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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Russell Brand Nonsense

The following was posted by me on a negative review of Russell Brand's book, "Revolution." Someone posted a list of questions designed to identify someone as conservative if they voted yes to any of them.  Brand is proud of the fact he's never voted because he figures it's been useless...


I answered No to all of your questions but I still think Russell Brand is a useless goof.  If he can't convince the people who DO vote to vote differently, he's pissing in the wind.  And at least in the US, if voting was as irrelevant as he says, corporations wouldn't be spending $5B on campaign propaganda and the GOP wouldn't be working so hard trying to make it harder for low income and minorities to vote.  The problem is not that voting doesn't work, the problem is the voters keep voting for greedy corporate shills rather than for third parties or anti-incumbent protest votes.  The problem is the $5B propaganda mill is working well, and frankly, the fewer people who vote the better they like it, especially when the non-voters are anti-corporate liberals.  So Brand is serving them well at this point.  There's no way there'll be a violent "revolution," that's a pipe dream.  You have to do the hard work of exposing the fact that the MSM no longer cover protest movements, or just as importantly, the systemic clamp-down on them. 

 In the 1970s strip malls were converted to shopping malls all over the US.  But few people realize an important reason why.  You can't picket inside on private property, so picketers would have to stand outside at the common entrance to the entire complex where they have much less impact, since they're not directly in front of the store in question-- they're not confronting just shoppers for the store in particular but for all the stores.  Safety in numbers, and the hunkering down happened while no one was paying attention.  The result is, public protests lost much efficacy and visibility in the process, to the point that protests are going on all over the world, but most of the voters who can in fact, make a difference, are oblivious of them.

Voters, at least in the US have been hyped into being sports fans looking for a team to cheer.  Everyone has learned to cheer their own team no matter what.  Right or wrong.  You're behind the blue team or the red team, period.  The entire socialization process in the US with its rah-rah sports metaphors has trained everyone.  You don't need to think, just cheer for your team, and voters like that just fine.  Suggesting those people who DO think, should just not vote in protest, is the worst suggestion one could imagine-- virtually certain to guarantee the corporate status quo.   And the people are arguing about socialism vs capitalism, the totalitarians in charge have got them all right where they want them.  As long as we're arguing about whether to spend money on wars, surveillance, free trade partnerships or liberal programs, we're not colluding on ways to get the money out of politics.

We've seen this story before.  Read Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin.  Revolution is at hand, yeah, right.  And they targeted the vote too, but trying to get the "rock and rollers" TO vote.  That didn't work either-- the problem is, the people who vote their team and have always voted their team and will keep voting their team are in the majority, and crazy talk isn't going to change that.  You have to get down and do the hard work of getting petitions signed, social media campaigns, not just to get out the vote but to educate in the process, and yes, pounding the pavement and talking to people.  We need to build up the social pressure that just voting for team red or blue is being a puppet and that the MSM, be it Fox or MSNBC, are feeding us useless propaganda instead of useful information.  It's a hard slog though, because a big chunk of people don't like to have to think and the team approach relieves them of that.  Unfortunately, they all vote and as long as that is the case that is what you are up against.

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Sunday, January 06, 2013

Too Much Taxes, Oh My!

If your approach has been to do all you can to tear down the government, attempting to “starve the beast,” and then you turn around and complain that you’re getting nothing for your tax dollar, you only have yourself to blame.

Now I could be wrong about this, but I suspect you are not opposed to certain government subsidies, such as the public road system.   If you are not so inclined, then please clarify.   But assuming you aren’t opposed, the reasons would be pretty obvious.   If the roads were all privatized, they would undoubtedly be toll roads, and roads in particularly strategic locations could easily cost more than roads in less strategic locations.   And road owners could easily decide to charge based on the type of vehicle—passenger cars for example, could be charged by the passenger, and container trucks by the size and/or weight of the container.   It’s easy to see how this would increase the cost of pretty much anything, and the cost of things in more remote areas could end up higher than those same things in less remote areas.   Certain companies may buy their own roads and exclude their competitors from utilizing them.  Manufacturing would get hit both on the shipping of incoming resources, and the shipping of outgoing products.   Of course, manufacturing could be done in other countries where roads are subsidized by the government so that the only costs the manufacturers have to pay would be the cost to use the American roads to get their products to market, and not have to pay to ship raw materials over them to get to their factories.  And, costs of raw materials in the US to foreign countries would be less competitive with countries who subsidize their roads, because the shipping costs to get materials out of the US would be hampered by the costs of the toll roads.  Consequently, there is a societal benefit to a public system of roads whereby the costs of roads is distributed more evenly in order to equalize the costs of shipping and thereby of goods in general.

