About Alton Drew

Alton Drew brings a straight forward and insightful brand of political market intelligence. Alton Drew graduated from the Florida State University with a Bachelor of Science in economics and political science (1984); a Master of Public Administration (1993); and a Juris Doctor (1999). You can also follow Alton Drew on Twitter @altondrew.

Kilmonger 1 T’Challa 0 #BlackPanther

“The black elite around the globe should be afraid. That is one of my takeaways from “The Black Panther”, a Marvel movie that when examined closely went beyond anything else so far in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The MCU, rebooted by the first installment of “Iron Man” has been expressing a political narrative that was heightened as recently as “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” But “The Black Panther” has taken the politics to a global level as expressed by a final conflict between two men who, without their fathers, find themselves rudderless in a political torrent.

I will start with the anti-elite, anti-hero, Kilmonger. Kilmonger represents the 90% of the African Diaspora that is resource-less. He sees an elite that does not want to or maybe does not know how to distribute the gains from the precious little resources the Diaspora has.

While the educated continue to delude themselves that they are doing well in America, for example, they tend to ignore the poverty that they drive through every day to jobs that have more than a glass ceiling as a barrier to break. They see a disproportionate number of black entrepreneurs forced to go solo after the glass ceiling crashes on them only to face further discrimination from bankers who refuse to throw the lifeline of business credit their way.

In addition, they are increasingly disconnected from the continent that spawned their ancestors, a continent, while rich in resources, still faces challenges extracting and processing those resources and turning them into output.

And while Africa itself is emerging, its growth, like that of America and the West, is driven by credit and IMF/World Bank aid. The poor, who are bearing the undue suffering of this economic and social model have no effective leadership. Like Kilmonger, they are rudderless.

T’Challa, whose character has been getting, in my opinion, too much premature love from the celebrating daishiki wearers that attacked the box office last weekend, represents an elite that believe they have arrived because they live in gated communities and have generated income from monopolizing the little precious resources that the Diaspora has. They are increasingly out of touch, using technology to create, much like the Wakandans, a moat around themselves.

Kilmonger’s father died while Kilmonger was still in his youth. There was no father to help guide him toward being the leader that could effectively create a narrative of Diaspora-wide self sustainability. He had to teach himself by leaving the confines of Oakland and traveling the globe training himself to be a warrior. Unfortunately, his message came from an emotional place, from a place of anger toward a family that had betrayed him. His energy was poorly channeled, again, because there was no father to guide him. For this reason, Kilmonger was the wrong man for the right message.

T’Challa was weak. This weakness led to him crafting a half-assed policy of outreach based on an equally half-assed narrative of “diversity.” Telling the world that Wakanda would step out of its isolation and show the world how to live as “one human tribe” is basically the same policy that led to and keeps the African Diaspora in check. Africans who war with each other are too distracted to lead any globe toward one-world bliss. And history shows what happens when Africa lets it guard down. The colonizers find a way to institute their old playbook of domination.

Cinematically, this movie outdoes every other Marvel movie. The movie has its own unique texture driven by the infusion of various African cultures and the human element of the story. It is the only time I felt tears welling up during a Marvel film as the story not only reminded me of my challenges from losing my father at 26, but displayed the challenges each man had to endure as they reconciled the lack of a father’s guidance in a world that tears their immediate, tribal, and global families apart.

Overall, a great movie, but not for the reasons the daishiki wearers expected.

.@facebook’s role as a digital archive threatened by #Russia and itself…

Robert Mueller’s indictment of thirteen Russian nationals for defrauding the United States by using fraudulent means to leverage social media in order to spread during the 2016 campaign season doesn’t intentionally pick on Facebook as a villain. Members of Congress are asking how the Russian-based Internet Research Agency using 100 or so employees, could have circumvented 22,000 Facebook employees and introduce their “digital political hack” into American cyberspace.

Members of Congress have been acting since last fall when Facebook provided documentation that its platform via paid advertising had been used to send targeted messaging via certain Facebook pages to divide the electorate. For example, H.R. 4077 is a bill designed to increase the amount of transparency in electioneering communication.  Introduced in October 2017, the bill aims for accountability and disclosure of who is behind the financing of paid social media users or, as they are affectionately called, “trolls.”

A companion bill, S. 1989, was introduced at the same time in the U.S. Senate.

S. 625, introduced in the U.S. Senate in March 2017 provides the Unites States Attorney General with investigative tools to flesh out foreign agents using social media to disrupt U.S. elections.  The bill requires prosecution of social media users failing to make this disclosure.

