Posts from hacking government

Honoring Labor

Something that bugs me about our tax code in the US is that we tax labor more than capital.

If you make $100,000 of gains on your purchase of Tesla stock you pay 15% of those gains to the IRS.

But if, instead, you earned that $100k of income as a school teacher, you would pay 22-24% of that income to the IRS (depending on if you are married and filing jointly or single).

This tax policy values capital over labor and seems wrong to me.

I think it would be better policy to lower the income tax rate and raise the capital gains rate to something like 20% so that all income is taxed equally no matter how it is achieved and so they the net impact on revenues is neutral.

It’s fine to have a federal holiday called Labor Day to recognize the contributions from working people but an even more powerful gesture would be to stop taxing their work more than your stock market gains.

#hacking government

Some Thoughts On New Tax Revenues

Federal, State, and Local governments are facing massive budget gaps and will need to close them with a mix of cost reductions and new revenues. While this is always hard and has a real toll on people who might lose their jobs or have to pay more in taxes, it is also an opportunity to do things that have been hard to do until now. Here are some ideas on the revenue side:

1/ Legalize the cannabis industry and tax it. This has already been done successfully in some states. It is time for it to happen in all states and for the Federal Government to legalize cannabis as well.

2/ Legalize the online betting industry and tax it. This is another thing that has been done successfully in a few states but needs to be done in every state.

3/ Tax carbon. We have a full on carbon crisis and we are not changing our behavior in reaction to it quickly enough. Taxing carbon will not only accelerate the behavior change we need to address the climate crisis, it will also raise a lot of revenue.

4/ Tax unrealized gains that are financed/monetized. There have been calls in state governments to tax unrealized gains. While that idea is unworkable because many people will not have the money to pay for a tax on the appreciation of their home or some other asset, there is a wrinkle on this idea that I like. We can tax the unrealized gain if it is financed or monetized. This happens all the time in real estate and also with stock gains. If those unrealized gains are captured via a loan or some other instrument, they can be taxed like realized gains. This will also have the benefit of reducing the rampant speculation in real estate that has been making real estate so unaffordable for so many.

I am sure there are arguments against all of these ideas, starting with those who are against taxes of all kinds. And we cannot tax ourselves out of these budget messes we are in. We will need to cut costs as well.

But a time of crisis is also a time of opportunity. We should get creative and do new things that have not been possible until now. We need to be open to new ideas like these and others and not just keep doing what we’ve been doing which is not working so well right now.

#hacking government

Tech Jobs For All Who Want Them

The tech sector is the fastest growing sector of the economy in NYC and around the US and around the world. The tech sector offers high paying jobs and a growing number of them.

But, as we all know, the tech sector lacks the gender and racial diversity that would allow everyone to benefit from this growing sector of the economy. Most of the studies that have looked at the lack of diversity point to a skills gap standing in the way.

So last year Tech:NYC (where I am co-chair) and a few large employers (Google, Verizon, Bloomberg LP) and the Robin Hood Learning and Technology Fund commissioned a study of the skills training programs in NYC to see where there are gaps and what must be done to close them so that tech jobs are available to everyone in NYC who wants one.

This report was done by the Center for an Urban Future and was released yesterday. You can read it here.

What the report reveals is that NYC has a rich and expanding ecosystem of tech skills training opportunities, including K-12 and adult education. But, as we all know, the quality is uneven and so are the outcomes.

The report makes twelve recommendations which are detailed here. They are:

1. Make a significant new public investment in expanding and improving New York City’s tech education and training ecosystem. 

2. Set clear and ambitious goals to greatly expand the pipeline of New Yorkers into technology careers. 

3. Prioritize long-term investments in K–12 computing education. 

4. Scale up tech training with a focus on programs that develop in-depth, career-ready skills. 

5. Build the pipeline of educators and facilitators serving both K–12 and career readiness efforts. 

6. Close the geographic gaps in tech education and skills-building programs. 

7. New York City’s tech sector should play a larger role in developing, recruiting, and retaining diverse talent. 

8. Increase access to tech apprenticeships and paid STEM internships through industry partnerships, CS4All, and the city’s current Summer Youth Employment Program. 

9. Expand efforts to market STEM programs to underrepresented students and their families. 

10. Develop and fund links from the numerous computer literacy and basic digital skills-building programs to the in-depth programs that can lead to employment. 

