Latest Post, Water

America’s hidden water affordability crisis


leaky-faucet

 

By Ciara O’Rourke on Mar 5, 2017 6:00 am

When Elizabeth Mack wondered about a future in which Americans wouldn’t be able to pay for water, a couple of colleagues waved her off. “Don’t be ridiculous,” they said. But the idea niggled at Mack, an assistant professor at the Department of Geography, Environment, and Spatial Sciences at Michigan State University. And in January, in an article published in the science journal PLOS ONE, she asked a new question: Is there a burgeoning water affordability crisis in the United States?

Mack, along with research assistant Sarah Wrase, determined that if water rates increase at projected amounts over the next five years, the percentage of households that can’t pay their water bills could triple from 11.9 percent to more than a third. Nearly 14 million households nationwide already struggle to afford water services. An additional 27.18 million — or 8.5 percent of the country’s population — could soon face the same challenges.

“I don’t think we think about this, about what it would mean to not have running water,” Mack told Fusion. Of course, some Americans have experienced it. Water affordability is becoming an increasingly critical issue in cities across the country, including Philadelphia, Atlanta, Seattle, and Detroit. In Philadelphia, an estimated four out of 10 water accounts are past due. Atlanta and Seattle have some of the highest water rates in the country. And in Detroit, a campaign to cut off delinquent residents has stopped water and sewage service for 50,000 households since 2014. It’s a reality Mack thinks Americans in other parts of the country could face.

“Any place with shrinking city characteristics, any city where we have a hollowing out of a downtown core that used to be quite vibrant” could be in trouble, she said. That’s the case in Detroit, where a declining population has left fewer households to shoulder the costs of water services.

The cost of replacing water systems built around World War II are projected at more than $1 trillion over the next 25 years across the country. Prices will be even higher if cities tap private companies to provide water services because they tend to charge higher rates than public providers. A majority of Americans get their water from public providers, but in Atlanta, where the privatization of water services in part drove up water expenses, the service costs $325.52 per month. Households must make at least about $87,000 for that to be affordable.

Because public utilities can only charge customers as much money as it takes to recoup their costs, Mack said, it can be harder for them to finance new infrastructure — but their rates also tend to be lower than private providers that don’t have the same constraints. Still, a 2014 report by Corporate Accountability International and Public Services International Research Unit questioned whether it’s appropriate to tap private companies to shore up infrastructure projects. “No matter how the private sector frames its intentions, its priority is market development over community development, profit maximization over the public interest,” the report states.

Other drivers behind rising water prices include increasingly rigorous water quality standards, said Laura Feinstein, a senior research associate at the Pacific Institute, a global water think tank based in Oakland. As federal laws are updated to reflect new contaminants, water utilities have to spend more money to treat the water to keep it safe for consumers. Extreme weather events associated with climate change, such as droughts and floods, are also expensive for the systems to manage.

But there are ways for both providers and people to curb costs, she said. As utilities look for new water sources to accommodate population growth, they can turn to storm water capture or gray water reuse instead of costlier dams, reservoirs, and desalination plants. And utilities should be mindful that per capita water use doesn’t necessarily increase as populations do thanks to more efficient appliances and cultural shifts among residents who might water their lawns less.

“In reality, per person water use just keeps going down over time, at least in California,” Feinstein said.

Some utilities have worked to develop effective bill discount programs to focus their efficiency programs on lower-income customers. Offering a rebate for a low-flush toilet, for example, is only an option for people who can already pay for a big investment like that, Feinstein said. But giving customers a discount upfront makes it more affordable.

Water affordability is already a serious challenge for low-income people in the United States, Feinstein said. In one study that looked at a sample of communities in California, the institute found that about 5 percent of households had incomes under $10,000 and were spending around 5 percent of their income on water.

In California, at least, laws restraining public utilities from hiking rates higher than the cost of recovery can also hamper efforts to offer discounts to low-income customers, Feinstein said, “because they can’t charge more affluent customers a little more in order to fund low-income discounts.”

