Change Your Bank to Slow Climate Change

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money

Is your money being used by your bank to make your life worse? Hopefully not! A bank I used to do business with was literally funding the tar sands with my money, so I withdrew my money and took it to another institution.

Wondering if your bank is trying to make the air less breathable for your kids or grandchildren? You can find out using a nifty new tool called Bank Track that tells you if your bank is funding climate destruction. They have tips on how to talk to your bank and how to move from one financial institution to another.

This engagement with banks could play an important role in shifting such institutions from a fossil fuel dependent pathway. Indeed after a PPL PWR event on “Not just for a rainy day: How to green your finance” at COP26, a spokesperson said, “Whilst the financial system can seem intimidatingly complex, cold, and calculating, it’s important to remember we have power. Our money is what drives the system, so do your research, use your voice, and get your feet on the street to demand a financial system that invests in our future.”

The message about the possibility of making an effective difference in a really simple way is important because, as Ellen Harrison corporate projects manager at Triodos Bank pointed out ,people are slow to change especially in terms of banking saying, “We are more likely to stay faithful to our bank than our partner.” The campaign resonates given the recent announcement that 450 financial institutions have committed to aligning their portfolios with net zero by 2050. This is a major step by the financial sector but has raised serious concerns about the potential for greenwash, given that there is little detail about milestones, timelines or the need to move out of investment in fossil fuels.

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Solve the Global Housing Crisis by Recognizing Buyers

the suburbs

The cost of housing has skyrocketed since the banker-caused 2008 financial crisis and there are no signs of prices stabilizing. In Toronto we’ve seen the price of housing rise faster than wages and the same can be said for nearly every major city on the planet. A key reason this is happening stems from using housing as a commodity for money laundering. Yes, that’s right the cost of your house is higher because governments are letting criminals artificially inflate the market.

In the states, like elsewhere, housing can be bought by secretive numbered companies (which don’t disclose who owns what). So the American Treasury ran a very simple pilot project to stop money laundering through real estate by looking into these secretive buyers. They made insurance companies find out who actually owned companies that were buying luxury real estate in a few cities.

It also seems to have had an effect on the market. Since the scheme started, there has been an almost 70% drop in companies buying real estate with just cash, according to an academic paper published last year. Those figures suggest that “anonymity plays a significant role” in people using secretive shell companies to buy property, and money-laundering was a “likely cause” for wanting that secrecy, Ville Rantala, a finance professor at Miami Business School and co-author of the paper, told Quartz after the paper’s publication last summer.

This is more than just a moral issue—it has national security implications. Rantala pointed to Russians hit by sanctions after the Kremlin’s efforts to sway the 2016 presidential election. “If there are these kinds of loopholes, it’s hard to know whether people targeted by sanctions may be able to make purchases in the US—so there’s really cause to be concerned about anonymous buyers,” he said.

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The Panama Papers Worked

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Tax evasion is a problem in every country and it’s up to teams of investigative journalists to expose mass illegal international operations. A few years ago the Panama Papers exposed an efficient tax dodging operation by a large group of wealthy people. The results of the exposure from the Panama Papers has led to millions being collects in countries with more results coming in.

Not only did the Panama Papers catch a bunch of criminals it also proves investigative journalism works.

More than a dozen people are in prison or awaiting sentencing in Ecuador, the United States and Panama for their roles in a bribery scheme at the Ecuadorian state petroleum company that was exposed in the huge document leak.

In South Korea, the leak led to bribery indictments against a former army general and a former executive of a major defence company.

And in Pakistan, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif has been serving a seven-year sentence after the Panama Papers revealed assets his family had hidden overseas. He is appealing his conviction, calling the charges against him politically motivated.

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Investing in Walkable Communities Saves Cities Money

Having multiple forms of transportation improves how people navigate the world. When people are provided with mobility options they will more likely leave behind a car. It turns out that not only is that good for people it’s also good for the finances of cities. If you’re sick of high taxes then start electing politicians that want to get rid of monolithic car culture.

Investing in walkable cities, whether through allocating funds to repaint pedestrian walkways or building affordable housing close to downtowns, also attracts diverse populations and creates jobs. According to the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, 63 percent of millennials and 42 percent of boomers would like to live in a place where they don’t need a car. And according to the National Association of Realtors, 62 percent of millennials prefer to live in a walkable community where a car is optional. If cities seem less automobile-dependent, chances are they are more appealing to a range of ages.

Walking also costs the city very little, unlike cars and even public transit. According to Speck’s book, if a resident takes a bus ride, it may cost them $1 but costs the city $1.50 in bus operation. If a resident decides to drive, it costs the city $9.20 in services like policing and ambulances. When a resident walks, the cost to the city is a penny.

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Even More Research that Raising Minimum Wage is Good for Everyone

happy workers in a factory

Haters keep telling us that minimum wage is too high, which is really saying they would love free labour for private profits. Those haters are also not thinking about the economy at large. A new, massive, study on the impact of minimum wage concludes that minimum wage increases help people who aren’t currently being paid enough and that the benefits to that group cascade upwards on the economic ladder. Trickle down economics is a clear failure and trickle up economics looks rather effective!

The study is indeed impressive. Census researchers Kevin Rinz and John Voorheis used data from the bureau’s Annual Social and Economic Supplement, which surveys more than 75,000 households. The authors then link this data with administrative filings from the Social Security Administration on wages and track the changes between 1991 and 2013. The study stands out for covering such a large number of people over such an extended period.

“[R]aising the minimum wage increases earnings growth at the bottom of the distribution, and those effects persist and indeed grow in magnitude over several years,” the authors write. At the same time, there’s little indication that other people will lose their jobs as a result of the minimum wage—the outcome conservatives always warn about.

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