Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Government spending: a better way to stimulate the economy than encouraging private borrowing.

A big problem in the economy is too much debt. Easy credit encourages people to do things like buy more expensive houses. Encourages businesses to do things like buy each other out. This drives up the cost of these things.

Then the monthly payments are so high that there is little left for a rainy day. Little left for discretionary spending. People living check to check with debt payments and rents taking up most of income. Then the virus comes and there's no cushion.

Low interest rates have encouraged people and businesses to spend and increase their debt. This has led to a huge debt overhead which eventually puts a damper on things due to the burden of paying back the debt. Increased property values and the rents to sustain them has become a burden. It makes us less resilient to things like the virus shutdown as the debts, rents and mortgages continue. We don't have enough flexibility and cushion.

I think most of the reason why they have had to print so much money, over recent years, is to keep the federal government solvent. Republicans have cut taxes, but they can't really cut spending. They keep increasing spending on the military.

Republicans tend to want to cut domestic spending, but that isn't easy to do as people's lives depend on expensive domestic programs; such as Medicare. It's easier to cut taxes than to cut spending.

Without "pay as you go" tax revenue, it's easier to just add to the federal debt. Eventually the debt gets so big that printing new money is the easiest way to sustain it.

The other reason why money gets printed is to stimulate the economy with low interest rates for job creation. Some of this isn't necessarily bad. As the economy expands, more money is needed.

One problem is that Republicans tend to favor low interest rates for private market solutions, instead of government spending, to stimulate the economy.

I don't mean to just pick on Republicans, but they do tend to favor private market solutions. This means stimulation via low interest rates encouraging business to expand rather than stimulus from government spending.

Individuals and business accumulate crushing debt burdens if credit becomes too easy. In the long run, this crushing overhead can sink the economy; unless we print more money for bailouts.

Now days, there is even talk of a debt jubilee.

The government, itself, seems to be able to get by with going into debt more easily. Maybe because it can print money. The consequence of printed money is more indirect. Rather than immediate default, the consequence of printing money is long term inflation. It's inflation caused by more money chasing the same number of goods and services. This benefits some folks, like a lot of property owners as the value of their property goes up.

I would guess a better way to stimulate the economy, with new money, is through government spending, rather than encouraging private debt.

I may sound a bit socialist. I do think private enterprise can be more innovative than government. Private enterprise can accomplish things; like solar power, but the marketplace, doesn't necessarily do this on its own. The marketplace needs a boost from government spending. Government as a consumer of private enterprise.

This has worked well for the relationship between NASA and Space X; for instance. Private innovation for space launch, but lucrative government contracts, to supply the International Space Station, as a customer. This has helped Space X get started.

Without some direction from government, the private sector can flounder. The private market, by itself, isn't likely to develop things like solar energy; that is until the price of solar comes down lower than fossil fuel energy. Things like solar energy need a boost from government to get the ball rolling.

One can say that private enterprise as a way to organize a workplace works well much of the time. Often better than government bureaucracy. It's the private marketplace that's more the problem. The market doesn't always favor the things we need; especially when taking the environment into account. It tends to favor our impulse buying over our long term needs.

To a large extent, private business needs government as a responsible consumer.

Friday, May 22, 2020

During the virus scare, could the WNBR bike rides go online also, like so many other things have done? Oh, it's already there, in a way.

For years, there have been lots of pictures from these events online. More popular than even the rides themselves. The pictures are there 24/7 year round while the rides happen in each location usually only once per year.

Could folks use these popular pictures to expose the messages? Get the messages to more audience? Pictures more popular than blog essays.

Pictures don't have to be totally nude, but a lot of the photos of WNBR riders, that are on the net, are.

Here's an old picture of me that someone took in 1994 after I got back from a bike tour.

See a longer essay here and more pictures of many kinds.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Hydroxychloroquine; like a folk remedy and a pretty dangerous one at that.

Trump has taken hydroxy ... (I can't pronounce it; forget it). Years ago, Nancy Reagan was consulting an astrologer.

As for myself, my main health advice is pretty simple. Things like exercise, good diets, plenty of rest, reduce stress and enjoy life. Those things plus a regular doctor's recommendations; like prescriptions, dental work, or whatever.

