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robertogreco : subsidies   11

Beware the ethical car - macwright.org
"On Tuesday, Lyft released a dataset for self-driving car development, along with a blog post. Here’s a snippet:
Avoidable collisions, single-occupant commuters, and vehicle emissions are choking our cities, while infrastructure strains under rapid urban growth.

And that translates to an efficient ecosystem of connected transit, bikes, scooters, and shared rides from drivers as well as self-driving cars. Solving the autonomous vehicle challenge is not just an option — it’s a necessity.

And then the CEO’s quote:
Not only can self-driving tech save two lives every single minute, it is essential to combat climate change by allowing people to ditch their cars for shared electric transportation. Lyft is committed to leading this transportation revolution.

Here’s what’s they’re doing: by co-opting the language of climate change, companies are going to try and make cars ethical.

Evidence so far

We should be wary. First, because ridesharing has already claimed to reduce emissions and traffic congestion, and has done the opposite.

See, Lyft claimed in 2015 that their service harmonized with public transit, rather than competed with it. That didn’t work out. Not only have they stolen trips from public transit, they’ve reduced support for transit and replaced walking & biking trips, too. They’ve increased traffic deaths by 2-3%, while increasing the number of cars on the streets.

Improved cars are a suspiciously convenient change agenda

California, eager to top its subsidy of mansions as blindingly regressive policy, decided to subsidize electric cars to the tune of $7,500 each, in the form of a tax credit. Tax credits, of course, are wealth transfer from some taxpayers to others: and in this case, we’re transferring our money to the deserving buyers of $90,000 sports cars.

That isn’t enough: we also allowed electric cars to drive in HOV lanes for years, until too many did so, traffic built up again, and the perk was removed.

While we subsidize the rich, we subsidize public transit less than almost everywhere else and make a grisly show of cracking down on fare evasion.

Space and selfishness

Lyft links to two articles in their blog post - one to a Washington Post ‘brand studio’ (sponsored, ghostwritten) article, and the other to The Atlantic. The Washington Post article is there to substantiate the climate change claim and here’s the crux of its argument:
Fulton’s analysis found little societal or environmental benefit from driverless vehicles unless they are both electric and shared.

Which brings us to the question of self-driving technology: will it be used for shared, communal transit like public transit works today, or will it be a way for rich people to have private luxury rooms?

All current signs point to the worse scenario. Here’s the carpooling, from the Washington Post article:
Carpooling peaked during the 1970s energy crisis, then dropped to 9 percent in 2014 from 20 percent in 1980.

Here’s what Elon Musk thinks of public transit.
“It’s a pain in the ass,” he continued. “That’s why everyone doesn’t like it. And there’s like a bunch of random strangers, one of who might be a serial killer, OK, great. And so that’s why people like individualized transport, that goes where you want, when you want.”

Would Musk encourage people to carpool in their self-driving Teslas? Do serial killers own Teslas? This hasn’t been an issue so far, because Tesla owners can drive by themselves in carpool lanes.

Or consider how people reacted to increasing vehicle efficiency, and were given the choice: save the environment, or bigger cars?
The global S.U.V. boom is a roadblock in the march toward cleaner cars that has been aided by advances in fuel-saving technology and hybrid or electric vehicles. Compared to smaller cars, S.U.V.s are less efficient, generally by about 30 percent.

*******

Cars are a broken format. We shouldn’t give them a lifeline, or a new coat of paint, and society shouldn’t find a way to assuage the guilt that surrounds them.

Sure, cars should be electric. There are a lot of places in the world where transportation infrastructure isn’t sufficient and cars are the native transportation medium. Maybe they should be self-driving too, if the technology is safer than human drivers. Right now, it isn’t.

But to a large extent this is a zero-sum problem. Ridesharing already has substantially hurt public transit. The blue sky dream of self-driving cars is spawning galaxy-brain reckons like replacing the subway with underground highways, or replacing the subway with tunnels. These dreams are built around selfishness: they always offer private pods flying through space. Hyperloop promotional material portrays it as an alternative to being on the surface, with all those other people.

