[This is a comment I made at bobedwardsradio.com on 12 Aug 2012, the website for the excellent radio show by Bob Edwards, well known for his decades of broadcasting at NPR.]

Dear Mr Edwards,

I listened with rapt attention to your show this weekend, “The Betrayal of the American Dream.” I teach environmental economics at a local community college (part-time), and am keenly aware of the issues the excellent authors were so eloquently discussing, and fully intend to read their book to help me in my own local activism to help raise awareness of the public about these and other issues.

Your well respected show is one of the few sources in mainstream media for such sensible discussions. Consequently, I hope you might consider interviewing two other excellent authors, whose ideas also concern these deep societal problems: David Korten (see davidkorten.org), and Riane Eisler (see www.rianeeisler.com). If you are not already aware of their excellent work, I believe you, and your radio audience, will find what they will have say about these complex problems fascinating, illuminating and inspirational. Meaningful public discussion of these issues is urgently needed to create the political will to achieve real and lasting positive change.

Thank you again for bringing such a quality show to the public airwaves. I listen to you through KUNC in Greeley, Colorado.

With great respect,
Rick Casey
Lafayette, CO

Lafayette needs a fracking moratorium…NOW!

[This was a letter to the editor I submitted to the Colorado Daily, Daily Camera, Boulder Weekly and Denver Post, Aug 7, 2012, as well as the Lafayette City Council.]

Dear Lafayette City Council members,

As a Lafayette resident, I have observed with growing alarm that fracking is getting closer and closer to our town. A new five well drill site was started this week, just a few miles north of us, near Hi 52 and Niwot Road, by the infamous Encana.

You can see pictures of this new drilling activity at http://www.facebook.com/groups/151428164981130.

Due to the great uncertainty surrounding the short-term risks of air and water pollution from fracking, and the longer term implications for the overallocation of our precious water supplies in Colorado, the placement of poisonous and carcinogen fluids deep into the earth from their disposal wells, and the placement of more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, I would like to see the Lafayette City Council pass a moratorium on any new fracking wells in our town.

We should show support for our neighboring town, Longmont, that has courageously stood up to the COGCC (Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission), in seeking to protect their residents from the effects of having wells fracked within their city limits. The COGCC is failing to fulfill its own charter, to seek “balanced” development, and to “protect the environment”, while it allows the oil and gas industry to proceed, nearly completely unimpeded, while self-regulating its own operations. The COGCC is too pro-industry, and too lacking in heeding the calls of citizens for more accountability for the negative effects of this dangerous technology.

This is unacceptable. Until the state legislature can muster to backbone to change the laws that created the COGCC, the citizens of the Front Range, and Lafayette, need to fight back any way we can to slow down this mad rush of the gas companies to make a quick buck. We should refuse to have our water table ruined forever, our air made too noxious to breathe, or allow the local ecosystem to be starved for water, just because some giant gas company wants to get their way.

Sincerely,

Rick Casey

Lafayette, CO

[This is a letter to the editor I wrote in April 2006. I include it here only to show how I was thinking about the structural unemployment
problem created by global capitalism at that time.]

To the Editor of the New York Times

The article ‘Academia Dissects the Service Sector…’ (April 18, 2006, page C1) was interesting for what it omits. Attempts by American universities to develop interdisciplinary approaches to coping with economic globalization – aided by willing multinationals with their own idled engineers – is unconvincing. Beneath the sophistry that an ever more “complex” economy requires ever more “complex solutions” to keep high-value jobs at home is the simple truth of increasing global unemployment. When the current fever of wage arbitrage between nations is over, this is is the real problem with economic globalization which every nation, no matter how “developed”, will need to face – witness Europe and restive France.

Simply put, increasingly less people are needed to provide the goods we need (or think we need); and “service science” engineers are essentially working on having even less people perform services! The irony would be amusing if it were not so tragic. I would call your attention to Jeremy Rifkin’s 1995 book ‘The End of Work’ where these issues are discussed in depth with far more relevancy. I welcome universities trying to train engineers to think more broadly about economic problems – but they would help more by taking a few courses in economics and thinking more deeply before trying to “optimize” the service sector.

