Friday, April 09, 2021

Single, child free lives of voluntary simplicity. An overlooked strategy to combat global warming.

Biking along Old Samish Highway.

For the past few decades, possibly over half of the American people have been struggling economically. Just renting an apartment, buying one's first home and raising a family has become more difficult due to income inequality.

I haven't been struggling as much, mostly because I have not wanted to raise a family. Have not sought many of the things other people have aspired to.

One would think lives, like mine, could be more of a role model for living in today's economy, but, to a large extent, they have seemed to be ignored.

The percent of American people who remain single has increased, but I seldom see this described as a solution to our economic problems. Less population growth, less consumption, simpler living, but it isn't discussed that way.

Given environmental constraints, it could lead to a better world for everyone; including for those who still wish to raise a family and create future generations.

There is no point in future generations, if there is no future.

I still think the future could be bright, however.

On thinking, I just reminded myself why simple, childfree lifestyles aren't a big part of national goals. We need a consuming public to keep the economy flourishing. Consumer spending drives much of today's economy.

These days, we are now trying to prop up consumer spending with printed money, tax rebates and so forth.

Even with what I think of as a smaller footprint than most people, I have had a good quality of life. Technological advances, such as the smartphone, have enrichened lives even without everyone having to be a millionaire themselves.

On the other hand just owning a home and raising a family, in a place like Seattle Metro Area, just about requires being a millionaire these days.

Things like the bicycle, rather than driving a car, have brought a different kind of experience for me than most people have. Maybe less mobility; like zipping off to Seattle for the weekend, but it's helped my health. It's also allowed me to appreciate things that other people just rush by; like Old Samish Road.

In my life, I have been more cautious than most of other people. I've held onto the same jobs, rather than trying to advance. Some people have done well by advancing in their careers, but I know a lot of people who have fallen back as they've tried to advance. They've gotten a new job and then been in over their heads, or they have had a bad boss at the new job and gotten fired. In some cases, they have become homeless.

I've played it very safe, but I haven't advanced career wise. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but few people seem to offer "non advancement" as vocational advise. Few people seem to aspire to the kind of life I live.

It's true that if everyone was like me, there wouldn't be the Facebooks and the smartphones, but everyone isn't alike anyway. I enjoy using the Facebooks and smartphones, but everyone doesn't have to be a star in Silicon Valley to have those things in our world. It only takes a small percent of the population to be like Thomas Edison. He had a creative mind and he was also a very shrewd businessperson.

I remember my second grade teacher saying, "if everyone daydreamed like me, we would still be in the dark ages." I guess a good answer would be, "if no one daydreamed, we would still be in the dark ages."

It takes more than one kind of person to make up the world.

Seems like my lifestyle has worked, but it's been kind of a well kept secret as far as mainstream culture is concerned.

Thursday, April 08, 2021

I wonder if Senator Manchion has an alternative to the corporate tax hike to pass the infrastructure bill?

To pass an infrastructure bill, Democrats may need to get all the Democrats in the Senate to vote yes using reconciliation with Kamela Harris's tie breaking vote.

Even just 1 Democrat, like Senator Manchion, who has reservations about the corporate tax hike, could kill the bill. I wonder if Manchion has any alternative proposal?

The corporate tax hike is still milder than what corporations were paying before the Trump tax cut. It wouldn't go all the way back up to what that tax rate was before; just part way back up.

America's economy did survive even that higher corporate tax hike. Jeff Bezos, of Amazon, has said he supports the corporate tax hike. Apparently it wouldn't be the death nail to Amazon.

Since the Trump corporate tax cut, there hasn't been a big improvement in manufacturing moving back to USA as far as I can gather. Our trade deficit is still pretty high.

There is a gradual move of manufacturing back to USA, not as much related to taxes, but to technology. 3D printing is relocalizing a lot of manufacturing, from what I hear.

Personally, I still suggest an individual tax hike as an alternative to taxing corporations which just pass the cost along to individuals anyway, but we can survive a mild corporation tax that isn't even as high as before.

We do need to do something.

Monday, April 05, 2021

Taxing corporations might be a way to make it look like your not taxing anyone

People want good infrastructure, but not the taxes to pay for it.

Senator Manchin has a concern that our corporate tax rate needs to remain competitive with other industrialized countries, such as Canada and European nations, so our products remain competitive on world markets.

I'd add that most of those countries have low corporate tax rates, but higher individual tax rates. We can't have it all. If corporate tax rates stay low, I think individual tax rates will need to go up.

Corporations usually pass the cost of their taxes along to consumers so high corporate tax rates could make our products more expensive on world markets. At the same time, we do need good infrastructure so someone does need to pay.

Couldn't we do as I think other countries do and raise the taxes on wealthy individuals? In the end, it's people who get the money. A corporation is mostly just a vehicle that passes money to individuals eventually.

It's like we are a bunch of spoiled kids who want to always pass the taxes on to someone else. A corporation is a target as it's not a person (in spite of laws making it an artificial person). In the end, the corporation just passes everything along and it's people anyway. Why not just tax the people; especially the rich and probably also upper middle class?

