SHORT TAKES: Minting A Billionaire Every 30 Hours; Jamie Can't Raid The Cookie Jar--As Much; The Close-To-50-Year Solar Cost STEEP Decline; Amazon, A Dangerous Place To Work;
I was going to write about something entirely different in this lead-off section. I had it all prepped—and, then, 19 kids were murdered in Texas. Probably like many of you, I absorb all the difficult stuff out there in politics and community, and figure out a way to process it and also move on.
Can’t do that today. Long ago when I was a kid, my father told me parents should never have to bury their children. He had seen enough of that happening because of war.
I saw a tweet yesterday from Maggie Astor, a New York Times reporter, that made me gasp: “After Sandy Hook, I read about how the group of parents waiting in a firehouse had dwindled until finally they were told that if they were still there, their children were dead. The reporters wrote that the screaming could be heard from the street. I will never forget that.”
No parent is the same, ever, when a child dies—but murdered in school? Before you even reach puberty? That’s beyond immoral.
Since this newsletter is predominately about policy, I would offer a slightly different policy suggestion—beyond the obvious dead-on-arrival ideas. If we had a president who wanted to do something about guns (And I’m not referring just to the current one) and have a win *politically* (because, alas, that’s the calculation that goes into this), the national speech to give is straightforward:
“A government that cannot guarantee that kids going to school will not be shot dead in their classrooms does not deserve the support of parents or their tax dollars. So, as of today, I will veto every single bill that comes to my desk, no matter what the issue, what party is behind the bill or even if it’s “bi-partisan”, until gun laws are passed that take weapons of mass killing off our streets and off the shelves of companies who make profits off the spilled blood of a ten-year old. And I will start by vetoing every defense bill because the greatest threat to every single child is not from abroad but from domestic terrorism fueled by a culture of guns-over-kids. Yes, this is worth even a shut down of the government, and I believe the people of this country will support halting all business until they know the carnage will come to a halt.
Second, I am, by executive order, directing my Director of National Intelligence and the Director of the FBI to add the National Rifle Association to the list of domestic terrorist organizations. Third, any member of the Democratic Party who accepts political contributions, or other support, from the NRA will be met with a primary opponent who will be fully endorsed by me and who I will campaign for.”
Of course, people will challenge in court the domestic terrorist designation. And others will go full-on “2nd Amendment is more important than kids’ lives” bat-shit crazy.
But for the undemocratic nature of the Senate, which allows one party (mostly) which represents a minority of people in the country to block every gun control bill, true majority rule would have long ago ended this insanity. Though this isn’t the reason to thrown down this ultimatum, this is a political winner.
I’ll get back to the other stuff next issue. Sorry for the diversion, folks.
Minting A Billionaire Every 30 Hours
In one way, I think we absorb too many statistics on the daily class warfare. How many more times do you need to read a new way of looking at the vast robbery taking place, shoveling even more money into a few hands?
On the other hand…we should never forget, I reckon. So… as the annual elite inter-mingling at Davos takes place, Oxfam has an updated take on the billionaires versus the rest of us. This little snippet from the worthwhile report sums it up: (I’ve removed footnote number references to avoid confusion but the footnotes are at the link in the original document):
By every dimension, inequality has skyrocketed since the start of the pandemic.
Wealth inequality: According to Oxfam’s analysis of the latest data from Forbes:
• There are 2,668 billionaires in the world, 573 more than in 2020 when the pandemic began.
• These billionaires are collectively worth $12.7 trillion – a real-terms increase of $3.78 trillion (42%) during the COVID-19 pandemic.
• Total billionaire wealth is now the equivalent of 13.9% of global gross domestic product (GDP), up from 4.4% in 2000.
• The richest 10 men have greater wealth than the poorest 40% of humanity combined.
• The richest 20 billionaires are worth more than the entire GDP of sub-Saharan Africa.
• Elon Musk, the wealthiest man in the world, is so rich that he could lose 99% of his wealth and still be in the top 0.0001% of the world’s richest people. Since 2019 his wealth has increased by 699%.
Income inequality: COVID-19 is already set to drive the biggest systemic increase in income inequality ever seen. On top of this the rapidly rising prices of food and energy, which hit the incomes of the poorest hardest, are set to drive up global inequality still further.
• The incomes of 99% of humanity have fallen because of COVID-19,28 with the equivalent of 125 million full-time jobs lost in 2021.
• It would take 112 years for the average person in the bottom 50% to make what someone in the top 1% gets in a year.
• The incomes of the richest have already recovered rapidly from the hit they took at the beginning of the pandemic while the incomes of the poorest have yet to recover, which is driving up income inequality.
• In 2021, the poorest 40% saw the steepest decline in income, which on average was 6.7% lower than pre-pandemic projections. This has led to rising income inequality, which had been declining since the 2000s as measured by the Gini index, but which in 2020 increased by 0.3% in emerging and developing economies.
Jamie Can't Raid The Cookie Jar—As Much
Speaking of billionaires…Poor Jamie Dimon! He’s got a little sad face going after his shareholders put a kibosh last week on his plan to line his pockets with even more JPMorgan Chase cash (via the Financial Times):
JPMorgan Chase shareholders have voted against the bank’s executive pay plan, delivering a stinging rebuke to chief Jamie Dimon and his management team.
In a “say on pay” vote at the bank’s annual meeting on Tuesday, only 31 per cent of investors voted in favour of JPMorgan’s 2021 plan, which included a total $201.8mn package for six top executives. Dimon stands to make $50mn from a one-off special award.
