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Saturday, December 4, 2010

Sustainable Unemployment

Everyone in this country seems to be under the influence of a major case of Denial. Fifteen million people are unemployed. The demographic "typical family of four" means that 60 million people are without a means of support. No job means no health care coverage. It is nonsensical to think that anyone facing long term unemployment will be able to cover the cost of COBRA extensions of their former employer policies.

It is equally nonsensical to think that these people will some how disappear. They will be lined up to get every job that is offered anywhere. Some people will have an easier time of being proximal to such a job when it is open. Although these people will not eat as much or as often, they will eat. They will be visiting the Food Pantries, applying for "Food Stamps" and otherwise obtaining something to eat for themselves and their dependents. All of these sources of food do cost money. TINSTAAFL. Taxpayers and charitable givers will pay the cost to feed these people.

As we do right now with hundreds of thousands of low-income people, emergency rooms will serve the needs of families and individuals who cannot pay the cost of a physician's attention. Taxpayers and everyone who sees a doctor, enters a hospital or needs a prescription will be paying the cost of those visits.

Just refusing to provide income for people who have been laid-off will not make them more willing to seek replacement employment or employment at a reduced income. First there needs to be jobs to have. They need to be in the location where people need jobs and those jobs must pay a "living wage." In this case, a living wage must be enough so that tax funded services are not needed. Rent subsidy, food subsidy and emergency room medical services must not be needed as the result of the limited employment or the wage is not a living one.

Every month over 100,000 new eager people enter the prospective workforce. They are graduating high school, college and trade schools with the hope and expectation that they too will have a place in this economy. That number extrapolates to 1.2 million jobs per year. First we have lost 12 million jobs during the recession, then we add 1.2 million every year due to our maturing children. This means that we need to generate 3.2 million jobs per year over the next five years in order to recover to the 2007 employment levels. Meanwhile these unemployment statistics need to eat.

People without income can hope and pray that their health remains good. They do have opportunities to share a dwelling at a higher occupancy than is traditional. They cannot, though, share food.


Denial leads us to believe that spending cuts will result in smaller government, lower taxes and less debt. Spending Cuts and smaller government are euphemisms for laying off more people. In almost every business enterprise, payroll is the single largest line item in the annual budget. If you don't spend money on education, teachers and administrators get laid-off and our children are less prepared to take over when their turn arrives. If you don't fund police and fire departments, people get laid-off, criminals go unstopped and houses burn. If you don't fund public transportation services, people get laid-off and others can't get to work.

If Medicare and Medicaid are not funded, people who are sick and injured do not get adequate treatment, they suffer as the result, and some die. If you want to talk about Death Panels in the health care legislation, all you have to do is look at who wants to limit spending on Medicare and Medicaid. We can all support less fraud and unnecessary procedures and treatments, but first we need to figure out how to tell the difference.

We have gotten ourselves into a real pickle. When we could have been solving our future budgetary shortfalls during the last 50 years, we preferred to stay in a state of denial and do little or nothing to avert this financial crisis. Now we are called upon to pay for yesterday, when we were young. Roy Clark fans might remember his song...

Every year that goes by without proactive action to resolve our failures makes them that much more difficult to manage. There is a mathematical "point of no return" that we may have already reached. War cinema is full of the tales of the bomber pilot who insists on finding his target even as the Navigator tell the pilot, "Capt'n even if we reach our target, we won't have enough fuel to get back to the landing field." Everyone gets a misty distant look it their eyes as they realize this is now a suicide mission. The Captain and his crew can make that call for themselves, but we resent our leaders making that decision for all of us, especially when they are siphoning our fuel so they can get home.

No matter what we do, there will be a massive lack of jobs for Americans to do for at least a decade and we need to figure out how we will address that dilemma. Other populations have mitigated their unemployment problems with waves of emigration to America. Is it time for Americans to do the emigration? Only the most highly educated will be welcome in those countries.
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Author's Note: The book cover images in the side margins of this blog are my own publications of eBooks available at both Amazon and B&N. Please take a moment and go to the sites and read about them. Then if you like it, buy one or two.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Euphemistic America

Are You a Euphemism?

