Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Keeping the Bern alive in a post nomination world

My own state of Washington showed up at caucuses for Bernie. Headline in Washington DC Post proclaims huge win in Washington State, but rest of the article discusses how difficult it might be for him to maintain this momentum in the other big states that are left such as New York (Hillary Clinton's home state), Pennsylvania and California.

I got to thinking some thoughts that Bernie supporters might not want to hear right now in the cusp of victory. Thoughts about what could happen after the convention if Clinton were to get the nomination. This outcome isn't inevitable, but it does still seem likely. I hope Sanders supporters would keep their enthusiasm and engagement. It might be a bit much to expect that they would cheer, rally and be real excited about Clinton, but hopefully most of them would still quietly vote for her versus sitting out the election and allowing someone like Ted Cruz to get elected. Then after the election and even before, Bernie and his supporters can stick together and push the Democratic mainstream to the left. Also remembering that who gets into Congress may even be more important than who the president is.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Better preparing for a good life given the low wage jobs of the future

Some folks see the solution to economic woes being more education. Science, math, STEM, computer programming and so forth to prepare people for the "jobs of the future." Problem is most of the jobs of the future seem to be low wage service type positions; such as hotel maids or things like piece work Uber drivers. Little is done about teaching us how to live our lives and plan society around the reality of low wage work for the majority of folks. How can housing, health, transportation and education become affordable so we can live with dignity, given the jobs of the future?

Politicians often talk about the high tech jobs that can't be filled do to lack of workers with certain highly specific credentials. This problem gets lots of media attention, but seems like it isn't the vast majority of jobs. In our economy, there are a certain segment of jobs that are highly specialized and hard to match. It's true that there may be a mismatch between education and some of these specialties, but part of that problem is the rapidly changing technology of today causing education to lag behind the cutting edge needs. While these specialized jobs do exist, the bulk of the jobs are not this. I hear it only takes a few employees to run many multi billion dollar tech companies such as Instagram. Educating more people just to compete for those specialized positions isn't going to help most workers.

Our tech economy does help consumers, however. Folks get to use great resources such as Google and Facebook for free, but this doesn't pay the rent. We live in a time of great opportunities created by technology. Not necessarily job opportunities for most people, but cultural opportunities in research, volunteerism and reaching out across the globe. What we need to do is to figure out how to make society work better, given the fact that most people aren't going to be at the top of the tech game in their vocation. Most people will still be working lower down on the pay scale, but life can still be good. We just have to figure out how to better plan our societies and our education goals for the realities that most people face. Elite education and jobs will still exist, but most people have a need for different strategies. Learning to navigate the world by bicycle, for instance. Learning how to stay healthy and not need un affordable healthcare, for instance.

Economists, like the liberal writer Paul Krugman, might complain a bit about my ideas as much of his thinking revolves around bolstering consumption to rev up the economy. Bolstering consumption, given our environmental crisis, is tricky. It can be done using better technology, such as solar energy, but it is tricky. I do like many of his ideas about circulating wealth in better and more fair ways, but we also need to learn how to live well with less dependency on consumption. Not necessarily turn the clock back to less prosperous times, but just learn how to live more intelligently. Live intelligently, using the tools technology is giving us.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

In the rat race, prosperity, in products, is easier to obtain than finding home. Quality, fairness and community should be what counts.

For decades we have been scratching our heads trying to figure out how to get more prosperity. Prosperity is usually measured in the flow of goods and services. As for goods, how many products do we need? The smartphones most Americans have are miraculous compared to the transistor radios we were lucky to have back in the 1960s. So what more can we want? Our landfills and second hand stores are overflowing. Our food supply leads us to obesity. In many ways even our poor people live in material abundance. What many people don't have, these days, is the ability to be able to afford a place to live. A home is becoming un affordable in many parts of the country.

College education has gotten more expensive along with medical care. Some of these problems are related to the widening income gap in society. As for education, our colleges have gotten more expensive as they try to catch up the salaries they pay their top staff to bloated salaries at the top of private sector business. Medical costs are effected by this rat race to the top also. A problem of the income gap. Housing is going up also due to inflated markets driven by the push for more prosperity. Also our public institutions could use more discretionary spending for things like infrastructure. This is suffering from rising costs for labor, land and so forth pitted against tax ceilings.

