Sunday, December 29, 2019

Carbon capture tech: can 5% of GDP cool the world?


Carbon capture technology: practicably end global warming – even reverse it -- for 5% of GDP with a reasonably lo-tech process – once the price to gets down to $100 a ton?

According to a Businessweek article, worldwide we add 34 billion tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere every year.  Said article says Squamish Engineering, in B.C., Canada expects to launch a plant that will remove a million tons a year, located somewhere in the Permian Basin in Texas.   Squamish says it can do this for $200 a ton. 

My back-of-the-envelope calculates that, when the price reaches $100 a ton, then, worldwide we can keep cool for $3.4 trillion a year – less than 5% of world GDP.  US kick-in about one trillion – out of $20 trillion GDP.  That figure would grow as US economy grows – but: for every trillion of growth only additional $50 billion would go for removal, leaving us $950 billion ahead: set for the life of the planet.
(closest link I could find)  https://www.magzter.com/article/Business/Bloomberg-Businessweek/A-Big-Step-for-the-Sky-Vacuums

Even if we could switch worldwide to 50% renewables today, that might only be fulfill 5% of needs 100 years from now when growing prosperity and populations might require 10X more.  Can we really expect to do that much with sun and wind?

The latter is why I thought at first that mostly nuclear was the only way to go – the physics anyway; wouldn’t want to think about the economic and  (mostly?) political barriers.  Then, I read there may not be enough water available in the whole world for the massive hydro needs of reactors – and that is only at 2020’s level of power needs.
https://prospect.org/greennewdeal/the-tantalizing-nuclear-mirage/

Thermonuclear?  50 years from now?  Same econ and pol barriers?

“For two potentially powerful NETs—direct air capture and bioenergy with carbon capture—it’s not enough just to capture CO2. The substance must also be stored. … deep geological formations with the necessary rock characteristics are sprinkled around the globe. In total, they could hold more than 2 trillion t of CO2 … ”  That’s about enough room for 60 years of CO2 output at today’s level.  I would assume less than ideal rock will be available or be discovered – plenty of time. 
https://cen.acs.org/environment/greenhouse-gases/Capturing-carbon-save-us/97/i8

Can we essentially pull all the entire atmosphere through carbon capture plants?  Plausible.  Another Businessweek article depicts species of tree that grows fully in 10 years and can remove 103 tons of carbon per acre per year.   My calculation that amounts to half a million square miles of planting to remove today's carbon creation.  Carbon capture plants should be able to interface the same volume of air I would think.
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2019-08-02/we-already-have-the-world-s-most-efficient-carbon-capture-technology

Thing is: no impossible (?) political hassles trying to get everyone to switch over to renewable/nuclear -- no radical disruption of econ/pol fabric needed.  Assuming capture can work, just develop technology as fast as possible and put it to work as fast as it finally gets through to all that we don’t want 120 degrees in the shade in the winter in Chicago – no longer any motivational deficits when we reach some point along the Celsius/Fahrenheit scales.  And assuming it works, we can potentially even dial the temperature back, if we want to badly enough.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Workable way to implement Bernies plan to wipe out a trillion in student debt


A way to implement Bernie’s plan for the federal government to wipe out all student debt. How to transition to a European like college loan system: 25 years to pay off — income based — then, forgive for any amount left. The kind of system we should have had in the first place.

Simple: fed gov offers to pay off any college loan amount that you owe — in exchange you agree to take on the European style loan setup. For people just out of school the exchange would be simple — straight forward trade of debt. How to handle people, say, twelve years out of school, who have of have not kept up their original payments, it will take a national conversation to sort out different situations.