11. Expand the number of bridge programs to provide crucial new on-ramps to further tech education and training for New Yorkers with fundamental skills needs. 

12. Develop major new supports for the non-tuition costs of adult workforce training. 

I participated on the advisory board of this study and support all of these recommendations. Elected officials and policy makers in NYC (and really everywhere) should read and heed these recommendations.

The tech sector faces many headwinds in society right now for a host of reasons. Not all of them can be solved by an employee base that mirrors the planet. But many of them can be and we need to work to get there.

I want to thank the Center For An Urban Future, Tech:NYC, Robin Hood Learning and Technology Fund, Google, Verizon, and Bloomberg LP for giving us a roadmap on how to get there.

#economics#employment#enterprise#entrepreneurship#hacking education#hacking government#management#NYC#policy#Politics

Breaking Up Big Tech

With the news that two-thirds of Americans favor breaking up big tech combined with the news that Liz Warren (the biggest advocate of the idea) has broken out of the pack in Iowa, I thought I would return to this topic.

I wrote about this back when Liz first put the idea forward.

I am in favor of reigning in the monopoly/duopoly/oligopoly power of the large American tech companies. I am also in favor of reigning in the power of large tech companies that are not resident in the US.

Doing one without the other is bad policy and could give large tech companies outside of the US (particularly in Asia) a competitve advantage.

A better approach, as I advocated for in my earlier post on this topic, are policies, like the European’s GDPR, that would impact all companies doing business in the US equally.

I do not love GDPR. It is overly bureaucratic and for the most part has resulted in all of us robotically opting into being cookied everywhere.

But users do have a right to online privacy. We also have a right to self sovereign identity and ownership of our data.

Apple is offering Sign In With Apple in iOS13 to help us reduce our reliance on signing in with Facebook and Google. That’s great but it just replaces one boogyman with another.

What we need is an open sign-in protocol in which users control their sign-in keys and also all of the data we create and have created over the years once we are signed in.

Government can force industry into a regime like that with regulations that dictate that tech companies of all sizes adopt such approaches.

That is what we should be doing to reduce the market power of big tech instead of breaking them up. That is because their market power comes from this single sign-on oligopoly and the data that comes with it.

Government should not dictate the design of such a protocol or any of the technology that is required to produce such a regime. The market can and will do that once the requirements are put in place. We have much of what we need already in the form of cryptography and user centric wallet infrastructure.

We just need a forcing function to get big tech to adopt these technologies, which they won’t do on their own because they will reduce their market powers. Which is exactly why we need to do this.

#crypto#Current Affairs#entrepreneurship#hacking government#law#mobile#Web/Tech

Mapping A City

My friend Ro Gupta co-founded and runs a company called Carmera which makes real-time HD maps for the autonomous driving market.

They do this by operating “an owned and professionally crowdsourced vehicular sensor network” (ie Google StreetView) which captures real-time data about what is happening at street level.

In an announcement they made today, they describe a partnership with the City of New York in which they “will share data with the NYC Department of Transportation, including historical pedestrian density analytics and real-time construction detection events. In turn, we’ll gain access to key city data sets that allow all parties to work together to improve the accuracy of street inventories while doing our part to increase private-public transparency.”

This is an example of a pedestrian density map of the west village in NYC, where we live.

This is an example of a growing trend I am seeing where tech companies, which traditionally have wanted to “do it ourselves”, are partnering with the broader ecosystem (large companies, governments, public agencies, etc) to build more comprehensive data sets.

It is also an example of goverments and other large bureaucracies getting more comfortable sharing their data and being more open to working with startups and the broader tech sector.

This is a very hopeful trend.

We have significant problems to solve in the coming decades around a warming planet, overloaded and failing transportation systems and urban infrastructure, and many other things.

If all sectors of society come together to work on these problems, we stand a much better chance of solving them.

#hacking government#NYC

Funding Friday: The L-Ternative Bridge

Every day 300,000 people take the L train to and from work. I am not sure if that is 300,000 people or 150,000 people going in and out, but either way, it’s a lot of people.

And the MTA is going to shut down the L train for 15 months, starting in April 2019.

So this is a big deal for NYC, and a big deal for NYC tech companies. In an informal and unscientific poll I took this week of NYC tech company CEOs, about 20-25% of the employees of NYC tech companies in Manhattan take the L train to work.