I heard the presumptive Speaker of the House, John Boehner, say that now that the GOP is in control of the House, "we will be listening to America." I wondered exactly what he meant by Americans. Did he mean all Americans or just some subset of the population.

Throughout the 2010 mid-term election campaign interval we were pounded with the idea that Americans were over-taxed, not listened-to, and angry at how the government was intruding into their lives, wasting their hard earned money on frivolous things. Oh, the Pork! Oy, the debt! Argh, the jobs that went overseas and the bankers who got a bailout!

I think that both political parties listened to America but were focusing on different Americans. The GOP listened to what they define as an American. These are the folks who have it all and want to keep it. They must have everything they need because they do not feel that they should pay for anything else.

The GOPAmerican has an annual household income at least 3 to 5 times the poverty level. The income comes from a job because the money they have is in "hard earned dollars." The job comes with health insurance coverage for the family and has no upside limit, covers all pre-existing conditions and doesn't need psychiatric coverage because no one in a GOPAmerican family ever has a mental or behavioral challenge. The family house has a fixed rate mortgage and 50% free-equity. Every licensed driver in the GOPA household has access to a car or truck. Grand mother and granddad don't need that Social Security or Medicare because they saved enough over the last 30 years to have their private savings decimated three times and still have plenty to live on to a ripe old age.

If this sounds at all like you, then you are the Euphemism that Boehner and the GOP speak of. And he is going to listen to you.

Other Americans

There is another America that has Americans in it too. Those Americans have low income jobs. They work hard but need rent subsidy, food subsidy and emergency medical care at the ER because the job they have doesn’t include health insurance so that the employer can make good on the "lowest price guarantee." These Americans rent an apartment or house from someone who has a lot more money than they do. They might have one car but more likely a handful of transit passes. As we learned in the 2010 mid-term election, and as the result of a Supreme Court ruling, money has free speech. If you don't have enough money, you don't get heard.

Formerly GOPAmericans

People and whole families who used to be GOPA have found themselves speechless and unheard. They had jobs and health insurance, a mortgage and plenty of disposable credit. But due to their slackness and ineptitude, they find themselves looking in from outside at the patrons in the restaurant. They discover that the GOPA they counted as friends no longer want to associate with them. They have been shunned. Boehner will be listening to the GOPA not the Other Americans and former GOPA. He knows where the financial support will come from in the next election.

The mortgage will go unpaid when the jobless interval get to be too long. A GOPA bank will lose funds due to that slacker. A GOPA landlord will have to evict the deadbeats in order to preserve the right to do so and make room for someone else.

Business America

We all know that government doesn't create jobs, only private business does that. We have to make the environment conducive to business making money in order to have employment. This means fewer regulations, lower or no taxes, the ability to pay whatever wage the non-GOPA are willing to work for.

While business may create and supply jobs to America, many of them are directly funded by government money raised by taxation and borrowing. If we cut out all the government spending, who is going to pay for all that non-government employee government work?

The newly elected Republican House of Representatives will need to listen to more than just the Euphemistic America. If they forget about all the people who need food, shelter and medical services, the anger we allegedly saw in the 2010 election will be a lot more emphatic the next time. Hunger is motivational.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

August 28, 2010 a Day That Will Live in Infamy

My job takes me into DC just about every day where I can see the reality of people of all stripes working to earn a living and made a difference this great nation of ours. Some people work for private government contractors and others work directly for an Agency, Administration, Department or Bureau. It doesn't matter what the employer-employee relationship is, we all make this nation work. Some people may not be in the realm of 6-figure salaries with benefits but even the man or woman who cleans the offices, waters the sidewalk plantings, rings up office supplies at Staples, makes my noontime sandwich adds his/her indispensable services to the greater whole. They are what America is. Each man and woman is an honorable thread in the tapestry of American civilization.

