Tag Archives: economy

Wednesday Night Ramblings – 9/25/2019

I’ve made a conscious decision to stay out of politics for the last couple of years, but I think we are at a moment of history when a few questions need to be asked of conservatives who still support Mr. Trump. For most of my life, the stances of Republicans that I have admired most are those on states’ rights, free trade, personal accountability, and fiscal responsibility. My biggest question for conservatives is: Do you believe in and adhere to your principles, or do you support the party regardless of what principles its leaders espouse?

Conservatives claim to believe in states’ rights. However, when the state of California attempts to maintain its own standards for vehicle emissions, the president revokes that authority. Do you believe in this principle or not?

Obviously, Democrats tend to be anti-capitalism, but conservatives have always maintained that they believe in free trade. This president has done more to damage free trade and restrict it than any before him. The trade war and tariffs with China are spiralling the world into a recession. Manipulating markets and pressuring the Federal Reserve to undo the damage the trade war is doing to the economy are NOT free trade fundamentals. Do you believe in markets or not?

For the eight years of Mr. Clinton’s presidency, Republicans railed against his immorality and dishonesty. Slick Willie he was called. Mr. Trump also regularly makes false and misleading statements. Typically outright lies. He also is a womanizer. Do you believe in personal accountability or not? Why are you not as outraged by this person’s behavior as you were Mr. Clinton’s? Is it blind devotion to the party?

When Mr. Obama took office during the Great Recession, conservatives screamed from every outlet possible that the sky was falling because of the national debt and the continuation of the bailouts begun during the Bush administration. Well, under Mr. Trump, in an effort to mitigate the damage done by the trade war, more money has been given to farmers than was used to bailout GM. The national debt has mushroomed to $22 trillion dollars. Where is the conservative outrage over lack of fiscal responsibility? Do you believe in this principle or does it only matter when a Democrat is in the oval office?

My final question for conservatives is this: is there anything this president could do that would make you stop supporting him?

Wednesday Afternoon Ramblings – 8/14/2019

Recently, I heard a podcast on Planet Money in which Nick Hanauer described his trepidation about the widening wealth gap in America. In case you aren’t familiar with him, he was an original investor in Amazon. Needless to say, he is on the wealthy end of that equation, and his opinions have ruffled a few feathers. His TED Talk on the subject has been removed, and many wealthy, powerful people disagree with his premise that the wealth gap is an issue.

He proposes that we should implement a wealth tax on the super wealthy in an effort to reinvest that money into communities. While I do agree with him that we need to close the gap, I vehemently disagree that a tax is the correct way to solve the problem.

First of all, the government is too inefficient and too bloated to make a substantial transformation. Maybe, maybe 50 cents on the dollar would get back to the communities that need it. The rest would be sucked into the bureaucratic black hole.

Second, nobody likes to be taxed. Nobody. We pay them because we must, but nobody likes it. Taxation simply feels like extortion. So gathering support for Hanauer’s will be difficult.

I have an idea for a system that would be better, and over the next few days, I think I will share it on here. In the meantime, you should check out Planet Money. It’s a pretty good podcast with a lot of informative stories about economics.

That’s all for now.

Monday Afternoon Ramblings – 6/17/2019

The path to individual freedom begins with economics. My oldest son, who identifies as a centrist libertarian, loves to peruse Tumblr and debate leftists. Through him, I hear a plethora of communist rhetoric being pushed by millennials with what I assume to be good intentions.

If I could convince those people of one fact, it would be this: capitalism is by far the better, more efficient system for economic development. Every single real world attempt at communism has resulted in economic stagnation, shortages, and hyperinflation. The Soviet Union, Cuba, Chile, North Korea, and Venezuela, just to name a few examples. Things are so bad in Venezuela now that a full day’s wages for the average person will not purchase 1000 calories of food.

I get that things are not perfect in our system. We do need better wage structures that are linked to productivity instead of an hourly wage. We absolutely need healthcare reform so that everyone has access to standard care. We must fix education so that students have access to real world skills and knowledge without being saddled by crippling debt.

But those are tweaks to the system, not a complete reversal. I have been as poor as a person can be and had to rebuild my entire life at 43 years old. While I’m not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination, I am successfully picking myself up one step at a time. Over the next few weeks, I will try to catalogue how I have done this and illustrate through economics how anyone else can transform their own lives.

