Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Big reason why Republicans fail on healthcare; they are adverse to taxes for subsidies

A big reason why Republicans can't pass a healthcare bill is that healthcare has to be subsidized to work for a large percent of the American people; including many of the Republican voters themselves. That means someone has to pay higher taxes for it to work. Republicans almost always vote against taxes. Healthcare just doesn't work without taxes for subsidies, or at least it wouldn't be available to a large segment of people. That's the reality of a society with such a huge income disparity. Healthcare can't even be close to being universally available without subsidies in a society with such a high income gap. Republicans walked to the abyss of pulling the plug on large segments of Americans, including many of their own voters, and at least a few of the Republicans got cold feet.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Some of my photos from 2017 Bellingham Pride Festival and Parade are on Flickr

Lighting up the night for that weekend, July 7 - 9 2017. Bellingham Herald sign in rainbow colors.

Images on Flickr. See also descriptions with each picture.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

A very good documentary on Betelgeuse. What's Betelgeuse?

It's a huge red giant star I heard about in grade school (pronounced Beetle Juice, I think though I've heard some folks say Bettlegeese).

It's real unstable and on the brink of exploding, supernova style. Only 640 light years from Earth, but they think the brunt of the blast will miss Earth. Gamma ray bursts from the poles would go another direction missing Earth. Being about to blast in astronomical time means sometime in the next several thousand years, tho.

This video is real good, in my opinion. Tells much about the history of our research about this star. Doesn't have a lot of "shocker whoom" sound or blast hype, like movies often do. It's very educational. I also enjoy the background music. Kind of relaxing, ironically because it is about an eventual super nova.

If Betelgeuse were to blow in our lifetimes, there would be a really bright star in the sky for about 4 days. Visible in the daytime at 100 times the brightness of the full moon. It would provide much excitement for scientists and the public alike, but who knows when that moment will occur.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Trump's smokestack jobs not coming back, but can anything else bring back lots of middle class jobs?

The old jobs aren't coming back. What kind of jobs will there be in the future? Some futurists highlight two types of work that can’t easily be automated or performed by robots: Interpersonal work such as coaching, care giving and negotiating, and creative work such as developing new business opportunities and innovating. This, in an article in Yahoo Finance by columnist Rick Newman entitled; Tech experts diss Trump's jobs policy.

I say, much of this type of work, that is done now, doesn't pay well or is volunteer. Much of interpersonal work and care giving, for instance.

Creative work such as developing new business opportunities is there, but how often are new business opportunities needed? Will this employ millions upon millions of people?

Writing, conversation and photography is creative work. Much of it is posted on places like Facebook for free. Where's the payoff?

Seems like a broad based middle class boom for jobs is not likely, given what the near future looks like today, in my opinion. Technology is great for the consumer, but not necessarily great for the worker. We have consumer empowerment, such as booking our own flights online, but how can one earn a living in this environment? Not as a travel agent, for instance.

I would guess no more than 20% of the workforce will be needed in the "high tech," highly skilled jobs of the present and near future. This 20% is what the talk of needing more education is based on. What about the rest of us?

Possibly another 40% can be employed in professions such as nursing and teaching. My numbers are not exact, of course. Can average and entry level nurses or teachers afford to live in expensive cities such as Seattle? Not necessarily just the superstars.

Education can still be valuable for living a quality life and becoming an informed voter, but not necessarily for much of the service jobs that seem to be proliferating these days. Coffee shop baristas and so forth. It's good to be conversant in the humanities, as a coffee shop barista. Enlightening to customers, good for society. It's good art, but can the 80% of us still afford to live in our cities?

Wages are higher, these days, than in the 1960s, but certain costs, such as housing and healthcare, have gone so high, in the metro areas where a lot of the jobs are, that the days of the broad middle class may not be achievable. One can try to bring up wages, but if certain costs continue to outstrip wages, the middle class isn't coming back.

Somehow, we need to figure out how to make society work and be affordable for people in the jobs that most people will be working.

Also, to some extent, jobs could be an outdated concept. Figuring out how to survive, while doing gratifying volunteer work, is a trend I notice, around here in my city of Bellingham, WA. at least.

Rethinking economics for sure.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Pulling the plug on healthcare for lower income people

Representative Mo Brooks, R-Alabama thinks universal health care is too expensive but tax cuts for the rich are necessary.

Adding my own comments. Since 49% of births are now paid for from Medicaid, maybe a lot of those babies should be aborted? Life may not be worth living if one has a chronic and costly disease or needs to be in a nursing home. Can we even afford healthcare for all our people? I hope we can do better than this, but these deep questions, about the value of human life in various stages, do need to be part of the conversation.

As for tax cuts for the rich, it seems like some people use an analogy of a fire to describe the economy. They think that taxing wealthy people smothers the fire. Others, such as economists like Paul Krugman, say that the wealthy are hoarding money. Their analogy would come closer to one of circulation. Be generous, spend money. Especially if the money isn't being spent otherwise, tax, spend and keep the money circulating.