It's kind of like we are trying to hide from this reality all the time. If we want good infrastructure, it does need to be paid for. We can print the money, of course. That might actually work; for a while at least.

People seem to always want to "have their cakes and eat them to;" as the old phrase goes.

Sunday, April 04, 2021

Maybe there was less divorce in the past when expectations were lower and people just persevered through marriage?

I know that there are people who have been happily in a relationship for many years, but it seems like most romantic relationships are full of turmoil and / or short lived.

It doesn't seem worth it to me.

My own parents seemed to get along well. Among my brothers and sisters, there are two who have been (I assume happily) married for life. The rest of the 5 of us have remained single. We all still get along okay. I grew up in a 1960s household. I'm the youngest of 5 kids born between 1938 and 1954.

During my childhood I remember, from conversations, having the impression that we were a dysfunctional family. After growing up and seeing the conflicts and problems in other people's upbringing, it seems like every family is dysfunctional. Ours wasn't too bad compared to the others.

I remember that there seemed to always be a simmering bit of conflict in the family. This was thought of as being dysfunctional as it was never resolved. Most of the time, things were good, but there were conflicts that would come up and there would usually not be much resolution.

As I think about things, it seems like this is almost unavoidable. Life is never totally ideal and people just persevered. Persevering, like that, was probably more common decades ago.

These days, it seems like there are higher expectations that usually end up being unfulfilled anyway. Our tolerance for just persevering is diminished.

At the same time, it seems like that tolerance is one of the things that kept families together, back then and it created the space for the many good things that we (my family) had and still have.

Maybe the big problem is not the water. Why do voters have to wait so long in line?

About the law in Georgia banning even distribution of water to voter's waiting in line, the big problem is, I guess, the line itself. Something is wrong when people have to wait hours in line to vote.

Here is Washington State, we have mail in ballots. That's the best way to go, in my opinion. Even when we had polling places, I never remember having to wait more than 20 minutes at most.

Maybe there have been budget cuts in states where they still have to hire workers for polling places?

My mom used to work in a polling place and there was a law that prevented people from discussing, or having campaign material in the polling place. Maybe there is worry that political talk will seep in with the water? Talk while the water is being handed over?

I can sort of see this worry in the polling place, but how far out the door and down the street does it apply?

The big problem is, there shouldn't have to be a line out the door and down the street.

Remember Northern Tier Pipeline? If it had been built, maybe now it would be working in reverse?

Some people say it's stupid to oppose an oil pipeline since an alternative is to send the oil by train or truck. Pipelines are said to be much safer.

I think the problem is overall consumption of oil. Not that the pipeline is worse than rail or truck.

Seems like a lot of issues are shaped by legal maneuvering. When a pipeline goes through environmental review process, the laws talk about leaks. Not as much the big picture of a pipeline's role in enabling oil consumption. A pipeline can bring down the cost of oil and gasoline which really, isn't a good thing. Yes, people are still dependent on inexpensive oil.

For a trip down Memory Lane, old time Washingtonians will remember the "Northern Tier Pipeline." It was a proposal to build a pipeline across the northern tier of states to ship oil from Alaska to consumers back east. Back toward Chicago and points beyond.

Oil from Alaska has been coming to our local refineries since construction of the Alaska Pipeline back in the 1970s (80s?). It comes by pipeline from Prudhoe Bay to a port in Valdez, Alaska. Then by tanker ships to Northwest Washington refineries, here in Whatcom and Skagit Counties.

Northern Tier was to send some of that oil back east to more markets.

Well, it looks like we used up much of the Prudhoe Bay Oil anyway. Oil is now coming west, instead of east. Some of it is now coming from North Dakota to Washington State by train.

If Northern Tier had been built, maybe it would be working in reverse? The oil flowing west, instead of east? The pipeline wasn't built so it's going by rail.

Alaskan oil is starting to run out, except for maybe more in the ground at Anwar Wilderness Preserve.

Since the 1990s, higher prices and new technology have ramped up oil production in North Dakota. Oil from the Bakken Shale. Some of our oil is now coming from the east. North Dakota has produced oil before, but the Bakken Shale Fields has significantly ramped up North Dakotan production in the 2000s.

Thursday, April 01, 2021

Legalizing recreational marijuana, in Washington State, created a new multi million dollar private sector industry. Meanwhile government is good a providing needed services, such as the public library.

On the radio, I often hear conservatives say that government doesn't create any wealth since it doesn't create a product. This may be an old version of economic thinking where wealth is seen as material things.

These days, a lot of wealth is services and knowledge. Government does provide a lot of needed services such as, for instance, police and fire protection. Other services, like city parks, libraries, schools, roads, airports and so forth are of value. They are usually provided by government.

In quite a few cases, private companies might do a better job providing services than government bureaucracies. Big corporations can be very bureaucratic also, however. Still using private companies as vendors for services is often a good idea. Private companies can often innovate and do a better, more efficient job that the government, but there still is the problem of the marketplace.

A lot of the valuable services that governments provide are not things that people are accustom to paying for. Public libraries, parks, schools police and so forth. It is conceivable that these things could be paid for by the private market, but it would be a rude awakening for many people. Toll roads, for instance.

It would take a while for people in this society to get used to that way of doing things.