Rick Casey
Research Associate, University of Colorado, Boulder

[This was a response I posted at the New York Times on May 6, 2012, in response to an outrageous article I had read in the Times Magazine that day, written by Adam Davidson, a fine reporter on economic issues otherwise, about a new book by a certain Edward Conrad, a self-made Wall Street millionaire who also worked for a time at Bain Capital with Mitt Romney — which reveals some rather startling insights into the true world views that such people can hold. It is a testament to the lessons of history, when madmen in positions of power have delusions of grandeur, such as Nero, Hitler, George W. Bush…and now Edward Conrad.]

Given the outrage that Mr Edward Conrad’s pompous article has caused within one day of its appearance, I hope the dear man realizes how out of touch with reality he is. (1,857 comments at the end of the day of publication; oh ho! Well done!)

I also hope he realizes with what a resounding thud of inconsequence his book will make within the economic community. But like all other “experts” of his ilk on Wall Street, who think their intelligence and insights are as lofty as their bank accounts, I’m sure it will not faze him in the least.

No, the self-esteem of the 1% is something that the 99% needs to take an active stand against; and telling people like Mr Conrad to his face what a dangerous idiot he truly is — because he truly believes his wild claims about economic policy to be true and real — is a duty that I and the hundreds of other commenters on this article most happily engage today.

What is even scarier to contemplate is that one of our presidential candidates has also grown up in the little bubble of a universe that the 1% inhabit, and that he might consider such opinions as this to be credible. It’s a crazy world these 1%ers live in….oh, Lord have mercy…

[This is a comment I posted at Market Place on March 28, 2012 in reaction to a series of stories that they did on the effect that increasing use of robots is having on the economy. I point out that they are missing the bigger picture…]

As much as I have enjoyed David Brancaccio’s reporting over the years, I have to comment that he (or his writers, I cannot tell which) are missing a much bigger story about what is going on here — and it will have dramatic consequences for our economy, and broader society, if it is not recognized, resisted and reversed.

More than the hollowing out of middle class jobs, the imperative to shrink labor costs at all costs has become the drumbeat of modern capitalism, creating what economists refer to as “increasing structural unemployment.” What this means is increasing unemployment, decreasing aggregate demand, a shrinking tax base, etc; in short, a vicious downward spiral. (If only the Occupy Movement would start making these connections!)

“Business as usual”, meaning economic growth as conducted up to now, will not fix this problem; it will make it worse. This is all too depressingly real, yet the economics profession for the most part has its head in the sand, and refuses to acknowledge this trend as one of foremost economic problems of our time. Those economists that are trying to call attention to such problems are ecological economists, such as Tim Jackson in “Prosperity Without Growth” or Herman Daly’s many works. Even though he does not call himself such, Robert Reisch’s book “Aftershock” paints much the same picture. C’mon David — tell the real story!

[This is an online post that I made on December 7, 2011 to the environmental economics class that I teach online at Front Range Community College, in our General Discussion forum, where I post things to keep up my students’ interest, outside of the required material. It is a sort of end-of-year sendoff note, meant to encourage my students that what they learned in this introductory course still contains powerful ideas that are currently completely absent from mainstream economics courses, such as those thought by Dr Mankiw….]

Hello class,

Here is another article that I thought would be of interest, if you have the time….

It is from last Sunday’s New York Times editorial pages (Dec 4, 2011), where Prof Gregory Mankiw (pronounced man-queue), who’s a frequent contributor, wrote an artilce titles “Know What You’re Protesting.” In it, he talks about how some of his students (5-10%) recently staged a walkout on his class, Economics 10, in sympathy with the Occupy movement, because of “the biased nature of Economics 10 contributes to and symbolizes the increasing economic inequality in America.”

Now I’m sure Prof Mankiw is an intelligent, educated, thoughtful person; and the fact that he’s taught at Harvard for the last twenty-five years makes him an “authority.” But In the rest of the article, Professor Mankiw also makes clear that he is unaware of why economics is so unbalanced; and I suspect he has never heard about “material throughput” and why the concept demonstrates how out of balance mainstream economics is. To me, it shows how out of touch he is with environmental reality (and, from the tone of his article, how out of touch he is with sympathizers of the Occupy movement.)

So I just wanted to let you know that you know something that Prof Mankiw does not: what material throughput* in the economy is, how it is completely lacking from mainstream economic thought, and why it is so very necessary for economics to begin to consider.

Regards,

–Rick

* to learn about what I’m referring to, material throughput, you can view my slides class slides about the Neoclassical Economic Model and the Environment.