That’s all for now.

Let Them Eat Cake

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I have no doubt that successful entrepreneurs have worked hard to get their businesses afloat and sustainable. I have worked in many different industries on many different levels and have witnessed firsthand just how hard many owners and executives work. There is no doubt that hands-on entrepreneurs put in long hours and suffer incredible levels of stress. I harbor no ill will for anyone who rolls up their sleeves, puts in the hard work, and reaps rewards for their efforts. Hard work and effort should always be rewarded.

However, where I bristle and when the fighting side of me comes out is when someone of means insists their hard work and effort is superior to others just because they have made more money from it. First and foremost, no one does anything alone. Unless you personally built the building, paved all the roads you use, grew or mined all your resources, and invented every piece of technology you utilize, you received help along the way. Unless you were a trust fund baby who decided to gamble your own wealth, somewhere along the way a bank extended you credit. Unless you personally handle each and every step of your day-to-day operations, somewhere along the way employees have helped you achieve success. Those employees who help you succeed, from the janitorial staff all the way to your second in command, deserve to be able to afford the basic necessities of life, have the opportunity to send their children to vocational school or college, and be able to save for retirement. And they shouldn’t have to hold down second and third jobs to do it, either.

I’ve never known financial success personally, but I’ve worked hard all my life, often juggling those two and three jobs just to stay afloat. As an educator, I typically put in 12, 14, even 16 hour days during the school year, and then usually held down some kind of side job during off times from teaching. I’ve witnessed firsthand good, honest, hardworking people clock out from one 8 or 9 hour shift and hustle to their other job for another 8 or 9 hour shift. I personally once worked about a year and half, 12 hours a day, without one single day off except Christmas. In graduate school, we often put in 16 hour days, 7 days a week. We all work hard, and American workers are among the most productive in the world, even today. Yet our wages have stagnated for 30+ years while inflation has skyrocketed. The myth of hard work equating to success is just that: a myth.

If I live another million years, I will never comprehend the utter disdain some people of means hold for working people. I will never grasp how it’s okay for an executive to make $10,000/hr but unreasonable for workers to earn just a living wage. I’ll never understand how it’s good business sense for CEOs to outsource labor to foreign countries, but class warfare when a working person speaks out for rights. My mind cannot fathom the levels of contempt and pure hatred some people have for those “beneath” them. If you measure your self worth in financial terms, you truly dwell in a poverty stricken existence, no matter how much wealth you accrue.

I Dream of a Day

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As we remember Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his messages of civil disobedience and social justice, I thought I would share my dreams for the world and my nation.

I dream of a day when there is real economic opportunity for all, a day when all positive contributions to society are valued and rewarded. When the day finally arrives that physical labor is seen as more than disposable, we will begin to enjoy real freedoms for all. When the ability to teach others becomes as valuable as throwing a football, we will begin heal the fragmentation of our society. When knowledge and sacrifice are once again revered instead of ridiculed and avoided, we will once again innovate the world. When basic humanity trumps financial greed, we will have a society that seeks justice.

I dream of a day when people listen twice as much as they talk, and nations stop fighting over petty grudges and insignificant differences. When the peaceful, civilized people of the world hold sway over the warmongers, we will begin to know real, lasting peace. When the wants of ordinary citizens – to raise their families and have safety and nourishment – become more important than the greed of a few, the world will begin to move away from the threats of annihilation. When cooperation is given equal footing as competition, as both are necessary for human prosperity, we will begin to solve most of our problems.

I dream of a day when people live as much by principles as by self-interest, a day when people remember that their communities are as valuable as their own homes. When people refuse to accept a child going hungry or the mentally ill sleeping on the street, we will reclaim honor. When the day comes that we protect the weakest and most vulnerable among us, our world will brighten into something worth protecting, something worth defending. When we begin to see each other as brothers and sisters, we can begin pushing back against the darker impulses of our species, and maybe, just maybe, if people do not feel the suffocation of desperation, some of those darker impulses will fade on their own.