Meanwhile we need to value the kinds of services that governments normally provide. Other things that are normally provided by private enterprise can continue.

One example of a product provided by private enterprise, here in the state of Washington, is marijuana. Since Washington State has legalized recreational marijuana, a new multi million dollar, taxable, private industry has been created.

Not that pot is necessarily a bad thing, but it's kind of ironic what works on the private market that steriotypical conservatives think of as about the only force creating value in our society.

Friday, March 26, 2021

Reducing greenhouse gases is a good, but doesn't create a tangible product or service so hard to pay for

One topic mentioned toward the end of Biden's March 25th 2021 press conference was the thousands of wells leaking methane. Something I wasn't that aware of. Methane, a greenhouse gas. He talked about creating lots of good jobs capping the wells. Similar to the good jobs created drilling the wells.

One problem is that drilling the wells creates a product, oil or gas, whereas capping the wells doesn't. Capping the wells reduces global warming, but there is no product to pay the bill.

Here is one of the places where a carbon tax could be used.

The normal economics for creating a good or service doesn't always work for doing something that's needed in the big picture. The big picture being protecting the climate.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Shaping the infrastructure bill

They are talking about a big infrastructure bill. Paying for it is the hard part. Maybe they should just print the money? Eventually, there might be bad consequences to that.

Raising taxes is not easy to do. Gas taxes pay for a lot of the infrastructure since a big chunk of it is transportation.

I've often thought that the idea of a carbon tax could be combined with the idea of infrastructure. Have the carbon tax go to infrastructure as one of the big needs is making the infrastructure more green.

A carbon tax would hit gasoline heavily, but it would also hit electric power, heating, manufacturing and so forth that uses fossil fuels. It would create an advantage for non fossil fuel sources for these things.

Still a hard sell as these kind of taxes tend to be regressive. They hit consumers, but of course it's consumers that are consuming.

Taxing the rich is kind of a way around this, but it does seem like an argument against taxing the rich still holds sway with a lot of Americans. Too many people still feel that taxing the rich puts a drag on the economy and kills jobs.

It's like they kind of have us over the barrel on that.

I've often liked the idea of carbon taxes, but in the world of transportation, an opposite need is growing. Cars that don't use fossil fuels, such as electric cars, still use the roads. Eventually, they need to pay for their use of the roads also.

This wouldn't be a carbon tax if their electricity comes from non fossil fuel sources. It would have to be something like a per mile tax and also a weight tax for wear and tear on the roads.

Then there is the thought about all the space cars take up in a city. Parking, highway lanes and so forth. Promoting public transit, walking, bicycling and density is better, in my opinion, than sprawl.

This could be figured into the infrastructure bill also.

So many contradicting demands. It isn't an easy thing to do. Like so many things, it starts with how Americans wish to live and build our towns, cities and countryside. Everyone has different ideas.

Maybe there will be consensus evolving that leads us to a different future, but seems also likely to just bog down, as usual. I hope we can at least evolve somewhat. Take some steps.

Better support for organizations, like Planned Parenthood, can reduce number of children at the border.

Surge might be too strong a word, but immigration is a worldwide issue. It can be overwhelming to politicians, like Biden, who try to be accommodating. Large numbers of children seeking asylum at the border.

I keep saying that population growth remains a problem in quite a few countries. It has slowed down in many countries, but remains high in a few; including, from what I understand, some of the small countries of Central America where much of the surge of children at the US border seeking asylum is coming from.

Conditions in those countries is a big problem and the Biden Administration is trying to address that. Reduce the violence and prejudice in those countries.

Better support for organizations such as Planned Parenthood. Biden has lifted the gag order called "Mexico City Policy" against Planned Parenthood Family Planning that Republican presidents impose. The Republican answer seems to be just "build a wall" and send children back to gang infested countries to be killed that way; rather than the possibility of abortian. Very ironic.

This isn't just a US problem. It's a worldwide problem. Europe is somewhat surrounded by countries in Africa and the Middle East that people are desperate to get out of. Climate change is a factor in this problem.

A lot of countries have larger population densities than the US. They might look at our open spaces with envy.

Other countries; like Japan and many European countries, have greater population densities than the US, but they accommodate their population densities better than countries in Central America and the Middle East that are wracked with violence.

In Europe and Japan, population density is better accomidated than in the US. The US devotes too much urban space to parking, freeways and single family residential zones. Immigration is putting pressure on US cities to accomidate more density.

The whole world is more and more interconnected. Getting to the root of the problems of violence, bigotry, drug cartels, oppression and over population is needed. The world needs to evolve. The whole world is being effected by the consequences of these long term issues.

Stimulus bill and possible inflation. Inflation seems to only be in pockets, these days, but policy makers should plan for surviving the pockets

The stimulus bill has just passed. Democrats in favor, Republicans against.

Good news except there are always unexpected consequences. It is adding to deficit spending, but these days, it seems like deficits are covered from creating new money. Interest rates have remained low for years. Big deficits are nothing new, they just tend to get even bigger as the years go by.

One potential problem is inflation. When money is tossed into an equation, it can lead to inflation. Often inflation benefits those with assets that go up in price; such as homes and stocks. Others; such as renters and folks who don't own assets can get left behind.

