Saturday, April 29, 2023

A government default could pull the plug on asset values

The debt ceiling impasse has gone to the next step. Surprisingly enough Republicans in the House did barely get on board for a "Republican plan" to raise the ceiling and have big cuts in spending.

Democrats and probably most of the American people would not go for those cuts. Meanwhile, raising taxes isn't being considered by the Republicans.

The government does provide a lot of important services, such as health insurance for many who can't afford super high insurance premiums. Governments provide public safety, police, fire, and the large military budget. Affordable housing is provided as well. Basic research in medicine, space exploration and other science is often funded by a small sliver of the budget which helps to keep us abreast with the rest of the world that is moving forward.

Some people think we need to rely more on the private sector, which does some good things, but much private money goes to private yachts, big homes, called McMansions, second homes, political bribes and multi million dollar salaries for playing football.

There we have the dilemma of the budget. We could just pull the plug and let the economy go into a depression. Much of the money, that we thought we had in things like bank accounts and asset values could disappear. These perceived stores of value could plummet.

Perceived stores of value are possibly no more real that some of the tricks proposed, that Biden could do, such as minting a trillion dollar coin and calling it "money," so we can continue to prop things up, rather than the possibility of panic setting in and things crashing.

One possible scenario for the debt ceiling problem is that the impasse will put the US into default and uncharted financial territory. Like the virus, it could cause financial panic and a Wall Street crash. Like in March of 2020, politicians got a bit scared and figured out how to make more money out of thin air; thus paying unemployment to cover the shutdowns that likely saved many lives. Rents were paid for businesses and individuals when restaurants, bars and so forth closed. Money was spend to develop the vaccine and provide hospitalization to the afflicted. Most of us, still alive at least, came out of the pandemic, but now there is worry about some inflation.

We would be better off if Dianne Feinstein aspired to become an elder states person, rather than trying to hang on as a Senator

I think Dianne Feinstein should step down; given the bottleneck that her temporary absence from the Senate Judiciary Committee places in the way of Biden's judicial appointments.

I wonder why she wants to cling to the job in light of all the damage this situation could do? A younger Democrat, in that position, would be better for the big picture. Come to think about it, Biden, himself, is also up there in the years, but he still seems to be functioning okay.

Maybe Feinstein wants to remain in office for personal reasons to keep engaged and active. If I were in her shoes, I would rather be an elder statesperson (used to be called "elder states man) than have the responsibility and stress of high office. An elder statesperson can remain as engaged as they want to be expressing opinions, granting interviews, raising money, writing articles, influencing politics and so forth.

Former Justice Ginsberg should have taken that route also. Maybe Biden should consider that as well, though he seems to be functioning. The ideas and the staff behind public officials is what's most important. Younger people can continue to carry the torch.

My vote is still for Biden if he is the main Democratic candidate as I remind people that it isn't just about one person. Biden has a whole staff behind him that's likely better than what a Trump, or other Republican would assemble. I vote for the issues that Biden is more likely to represent.

Trigger happy gun owners may be more of a problem than even the guns themselves.

I've read that, In most of the world, going to the wrong house is not a deadly risk. But in the United States it can be. It does seem like we are getting trigger happy, wary of strangers and so forth. The proliferation of guns in this society is a big part of the problem as well.

In an ideal world, anger would be a more immoral emotion than eroticism.

In an ideal world, anger and hate would be emotions that tread close to the lines of immorality while eroticism would be more acceptable.

In this world, it's almost the other way around.

Monday, April 24, 2023

First a teacher was hated in Sudan for the misnaming of a Teddy bear. Now a hateful war.

There's a big war of hate happening inside Sudan.

Flashback to 2007 and I remember the controversy about when a teacher, from UK, was arrested and convicted, in Sudan, for insulting Islam by allowing her class of six-year-olds to name a teddy bear "Muhammad."

She was later released back to the UK. Having some memory of that news, I just looked it up in Wiki.

Here in USA, the name "Teddy Bear" was named after our former president Teddy Roosevelt. One could just call then "stuffed bears," I guess. We, in USA, are usually more tolorent.

Some folks might say a president is different than a religious profit, but some hard core fundamentalist Christians, here in USA, nearly consider Donald Trump to be the second coming of Christ.

I don't think much of fundamentalist religions.

Sunday, April 23, 2023

Variable rate carbon tax could stabilize oil prices the way the Strategic Oil Reserve does now.