Presumably, you wouldn’t expect to get the benefit of public roads for nothing, and that taxes would have to be paid to maintain such a system.   Ultimately, what’s happening here, is you are choosing how you will be taxed—every time you utilize a private road in tolls, or via an income tax to a centralized government managing the creation and maintenance of a public road system.   The idea here is, you are getting something for your taxes, something that you would have to pay for directly otherwise.

Now I can see how one would balk at paying a lot of taxes, yet not getting anything in return.  But if this is occurring, I would say to a large extent that you’ve contributed to that fact.  On one hand, you may not recognize the value of something you actually ARE getting in return for your taxes, and second, if your strategy has been to work to tear down government as undesirable and useless, that you have directly contributed to its inability to provide value in return for taxation.   On one hand, your butts have been defended against terrorists threats (presumably, anyway), since 2001 or so, and that sort of thing is expensive.  If you don’t value this protection, have you been outspoken against it?   Or against the way it’s being paid for (or not-paid for)? 

Another factor is what I’m inclined to call the Rand Free Lunch syndrome.   Now it’s true that it’s not possible to outsource the public road system—you can't use roads in China to ship products from Pittsburgh to San Francisco for example.  Labor on the other hand, can be outsourced.  But it’s important to note that outsourcing labor to China makes use of a labor force that is being subsidized by a socialist system.   And once all American labor has been converted to the cheaper Chinese socialist labor, they will then be in a position to raise the prices of their labor with impunity.  Their laborers have then been educated and are highly productive within their system, but ours have not been as there have been fewer such jobs and less interest in subsidizing education for those laborers.  The long term effect of this is a trend towards a country where all products are sold by Walmart-like importers paying rock-bottom wages, and products being sold to a populace with less and less money to afford them, while the cost of the products go up as the Chinese decide to raise their prices.   And ultimately, this is likely to extend to the realm of international weaponry, a market which the US excels in at the moment, but is now ripe for incursion by the Chinese manufacturing forces.  The cost of the dirt-cheap labor free-lunch is not as free as it might seem, in the long run.

One measure of ethics is to ask the question, would an action still make sense if EVERYBODY did it?

There are in fact, “looters” in this country.  They have looted the US labor force in sending it overseas and taking advantage of OTHER countries labor subsidies and lack of environmental regulations so that they do not have to pay the taxes themselves to support those things.   And at the same time, they’re undermining the US labor force who now can’t compete with the low wages and no longer have sufficient education and/or skills.   It is a free-lunch attitude that is unsustainable and unethical, in that if everyone were to do it, it wouldn’t work, because either we would have to subsidize our labor force too, or they would have to not subsidize theirs, neither of which would result in the same sort of low-cost dynamic we have now.  What we have is an unbalanced short-term "free lunch", that is only going to work for a limited time and for a limited few.   If all you care about is your own short-term profits, it’s a really good deal, but it’s not a good deal for the rest of us, we’re getting cheated in return.

I believe what we are seeing in the economy of the US, is the results of the unsustainability of such free-lunch opportunities-- the unsustainability is finally producing results in the form of the hidden costs to society which are now coming to light.   It's starting to hit companies in their bottom lines, as unemployed workers stop buying products at the level they once did, and employed ones become more cautious.   The ability of the US to compete in the consumer electronics field has unquestionably taken a big hit.  The same technologies that go into consumer electronics go into smart weapons systems, the next generation of which are likely to be Chinese.  This will result in further layoffs of US defense workers as sales of weapons systems to foreign countries fall due to the cheaper prices of the Chinese products.   Are we all just going to be resellers of Chinese goods?   Is that going to be enough?  Or perhaps, do we need to re-think how we evaluate the full cost of doing business in the US?