This stimulus bill attempts to address the needs of the folks who have been left behind in the past. It's a bit of a gamble. We'll see what happens.

If pockets of inflation pick up and people continue to be left behind, hopefully politicians, and the public, can understand what is happening and try to address those problems as they are attempting to do now.

Inflation, as a whole, tends to look, at least, like it remains low in spite of so many years of deficit spending and new money creation.

Problem is that there are certain pockets of inflation, such as (these days) housing, healthcare and education. These important pockets make life hard for a lot of workers.

Hopefully this problem can be understood and addressed.

WWU may be glad it got rid of it's football team. WSU in Pullman is struggling with huge football debt.

I would guess that people at Western Washington University are glad that they got rid of their football team; the Vikings.

In Pullman, the Washington State University football team; the Cougars, is now well over $100 million dollars in debt. WSU football is big time compared to what Football was at Western, however. The WSU team supposedly pays it's own way from ticket sales and TV revenue, but recent years have seen expenses increase faster than revenue.

To remain competitive with other Pac 12 teams, WSU has invested in improved facilities, a larger press box / skybox part of the stadium, top of the line coach's salaries and so forth.

This, said to be required to keep a winning team on the field. To keep TV networks interested and their revenue coming in. To keep the stadium filled with fans and their revenue coming in.

WSU Cougars, supposedly, have a "roadmap" back to paying off the debt and getting back to self sufficiency, but the bills keep mounting and more recently, the virus pretty much ended the 2020 football season.

I'm not sure who the debt is owed to. Banks? The rest of the university? The State?

I just just think Western people are lucky they don't have to worry about that.

I guess Western was never in the big leagues. It's football program was not a big revenue generator, but it did cost some money to maintain. Western eliminated it's football team when some budget cuts came down the pipe from the state.

Some people were horrified that the team was eliminated; like how can you get rid of all American Football? It was never a big deal at Western anyway.

People can still play football, informally.

Government spending may be a better way to boost the economy than low interest rates which tend to just create asset bubbles

Even though I am not totally into socialism, I have some leanings that way.

Seems like government spending, like the stimulus bill, is a better way to boost the economy than low interest rates. Low interest rates would favor private enterprise while government spending is government.

Seems like low interest rates mostly just push up existing asset values rather than create new wealth and jobs. Seems to shift savings away from banks and toward home values which, in turn, make people more protective of their neighborhoods. This can put a chill on new development.

I remember the 1960s when interest rates were higher. Modestly higher, at least. Maybe around 5% on money in a regular bank. Back then, people tended to use banks more to save money. I think retirement savings was more based on banks.

These days, a lot of savings is based, instead, on real estate investments. People use owning a home as their savings. Savings for retirement goes into real estate and / or the stock market.

One of the problems is that folks become very protective of their real estate investments. This makes it harder for communities to plan changes and growth as folks worry that changes will harm their investments.

Back in the 1960s, growth was easier to come by. Probably for several reasons. One reason was, of course, less worry about the environment, but also there was less worry about one's real estate investments.

There's less worry if money is invested in the bank as the bank is more distant and diversified in it's investments. Also, back in the 1960s, at least, bank investments were protected by FDIC as they still are today.

Not in earlier decades like the 1920s, but that's a different era. In the 1960s, money in the bank brought peace of mind. FDIC still backs bank investment today, but few people use banks for investment purposes anymore with interest rates so low.

Interest rates have been brought down since the 1980s to stimulate the economy and fight unemployment. Problem is, there might be better ways to stimulate the economy.

Seems like low interest rates are made possible by the Federal Reserve creating money. Creating liquidity.

I say that if they are creating this money anyway, might as well give it to the government to spend, rather than having low interest rates. The government is a consumer that props up the rest of the economy. It can be used to build needed infrastructure and so forth. Then bank interest rates can gradually be brought back up again without causing a deep recession. Real estate can become less important in people's portfolios and cities can, again, more easily adjust to growth if people become less concerned about loosing their property values.

We are kind of gridlocked the way it is now. As we adjust to a greener economy, we will need to see lots of changes. Windfarms in the neighborhood, for instance. Tiny home communities. Density, new power lines, the smart grid and so forth. In the 1960s, people seemed less afraid of change for several reasons.

I think low interest rates that have tended to shift investment strategies more toward real estate have made it harder for businesses and communities to make changes. Harder to accommodate the growth that's needed to keep up with population growth.

Yes, population growth should be slowed down, but people are too worried about change effecting the value of their real estate. This creates a collision course of fate.

Looking back over a year of the pandemic

A year ago, March 16, was my last day working night shift after almost 30 years. Night shift was okay, but it was time for a change. I had reached retirement age anyway.

The virus pushed that change a bit earlier as I was planning on retiring anyway later that year. Retiring, or going to more part time. Turns out I'm working part time now since the Y did a partial reopening.

I'm remembering the last time I was dancing on the high energy dancefloor of Rumors Cabaret. Went with a friend for about a year and a half before the virus hit.

My last dance was about a week and a half before the 16th. There was one more weekend of dancing, after that, but I didn't go. The worry about the virus was starting to cast it's pall. After the 16th, things closed.