For people already living in poverty — 40 percent of the population in Detroit — any increase in a water cost will strain a family’s finances, said Randy Block, director of the Michigan Unitarian Universalist Social Justice Network. He and others in the faith community are trying to raise money to help needy residents pay for water. He thinks water should be recognized as a human right in Michigan just as the United Nations General Assembly defined it in 2010. He likened the city shutting off water for delinquent customers to a war on poverty, and he believes similar skirmishes will play out across the country as income inequality grows.

“Detroit is the canary in a coal mine,” Block said.

Mark Fancher, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Michigan, said unaffordable water has been a “pretty massive problem” in Detroit for 10–15 years. The practical result of shut-offs, he said, is residents relocating. While there are hardship extensions for residents who have fallen behind on their bills but are also suffering from a serious medical condition, according to Fancher, the system could be a lot better: Residents often don’t know about it, or their applications are denied. Other times, they might receive bills for water they didn’t use or not get the bills at all, he said.

“The argument has been made that an affordability plan for the city of Detroit would be a really helpful thing for the struggling utility,” Fancher said. “Because even though people who take advantage of it may not be paying full market rate for water, they’ll be paying more than nothing, which will at least bring in some significant amount of money that right now they’re not getting at all.”

He questioned how seriously the city is interested in water affordability. The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department did not respond to questions about water affordability and shut-offs in the city, but The Detroit News reported last month that officials expect a new rate structure that rewards low water use will reduce the burden on low-income residents. In turn, said Marcus Hudson, the department’s chief financial officer, their probability of paying will increase.

Mack thinks that governments, utilities, and consumers will need to work together to solve the growing problem of water affordability.

“How can we fix this infrastructure and how can we finance it together?” she said. She cautions against alarmist responses to her study, which, she said, “is not meant to be an activist piece.” Rather, she said her research highlights a quiet water crisis that many Americans are aware of in developing countries but don’t consider in the United States. She doesn’t think anyone appreciates the scope of infrastructure problems here and, she said, Americans should be watching Detroit warily.

“I would hazard a guess that most people don’t know how much water they use,” she said. “I’d encourage them to do some self-education.”

Feinstein is agnostic on whether it’s an increasing problem. The article, leaning on the Environmental Protection Agency’s average consumption estimates, assumes the average household uses 12,000 gallons per month. “That might be more than people really need to meet their basic needs,” she said.

But she agrees that water affordability is a problem. Other countries, such as France, Australia, and South Africa have better programs in place to make sure low-income residents can pay for water, Feinstein said. She thinks California is leading the way with legislation that calls for the State Water Resources Control Board to study how to develop low-income assistance rates statewide. As far as she knows, it would be the first such program of its kind if it’s implemented but, she said, it should be nationwide.

“When people don’t have access to the water that they need, it compromises their health. It means they end up having to make choices between paying for things like medical care and paying for food and paying for water,” Feinstein said. “Water is essential for life. People should be able to get the water they need a price they can afford it.”

CONTINUE READING…

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"I don’t want to fucking give this United States government one fucking dollar of taxes…" — Jack Herer, "The Emperor of Hemp", September 12th, 2009


Rev. Mary Spears explains the legalization vs. repeal initiatives and why REPEAL is the only way to proceed.

 

“I don’t want to fucking give this United States
government one fucking dollar of taxes…”
Jack Herer, “The Emperor of Hemp”, September 12th, 2009
(Portland Hempstalk Festival–his final speech.)
http://overgrow.ning.com/profiles/blogs/the-fallacy-of-the-legalize-and-tax-cannabis-initiatives

 

By ElectroPig Von Fökkengrüüven in Overgrow The World v2.0

The Fallacy of the “Legalize and Tax Cannabis” initiatives.

Overgrow The World

April 21, 2010

I have listened and understood the words of the late Jack Herer, and I am amazed how few people who say they believe in what Jack was saying truly understand the real reasons why he so horrified at the idea of creating new cannabis taxes. Let me explain quickly: THEY ARE NOT NEEDED AT ALL! As a matter of fact, nothing could be further from the truth!