The loan switching scheme avoids some of the problems with graduates who have kept up their payments objecting to simple loan wipe out for graduates who have not.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Three steps to Medicare for all


Three steps to Medicare for all:

-- make all health insurers nonprofit,
-- make all insurance plans offer the same benefits,
-- or the other way around;

-- phase in government covering premiums over 10 years, so employees can gradually reconstruct contracts with their employers to compensate for lost benefit remuneration;

-- phase in 50-75% (hopefully) labor union density,
-- coupled with sector wide contracts,
-- to see to it that gradually dropping benefit remuneration is actually compensated for.
(hint) https://onlabor.org/why-not-hold-union-representation-elections-on-a-regular-schedule/
 * * * * * *

How to relieve college loan burden sensibly to most peoples' taste: government pays off your loan and issues you a new loan for the same amount -- to be paid off at some share of income (or whatever scheme; examples in Europe) over 25 years -- after which balance forgiven.  Anybody objects to subsidizing better off, just say all grammar school, high school ed covered by state; college you have to pay for most or all of.

Bonus: make credit scores forget old college loan defaults, once gov covers?

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Should America take in a million Kurdish refugees?


Should  America take in a million Kurdish refugees?

After the Vietnam war, over a million refugees fled communist retribution -- not just rule.  The new regime shot 130,000 collaborators and put over 300,000 in re-education camps, mostly for three to ten years.  Half a million Viets ended up here or in Canada.

https://www.amazon.com/Better-War-Unexamined-Victories-Americas-ebook/dp/B003ZX86AA/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=a+better+war+lewis&link_code=qs&qid=1571709561&sourceid=Mozilla-search&sr=8-1
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Re-education_camp_(Vietnam)

The book by the last western journalist to spend years in Syria, Sam Dagher, Assad Or We Burn the Country, makes Saddam Hussein  look like a Catholic saint in comparison.  Syrian president Bashar Assad systematically carpet bombs his own country from to end for eight years now, putting down dissent and/or rebellion one non-combatant/combatant at a time -- even sending in death squads following capitulations to kill medical personnel who treated the wounded or males old and young at random or any other category that occurs, even to looting and burning the locale's homes -- year in, year out.
https://www.amazon.com/Assad-We-Burn-Country-Destroyed/dp/0316556726/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=Assad+Or+We+Burn+the+Country&link_code=qs&qid=1571757249&sourceid=Mozilla-search&sr=8-1

God help the captured ISIS fighters if the Syrian army gets to them first -- we wont have to worry about what they are going to do to us.

Ditto for the Kurds who enter government controlled territory?  The more you understand Assad, the less you'd be surprised at any but the darkest mayhem.

Taking in a mass of Kurds be a perpetually embarrassing immigration issue to shove up the Donald's "nose."

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Two X nothing = nothing


Bernie Sanders Sets a Goal: Double Union Membership in 4 Years
"...would allow a majority of workers to form a union simply by signing authorization cards, rather than winning a secret ballot election ... "
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/21/us/politics/2020-democrats-iowa-labor-unions.html

The Big Squeeze (2008), Steven Greenhouse
Loc 504  “Ultimately, officials with the steelworkers say, 60 percent of Landis’s [plastic] production workers signed union support cards.”

Loc 694  “A far higher percentage of workers were immigrants, from Latin America, Vietnam, Bosnia, and Sudan. Kathy calculated that of the more than one hundred workers who had signed pro-union cards two years earlier, only fifteen remained.”

Lot of good card check going to do there.

Greenhouse, later in the book (I'm about a third through), presents Fed-X Ground drivers as making only $25,000-35,000 a year, compared to $60,000 for UPS (Teamster Union) drivers.  Amazon gig drivers may now be absorbing those jobs.  Supermarket jobs were middle class jobs pre Walmat, pre two-tier labor contracts.

Even having a union not much help there.
 * * * * * *

Two X  nothing = nothing.  Bernie will double 6.5% private (non-gov) union density?  13% union?  40 percent of workforce under $15/hr – what min wage should be.  Min marks what highest labor firms can pay (e.g., 25% labor costs fast food) – most businesses could pay substantially more.  13% unions going to help them a lot.

I used to think centralized bargaining was the magic bullet.  On second thought not sure how much influence 13% can have over 87%, especially if union density remains as concentrated locally as is -- not in an anti-labor culture like ours.