I'm looking forward to a more normal summer given the vaccine. Maybe even crowded dancing again. Meanwhile there has been dancing on Zoom, but it isn't quite the same.

Part of the problem is that the music they play at the Fairie Zoom Dance isn't that familiar to me. There is something about the resonating of brain and body during familiar music.

I know, that resonation favors more commercial "old favorites." More familiar tunes from the past to the present create the resonation. Probably just from the tunes being familiar. New music often becomes that way after while.

I'm guilty of not finding the resonation in lesser known music, but how many people are reading my lesser known blog? It's the same thing, I guess.

I enjoy dancing outside, like in the park or at events such as the Pride Festival. Dancing with plenty of spacing, probably outdoors at first, would be good steps back to the "good old days" of before March 16 2020.

I used to go to another dance at Presence Studio which is also on Zoom these days. They also hope to bring back that in person experience as the pandemic diminishes.

Part of the reason why I haven't done their Zoom Dance is that it is at the same time as another event called the Lake Padden Walk. The Lake Padden Walk is in person. It's outside and safe. People wear masks.

Since the Wednesday Dinner Group has temporarily had to be suspended, a lot of the same people do the walk. People I have connection to. It's nice to still have had that, at least.

Eventually the Wednesday Dinners can come back, probably at outdoor restaurant seating at first. I couldn't do the Lake Padden Walk when I worked night shift since it's a morning event and I didn't get up. Since night shift ended, I was able to do the Padden Walks.

Changes keep happening. In some cases, things lost. In other cases, new opportunities; like being able to get up in the mornings and go to the Padden Walk.

I am hoping a lot more things can start up again with the vaccine. A lot of things starting outdoors at first, probably. When the dancing energy at Rumors can happen again, we will know we have arrived in a post pandemic era.

Camping in urban areas. A quick and partial solution to homelessness in Bellingham and other cities.

Large encampments of homeless people, in Bellingham, has been problematic, however smaller camps on vacant public land have remained unbothered.

The larger camps have drawn more confrontation. They have tended to concentrate the problems of drugs and anti social behavior from a segment of their inhabitants.

I think allowing people to camp is a good idea, but smaller non confrontational camps work much better. The larger camps like at City Hall or Laural Park are problematic. Quite a few of the smaller camps remain around parts of Bellingham.

Tents and RVs scattered around town are less of a problem. More being allowed these days, due to the pandemic, but will likely become a trend as home prices keep going up and population keeps growing.

Bellingham has set up quite a bit of indoor shelter space where 6 foot distancing can be maintained. For instance Base Camp in an old retail space that is currently not in use for retailing.

Still, a lot of people prefer not being in a large community space. Having one's own little space is valuable to a lot of people.

Fortunately, I've never been homeless, but I often camp when bicycle touring. Seems like, as the years go on, campgrounds are getting more crowded. Unless they have hike and bike sites, campgrounds are often booked full well in advance.

It's getting harder to find legitimate camping on spur of the moment, but when bike touring, one is less apt to predict, way in advance, where one will be at the end of the day. Wind direction can effect one's schedule on a bike tour. Hard to make reservations weeks in advance.

Quite a few cyclist, including myself, sometimes hide in the woods when official camp spots are not available. Some cyclists do it as a preferred means, rather than paying campground fees, but I usually tried to stay in campgrounds when I traveled. Seems like that's getting harder to do in crowded regions like the western part of Washington State. Campgrounds are also getting a lot more expensive.

Friday, March 05, 2021

My way of being independent is not the conspiracy theory way

It's been a few days since my first COVID-19 immunization. Very little, if any side effects. Second one scheduled for March 23.

Some people are suspicious of what they see as mainstream narratives. The so called "establishment" of science, government, mainstream media and business. To be independent, they often follow what some people would call conspiracy theories about, for instance Bill Gates. Does the vaccine install spyware into our bodies, for instance?

I tend to be different, but in a very different way than this. I usually believe what is often thought of as mainstream ideas. People might say I'm brainwashed by NPR Radio. On the other hand, I have my own way of being different.

I've never driven a car. That makes me different than much of society. It's placed me out of the running for a lot of jobs which require driving.

I've never really dated or sought after what people call a "relationship." That sets me aside from most of society.

I seem to be less motivated by money than most people, or at least I haven't tried that hard to climb the career ladder. Peace of mind, free time, flexible schedule and a nice boss means more to me.

These are the ways that I feel different than most folks around me, but I do buy most of what is thought of as the mainstream narrative. I tend to go to regular doctors, rather than going off onto various naturopathic, or faith healing tangents. I try not to go to a doctor often, however.

Most doctors I have had have been somewhat naturopathic in practice, I guess. They emphasis things like healthy diet and exercise over pills. Pills may be essential in certain circumstances, but prescribed sparingly.

We live in a commercially driven world so a lot of what is considered "alternative thinking" follows the same pressures. There are lots of alternatives for sale.

Thursday, March 04, 2021

If it wasn't for the corona virus, would Trump have won the 2020 election?

This could be a disturbing thought to many, but I wonder about this. If it wasn't for the corona virus, would Trump have won the 2020 election?