Glen Beck is a man who believes that he holds the answer to America's troubles. The answer is God and an adherence to a 2000-year old text. Mr. Beck decided that it was necessary to stage a rally to honor the dead veterans of the latest American wars. He chose the honorable date of August 28 to coincide with the historic speech of Dr. Martin Luther King, 47 years earlier. But what has been lost in the hoopla and rhetoric of the pro-this and anti-that movements is that it also coincides with the long-planned and now implemented pullout of combat troops from Iraq.

What was billed as a non-political political rally on Constitution Mall in front of the Lincoln Memorial to Restore Honor to our military personnel had the character of a free-for-all stand up and shout praise Christian revival tent meeting (without the tent.)

There was no continuity to the messages or the speakers who uttered their favorite catch-phrases and sound bytes. There was an air of pride-by-association to the entire event. For example, Ms. Sarah Palin, former Governor of Alaska, former V. Pres. Candidate, current Grizzly Mom and spokesmodel for the Tea Party activist gave a rousing speech that would not have left a dry eye at any VFW Local Hall. Tens of thousands of "Don't Tread On Me" mid-western anti-tax aficionados filled the grassy fields of Constitution Mall bringing with them the parochial rhetoric of Too Much Taxation. Never mind the fact that the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have now cost Americans $1.07 Trillion that only their children, grandchildren "unto the third generation" will have to pay.

Glenn's rally was the Whitest rally DC has ever seen. Each speaker brought out his/her own constituency to add to the total. Sarah brought the 55 to 70 demographic. And they in turn brought their children. Glenn brought his young disenchanted Christian, God-driven radio listeners. Aveda King spoke on the Civil Rights connection and brought no one. The speakers wove their respective colors into the tapestry and produced a bland brown cloth that said nothing. Although left unsaid, the biggest item on the agenda was to link the disparate demographics into a Fiscally Conservative base for the next election. Networking was the goal.

Anti-tax Tea Party folks were to gain an understanding of chest-swelling pride of veterans (who by the way will be best honored by using tax dollars to treat their war injuries and pay their benefits.) Veterans and their families were to feel that we love them after all and won't shun them as we did after Vietnam. Not only does each soldier deserve a metal with a ribbon but so do their moms.

Immigrants in this country learned that they really are invited here by the words on the iconic Statue of Liberty. No matter how vocal we are that they wait their turn to break bread with White Americans our Honorable ideals will be restored and they too can become Conservatives like Lloyd Marcus.

Minorities in this country learned that one can easily lose the founding principles to an interloper if one fails to defend the 'intellectual property' that was theirs. Like Xerox and Kleenex, ones unique identity can be diluted by allowing usurpation to go unchallenged. This rally stole the thunder of the Civil Rights movement and the Dream that led it forward for nearly a half century.

Native Americans learned that their only hope is to turn to God and pray away their anger at having lost so much and received so little in return. Faith in God is the only hope they have in the face of extreme poverty, lack of resources, education and access to medical care. No fed-up taxpaying conservative American who attended the rally wants to fund such improvements that are long overdue.

In the run up to the Restore Honor rally the originators variously described its purpose as "to take back our country" and "to reclaim Civil Rights". As with all the rhetoric of the day, audacious battle cries were uttered without ever linking them with what the battle was against. Take back this country from what or whom? The statement itself presupposes that someone or something has taken the country away from its people. It suggests that there is a Them and an Us who are at odds with each other. The fervor would be more understandable if Ms. Palin were a Lakota Souix speaking on the still smoldering sentiments after having lost 99.9% of the land to foreign invaders.

"Reclaim Civil Rights"? The Rev. Al Sharpton or Jessie Jackson would be more believable as a person expounding the need to raise the level of equality after some erosion of the gains by Dr. King, Rosa Parks and all the other people who dedicated their lives to the cause of racial equality.