Centralized be a great clean up hitter if we got 25% certified unions.  Sector wide agreements would be the icing on the cake if we got 50-75% certified.

I used to think centralized bargaining would be the magic bullet until I came across Andy Strom’s:
https://onlabor.org/why-not-hold-union-representation-elections-on-a-regular-schedule/
 * * * * * *

“The new Data for Progress poll ... Trump’s favorability among the 215 Obama-Trump swing district voters who were surveyed is 71 percent—35 points ahead of Biden’s. And of all respondents, 45 percent view Trump very favorably, compared with only 4 percent who say the same for Biden.  (my bold)

https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2019/08/obama-trump-voters-like-trump-not-biden.html

They may not be coming back.  Return to Obama days they implicitly rejected with Trump?  Come up with something new -- like regular cret/recert/decert elections.

Bound to draw bipartisan support in post 2020 Senate.


ADDENDUM
"It's pretty clear that Amazon reducing its dependence on USPS, UPS, and FedEx and moving more in-house for its logistics explains a big part of that volume drop (at USPS)," Morningstar consumer equity strategist R.J. Hottovy told Business Insider.
https://www.businessinsider.com/amazon-fedex-first-usps-volume-drop-2019-8

https://www.amazon.com/Big-Squeeze-Tough-American-Worker/dp/1400044898/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1567021444&sr=8-2

Saturday, August 10, 2019

MY TWO NOTES TO Alexia Fernández Campbell


Re: Democrats tried to win over working-class voters. But they ignored their biggest worry.
https://www.vox.com/2019/7/31/20748003/democratic-debate-2020-working-class-voters-issues

(8/1)
"When you take inflation into account, workers’ real wages only grew about 1.3 percent over the past year."

Just a reminder: we don't need 3% raises -- we realistically need more like 100% raises (on average). If fast food can pay $15/hr with 25% labor costs, then, Walgreen's and Target can pay $20/hr with 15% labor costs, and, Walmart can pay $15/hr ($1,000/wk!) with 7% labor costs.

And don't forget centralized bargaining, a.k.a., sector wide labor agreements -- widely used in continental Europe, French Canada and, I believe, even in Argentina and Indonesia (once we get the unions in).

Now if the rest of the supposed (well meaning anyway) progressive class would just catch on.  ;-)

************************************************
(8/2)
More on doubling (on average) the pay of the lower 40%.

Just as with minimum wage, people auto associate hiking lower 40% wages with job loss -- predicting lessening of (what-I-call) 59% demand.  But, doubling lower 40% income share (at loss of 14% of mid-59% income) doubles 40% demand.  Upshot: no loss of overall demand.  Examples: higher end restaurant businesses may suffer when lower wage labor gets large raises -- but IHOP parking should get more crowded.
 * * * * * *

More on centralized bargaining.

Before I lucked into Andrew Strom's regularly scheduled cert/recert/decert proposal* the "magic bullet" I was pushing was sector wide labor agreements.  The big idea was that Congress could impose on whole industries any labor contract negotiated where the few unions already existed.  Of course, it might have been a stretch to impose agreements from 7% private (non gov) unions to the other 93% of firms.

Centralized will be a great clean up hitter if we got 25% certified unions.  Sector wide agreements would be the icing on the cake if we got 50-75% certified.
 

* https://onlabor.org/why-not-hold-union-representation-elections-on-a-regular-schedule/

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Our 95% nuclear/thermonuclear future


Even if we could produce 50% of today's world energy needs with renewables (sun, wind, water power) -- IOW even if we could produce as much renewable power as we are ever likely to produce -- that would only amount to 5% of the power the world will need 100 years from now when we will need 10X as much (think all rich countries, population growth).

A 95% nuclear future is the only way to go -- adding on thermonuclear when we get there.  Thermonuclear will be a along time -- similar to applying steam power to transport and manufacturing.  It took a lot of very able people 200 years to bring steam along from pumping water out of coal mines to riding on rails.  May take 50 years for equivalent progress in thermo.