My health advise relates more to lifestyle than something to consume. Nothing in pill form. Nothing, really, for sale. Healthy living usually boosts the immune system.

Oh, yes, I do take a multiple vitamin and maybe some vitamin C, mostly because the orange flavored pills taste good. I try not to take too much. I don't know how important a vitamin pill is as long as I get my fruits and vegetables.

As for special remedies, like that hyd (whatever). It's nice to know that lots of potential treatments are in the pipeline being thought about and tested. Some things might be beneficial, others are found to be more harm than good. Combinations of these things are being looked at. It's nice to know the science is being done, but I just think of things like this in terms of future hopes. The science is not really ready.

I wouldn't try any of these things now, unless, maybe I was desperate. Unless maybe I was in the hospital and some doctor said, "let's give this a try."

Some people have gone to Mexico and other spots for treatments not yet available through the long approval process in USA. In recent years they've loosened up a few regulations with the Right To Try Act. That, only as a last resort.

More likely, people go abroad for medical care to avoid the high cost of care in USA. Medical tourism, but that's a different story.

Monday, May 18, 2020

I still have a big container of Mount Saint Helen's ash some 40 years later.



Photo of the ash I still have in 2020. Yes, it still can get on everything.

I was living in Bellingham, WA. so I missed most of it. The wind wasn't blowing ash this way.

My sisters were living in Pullman, WA. which got ash fall. I ask Judith to scoop up some and save it for me. I still have it today.

Scroll down and see photo captions for more of my experiences related to Mount Saint Helens eruption.



In 1980, I was self publishing a little magazine of my own opinions, before using the internet. My June issue was to be about gay rights, but Mount St. Helens had just happened, so I combined the two hot topics. I have the front page in my Flickr display. The inside pages are still in my closet, so to speak; in a file box. One can enlarge here.





6 years after the eruption, I was getting more into long distance bike touring. On one of my trips, I visited Windy Ridge area near Mount St. Helens where there was lots of timber blow down. 1986.



St. Helens lurking in the distance as seen from top of Windy Ridge, 1986.



In 1994, I was doing another bike trip on road up from the west side of mountain. The road to Johnston Ridge.



St. Helens from Johnston Ridge, 1994.



Mud flows on my way up to Johnston Ridge, 1994.



An A frame cabin buried in mud on way up to Johnston Ridge, 1994.



From inside lodge at Johnston Ridge 1994. Met someone who said I reminded him of Forest Gump. I'd never heard of Forest Gump since I'm not much of a movie person, but I did watch a documentary about St. Helens at another visitor's center near the I-5 exit.



Some of the amazing bridges on the way to Johnston Ridge. When bicycling, one can notice. They built this highway into the area after the eruption. Photo from 1994.



Another bridge on the way to Johnston Ridge, 1994.

The photos and a few more on my Flickr tag.

Big box stores might have an advantage here; social distancing.

During this time, a lot of people with homes and yards are escaping boredom by using this time for projects around the house. Makes sense.

Given that, there is quite a bit of discussion, on Facebook, about the safety situation at different hardware stores around Bellingham.

One of the local mom and pop stores, called Hardware Sales, has been loved for many years by local residents. A non chain, unique kind of place. Now it's being criticized for not seeming as safe as some of the big corporate box stores around town. Narrow aisles and so forth.

Maybe they could do more, like requiring masks, or something. I wouldn't know, I haven't been to a hardware store since this situation started.

Does seem like big stores, like Lowe's and Home Depot, have an advantage here as they have larger buildings for wider aisles and spacing. Maybe corporations aren't so bad?

Of course who would have guessed, only a few months ago, that this would even be a consideration.

I'd also say that Hardware sales has several out buildings selling larger items; like furniture. The whole store isn't just the main building. Maybe more spacing there? I wouldn't know. People often say, "you can find anything you want at Hardware Sales." One bolt if you want, it doesn't have to come in a package. Local character.

Another small store that doesn't come up in the discussion is Ace True Value at Sehome Village. Maybe corporate, but smaller than Hardware Sales or Lowe's. Wider aisles, I think. Haven't thought to measure them recently. Ace is under the radar in these discussions, so far.

