Saturday, May 9, 2015

What is Prosperity?

I would define the sensible aspect of prosperity as a proportion: a proportion of the people who can afford a basic "middle class" life: good basics.  Enough even to send one child at a time to state college, enough for two solid cars (needed nowadays for a decent life in many cities, or an alternative extra cola for places like San Francisco where you don't need a car but other expenses are higher), a starter (the cheapest) home mortgage or equivalent rent.  (Doing all I just said they would have to be incredibly frugal also…or less frugal not doing those things.)

I'm guessing this is probably around the median income in the USA now, or around $60k for family of 4.  That translates to two full time working incomes of about $15/hr for two working persons.

So the USA currently scores 50% or 0.50 on my prosperity index by my own guesstimate.  I am not permanently putting this at 50%, I am not considering status or ranking, only what is required for a decent life.

(Has it been better?  Perhaps, and especially if other factors like risk are included.  But generally USA prosperity has been about stagnant since the 1970's, with the last year of the old New Deal being 1973. Prior to that prosperity had been growing since the 1930's.)

Why quantify something like "a decent life" instead of things like our "poverty line" based on the minimum calories one can get away with?  Well a decent life for all is exactly what we should be interested in.  I admit it may be harder, more subjective, but most people understand roughly what I'm talking about, and it's important.

And it is a thing not based on status, being above others, etc.  Status is not included in this basic measure.  So, the cheapest able car, code-compliant house, etc.  (Many people get by without those things…but that's poverty, not prosperity.)

In this measure it doesn't help for some people to be extremely rich--that doesn't make us any more prosperous.  But here we are also, as I said, focussed on the sensible aspect of prosperity…what we feel with out senses generally.  What we are creating for the future is another thing, and another thing entirely from much economics, investment analysis, etc.

While the financial structure we are creating is indeed important (and we would be doing better to be creating a simpler, more tractable, fairer, less gamed, etc., financial structure as well as greater equality) what we are creating for the future begins with what we are doing to the physical world.  Are we making it more nice (say, the possibility of having a decent life in places where it has generally been, in the last 10,000 years, possible to have a decent life) or less nice?  What is the prospect for the future?

I would say clearly we are disinvesting from the world in this way.  We are making it far less nice.  We are using up natural resources, generating pollution and environmental destruction, mass extinctions, global heating and acidification, and possibly far worse.  Such areas as have been great wild lands are turned into intentional uses, even the most basic one--farming--being destructive even if done organically (but far less so, of course).  The very best thing we can do with any land anywhere is to leave it alone--leave it to nature and the other species.  Or in many cases now--restore it to what it was, including the species if we can.

So much as we may pride ourselves on our productions even more perhaps than our extractions and utilizations and excretions, it may all be a negative in the long term creation sense.  (Sure, it was nice having the mobility and the comfort…but that's sensibility and not investment.)

Investment would be the creating of sustainable infrastructure for sustaining a sustainable number of humans…and toward the end of 100% prosperity, and a minimal decent human footprint for maintaining a technological society (another reason why 1billion or so might be the number) capable of such things as space travel.  AND leaving the rest for the rightful use of wild creatures in their natural ways.

We are, of course, doing anything but that, going mostly full throttle in the reverse direction now.

So investing also means building the society that can lead to fairly reducing population through birth control to achieve these ends.  If the ultimate sustainable population were to be around 1 billion humans, as I believe it to be, the required average birth rate could be calculated to achieve this within a reasonable time, say 150 years, with the maximum prosperity.  We might even have to achieve the goal sooner to avoid the worst planetary damage, perhaps 75 years, or some combination of environmental impact change and population reduction.

If we don't, I would imagine the same thing happening involuntarily and under horrendous circumstances over 250 years.