Maybe we need to tax high incomes more and change the focus of society toward higher quality of life. Higher quality with the great technologies we now have at our disposal. Don't worry, even if we tax the rich more, we can still look forward to even better smartphones in the future. At the same time, maybe we can slow down the rat race just a bit and have more quality of life and a bit more peace of mind along with the latest our technology has to offer. A society with less income discrepancy could be a somewhat more relaxed and less neurotic society. I assume even prosperity will still inch forward as it has for the past few years. Just find a way to have us feel like we are living the "good life" without destroying the environment as well. The challenge we face. The good life can also mean, in part, a good and fair community.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

But what if you are a sissy?

They say getting older is not for sissies. So, if one is a sissy, what can you do?

Monday, March 14, 2016

Yes the world is benefiting from trade, but US workers are weary holding up superpower vestiges

Paul Krugman writes in his March 11 column on Trade and Tribulation that free trade agreements aren't necessarily the bugaboo that both Trump and Sanders claim. He admits some aren't great, tho, like the latest TTP that Obama is pushing. At the same time more trade and international cooperation has benefited the world and provided foundations for international cooperation on things like the latest climate change agreement.

My own thinking, beyond what he has said, takes me to my childhood in the 1960s when there was some guilt about US being so rich while much of the world was hungry. 6% of population in USA consuming a big chunk of world resources. Now there is more prosperity around the world so the world is becoming fairer.

This is good, in a way, but I can see why people, in USA, are weary of this; like in "superpower fatigue." The world is getting more even and that isn't a problem for the well positioned folks of our elite (like even Krugman himself), but it can be hard on many folks. The problems aren't not necessarily the fault of trade. Much are the fault of poor governance in USA; mostly due to Republican thinking. Vestiges of being a superpower means the cost of defending the "free world" has fallen on our shoulders. We have the biggest military in the world while many of our workers, who pay some of the taxes, can't afford healthcare.

Also trade agreements have not allowed us to import cheaper drugs from overseas the way we are being flooded with other cheap products from overseas. Where's NAFTA when we need it? Instead, we are expected to take on the entire burden of paying for what the pharmaceutical companies say is their need for revenue to do research. Why can't the newly prosperous rest of the world pay for this, or why can't we buy the drugs that they get for cheap?

Also, why do we still have to pay for such huge corporate CEO salaries while other countries, that are almost as rich as us, don't?

Krugman points out one of the problems we face that's often falsely blamed on trade. Our dollar is too high in value making American things, including the cost of living, high in USA. This makes it harder for our workers to compete on the world market. As Krugman said, in this article, "our trade deficits are mainly a result of factors other than trade policy, like a strong dollar buoyed by global capital looking for a safe haven."

Our workers are priced out of the market, but still struggling with the high price of maintaining USA as a superpower. People are getting weary. Better governance could improve this situation.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Carl's Jr headquarters being pushed out of expensive California

I think a conservative person wrote this article about businesses being driven out of areas by high taxes implying higher taxes are bad.

I have a somewhat different take, of course. In spite of California's high taxes, business is booming in many parts of California; especially in places like the San Francisco Bay Area. That prosperity is driving up the cost of living; for instance rents and property values. Also taxes, of course. Teachers have to be paid more so they can afford to live in those areas. Teachers, who work for the government, get their salaries from taxes so the taxes go up. Taxes go up along with the cost of living and the cost of doing business. Some businesses do get pushed out to other parts of the country that are more depressed. Those other parts tend to have lower taxes, but maybe it doesn't cost as much to live in those areas if you are, for instance, a teacher. Salaries for teachers and the taxes those salaries create can be lower.

I guess we can't have it all. We can't cram everything, including all the businesses and people, into California.

Conservatives also complain about high corporate taxes in USA as this article mentioned a company moving to Canada for lower corporate taxes. Yes, our "liberal" neighbor to the north has lower corporate taxes, but again, we can't have it all. Canada makes up for that revenue loss with higher taxes on wealthy individuals.

I've often thought we could lower our corporate tax rates so businesses would be encouraged to invest back in America, but, not being able to have it all, we would make up the revenue loss by taxing our wealthy individuals more.

Many rich executives talk about the need for business to have a tax environment that's reasonable rather than punitive, but they use that legitimate need to go cart-blanch on justifying all forms of getting wealthy, including unscrupulous forms of obtaining and keeping wealth.

Friday, March 04, 2016

What's really behind the partition

Mildly erotic commentary.