Like the inconvenient prospect of climate change, the corona virus became an obstacle for the economy. Under Trump, unemployment was low; including, as he pointed out in his January 2020 State of the Union Speech; unemployment, among minority groups, had gone down. The idea of a rising tide eventually lifting all (or at least almost all) boats.

Of course there was great income inequality, but those toward the bottom of the income ladder tend to be less apt to vote or have a major effect on the media narrative. Climate change was a big problem that was basically ignored by the Trump bandwagon and inconvenient to deal with by the rest of society addicted to, for instance, the fossil fuel automobile.

The complaints from low income sectors were heard in the media, but most of the talk was related to various racial and sexual minority issues and battles over political correctness. Battles within the left, which still was probably the majority of people. Battles between the farther left and the more moderate left which reduced the effectiveness of left politics.

The right wing had it's internal strife also, but there was a powerful alliance between the Trump populists and the "Republican Establishment" (Mitch McConnell & Company). This alliance bolstered the right till that alliance basically unraveled after Trump lost the election in 2020.

The big thrust of our culture toward wanting more material wealth was still, for the most part, unquestioned. It was questioned around the edges, but for the most part, raising people to higher standards of living was not questioned.

The definition of "what constitutes a standard of living" is an important question, but it's not raised that often.

What constitutes a higher standard of living? Is it more free time, or is it more money? Is it greater material wealth or is it higher quality of life? Is it a bigger house, or is it a happier life with less "house" to worry about? Is it good relations with your neighbors and community, or is it it going alone?

The virus has brought some of these deeper questions into light. Climate change is another haunting thing that brings these questions to light, but it's easier to sweep climate change under the carpet; in the short term at least. Climate change is more of a long term thing. A gradual boiling of the pot. Easy for most people to keep kicking the "can" of climate change down the road; unless they live in certain areas strongly effected; like in the path of forest fires.

The virus was a more acute, short term stumbling block which forced some rethinking of economic and life assumptions.

In the long run, the virus may have prepared us for dealing with climate change by forcing more flexibility in some of our assumptions about the economy and our lives within it.

Most obviously, it may have been the virus that toppled the Trump bandwagon.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Contradictory ideas. Should Texas go it alone (buy local) or join the bigger power grids?

Yard sign I saw during a 2004 bicycle trip in California. Neighbors opposing a powerline.

Thinking about the electric power problems that Texas has just been through, there are a lot of suggested solutions that are contradictory. It's a sign of our times, contradictory ideas pulling in different directions.

One idea is that Texas should not go it alone. Texas has it's own power grid which is more vulnerable to local weather problems than a larger grid would be.

Maybe Texas should stop being so "go it alone" and join the larger community power grids? Either the vast Eastern US grid, or our large Western US grid.

Problem is, the reliability of large power grids works because power can be sent long distances. This is the opposite of the "buy local" mindset.

Here in the west, we rely on huge powerlines that interconnect, for instance, the Pacific Northwest to California. California is able to ride out heatwaves and air conditioning load by purchasing power from out of state. It can buy from the Northwest and even power that's normally allotted to British Columbia.

During cold winters, we often rely on help from California's generating capacity which is seen as excess at that time.

On the other hand, there are people that don't like big powerlines bringing power from distant regions through their neighborhoods. Another idea, of course, is to go more local. Alternative energy; such as windmills and solar power, can go both ways.

Quite a few people have the dream of being independent from the grid. "Just have your own solar panels plus the batteries needed for times when the sun isn't shining."

That's an alluring idea, but sometimes the sun doesn't shine, that much, for a long time. Batteries aren't great yet, but even the best of batteries do run out eventually. Then you need power from somewhere far away where the sun is still shinning, or a fossil fuel plant is still running. Maybe a nuclear plant that's still running.

To some extent, we may have to learn to live with power that's more intermittent; like the wind and the sunshine, or we have to put up with things like big powerlines and nationwide power grids. Big power companies and / or government systems; such as the Bonneville Power Authority (BPA) here in the Pacific Northwest.

Ideas related to paying for journalism.

Here is an interesting article that someone put in comments on one of my Facebook posts. It's about the issue of subscriptions and paywalls.

I've suggested a "pay by article system" as I can't subscribe to the hundreds of publications who's articles come up in my feeds.

Turns out that idea is called "micropayments" and it's been (being) tried. It has drawbacks as described here, but there are some other ideas, described in this article, that might work even better.

One idea, used by the Guardian from UK, is to have journalism content remain free, but invite readers to make a donation subscription. You choose the price.

Article didn't mention this, but that's how NPR Radio works. The content is free. It's on the air, but it's even free on the web, for the most part. Many NPR radio stations even archive content so one can listen at their convenience. One can back and search the archive for shows from even past years. Usually the topic is well described with a thumbnail photo.

I often post content from various NPR stations.

Some print publications, like the Guardian, use reader donation systems similar to NPR. That might be an idea that catches on more widely.

Friday, February 19, 2021

How about pay by the article versus having to have a subscription to get past the paywall?

The topic of how to pay for professional journalism has come up in a new way. The battle between Facebook and Australia.

