingly being accepted into executive suites.  Yet when we look closer, we find that Greedy Bastards have rebranded racism and made it acceptable again, by calling it “the war on drugs.”

    These statistics compiled by New York Times columnist Charles Blow and author Michelle Alexander (author of "The New Jim Crow") are mind-blowing.

    • Since 1971, there have been more than 40 million arrests for drug-related offenses.  Even though blacks and whites have similar levels of drug use, blacks are ten times as likely to be incarcerated for drug crimes.
    • ·"There are more blacks under correctional control today -- in prison or jail, on probation or parole -- than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began."
    • "As of 2004, more African American men were disenfranchised (due to felon disenfranchisement laws) than in 1870, the year the Fifteenth Amendment was ratified prohibiting laws that explicitly deny the right to vote on the basis of race."
    • In 2005, 4 out of 5 drug arrests were for possession not trafficking, and 80% of the increase in drug arrests in the 1990s was for marijuana.
    • There are 50,000 arrests for low-level pot possession a year in New York City, representing one out of every seven cases that turn up in criminal courts.  Most of these arrested are black and Hispanic men.

    Civil Rights leader Ben Chavis and Russell Simmons explain why African-Americans are ten times more likely to be incarcerated for drug crimes.

    Why is this happening, when personal prejudice is so much less common, medicinal marijuana initiatives routinely pass around the country, and illicit drug use is accepted enough that Steve Jobs could praise psychedelic drugs as key to his creative success at Apple? 

    The modern drug war in politics can be traced back to political operative named Clifford White, an advisor to Barry Goldwater, who recognized that there were votes to be had in the backlash against the civil rights movement.  From the 1970s to the 1990s, the war on drugs became convenient code for politicians who wanted to appeal to certain working class white voters with coded racist appeals.  President Reagan used this political support to escalate the war on drugs.   

    A federal law passed in 1986 allowed law enforcement agencies to seize drug money, and use it to supplement their budgets.  Grabbing cash connected to drugs meant that police departments could buy more tools and training.   Like the fee-for-service model in medicine, that pays doctors for performing procedures, not for making people healthier, the “forfeiture laws” effectively pay the police departments for making busts – not for reducing the drug trade.  

    In fact, if the war on drugs was ever won, it would be a financial disaster for law enforcement.  There's so much dirty money funding law enforcement agencies that now, according to NPR, some police departments have become "addicted to drug money.

    The second significant institutional incentive is of more recent origin, though it too has its beginnings in the Reagan era - the development of for-profit prison companies and their vast lobbying and political apparatus.

    Prisoners now manufacture and assemble products for Microsoft, Starbucks, Victoria's Secret, Boeing, as well as body armor for soldiers and handcuff cases for law enforcement officers. In 2007, taxpayers spent $74 billion on prisons, with the largest percentage increase of prisoners going to for-profit prison companies.

    The Justice Policy Institute noted that these companies make more money through longer prison sentences, but you don't need a report from a nonprofit group to know that.  Just look at their own investor reports.  The Corrections Corporation of America, the largest for-profit prison company in the country, lists as a business risk in its 10K to the SEC "any changes with respect to drugs and controlled substances or illegal immigration could affect the number of persons arrested, convicted, and sentenced, thereby potentially reducing demand for correctional facilities to house them."  CCA also told investors it would make less money if there were lower minimum sentences and more eligibility for inmates for early release for good behavior. 

    Putting people in jail and keeping them there is good for business.  So that's what these companies lobby for.  According to the Justice Policy Institute, these companies "have contributed $835,514 to federal candidates and over $6 million to state politicians. They have also spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on direct lobbying efforts."  They are large donors to state-based think tanks like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), who market harsh immigration, drug laws, and prison privatization laws to state level politicians around the country.  While the rationale is no longer outright bigotry, the net effect, in terms of stripping millions of blacks of political and economic rights, is the same.

    This is the face of racism today.  It isn't the racist sheriff in Alabama turning hoses and dogs onto protesters, or the all-white development or country club, but the smooth lobbyist and campaign contributor discussing the efficiency of private prison initiatives or the politician too cowardly to act on decriminalizing marijuana for fear of antagonizing a powerful lobby.  It’s racism, Greedy-Bastards-style.