Avoiding climate catastrophe is obviously necessary, and we should consider all the options. But it’s hard to believe in car-centric solutions that don’t come with a vision of social and cultural change."
cars  carpooling  carsharing  lyft  uber  elonmusk  electriccars  transportation  transit  publictransit  climatechange  technology  technosolutionism  space  selfishness  society  globalwarming  ethics  ridesharing  california  subsidies  policy  highspeedrail  trains  hovlanes  suvs  emissions  hyperloop  tommacwright 
11 weeks ago by robertogreco
Transforming the Fight Against Poverty in India - The New York Times
"Transferring cash to poor families, on the condition that their kids attend school and get vaccinations, has been shown to be an effective way to reduce poverty and improve human health and well-being. Latin America is widely recognized as the pioneer of large-scale conditional transfer programs, starting with Mexico in the late 1990s and expanding across Brazil over the past decade.

Now these programs have the potential for making a serious dent in poverty in India. Under the acronym JAM — Jan Dhan, Aadhaar, Mobile — a quiet revolution of social welfare policy is unfolding. Jan Dhan is Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s flagship program to give poor people access to financial services, including bank accounts, credit and insurance. Aadhaar is the initiative to issue unique biometric identification cards to all Indians. Together with mobile money platforms, they will enable the state to transfer cash directly to those in need — without the money going through intermediaries that might take a cut.

India, the world’s largest democracy, is also the world’s largest poor country. The legitimacy of any elected government turns on its ability to provide for the poor. As such, both our federal and state governments subsidize a wide range of products and services with the expressed intention of making them affordable for the poor: rice, wheat, pulses, sugar, kerosene, cooking gas, naphtha, water, electricity, fertilizer, railways. The cost of these subsidies is about 4.2 percent of India’s gross domestic product, which is more than enough to raise the consumption level of every poor Indian household above the poverty line.

Sadly, government provision of these subsidies is associated with significant leakages. For example, as much as 41 percent of subsidized kerosene, which poor families use to light their homes, is “unaccounted for” and is probably lost to the black market. Dealers sell it on the side to middlemen who mix diesel into fuel and resell it, which is bad for both health and the environment.

Furthermore, some subsidies benefit those who do not need them. Power subsidies, for example, favor the (generally wealthier) two-thirds of India who have access to regular grid-provided electricity, and, in particular, wealthier households, which consume more power.

Why, then, do product subsidies form such a central part of the Indian government’s antipoverty policies? Subsidies are a way for states that lack implementation capacity to help the poor; it is easier to sell kerosene and food at subsidized prices than to run effective schools and public health systems.

The three elements of JAM are a potential game-changer. Consider the mind-boggling scale of each element. Nearly 118 million bank accounts have been opened through Jan Dhan. Nearly one billion citizens have a biometrically authenticated unique identity card through Aadhaar. And about half of Indians now have a cellphone (while only 3.7 percent have land lines).

Here’s one example of how these three elements can be put to work.

The Indian government subsidizes households’ purchases of cooking gas; these subsidies amounted to about $8 billion last year. Until recently, subsidies were provided by selling cylinders to beneficiaries at below-market prices. Now, prices have been deregulated, and the subsidy is delivered by depositing cash directly into beneficiaries’ bank accounts, which are linked to cellphones, so that only eligible beneficiaries — not “ghost” intermediaries — receive transfers.

Under the previous arrangement, the large gap between subsidized and unsubsidized prices created a thriving black market, where distributors diverted subsidized gas away from households to businesses for a premium. In new research with Prabhat Barnwal, an economist at Columbia University, we find that cash transfers reduced these “leakages,” resulting in estimated fiscal savings of about $2 billion.

The scope for extending these benefits is enormous. Imagine the possibility of rolling all subsidies into a single lump-sum cash transfer to households, an idea mooted decades ago by the economist Milton Friedman as the holy grail of efficient and equitable welfare policy. JAM makes this possible.

To realize the full benefits of JAM, the government needs — and has begun — to address both “first-mile” and “last-mile” challenges.