Mo Brooks also talks about bad health choices which people make that society can't keep supporting. Smoking, bad diets, lack of exercise. I can understand, a bit, being a bicyclist myself. At the same time, where's the compassion? Some people have more health, some have more money, some people have neither. A society with little compassion is a crude culture. Do Congressman Mo Brooks and his colleagues ride bicycles? What about the changes we need to make in society to promote healthier living? Time for exercise versus having to be a workaholic. What about support for parks and trails, better diets, less sugary soft drinks? What about doing better than just pulling the rug out from under people? What about doing better than just denying coverage to people with preexisting conditions?

Folks like Mo Brooks do have support from some segments of the American people. I know that one can get what is called "compassion fatigue." Feeling overwhelmed. People in Italy are dealing with thousands and thousands of immigrants landing on their shores, from overpopulated countries in Africa and so forth, but if the Italians and other Europeans can survive and even thrive, why can't we? Our own immigration circumstance is not currently as overwhelming as that? Of course we can't hold up the whole world, but I hope we can do better at taking care of the people than what Republicans tend to propose.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Seattle metro's inflated property values make it a sitting duck for funding state needs

I recently read Danny Westneat's July 5 column in Seattle Times. Seattle gets rolled in Olympia tax deal.

Here's another case where property value inflation leads to problems. Seattle metro's high property values make it a "sitting duck target" for state government struggling to find money to fund the McCleary school funding court mandate.

They balanced the budget with property taxes.

I (personally) might think that is okay. Not being a property owner, myself, I tend to think homeowners are all getting rich from growing equity. This, tho, isn't always the case. Those inflated property values are just the "new norm" that people have to deal with to afford living in our urban areas. Also, renters get hit too as property taxes get passed on in the form of higher rents.

Other forms of taxes, that also address the income gap in more accurate ways, aren't done in Washington State. In spite of being a "blue state," Washington has no state income tax. A good thing about income taxes is that they can be graduated so higher income people pay more.

Some forms of capital gains taxes can work also; like maybe when people sell property at a huge windfall. These kind of taxes don't usually pass in this state either.

We also keep missing opportunities to pass carbon taxes.

Here in Whatcom County, there is a pressing need to address our inadequate county jail. An expensive task. Plans for a big new jail have relied on local sales tax add-on; Washington's "workhorse" tax. Regressive. The last jail ballot measure failed. It would have raised local sales taxes to the limit which state conservatives have imposed (I-601 limits). Conservatives tend to support things like jails, but those sorts of things bust tax limits. Last year, as I remember, the Bellingham police guild feared that the jail tax would limit our ability to fund expansions to fire stations and other public safety. Crippling our local funding abilities for a whole 30 years.

In our city of Bellingham, which is more blue than rural county areas, I remember that our mayor suggested part of that bill, for the new jail, be covered by property taxes rather than all from the sales tax. Maybe a 50/50 split? Take some of the burden off of just the sales tax.

A jail expansion plan is heading back to the ballot, but I think it's still just a sales tax again.

Many liberals also think the plans for a new county jail are too large. There's a lot of local advocacy for alternatives to incarceration.

Come to think about it, some people think of schools as being prisons also. Large, institutional and costly.

Education is a valuable thing, but Washington may be unique in it's constitutional wording of education as it's top priority; the wording behind McCleary. Unfortunately this often leads to a "zero sum" battle between schools and other important state needs; such as social services, public safety, environmental protection and state parks.

We tend to suffer from "compartmental thinking." Put money in the compartment called "school" to have an enlightened society. I worry if the institutions of education cannibalize other things. Not that I don't value teachers and schools. Instead, I like to think more holistically. The job of teachers becomes harder if the rest of society is neglected. It's all part of a tapestry of society. State parks, for instance, can help education by preserving historic and natural places and presenting them to the public. Destinations for class field trips, if nothing else.

Another part of the tapestry is for people to pay their fair share in taxes. Graduated taxes on windfall profits and high personal incomes are best. Taxing business can be a problem that stifles business. It's better to tax the huge incomes and windfall profits that certain individuals make from business.

I guess property taxes have the same problem. Taxing landlords, for instance, is a problem as they pass that increase on to renters. Maybe it's better to try and tax the windfall profits that so often happen when property changes hands. Maybe that would cool down the inflated real estate market that's becoming so much of a problem in our prosperous urban areas.

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

I don't think 911 was an inside job, but ...

I know a few people who believe that the 911 attack was an inside job. Caused by "powers that be" in US government and business. Explosives set in the buildings and so forth, rather than terrorists. I don't buy this idea, but the fact that so many people ascribe to it does say something about the leadership of our society. The leadership must be pretty bad at winning the respect of citizens if so many people would actually think something like 911 was done by the leadership on purpose. People tend to be cynical about government and corporations anyway and a few take that cynicism still farther.

I feel a lot of our problems are not necessarily caused by our leaders, but instead by obsolete patterns in our culture. Our problems are caused by people, including some at the grassroots level. Still, the leaders aren't very good at being leaders or winning the respect of people.

Beyond the problems, I also see good things in people and society. It's a mixed bag. At times I prefer to focus more on the good. I focus on the good partially for selfish reasons. It's less of a downer. It's better for my own disposition if nothing else.