    What’s the alternative?  David Kennedy, the director of the Center for Crime Prevention and Control at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, has highlighted a very simple common sense approach known as hotspotting.  He advocates for sitting down the gang members that perpetrate most of the violence, police, prosecutors, and community leaders to talk about their shared problems and the consequences of crime.  Such an approach has dramatically reduced homicide rates in Boston and Chicago, and across the country.  Yet these programs and programs like them with proven success in reducing crime are the first to go on the chopping block, because they don't provide the budgetary incentive that forfeiture laws do.

    Today, the march for civil rights isn't about convincing Americans that racism is wrong. It is about getting money out of politics, so that the profit from institutional racism is eliminated.  The Supreme Court's decision in Plessy v. Ferguson saying "separate but equal" has been trumped by the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, eliminating all restrictions on corporate cash in politics. 

    If we are to honor Dr. King, let us make this our generation's cause.  It won't be an easy fight, but as he said, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice."

  • Dylan on Morning Joe with Joe, Mika and Willie

    MSNBC's Dylan Ratigan joins Morning Joe to discuss his new book "Greedy Bastard$", which discusses the need to get money out of politics. Ratigan is also planning a tour of the U.S. to look at the unemployment crisis, and he's launched a nonprofit aimed at passing a 28 Constitutional amendment to separate business and state.

     

    Dylan stopped by MSNBC’s Morning Joe this morning.  Kicking off with Dylan’s famous summer rant of 2010, which Joe Scarborough compared to “the shot at Lexington — it started the war!”

    As Dylan explained, “the bottom line of the book is very simple — we’re at a point where people are seeing a lot of the symptoms of the disfunction.  Whatever your point of view is, the electoral system is not really reflecting a healthy way to solve problems in this country.  It’s gerrymandered, the primary system is closed, you know better than anyone Joe — and the role of money,” said Dylan.

    “All I was trying to do — and it was very simple — try to define the problems in the core issues we depend on.  Banking, trade, energy, health,  education, these sorts of things. Then, make it clear that there are already  people fixing these problems.  We’re in a situation where if we understand what the problem is, you can solve it.”

  • Ratigan appears on Maddow Show

     

    Dylan Ratigan sat down with his MSNBC colleague Rachel Maddow on Monday night  to offer his expertise on the "Greedy Bastards!" in politics for the Rachel Maddow Show.

    In examining the GOP presidential field, Maddow had three things to say about the front-running contender Mitt Romney.

    "Mitt Romney: zillionaire, son of zillionaire, father to zillionaires."

    Ratigan, in promoting his book "Greedy Bastards! How we can stop Corporate Communists, Banksters, and other Vampires from sucking America dry" that has finally reached bookshelves, told Maddow she needed to amp up her critiques.

    "You can afford to be significantly more brutal," Ratigan said. "We do ourselves a disservice when we play too much to the heroes and the villains because the destruction of Mitt Romney, or the ascendance of Mitt Romney, won't save you and me."

  • "Greedy Bastards" launches into orbit!

     - 

    It's official!  MSNBC's Dylan Ratigan has launched his first book, Greedy Bastards, and the buzz for Ratigan's narrative on fixing America's economy is already gaining steam on day one, climbing the top seller lists with the major online retailers.

    It all began yesterday morning on NBC’s Today Show, where Dylan talked about the New Hampshire primaries, and why money in politics means that America is not getting the debate it deserves.

    “We have yet to have a single Presidential candidate who – with the exception, perhaps a little bit of Ron Paul and a little bit from John Huntsman – but really it’s not happened,” said Ratigan said to NBC’s Ann Curry.

    “No one has explained to the American people why it is that our banking, trade and tax code prevent money from being invested into the innovations in everything this country needs in energy, health, innovation and infrastructure.  Instead, our trade, tax and bank policies – all three of those things, which control the flow of money to America or from America — those policies are basically removing that money, and the jobs as a result,” he said.

    Bloomberg View published an article by Dylan on their front page, where he describes solutions to reform the banking system.  That was followed up by an article by The New Republic's Noam Schieber, detailing Dylan's plan to put the swaps market on an open exchange.

    Dylan also made the rounds at MSNBC, visiting The Rachel Maddow Show to talk about the corrupting influence of money in our political system, and whether or not any of the GOP candidates "get it" when it comes to restructuring our economy to create the thirty million jobs we need.

    And one last thing in case you missed it: check out the cover story from this week’s New York Observer – Teddy Roosevelt! (I guess that makes all of us rough riders!)