Congress hasn’t gone directly (yet) at Facebook or other social media properties. For the political left, especially members of the net neutrality posse, passing any legislation that hints at slowing down the growth of the very same edge providers that they have been protecting would send a message that they are as dysfunctional as some of the electorate already thinks. Facebook, along with Google and Twitter, has been a proponent of net neutrality rules. They have, to various degrees, built their business models on advertising driven by the free content and personal information that they “hack” from consumers. They make their advertising services available globally and unfortunately for them, their social media levers were pulled expertly by Russian nationals.

Facebook, probably inadvertently, has become a digital archive of America’s thoughts and opinions. Instead of having to rummage through personal libraries in order to learn about what Americans are thinking, historians now have access to digital living history, ironically made open by the openness of the internet. Crackdowns on social media would do more damage to openness than poorly forecasted bad gateway behavior of internet access providers. Net neutrality proponents wouldn’t have to worry about degraded access to content. They would have the bigger problem of congressional regulation of content.

Mr Mueller’s indictment has surmised that the digital hacking of the United States’ electoral system is continuing. Russian nationals may have done some adjusting since 2016 to better avoid detection, problem via some more openness themselves by complying with foreign agent registration laws. As for Facebook, changes in its business model may be on the way.

I don’t see a knowledge economy. I see a knowledge industry.

The term “knowledge economy” gets thrown around a lot. When you combine the term with other terms such as “artificial intelligence” and “machine learning”, you can be left with the impression that unless you have an engineering degree or know how to code, then you will be left to wonder the streets of dystopia, meandering through blithe in search of value or meaning. The knowledge economy, based on how it is presented, sounds like a place carved out for the information elite. I don’t take the dreaded scenario seriously because the knowledge economy does not exist. This acknowledgment is important because embracing this position provides a platform for creating social policy that effectively distributes knowledge as what it is: a capital input.

The United States has gone from an agrarian economy to an industrial economy to a services economy. The labels imply that for some type of output, crops, that there are rules for the extraction, packaging, and distribution of capital necessary for producing an end product, food, and for packaging and distributing to its final destination, the end-user. Once it is consumed, it is either gone immediately or depreciating to zero value over some period of time. There is some range of exclusivity involved in its consumption. We cannot say that for knowledge.

Knowledge results from a combination of information and experience. It is about “knowing how” to do something. It is an awareness of a process behind creating some result. While the “know how” could be protected by the laws of intellectual property, acquiring information, “the noise” and human experience garnered from deciphering through the noise to find a valuable nugget of information, cannot be constrained. The rules of economy are designed to bring society closer to some certainty over how resources will be extracted and distributed, but the open environment around knowledge makes strict rules useless.

Public policy can craft rules that make packaged knowledge exclusive to the creator and owner i.e, copyrights for artistic work or patents protecting applied scientific processes, but there are different paths to creating knowledge resulting sometimes in creating similar but not same packages. Knowledge protection is limited.

For this reason, knowledge can be built upon, expand. There is really no final consumption. Knowledge is reused, modified, improved over time. Rules of economics are not as applicable as they were in agrarian or industrial society.

Knowledge is more input than it is final product. This is why, to me, the term “knowledge economy” is weak. Knowledge has been an input during each of America’s economic phases. America’s increased reliance on information and communications technology over the past fifty years doesn’t mean that “knowledge” gets to claim its own economy.

Markets can be made for knowledge. A consultant takes her insights, advice, and publications into the knowledge market where she hopes she receives an offer that compensates her for the time spent creating the knowledge product and/or presenting the knowledge product.

As for the consumer of the knowledge product, he is taking a gamble that any action plan, output or final product generated by the knowledge creates positive value or profit. The more information the consultant and the purchaser have on the forecasted value of returns on the knowledge, the more accurate the market price for the knowledge.

If anything, we may be in a “learning economy” where consumers are also becoming producers either of their own content or more durable products. The knowledge industry is one of its platforms where knowledge as input is bought and sold.

Opt-in, Opt-out policy appropriate for addressing online privacy

In May 2017, U.S. Representative Marsha Blackburn introduced H.R.2520, the Browser Act, a bill designed to provide consumers with some control over the use of their personal information. Specifically, consumers that use broadband access services or websites or applications providing subscription, purchase, account, or search engine services are provided, depending on the sensitivity of personal information, the choice to opt-in or opt-out of policies used by these services to manage consumer information.