There were indeed hundreds of thousands of people on the Mall on August 28 listening to a concoction of speakers telling one story while representing a wholly different ideology and constituency. The only coherent message that was conveyed was that America has the potential to reclaim its honor if we work together to accomplish that goal. It seems that we DO need another Hero, we DO need to know the way home. And we DO need each other to get ourselves back on the highroad.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Swirl Theory

Swirl Theory

Ever wonder why it is that you never heard of something and then suddenly you hear and see several references to that very thing in the next few days? Do you ever not see an old friend for years and when someone mentions him/her you cross paths in the oddest location? Have you watched a movie and be impressed by an actor/actress who you never heard of and the next movie or two later, there he/she is again? Well there is Swirl Theory to explain what is going on. Also see The Principle of Imminent Collapse.

The cause and effect relationship applies to events that are in direct proximity to each other. When one billiard ball strikes another the striking ball changes direction and speed. It imparts direction and speed to the target ball and it rolls away from its original position or changes its speed and direction if it too was already in motion. Sir Isaac Newton described this relationship with the equation Force=Mass times Acceleration (F=Ma) . This relationship between the two billiard balls is wholly predictable and replicable. What is less apparent is that two objects can pass near to each other and exhibit a cause and effect relationship.

This lesser obvious relationship is also wholly measurable and understood by physicists as a Gravitational, Electrical, or Magnetic interaction defined by the equation: F=c(M1 x M2/d2) . You don’t need to understand the mathematics but simply, there is a force between any two objects that acts at a distance and is smaller the further away the two object are.

Even lesser known and understood is how events that take place in similar places at similar times can shape each other and manifest divergent outcomes. How GEM (gravitational, electric, magnetic) forces act across a distance is conceptualized by considering a field of force that act with a uniform effect until something comes along and disturbs the uniformity. Picture a tightly stretched trampoline. It is essentially a flat uniform surface. If you put a small glass marble on it the marble will sit there and wait until something comes along to disturb the uniformity of the trampoline surface. Now carefully place a bowling ball anywhere on the stretched surface. Two things will happen. The bowling ball will migrate to the middle of the trampoline because it deflected the surface downward due to gravity. The second thing that will happen is the small marble will roll toward the bowling ball and stick to it. The marble is only following the bent surface of the trampoline created by the bowling ball.

Two magnets will attract each other across the distance between them. A positive and negative electrical charge will do the same.

All around us are these GEM fields that are constantly interacting with each other. There is an inter-relationship between these three types of force fields. Each force acts in its own characteristic manner on objects that are within its reach. Mathematically it can be shown that every two particle of matter exert a G force on ever other particle in the Universe, no matter how small that forge might be. Every electron and proton impacts every other one in the Universe. Again the same for every magnetism source.

Just as trillions of trillions of electrons create an electro-magnetic field that surrounds us, everything and everyone around each of us creates a field of possibilities any of which could be the next effect to a cause. All the mass in the Universe is moving around in a semi-random way that while it may appear chaotic and random, it is in fact governed by those two equations stated earlier and a couple more that are too complicated for this discussion. Although we can’t see it, our bodies are acting and reacting in the same manner as the marble on the trampoline or an electron floating in space. Our bodies are composed of mass that has gravity, contains iron that is magnetic and is electrically active and actually has an electrical field emanating from it, although it is quite weak. From a cosmic point of view, our bodies are indistinguishable from the air around us and the Earth beneath our feet. Indeed, we are composed of the air around us and the Earth beneath our feet. It is just that the matter of our bodies is more highly patterned than is the dirt and the gas of the air.

Our human bodies are highly patterned fields of energy that are far from uniform and which are deformed, deflected and warped by everything around us. The spinning of a magnet in an electrical field will induce electricity in wires that are around it. The moving magnet creates swirls and eddies in the previously uniform electrical field. Those swirls and eddies form currents that move by wave motion. The magnet doesn’t have to go anywhere to be felt because the magnetism flows toward or away from the magnet on a wave in the field.