    Tuesday night, Dylan will join Deepak Chopra and Arianna Huffington to discuss electoral reform at Deepak Homebase.  That conversation will stream live at DylanRatigan.com beginning at 7 PM ET.

    Also, be sure to check out GreedyBastards.com for more info on the book and follow Dylan on twitter at @DylanRatigan.

     



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  • Why this election feels wrong

     - 

    Tomorrow night, we'll see returns from the New Hampshire primary, the second contest in the Republican Presidential nomination. Most people think of this as an election, where voters go to the polls and select their preferred candidate. But I believe, and an increasing number of viewers believe, that our political system has become an auction in which the highest bidder wins.

    If something about this election feels wrong to you, you're not alone. Here are 10 headlines about the political process that show why we need to end the auction by getting money out of politics.  

    1) The candidate with more money wins: From OpenSecrets.org on the 2008 elections: "In 93 percent of House of Representatives races and 94 percent of Senate races that had been decided by mid-day Nov. 5, 2008 the candidate who spent the most money ended up winning."

    2) Congress's main job is to raise money, not govern: A political director at a PAC shared this on Quora: "Here is a general rule of thumb for US House incumbents. They need to raise roughly $10,000 a week started the day they are elected."

    3) 48 percent say most members of Congress are corrupt: A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that 48 percent of "likely U.S. voters" believe that most members of Congress are corrupt. Just 28 percent disagree, and another 24 percent are not sure.

    4) Voters think that cash is king: A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Thursday indicates that 86 percent of the public thinks elected officials in the nation's capital are mostly influenced by the pressure they receive from campaign contributors.

    5) No trust in elected officials: According to Pew Research, less than 25 percent of people believe they can trust our government at all, particularly our elected officials.

    6) Outsider movements are quickly co-opted: According to Open Secrets, Tea Party House Members are even wealthier than other GOP lawmakers.

    7) Faith in all institutions is collapsing:

    • 83% say of American adults say they have less trust in "politics in general" than they did 10 or 15 years ago;
    • 79% say they have less trust in big business and major corporations;
    • 78% say they have less trust in government;
    • 72% report declining trust in the media.
    • A surprising majority, 54%, "believe that my freedoms are being taken away."

    Pew Research confirms this.

    8) People don't like horse race coverage.  Meanwhile, distrust in media reaches an all-time high. (Coincidence?)

    9) Cash determines voting. What shaped the House vote on the proposed Keystone Pipeline? Oil industry lobbying.  Writes environmentalist Bill McKibben on TomDispatch of The Nation Institute: "Within minutes of the vote, Oil Change International had calculated that the 234 Congressional representatives who voted aye had received $42 million in campaign contributions from the fossil-fuel industry; the 193 nays, $8 million." 

    10) The middle class is collapsing.

    As we watch our way of life change radically, as we see our great country consumed by corruption and greed, we must have our own debates about what to do. You won't find these discussions in our presidential debates, dominated as they are by money that separates the voters from their candidates with a wall of cash. That's why those contests feel so empty.

    The debates we need are the ones happening around tables all over the country. They're the ones I seek to host on my show. And they're the ones I wrote my book to support, offering a guide to this country's structural problems -- and solutions.

    I'm profoundly hopeful about where these debates can take us, because I'm not the only one who wants a better way. We all do. And together, we'll make that better way a reality.

    Dylan Ratigan, host of msnbc's "The Dylan Ratigan Show," discusses his new book, "Greedy Bastards: How We Can Stop Corporate Communists, Banksters, and Other Vampires from Sucking America Dry."

     

    Want to learn even more? I go in depth in my new book "Greedy Bastards."  Read an excerpt of the book.

About The Dylan Ratigan Show
Dylan Ratigan is the host of msnbc's "The Dylan Ratigan Show," an opinion and analysis-fueled daily broadcast program airing weekdays at 4pm on MSNBC. Ratigan also writes regularly for the Huffington Post and produces one of America's most insightful and provocative podcast's "Radio Free Dylan" and dylanratigan.com.
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Dylan's new book

Infuriated by government corruption and corporate communism, incensed by banksters shaking down taxpayers, and despairing of an ailing health care system, an age-old dependency on foreign oil, and a failing educational system, Dylan Ratigan sees an America that has allowed itself to be swindled and robbed. Available January 10, 2012! Read an excerpt.