Going way back

As a result, major racial inequalities have been deeply institutionalized over about 20 generations. One key feature of systemic racism is how it has been socially reproduced by individuals, groups and institutions for generations. Most whites think racial inequalities reflect differences they see as real — superior work ethic, greater intelligence, or other meritorious abilities of whites. Social science research is clear that white-black inequalities today are substantially the result of a majority of whites socially inheriting unjust enrichments (money, land, home equities, social capital, etc.) from numerous previous white generations — the majority of whom benefited from the racialized slavery system and/or the de jure (Jim Crow) and de facto overt racial oppression that followed slavery for nearly a century, indeed until the late 1960s.

— Joe Feagin, New York Times

Let the killings resume

The death-row inmates who had challenged the use of controversial drugs in their slated executions, and who lost their appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, may now count their days until the okayed chemicals do their thing. Oklahoma’s highest criminal court just set the dates for their end-of-life procedures.

Aside from the debates on the efficacy and justice of killing people to demonstrate that killing people is wrong, why doesn’t it give more Americans pause that we, and we alone, continue to rely on capital punishment when, with the exception of Japan, other western industrial democracies abolished the death penalty years ago?

For those who relish such American exceptionalism and desire to be number one in all things vile and ugly, how must it feel to be so far down the list of state-enacted killings in deaths per million? Surely, if we put our minds to it, we could move up the ladder in a big way. It will take some doing, however, since Iran executes over 2,200 for every million inhabitants, whereas we’ve managed to kill just 70 for ever million Americans (source). Oklahoma is doing its best. Louisiana even better.

Public investing

The American Society of Civil Engineers issues a periodic report on the nation’s infrastructure, assigning letter grades to each sector. In its most recent report (2013), the society gives an overall score of D+. The authors estimate that it would take about $3.6 trillion by 2020 to meet the country’s infrastructure needs.

This sounds like a lot of money, and it is. But the figure helps quantify just how much we’ve neglected our schools and roads, to name just two components. We have a $17 trillion economy. As always, how we choose to spend those dollars has everything to do with political focus and will.

According to the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the U.S.’s total tax revenues represent about 25.4 percent of GDP. The OECD average is 33.7, with the highest, about 49 percent, being Denmark. At our current rate, cities, counties, states, and federal governments collect roughly $4.4 trillion per year. If the U.S. were to collect the OECD average, the country would realize $5.9 trillion/year. At Denmark’s rate, all governments here would collect about $8.5 trillion per annum.

So, we need only tax at the OECD average, or 33.7 percent, to add another $1.5 trillion a year. By 2020, we would have collected at least $7.5 trillion, or about twice the level recommended by the engineers.

I know. Not going to happen.

Poor Greece

Paul Krugman beat me to it. When the New York Times published graphs showing debt-to-GDP ratios, Greece, of course, was at the top, around 200 percent (see below), I suspected that the country’s output had taken a substantial hit, squeezing the ratio’s denominator. Krugman had also suspected as much, on which he commented here.

First the Times‘s graphs:

Screen Shot 2015-07-07 at 9.51.45 AM

And now, Krugman’s chart:

Screen Shot 2015-07-07 at 9.53.43 AM

In the chart below I compare Greece’s real GDP to both France and Germany’s.

GDP real France, Germany, Greece

As we can see, Greece is a relatively poor country. Yet, such disparity exists in the U.S. Below I compare the GDPs of Mississippi and New York:

GDP Mississippi and New York

New York’s GDP is 14 times greater than Mississippi’s. Germany’s economic output is about 15 times as large as Greece’s.

No more room

Those who own fossil fuel resources (e.g., Exxon, Shell) wish to extract what’s in the ground (oil, coal, natural gas). They know that there is a market for their assets, perhaps an insatiable one. But once the resources are combusted, the greenhouse gases emitted add to atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide. The graphic above suggests that there is room (a debatable point, to be sure) for only another 1,000 gigatons of CO2. However, there are 15 times as much of the gas embedded below.

These charts below speak volumes (source).

Screen Shot 2015-07-01 at 9.31.39 AM