West End Atlanta is a low value information commodity

Atlanta’s West End has no political power and appears to mirror the stagnant thinking of its representation on its city council. In the nine years that I have lived in the West End, I have yet to see how the power to “get what you want, when you want it, from who you want it from” has been applied to help its current citizens.

West End Atlanta should be the southwest version of Buckhead, especially given its proximity to City Hall, the downtown district, a MARTA transit station, and the airport. Instead, it’s the home of too many fast food restaurants, above average crime, and a high level of poverty. It doesn’t surprise me that West End’s city council member, Cleta Winslow, does not give the media interviews.  She would rightly be called to task about the state of poverty in her district. Not only the poverty, but the stagnation in mindset and lethargy in body language, the manifestation that stems from accepting less. It is very negative energy.

Blacks in West End give me the impression that they are just hanging around waiting to die.

If the 30310 zip code is going to improve, it won’t be as a result of current political leadership. After 23 years, Ms Winslow is merely a caretaker, or should I say undertaker. Individuals, particularly individuals of African American descent, are going to have to do this on their own.

One approach is to get more young, black producers to buy into the neighborhood. We need engineers and technologists to support and promote the attempts I see in the neighborhood to provide urban farming. The West End needs a self-contained political economy based on self-reliance.

Another, more important approach is to develop a tribal aspect to the West End’s social ordering. The West End needs to go from just a proclamation that “We here”, to an affirmation that, “We are here to stay. Let’s work.” The West End’s lack of progressiveness comes from a fear of being cohesive. This fear is a common thread running through most Black Americans. There is no conqueror mentality, just a “keep on, keeping on” mantra that adds to the lethargy of the West End’s inhabitants.

This attitude has made it easier for whites to gentrify the West End. It has been a slow and steady process. It is no shocker for me now to see mostly smiling white couples out walking their dogs or jogging along the Beltline while pushing a baby carriage. They are here, with conqueror mentality in tow.

In my title I asserted that the West End represents a low value information commodity. The West End Atlanta is low information value not simply because of the level of poverty, but because of the poor mindset and lack of cohesion. The most valuable information from the 30310 is that the area is wide open for plunder.

My simple take on what a city is

People move to Atlanta for various reasons. An individual may be a recent college graduate that received their first job offer from a company located here. Others are moving here to start a new business or expand an existing one. Some are leaving a traumatic experience that occurred in another city, like death in the family or divorce hoping that Atlanta provides a platform for a new life. Others simply like the weather and the city’s southern charm.

Whatever the reason, I think continued success here needs to be based on a couple realities about cities in general and Atlanta is particular. While we tend to look at a city from a perspective of what can this city do for me, we should round out our perspectives by asking what does this city expect from me? What is its role? To whom do the benefits of a city truly flow?

I admit that my connection to Atlanta is far from emotional. The city doesn’t feed an emotional need for me. While I would not want to live in a town with one traffic light and no movie theater, I don’t rely on a place for happiness.

What I appreciate and do need from a city is its ability to function as a hub for trade. A city should foster an environment that drives thought. It should have the infrastructure that provides an adequate platform for the exchange of ideas. It should, as a community or society, provide a safe environment for exchanging information. Since people are the primary source of information, people should feel safe and secure moving about and engaging with each other.

City governments promote themselves as suppliers of protection and infrastructure for its city’s residents. City governments exercise a near monopoly over protection services, organizing and regulating violence in order to meet their marketing message. I won’t get in to how individuals can and should compete with government to provide these services for themselves, but for now bear in mind that individuals can, but government does its best to dissuade the individual from doing so.

To stay viable as a service provider to taxpayers, city governments are expected to create public policy that supports the city’s function as a trading post in the digital age. For example, reviewing and approving broadband provider requests to use public rights-of-way to lay cable or construct and deploy cell towers in an expedited fashion provides information entrepreneurs increased assurance that they can conduct commerce in the city. It also provides broadband providers assurance that they can maintain returns on their capital while meeting their customers needs.

The city’s other function is that of a tax collector for its investors i.e. bond holders, members and employees of government, income-transfer beneficiaries. It aims to turn every resident into a tax-generating event, whether through the payment of sales taxes, property taxes, or business licenses. By providing infrastructure i.e. cell towers, streets, airports, the city contributes to the increase in the number of information seekers and information providers that trade in its jurisdiction, leading to an increase in entities that pay taxes and the amount of taxes collected.