Also, don’t forget that labor expects to get something for its tax money too.  And if it doesn't get it, it's every bit as interested in revolution as you are as an unhappy too-much-tax paying business owner.  One difference though, is that there's more of them than there are of you.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

41% Say American Dream is Lost

Posted in response to a Yahoo! article with the title:

"41% of People Say American Dream Is Lost; 63% Say Economy Getting Worse

A new survey by Yahoo! Finance shows Americans have a disturbing lack of hope and a frightening lack of retirement planning.

Among the highlights of the poll:

-- 41% of Americans say the 'American Dream' has been lost.

-- 37% of adults have NO retirement savings and 38% plan to live off Social Security.

-- 63% of Americans believe the economy is getting worse, including 72% of those over the age of 55."

Even those of us who HAVE been planning for retirement have been stymied by several things:

1. The stagnant job wages that have been going on for a couple of decades (has not been keeping up with the cost of living).

2. The undermining of the US labor market by sending jobs to sweatshops in countries that don't protect their worker's or their environment and have a rock-bottom cost of living compared to the US. There's no way the American worker could ever compete with that without the US also becoming a third-world economy (we're on our way there, it seems).

3. The skyrocketing healthcare costs that were unforseen by most people. Who would have guessed that healthcare insurance could cost a couple over $1000/mo?

4. The crash of the housing market that has eaten into potential retirement equity. (people could plan to move into a smaller house at retirement, and/or to a cheaper area and use the difference for retirement-- but NOT ANYMORE).

5. The crash of the banking system which has, if not eaten up retirement accounts, have at least set them on a trajectory of stagnation for at least the next decade if not longer.

And if you want to point a single finger, I'd say you can point it at the INVISIBLE HAND of GREED that runs this country like an iron fist-- the COMPLETE AND UTTER CORRUPTION of GOVERNMENT by MONEYED INTERESTS.


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Monday, October 31, 2011

Hayek a conservative after all?

Posted in response to a negative review of Robert H. Frank's "The Darwin Economy." A statement made blaming the creation of the Fed for the worlds economic ills was made, which I thought poorly supported (not that I'm particularly a fan of the Fed, but I'm not convinced it is the Evil Empire some seem to think it is).

You are quick to lay all economic problems at the feet of the Fed's influence. I don't think you've demonstrated that it's simply the existence Fed itself that is inherently faulty simply by pointing out some of its actions that turned out badly, or interpreting them as causal-- you seem to be cognizant of that point. However, I wouldn't necessarily be opposed to eliminating it, but I would need to know what you propose to replace it. An answer of "nothing" only tells me that you have no idea what will replace it. It's a ghost of Hayek, an etherial phantom that does not and cannot exist. Decentralized banking only means that the banks will choose on their own how they will centralize without regard to any democratic process, without any social involvement other than whatever meager influence their customers can exert on them. The fact is, banks exert significant control over our economy, I think we have a right to some say as to how they go about it. No, in fact, I think we have an OBLIGATION.

Society is necessarily a balance between collective interests and individual interests. That's simply a fact of life. The more you try to decentralize by eliminating "coercion", the more opportunity you provide for individuals of similar interests to choose to aggregate and collude against others of differing interests. The problem with an absolute anarchy is that there is nothing that keeps a bunch of people from getting together, forming a collective and exerting control. The tyranny of that control may not be substantially different than that of the despot dictator or maladapted representative government.

The question boils down to, what form(s) of collective(s) are you willing to tolerate? Many are quick to stand up for market collectives. This may very well be due to positive characteristics of such collectives that are quite desirable. But collectives cannot be prohibited simply by eliminating coercion, because coercion will form independently, as we've seen in corporate collectives. In fact, only coercion can eliminate coercion. The free market ideal that many are so fond of praising is not at all possible, because the level of freedom required for its existance is more than enough freedom to allow the elimination of it via collective interests, EVEN if government did not exist at all. There are in fact, TWO roads to serfdom, the path to socialism OR the path to free market capitalism, if you follow either of them far enough. The only difference in the latter is that a few more select individuals may escape via wealth or privilege.