Meantime there may realistically be 1000 times the proven reserves of uranium out there.  Doesn't take much -- a pound of nuclear fuel provides as much power as 200,000 pounds of coal.  Ditto may even be extracted from the oceans (like thermo's deuterium).

The Japanese reactor disaster was easily avoided.  They only had to to keep their backup power supply high up enough to not be swamped by a tsunami -- which they were warned could happen.  Nobody died on Three Mile Island.  The Russian meltdown doesn't count for us.  Earth civilization is going to self-incinerate if we don't go nuclear -- totally.

Disposing of spent fuel: how many coal mines or salt mines, etc., have we dug while waiting to dig a few uranium sites?

That's the physics of it -- can't imagine how we will handle the politics and economics of it -- 95% nuclear/thermonuclear or bust.

The book you want to read (I could only read about half -- too technical in parts) is: The Future of Fusion Energy by Jason Parisi and Justine Ball.
https://www.amazon.com/Future-Fusion-Energy-Popular-Science-ebook/dp/B07MYTCRNS/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=The+Future+of+Fusion+Energy&qid=1564161981&s=books&sr=1-1

For the histoy of steam among other power sources, check out: Energy: A Human History by Richard Rhodes (Pulitzer Prize winning  author of Th Making of the Atomic Bomb).
https://www.amazon.com/Energy-Human-History-Richard-Rhodes/dp/1501105353/ref=sr_1_2?keywords=Energy%3A+A+Human+History&qid=1564162033&s=books&sr=1-2

Monday, July 1, 2019

Max wage extract at 25/15/7% labor costs firms -- ask the 40/50/60%


Most would agree that a minimum wage should extract the max consumers will pay -- which fits mostly at highest labor costs/low wage firms (e.g., 25% labor cost, Burger King).

Allowing that, why should consumers be spared, for years, paying as much as minimum wage labor is really worth to them -- why so many multi-year steps up to the bottom of the barrel?

Most should also agree that employees at lower labor costs businesses (e.g., 15% labor costs Walgreen's and Target; 7% costs Walmart) should equally be able to extract the max from consumers.  Why should we desire a different standard of wage setting for different labor cost levels -- or because maxing labor's take results in $20/25 hourly wages instead of $15 -- kind of arbitrary, no?

Collective bargaining: is there any other way for the 40/50/60% to recoup their long lost living wages?  40% today earn less hourly than what the minimum wage should be -- $15 -- most substantially less.
https://content.fortune.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/workers-by-demographic-group.png

If, early in American labor history, we laid down truly efficacious federal protections for collective bargaining rights, then, starting a couple of generations ago, it would have been much tougher for ownership to begin (illegally) dismantling, door jam by door jam, our former labor union superstructure (down to -7% private union density).

Too late for such laws now.  Institute card check, fines that are more than the cost of doing business, Canadian seriousness implementation NLRB orders -- and in ten years American labor unions might crawl back to 15% density -- never know.  Think of those interchangeable workers at Target and Walgreen's: think most are ready and eager to hit the picket lines?  The testosterone premium (ask my old, 1970, 804 Teamsters or today's CTU) is not universally on tap.  We need more like 50-75% unions to take our country back from the billionaire state -- same total campaign finance and most of the votes (plus lobbying critical mass to tackle every issue from drug prices to student loans).

Two inequality-menders management cannot disrupt or discombobulate -- two laws: minimum wage laws and regularly scheduled, by law, union cert/re-cert/de-cert elections.

Why Not Hold Union Representation Elections on a Regular Schedule?
Andrew Strom — November 1st, 2017
"Republicans in Congress have already proposed a bill [*] that would require a new election in each unionized bargaining unit whenever, through turnover, expansion, or merger, a unit experiences at least 50 percent turnover.  While no union would be happy about expending limited resources on regular retention elections, I think it would be hard to turn down a trade that would allow the 93% of workers who are unrepresented to have a chance to opt for unionization on a regular schedule."
[*] https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/2723/text
https://onlabor.org/why-not-hold-union-representation-elections-on-a-regular-schedule/