I dream of a day when people are free to love whomever they love and express themselves in whatever manner they see fit, without judgment or condemnation. When that day comes, we will learn real freedom. If people can ever let go of their deeply entrenched hate and simply accept others as they are, not as one might wish they were, we can begin to communicate with each other instead of at each other.

These are my simple dreams for this world.

Yet Another Injustice

I’ve started a couple of research-based, logical, sensible posts to demonstrate why racism and all the divisiveness it creates are keeping us from ever progressing into a better society, but I know in my heart it won’t do any good. The people who agree with me will read it and tell me how grateful they are that I wrote it, and the people who disagree will attack my character and call me crazy or stupid. All the while, in a few days, we’ll get yet another story of an unarmed American citizen being murdered by the police. The powers that be will lie, falsify evidence, discredit the victim, and tell us to go fuck ourselves for questioning their authority. The sad fact is that we now live in a quasi-police state owned and operated by corporate America, and I have zero faith that the various levels of our government represent my best interests at all.

For decades now, this country has been moving towards criminalizing poverty, and today, we’ve reached the point where just being poor is illegal. Between nitpicking traffic stops for a taillight out (which is really just an excuse to look for bigger and more expensive infractions) to arrests of people for feeding the homeless to choking a man to death for selling cigarettes, this country simultaneously seeks to punish poverty and stifle economic mobility. In my grandparent’s generation, one income from 40 hours a week was more than enough for a home, three cars, regular vacations, and retirement savings. For my parents, it took at least two incomes for the home, a couple of cars, and irregular vacations. For my generation, most of us require two incomes just to survive. For most of us, retirement means work until you drop dead. I can’t even fathom how hard it will be for those younger than I am.

I say this not as someone who shirked the system and tried to skim by but as someone who went to graduate school for an advanced degree and has worked since I was ten, sometimes at two, three, and once even four jobs to make ends meet. I say this as someone who wrote multiple books and maintains over a four star customer review rating on Amazon. I say this as someone who tried with every ounce of energy, spirit, and fight in my body to be successful but ultimately only found dead-ends and blind alleys. I don’t begrudge those who have found economic success in this country, but I do begrudge those who have purposefully shifted the average American’s wages to poverty standards while simultaneously slashing safety net programs. And I know I’m not alone in my anger at that group of people.

As I write this, my body is now a broken shell, probably from so many years of 60-70 hour work weeks with no real vacations. I’m physically not able to protest in the streets for equality and justice and improved wages. My heart is broken at how far this country has regressed in my lifetime (and I still stand by my statement that we are heading for a New Dark Ages ruled by fear and superstition). I like to think that if my body were able, I would step forward front and center and lead the charge, but right now, I’m just sad for this country. Sad at seeing the time and energy and resources wasted on mindless entertainment. Sad at seeing greed and vanity rewarded while virtue and decency are ground to dust. Sad at watching countless injustices unfold while the vast majority pour their righteousness into frivolities like getting college football coaches fired or criticizing others’ clothing choices.

One of my few remaining rays of hope is that history tells us that this is a repeatable cycle. All civilizations go through episodes of greed and corruption that are followed by periods of chaos and then stretches of peace and prosperity. We happen to be in an obtuse period of greed, and hopefully enough people are waking up to this fact that it will change soon. Hopefully, enough people will begin to see that matters of race and gender equality are also matters of economic inequality, and that as long as the system purposefully denies full rights to any taxpaying citizen, no one is really free. Hopefully, the episode of chaos that follows won’t be too terrible for my children’s sake, and hopefully the next era of peace and prosperity will last for quite a while. Right now, however, I’m overwhelmed by all the hate and venom spewing from so many directions

Insert Inflammatory Headline Here

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I am the enemy. Obviously. I’m white, straight, and male. Oh, I’m also Southern and a hillbilly. Five strikes against me. I am the touchstone of discrimination, bigotry, misogyny, violence, rape culture, and animal cruelty.  According to those more learned and sophisticated than I, I’m also privileged because of the color of my skin, my sexual orientation, and my gender.

I’m going to avoid the knee-jerk reaction to call hogwash because it’s counter-productive to the point I want to make. I don’t want to get drawn into a refutation of all the nonsense about painting with broad strokes. I will say is that if you lived in a home without running water for more than a year, you can call me privileged without any argument. If you had to attend school in clothes that reeked of something worse than kerosene fumes, you earned the right to call me privileged. Otherwise, please refrain from making assumptions about the obstacles other people have had to overcome.