How does knowing this contribute to your success in Atlanta or any other city? You can best guess the value you are bringing to Atlanta’s table when you understand what is being traded in the city, the information that is being demanded. You can best structure your labor or entrepreneurial activities to meet those trading needs. You become an asset.

Unfortunately, the State will wish to extract a significant portion of your success via income taxes. We’ll save that for another discussion.

 

Manafort and the bond market.

The Wall Street Journal today reported that investors did a little flight to safety moving money from equities into the bond markets as a result of today’s federal indictment of Paul Manafort, the former campaign manager for President Donald J. Trump. The increased demand drove up bond prices while sending bond yields down.

According to The Journal, yields fell to 2.374% from 2.426% for the ten-year Treasury note. Investors believe that the indictment will divert Mr Trump and Congress’ attention from tax reform and other economic growth initiatives. As the investigation continues and hearings for Mr Manafort get on the way, investors probably believe that the Administration will be in denial and prevent mode between now and mid-terms.

I believe that this indictment alone should not engender this type of fear and that by tomorrow it may pass.

My more experienced litigation posse may confirm this, but you are supposed to make your strongest argument up front, and if your argument is that there was complicity between the Trump campaign and Russia but your indictment of the campaign manager doesn’t even include the word, “Russia”, something is wrong.

Maybe Shonda Rhimes wrote this indictment or is running this investigation. Maybe she wants Mueller to do a Perry Mason and build up to a dramatic finish at the end.

So far, however, failure to properly vet a campaign manager is not an impeachable offense although one could raise questions about the judgment of Mr Trump.

Maybe there is a surprise ending being written in this script, details forthcoming. In the meantime, I don’t see the Trump administration being overly distracted by this indictment. I expect them, however, to create a few more of their own as their inside the Beltway experience grows.

How does regulating Facebook optimize returns on resources?

Farhad Manjoo writing for The New York Times argued in a recent article for increased regulation of “The Frightful Five”; Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft. For Mr Manjoo, their increasing intrusion into personal privacy and growth in the retail sector market should raise concerns on the part of regulators.

My takeaway from Mr Manjoo’s article is that government is moving further and further away from the opportunity of being simply a fair allocator of capital to oppressively regulating its distribution to the point where growth in the value of capital is squashed.

In addition, the Frightful Five have no monopoly on natural resources. They do not control land or access to air or minerals. As demand grows for internet services so too does demand grow for electricity use of the part of internet companies. In an article for Forbes.com, Christopher Helman estimates that internet firms account for 1.8% of electricity consumed in the United States. On an annual basis, internet companies are spending $7 billion a year to consume 70 billion kilowatt hours per year of electricity.

And given their two percent contribution to total greenhouse gas emissions, companies like Google have been purchasing energy from renewable energy sources with a 2017 goal of going 100% renewable, according to a piece by Adam Vaughan for The Guardian.com. As a consumer, Google and other internet companies aren’t in the energy extracting and generation business, making them susceptible, like any other consumer, to the whims of energy companies that actually have a license to extract, generate, and distribute energy.

In terms of human resources they higher relatively few people compared to other large companies in different sectors. The data processing, hosting, and related services sub-sector, within which companies like the Frightful Five belong, employed 364,000 people in September 2017, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This total represents approximately .23% of the approximately 156 million people employed in the United States.

What the Frightful Five are first and foremost are tax revenue generators. While not responsible for extracting and managing the United States’ natural resources, by employing 364,000 wage earners and providing platforms for the sale of goods and services including advertisement, internet companies are providing a tax revenue stream for the United States government that didn’t exist twenty years ago.

How much in taxes would the United States be willing to forego by regulating the profit centers of internet companies? For example, in 2016, Alphabet, the parent of Google, had tax expenses of $4.7 billion at a tax rate of 19%, while Microsoft posted tax expenses of $3.3 billion at a tax rate of 16.5%. Apple paid $15.8 billion in taxes at a tax rate of 25.8%.

As Congress considers a corporate tax overhaul and the impact reform may have on its coffers and the deficit, does Washington want to risk reducing the tax revenues that keep its bond holders calm?

Rather, a better scenario for bond holders would be for government not to interfere in the Frightful Five’s ability to generate taxable income. Since internet companies do not manage directly the United States’ natural resources via extraction or distribution, there should be less reason for regulating these entities.