For sensitive information, opt-in approval must be expressly granted by the consumer. Sensitive information includes:

  • financial information;
  • health information;
  • information about children under the age of thirteen;
  • social security numbers information;
  • information regarding a consumer’s geo-location;
  • web browsing information: or
  • information on the history of usage of software programs or mobile applications.

Consumers must be provided the opportunity to give opt-out approval for non-sensitive information.

Mrs Blackburn’s intent with the legislation is to equalize broadband access providers and edge content providers under the eyes of the Federal Trade Commission, the federal agency responsible for consumer protection and anti-trust law enforcement. In my opinion, this is not a far off from former Federal Communications Commission chairman Tom Wheeler’s goal of openness and transparency throughout the entire internet ecosystem; from consumer to broadband access provider to websites provided by edge providers.

What Mrs Blackburn’s bill also does is address information asymmetries, where edge content providers are viewed as having more knowledge on the value of consumer information that they extract from websites than the consumer does herself. The consumer cannot answer the question, “Is the value of the information I receive from online, x, greater than the value of the information that I give up, p, where that information is private?

It is not readily apparent whether H.R.2520 was also designed to save the consumer from asking this question: ” Why should I pay for an economic good i.e. privacy that isn’t Google’s to sell in the first place?”

Professor Caleb S. Fuller of Grove City College describes privacy as an economic good, something that the consumer wants more of. Most consumers are not willing to pay to protect this good, even though they know that firms like Google are collecting this information for free. For example, according to Professor Fuller’s research, 90% of Google’s users know that their “mouse droppings” are being tracked.While 29% of Google’s users don’t mind being tracked, 71% do. Their reasoning, according to Professor Fuller includes the fear of price discrimination based on their information; the receipt of spam advertising; the risk of identity theft; and the “dis-utility in just not knowing who knows what.”

One equitable solution, in my opinion, would be for Google and other edge providers to pay their subscribers to provide private data. Google could provide an offering schedule based on the sensitivity of the information it wishes to purchase. Consumers would have to consider the value of the privacy they give up in exchange for the value obtained from accessing web content. I wouldn’t expect every consumer to sell their data. Google will wisely set limits on its offers and a significant portion of consumers unable to get a price they want will settle for the old private data for access exchange that they have been conducting for two decades.

The opt-in, opt-out policy mitigates the work that the consumer should put in to determine the value of her data, but gives her the final say over how her private data can be used. Unfortunately this is also the down side where the market won’t be used to truly determine the real value that can be sold.

Social programs. Money laundered through the Great Unwashed

America needs poverty. Poverty eradication proposals are head fakes. America, especially the America that was created right after the Civil War, would not be where it is today without poor people.

Since the industrial revolution, and definitely as America entered the information age in the 1960s, the products designed and built by highly educated, highly paid labor had to be consumed by a large mass of “dependents.” These people are typically wage earners who do not have the capability to be self-sufficient and hold little to no capital. The greater the mass of consumers, the larger the network used to deliver goods. The larger the network to deliver goods means the higher educated, higher paid laborer and entrepreneur faced lower costs for delivering goods.

Emancipation, reconstruction, and the Jim Crow era coincided with the growth of consumerism. The American political economy, not knowing what to do with freed slaves was willing, in lieu of distributing productive capital to them, to turn them into a mass of consumers, with a willing cadre of banks and bond holders willing to launder money through “social welfare” programs.

The food stamp program? An opportunity for bond holders to launder money by financing a program whose clearinghouses are administered by banks.

Affordable housing programs? An opportunity for bond holders to finance the construction of low cost homes with principal and interest guaranteed by taxpayers, many of whom are not in the upper ten percent.

Medicaid and Medicare? Again, bond holders are offered a guarantee that taxpayers will provide a backstop for premium payments while insurance companies collect fees for administering them i.e. WellStar and Medicaid in Georgia.

There is a reason why the poor are referred to as the Great Unwashed. It is because dirty money is laundered through their misery.

A New #Republicanism: Value-based connection between tribes is all the “#diversity” we need

A friend and I were shopping at a farmers’ market in Dekalb County, Georgia yesterday. I enjoy the atmosphere in that market, an atmosphere containing multiple languages and dialects; different ethnic groups and races. The happy-go-lucky liberal would argue that what I saw was an example of people coming together as one to participate freely in commerce as one. To that I would say, bullshit.

What I saw and enjoyed was that multiple ethnic groups could go to that store and find items sold in lanes that catered to a particular culture’s tastes. There was no attempt at fusion, at trying to melt people into one pot for the purpose of creating some “universal multi-chrome of social mush.” Differences were actually respected.