The “first-mile” challenges are identifying eligible beneficiaries and coordinating between states and government departments. To deliver means-tested benefits via cash transfers, the government will need a way of identifying the poor and linking beneficiaries to their bank accounts. Further, eligibility criteria and beneficiary rosters vary, and technology platforms, where they exist, may not be seamlessly interoperable. Hence the need for an extensive coordination exercise under the national government, which can incentivize states to come on board by potentially sharing fiscal savings with the states.

The “last-mile” challenge arises because cash transfer programs risk excluding genuine beneficiaries if they do not have bank accounts. Indeed, even if they have an account, they may live so far away from a bank — India has only 40,000 rural bank branches to serve 600,000 villages — that collecting benefits is arduous. Extending financial inclusion to reach the remotest and poorest will require nurturing banks that facilitate payments via mobile networks, which has achieved great success in countries such as Kenya. India can then leapfrog from a bank-less society to a cashless one just as it went from being phoneless to cellphone- saturated.

Over all, JAM offers substantial benefits for government, the economy and especially the poor. Government finances will be improved because of the reduced subsidy burden; at the same time, government will also be legitimized and strengthened because it can transfer resources to citizens faster and more reliably. Experimental evidence from the world’s largest workfare program — the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme — found that delivering wages via a biometrically authenticated payment system reduced corruption and enabled workers to receive salaries faster. With the poor protected, market forces can be allowed to allocate resources with enormous benefits for economywide efficiency and productivity enhancement. The chief beneficiaries will be India’s poor; cash transfers are not a panacea for eliminating their hardship, but can go a long way to improving their lives."
india  2015  economics  poverty  policy  cashtransfers  universalbasicincome  latinamerica  brazil  brasil  mexico  leakages  blackmarket  subsidies  government  ubi 
july 2015 by robertogreco
Chart Book: Federal Housing Spending Is Poorly Matched to Need — Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
"Chart Book: Federal Housing Spending Is Poorly Matched to Need
Tilt Toward Well-Off Homeowners Leaves Struggling Low-Income Renters Without Help"



"Part I: Federal Housing Spending Disproportionately Targets Higher-Income Households …

Part II: Federal Housing Policy Favors Owning Over Renting …

Part III: Poor Renters Have Greatest Need for Housing Assistance …

Part IV: Rental Affordability Problems Have Worsened Since 2000 …

Part V: Federal Rental Assistance Targets the Neediest Low-Income People …

Part VI: Funding Limitations Prevent Rental Assistance from Reaching Most Families in Need …"

[via: http://notes.husk.org/post/115973482479/chart-book-federal-housing-spending-is-poorly ]
housing  income  us  inequality  subsidies  homeownership  renters  2015  government  poverty  data 
april 2015 by robertogreco
Center for a Stateless Society » A Modest Proposal
"Al Jazeera recently covered Chattanooga, Tennessee’s high-speed Internet service (“As Internet behemoths rise, Chattanooga highlights a different path,” June 6). [http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/5/29/chattanooga-net-neutrality.html ] The “Gig,” as it’s affectionately known, operates at one gigabyte per second — about fifty times the U.S. average — charging each customer about $70 a month. It uses a preexisting fiber-optic infrastructure originally built for the electrical power utility.

A couple of little-known facts regarding local Internet infrastructure: Telecommunications companies were given billions in subsidies and phone service rate hikes back in the ’90s based on their promise to build local fiber-optic infrastructure for high-speed Internet access — then they simply pocketed the money and never built that infrastructure. The original promise was something like the kind of ultra-high-speed, low-price Internet service available in most of Western Europe.

You can get a lot of the facts at the website Teletruth.org. Today, telecommunications infrastructure construction by these companies is down by about 60%, while revenues are way up. Instead of near-instant page loads for $40 a month, it’s typical to get gouged for more than $100 and suffer slow speeds and wireless connections that constantly fade out. Believe me, I know — I get my wireless service from AT&T U-verse, and they suck more than a galactic-size black hole. This is a classic example of the oligopoly style Paul Goodman described of the companies in an industry carefully spooning out improvements over many years, while colluding to mark up prices. The telecoms, far from building out their infrastructure to increase capacity, are strip-mining their existing infrastructure and using it as a cash cow while using oligopoly pricing to guarantee enormous profits on shoddy service.