Some folks are saying people shouldn't be using hardware stores or doing unnecessary things. Personally, since I live in an apartment, I don't have much place for housework so I haven't been to a hardware store since the stay at home edicts came down.

Maybe I'm just writing about this discussion to alleviate some of my own boredom.

Being out around town on my bicycle with no shopping destinations in mind has been a great way to curb cabin fever.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Divide and conquer?

Is it possible that the person who is accusing Joe Biden of sexual misconduct is secretly working for the Trump campaign, or at least a Trump supporter not necessarily connected to the campaign itself? It's just an idea.

Disgruntled Sander's support gets much of the blame, which is a more common theory, but who knows. There could be secret payoffs or at least manipulation coming from some Trump supporters. How about from Russia? Yet another idea.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Why no inflation with printed money? My hypothesis.

Seems like our federal government is now being largely financed by printed money. Not borrowed money, I guess. For years, not enough taxpayer money and too much spending for "pay as you go." Now due to the virus this situation is even more pronounced.

A hazard from printed money is inflation, but some economists wonder, "where is the inflation?"

I recently saw a comment, on Facebook, that seems to answer that question succinctly. "Deflation is cancelling out inflation." Brilliant.

Some things go way up in price while other things don't go up, or even go down in price due to cheap imports, technology or economic downturns. This catches people and business; especially small business; in a bind. How does one pay rising rent when the cost of the widgets one is selling goes down?

The trade situation weighs into this as well. When there is monetary restraint, meaning the printing of less money, the dollar remains stronger. This means our domestic market gets flooded with cheaper widgets from overseas.

It also means foreign money flows into the US as a "safe haven" for investors. This pushes up the cost of things like real estate, thus increasing the cost of living and doing business in the US.

On the other hand, if we print money and devalue the dollar, our products become cheaper on world markets thus helping American business and workers sell products to the world market. It can make products more expensive for American consumers.

Often workers are consumers as well. We do often want the best of both worlds.

Being caught between cheap products and expensive things like healthcare costs, education costs and land values can hurt; especially if you make your living manufacturing and selling products. It's like doing the splits. It's the splits that hurts.

If there's too much inflation so inflation gets totally out of control, that would hurt also, eventually. That doesn't seem to be a problem in the foreseeable future, tho.

Farther down the road and theoretically, yes. Out of control inflation can be a big problem.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Politicians may need to take time to get a consent form filled out before kissing any babies along the campaign trail

Years ago, it was said that one had to kiss a lot of babies along the campaign trail to get elected. Now days, any kind of touching needs the establishment of consent; maybe even a signed waver. There just isn't time for that quality of communication when working a long line of constituents. Joe Biden and others have commented that it's a different world now.

Most recently, even showing up at all in person is hazardous due to the virus. Most of the campaigning has to be done on the computer and through the media. Physical contact is hazardous. The eras keep changing. This too may pass, but it's the situation today.

In some ways, the loss of spontaneity can be mourned, but I've always been a bit odd, myself, pushing intellectual conversation and deep thinking into my social encounters. My style has gone over like a lead balloon in bars where people aren't always in the mood to analyse everything.

Where are the boundaries? How do you feel about being touched?

Over the years, I have been into deep conversation and missed out on some spontaneous encounters and the touching that goes with it. Spontaneity that often comes with alcohol. Not liking the flavor of beer has kept me out of so many of these situations.

I seem to function well without much touching in my life. I also agree with some of the feminist critique of male behavior given the power imbalance at so forth. I happen to be gay, myself, which is yet another dynamic.

That being said, it does seem like the Me Too movement can go too far and bring about a colder world. As with so many things, there is always a need for balance.

Looking deeper than just Me Too, there does need to be better communication in so many encounters. Lots of talking is not a bad idea.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Planet of the humans was misleading about green technology, but I agree that population growth is like the elephant in the room

I disagree with most of Michael Moore's latest film, Planet of the Humans. Green technology is much better than depicted in that misleading film. Still, green technology, alone, may still not be enough to stave off global warming. That's one point made in the film which I agree with.

For instance overpopulation is a problem. No, I don't think we need to promote a mass die off of the human race to address global warming. World population is still growing and we still need to accommodate the growing population. The growth rate is slowing. I would like to see it slow down more significantly to at least zero population growth; steady state. It's not there yet, but it is slowing.