I get the feeling that the left doesn’t get this. Rather than strengthening institutions that support these differences, that create the lanes that say being different is expected, the left argues that we are all “one”; that we are “equal.”  I don’t know what world liberals live in, but I would argue, based on the configuration of that store and the body language of the shoppers, that separate lanes were not only appreciated but demanded.

Saying that I am equal to or the same as a blonde white girl is insulting. The universal multi-chrome of social mush model that espouses this nonsense erases her background and my background from discussion. It ignores the different perspectives from which we view the world. The model dilutes us. As unique people spawned by unique peoples, we owe it to ourselves and our tribes to promote our uniqueness as much as possible, whether through marriage, voting, work, or art.

This runs counter to liberal government, an institution that would rather you stifle your own uniqueness than remain free. Liberals, in order to maintain a nation-state of diverse tribes, need to push a narrative of “diversity” and “equality” in order to maintain the broadest tax base possible. Liberal governments cannot afford tribes splintering off from the collective. Tribes falling for such narratives are the poorest inhabitants of a nation-state and without sufficient capital as a buffer, they are reliant on the false promises of diversity laws and equality policies.

Diversity and equality are poor substitutes for capital and when the marginalized rely on diversity and equality laws that were written by the people with capital, further failure is guaranteed.

Policy that addresses the differences in tribal or ethnic group values and provides infrastructure where different groups can exchange value without given up their uniqueness is the appropriate approach. A true republic would do just that where self-sustaining groups choosing to go their own way would be left alone to thrive without being subject to onerous rules created by people who do not even look like them.

Should the Caribbean brace for a Federal Reserve rate hike? #Caribbean #trade

The Federal Reserve is expected to raise rates on its federal funds rate, the rate at which its member banks lend each other money overnight, at least three times during 2018. I see this move as having a potential negative impact on Caribbean immigrants here in the U.S. given their lower incomes relative to other immigrants and the U.S. overall, and the level of poverty among Caribbean immigrants. I see the Federal Reserve’s expected rate hikes having an impact on remittances as well because rate hikes, designed to control inflation could very well discourage employing Caribbean born labor.

The Federal Reserve has an overall positive outlook on the American economy. While growth is expected to continue, the central bank views the growth as fragile.

The Trump tax cuts are expected to provide the economy with an additional boost. The pay increases Americans are receiving as a result of the temporary cuts are expected to re-enter the economy in some form. Unemployment is at 4.1%, the textbook case for full employment, a point at which additional hiring and the resulting spending may create increases in prices for goods and services.

There is a 78% chance the central bank will raise intra-bank lending rates and in theory when this happens, the rates you pay for revolving loans and mortgages are expected to follow suit. On the other hand, the even with low unemployment, wage increases are expected to be sluggish.

Caribbean immigrants may bear a higher burden stemming from price increases versus other immigrants and the overall U.S. population. According to data from the Migration Policy Institute, twenty percent of Caribbean immigrants live in poverty compared to 19% of overall foreign born U.S. residents and 15% of the overall U.S. economy. Caribbean immigrant median income ($41,000) falls well below the overall U.S. median income ($55,000) as well as the median income of all immigrants ($49,000). Assuming Caribbean immigrants, like the overall U.S. population, has the bulk of its wealth in a house, poorer Caribbean immigrants will have less of a buffer protecting them from a credit-shortage induced recession.

As prices increase and access to credit is reduced due to rate increases, there may be a negative impact on the ability of Caribbean immigrants to send money back home as household budgets are reduced. Take for example remittances sent to St.Kitts-Nevis. According to data from The World Bank, remittances increased to $36 million in 2007 from $29 million in 2002.  Remittances climbed to $51 million in 2012, but have remained flat into 2017 where the amount of remittances was $53 million. All things being equal, interest rate increases could start sending these numbers in the opposite direction.

Rate increases could make importing products such as food and machinery more expensive for residents of St Kitts-Nevis or other Eastern Caribbean islands. In theory, a rate increase should depreciate the value of the U.S. dollar, making American imports cheaper. Some analysts would argue, however, that higher interest rates would make the American currency more valuable as foreign nationals seek higher yields on their capital and drive up demand for American currency. If the dollar becomes more expensive, the cost of purchasing could go up as well.

According to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook, 56.8% of St Kitts-Nevis’ imports come from the United States. As American goods become more expensive, St Kitts and other Caribbean countries that are heavily tourist dependent, may have to look for alternative and less expensive sources of food, a search that involves increased transactions costs or bite the bullet of increasing costs of American goods.