Hundreds of cities around the United States have high-capacity municipal fiber-optic networks just like Chattanooga’s, originally built to support local government communication functions, but they’re forbidden by law in most states (passed in response to telecom lobbying) from using those to offer Internet service to the general public. Not only that, the telecommunications industry raises hell in the state legislatures even when local school districts propose using their own fiber-optic infrastructure to provide Internet service to the public schools instead of paying Verizon, Cox or AT&T for their sorry producst. These telecom companies — which received billions on subsidies for a service they failed to deliver — have the nerve to whine that it’s unfair for them to have to compete with a service subsidized by the taxpayers.

So here’s my proposal: In any community like Chattanooga, with an existing fiber-optic infrastructure capable of providing better quality Internet service to a significant part of town, this infrastructure should immediately be put to use for this purpose, with rates set at actual cost of provision. But instead of being administered by the city government, it should be spun off as a consumer cooperative owned and governed by the users.

In Cory Doctorow’s novel Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town, dumpster-diving hardware hackers in Toronto attempt to construct a free wireless meshwork using open-source routers built from discarded electronics, persuading neighborhood businesses to host the routers at the cost of electricity. In the real world, schools, public libraries and municipal buildings could host such routers and provide free wireless access to those in the areas covered.

In fact, why not take it a step further? Forty years ago, in “Confiscation and the Homestead Principle,” Murray Rothbard argued that government property should be treated as unowned, that it should be claimed (via homesteading) as the property of those actually occupying and using it, and that government services should accordingly be reorganized as consumer or worker cooperatives. Further, he argued that the property of “private” corporations that get most of their profits from state intervention should get the same treatment.

The way I see it, the telecom companies that pocketed those subsidies and rate increases back in the ’90s owe customers about $200-odd billion, plus all the profits they’ve subsequently collected via price-gouging. So when local communities with municipal fiber-optic infrastructure organize those Internet service cooperatives like I describe above, they might as well go ahead and void out the telecom companies’ property claims to the “private” infrastructure as well and incorporate that infrastructure into the consumer cooperatives.

Those who follow the “net neutrality” debate are rightly outraged that Internet service providers are threatening to gouge customers based entirely on their ability to pay, simply because they can. But the proper expression of this outrage is not hacking at the branches through regulatory legislation. It’s striking at the root: The ability of the telecom companies, thanks to government subsidies and privilege, to get away with such behavior.

It’s time to expropriate the expropriators."
broadband  telecoms  infrastructure  internet  connectivity  2014  subsidies  law  legal  public  private  chattanooga  isp  teletruth  money  government  policy  internetaccess  digitaldivide  netneutrality  kevincarson 
june 2014 by robertogreco
The right to live in the suburbs | Great Streets San Diego
"Low density developments are essentially government subsidizes. Land Use in low density areas is so financially unproductive that it is impossible to build and maintain the infrastructure needed for them to exist. Not only do the streets, sewers, water, utilities, etc cost more to initially install, suburbs do not generate the tax revenue required to maintain them. The suburbs are draining city government coffers at an alarming rate. Is it any wonder San Diego has $3 billion dollar infrastructure deficit?"

[via: http://manso.jed.co/post/75082699785/the-right-to-live-in-the-suburbs ]

"I’d add that low density development also subsidizes the auto industry. It costs about $9,000 a year to own a car. If you live in a place that requires you to own a car, you’re effectively required to pay $9,000 a year tax in the form of car payments, insurance, and gas.

Don’t forget: people should have the right to not pay for a car. Communities that require cars eliminate this right."
subsurbs  suburbia  infrastructure  2013  cars  density  subsidies  government  california  landuse  development  taxrevenue 
january 2014 by robertogreco
Rent-seeking - Wikipedia
"In economics, rent-seeking is an attempt to obtain economic rent by manipulating the social or political environment in which economic activities occur, rather than by creating new wealth, for example, spending money on political lobbying in order to be given a share of wealth that has already been created. A famous example of rent-seeking is the limiting of access to lucrative occupations, as by medieval guilds or modern state certifications and licensures. People accused of rent seeking typically argue that they are indeed creating new wealth (or preventing the reduction of old wealth) by improving quality controls, guaranteeing that charlatans do not prey on a gullible public, and preventing bubbles."

