The big news this week is actually for next week: Michael D. Greaney, CESJ’s Director of Research, is scheduled to appear on the Eternal Word Television Network’s show EWTN Live! with Father Mitch Pacwa, S.J. In the expanded ownership arena, we kick off the year with the SECURE Act, that puts more power in the hands of participants in qualified retirement plans:
• Retirement SECURE-ity. As reported by the National Center for Employee Ownership, the newly passed Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act of 2019 (the “SECURE Act” . . . how long did it take them to think that up?), was signed into law December 20, 2019. It makes a number of changes to retirement plans, mostly 401(k) plans. One provision that applies to all plans, including ESOPs, is that required minimum distributions (RMDs) for former plan participants who still have accounts now do not have to start until those participants reach age 72. Before the SECURE Act, former participants would need to begin receiving RMDs after reaching age 70½. The change only applies to those not aged 70½ by the end of 2019. The next step, of course, would be to pass the Capital Homestead Act that allows participants to retain assets in a tax-deferred trust and distribute only the income as taxable to the recipient.
|Caesar Octavius ("Augustus" was a title)|
• Mao, Xi, and Augustus. On December 30, 2019, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Chinese Politburo granted president Xi Jinping the accolade renmin lingxiu, “people’s leader,” similar to one associated with Mao. (“As China’s Troubles Grow, Xi Collects a Special Title,” 12/30/19, A-7.) Interestingly, the Wall Street Journal claims that the label carries no additional power, but that is to misunderstand the politics of power. As so many dictators of the twentieth century discovered, it is not necessarily official titles and positions that convey power, but what someone does with it. Stalin, for example, was “only” Secretary of the Communist Party, not head of state in the Soviet Union. Augustus Caesar seems to have been the first to realize that he could exercise the powers of a dictator without actually being officially named head of state (that came after he gained power). Fortunately for Rome, Augustus came about as close to a benevolent ruler as it is possible to get, and he was always careful to observe the outward forms of republican government, but — as a number of historians have gone to great length to explain — he had the power he wanted or needed without the official titles.
• Dignity, Freedom, and Power. What with the holidays and a sudden spate of last-minute details, Dignity, Freedom, and Power — the short book on economic personalism — has been delayed again. Currently the plan is to have review copies released by the end of January with bulk sales available at the same time.
|EWTN Live! with Fr. Mitch Pacwa, S.J.|
• EWTN Live! with Father Mitch Pacwa. Michael D. Greaney, CESJ’s Director of Research, is scheduled to appear on the Eternal Word Television Network’s show, EWTN Live! with host Father Mitch Pacwa, S.J., to talk about Mike’s book, Ten Battles Every Catholic Should Know (2018). While in Alabama for the show, Mike may also tape a segment of Bookmark with Doug Keck, depending on scheduling. While EWTN is a Catholic religious broadcasting network and Mike’s book is ostensibly for Catholics (although some reviewers have said it is mistitled as everyone should find it of interest), the show(s) should find an audience far beyond Catholics alone.
|Daniel Webster "Power follows property."|
• The Battle for Democracy?. Also in the Washington Post of 12/30/19, an article, “A Turning Point in the Battle for Democracy” (A-15) asserted that a number of instances of voters reacting against or outright rejecting anyone whose understanding of democracy differs from that of the Washington Post means that “democracy” is starting a comeback. One of the problems, however, is that “democracy” is defined strictly in terms of voting power, with little if any appreciation of the economic power that makes voting power effective. In most cases, frankly, changing rulers without changing patterns of capital ownership simply means somebody else is doing to the voter the same as was done before. As Phaedrus said 2,000 years ago, In principatu commutando saepius, nil praeter nomen mutant pauperes — When changing rulers, often the only thing that changes for the poor is the name of the ruler. As Daniel Webster noted in 1820 in words that apply equally well to 2020, “Power naturally and necessarily follows property.” Without the economic power to sustain political power, it’s not going to make much difference, ultimately, who’s in charge.
|Need I say more?|
• Shop online and support CESJ’s work! Did you know that by making your purchases through the Amazon Smile program, Amazon will make a contribution to CESJ? Here’s how: First, go to https://smile.amazon.com/. Next, sign in to your Amazon account. (If you don’t have an account with Amazon, you can create one by clicking on the tiny little link below the “Sign in using our secure server” button.) Once you have signed into your account, you need to select CESJ as your charity — and you have to be careful to do it exactly this way: in the space provided for “Or select your own charitable organization” type “Center for Economic and Social Justice Arlington.” If you type anything else, you will either get no results or more than you want to sift through. Once you’ve typed (or copied and pasted) “Center for Economic and Social Justice Arlington” into the space provided, hit “Select” — and you will be taken to the Amazon shopping site, all ready to go.
• Blog Readership. We have had visitors from 26 different countries and 39 states and provinces in the United States and Canada to this blog over the past week. Most visitors are from the United States, Canada, India, Spain and Argentina. The most popular postings this past week in descending order were “News from the Network, Vol. 12, No. 52,” “Just Third Way for Local Government,” “An Unimportant Shift in Meaning,” “Good Upon ’Change,” and “How to Have Your Cake and Eat It.”
Those are the happenings for this week, at least those that we know about. If you have an accomplishment that you think should be listed, send us a note about it at mgreaney [at] cesj [dot] org, and we’ll see that it gets into the next “issue.” Due to imprudent language on the part of some commentators, we removed temptation and disabled comments.