Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Posts Tagged ‘economy

The Truth About the Economy in Two Minutes

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Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich explains the problems with the economy in less than 2 minutes, 15 seconds. With illustration even, check it out here: The Truth About the Economy in Two Minutes. I highly recommend watching it now, especially as I will be discussing it in this post.

Basically his point can be summed up in far less than two minutes. Since around 1980, the rich in the USA have gotten richer, while the middle class has lost ground. So while the USA has far more wealth than it had in 1980, all the new wealth is concentrated in the hands of the very rich. And they have increasingly used this wealth to buy influence in congress, get their taxes lowered, and play the average American off against each other by placing the blame on poor people, immigrants, liberals, conservatives, whatever.

I don’t see anything wrong with his analysis. It’s a breath of clear air in a dank cave, that’s for sure. The current debt ceiling limit debate is a wonderful example of how political theatre has replaced real debate on the real issues. Almost everything I read about the “debate” has been stuff and nonsense. Neither “side” want to talk about the two biggest contributions to this mess: Our insane military spending and the insanely low taxes on the rich. Until and unless these are addressed, the whole debt situation is just going to get worse and worse.

Both “sides” of the “debate” use different, equally idiotic, talking points. The right loves to blame poor people, immigrants, and sick people for all our nation’s woes. And of course still sticking to the utterly demolished argument that giving the rich tax beaks will magically create jobs. And the left, among much irrelevance, often likes to claim that the debt is no big deal, and that the $400 billion a year in interest on the national debt is trivial. I’m pretty sure $400 billion a year could finance all sorts of things far more useful to the average American than paying bankers ever more money.

Although the point needs to be made, if the government was spending all this money on things that would eventually create wealth, the debt wouldn’t be such a big deal. Things like education, health care, and the nation’s infrastructure. This is how the government used to spend money, and up until the mid-seventies it made the USA the envy of the world. Since then spending on things like education and infrastructure has died the death of a thousand cuts, American’s public education is among the worst in the industrialized world, and the nation’s infrastructure is falling apart. Not to mention a national health system that is a sick joke. France spends about 11% of its GNP on health care, and provides everyone in France with what is widely regarded as the best health care in the world. The USA spends about 16% of its GNP on health care (the most in the world) and has a health care system that is dead last in the industrialized world. Yes, one has to go to second and third world countries to find worse health care than in the USA.

So it doesn’t really matter whether or not they raise the debt ceiling. Until we have a government that puts the needs of the nation and its people ahead of the needs of the hyper-rich … we’re all screwed. Don’t hold your breath.

(The above image is of a huge German tank that the Nazis were working on during World War Two. It would have been essentially invulnerable to other tanks and artillery. Unfortunately it would have been a sitting duck for aircraft … and completely unable to cross rivers. This is the kind of nonsense militaries’ come up with when they have too much money. The current US military being no exception, maybe some blog posts on that will come down the pike.)


Written by unitedcats

July 31, 2011 at 7:12 pm

Socialism for the Rich Illustrated

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Black Oak Books

This is the former site of Black Oak Books, a once thriving book store in North Berkeley. To say it was an anchor store in the neighbourhood would be an understatement, it as an important part of the community and a serious business draw for its local little business district. It thrived till the mid nineties, then business slowed because of competition from the Internet, in particular. Who can blame people, local sales taxes are at 10% now, on Amazon in California they are 0%. It got to the point where they couldn’t make their $16,000 monthly rent, they were unable to renegotiate a lower rent with the landlord, who insisted on getting “market” rates, and it folded about a year ago.

And since then the store has sat there, empty. And I wondered how it could be that the property owner could afford to have the store sitting empty for a year instead of collecting some rent. I mean, that’s nearly $200k a year in lost rent, wouldn’t it make sense for the landlord to agree to a lower than “market rate” rent just to keep some income coming in? How can even a well off person just piss away $200k a year? Easy … he gets to write off the “loss” on his taxes.

This is … insane. And a wonderful example of how the rich in America have perverted the legal and tax codes to benefit themselves at the expense of the rest of us. By allowing the landlord to simply write off his losses because he can’t get a “market rate” renter, society as a whole is screwed. Jobs are lost, commerce is lost, and taxpayers pick up the tab to allow someone who is already very wealthy to pursue a business “strategy” that in anything resembling an actual capitalist free market would be insanely unprofitable.

And this is just one example of how the rich have perverted the laws and tax code of the land to benefit them at the expense of society at large. Very few Americans really understand how serious and terrible this situation is. I mean it’s so serious that the rich have been able to convince most Americans that there is something terribly wrong with taxing the rich and giving the money to the poor, but it’s perfectly OK to tax the poor and give the money to the rich, because of course the rich will invest the money in ways that will “trickle down” to the poor.

Let’s think about this, what happens if one gives money to poor people? Do they squirrel it away in their mattress or deposit it in an offshore bank account? Of course not, they promptly run out and spend it. Creating commerce, jobs, and the whole shebang that makes an economy work. And what happens if one gives money to the rich? They promptly stick in in an offshore account or otherwise do what they can to make sure they keep the money, they most certainly don’t run out and spend it. People get to be rich and continue to be rich by not spending money. I mean, d’oh.

Yet in America we’ve allowed the rich to so control the laws and even the public discourse to the point where millions of Americans think that redistributing wealth from the rich to the poor is somehow evil. Excuse me? For a civilization to have any long term prospects, everyone has to benefit. A civilization where only the rich benefit has no long term prospects, or at least no long term prospects that benefit anyone but the rich. If the upwards transfer of wealth is a sacrament, eventually the wealthy own everything, and the rest of us are slaves.