It is the first time the bank’s board has lost such a vote since it was introduced in 2009. The vote is non-binding, but the bank said in its proxy filing ahead of the meeting that its compensation and management development committee “will take into account the outcome of the vote when considering future executive compensation arrangements”. [emphasis added]
Now, it is fun to watch a billionaire get even a smidgen of a setback BUT before you good-hearted folks start a GoFundMe campaign for Jamie, just letting you know, to put this “stinging rebuke” in perspective: His total compensation in 2021 was $84.4 million, up from $31.7 million in 2020. And his net worth is somewhere around $1.6 billion.
We should remind people who speak about the “free market rewarding CEOs”: this is legal but immoral corruption at work. The only reason someone like Dimon gets paid tens of millions of dollars is because he (and every other CEO) makes sure that JPMorgan Chase’s broad of directors, and especially the compensation committee that sets his pay, are filled with his friends and cronies who get paid tens of thousands of dollars to attend a few broad meetings and do the bidding of the CEO.
In case you were looking for yet another good example of why a big wealth tax is in order.
The Close-To-50-Year Solar Cost STEEP Decline
For a big, big long-term project I’ve been developing (STAY TUNED!), I happened to come across this graphic that is worth storing away:
It goes along with this explanation in a longer piece:
What is truly mind blowing about solar technology is how very strong this effect is: For more than four decades each doubling of global cumulative capacity was associated with the same relative decline in prices.
The advances that made this price reduction possible span the entire production process of solar modules:15 larger, more efficient factories are producing the modules; R&D efforts increase; technological advances increase the efficiency of the panels; engineering advances improve the production processes of the silicon ingots and wafers; the mining and processing of the raw materials increases in scale and becomes cheaper; operational experience accumulates; the modules are more durable and live longer; market competition ensures that profits are low; and capital costs for the production decline. It is a myriad of small improvements across a large collective process that drives this continuous price decline.
The learning rate of solar PV modules is 20.2%.16 With each doubling of the installed cumulative capacity the price of solar modules declines by 20.2%.17 The high learning rate meant that the core technology of solar electricity declined rapidly. The price of solar modules declined from $106 to $0.38 per watt. A decline of 99.6%. [emphasis added]
Amazon, A Dangerous Place To Work
This isn’t the first time I’ve made not of this. But, working at Amazon is a very dangerous job—which is one reason among many that that company needs to be fully unionized, per this new report focusing on just Amazon’s New York state warehouses (footnotes are removed so avoid confusion but in the linked report:
Massive increase in worker injuries - An analysis based on Amazon’s self-reported data reveals that injury rates jumped 64 percent at the company’s warehouse and logistics facilities in New York State from 2020 to 2021. The rate increased from 5.5 injuries per 100 full-time equivalent workers (FTEs) in 2020 to 9.0 injuries per 100 FTEs in 2021. Nationally, Amazon injury rates increased 20 percent (6.6 to 7.9 injuries per 100 FTEs) during the same period, as a recent Strategic Organizing Center analysis shows. Since
January 2021, Amazon has expanded rapidly in New York, more than doubling the number of facilities in the state for a current total of 69.3 In late 2020, Amazon reinstituted electronic monitoring–based disciplinary policies that had been suspended at the beginning of the pandemic, driving up the pace of work and likely resulting in more worker injuries.4 Amazon’s 2021 total injury rate in New York (9.0 per 100 FTEs) is approximately equivalent to one injury for every 11 full-time workers.
Overwhelming majority of injuries were of the most serious kind. Eighty-nine percent of injuries reported were cases so serious that workers could not continue performing their normal job duties and had to either change job duties or take time off work to recover.
The rate for the most serious injuries at Amazon facilities is 40 percent higher than at non-Amazon facilities. In 2021, the total injury rate at Amazon warehousing and logistics facilities in New York State (9.0 per 100 FTEs) was 29 percent higher than at non-Amazon facilities (7.0 per 100 FTEs). The rate of the most serious injuries at Amazon warehousing and logistics facilities (8.0 per 100 FTEs) was 40 percent higher than at non-
Amazon facilities in the state (5.7 per 100 FTEs).
New York injury rate surges past the national Amazon average. In 2020, rates of the most serious injuries and total injury rates for New York Amazon warehouse and logistics workers were lower than the national Amazon averages, but in 2021 both measures surpassed those averages (see Figure 1). The rate of the most serious injuries for New York Amazon warehouse and logistics workers (8.0 per 100 FTEs) is 18 percent higher than the Amazon national average for that measure (6.8 per 100 FTEs). Similarly, the total
injury rate for New York Amazon warehouse and logistics workers (9.0 per 100 FTEs) is 14 percent higher than the Amazon national average for total injuries (7.9 per 100 FTEs). [emphasis added]
And in a graphic:
The report pushes for the passage of Warehouse Worker Protection Act (WWPA)
1. Require transparency in work quotas to help reduce the risk of worker injuries and prevent employers from disciplining workers if they fail to meet a quota for either takingneeded rest periods and bathroom breaks or complying with other health and safety laws.
2. Create an injury reduction program that requires expert evaluation of each large
warehouse for potential risks of musculoskeletal disorders—the most frequent type of serious, disabling injury in the warehousing industry.
3. Establish a private right of action to allow employees to directly enforce their rights under the Act.
4. Grant the New York State Department of Labor additional powers to ensure that the law is effectively enforced, including establishing a pool of qualified experts to do on-site evaluations.
Two last points to make. I highlighted “An analysis based on Amazon’s self-reported data” because this means the reality is probably much worse: companies lie all the time about injuries at work to avoid being fined.
Second, just read again for a moment what is being asked for in that legislation above… to understand how truly dystopian the workplace is—to have to demand such basic things shows how bad the current law is and what companies can get away with.