I usually discuss over population as a part of a criticism of anti gay and anti women's rights policies that still exist in much of the third world. Also there's still conservative attitudes about sexuality in parts of the west. It doesn't make sense to prosecute people for not being into total heterosexuality.

I also wouldn't give third world countries a total pass for low consumption because so many people in the third world aspire to consume more. To live more like USA; driving cars and so forth. Economic growth in China over the past few decades; for instance.

Much of the third world is rising out of poverty. This isn't necessarily bad, but looking forward, growing population also means growing consumption as living standards rise.

I do think we can raise living standards with green energy.

While I favor zero population growth, I also realize that there are economic adjustments that need to be made as this usually leads to a higher percentage of the population being senior citizens. Children are the future generations who pay into things like Social Security. Adjustments have to be made, automation, later retirement, different distribution of wealth and so forth.

In the meantime, world population is still growing which means some of that growth still aspires to come to the United States and other western countries. This can help us bolster the number of people paying into Social Security; especially if we do more to legalize these mostly hard working immigrants.

I tend to be fairly liberal on immigration issues, but I also recognize the consequences of population growth. Larger cities, more people, more traffic, a harder time achieving goals for reducing carbon emissions. As population continues to expand, it creates pressure for economic growth.

I also notice that a lot of folks, including some people who are liberal on immigration issues, still don't want to see smaller communities, like Bellingham, WA. grow into big cities. Bellingham is growing and currently facing a housing shortage. Much of our growth is related to our popularity as a retirement destination.

Here is where good planning for density is important. Planning for transit, bike paths, parks, high rises and so forth. Trying to curb sprawl. For instance, we need to think about space wasted in parking lots that are empty much of the time.

Monday, May 11, 2020

My review of Michael Moore's film Planet of the Humans.

Last night I watched Michael Moore's new and controversial film, Planet of the Humans. It's quite critical of green energy saying that it's either been co opted by capitalism, or it's not enough and not that effective. The big problem is still overpopulation, over consumption and capitalism, according to the film. I agree, but it does seem like a very pessimistic film.

It seems like this film is too hard on green energy. I am much more optimistic about green technology, electric cars, batteries, solar, wind and whatever; even though I don't drive a car myself.

I'm not normally a movie person either. This was the first Moore film I watched, tho he has covered quite a few important topics. It does seem like Hollywood sensationalizes and often leads to an outcome that encourages people into yelling matches instead of thoughtful inquiry. I'm more of a science person than an entertainment and Hollywood person. There was, supposedly, quite a bit of science in this film, however. Lots of interviews. Discussion about the intermittent problems with things like solar; for instance the rainstorm scene.

Also, it didn't mention city planning as a way to address global warming. I think green technology can really help along with the bigger cultural changes we need; like reducing population growth, but the way we plan our living arrangements can make a big difference as well. Less sprawl, more walk-able neighborhoods smarter density and so forth. That wasn't mentioned in the film at all.

Lots of very good rebuttals and other videos on my Facebook wall in response. Scroll down or search if you are on Facebook You don't have to be in my friends list to find it if you are logged in.

One of the responses it a link to my own brother's blog about his electric powered car and the solar panels on his house. His blog is called Driving on Sunlight. Here's the link to some answers to concerns people have about electric cars. Electric car FAQ.

Yes, I think the film misrepresented the potential of green technology. I'm still a fan of green technology.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

The concept of original sin and forgiveness could help Joe Biden

Given the problems that Joe Biden is having over the possibility of touching, I got to thinking about this. Maybe the concept of original sin and forgiveness is a useful system. Useful for keeping political movements from turning into circular firing squads. It works pretty well for keeping Donald Trump and his supporters together. The liberal side of politics may need to borrow this system, to some extent.

If one doesn't like the loaded word sin, one can say something else. One can say "no one is perfect." This concept is useful at bringing some humbleness to the discussion and it helps to curb the ego. We are, basically, an animal species. Our emotions don't always fit our best intentions. Social expectations change over time as well. The other side of that system is forgiveness. Forgiveness from sin, or past transgressions.