One night I dreamed that there was a brand new 24 story building in downtown Bellingham. The top floor was a sky lounge to be rented out for various business meetings. It wasn't used very much as the business world was in recession.

Down the street was a funky old space where folks would dance. The whole room full of hippies dancing in among one another free form. Many ages and styles all boogieing to the music.

The manager of the tall building came to the funky dance and liked what he saw. He invited the dancers to come up to his sky lounge as there was seldom anyone using it. The dancers could use the space for free so it would look like the almost empty 24 story building had life and vitality.

The dancers agreed and started having their dances in the sky lounge with a view out over Bellingham Bay.

After a few weeks on the night that the dance was supposed to happen, the plans had to be changed. A business meeting had been scheduled for the sky lounge. Short notice, but some client actually came with a checkbook. The manager told the dancers that they could still dance, but only half the space was available. The other half would be for the business meeting. There's a retractable partition that went across to divide the sky lounge into two spaces. The dance can flourish on one side and the "big bucks suit and tie" business meeting can use the other half. Just turn down the music a bit and everyone can coexist.

So the dance got started, but one of the dancers accidentally leaned against the button controlling the partition. The wall rolled open revealing what the business meeting actually was. It was a pay to view gay porn strip show. Folks would pay big money to watch some of the cutest young guys strip naked and dance on a stage.

When the wall came open, some of the dancers danced off the stage and mingled among the free form dance party. Soon the audience for the strip show was surrounded by dancers on all sides. Some of the dancers clothed, some nude, some just titillatingly shirtless. All of them boogieing to the wonderful music. Audience members started loosening up their suits and ties while some even stripped all the way. Everyone joined in the dance.

After that, they decided to merge the two events and have a clothing optional, everyone in their own style, inclusive, age diversified, erotic, eclectic, healthy dance party.

Version one of this piece.

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Election 2016

Donald Trump may be the best of the Republican presidential candidates, but that's not saying much. At least he's more unpredictable while the others are predictably bad.

John Kasich is considered somewhat moderate and possibly the most compassionate of the Republicans, but he's pretty far back in the polls. He's considered compassionate because as governor of Ohio, he didn't block Medicaid expansion. Several other states did.

The so called Republican establishment is quite alarmed by the rise of Donald Trump. He's a wild card, loose cannon candidate. Interesting to watch from my perspective as I lean toward the Democrats.

Maybe not as flashy, but the Democrats have their primary battles also. Between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. I haven't weighed in too heavily on that as I see good in both candidates. Maybe I am a closeted Clinton supporter, but a lot of my friends are for Bernie. Don't tell anyone, ha ha. I'll vote for whoever gets the Democratic nomination; presumably.

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Old political parties breaking apart could be a more effective road to more parties than trying to start new parties

Maybe the path to an end of the two party monopoly in America will be the breakup of the existing political parties. For years, there have been unsuccessful attempts to start third parties in USA, but there's so much inertia in the present system that third parties don't gain traction and in presidential politics they become the spoiler. A more effective path to more parties could be the breakup of a major political party. If one party were to split, then the other party would likely split also. Today, people are afraid to break up a party for fear that the other party would remain strong and just take over. If one party breaks, that makes it easier to break the other party.

The rise of Donald Trump is certainly stressing the Republican Party establishment. Trump's rise is definitely disruptive, tho not really along the fracture lines within the Republican Party.

Bernie Sanders isn't getting as far as Trump, but his candidacy is disrupting to the establishment of the Democratic Party. This disruption does fall along some fracture lines within the Democratic Party; the fracture between the more far left "super critical of corporate America" and the Hillary Clinton style of "incremental change while working within the system." If Bernie doesn't get the nomination, I'm pretty sure he has promised not to go third party, tho. My guess is, he would reluctantly support Clinton and then, after she's safely in office, become an advocate for curbing corporate power. A split in the party could happen after the election.

In the Republican party, I see that there are serious splits, but Trump's candidacy doesn't necessarily fall along these split lines. Trump is basically just an unusual candidate so he's disruptive to the old party guard. The party is stressed at least. In the future, I see that the Republican Party could split into 3 value systems. One would be Libertarian thinking meaning "less government, less military, more personal freedom." The second would be the "religious right turn back the clock on morality crowd." The third group would be "big military, Homeland Security, corporate oligarchy, business as usual" side of the Republican Party.

Maybe third parties will happen not from new parties, but from the eventual splitting of our current parties.