Now I’m sure that many of you don’t believe me. If that is the case, then you also didn’t understand what Jack meant, or perhaps you simply weren’t paying attention, choosing to hear what you agreed with and ignoring what you didn’t understand, or simply weren’t interested in.

The first “ignored fact” is that the vast majority of the “illicit market” for cannabis is underground, hence, completely untaxed. There is a small fallacy to this statement, however, as even those “underground economies” still purchase their supplies, tools and equipment from “legitimate businesses” and those businesses all pay taxes of one form or another. Cannabis growers order pizza, buy gas, hire electricians and plumbers, et cetera. In this admittedly roundabout way, cannabis already is taxed, albeit to a very small degreee in comparison to the total size of the market as it stands, and to the potential which is known to exist.

Let’s say that cannabis/hemp were re-legalized prohibition was repealed today, and it was done so without the creation of any new tax codes specifically for cannabis. Most think that this would be a bad thing, as it wouldn’t be “exploiting the market” without creating new tax codes, new agencies, new enforcement regimes. Unfortunately, the people who believe that have been lied to, and it’s time that they learned the truth.

In actual fact, if cannabis were re-legalized prohibition was repealed today and taxes weren’t considered in the equation in any way, it would still be beneficial to society in terms of savings alone. We’d save money on policing, of which estimates range that between 40-60% of all police costs are directly due to “drug prohibition.” Logic follows that with police not bogged down with grandmothers taking a puff to slow their glaucoma, they would then be able to concentrate their resources on combating real crimes. Things like rape, murder, fraud, home invasion and theft, assault and battery, arson, financial crimes, environmental crimes (of which cannabis/hemp prohibition is one of the leading causes, in fact), and many more REAL crimes with REAL victims.

Taken a step further, lawyers would then be freed up to work on real crimes as well. So would prosecutors. So would judges, court stenographers, prison staff and more. WIthout locking away non-violent “criminals” who have harmed noone else–and this is the scary part for corporations–the “warehousing of otherwise productive humans for profit” would suddenly become far less profitable for the prison-industrial complex to continue, and prohibitionary statute development might begin to fade. With less “legal reasons” to imprison people for essentially minding their own business, more people would not have the lives and futures destroyed.

So let’s say that there were no new taxes created upon re-legalization of cannabis/hemp, and we ONLY consider the tens or hundreds of billions SAVED by no longer wasting time attacking people in their homes for posession or for growing a few plants for their own consumption. Are not those billions of dollars saved a tremendous enough benefit to justify the immediate repeal of cannabis/hemp prohibition? Could saving those billions of dollars not be immediately transferred into lower taxes, or public debt reduction? Would those savings alone not be of tremendous, immediate and long-term social value?

Now let’s consider the tax idea on it’s own merit.

With re-legalization repeal of cannabis/hemp prohibition, there would immediately follow the creation of new businesses to exploit what is widely known to be a global market for cannaibs and hemp products. Each of those businesses would be subject to business income taxes that currently do not exist. WIthout a single character added to business tax statutes, the net result would be the establishment of “new revenue” from those “new businesses.”

Of course, those businesses would need people to man storefronts, deliver products, develop products, design packaging, grow the raw materials, process the raw materials, et cetera. These jobs would all be legitimate jobs in the real job market. Each of those jobs would be subject to existing income tax statutes. It’s not hard to see how those “new jobs” would in turn be utilized as “new tax revenue sources” which previously did not exist. Again, without a single line of new codes written, a brand new revenue stream has been obtained.

Each of those new employees and businesses would need supplies, equipment, computers, energy sources, and services. All of those businesses and individuals would then use their incomes to purchase those items or services they needed, either to operate or enhance their businesses, or simply to make their lives at home a little better. All of those products would be purchased at existing retailers and/or wholesalers that exist in the current “legitimate marketplace.” All (or the vast majority) of those purchases would be subject to sales taxes at state/provincial and federal levels. Again, not a single comma added to the existing statutes required, but “new revenue” has effectively been attained.