Or some mixture of restraint and catastrophe--that's actually the most likely thing, and with the human population temporarily undershooting the sustainable level, down to perhaps 10 million "survivors" who build the new human civilization 300 years from now.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Daily Laugh

I didn't feel good about Jon Stewart's The Daily Show from the very beginning.  Jamelle Bouie's postmortem sums up my feelings precisely.  I particularly detested his "Rally to Restore Sanity."  While I intended to watch it simply to keep up with others, I never got around to watching it by myself.  Many people I respect greatly preferred Colbert--despite completely disagreeing with Colbert's stage character.  I never got around to watching Colbert by myself either.  I have hardly had time to keep up with the real news on Democracy Now!

Of course there isn't much else on corporate TV that does anything better than Stewart either.  You just can't expect anything but disinformation from Oligarchy TV.  Stewart added a bit of fact and irreverent humor to his fake news show, which made it better than most.  But it was still disinformation.

Monday, April 20, 2015

affordable Care ?

A friend of mine is waiting to get a physical exam.  She enrolled in an ACA HMO policy this year, I think it was February.  She is having to wait until July.  She is worried about her heart.  She has been paying $360 per month and hasn't seen anyone yet, despite two attempts.  Last time she was down to the clinic in hope of getting seen, she saw lots of pamphlets about free tests for poor people.

Meanwhile, I have a reasonably good company policy, and I've been talked to about going through another battery of likely unnecessary tests to continue getting my statins refilled.  Last time, 8 years ago, I went all the way, from radiological treadmill to ultrasound to cardiac catheterization.  In the end the finding was squeaky clean.  I've never had any serious symptom (I complained once about multiple beats) and heart disease hasn't been the family problem (both of my parents died from cancer).  I am somewhat overweight but I avoid stress and have low blood pressure.  This year my doctor saw me in her office to tell me about getting more tests the very day I called about getting my statin refill.  I am grateful she let it pass this many years (I think she's been telling me to go back to the cardiologist several years in a row now).  I am not worried about my heart, though I think statins are helpful (they do improve my cholesterol numbers fwiw).  I have heard a lot of claims that statins are not even helpful, high cholesterol is a phony problem, and stents (what might have otherwise been the outcome of my cardiac catheterization) are less then helpful as a precautionary measure.  While I still think statins are helpful, I suspect they don't help very much.  I'm more worried about the downside to the escalating examination/treatment treadmill than losing the benefits of treatment which is not symptomatically demanded.  Last time, during the cardiac cathertization they used a newly approved metal closure--for which I gave permission as I was on the operating gurney.  If I had had a chance to check it out, I would have insisted on the old fashioned method.  That cardiac catheterization cured me of any desire to have any more testing or treatment that doesn't seem to me to be absolutely necessary.  On top of it all, my policy wants me to sign up for an additional "wellness coach," and I'm not responding to that.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Shut Down the F___ Barrel !!!

Poor people unable to pay initial small fines end up with escalating charges from private probation companies, even extended time in prison…at huge cost to the taxpayers that the new regime of fees based on "let-the-offender-pay" ideas concocted by libertarians in the 1970's was supposed to save.  So the taxpayer is loosing too, not to mention the general welfare when people loose their cars and jobs over such stuff--by which time they're surely never going to pay those fines--but oodles of private middlemen make out like bandits and try to get the rules and laws changed to make even more at the expense of the poor and defenseless.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Devil is in Lack of Thought

My response to this incident.

Self-pitying student playing the card my belief is better gets what she came for.  Further cause for self-pity.

French lady handled it about as well as possible.  Essentially, as someone suffering for your beliefs, you are Charlie too.  It was an inclusive dismissal.

Sad, but people like that student won't let go of their daddy (Mohammed, etc) even when he's a pig.

That's the problem with conservative religion generally.  The mighty Oz won't allow flash photography, afraid the wrinkles will show.*

No free pictures, no free thinking.

The devil is not in thought, but in lack of thought.

I am Charlie Hebdo.