What kills me: Andy Strom's proposal could potentially leave every other campaign topic in its center-of-attention dust and serve up Democrats a guaranteed 2020 big win -- but nobody even takes a poll.  Ask the 40/50/60%.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Chicago's crime and violence problem is a federal problem, requiring a federal solution


Chicago's crime and violence problem is a federal problem (?!) -- requiring a federal solution.  The federal problem is a 40 year history of toothless labor protection (the NLRA) which has turned the USA into a labor union desert.  The only practical solution to ubiquitous (as in universal) union busting is regularly scheduled, union cert-recert-decert elections at every private workplace.  Not my idea:
https://onlabor.org/why-not-hold-union-representation-elections-on-a-regular-schedule/

It would be a clean up political issue for the Democrats: giving people their power back.  


Ask the 40% lowest income folks.  Would the employees of Target and Walgreen's for instance (economics aside, good places to work) love to be able to establish a union as easily as applying for a business license; no impossible gauntlet to run (or even a little gauntlet).  They'd give their eye teeth.

Another good crew to ask about this might be today's gig workers, who tend to have more middle class ideas if not bread.  Returning the economic and political power to control their lives again should be an automatic campaign sell.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

If you have four flats -- meaning the NLRA -- you need a new set of tires


Scenario:  Bottom 40% earners double wages (on average) through collective bargaining (some 50% more, most 100%, some 150%).  Bottom 40% labor averages 15% of production costs.  Doubling wages adds 15% to consumer prices – which bites off 15% of sales – before we factor in new sales from the newly flush 40%.
 

Common sense dictates that bottom 40ers spend proportionately more of their income buying bottom 40er made products – and (what I call) the mid 59% spend proportionately less on 40er prods.  Let’s make that spread 20/10%.  (We won’t concern ourselves with the top 1% here.)

85% of previous sales retained.  Extra 10% sales from the doubled half of wages (with 15% fewer jobs) adds 8.5%.  Sales retained = 93.5%.  (Sales actually cascade up a bit from there as added jobs add jobs – but just a bit of eighth-grade math mind candy.)

To make sure we are not picking a sweet spot scenario:
 -- 10% sales lost to higher prices – 20/10% spending spread – 90% + 9% = 99% sales retained.
 -- 15% sales lost to higher prices – 40/20% spending spread – 85% + 17% = 102% sales retained.
 -- 10% sales lost to higher prices – 40/20% spending spread – 90% + 18% = 108% sales retained.  (Thinking Card and Krueger anyone?)

Most of American labor can no longer reach their sweet spots.  The bottom 40% is never going to reach them by being interchangeable workers in interchangeable jobs. 
 * * * * * *

There’s all ways to do things. 

In Mexico -- you cannot hire scabs: "when a union officially declares a strike, ‘a workplace cannot be opened.’"
https://onlabor.org/todays-news-commentary-march-4-2019/  (last item)

Interesting article on the ways Japanese labor law differentiates between employees and independent contractors – more by income level.
https://onlabor.org/employees-or-independent-contractors-insights-from-japan/

In continental Europe, French Canada, Argentina and Indonesia, everybody doing the same kind of work in the same geographic locale may work under a single (sector wide) labor contract – union and non union employees together – thwarting the race-to-the-bottom before it starts.
 * * * * * *

The only sure way to restore American labor union density to a healthy level – up from today's pathologically depressed 7% in private (non-gov) employment:
Why Not Hold Union Representation Elections on a Regular Schedule?  Andrew Strom — November 1st, 2017

"Republicans in Congress have already proposed a bill that would require a new election in each [private] unionized bargaining unit whenever, through turnover, expansion, or merger, a unit experiences at least 50 percent turnover.  While no union would be happy about expending limited resources on regular retention elections, I think it would be hard to turn down a trade that would allow the 93% of workers who are unrepresented to have a chance to opt for unionization on a regular schedule." 
https://onlabor.org/why-not-hold-union-representation-elections-on-a-regular-schedule/