Australia is trying to get large social media companies, like Facebook and Google, to pay for news content that they use.

I have a slightly different idea that relates to this issue. More and more news media outlets are going behind paywalls. Usually they want you to subscribe, but articles from hundreds of media outlets come up in my social media feeds. I can't subscribe to hundreds, if not thousands, of publications.

My idea is to have a way to pay by the article. Possibly pay through a social media site that one could have an account with. Money could be held in an account on the site and a deduction could be made as one clicks past the paywall.

When I floated this idea, a few weeks back, a friend of mine with experience in journalism, commented that most media companies are pretty old fashioned so they don't embrace that idea. They are still thinking in terms of an old world with loyal subscribers.

Back in the olden days, media outlets made most of their money from advertising and to a lesser extent from subscriptions. The number of subscribers met more advertising revenue as ad buyers payed by audience size.

These days, lots of the advertising revenue has shifted to the social media platforms; such as Facebook and Google. In Australia, they are trying to tap some of that vast revenue source and bring it back to the companies that create the journalism.

Google has agreed to the Australian system, but Facebook is still resisting. This is an ongoing, evolving situation.

I worry, a bit, that the Australian system might be helping the Murdock news empire too much. Articles say that payouts are going to Murdock, but I wonder if other media outlets get the payments?

Another thing I notice is that Yahoo brings up a lot of news from New York Times and other sources that are often behind paywalls. When the news is on Yahoo, it's often reprinted on Yahoo News, rather than directing one to the website; such as New York Times, that originated the news. Credit is given, however.

I wonder if Yahoo News buys the rights to selected articles to reprint for their readers for free? If so that would be a good model as well.

A new system does need to be figured out to pay for journalism.

NPR Radio's voluntary listener and corporate contributions seems to work quite well. Much of NPR's content is still free and not behind a paywall.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Biden not enthused about bailing out large student loans. Why has college gotten so expensive compared to so many other things in society?

Biden isn't real enthused about forgiving large amounts of student debt beyond maybe $10,000 of debt. There is a question of how many needs we can meet all at once and how much money we can print.

My own take on this is that there has been a growing gulf between a large segment of professional level salaries and the wages of a huge segment of the workforce.

This makes paying for college more of a burden. Even quite a few graduates, from college (especially in the arts), are not able to find high paying professional jobs to pay back large debt.

The cost of college, itself, has gone way up in recent years. It's been pushed up by the rising salary scales of professionals and colleges competing against one another to retain what they see as competent faculty; especially the star faculty and administrators. Positions at other universities and industries threaten to pay more stripping an institution of its most talented workforce.

At the same time, state supported colleges have seen a decrease in the percent of their operating budgets that the state pays for so they have had to rely more on raising tuition to meet their budgets.

Back when I was in college, state supported schools were quite reasonable in tuition. That was back in the 1970's. I was able to dabble into a lot of less practical studies and had a pretty good time. Money wasn't the entire game, back then.

These days, that's a difficult thing for the economy and low income workers to swallow.

Rush Limbaugh has died. I wasn't a fan of Limbaugh, but I just found out another fairly conservative host that I did listen to occasionally, Bill Wattenburg, died in 2018

Interesting that a titian on the right in talk radio, Rush Limbaugh, has died.

Radio seems "under the radar" for much of this country's population that watches more television. Still, radio is quite effective; like part of the forgotten underbelly of America. Lots of people do listen to radio while driving. Truck drivers, for instance.

In some rural parts of the country, it seems like about all one could pick up was either country and western music, or Rush Limbaugh. These are also areas where TV signals are harder to get and broadband internet is less available.

NPR provides, in my opinion, a more informative perspective and there are attempts to bring the NPR signal to many rural areas using various repeaters; including here in Bellingham.

I like to tune up and down the dial listening to a wide variety of radio. I'm more into radio than video; partially because I tend to fall asleep watching things. I do better with audio while moving around, such as at work, taking a walk, or cleaning house.

I also sleep to NPR, but that's a different story; like being read a bedtime story. Seems like the chatter of radio is more relaxing than the chatter that goes on in my own head.

I didn't listen to Rush Limbaugh. I prefer radio one can learn from. My impression of Limbaugh, from the few times I heard him, was that he was more rhetoric and less educational.

Another, basically conservative host, that used to be on KGO in San Francisco many years ago, was Bill Wattenburg. Said to be a scientist. He had worked at Lawrence Livermore Lab and UC Berkley. A big advocate for nuclear power.

I just find out, searching for this post, Wattenburg has also joined the ranks of the deceased.

One of the slightly lesser known conservative hosts I use to listen to has died. I just found out doing some Google search. A very good writeup about Bill Wattenburg. Bill Wattenburg passed away in 2018 at age 82.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Ironically, liberal areas tend to have more wealthy folks than conservative areas, but they also tend to have more will to tax their wealthy folks

My thoughts from a recent comment thread on Facebook.

A lot of people in the prosperous cities want to tax themselves and especially their wealthy neighbors MORE. Here in Washington State, progressive and wealthy Seattle area usually votes to tax itself more, if it can. In some cases, the metro area is restricted by state laws against taxation that tend to be more popular on statewide ballots where both urban and rural, more conservative voters get a vote. Even if liberal minded people are often thought of as part of the elite, in urban areas, they often support higher taxes that wealthy folks, such as Bill Gates would pay.