To understand wave movement just drop a pebble in a pond. The circular ripples are a wave of energy that moves through the water without the water going anywhere. Two pebbles dropped in the pond will make two sets of circular waves that meet and interact with each other. If one wave is at a high point and the other at its low point, the result will be calm water at that location. If both are at their high or low points, the result will be a place in the water where the level is twice as high or twice as low. Many thousands of pebbles will make a highly chaotic-looking water surface, but each set of circular waves are independent of each other.

The events of our lives act in a similar fashion. Events travel on wave fronts that propagate away from the point where they originate. These event-waves interact with other event-waves to create that which we see around us. They are subject to the same forces that shape the movement of other types of waves. The strength of the force between events and event-waves can also be described by the GEM equation: F=c(M1 x M2/d2). This equation demonstrates that there is a force between events that is inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them. In simple terms, the force diminished greatly as the distance increases. The ‘distance ‘ parameter has two dimensions, one of space and the other of time. Therefore, two events may occur on the same spot but 4 decades apart in time but still have an impact on each other. Yes, an event can have an impact on the other even though the one is in the past.

Such retro-active effects are not readily seen and understood, but there is an explanation based in the wave nature of events. Instead of dropping two pebbles in a pond change that to a deep water stream. The surface is relatively smooth so you can see the ripples clearly. The stream water is moving left to right past you on the bank. The pebble that is dropped into the moving water downstream of your position creates ripples that travel upstream toward you. From your point of view the ripples are coming out of the past toward you. A pebble dropped in the water up stream of your position makes ripples that move faster than the flow of the stream and come at you out of the future. This example would be more obvious if it were tiny floating boats that cause the ripples. On one hand, you would see the ripples arriving before the boat floats by, on the other you would see the ripples of the boat that was dropped in down stream where you could not see it. These two boats create waves of energy that interact with each other, one from the past and one from the future.

Flow in a stream is rarely uniform and consistent. There are currents in the fluid that may not be obvious to an observer who is standing on the bank enjoying the beauty of the stream and how the sky and the horizon reflect on the placid surface. Big currents will warp the surface. Rocks on the stream bed divert the water as will variations along the banks. The water constitutes a field of energy that acts both on other parts of itself and on the stream banks and bottom. Waves travel in this turbulent field and are shaped and reshaped by the flow and the other waves in the field.

Two bits of floating detritus can enter a river miles apart, days, weeks or months apart on the calendar and end up in the same backwater location trapped behind a log or washed up on the bank just above the pool elevation. Each bit will have traveled a different path from a different starting point only to end its journey having met in that same still water location. One cannot assure that the tossing of two and only two objects will end in their meeting in the same still water, but with the tossing of thousands of objects there will be a propensity for them to eventually arrive there. The swirling turbulence is not random in nature but has an guiding impact on events.

The lives of human beings are likewise guided and channeled by the flow of events in which they exist. Event-waves travel within other event-waves and combine with them to create that which we see as our times and our histories. The swirls sweep us in similar directions that carry us to common locations. Those swirls also carry others to their locations and sometimes into ours.

Marketing designers strive to create event-waves that predictably place their ‘products’ in the still waters where many people will interact with them and spend their money to continue that interaction.

Artistic performers work to get themselves seen and heard so that later more people will see them and hear them and they will become famous and wealthy in their pursuits.

Entrepreneurs strive to discover or create the Next Big Thing. They try to figure out where that next still water is that is the endpoint for all the turbulent movement that makes predictions difficult. Some people seem to know how the currents move and where they will carry the bits that are moving in those currents.

Personal event-waves

Every person is a point source for the propagation of event-waves. We do not see these waves but perceive only the portion of them that intersect with ourselves or our own event-waves. This is why we can be so wrong in our interpretation of the nature of a person. It is also why we can believe that what someone has done was good and that exact same action is considered bad by someone else. The event-wave that hits us and resulted in a favorable outcome might actually kill someone else. Indeed, the favorable outcome might have required that death. Consider how many suspected serial-murder cases go forever unsolved because the killing stopped. The killer may have been himself killed in an unrelated event. Maybe an automobile collision. Undoubtedly, there are people alive today who would have been the serial-killer’s victim if he had not died in the collision.