And sadly this appears to be where America is headed. One giant company town, or worse, one giant plantation where most of us are effectively slaves. In other words, there isn’t going to be any recovery from the current depression, because all the government is doing is bailing out the rich at public expense. Well, unless one regards a job at MacDonald’s and overpriced rental housing as a good thing. The disparity between rich and poor has never been greater in the USA, and legions of Americans are not only defending the status quo, they are clamouring for more of the same. The rich are laughing all the way to the bank.

Sigh. Have a great week everyone.

(The above image as taken by me. Credit and Copyright © Doug Stych. It stretches the imagination that anyone would want to use the image, but they are free to do so for non-commercial purposes if properly attributed and linked to Doug’s Darkworld.)

Written by unitedcats

June 6, 2011 at 5:14 am

The Year and the Decade in Review, Short Version: Yikes!

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Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead.

And what a year and a decade it’s been. We’ve come a long ways since the odometer rolled over in 2000, and are a decade into a century I could barely imagine when I was a young lad.  Even the year 1984 seemed to be in the far future when I was in high school, 2010 might as well have been on Mars. Yet here I am, older, wiser, and in many ways more perplexed than ever by the human condition. Are we an intelligent species? Damned if I know, but I don’t see a whole lot of evidence for it. Yet we muddle through somehow. And we muddled through a lot of stuff this past decade, here, in no particular order, is my take on the whole mess:

9/11. For good or for ill this was a defining moment for the decade. At least in the USA. However, what happens in the USA affects the whole world, so 9/11 was a global event on par with the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand in 1914. What can  I say, we needed a Lincoln or a Truman, we had a Bush. Instead of decisive action, like sending the 101st airborne to Afghanistan capture Bin Ladin and his henchmen, Bush gave the green light to every sycophant and crony with an axe to gride, in most cases a pretty corrupt ideological axe. A decade later, trillions of dollars spent, countless lives wasted, foreign nations turned into failed states … and the “War on Terror” is a zombie monster still dragging us down and creating more terror and debt every day. And OBL is still at large, though the government apparently now thinks that searching American’s crotches may bring him to justice. Yeah, this is going to end well.

The Economy. The nineties showed us that having a cool web site address wasn’t the secret to wealth after all. The last decade showed us that banks, real estate offices, and fast food joints aren’t much to base an economy on. Or should have shown us, despite giving endless buckets of cash to the people whose greed crashed the economy in the first place, the American economy is still a disaster and most seem clueless as to its cause. Meanwhile the rest of the world built factories and is muddling through somehow. Yes, there is a connection here. We’ve done what the Spanish Empire did, spent our money on weapons and glitter. How long did the Spanish Empire last anyhow?

Space Exploration. Well, some good news here at least. There have been many amazing discoveries the past decade, we are truly in a golden era of space exploration. American manned space exploration, well, that’s hosed, but robots are the future in space exploration anyhow. Still, three in a row here, three major areas where the USA has lost its way … foreign policy, the economy, and space exploration. What can I say, it wasn’t supposed to turn out like this when I as a kid in the sixties. No Moon Bases, no flying cars, just a pile of debt and a war that is designed to last forever.

Cosmology. It’s also been an amazing decade for cosmologists. It now appears that there are testable theories about the origin of the Big Bang, not to mention the ultimate fate of our Universe. And oddly enough, there is no need for supernatural influence anywhere. The cosmological argument for God is now dead, possibly the biggest development in theology in 400 years. Trust me, this will be a big deal someday.

Other Sciences. From preserved dinosaur soft tissue to Gobeli Tepi, there have been all sorts of scientific advances the past decade. I hardly know where to begin, so I won’t. I don’t think there’s been anything epochal like the invention of the aeroplane or the napkin, but I could be wrong.

The Media. This will be remembered as the decade where the mainstream media completed its transformation into little more than a shopping flyer for corporate and government America. What Free Press remains is on the Internet. Will the Internet be subsumed by the beast, or will true freedom return via the Internet? Beats me, none of the above?

Politics. The US government stopped even pretending to pay attention to the will of the people this decade, and set itself up as the arbiter of what is right. Historically, this rarely ends well. Consider yourselves warned.

Popular Culture. There’s 837 million blogs about popular culture, this isn’t one of them. Prince Philip could be marrying Lady Gaga on Survivor for all I know.

Personal Insights. I’m an atheist now, that’s the big personal development of the decade for me. On a broader level, science is starting to come to a much better understanding of why people believe in absurdities. There’s a lot of absurdities out there, I’d say the widespread belief that the Earth is only a few thousand years old is one of the most prevalent ones. People who believe in absurdities are not stupid or ignorant, there’s a host of evolutionary reasons why people process data in fallacious ways. Will understanding this lead to new ways to enlighten people … or new ways to manipulate them? Stay tuned.

What will the next decade bring? My suspicion is that it’s going to make the past decade look rosy in comparison. As is so often the case, I hope I’m wrong.

I wish everyone who reads this a Happy New Year and Happy New Decade.

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. There’s a zillion reasons why its use here doesn’t hurt the copyright holder in any conceivable way, arguably the opposite. It’s Oliphaunts in one of the Lord of the Rings movies. In the Lord of the Rings world, gravity must have been below Earth normal, and possibly with denser air, to allow such things as these giant beasts and flying dragons and such. I chose the image to represent the decade because of its outsized and bizarre violent imagery. That’s certainly the War on Terror and the decade to me, a huge violent Kafkaesque Juggernaut raging violently, mindlessly. Who knows how and where it will end but it’s likely to be a hell of  a mess until it does.)


Written by unitedcats

January 1, 2011 at 8:30 am