When you have a flat tire, you fix it; when you have four flats you need a new set of tires.  Forty-plus years of busting American unions under the unwatchful eye of the National Labor Relations Act demands a radically new return path to collective bargaining: skip organizing in private workplaces altogether; go straight to regularly scheduled union certification elections.  Nothing less looks plausibly workable.  Ask the 40%.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

See US Labor market from bottom up -- a syllogism in four parts


If America’s highest labor costs firms (low pay type – not medical) could afford to fork over $15/hr wages (practical example: fast food with 25% labor costs -- $15/hr minimum wage would pump prices about 10% in Chicago where I live – but gotta eat)
 -- and --
if no more than 10% of US labor force works for such highest labor costs businesses (I’d hazard a guess, substantially fewer)
-- and --
if 40% of US workers presently earn less than $15/hr (most, substantially less)
-- then --
at least 30% of our workforce (for sure, substantially more) are receiving punishingly lower wages than consumers would willingly support, were employees able to (collectively) withhold their labor for a better price.
http://fortune.com/2015/04/13/who-makes-15-per-hour/

Remedies for long (illegally) lost bargaining power?

EITC: Shifts 2% of overall income ($70 billion out of $13 trillion) while 40% or our workforce earns 11% of overall income ($1.4 trillion).

Minimum wage(s): If Americans of 1968 could have been foretold that the 2019 fed min wage would be shorter by $5/hr ($12/hr then), what catastrophe could they have conjured up that could lay such waste to future incomes (doubling per capita expected over 50 years, since the industrial revolution): a comet strike, a limited nuclear exchange, multiple world plagues?!   :-O
https://data.bls.gov/cgi-bin/cpicalc.pl?cost1=1.60&year1=196802&year2=201901

(Relatively) strong labor state, Illinois, just raised min wage to $15/hr by 2025.  AP report projects inflation to reduce to $13/hr. 
https://apnews.com/669381ab258541f38439b7a21641b762


Restoring (ever diminishing) labor union density (under 7% private now): One stop shopping: 
Why Not Hold Union Representation Elections on a Regular Schedule?  Andrew Strom — November 1st, 2017

"Republicans in Congress have already proposed a bill that would require a new election in each [private employer] unionized bargaining unit whenever, through turnover, expansion, or merger, a unit experiences at least 50 percent turnover.  While no union would be happy about expending limited resources on regular retention elections, I think it would be hard to turn down a trade that would allow the 93% of workers who are unrepresented to have a chance to opt for unionization on a regular schedule." 
https://onlabor.org/why-not-hold-union-representation-elections-on-a-regular-schedule/

It only dawned on me while writing this, why Strom’s eminently sensible union certifying proposal – politically perfect, too, for repatriating prodigal blue collar Dems – failed to gain any traction.  Progressives have been looking at this whole inequality thing from the middle class, down – from top, down – where lost collective bargaining power appears but one component in a complex narrative.  Looking from bottom up, the story couldn’t look plainer and simpler, from McDonald’s (25% labor costs) to Target (15%) to Walmart (7%): zero haggling power.

40% -- 50%, 60%, 70% (?) – of our workforce unconscionably underpaid; that’s a helluva bottom.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Why the minimum wage must always be too minimal


It came to me, while eating at McDonald's, that the minimum wage can never be pushed higher than highest labor costs businesses can pay -- like McDonald's.  Meaning the minimum wage can never squeeze out all the pay that lower labor costs businesses can possibly pay -- like Walgreen's, Target or especially Walmart.  Like almost everywhere else.

McDonald's has 25% labor costs;
Walgreen's and Target have 15% labor costs;
Walmart has only 7% labor costs.

If Ronald can pay $15 an hour, then;
big retail stores could pay $20 an hour;
and super efficient Walmart should be able to pay $25 an hour.