It's a system that allows Donald Trump to survive with much of the support of his followers intact. I think many of them don't think he's the ideal person, but they can forgive him.

This system does have it's drawbacks, however. There's less accountability given this system. One can pretty much do anything; maybe even shoot someone on Fifth Avenue, and then still be forgiven (that's a bit extreme, but the idea still holds).

I think the concept of original sin and forgiveness has some merit, but it can be taken too far. It seems to work for conservatives. Liberals need something similar.

The word sin is a loaded word. It could be replaced with just simple humility or the realization that no one is perfect. Forgiveness is usually a virtue, but there's always need for balance. Accountability shouldn't be discarded either.

Whether there is a deity or not is another topic. The concept of original sin and forgiveness could have been invented over the centuries by humans, but it seems to work well at reducing the internal strife in social movements. Just about everyone has their skeletons in the closet.

Thursday, May 07, 2020

After restaurants reopen, it might be time to try out the less crowded businesses.

I'm no epidemiologist, but I fear that the infection rate may go up as businesses reopen. Things will have to start opening anyway since staying closed till we get a vaccine is improbable. Hopefully safe practices and better testing can help, but they may just have to reopen things anyway.

When restaurants start to reopen, it may be time for people to discover less popular places. Before the pandemic, I noticed a lot of businesses in Bellingham were more than half empty anyway.

Monday, May 04, 2020

Abstract, like in a nutshell.

Given the likelihood of a contracting economy, there are many virtues of simple living that are being discussed. One thing I've noticed is that technological progress is not even measured in very well in GDP. As technology continues to advance, it can even distract from GDP. For instance look at the falling price of electronic technology. Look at the disruption of jobs, for instance in journalism, due to online news.

At the same time, there is still lots of pressure to grow traditional GDP. Population growth is one thing that creates that pressure given things like the housing shortage.

See next blog entry.

I'd say that even technological advance is not counted in traditional measures of GDP

Economic growth is seen as an unnecessary evil.

My thinking as related to this article about Jacinda Ardern's budget priorities in New Zealand. Emphasis on the Well-being of citizens, rather than traditional measures; like productivity and economic growth.

Lots of people talk about progress on quality of life measures, rather than traditional economic growth. This is becoming more of a common theme as time goes on.

Here's another thing I have noticed, that isn't as widely discussed. Our technological progress has become largely disconnected from our economic growth. Computers and various other things keep getting more sophisticated for less money. "Less money" means this wealth is not being measured by traditional economics. It's an aspect of the quality of life beyond just a slower pace of life. It's technological progress, but it is also missed by traditional economics.

Facebook enables some deep communication (some folks might disagree), but that engagement does not pay one's rent. The web offers lots of opportunities today. Volunteer opportunities, learning and so forth. Opportunities that can be defined as progress, but not often measured as economic growth.

Technology can often mean that making a living becomes more difficult. For instance the disruption in journalism created by media going online.

Another place where technology; the ease of shipping; makes it harder to make a living is in globalization. This can push down wages in more developed economies while, at the same time, being a blessing to consumers. Consumers often benefit while workers suffer. These are often the same people. The same people wearing two different hats as the consumer and worker.

While technology can add to quality of life in ways that aren't often measured in GDP, there still remains a lot of pressure to raise GDP. Pressure to continue the old models of growth.

Part of this pressure relates to the fact that much of the world's population keeps growing. It has also been rising out of poverty. The reduction in percentage of people living in poverty is a massive shift in recent times that we can pat our global selves on the back for. More folks have risen out of poverty, during the past few decades, than at any other time in history.

Added to this is the fact that world population keeps growing. Some of that growth continues to come to the US adding to our pressure for growth; the housing shortage for instance.

Here in the west, the concept of growth appears less necessary. Much of it just seems to be about keeping up with rising prices. Rising housing prices; for instance. There's also the perceived need of "keeping up with the Jones'".

Another pressure comes from the growing wealth gap. While wealth increases for just about everyone, the gap between upper and lower incomes is getting much wider. This pushes up the cost of living, for instance paying the higher cost of a doctor due to the doctor's greater wealth, compared to the average population. Same for costs created by corporate executives.

