That's What SHE Said: Get On the Bus, America!
The rumors, events, people, and stories keeping the Mesa interesting
Dan Atkinson busting a French connec-shon with award winning economist and author of Capital in the Twenty First Century, Thomas Piketty.
Just Mesa'n around...
There was absolutely no messin’ around as I leaned in closely to listen to the wise words of French economist Thomas Piketty. French Economist? Isn’t that an oxymoron? Piketty actually referred to himself as a “social scientist” rather than an economist. Do tell. He said his work is more like a historian’s. He studies the modern global economy through historical changes in the lives of ordinary people and the consequences of money on their lives. Take his example of learning from Jane Austin’s novels, or his comment to read Carlos Fuentes to understand the disparities in Mexico’s economy. I remember taking a class on Mexican Film and Lit and doing just that. Growing up in middle class America, I couldn’t wrap my head around the inequalities I read about in those Mexican novels. My first trip to El Distrito Federal (Mexico City) put it all in perspective. My mouth dropped when I saw the rich dressed in designer suits and ties rush by children lying on crushed glass in the streets trying to make a living by begging. Brazil in my mid-twenties was also a huge eye opener. Maids? Sometimes two or three for one family?
So how does the U.S. fare in terms of our own inequality of income?
In the U.S., 50% of our wealth is held by the top 10%. Piketty pointed out that “globalization” is not the root cause. “If so, that would mean there would be a rise of inequality in every country which is just not the case.” (Read with charming and oh so thick French accent of course). In fact, in the last thirty years, Europe has done the reverse of the US. They have shown a decrease in inequality. Causes? Multiple. A more equitable distribution of land ownership, progressive taxation systems, social networks that are designed to serve the needs of the people, free education and affordable health care. Hey, our wealth distribution could be even worse. We could be like Brazil, where the top 10% owns 65% of the wealth. The problem with high percentages like that? What’s left is half as big for the rest of us.
I think the hot debate was his commentary on the outrageous compensation CEOs are receiving from large corporations. The rich try to justify inequality but “when does it cease to be in the common interest of the poor?” It is his belief that there is no justification for these large salaries, and overpaying top management does not result in job creation. He also stated that these extraordinary salaries were huge factors in creating instability and the economic crisis. According to the economist, paying over one million in salary is absurd and there is no true justification for providing incentives. Probably going to get a smack bottom for that from my CEO friends. C’est la vie.
So what do we do? First there needs to be awareness about the gaping inequality and domestic imbalance in our country and a clearer understanding about its effects. Inequality means lack of mobility. Stagnation? Sound all too familiar? Rise of household debt and a fragile financial system? People are tired of spinning their wheels but need to understand the problem.
Picketty maintained that “political change comes from public democratic discussion.” So… shout out to Dan Atkinson and his crew from UCSD Extension for bringing such amazing speakers to the Mesa. The Helen Edison Lecture series are free public lectures on issues that “advance humanitarian purposes and objectives.”
Solutions for the U.S. economy?
- National minimum wage. Current minimum wage is less than what it was in the 1960s.
- Access to affordable quality education. University is free in many European countries.
- Progressive taxation. Picketty asked, “Why does someone with little to no savings pay the same % of property tax as a family with considerable net wealth?” Other parts of the solution: progressive taxation of both income and property/wealth, increase in inheritance taxes, reduce inequities in compensation by law.
- Restructuring of corporate boards. Germany and Sweden have proven success with their participatory form of corporate governance. Half of their boards are employees! France now has 1 employee board member vote for every 12.
Get on the bus, America!
Upcoming Events (I’ll be at the fun table…)
Moving Mexico Forward 2015: Recapturing the Mexico Moment
USMEX is hosting this daylong symposium for business leaders, academics, policymakers and the public to discuss Mexico’s achievements. They will also identify the country’s challenges moving forward and opportunities for success. The symposium hopes to gain insight from participants to come up with a three-year plan of attack to recapture the “Mexico moment.” Wanna hear about some of my “Mexico moments?” Book’s coming out soon. En serio. This event is an awesome opportunity to listen to experts but to also be heard. So come be a part of the action and share your ideas and solutions. Did I mention there will be a Día de los Muertos reception and mariachi? Vámonos!
Oct 30, 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m., Center for US-Mexican Studies, School of Global Policy and Strategy, UC San Diego
Evonexus Contextual Robotics Forum
Call me a dork but when I picture robots, visions of Rosie from The Jetsons and Number 5 (Short Circuit) pop up. Think it’s time I get with the times. Evonexus to the rescue. This Friday they host the Contextual Robotics Forum at the Jacobs School of Engineering. Gonna take my burning questions straight to the top. This event features world leaders developing “ubiquitous consumer robotics for the benefit of society.” So come join me as I chat up Todd Hylton, Exec VP of Brain Corporation, Paolo Pirjanian, Entrepreneur and former CTO of iRobot, Matt Grob, CTO of Qualcomm Technologies, Tom Pieronek, VP of Basic Research Northrop Grumman, and many more. Because, hey… there is no such thing as a dumb question.
Oct 30, 8 a.m.-4 p.m., Atkinson Hall, UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering
First annual ATPF Neuroscience Conference
Show of hands… How many of you have a friend or family member who is impacted by autism? Incredible, isn’t it? Autism Tree Project Foundation is hosting their inaugural neuroscience conference and it is going to be rad. List of expert speakers - top notch. The panel from 3-5 p.m - mind-blowing. Hear from the kids themselves as they speak about what it is like to be a young adult living with autism. That list of speakers, check it out for yourselves: Dr. Bellugi, Salk, Dr. Iakoucheva, Dr. Iversen, Dr. Levy, Dr. Sebat, Dr. Trauner and Dr. Vaux from UC San Diego, Dr. Muller from SDSU, Alysson Muotri from Sanford Consortium, and Dr. Novak from San Jose state. Told you this event was going to be rad.
Nov 5, Autism Tree Project Foundation
Rumor has it...
CureMetrix is on the prowl for some hot new talent. This local company is on fi-yaaaa and needs team members who can hit the ground running. Are you an experienced Java engineer who understands the concept of developing software from a specification? Multi-tasker to boot? Throw your hat in the ring! Any Data Engineer/Python developer out there? You’ll be installing and configuring servers at hospitals and clinics by day, then returning to the office to manage the million plus images that are collected by night. Last up, CureMetrix is lookin’ for a Quality manager who will work directly with the FDA. CureMetrix is coming up in such a huge way. Check out their site and see what they mean when they write “With a great algorithm and a great team comes great responsibility.”