On just the opposite side of that previous example there is the tragic outcome. “There is a killer on the road, his brain is squirming like a toad, if you give this man a ride, sweet Emily will die…” (as sung by Jim Morrison) describes that intersection of event-waves. We usually only think about the intersection of the killer and the victim and not about the cloud of potential events and outcomes that constitute the event-waves that ultimately intersect. The swirl of event-waves brings all the victims to the killer (or the killer to all the victims) and scatters everyone else away to relative safety, at least from that killer. One person might be pushed away from the killer by the energy of his event-wave front only to be destroyed in another tragic event.

The driver in an automobile speeding along the highway with a faulty tire may make it home today, but he/she is moving along with an event-wave that could manifest itself in tragic consequences at any moment. Today he arrives home safely. Tomorrow a truck driver who has not slept enough to be driving this particular highway at this particular time will swerve in front of the car with the faulty tire. The driver swerves and misses a collision, but the tire ruptures and the car spins out of control and collides with the minivan with the soccer team…

Mom and the kids set out as usual that morning as they always do on Saturdays in the summer. The car driver normally relaxes on Saturday mornings, but his employer asked him to work on this Saturday. Had the truck driver stopped to sleep and be rested, he would have still been 400 miles away from the tragedy that unfolded on that Saturday morning when the major event-waves intersected. To be fair here, if any of the three drivers had started out a minute sooner or later, driven a mile per hour faster or slower, this outcome of the event-waves would have been completely different.

The larger aspect of Swirl Theory is that in the larger field of energy that is acted upon by hundreds of millions of individual event-waves creates conditions where people and events are swept in the same direction. The combined wave peak that manifests when many waves constructively add together makes a huge wave front that carries many people to the same destination. Impending events like a war or Woodstock push and pull people to specific location by the thousands for either a horrific end or “three days of love and music.” Each man and woman, boy and girl who trekked the distance to Woodstock in the Summer if ’69 made a singular decision that was far from independent of everyone else. The combined event-wave grew larger as fewer days remained until the opening act. People were swept into the current and swirls that deposited them on the farm in the rain and in the mud. And like the oceanic tsunami, this combined event-wave took on a life of its own pulling everyone along even against better judgment (if there had been any) to be swept up and deposited at the concert or be waylaid on the way, never to actually get there.

Sometimes the combined event-wave is clearly visible as in the run-up to an election, or the Super Bowl game. Other times the combined event-wave goes unnoticed or ignored until it splashed on the shore as with the ’65 race riot in Watts, and the August 1992 Los Angeles riot. It was not the beating of Rodney King or the acquittal of the four officers that caused the 1992 riot, it was years of dissatisfaction, inequality, subjugation and lack of financial resources in the African-American groups and the perception that everyone else has more and is taking it from them. Individual people living is South Central LA could see their poverty, see the brutal suppression enacted upon themselves, see that the Korean-American culture dominated the small retail market located in the African-American neighborhoods. Wealthy customers would not object to Koreans running the 7-11, hiring their friends and family, and take the profits out of the neighborhood. But the poor customers see it and yet another way to keep them down – no jobs, and a drain of the money that IS in the neighborhood. It was a mini-scale version of globalization, right there in their faces. They rebelled. Burned and looted the neighborhoods. Targeted the Korean communities.

This event-wave combination that creates huge wave amplitudes was seen before. It has been seen since. It will be seen again. As long as the underlying causes are not remedied but only suppressed, there will be future eruptions of violence and destruction. Individual people will be swept in the same direction to the same destiny.

Even when the light of reason fails and fires burn in the cities, good people get caught up in the swirl and accomplish great fetes. The lone man standing in front of the tank in Tiananmen Square in 199? Was unlikely to have planned such a stand. He did what he felt he must do.