Unions are the only way back and here is the only way back to unions that I've ever heard of:
Why Not Hold Union Representation Elections on a Regular Schedule?
Andrew Strom — November 1st, 2017
“Republicans in Congress have already proposed a bill that would require a new election in each [private employer] unionized bargaining unit whenever, through turnover, expansion, or merger, a unit experiences at least 50 percent turnover. While no union would be happy about expending limited resources on regular retention elections, I think it would be hard to turn down a trade that would allow the 93% of workers who are unrepresented to have a chance to opt for unionization on a regular schedule.”
https://onlabor.org/why-not-hold-union-representation-elections-on-a-regular-schedule/

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Where 10% income shift from 1% to 99% could come from


To restore equitable US income share, 10% of overall income needs to be snatched away from top 1% earners and restored to the lower 99% (1% takes 20% today): $13 trillion over a decade.

Jeff Stein's Washington Post column suggests a road to half way there:
"1. $720 billion/decade: Ocasio-Cortez’s suggestion for nearly doubling taxes on people earning more than $10 million;"
"2. $3 trillion/decade: A wealth tax on the top 1 percent similar to those in Europe;"
"3. $3 trillion/decade: Doubling income taxes on the top 1 percent."  (multiple angles)
http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2019/01/05/ocasio-cortez-wants-higher-taxes-very-rich-americans-heres-how-much-money-could-that-raise/

The other half of the lost 10% could be repatriateable via repairing atrophied labor union density (6.5% in private employment and dropping!) -- empowering employees to once again divvy up a decent share of the profit pie with ownership.  Illegal (in case we've forgotten) union busting has become so deeply embedded in our (not European) labor market DNA that we seem compelled to skip -- to forget about -- old fashioned organizing.  The road left: side-step to Congressionally mandated, regularly scheduled union certification elections?
https://onlabor.org/why-not-hold-union-representation-elections-on-a-regular-schedule


 * * * * * *
[late note]  Constitutional question about fed tax on wealth?  Apparently we can get pretty much the same 2% of wealth revenue from roughly the same people with an income tax surcharge of 20% on income above $50 million.  Income tends to be pretty regularly 10% of wealth for this group.  (graph provided)
https://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2019/01/heres-how-to-enact-a-wealth-tax-that-the-supreme-court-wont-kill/


Wednesday, December 19, 2018

The Gila Monster versus The Gilead Monster


Halting or seriously slowing the until now inexorable progression of Parkinson's disease may hopefully be in the offing.  Two  trials -- phase one, open label (2013) and phase two, double blind (2017) -- found no worsening of motor ability after one year for treated groups.

The potentially Parkinson's stabilizing drug, Exenatide (Byetta, Bydureon), along with similar GLP-1 drugs, has been widely used for managing Type II diabetes.  For diabetics, Exenatide increases insulin and cuts glucose proportionately to how much they eat (the smart drug) and slows digestion -- mimicking a hormone already existing in their bloodstreams (therefore tending to few side effects) but lasting hours or days instead of minutes.  And as the TV commercials say: they might even lose a little weight.

My personal experience with Byetta and Bydureon was losing 50 pounds in 50 weeks without effort -- needed to lose 100 -- keeping my A1C (blood sugar) level at 5.7 (very good) and, after five years, going into remission.  The latter is relatively unusual.

Exenatide was developed in the Bronx VA, by endocrinologist Dr. John Eng. The story of how he extracted the possibly twice-useful molecule from the saliva of a Gila monster (pronounced "Hila") is here:
http://www.mendosa.com/monster.htm

Beautiful blow-up of a fat Gila monster pictured here:
https://scienceofparkinsons.com/2018/06/13/exenatide/

Two miracles for the price of one.
  * * * * * *

From Gila Monster to Gilead monster: whence through the roof pricing of another miracle drug has a less happy ending.  Harvoni (Sovaldi + laedipasvir), a 95-99% cure for Hepatitis C, is kept out of patient circulation for all but the most sick by piratical pricing: starting out at $94,000 for a 12 week treatment -- that costs a few hundred dollars to manufacture -- dropping off maybe half as copy cat competition looms.
https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/the-quest-84000-miracle-cure-costs-less-than-150-to-make/

Sovaldi was developed by VA
organic medicinal chemist , Dr. Raymond Schinazi, working in labs of his own company that he founded, Pharmasset.  Dr. Schinazi had previously developed two front line HIV drugs, lamivudine and emtricitabine, in VA labs, one or the other of which is found in 90% of the combination anti-viral regimens taken by US HIV patients.