What about the suffering of the people in the Middle East under US, British, Israeli, and other Imperial Oppression?

Yes, that is not good, but it is not a story about Islam basically.  Actually the Empires seeded religion deliberately to make people easier to control.  The US feared Communism, so crushed the entire secular left in the Middle East but funded religious crackpots like bin Laden.

So now those long suffering people suffer from two things: US Empire and Extremist Islam.

Of course the latter is for them to judge.  But not necessarily for us to obey.

We respect that people have made their choices.  But we don't need to respect those choices.

(*My deist says, across the All, the One, the Whatever, the very brightest lights are already shining.  Your puny satire of my beloved myth of Universal Oneness is part of the shading on the script that gives it more dimensions.  The days when taking offense was a necessary defense were those prior to permanent settlement.  Now, we should laugh, and respond more kindly.)

James Madison would be Horrified

James Madison would be Horrified how his clever system for enabling the better people--but not too few of them--has resulted in Giant Reptiles Consuming Us All, though still producing more of us to consume in the phase still running.

But that's also the inescapable result also of attempting to build the greater good from individual greed.

The sum of all mayhem is not peace.  Peace is something altogether different.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Grexit looms over the Eurozone, 6th Edition

It's 2012 all over again.  This heated argument over at NakedCapitalism in 2012 could have been written today. Read all the comments, it gives a great exposition of the context of how Greece was taken to the brink.  Commenter Hugh makes some of the best pithy analyses, like this one:

  1. HughHow is Greece that much different than Iceland? Iceland has even fewer resources than Greece. So how would an Icelandic solution for Greece be so beyond the bounds?
    Greece is in a massive depression precisely because it is in the eurozone and has kept the euro. An exit won’t be easy but even if things got worse for a while with an exit, they are already getting worse without one.
    And just to repeat, Europe of the eurozone has 6 problems:
    1) Lack of a democratic fiscal and debt union
    2) An insolvent predatory banking sector
    3) An ineffective central bank
    4) Mercantilist trade patterns with in the zone
    5) Corrupt political classes
    6) Rich kleptocrats calling the shots
    Varoufakis’ program for Europe addresses only partially the first 4 of these. All must be dealt with for any solution to succeed.
    Forward to this week, and the International Business pages of the New York Times paint a very Greek unfriendly view of the Grexit "threat."  Reading this made me very angry, and motivated to seek out alternative views like the above.

    Here's a very different take on Varoufakis from Counterpunch last month.  Is this the same guy Yves Smith was referring to in the top link?  Has he changed as much as comparing the two OP's would suggest?

    NakedCapitalism had an updated discussion of Varoufakis' latest, which is a must read.

    But there are even more problems with Euro.  And one of them is the lack of region wide military socialism.  Instead, there's client mercantilism, where under equipped Greece has to buy it's own equipment, from taxes on hotel staff.  In the US, many cities rely on military socialism, the returns to local industry and direct employment from national revenue.

    Capitalism not only starts from unpardonable theft, it continues unstable on it's own terms.  The US is actually stabilized somewhat by military socialism, and other systems of social democracy, including social security and medicare (also essential to some communities…).  It could be stabilized even more, and made more prosperous, with more social democracy.  The #1 missing element is a jobs guarantee.

    German and other bankers relying on "the market" either in amazing belief or cover for predatory practices should have known about the investments not going to go well in Greece.  If one looks at these things as a morality play…default would be what they deserve for their lack of total diligence.

    What Greece needed, was international industrial development, say, of the kind going on in Asia.

    But that kind of thing takes patients, the kind of patience that only governments can provide in their own currency, but what it may on the world market.

    Banks have taken on the role that really must be taken by social collectives.  The profit motive is not the correct way to guide industrial development.  It has to be shaped by social needs, abilities, and aspirations.

    The Euro itself is pure neoliberalism, the notion that a currency can be shared only on an economic basis, and not one of social trust and ultimate authority.