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The Enchanted Land Where Community College Is Free? Welcome to Tennessee in 2015

Photo by Ian Norman / Flickr.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam promised his state something unprecedented: free community college tuition.

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The “Tennessee Promise” is now more than a promise: It’s a law Haslam signed in May. The bill provides two years of tuition at a community college or college of applied technology for any high school graduate who agrees to work with a mentor, complete eight hours of community service, and maintain at least a C average. High school graduates will start to reap these benefits in fall 2015.

Oregon Sen. Mark Hass is selling the idea to his state, too. He sponsored a bill that passed earlier this year to study whether a similar system in Oregon would work. The results should be out later this year.

Hass feels passionate about this bill because his generation didn’t have to deal with the same hardships as today’s young people. When he graduated from Tigard High School in 1975, his friends could score a job at a timber mill and make a decent living for the rest of their lives.

In 2013, by contrast, high school grads without a college degree faced an unemployment rate of 7.5 percent, more than 2 percentage points higher than their associate-degree holding peers; their annual income was lower by more than $6,500.

Alabama and other states neighboring Mississippi are also looking into the idea.

If the outcome of the Oregon study is positive, the state is likely to follow in Tennessee’s footsteps and increase college enrollment and reduce poverty all at once through the free community-college system. The legislature will vote on the proposal during the 2015 legislative session.

“It won’t, by itself, eradicate poverty,” Hass says, “but I think it’s a very positive step in the right direction of not only reducing poverty but also meeting the needs of employers who are trying to find qualified people for jobs.”

Several of Mississippi’s community colleges already offer free tuition, but state Rep. Jerry Turner won’t stand for “several.” He wants to make all 15 of the state’s community colleges free. Turner authored a bill that proposed that idea, and though it died in committee earlier this year, it’ll be up for discussion again in January.

Alabama and other states neighboring Mississippi are also looking into the idea.

David Baime, senior vice president for government relations and research for the American Association of Community Colleges, expects efforts that address the cost of college will grow.

While he thinks these policies are positive, Baime worries about the less well-prepared students and the part-time students who work and will be excluded by full-time eligibility requirements. “Sometimes, the students who are sort of on the margin are left behind,” Baime says.

Kell Smith, the director of communications and legislative service for the Mississippi Community College Board, says full-time requirements encourage students not only to complete school but to complete it in a timely manner.

For now, it’s uncertain how these policies will affect students “on the margin” or whether Oregon or Mississippi will move forward with their initiatives. It’s certain, however, that Tennessians can now reap the benefits of a college degree—for free.

Yessenia Funes wrote this article for The End of Poverty, the Fall 2014 issue of YES! Magazine. Yessenia is an editorial intern at YES!

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Categories: Economics

Public Services: Commodity or Common Good?

Shareable Magazine - September 3, 2014 - 09:44

Greek strike against cuts to jobs and public services, June 2013. (Public Services International / Flickr)

Categories: Economics

How America's Largest Worker Owned Co-Op Lifts People Out of Poverty

Shareable Magazine - September 3, 2014 - 08:01

By Laura Flanders Cross-posted from Yes! Magazine.

Before Zaida Ramos joined Cooperative Home Care Associates, she was raising her daughter on public assistance, shuttling between dead-end office jobs, and not making ends meet. “I earned in a week what my family spent in a day,” she recalled.

Categories: Economics

How Makers are Transforming the Economy [Infographic]

Shareable Magazine - September 3, 2014 - 07:28

The maker movement is in full swing. It offers people the means, inspiration and community to make rather than buy goods. Due to the growing accessibility of tools including 3D printers, laser cutters and open source designs and hardware, all kinds of people are becoming makers.

Categories: Economics

Daily Digest 9/3 - Rickets and Gout Return To Britain, Payday Loans Soar

Chris Martenson - September 3, 2014 - 06:59
  • Poverty Blamed for Return of Rickets and Gout to Britain
  • Health care spending in Massachusetts on the rise
  • High Health Plan Deductibles Weigh Down More Employees
  • Food-Stamp Use Starting to Fall
  • Payday loan problems soaring, says debt charity
  • Texas' Local Debt Hits $328 Billion -- That's $12,400 Per Person
  • New study finds the Southwest might be facing 'megadrought'
  • Chinese home prices drop again in August: surveys
  • Puerto Rico economic activity drops to 20-year low
  • France backs away from 2015 savings target

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Categories: Economics

New Documentary Explores Tiny House Living From the Ground Up

Shareable Magazine - September 3, 2014 - 06:57

The tiny house movement is a media darling right now. Rarely a day goes by without seeing an article, blog post, book or photo gallery dedicated to these wee-sized dwellings. In an effort to get behind the scenes of the movement and find out what it’s really like to build and live in a tiny house, Shareable checked in with Christopher Smith and Merete Mueller who we featured in an article about living off-the-grid in a tiny house.