"A simple definition of rent seeking is spending resources in order to gain by increasing one's share of existing wealth, instead of trying to create wealth. The net effect of rent-seeking is to reduce total social wealth, because resources are spent and no new wealth is created. It is important to distinguish rent-seeking from profit-seeking. Profit-seeking is the creation of wealth, while rent-seeking is the use of social institutions such as the power of government to redistribute wealth among different groups without creating new wealth.

Rent-seeking implies extraction of uncompensated value from others without making any contribution to productivity. The origin of the term refers to gaining control of land or other natural resources. An example of rent-seeking in a modern economy is political lobbying for government benefits or subsidies, or to impose regulations on competitors, in order to increase market share.
Studies of rent-seeking focus on efforts to capture special monopoly privileges such as manipulating government regulation of free enterprise competition.[2] The term monopoly privilege rent-seeking is an often-used label for this particular type of rent-seeking. Often-cited examples include a lobby that seeks tariff protection, quotas, subsidies[3], or extension of copyright law.[4]"
motive  finance  community  greedheads  rent-seeking  wealth  access  economics  manipulation  politics  leeches  selfishness  greed  guilds  certification  licenses  via:straup  resources  capitalgoods  economicgrowth  growth  allocationofresources  efficiency  monopolies  monopolyprivileges  competition  regulation  ownership  productivity  subsidies 
august 2012 by robertogreco
Economic View - Why Free Parking Comes at a Price - NYTimes.com
"In his book, Professor Shoup estimated that the value of the free-parking subsidy to cars was at least $127 billion in 2002, and possibly much more.<br />
<br />
PERHAPS most important, if we’re going to wean ourselves away from excess use of fossil fuels, we need to remove current subsidies to energy-unfriendly ways of life. Imposing a cap-and-trade system or a direct carbon tax doesn’t seem politically acceptable right now. But we can start on alternative paths that may take us far.<br />
<br />
Imposing higher fees for parking may make further changes more palatable by helping to promote higher residential density and support for mass transit.<br />
<br />
As Professor Shoup puts it: “Who pays for free parking? Everyone but the motorist.”"
parking  cities  urban  transport  economics  environment  transportation  density  costs  subsidies  cars  driving  us  tylercowen 
august 2010 by robertogreco
College, Inc. « The Quick and the Ed
"problem with for-profit higher education...people like Clifford are applying private sector principles to an industry w/ a number of distinct characteristics. Four stand out. [1] it’s heavily subsidized. Corporate giants like the U of Phoenix are now pulling in 100s of millions of dollars per year from taxpayers, through federal grants & student loans. [2] it’s awkwardly regulated. Regional accreditors may protest that their imprimatur isn’t like a taxicab medallion to be bought & sold on open market. But as the documentary makes clear, that’s precisely the way it works now. (Clifford puts the value at $10 million.)
money  education  forprofit  profits  markets  highereducation  highered  collegeinc  corruption  taxes  subsidies  experience  value  reputation  consumption  consumers  consumerprotection  regulation 
may 2010 by robertogreco
Worldchanging: Bright Green: New Report: U.S. Road Funding From Non-Road Users Doubled in 25 Years
"The myth that U.S. roads "pay for themselves" thanks to user fees is a subject that's likely familiar to many Streetsblog readers -- but just how much of the nation's highway funding is provided by charging drivers?
roads  funding  transportation  us  highways  freeways  taxes  government  subsidies  cars  driving 
november 2009 by robertogreco
Worldchanging: Bright Green: Free Parking Isn't Free
"parking spaces can cost between $10,000 and $50,000 – typically more than the cost of the car that occupies it. High parking requirements can raise the price of homes and apartments by $50,000 to $100,000, a serious challenge to affordability." Not enough people complain about subsidized parking, not nearly as many as those that oppose subsidized mass transit, and thus we live in the cities that result.
transportation  cost  urbanplanning  urban  urbanism  price  subsidies  parking  policy  transit  cars  economics  planning  cities  zoning  development  society  environment  sustainability  regulation  sprawl  costs  us 
august 2009 by robertogreco

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