Forecast 2013: Contraction, Contagion, and Contradiction

James Howard Kunstler doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to seeing reality. His annual forecast may make your head spin but that’s because you’ve been living in a parallel universe.

And EITC campaigns have much to learn by heeding his advice. For one thing, they need to get hyper-local and stop depending on Mimi Turchinetz and her boss Connie Doty forever trying to control the scope and service of free-tax preparation and financial education among low-income residents in this city. City-driven campaigns are powered by grants from the banksters and foundations that have caused most of the misery over the last decade.

If you or your organization wants to help the poor, read JHK’s blog, educate yourself about The Long Emergency, and deal as directly as possible with a free-tax prep site in your own neighborhood. Even better, think about promoting your own tax-prep site that is supported by local businesses and not controlled by bureaucrats whose primary objective is to keep their salaried position!

Happy reading!

http://kunstler.com/blog/2012/12/forecast-2013-contraction-contagion-and-contradiction.html

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Who’s managing the Boston EITC campaign?

Boston EITC voluteer recruitment is sloppy and confused

The Boston EITC’s current volunteer recruitment process is frustrating and confusing.

Normally by this time each year, experienced EITC campaigns are running at full-speed and have at least worked out a smooth process to efficiently and effectively recruit their most important asset: volunteers.

Therefore, it’s a bit frightening to think that Boston’s current campaign, managed by Mimi Turchinetz for over a decade, is in such volunteer recruitment disarray.

Not only is the main recruitment website full of broken links and weird outdated information, but it also appears that the campaign has given up on recruiting volunteers directly and farmed out the task to another non-profit, Boston Cares.

While Boston Cares does a good job overall in volunteer recruitment outreach, it is a disturbing sign that the Boston EITC really believes it can turn over the hard work of cultivating and growing a large pool of qualified tax-preparers to an agency that doesn’t have either the skills or the expertise to generate the hundreds of dedicated people required to run a four-month city-wide campaign of this size and complexity.

So it looks like one of the first tasks of the New Boston EITC campaign 2013 will be to provide as much up-to-date information regarding what it takes to volunteer and how to access the training you needed to participate.

At the moment, bostontaxhelp.org and Boston Cares are not inspiring any confidence.

C.Far
bostontaxhelp@gmail.com

Memo to all EITC campaigns: Dump Bank of America!

Call Mimi Turchinetz and demand that she stop taking money from Bank of America.

Mike Taibbi at Rolling Stone is one of the few journalists who is willing to write the truth about this organization. And he’s been following them for a long time. The colossal financial damage they have done to this country is just beyond comprehension. And we’re still putting up with it. What a train wreck. If you don’t pull your account from these sleazebags after reading this piece, then you must be brain dead.

For now, if you still give a damn about helping poor people and you’re a volunteer (and a BofA account holder) for one of the EITC campaigns, march into their office tomorrow and yank your account. Next, call your EITC campaign director (in Boston it’s Mimi Turchinetz 617-918-5259) and demand that they stop soliciting and accepting contributions from Bank of America, period.

In the future, free tax campaigns must become smaller and much more accountable to the volunteers and citizens that they serve. Ditching the banksters at Bank of America is a start.

Read the article here.

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/bank-of-america-too-crooked-to-fail-20120314#ixzz1p6UIG7nt

Craig Far

EITC campaigns and the Trust Horizon

Ed. Note:

Timely article. I worked for years on building these relationships for the Boston EITC campaign. Sad to see so much of it being destroyed by the current bureaucratic management. We’ll need to reset campaigns like this and throughout the country on a very different (local) level if we’re going to make it through the difficult years ahead. Less emphasis on preparing taxes and more about how to help each other face and manage unpleasant political and economic conditions.

Craig Far

http://theautomaticearth.blogspot.com/2010/10/october-1-2010-stoneleigh-goes-on-sale.html

Beyond the Trust Horizon

Relationships of trust are the glue that holds societies together. Trust takes a long time to establish, and much less time to destroy, hence societies where trust is wide-spread, particularly for long periods of time, are relatively rare. In contrast, societies where trust does not extend beyond the family, or clan, level are very common in history.

The spread of trust is a characteristic of expansionary times, along with increasing inclusion, and a weakening of the ‘Us vs Them’ divide. Essentially, the trust horizon expands, both within and between societies. Over time it can encompass higher levels of organization – from family to community to municipality to region to nation and beyond – so long as the expansionary dynamic continues to support it.

Within societies this leads to relatively stable and (at least temporarily) effective institutions, and bolsters the development of the rule of law. The rule of law means that law constrains the powerful (more than usual), and there is a reasonable degree of legal transparency and predictability, so that people are prepared to trust in the fairness and accessibility of justice. Naturally, the ideal is never reached, human nature being what it is, but it can be approached under the most favourable of circumstances.

