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.