We've certainly seen that a market so free that even government is for sale, is a "proven failure," for a significant number of people. And oh yes, we know that if government was powerless you probably think this wouldn't be a problem. But if government was powerless, that does not eliminate control and coercion, it only hands it over to collectives only beholden to society's interests in a peripheral way at best.

And there is another important fact that's relatively new (post-Hayek). Arguments for humans being incapable of understanding societal and economic dynamics sufficient to exert successful control over them may not be true for much longer. In fact, some may argue that it's not even true as of today. Computer information systems, simulations, evolutionary algorithms, etc., are being used today to model, predict, leverage, and even manipulate markets. How long before society can be modelled sufficiently enough that a lot of that experimentation I mentioned before can be performed at great speed and without impacting society at large, leaving proposed adjustments vetted to a much higher level of confidence than we've ever had or the classic economists ever imagined? What new strategies may be identified? We can only guess, but it is unlikely that there will be none. Will it solve all the worlds social problems, probably not, but I think it has the potential to make things better-- and even if it doesn't, we need to find out for sure anyway, as it is just too important to simply remain complacent that unrestrained free market dynamics is the best we can do, because frankly, it cannot withstand the very liberties it enjoys. And, do we want to leave these new information power tools only to potentially hostile (to society) forces? Or do we want to make sure that we can wield them as well? I suspect that given all of this, that Hayek might have decided that being a conservative was a good idea after all... :-)

The very definition of socialism in "A Road to Serfdom" is now an antiquated one that didn't foresee what individuals can accomplish via collectives on their own, with technology, and at what speed, and how collectives can form now and in the future, and how they can coexist with capitalism. Individuals can be a member of multiple collectives simultaneously, given modern communications. Suppose you had a free market but individuals chose instead to enter into collectives for the advantages they offer? Do they not already? Suppose an ad-hoc collective of individuals chose to form in order to target market or government forces that it sees as hostile to its interests? And of course, corporate collectives are long known to form anticompetitive or otherwise socially abusive pacts, as well as ones that no doubt have positive effects on society. As long as there is more than one person alive in the world, collectivism is here to stay in one form or another, the only question is, what forms will they be. If you just throw up your hands and let it be a total free-for-all, then you're just leaving it all to someone else who will take charge, I guarantee.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Cut, Cap and BS

Cain said, "Am I my brother's keeper?" It looks as if he and Ayn Rand are the inspiration for the current GOP programs.

Socialism becomes more popular when jobs are scarce-- in socialist countries everyone has a job and noone is homeless, which, if you are homeless or jobless, begins to look better than where you are.

The social programs of the 1930s were an attempt to remedy that particular flaw in the US "markets uber alles" system, which at that time had a decided lean towards Social Darwinism, and left a huge number of people without jobs and homes. The quickest way to accellerate a return to the bad old "buddy can you spare a dime," days, will be to undermine the social safety net-- which will clearly render MORE people homeless and jobless, because without a safety net, more people NEED jobs to keep off the streets. You don't want to encourage people to leech off the system, but SS/Medicare/Medicaid recipients paid their dues into it for years, it's not a "free ride" like some people claim. The big problem with Medicare/Medicaid, is the Pharmaceutical companies are milking every cent they can get out of our health care system. FIX THAT, and you get a big lowering of medical costs which would do us all some good, rich and poor (except big Pharma, my heart bleeds-- must be the Coumadin).

But it takes the ability to stop parroting the knee-jerk cheers of your favorite political "team" and use your brain a little bit-- which unfortunately, it seems a lot of people either aren't capable of or are unwilling to do.

The big question then becomes, how to get more jobs going w/o killing off the safety net. That's where the tough problem is.

You could lower our overhead by pulling our troops back home, but then you'd have a bunch of unemployed GIs-- still, it might be cheaper to put them to work in works projects than keeping them sustained overseas. Then again, it may produce an unstable middle east-- eh, that is, a MORE unstable middle east.