Within societies, trust also confers political legitimacy (ie a widespread buy-in as to the right of rulers to rule). Where there is legitimacy, there is relatively little need for surveillance and coercion. A high level of trust (all the way up to the level of national institutions) is thus a prerequisite for an open society.

Between societies, an expansion of the trust horizon tends to lead to political accretion. Larger and more disparate groups feel comfortable with closer ties and greater inter-dependence, and are prepared to leave past conflicts behind. The European Union, where 25 countries with a very long history of conflicts have come together, is a prime example.

However, all expansions have a limited lifespan, as do the benefits they confer. They sow the seeds of their own destruction, especially when they morph into a final manic phase and begin to hollow out the substance of social structures. Institutions, whether public or private, retain the same outward form, but cease to operate as they once did. For a while it is possible to maintain the illusion of business as usual (or effectiveness and accountability as usual), but not indefinitely. Everything is subject to receding horizons eventually, and trust is no exception.

Over time institutions become sclerotic, unresponsive, self-serving and hostage to vested interests, at which point they cannot be reformed, as the reform would have to come from those entrenched individuals who have benefited most from the status quo. Institutions become demonstrably less effective, while consuming more and more of society’s resources. Corruption, abuses of power, lack of accountability and the loss of the rule of law become increasingly evident, exactly as we have seen with unauthorized wire-tapping, extra-ordinary rendition and many other actions undermining the open society. Once this happens, trust is living on borrowed time. That is very clearly the case in many developed societies today.

Trust in existing organizational structures does not disappear overnight, but ebbs away as institutions decay or the extent of their corruption is revealed. The loss of trust from higher levels of organization undermines the fabric of a society now operating beyond the trust horizon. When trust contracts, socioeconomic contraction is just around the corner. Bank runs are a particularly good example of this. People are currently waking up to the extent of the recklessness, irresponsibility and self-serving short-termism of the banking system, and realizing that reliance on top-down human promises is far riskier than they had supposed. When they cease to trust in those promises, they will are very likely to vote with their feet.

Societies in this position lose a critical pillar of support – the collective acceptance of their people. Governing institutions lose legitimacy, at which point the cost of governance increases significantly, because where there is no trust, resource-intensive surveillance and coercion develop instead. Our societies in the developed world, where institutional decay is well underway, stand on the brink of such a transition.

Where resources are scarce, as they will be soon enough, the diversion of a larger percentage of what remains towards this purpose will aggravate that scarcity considerably. This will further anger people, which is likely to lead to a downward spiral of mutual provocation and recrimination. Most of us have not seen this vicious circle of human sentiment to any great extent, but this is the natural consequence of the collapse of trust.

On the way down, as on the way up, there are effects both within and between societies, as the ‘Us vs Them’ dynamic sharpens once again. ‘Us’ becomes ever more tightly defined, and ‘Them’ becomes an ever more pejorative term. The result is division between disparate groups of people within a society, for instance the unionized and non-unionized, the haves and the have-nots, or different religious or ethnic groups. When there is a paucity of trust, and not enough resources to go meet highly inflated expectations, the risk of conflict is very high. Previously formed political accretions are at a high risk of coming unglued as they will no be longer supported by trust. The European Union should take note.

Between societies, where the existing range of divisive parameters is likely to be much larger, and where there may be a past history of conflict, the risk of conflict flaring up again rises significantly. This is especially likely if societies attempt to deflect blame for the situation they find themselves in towards other nationalities.

We are already seeing evidence of the growing anger, and the change it will usher in as the trust horizon shrinks. In the US, the Tea Party movement is the most obvious example. All major change comes from the ground-up, where the power of the collective is expressed in ways that either support or undermine the actions and intentions of central authorities. It is the interaction between the power of the collective and central authority that determines where a society will head.

The Tea Party movement is a ground-swell of public anger, very much in the tradition of major transformative grass-roots initiatives. It is exactly what one would expect to see at the brink of a collapse in the trust horizon – a movement grounded in negative emotion that both stems from a loss of trust and in turn acts to aggravate it in a self-reinforcing positive feedback loop. The danger with such a movement manifesting such powerful negative emotions is that it will precipitate a major over-reaction to the downside, commensurate with the irrational exuberance we saw to the upside. The anger is largely unfocused, and where it is specific, it is not fully-informed.

The primary target of the Tea Party is big government, but this ignores a major part of the big picture. The abuses of power we have seen are not purely a manifestation of metastatic public authority, but an expression of corporate fascism – the blending and merging of public and private interests in social control. One look at the revolving door between the banking system (where banking law is written) and the US treasury should be enough to demonstrate this.