Categories: Economics

Where To From Here?

Chris Martenson - September 2, 2014 - 21:02

The financial markets were certainly correct in dismissing that rather abysmal first quarter 2014 GDP print, no?  After all, the current 4.2% GDP growth snapback revision in Q2 is proof positive Q1 was just a one-off fluke. Right?

The fact is: for a good five years now, economic pundits have been both hoping for, and then repeatedly disappointed by, the US economy's inability to achieve "escape velocity”.

So what lies ahead for the US economy? And for the financial markets? Are things going to get better or worse from here?

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Categories: Economics

The Bad & The Ugly

Chris Martenson - September 2, 2014 - 21:02
Executive Summary
  • Lack of demand is the key drag on economic growth. And there's no end in sight.
  • Private sector credit expansion just isn't happening fast enough
  • Why the central banks' "wealth effect" policies have been a total bust
  • Capital flows are simply chasing yield, precious little economic productivity is being created

If you have not yet read Part 1: Where To From Here available free to all readers, please click here to read it first.

The Bad 

Who wrote this tired sea song set on this peaceful shore?  I think you’ve heard this one before…

~ Steely Dan

As mentioned, at least for the small business community, availability of credit has not been a key fundamental issue in the current cycle. In fact, their number one issue of concern for years has been lack of final demand.

Personally, I believe the experience of the small business community is simply a microcosm of the larger domestic and global macro. Subdued final demand IS the key macro. Is this why we see a growing gap between small business perceptions of credit availability and actual capital spending? Probably. The credit is there, but actual final demand that would support credit expansion is not. Hence the current cycle divergence in what has been a very tight data series correlation between credit and cap spending historically.

Of course this is a segue into a broader dark cloud of the current cycle that is private sector credit expansion, or more correctly, lack thereof relative to historical experience.  When we listen to pundits speak of the economy potentially reaching “escape velocity”, they are of course referencing prior economic cycle growth results, aided and abetted by prior credit expansion that is now lacking. This is perhaps most dramatically seen in the rhythm of banking system credit, in the change in actual loans and leases outstanding.

As is clear in the chart below, never in any expansion cycle of the last four decades at least has banking system credit not grown in double-digit territory until...

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Categories: Economics

For Walkers and Cyclists, A Swedish Road-Planning Strategy Helps Save Lives

Photo by Ed Yourdon/ Flickr.

More than 4,500 pedestrians are killed and more than 68,000 are injured by motor vehicles every year on the streets of America. The victims are disproportionately children, seniors, and people of color.

A recent report from the National Complete Streets Coalition found that from 2003 to 2012, more than 47,000 people were killed crossing the street. That's 16 times the number of people who died in natural disasters over the same period.

“Vision Zero is about changing the culture of our dangerous streets.”

The pedestrian safety crisis is even more dire internationally. Worldwide, more than 270,000 people are killed while walking every year—that's 22 percent of a total 1.24 million yearly traffic fatalities, according to the World Health Organization.

“It’s like an airplane falling out of the sky every other day. If that actually happened, the whole system would be ground to a halt until the problem was fixed,” said Scott Bricker, executive director of America Walks, a coalition of walking advocacy groups. “We need to address this terrible problem with the same urgency.”

Unfortunately, pedestrian deaths—and all traffic fatalities—are viewed as an inevitable side effect of modern life. “People accept this as normal, just as 100 years ago most people accepted that women could not vote,” observes Gil Penalosa, executive director of 8-80 Cities, an international organization that's working to make streets safe for people of all ages.

Yet recent history offers genuine hope for making our streets safer. A generation ago domestic abuse and drunk driving were seen as sad, unalterable facts of human nature. But vigorous public campaigns to prevent these tragedies have had remarkable results, offering clear evidence that destructive human behavior can be curbed when we put our minds to it.

Sweden paves the way for zero traffic deaths

From Philadelphia to Chicago to Oregon, campaigns to reduce pedestrian, bicyclist, and motorist deaths to zero are now taking shape around the country.

The campaigns are based on a new safety strategy called Vision Zero, which is modeled on successful efforts in Sweden. Pedestrian deaths in Sweden have dropped 50 percent since 2009, and overall traffic deaths have been cut in half since 2000—making Swedish streets the safest in the world, according to the New York Times.

Campaigns to reduce pedestrian, bicyclist, and motorist deaths to zero are now taking shape around the country.

The Economist reports that Sweden accomplished this by emphasizing safety over speed in road design, and attributes the impressive drop in traffic deaths to improved crosswalks, narrowed streets, lowered urban speed limits, and barriers that separate cars from bikes and pedestrians.