I’ll also say I’m tired of our culture of divisiveness and dehumanization. I’m tired of the endless cycles of liberal vs. conservative; men vs. women; gay vs. straight; jocks vs. nerds; horsecrap vs. horsecrap. I’m extremely tired of intolerance in all its forms. Yes, Mr. Enlightened Liberal Panderer, you are just as guilty of intolerance as any racist or bigot you hate. You are the problem. Yes, Ms. Compassionate Conservative, you are an intolerant jerk. You are the problem, too.

See, every time some tragedy occurs, we get the same nonsense debates about guns or gender roles or religion or whatever, but we never have the real conversation, the one that truly matters. Our culture, this corporate, bureaucratic, bottom-line, profit-driven Huxlean nightmare, has stripped us of our humanity. We don’t look at our fellow human beings as just that. Instead, we immediately jump to what it is we should despise about someone for being part of the “other.” And even if someone isn’t really part of the other, we will find some way to twist reality until they are. And once they are part of that “other,” their rights become less important than our own. We are all guilty of this.  Yes, you are, too.

Here’s one example of this insanity. A couple of weeks ago, the science fiction convention Archon rescinded its invitation to Tim Bolgeo to attend as a special guest of honor. For those who don’t know, Uncle Timmy is a long-time veteran of fandom in the Southeast. However, someone created a social media frenzy concerning a newsletter Uncle Timmy publishes, alleging that the newsletter promotes racism, homophobia, and anti-science propaganda. A mob quickly bombarded Archon with diatribes, and the convention caved to the pressure. In return, people who know Uncle Timmy personally took to social media to defend his reputation and scold the Archon committee members for hastily bowing to the vocal minority.

Though far from the truth, let’s assume for one minute that this  highly educated, well read person is filled with hate and bigotry. However farfetched it may be, let’s assume that this person is using the medium of science fiction fandom conventions to spread hateful propaganda. How does creating an angry mob on social media and threatening the convention committee do anything to improve humanity as a whole? All that has been said publicly is that one group’s rights are more important than another’s, so let’s ban the one group so the other can feel “safe” in their insulated environment. Does any of that sound vaguely familiar to anyone? To me, it would be much more productive, much more beneficial, to sit down and have a face to face dialogue, to discuss openly the perceptions and misconceptions one group has against the other. But we don’t do that in our society. We jump straight to labels like Libtards and Repugs, and bash each other’s intelligence and character without a second thought.

In no way am I trying to diminish the importance of subjects like rape culture, homophobia, misogyny, or racial discrimination. These are all topics that need serious discussion and open communication. However, we do need to stop trying to rank which group is most oppressed and which group is least. Those kinds of artificial stratifications keep us from seeing every member of every subset as a fully rendered human being, and they cause us to dismiss the perceptions, experiences, and sufferings of an individual as insignificant. They also cause us to jump to the “I’m enlightened; you’re ignorant” paradigm that prevents real dialogue. As long as we continue to segregate ourselves into these subsets and bicker about who has it worst, we will always be divided and unable to work together for the betterment of all.

See, here’s the thing: those who are really in charge, the ones really abusing human rights and keeping us from advancing civilization, want us dividing ourselves up and bickering like we do. As long as we’re fighting over some hot button issue that we can never, ever hope to eradicate fully from the human experience, we aren’t working together to expel them from power. See, that’s the real conversation that will never appear on a corporate-owned media outlet, and as long as we keep playing their game on their terms, we’ll never unite as humanity and see real change.

Those who know me hopefully know that as a human being, I’m not the enemy as described above. Despite my five strikes (and I’ll add a sixth: poverty), I strive to treat every person with respect and compassion. Even though I often fall short because of my limitations as a human being, I try to view every person I encounter as a human being worthy of love, respect, and dignity, whether they agree with my viewpoint or not. That’s the real challenge — respecting and loving someone who opposes your personal beliefs, but in the end, either our similarities will bind us together and move us forward or our incessant bickering will tear us apart. Right now, in our current environment of hate, my hope for the former is waning.