Dr. Schinazi worked on salary while leading the research on the two (unpronounceable) HVC prescriptions but profited $446 million (!) on Sovaldi, when his own firm was bought for $11 billion by Gilead.  He proclaims: "There is nothing better than saving lives."  He would exercise his genius for public or private coin.  He says he has nothing to do with Gilead's pricing.

Some least developed countries (LDCs) exercise TRIPS treaty rights to suspend patents in the face of widespread epidemics, such as AIDS or just plain critical public health needs and the impossibility of paying high patent premiums.  This practice is called "compulsory licensing."

Though not many countries have exercised this option with not many drugs -- South Africa, Brazil, Thailand (in 2007 for HIV, cancer, cardio), Ecuador, Indonesia -- so far, the US has not condoned a single instance.
https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/trips_e/public_health_faq_e.htm
http://infojustice.org/archives/39594
https://www.csmonitor.com/2007/0131/p07s02-woap.html

US drug monopolies add up to tariffs for other countries -- and at 1,000 percent or 10,000 percent rates, not 25 percent.  In India Gilead prices Harvoni at just $999 a treatment --  perhaps afraid of what India might do if it tried to price it sky high. 
 * * * * * *

If India and or China (not a compulsory licensing issuer) or any group of countries would like to break American drug monopolies they can simply offer the American public the medicine to wipe out Hep C in a single stroke for a miserly $1 billion (earning themselves a nice hundreds of millions manufacturing profit, assuming similar production costs) -- but US drug patent laws would have to double-reverse their incentives to make it legal to accept the $299 billion saving, and miss out on the years of needlessly spreading disease.

One (of many?) possible revamps: replace US drug patent structure with government funded research on drugs and medical devices -- all new drugs becoming generic.  For already patented drugs, erect a regulated monopoly system similar to electric power distribution models.  Harvoni, for example, having long since paid off Gilead's (not very chancy) $11 billion dollar gamble could be immediately designated generic.

Secretive patent competition slows proliferation of new scientific knowledge -- leads to copy-cat research displacing real pioneering -- or to no effort at all to repurpose existing treatments as patent incentives run down and out.

The Phase Two Parkinson's trial was paid for by the Michael J. Fox Foundation -- AztraZeneca not being particularly interested as its patent was running down.  An effort is now being mounted to support a phase three trial which could lead to connecting this life liberating research with all Parkinson's sufferers.
http://cepr.net/publications/briefings/testimony/drugs-are-cheap-why-do-we-let-governments-make-them-expensive

"Taxpayers — not Big Pharma — have funded the research behind every new drug since 2010"  --   Alexander Zaitchik
https://other98.com/taxpayers-fund-pharma-research-development/

Today the US government funds over $25 billion a year worth of drug research.  Private pharmaceutical firms puts up $50 billion.  Big pharma spends more on advertising than research -- justifying even higher prices to supply "incentive?"
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/02/11/big-pharmaceutical-companies-are-spending-far-more-on-marketing-than-research/?utm_term=.c2e5f3e7b2ad 


How could American politicians explain not taking an offer to one-shot, wipe out Hepatitis C, for a pittance (that it should cost here)?  Would Americans willing face paying Gilead and copy cats $10+ billion a year waiting out patent runs -- as more sufferers come down with Hepatitis and 20,000 a year die -- when there's something they can do about it?
https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2016/p0504-hepc-mortality.html

Dr. Schinazi, whose family hails from Egypt says, "Today they have cured HVC from over 600,000 people using generic and proprietary drugs in Egypt; they are relatively cheap but in those days it was life and death. Everybody wanted that drug, the people lined up for miles trying to get it. Every family in Egypt was affected."
https://pharmaintelligence.informa.com/resources/product-content/where-there-is-a-a-cure-there-ia-controversy

This could be a first-world story too.