Now let’s take the cannabis market ITSELF.

All of those newly created and legitimate businesses would provide products that people either wanted or needed, be they for medical purposes or for recreational uses. All of those products would then be subject to state/provincial and federal sales taxes. With each sale would then come “new revenues” which do not exist today. Again–are you starting to notice a pattern yet?–without the addition of a single line of code to any existing tax codes.

The Fallacy of “New Government Regulatory Jobs”

People keep being told that “new jobs” will be created in the “new regulatory framework” that “will be needed”, but they haven’t thought this through. Some have partly thought it through, thinking that since a percentage of those worker’s incomes will be clawed back by income taxes–say 25%–that means that those jobs are “cheaper” than “real jobs”. That’s actually not quite right.

When you look the “real economy”, or in other words, the economy from which all government income is derived via the millions of tax codes which exist to take our incomes from us all, any position in this “real economy” is one which is subject to taxation, and therefore, is generally to be considered a contributing position.

On the other hand, when you look at “government jobs” which are wholly funded by “real people” with “real jobs” in the “real economy”, every government position which exists–no matter what country or what level of government–is a drain on society, and must be so, as “we hired them to work for us.”

Now let’s take a simple example that we’ve all heard a million times: “Joe The Plumber.”

If Joe was working in his own shop, or for someone else in their business, he would be a contributing factor in the “real economy” in the amount of taxation on his income, we’ll use 25% for illustration purposes. This means that 25% of his income is diverted to “public employees and projects” needed for society to function as it currently exists.

Now let’s take Joe’s situation if he were a government employee…let’s say he’s employed by the local Public Utilities Comission. Now Joe’s income is wholly funded by tax dollars, and thus, is a drain on society. We’ve established an income tax rate of 25%, so we can now say that Joe is “cheaper” because now his services now only costs us 75% of what they would, had he remained in his private sector job.

Here is the “minor error” in that logic: Joe has moved from the “real economy” to the “government economy”. In making that move, the “real economy” has lost 100% of a “real job”, while the government has gained an employee “at a discount of only 75% of their private sector wages.” When you add that up, you see quite clearly that Joe’s “new job” is effectively now a 175% loss to society as a whole.

Joe’s still making the same amount of money. We’re still paying him the same amount of money when he does his work…but now he is NOT contributing to the “real economy” at all, while he is draining 75% of his wages from unnaportioned taxation of the people who are forced to pay his salary, whether they partake of his services or not.

Unfortunately, this also applies to every “equivalent government position” that exists in the world. Accountants cost 175% of what they would cost in the “real economy.” So do welders, secretaries, cafeteria cooks, lawyers…ALL of them! If they work for the government, they are at a much higher cost than their equivalent “real world” positions in the real economy.

We need to keep this in mind whenever we hear talk of ” new regulations” because that almost always means “new regulatory bodies”, and that DEFINITELY always means “new government employees” which are going to cost us dearly if we allow such things to occur.

If we are forced to accept some form of taxation in order to move closer to the full repeal of cannabis/hemp prohibition, so be it…let’s move a little closer…but the second we have a positive change under our belts, we must NOT become complacent! We must continue to fight for the full repeal of cannabis/hemp prohibition until the batttle is decisively won.

Once we have some “half-assed reasonable legislation” in place, we can guage what are the worst parts of those enacted bills and target them one by one until they’re all gone, and then, we will have our ofn freedom, and freedom for what is arguably the most important plant known on this planet.

At the Hempstalk Festival, during Jack Herer’s final public speech, he said (among other things):

“I don’t want to fucking give this United States government one fucking dollar of taxes…”

Obviously, he understood my thinking…or perhaps, I simply learned enough to come to an understanding of his.

What about you?

EDIT:  I have since come up with the complete solution to the perils of prohibition in THREE WORDS:

1) DESCHEDULE.
2) REPEAL.
3) DONE!!!