Sweden took a far different approach than conventional transportation planning, where “road users are held responsible for their own safety” according to the Vision Zero Initiative website. Swedish policy believes that to save lives, roads must anticipate driver, bicyclist, and walker errors, “based on the simple fact that we are human and we make mistakes.”

This is similar to the Netherlands’ Forgiving Roads policy, which has reduced traffic fatalities by 75 percent since the 1970s. In comparison, there's been less than a 20 percent reduction in the U.S. over the same period.

Utah, Minnesota, and Washington have adopted aggressive measures that are similar to Vision Zero to cut traffic deaths. All three states have seen traffic fatalities decline by 40 percent or more—25 percent better than the national average.

Streets of New York

In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio won office last year on the promise of reducing traffic deaths in a city where someone is killed or seriously injured by a motor vehicle every two hours on average.

“The fundamental message of Vision Zero is that death and injury on city streets is not acceptable, and that we will no longer regard serious crashes as inevitable,” he wrote in a letter to New Yorkers. “They happen to people who drive and to those who bike, but overwhelmingly, the deadly toll is highest for pedestrians—especially our children and seniors.”

To save lives, roads must anticipate driver, bicyclist, and walker errors: “We are human and we make mistakes.”

Traffic accidents are the largest preventable cause of death for children under 14 in New York, and the second highest cause of fatal injuries for people over 65.

In May, New York’s city council passed 11 bills and six resolutions to implement de Blasio’s Vision Zero Action Plan across many city departments.

The plan includes teaching street safety in schools; allowing the city legislature to lower speed limits to 25 mph; increasing police enforcement for speeding, failure to yield to pedestrians, and dangerous driving; and creating a permanent Vision Zero Task Force at City Hall.

According to walking and bike advocates, one of New York’s biggest problems is that the police department focuses more resources on street crime than on street safety—even though in 2013, there were 356 traffic-related deaths (half of those killed were pedestrians or bicyclists), compared to 333 murders.

Advocates cheered when de Blasio chose as his police chief William Bratton, who has spoken out about the need to curb traffic injuries and deaths.

“It’s really impressive what Mayor de Blasio has done,” said Noah Budnick, deputy director of Transportation Alternatives. “He has put his money where his mouth is” by finding funding for street safety projects and increased police enforcement in an era of tight budgets.

Streets of San Francisco and beyond

After New York, San Francisco has advanced the farthest with Vision Zero planning. The city saw a near-record high of 25 pedestrian and bike fatalities last year. To combat the rising number of fatalities, Walk San Francisco and the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition launched the Vision Zero Coalition with the San Francisco School District and more than two dozen community organizations. Their mission is to encourage city officials to:

  • Fix dangerous intersections and streets;
  • Ensure “full and fair enforcement of traffic laws,” with an emphasis on curbing dangerous behavior;
  • Invest in training and education for all road users, focusing on helping frequent drivers share the road with walkers and bicyclists;
  • Eliminate all traffic deaths in the city by 2024.

“Vision Zero is about changing the culture of our dangerous streets,” wrote Nicole Schneider of Walk San Francisco and Leah Shahum of the San Francisco Bicyle Coalition. “[It] is also about empowering historically under-represented communities that are disproportionately burdened by traffic injuries.”

The plan has already been endorsed by the San Francisco Police Department.

A number of local advocacy organizations around the country are working with the national Alliance for Biking and Walking to launch the Vision Zero Strategic Collaborative. The collaborative will push for these policies across the nation.

America’s emerging walking revolution

America is on the verge of a walking revolution. After many decades in which walking continually lost ground to other modes of transportation and recreation, there’s growing interest about restoring walking as a way of life.

A diverse network of organizations came together last year at the first-ever walking summit to champion walking as one solution to our health care crisis (one-half hour of walking each day reduces the risk of many major diseases); as a tool for strengthening our hometowns (people out walking heighten the sense of community and security); and as a clear route to reducing climate change (more folks walking means less CO2 emissions).

“We won’t increase walkability—which is good for people’s and communities’ health—until we make the streets more safe and comfortable for walking,” said Katherine Kraft, America Walks’ National Coalition Director and Coalition Director of Every Body Walk!

Vision Zero, Kraft says, is the path toward a better life for all of us.

Jay Walljasper is the author of the Great Neighborhood Book; he writes, speaks, and consults about how to create safer, sustainable, more enjoyable communities.

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Categories: Economics

The Tiny House Infographic Proves That Less is More

Shareable Magazine - September 2, 2014 - 07:44

Shareable loves tiny houses. Whether they are for off-grid living, homeless communities, short-term rentals, or retirement makes no difference.