You could raise taxes, which everyone hates for the most part, but I don't see any way around it-- AND I suspect even the GOP will break their word and do it because they have to if they get in next season. We know most previous GOP presidents were not above raising taxes-- though they may figure out some "stealth" taxes, disguise them as something else. Remove subsidies, loopholes, etc., but that may kill off some businesses in the process or raise prices. I think it's gonna happen, no matter who's in charge, red or blue, Teaparty be damned. There's few other options, and we probably need to exercise any and all options we have. The Bush administration charged two wars to the credit card, but lowered taxes and then passed the TARP on the way out. Part of me would like to see what the GOP would do to pay for all this-- no doubt they'd raise taxes and blame the Democrats for making them do it. Right now they're using it all as an excuse to tear down the President, and pander to business interests big time by rolling back everything in sight. None of that is helpful, but if they were in charge they'd actually have a harder time of it because their actions would have consequences that they might not be able to blame on the Democrats.

I don't know what else there is-- there's some waste and bureaucracy in the Fed government, but outside of the Military and the safety net, there's not a lot there, and a lot of it isn't just useless BS.

There's no magic answer. Chants like "cut cap & balance" are pure braindead political posturing-- the problem is too complex for such a simple fix. Don't forget the laws of unintended consequences-- there are BIG TIME side effects to making big changes, tha can easily make the "cure" worse than the "disease." Any politician who thinks he "knows" the "right answer" is as full of it as they get-- we need to proceed with caution and take steps that WON'T break what's currently working for us. Raising taxes is undoubtedly one of those steps.

And you have to ask yourself, who as the ABILITY to pay-- because right now, we don't just need everyone to pay their "fair share," we are going to need MORE than everyone's "fair share" to get out of this mess I suspect. We can't just "cut" our way out of it, because the side effects would be worse if we tried-- the problem is not that we're spending too much, so much as we've SPENT too much, charging wars and bank bailouts to the credit card. The money is SPENT ALREADY, now it's time to pay the bill.

Of course, we could always liquidate some government assets-- maybe Mariott would like to buy the White House and rent it back to the President. What other real estate have we got? Any gold left? The price is high right now, could be a good time to sell-- though it'd drop the price big time for all those gold bugs out there (but it is a bubble, after all)...

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Monday, July 11, 2011

Debt Crisis: Time for a FIRE SALE

Industry has always been at odds with labor. Until fairly recently, much labor was performed by slaves. But eventually the slave-labor gravy train was over. Industry then had to negotiate with labor and provide incentive. When labor was in short supply, industry had to offer competitive incentives.

Before long, industry looked for cost-saving ways to provide incentives. They got the bright idea that offering retirement plans allowed them to take money that would otherwise be paid immediately in wages, and utilize or invest that money and ultimately have to pay less in the process. Then, industry got the idea that encouraging their employees to instead invest in the stock market for their retirement let them off the hook for managing retirement plans, and helped to shore up the stock market and public sentiment towards it, as now everyone had a vested interest in its success. Before that, the markets had an especially bad rap with the general populace, and the significant influx in cash into the markets helped smooth the ups and downs somewhat, and enrich those poised to take advantage.

But eventually the baloons popped, employment and manufacturing was outsourced, and the market could not keep going up forever, and many people took a big hit in their retirement wealth. Now it was jobs that were in short supply, not labor.

Industry then got the bright idea that since jobs are in demand, the "job creators," (i.e., industry itself) should be given even greater tax relief. This might not have been a bad idea, EXCEPT for the fact that the job shortage occured as a direct result of industry excesses in the form of unregulated and unwise banking procedures and an associated bailout of the banks, ill-advised military adventures motivated largely by business interests, and the generalized outsourcing of manufacturing and labor. The massive resultant debt then can only be paid from only three available sources, corporate profits, the middle-class retirement plans, or government owned assets (gold, real-estate, etc.). That's all there is, their ain't no more.

Was the deficit the responsibility of the middle class? Only to the extent that they voted for corrupt and self-serving greedy idiots. Do they deserve to be made to pay? Debatable, but probably not. Can they? Yes. Is it a good idea? No, it will have a direct impact on profits, given the hit everyone will take in their purchasing power. Is it therefore justified? No.