The Tea Party movement represents largely (but not solely) the unfocused anger of people who know they have suffered, or are about to suffer, substantial losses, but do not (typically) understand the system well enough to understand why. The movement is casting about for someone to blame, as such movements always do on the verge of a trust collapse. The danger is that someone with facile populist answers will come along, offering a target for the urgent desire to blame someone for what has happened and is happening.

This is already happening, as powerful funding sources and nascent populists circle around and seek to tap into the trend for their own purposes. It is absolutely to be expected that existing top-down power structures, or political opportunists with their own agenda, will seek to hijack bottom-up movements as they develop. My primary concern is that in doing so they will lay the foundation for a society attempting to live far beyond the trust horizon, and where there is no trust, and consequently no political legitimacy, there will be surveillance, coercion and repression instead.

It will be easy for movements grounded in negative emotion to gain a foot-hold in the coming environment, as this is very much where the collective mood will lie in the aftermath of a Ponzi collapse. Blame-games will be very tempting (and populists have their own prejudicial ideas as to who should be blamed). However, this would not be compatible with maintaining the constructive and cooperative mindset we need if we are to have a hope of avoiding an over-reaction to the downside that has the potential to magnify the impact of what is coming enormously.

Personally, I would like to encourage the development of a different kind of grass-roots momentum for change, along the lines of what is being developed (albeit not nearly quickly enough so far) by the Transition Towns movement and other comparable initiatives. The key advantages that this kind of approach has are two-fold – the scope of its component activities, based on relocalization, match where the trust horizon is headed, and its driving force is the desire to build rather than to tear down.

Working within the trust horizon is important, as it means individual small-scale initiatives can benefit from the same kind of social support at a local level that larger-scale ones once did at a societal level, when trust was more broadly inclusive. Local currencies work for exactly this reason. While the task will still be difficult, it has a chance of being achievable, especially where the necessary relationships of trust have been established before hard times set in. It is very much more difficult to build such relationships after the fact, but relationships built beforehand may actually strengthen when put to the test.

Trying to maintain a positive and constructive focus at the local level, where trust has a chance to survive, and perhaps even thrive in hard times, and to avoid being drawn into a blame-game, will be an uphill battle. It is nevertheless something we need to do as a society, if we are to have a chance to preserve as much as possible of who we are through what is coming.

Peering Into the Future

Summer is over and so is our collective fantasy that the US economy is ever going to return to “normal”.

My goal in the next few months is to provide readers of this blog with some radically different viewpoints about where we are going as a society and how community groups and individual volunteers can make a difference during this extraordinary moment.

To begin, I suggest that you start visiting two of my favorite websites: http://www.kunstler.com and cluborlov.blogspot.com

More later.

Craig

Free Tax Preparation Outreach: A Missed Opportunity

Unemployed people standing outside Goodwill in Roxbury, MA for the Spring Job Fair 2011

A missed opportunity to distribute free tax preparation information.

This past week I accompanied a group of Boston area immigrants and refugees to the Spring Job Fair at Goodwill in Roxbury. I’ll let the photograph describe the current state of our “economic recovery.”

As a 2011 Boston EITC tax site, you might assume that the site coordinator or someone at Goodwill would have used this golden opportunity to advertise the coalition’s services. Obviously not.

One thousand unemployed people looking for help. No flyers. No indoor signs. No EITC outeach table.

-Craig Far

Losing Our Way

PS. I’m posting the link to NYT columnist Bob Herbert’s last Op-Ed “Losing Our Way” here.

Where’s the (EITC) party? (Part 1)

March 17, 2011

New page

EITC Campaigns in the New England Region

The next four weeks might seem like an eternity as the 2011 Boston EITC campaign stumbles to its conclusion. Everyone involved is cranky and exhausted and the last thing most people are thinking about is how to organize an end-of-year celebration to thank everyone for participating.

Well my volunteers, this would be a big mistake. Unless you fancy gathering at some Boston area no-name bar in the middle of a heat-wave in August, I suggest you begin talking to your fellow colleagues and site coordinator about creating an event for the week of April 18-22.

The fact is that it’s just too complicated and bureaucratic to try and host a coalition event among 25 sites. The volume of details including site selection, dates, guest lists, (and no I would not invite Citibank), budgets, politics, etc., make it impossible to satisfy even a small minority. And besides, if you wanted the Mayor to show up (nice but not necessary anymore) you should have started writing all the briefs and circulating memos two months ago…

The solution is simple. Host your own damn party and invite anyone who wants to come. The key is to celebrate (large or small) the week after April 15.

If you need some guidance, write to me at bostontaxhelp@gmail.com I’ll publish more specific steps and recommendations shortly.

–Craig FarEITC