If you remember only three words in your lifetime, THOSE are the ones that WILL end cannabis/hemp prohibition.

If we continue to be led by propagandists and prohibitionists into accepting ever-longer-names for prohibition, while believing we are “moving closer to freedom”, we’ll never get there…it’ll just keep getting more complex, more costly, and more damaging to society as a whole…as it has for decades already.

If we allow our politicians to “reschedule” cannabis, this COULD mean an outright statutory BAN on ALL cannabis use, medicinal or otherwise, for the length of time it would take “to conduct safety studies.”  We already know that if they keep finding proof cannabis is non-toxic, anti-oxidant, neuroprotectant, et cetera, we also already know that these “safety studies” will be completed in an absolute minimum of 4-6 years, to an absolute maximum of…NEVER!

“Decriminalization” is NOT repeal.  It’s still illegal.

“Legalization” simply tells the politicians and courts that we believe the fix to bad legislation conveived of in fraud can only be fixed not by deleting it from the recored entirely, but by making it more complex…but keeping it all on the books for future “quick-n-easy” readoption when prison investors want higher revenues to do their profit-taking from.

“Re-legalization” is just two letters prepended to the above.

“Tax and regulate” tells OUR EMPLOYEES that “we owe them new taxes for not wasting our money attacking us.”  If we keep buying into the scam, they’ll get it, too!

“Regulate like [insert commodity of the hour here]” is just another way to justify the creation of a new regulatory body, hire new “government employees”, raise taxes, lower rights and freedoms, all while telling the wilfully ignorant population that “they are free.”  They ain’t.  They won’t be.

“REPEAL” means:  The statutes are GONE.  Deleted.  History.  Erased.  Terminated.  Removed from the “law” journals.  NEVER TO RETURN.

The ridiculous proposition that “if we want it legal again, we have to create new taxes” is also a prime example of idiotic propaganda foisted upon a wilfully ignorant population.  Only two seconds of thought tells you the truth of the situation…we do NOT need to “appease our employees” when we finally force them to stop wasting our money.  Not wasting all those billions of dollars every year should be, and IS, reward enough to everyone all on it’s own!

When we find out we’ve got a crooked mechanic who’s bee charging us for spark plug changes on every visit that we didn’t really need, and were nothing more than a waste of OUR money…we don’t praise them and give them permanent bonuses, do we?  So where did the idea come from, that in order for our employees to simply do their job with a litle more brainpower behind their actions, that we need to give them more money and hire more people?  Reality has to sink in eventually, folks!  Even through the infinitely thick skulls of “politicians.”  They might be as dense as the core of a neutron star, but they still have ear holes!  SO START SPEAKING UP!!!

Either we DEMAND the full repeal of prohibition, or we will continue on with it forever, just with a different name, and higher taxes…and let’s face it, folks:  OUR EMPLOYEES will be completely happy to rename what they’re doing to us and call it whatever we want to call it, if we’re dumb enough to allow it to continue.  Are we really so blind as to STILL not see the truth for what it is?

Want it over?  MAKE it over!

1) DESCHEDULE.
2) REPEAL.
3) DONE!!!

It really is just as simple as that.

* That solves prohibition on a national level…we still need to remove cannabis/hemp from the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs in order to end prohibition GLOBALLY.

Views: 3521

Tags: Herer, Jack, PROHIBITION, REPEAL, Rick, Simpson, cannabis, freedom, health, human, More…

 

By ElectroPig Von Fökkengrüüven in Overgrow The World v2.0

The Fallacy of the “Legalize and Tax Cannabis” initiatives.

Overgrow The World

April 21, 2010

 

Jack Herer’s last speech at Portland Hempstalk Festival 2009–HIS FINAL SPEECH BEFORE HE DIED…MAY HE NEVER BE FORGOTTEN!

 

MY PERSONAL COMMENT:  SOMETIMES (MOST OFTEN) OLD NEWS IS THE BEST NEWS – SMK.