So how are these people going to commute for those 15 months (which is almost certainly going to take longer than 15 months)?

The best answer I have heard from the NYC government is “more buses going over the Williamsburg bridge.” Which is an option but not a fantastic option. The Williamsburg bridge is already a crowded transportation mode during the morning and evening rush hours and more buses means something is going to have to give.

So this week, I saw this cool project pop up on Kickstarter.

Take just one minute and watch this video:

Pretty cool, right?

My dad was an Army Corp of Engineers officer his entire career and retired a Brigadier General. He knows a lot about pontoon bridges. So I asked him if this idea is viable. He said:

Fred,
Having built several pontoon bridges, including some designed for 60-ton tanks, I know the idea is feasible.
(One of my bridges was across the Rhine River.  That was done for the first time by Julius Caesar.)
Drawbacks:  they are expensive, have low speed limits, and require constant maintenance.
Still, if the permanent solution in that location can’t handle traffic for some time, this could be a temporary replacement.
Interesting idea. Thanks for sharing it with me.
Love, Dad
That’s all I need to know that this will work. My dad knows his stuff when it comes to pontoon bridges.
So if you want to see this idea get some traction, go to Kickstarter and support this project like I did this week.
#hacking government#NYC

Net Neutrality Day Of Action

Today, July 12th, is the Net Neutrality Day Of Action.

More than 70,000 websites, online services, and Internet users are participating including Twitter, Amazon, Netflix, Kickstarter, Etsy, Reddit, OK Cupid, Airbnb, Facebook, Google, Spotify, Soundcloud, Mozilla and AVC.

The grassroots power of the Internet is how we won the strong net neutrality rules that are now in place and are threatened by the new leadership at the FCC. The big telcos have their people in power now. But we can keep fighting with our grassroots efforts. They have worked in the past and I hope they will continue to work to keep the Internet an open and level playing field for everyone.

If you want to participate with your website, blog, or social media profile, go here and join this online protest.

#hacking government#policy#Politics

Decentralized Self-Organizing Systems

Mankind has been inventing new ways to organize and govern since we showed up on planet earth. Our history is a gradual evolution of these organization and governance systems. Much of what we are using right now was invented in ancient Greece and perfected in western Europe in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries.

I have been thinking for some time that we are on the cusp of something new. I don’t know exactly what it will be but I think it will be inspired by the big technological innovations of the late 20th century and early 21st century and it will be based on decentralized and self-organizing systems.

The Internet is, at its core, a scaled decentralized system. Its design has been a resounding success. It has scaled elegantly and gradually to well over 2bn users over fifty years. No central entity controls the Internet and it upgrades itself and scales itself slowly over time.

Open source software development communities are also an important development of the past fifty years. These communities come together to create and maintain new software systems and are not financed or governed by traditional corporate models. The goals of these communities are largely based on delivering new capabilities to the market and they don’t have capitalist based incentive systems and they have shown that in many instances they work better than traditional corporate models, Linux being the best example.

And, for the past decade or so, we have seen that modern cryptography and some important computer science innovations have led to decentralized blockchain systems, most notably Bitcoin and Ethereum. But there are many more to study and learn from. These blockchain systems are pushing forward our understanding of economic models, governance models, and security models.

I think it is high time that political scientists, philosophers, economists, and historians turn their attention to these new self-organizing and self-governing systems. Maybe they have and I am not familiar with the work. If so, please point me to it. If not, maybe this post and others like it will be an inspiration for the liberal arts to catch up to the computer scientists and mathematicians or at least work closely with them to figure out what is next, to articulate it and put it in the context of other governance and economic systems. From that work can come progress that mankind needs to move beyond the current systems, which work, but have many flaws and are becoming stale and in need of an upgrade.

#blockchain#crypto#economics#hacking government#policy#Politics#Religion#Science

Hacking Elections

I spent the last twenty minutes reading this long and well reported NY Times story on the Russian hacking efforts during the recent Presidential Election.

If you read one thing today, I recommend you read this.

We have been engaged in information warfare with other countries for years. This is not a new thing. But, I believe, we have now witnessed how powerful information warfare is and we have witnessed its potential to change the global political landscape.

If I am comforted, and I am not sure that I am, it is with the knowledge that we are doing the same things to them that they are doing to us.

As the ancient proverb says, “he who lives by the sword dies by the sword”, and the sword of our times is information.

#hacking government