Problem is, the State doesn't allow it, in many cases. For instance, cities can't impose an income tax though I think Seattle has tried that at the ballot. Washington State still has no state income tax.

I am remembering that Bill Gate's father was back of an initiative to tax the wealthy who make over (I think) $250,000 per year. I think Bill Gates, himself, supported the idea, but his own father was the main organizer of that initiative. That was Washington State Initiative 1098 in 2010.

That initiative did not pass the voters in a statewide vote. Rural areas, of Washington State, tend to be more conservative than the metro areas. There wasn't enough vote, even in the metros, to cancel out the vote from rural Washington. If King County (where Seattle is located) had been able to vote on it's own, I think that initiative would have passed.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Will too much money be created for Biden? Will it, someday, over stimulate the economy?

Some Democrats and a lot of Republicans are worried that so much newly created money will lead to more serious inflation.

It's nothing new, but the process of creating money has accellerated recently (I think), due to the pandemic. Accellerated under Trump's watch at first, but now likely to continue under Biden.

As for inflation, I have personally felt, for years, that different sectors of the economy have different inflation rates. Overall inflation, across the entire economy, is harder to notice. It seems to be under the radar to economists and those setting Federal Researve policy.

For instance, in many metro areas, where people want to live and the jobs have been, home values and housing costs have been skyrocketing for years.

Other prices, such as for electronic gadgets, remain low and even falling given the capability of the newer products over the older products. Think computers, smartphones and even the services that feed them. Think Google, for instance. It's free, but we do pay in other ways. Think Facebook, Amazon and so forth.

Inflation does happen in certain sectors, but it's harder to notice if looking at the economy as a whole. We still have to fund the government and in a political climate of low taxes, the money must come from somewhere. Creating money isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it does have consequences that need to be understood and planned around.

For instance, lower income people are more impacted by housing inflation than others as the cost for a primary residence could be a huge percentage of a lower income person's budget. Higher income people are usually the folks making policy.

One possible solution to this problem, in my opinion, is higher taxes on windfall profits from; for instance, selling property after high apprieciation in value.

Other solutions would be to just keep printing the money at a moderate rate and provide subsidy to lower income people so they can keep up with the rising costs of things like housing, medical bills and education. Think of money as being like poker chips. Numbers in the computers.

Better planning, such as more density in some residential areas, is also needed. Even with the creation of money, there is no getting around the realities on the ground. The ways we plan and the ways we live, in our habitat called Planet Earth, matters.

Friday, February 12, 2021

A somewhat regular building could be an intentional community

Where I live. Washington Square.

I know I'm writing prolifically. One can scroll down my wall and see. Still, I must add how cozy living in this building can be during colder weather. My thermostat is set at 2 in a 1 to 5 scale. A thermometer, in my little apartment is reading a constant 74 F.

Maybe I should feel guilty, but I only have one small wall exposed to the outside. I'm surrounded by the warmth of the building.

I keep thinking about large buildings as communities. This building has parklike grounds around it and some residents have community garden space.

Downstairs is a laundry room, a dinning room and a library. Both the dinning room and library are closed, due to the virus, but they can be community spaces in more normal times.

I've often thought that large buildings could be both public and private (residents only) space.

For instance, the laundry "room" could be a "laundromat" that serves both the outside public and the residents. The dinning room could be a restaurant; maybe a restaurant with a banquet room for resident meetings and other rentals.

Some condo and apartment buildings have gyms which could be open to the public. This place doesn't have a gym, but gyms are common in residential buildings, these days. It could be a larger gym if also open to the public. Old style YMCAs used to be that. Hotel and even low income residence rooms upstairs with pools and gym space in the building also.

In a big building, the first floor hallway is often a shopping concourse. First floors open to both the public and building residents. Some buildings, like John Hancock Center in Chicago, are mixed use. Apartments, offices and even hotel rooms. At Hancock Center, there's a swimming pool on an upper floor. I have read that the Hancock Pool can be like a wave pool as the tall building sways in the wind.

As for the idea of having a library in the building, I am remembering when Bellingham Alternative Library was in the living room of a place called Sushi House. Sushi House is still in existence. I think it is still what they call an "intentional community," but Alternative Library has moved, over the years, to various other locations.

I'm remembering when Sushi House had a big "Open" sign in the front window for the library. That house was a bit crowded. I would guess it would not have been an easy place for sleeping. Some spaces where folks were sleeping in bunk beds.

For interesting community events, I was happy to live near Sushi House, but glad I wasn't living in Sushi House.

As for this building, where I live, (Washington Square) each apartment is self contained. There's plenty of privacy for me and it seems to be quiet. It's a bigger building than the house that Sushi House is in.

I also think about the concept of Arcologies. The city in one building concepts, like Arcosanti in Arizona. Seems like that never got off the ground though it still exists.

Arcosanti is in a rural setting. My idea of multi purpose buildings would be in urban settings so ground floor public spaces, such as the restaurant and laundromat, would be more accessible to people in the surrounding area.