Was the deficit the responsibility of the business class? Partly, in thinking that the "free market" will fix its own problems and is not vulnerable to abuse and therefore regulations are unnecessary. Do they deserve to be made to pay? Partially. Can they? Yes. Is it a good idea? Not particularly, it will impact the availability of jobs. Is it therefore justified? Only to a limited extent, perhaps.

Was the deficit the responsibility of the government (and by extension, all of us?)? Yes. Do they deserve to be made to pay? Yes. Can they? Yes. is it a good idea? Given the alternatives, it's not a bad idea-- they could always buy back assets should it get its act in order sometime in the future. Is it therefore justified? Probably yes.

I think then that the single most important solution to the debt crisis is the one that neither party is discussing-- the liquidation of government assets. Sell enough gold and real-estate or other assets to pay down the debt. It may be painful, but not as painful as either of the other two alternatives.

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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Protectionist pipe dreams

Someone on Yahoo Finance posted a comment that penalizing outsourcing is a solution to the jobs problem. His particular points were:

1. Taxing Outsourcing.
2. Incentives to hire Unemployed.
3. Build a Wall to keep illegals out and stop the "Reconquista."
4. Start Deporting all the illegals and their kids until we figure out who we want back on a work permit basis. Try crossing Mexico's Southern Border with Central America they will shoot you dead.

But, it's just a pipe dream. Ain't gonna happen, will never work, etc..

Here are some inconvenient facts:

No one wants to be without their iPhone/iPod/iPad, and will not take steps to jepardize that. They don't care where it's built, they just want it. Mostly, because they've been socialized at birth to consume, consume, consume, and continue to be bombarded by reinforcing brainwashing to that effect.

Much high-tech manufacturing is highly automated, which requires expensive up-front tooling costs, and US companies have a huge amount invested in outsourcing instead, a decision made years ago.

A Made In USA device would have to retail for about $1000, where none of those low-paid manufacturing workers could afford one. The sales drop, and the companies can't survive.

Because of its high cost, a Made In USA device would have to be designed to be repaired or upgraded every few years when it breaks or becomes obsolete, but charging $299 every three years instead is a much simpler subscription plan that does a better job of keeping Apple in business-- fixing old obsolete gear is labor intensive and requires significant training.

Circumventing import duties is not all that difficult, you just "assemble" in the USA, like Toyota, Honda, Nissan, etc., and people are willing to pay more for those cars because they're percieved as "better." (whether they are or not is beside the point).

Raising import duties causes other countries to respond in kind, which hurts American companies that do a lot of exporting, such as Ford, GM, etc.

The reason Made In China is so cheap, is their government doesn't care much about the human rights of their population, and the population has little voice in the matter. In the US, child labor was cheap once too, as was labor not subject to any kind of workplace safety regulations-- and that was at a time where the "Free Market" was more free than it is today, so clearly it doesn't fix itself. And the end result was, due to the abuses of the "Free Market," manufacturing in the US will have to be unionized because companies just don't protect their workers out of the kindness of their hearts, they have to be forced to do so, and US workers not only expect better treatment than Chinese workers do, they have more of a voice if they are not getting it.

Closing the borders at the same time as making Chinese products more expensive is a double hit-- eliminating the low cost labor force in the US that's low cost mostly because it's not subject to regulations (at least, they're not well enforced), and the workers don't have a voice (because they're illegals). Costs of food and manufactured goods all go up at the same time, profits dive because people can't buy as much, companies go out of business-- yeah, it's a great plan.

Both parties are in favor of "opening up" the borders and letting the "free market" reign. NAFTA started during the George H. W. Bush administration, and finalized during the Clinton administration. I don't hear either side clamoring to repeal it.

The only thing that us peons have control over, is our desire for the products-- but we're addicted. Can't live without our iPhones, Blackberries, Androids, HDTVs, Blue-Ray, Surround Sound, GPS, designer clothing, sports and recreation equipment, etc.

So how do you fix the jobs problem? Good question. The way it used to happen is to invade other countries and try to take their stuff. Both populations take a hit in the process, and one side or the other eventually comes out ahead. But that likely won't work this time. It will be interesting to see how it plays out-- to see if there's a better solution than the old method, or if we end up finding one that's worse.

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