Categories: Economics

How to Fix the Tragedy No One Talks About

Shareable Magazine - September 2, 2014 - 07:39

Photo credit: Jerolek / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

More than 4,500 pedestrians are killed by motor vehicles every year on the streets of America -- more than those who died in the horror of 9/11.

Categories: Economics

Daily Digest 9/2 - When Labor Day Meant Something, 'Limits To Growth' Was Right

Chris Martenson - September 2, 2014 - 07:30
  • Limits to Growth was right. New research shows we're nearing collapse
  • When Labor Day Meant Something
  • Childhood Diet Habits Set in Infancy, Studies Suggest
  • Tabloid Version of Financial and Political News
  • Coalgate: India urges supreme court not to close coal mines
  • Return to the Arctic: Shell Looks Set To Take Another Run
  • Mexico baffled by sudden death of thousands of fish in Lake Cajititlán
  • More than one in three wild boar in Germany are too radioactive to eat

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Categories: Economics

Off the Cuff: Warming Up The Helicopters

Chris Martenson - September 2, 2014 - 05:58

In this week's Off the Cuff podcast, Chris and Mish discuss:

  • Winter Is Coming
    • Russia's trump card
  • Europe Back In Recession
    • The EU's structural weaknesses are re-emerging
  • Bond Market Madness
    • Risk is terribly underpriced right now
  • Helicopter Drop Trial Balloon
    • Yes, they're now talking about giving cash to citizens

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Categories: Economics

Will You Be Our 20,000th YouTube Subscriber?

Chris Martenson - September 1, 2014 - 12:42

As of this morning, the subscriber count to PeakProsperity's YouTube channel stands at 19,984.

Who will be our 20,000th subscriber? You?

Subscribers are notified whenever a new podcast is uploaded to YouTube, as well as the new weekly video updates we started recording this summer. Those weekly updates give a window into what's at the top of Chris' mind each week.

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Categories: Economics

How to Harvest and Store Potatoes

Chris Martenson - September 1, 2014 - 12:19

Potatoes are an excellent source of calories that can be easily stored up for the winter. All you need is a cool, dark, humid place free from any rodents.

1. Dig up your potatoes after the plant has died back. Pick a dry day, and use a potato fork to carefully uproot your mounds of potatoes.


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Categories: Economics

End-of-Summer Food Preservation Guide

Chris Martenson - September 1, 2014 - 09:09

A great overview of the many different techniques to preserve food and put away the bounty of your garden.

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Categories: Economics

Daily Digest 9/1 - The Evolution Of Diet, Will Wages Ever Start Rising?

Chris Martenson - September 1, 2014 - 08:09
  • Labor Day Anxiety: Will Wages Ever Start Rising?
  • More Workers Are Claiming ‘Wage Theft’
  • Syria’s violence prompts worst humanitarian crisis in a century
  • Ebola threat to Norway: Sweden fears first case
  • Surge In U.S. Oil Production Finally Reflected At Pump
  • Changing global diets is vital to reducing climate change
  • The Evolution Of Diet
  • Water War: Dry In Detroit

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Categories: Economics

Sharing Activists Reveal Plan to Turn Los Angeles into Sharing Mecca

Shareable Magazine - August 31, 2014 - 10:11

As a founding member of the Sharing Cities Network (SCN), Shareable interviewed Arroyo Sustainable Economies Organization (ASECO) to get the scoop on their recently released plan to create Share LA. It's a bold plan to turn notoriously unequal and sprawling Los Angeles into a community-oriented, resource sharing city for all.

Categories: Economics

Daily Digest 8/31 - The Foundation of Integrity, UK Terror Threat Level Raised To 'Severe'

Chris Martenson - August 31, 2014 - 08:04
  • Ukraine President Says Europe’s Security Depends on Stopping Russia
  • Leadership and Calm Are Urged in Ebola Outbreak
  • UK terror threat level raised to 'severe'
  • Atlantic City facing unprecedented economic collapse
  • How can you tell whether Russia has invaded Ukraine?
  • The Fall Of Man's Logic
  • Coal trains kill Cold Trains: Fruit delivery service shuts down as rail congestion heats up
  • The Foundation of Integrity

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Categories: Economics

Kirk Sorensen: An Update On The Thorium Story

Chris Martenson - August 31, 2014 - 07:54

Two years ago, we interviewed Kirk Sorensen about the potential for thorium to offer humanity a safe, cheap and abundant source of energy.

Kirk returns this week to relay what has happened in the thorium space since our last conversation. The East, most notably China, is now fully-mobilized around getting its first reactor operational by as soon as 2020. If indeed thorium reactors are as successful as hoped, the US will find itself playing catch up against countries who suddenly hold a tremendous technology advantage:

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Categories: Economics