There is still way too much need to advance wages and GDP.

Interesting analogy, in article, about the act of chewing one's food. Chewing is work in order to bring about the satisfaction of the food. Often, the economy focuses on the chewing as an end in itself versus the outcome. I'm reminded of work for the sake of work; like "do we need that extra shopping center just to create jobs?" "Do we really need those products?" "Do we really need another strip mall?"

I think there is a human need to make progress. Not to go back to a less technological time. Progress can still be made. Still made at an even dizzying pace, but traditional economic growth is less necessary. Traditional economic growth seems to be more disconnected from actual human progress when progress is measured in broader terms.

Sunday, May 03, 2020

Leaner and meaner, a popular phrase in the 1980's could mean letting more people die, these days, from COVID-19

California Official Says Society Should Allow The Coronavirus To Kill The Elderly, Sick, and Homeless So We Can Emerge Stronger.

The chairman of Antioch’s planning commission Ken Turnage II is under fire for an April 23 Facebook post promoting the ‘survival of the fittest.' From The Mind Shield.

Here in my blog, I say that these ideas are out there. Survival of the fittest.

He's called a "California official" in the article, but he's basically just one citizen who happens to be on the planning commission in a small city. People do have freedom of speech. Everything said by anyone, including "public officials," should be taken with a grain of salt. Important conversations are happening.

This is a stark expression of the idea of streamlining society; so to speak. I've also heard the phrase "leaner and meaner." While it can be shocking to contemplate, there is a lot of soul searching and discussion going on, these days, about the inherent worth of all people in society.

Seems like we often make these choices unintentionally in the type of society we create. People die because of traffic accidents; the type of transportation that's promoted. People also die due to poverty, lack of health insurance, homelessness, war, overwork and so forth. The virus may be worse than all of these, but it's the same discussion.

I am glad to see strong attempts being made to protect vulnerable people, these days. It is costly, but a lot of people, I know, would be considered vulnerable. Myself included as I am just past the age of 65. I tend to think of myself as quite healthy, but I've also heard the phrase, "there by the grace of God go I."

People are often treasures in other ways besides economic value or physical endurance. There's a lot of interesting life stories and experiences out there. It's like a heritage.

I think it is a sign of progress that society is trying to error on the side of protection. Times were harsher, in centuries past, before as many safety rules. When there was less we could do to prevent disease.

It will be hard to predict what will happen in the long run. What damage may be done by economic carnage and things like the effects of stay at home orders on mental health and domestic violence.

These discussions are important to have.

Saturday, May 02, 2020

Anger is often a destructive emotion

Seems like anger tends to destroy social movements for a better world. People see anger as a motivator, but it also tends to cause the folks opposing an oppressor to fight among themselves. It can feed into the process of "divide and conquer."

Friday, May 01, 2020

Seems like just about everyone is tainted these days. Joe Biden is not alone.

More news today about allegations of sexual misconduct by Joe Biden.

Seems like the potential for allegations is a likely scenario for possibly the majority of people; given that humans are a somewhat aggressive animal. Good communication is usually not the norm in spontaneous, not always carefully thought out situations.

Could this mean another 4 years of the Donald Trump Presidency? Is Trump, who also faces allegations, less vulnerable because his support base is less concerned about these kind of things?

Is it possible that Biden would step aside, thus opening up the Democratic Party's nomination process again?

Could we ever have a candidate that isn't tainted in some way?

Looking back, there must be a lot of skeletons in people's closets. Drinking parties, or whatever. Norms keep evolving, going forward.

I do think there are a lot of problems with human emotions. Emotions are not always rational. I think anger is about the worst emotion out there, but anger often gets a pass.

On the other hand, a totally rational world seems problematic in other ways.

Bridging that gap between rationality and emotion, I think rational communication is important. Thoughtful communication is often shunned in various situations; given time constraints, the mood or whatever.

Personally, I don't have much desire for touch. Touch can be a minefield. I feel fortunate that way, tho I am not totally exempt from the discussion. I do like looking at guys.

There are, or course, terrible behaviors that need to be prosecuted, but with so many things that are in the shades of grey, we also need to give ourselves some forgiveness for being human. Otherwise we may never be able to work together enough to build a better society.