INSIGHTS: EARTH CONSERVATION CORPS
I believe I can fly…… The lyric of a song that is characteristic of the transformation that young people at the Earth Conservation Corps (ECC) make when they join the organization. Many of our urban youth in Washington, D.C. are lost to the violence in the streets with no alternatives to consider. The ECC takes on the task to save their lives as they save their environment and their community. You can help this worthy local NGO that is making a huge difference in providing DC youth the protective factors to be successful in society!
The Earth Conservation Corps is a nonprofit youth development and environmental service organization located where the once heavily polluted Anacostia River flows through our nation’s capital’s most disadvantaged neighborhoods. The ECC has been successfully reclaiming two of America’s most endangered resources – our youth and our environment. They use the challenge and promise of restoring the Anacostia River to engage unemployed community youth in transformative environmental action and service. A small staff provides the young people with the leadership skills and environmental expertise to empower them to engage hundreds of school children and adults in the restoration of the Anacostia River.
The ECC’s history started in 1992, nine unemployed young men and women volunteered to engage in national service to change their lives by restoring the polluted Lower Beaverdam Creek. This small motivated group pulled on waders, climbed into the polluted creek, and started to demolish negative stereotypes of black urban youth and urban. MillerCoors also stepped in to help with a large donation as part of Coors Pure Water 2000 initiative.
Recently, one of the first graduates of this program, Twan Woods blew me away with his success story. On Easter, I visited the National Arboretum.
Equally enthralled as I with an eagles nest, Twan spontaneously told me about the evolution of his interest in protecting the environment. You can guess the rest of the story, how this young man’s life took a one eighty with the opportunity provided by the ECC. And you can imagine my delight when he told me how it was the 1992 Coors contribution to the ECC that set in motion the positive steps towards his life’s total transformation. As we visited the eagles’ nest, Twan proudly told me how he’d completed college, maintains a steady job and is starting a family. He jolted me out of the cynicism and inertia we sometimes feel where often nothing gets done. In that moment, I knew I had to reenlist my support for the ECC to transform the life of another young kid like Twan.
Twan and others in the ECC have laid the cornerstone for a solution to the city’s intertwined problems of pollution and poverty. Engaging unemployed youth to undertake the vital work of restoring natural habitats harnesses the leadership, educational, and employment potential of this vital segment of our society.
This is a bottom up charity that needs further assistance. To get involved or make a personal or corporate donation, please go to the following website. Click on the following link to see an excerpt of the 60 Minutes story on the ECC. With your help the ECC can continue turning a city’s focus to the Anacostia River, and engaging at-risk young people to restore this once forgotten river to its full function as an environmental system with all its native species.
ON THE ECONOMY: POPULAR
Whenever I see someone less fortunate than I (And let’s face it – who isn’t less fortunate than I?), my tender heart tends to start to bleed. And when someone needs a makeover, I simply have to take over. I know, I know exactly what they need. And even in your case – though it’s the toughest case I’ve yet to face – don’t worry, I’m determined to succeed. Follow my lead, and yes, indeed, you will be popular! The lyrics from composer Stephen Schwartz song Popular, written for the first act of the 2003 musical Wicked, and sung by the character Glinda.
Last March) under another Broadway inspired song title, I wrote an articleabout the political concept of populism. Populism is a more adversarial version of what has been dubbed Progressivism in the United States. Progressive political thought came out of the industrial revolution in America during the latter part of the 1800s. The philosophy evolved in the cities and upper mid-western states and was brought on by fears of modernization, large corporations and corruption in American politics. Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson were two Progressive politicians, who were elected to the Presidency at the turn of the century and brought many of the doctrines of the movement like industrial regulation, trust-busting and environmentalism to mainstream political parties. Today, the moniker of progressive has been taken by the socialist wing of the Democratic Party, which has promoted a policy agenda advocating a range of environmental controls, increases in protected civil rights and redistributive economic initiatives.