Reginald Denny was a white truck driver who was dragged from his truck and beaten by a mob of African-Americans while a news station helicopter televised it from overhead. He was rescued by an unarmed, African American civilian named Bobby Green Jr. who rushed to the scene and drove Denny to the hospital. Green was swept up in the national events and has returned to relative obscurity since. He never would have said, “if I see an white man being assaulted by a mob during a race riot, I will jump in and save him.” He just did it.

Fidel Lopez, a Guatemalan immigrant, was pulled from his truck and beaten by a mob that included the same assailant, Damian Williams, who had earlier beaten Mr. Denny. Rev. Bennie Newton, an African-American minister, prevented others from beating Lopez by placing himself between Lopez and his attackers and shouting "Kill him and you have to kill me, too". Both he and Bobby Green Jr. risked their lives to save someone who was being swept along in the turbulent swirling events of those few days.

The national televising of the events did spark additional yet smaller riots in other cities, but it also alerted people to the turmoil and allowed them to take positive actions.

Damian Williams, a single person created an event-wave around himself whose ripples are still being felt these 18 years later. They will ripple for many years to come. Rodney King in his fear of being returned to prison on parole violations, sparked a riot that left 35 people dead. His resistance to arrest was fueled by that fear. The resultant police actions were deemed excessive by a civil rights jury after a criminal case jury decided it was not excessive.

In every case, the affects of the event-waves combine in ways that increase the height (amplitude) of the wave or in ways the cancel the amplitude. Consider the biblical admonition to turn the other cheek, or the phrase that discretion is the better part of valor. When insulted a man can strike back or can “consider the source” and walk away. If he walks away his and the other event-waves meet in such a way that one at the highpoint meet the other at the low point resulting in no fight, no injury, no collateral damage. But if he strikes back because he has already taken enough crap from the transgressor, or from any number of other people, the results can be huge. Blood feuds have been fought by families, clans, tribes, nations, and even religions where one transgression follows another in revanchist folly. These battles can last for generations. Each new generation is swept into the stream and the swirl carries them to the same place. Gang turf wars have event-waves too that draws in young members who are so unprepared to swim in the flow that the flow carries them far downstream and into that place where the detritus all collects.

On a more happy note, two solitary people can live their lives in the absence of each other not knowing of the existence of the other. The events of their lives and the world around them each add an increment of wave energy to the churning swirling events of their days and bring them together in a small eddy where they remain long enough together to meet and get to know each other. In there they form a new pattern of event-wave that contains the two of them. Then they can re-enter the stream and flow along as one.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Why We Need Taxes

Recall that the first working title of my book It's All Tuna! was The Economy Doesn't Care. One comment I received was, "so what's new about that?" While the market doesn't care, fortunately there are people who do. Furthermore, some of those people stake their futures on holding high office so that they can try to do something about caring. I pose one question back to you:

Where would we (and I mean all of us collectively) be today had we not spent deficit-ly and raised taxes to pay for our programs?

If we had not allowed hundreds of thousands of Americans to borrow their house equity to pay for college educations, home remodeling, flat screen TVs, retirement village units, etc. we would have not enjoyed the lifestyle we have come to expect for the past 50 years. I peg the interval at 50 years because it was after the 1960s that the spiral of wage increases, inflation and cost of living bloomed large. What seemed like a bright beautiful sunrise skyline turned out to be the mushroom cloud of imminent collapse on the sunset horizon.

Pre-WWII, the world was in an isolationist economic mode. America was still an agrarian society. Recall that in the Great World War, canons were pulled by horses and our bombers were bi-planes. We still had Milk Wagons and Ice Delivery and we had only about 123 million people. By 1940, there were about 132 million people. It is not surprising to me to drive into a small town in any state and see 50 to 100 or more names of young men from that town who died in either of those world wars.