Recently, New York City’s self-styled Progressive Mayor, Bill DeBlasio, released a set of 14 policy proposals that are supposed to combat the problem of income inequality. The idea that incomes should all be equal is rooted in the populist message that modern Progressives have adopted. And as we discussed in March of 2014, Populist thought is based on the idea that the world is an extremely adversarial place. Much like in a game of football, populist ideology is all about the zero sum game. There is no compromise in football – one side wins, and one loses. A yard gained by the Denver Broncos (ok so they only gained one yard in the Super Bowl), is a yard lost by the Seahawks. In a zero-sum world, the fact that someone makes $1 million a year, or $10 million a year means that someone else is not making anything.
If you are struggling to make ends meet, it might sound great when a presidential candidate calls for a 75 percent tax on the rich, or when a mayor wants to “tax millionaires,” just because, but these activities are like the football game, zero-sum. None of them create anything new, but merely take wealth away from one group and give it to those favored by the Progressives, like environmentalists or public health advocates.
The Mayor touts specific policies designed to: Lift the Floor for Working People, Support Working Families, and promote Tax Fairness. But none of the policy proposals are likely to make things better for the downtrodden and most will make things worse.
For example, the measures designed to “lift the floor” for working people will just put more people out of work. Hundreds of years of Econ 101 textbooks have shown how price floors, like a proposed $15 Federal minimum wage will reduce jobs, especially for the unskilled and those just starting out. So too will the opposition to free trade, which only helps to shrink economic growth and raise prices, which will also reduce jobs, particularly in America’s most internationally connected city. Mayor DeBlasio also wants to make it easier for workers to organize, and while collective bargaining in and of itself is not necessarily bad for the economy, America’s trade unions have done a miserable job over the past 100 years of promoting the interest of workers. The Mayor’s plan also calls for immigration reform and more investment in education, and while both of these policies could have dramatic benefits for the economy, no details are presented. For example, spending more money on schools does not necessarily improve education. On the other hand, helping to promote a transparent and relatively open immigration system could have significant benefits to the economy, as too could measures to help those being released from prison find meaningful employment.
I leave it to the Progressives to explain how measures to help working peoplediffer from those designed to help working families, but the economic effects of the 5 proposals touted by Mayor DeBlasio do not differ much. Measures that increase effective wage rates whether they are called minimum wages, paid sick-leave or paid family-leave, all do the same thing – raise the wage floor. Again, this can only encourage firms to substitute capital for labor, or more productive workers from those who are less employable. Both would have the same impact, raising unemployment for the young and least skilled. One only needs to look to Europe to see how expensive government-mandated wage contracts have led to massive unemployment among the young. Other programs touted in this Progressive agenda simply reward favored constituencies including debtors (lower interest rates for student loans) and the elderly (expanded Social Security) at the expense of the general public. On the other hand, expanded educational programs like universal pre-kindergarten and after school programs are likely to help enhance worker productivity and could have aggregative economic effects.
Finally, this Progressive Agenda to combat the perceived threat of income inequality calls for tax fairness. Now it is hard to argue that taxes should not be fair, but the proposals outlined simply raise taxes, particularly on those businesses that are trying to create new jobs in America. Proposals like eliminating the deductibility of carried interest harm the private equity markets that so many firms rely on for venture capital, and provisions that eliminate deductions for normal business expenses (like the salaries of Chief Executives) just make it more expensive to operate in America and encourage firms to move their domicile to other countries with lower corporate tax rates. Promoting the ill-conceived Buffett Rule, that increases tax rates on entrepreneurs, reduces the incentive to start firms and family businesses, firms that create most of the new jobs in America.
All told, the DeBlasio agenda is a populist platform rather than a progressive one. And American populists are not much different from dictatorial populists in countries like Venezuela or Argentina. They all know that they simply have to take over and know exactly what we need. Frankly, I for one would rather see Glinda in charge. At least then all I need to do is click my heels three times and I can get away from the Populist utopia.
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