In those days, families were the economic unit that drove all larger macro-economic activity. Three generations of related people resided in one dwelling that had been built to accommodate that family dynamic. Houses were homes and remained in the family for many generations. People actually owned those houses and were not beholden to an investor or bank. But in the spirit of the market place, two people living as cheaply as one is a sacrilege. One married couple plus children per household became the norm. Grandmom and granddad stayed on the old homestead when the kids relocated to the big city in search of a wage or salary. One had to travel light and be strong and lean in order to make that trek and not be slowed down by elder-parents. The dominant image from the Grapes of Wrath is the WHOLE family, from sick-old-granpap to pregnant wife with a babe-in-arms broken down on the side of the road with EVERYTHING they could carry tied on the side of the old farm truck. Houses became investment units and their value measured in dollars not bedrooms and hearths.

We moved away from that style of living where a strong back and a determined attitude put food on the table year after year. We moved into a world where strong backs and determined attitudes built railroads and skyscrapers for the marketplace to do its business of deriving secondary wealth from the labors of farmers, miners and factory workers. The market made it possible for humans to derive a living without having to flex a muscle or assemble a machine. Now I say that in the better sense of the practice. After all we did not need 123 million people to bend their backs planting and harvesting food and textile crops.

Today, we do not need for 330 million people to bend their backs to earn their dinner. The 59 million people who are 65 or older are not in the workforce, but need shelter and food. Yes, some of them still are working out of necessity because for them there is no other way to eat. Take a look through the Lens of Reality. Lens: Today due to the economic recession we have an additional 7 million unemployed people in this country who have been added to the 6 million longer term unemployed people. Reality: the rest of us are doing quite well aren't we? We go to work, we buy our food, we fuel our cars, we watch our Superbowls, we pay our taxes, we drink our beer, we complain about paying for those who have not, we worry about mounting debt (only because we fear that the lenders will stop lending.) This last parenthetical is the ONLY justification for fiscal restraint that I have heard ANYONE raise during the heated debates on the size of Big Government.

Big Government is Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security and the interest on debt. To reduce spending on these entitlements we have to decide who will be sacrificed for the fiscal restraint. Some one has to decide who will be allowed to eat. Some one has to decide whose child will be turned away from the hospital because mom and dad don't have the money to pay the bills that will be issued. At the same time that these four line items of the Federal budget are growing out of control and remain unfunded they are also the four most urgent and essential items in our lives. Longer life expectancies are the primary cause of our imminent fiscal collapse. We want to live longer and live better, but we do not have an economic model which will allow that to happen without a mortgage that will some day need to be paid. What we have come to think of as mere comfort and necessity, is in actuality a luxury we never could afford on our ability to earn income. For us to live better than "the average" someone else must live below it. Hence we in America are less than 5% of the world population but consume about 25% of the energy production. Ask yourself this:

Am I willing to live completely within my means for my entire life?

This statement requires that you only consume one share of the resources which are equally shared among everyone on the planet. It means no consumer credit, or mortgages; you must save up to buy everything. It means that you will fund your own retirement. It means paying all your own medical bills or be denied care. It means that you buy no life insurance and if some cripples you in a car collision, you can only take everything that person has and no more. While you could leave wealth to your children, you cannot borrow against their future. My guess is that your answer is NO.

I know that my answer is NO.

We have and need taxes because we need the food, shelter, clothes and medical goods and services that the money will buy. The only reason we have a chronic National Debt is that we have chosen to defer paying our bills so that we can use future income and our future generations to pay the bills. There are legitimate reasons for borrowing now and making our children and grand-children pay the bill. Those reasons are supposed to be OUR responsible investment in the future. THEIR future. If we build a Billion Dollar highway now, it is supposed to be a benefit to our children too, so we issue bonds and get them to pay off the debt. We are responsible for constructing a sufficiently large health care delivery system with enough doctors and staff to be able to provide the necessary care. If we don't invest in training enough competent doctors and nurses, there will not be enough of them for our descendants. The actions of our Administrations has bled our investment funds to pay for non-productive pursuits such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the tax cuts that have hamstrung our ability to pay our bills.

Today, there is no way to reduce the debt without tax revenues. As our ability to borrow grows thin, our economy will grind to a halt when the music stops and we are the country left standing without a chair.