During my college years, in the shadow of the 1973 oil crisis, the US created the Strategic Oil Reserve. Back then, the idea was to have a reserve supply of oil in case we needed to fight a war while overseas oil imports were diminished.

Back then, we were dependent on imported oil for much of our supply. Today, we produce most of our own oil, due to increased domestic production; thus the reserve serves another purpose.

Since my college days, the use of our Strategic Oil Reserve has shifted to other goals; mainly the goal of stabilizing oil prices. When gas prices go up, Biden and other presidents, have dipped into the reserve to lower prices and to save their own political fortunes.

When prices go down, the reserve can be refilled. This practice can make money for the treasury due to the process of buying cheap / selling high.

It is not necessarily a bad strategy, but I also think this price stabilization effect can be done with carbon taxes that would be imposed when oil is too cheap. This would put a floor on oil prices so they are less apt to undercut alternative energy. The tax could be removed or lowered at times when oil prices are high. That temporary tax cut could relieve the shock of sudden price hikes.

Saturday, April 22, 2023

The American people are to blame for the national debt

There is much anxiety about the federal debt. Finger pointing as well. Ultimately, I think it's the American people who can be blamed for the debt. Not wanting to pay higher taxes while still demanding various things, like the military for instance, from government.

Republicans are likely more to blame, but Democrats are not angels either. Republicans refusal to even consider tax increases is a problem. Another problem is the idea that money and wealth is the most important goal in life.

In my personal life, I haven't been that motivated by making more money. I do need enough for survival and comfort as a single person and a bit more to make life interesting, some travel for instance.

On the other hand, I do have a big interest in the workings of the economy on a large scale. Not my personal finance, but learning, from a distance, how business, government and so forth function. I have an interest in how these things can remain viable to create the economy that we are dependent on. I was a geography major, in college and one of my favorite subjects is "Economic Geography."

Another Earth Day

Sometimes I think Earth Day is just another way to appease our guilt and make it look like we are trying to do something to save the livability of the planet.

This year, a friend was thinking of attending a tree planting event, but found that the event, near his neighborhood, was fully booked. Maybe not enough saplings at that location, but other locations, in the city, still had openings. He wanted to walk, rather than drive across town, but he may attend anyway regardless of whether there is a sapling for him to plant.

The events offer instructions on where to park for attending the event.

Years ago, another friend walked into a meeting, I was at, with sapling in hand asking people if they wanted to take one for planting. I took one and then walked to Sehome Hill to plant it myself. There wasn't an event. I don't know if it survived or not. There wasn't an event to show me how to plant it.

Now I can't tell if it survived, or not, as when I look at that area, I just see lots of trees anyway. I forgot exactly where I planted it.

Many more years before that, I remember the first Earth Day while I was in high school. The art teacher led a tree planting event, but a biology teacher thought the trees wouldn't survive on that hillside which was naturally a grassland environment. That event was still a nice memory.

Thursday, April 06, 2023

Driver assist technology could be used to enforce safer driving.

While I tend to feel favorable toward the police, I also understand the argument that "an ounce of prevention," from things like social services, is better than "a pound of cure;" only relying on police.

This same logic can apply to traffic safety as well. Driver assist technology and even self driving technology is becoming more prevalent. I've heard that we can pretty much make the cars enforce things like speed limits, but there is reluctance to do this from automakers and the driving public.

How about having a breathalyzer in all cars so the car doesn't start if the breathalyzer detects alcohol? We've had that technology, since the 1980s, as it is often installed in the cars of folks who have been convicted of drunk driving.

How about having the cars, themselves, enforce speed limits and having the cars refuse to do reckless driving? The human driver could still override these features given certain emergencies or the need for higher speeds in passing and so forth.

This isn't just my idea, I've heard, on the news, that we could do a lot more to make cars safer by just installing technology where the car refuses to do reckless driving. GPS could be used so the car knows the speed limits for each road.

Many of the problems, that cause folks to complain about police, stem from traffic stops. The cars, themselves could do more to enforce public safety.

Strong Towns suggests changing street design to encourage slower and safer driving. Slower style city planning is nice. I would appriciate it being a bicyclist and a pedestrian, but it does take billions of dollars in retrofitting. A quicker solution is to use technology, in the cars themselves, to enforce safer driving.

If better mental health services is seen as the answer, instead of better gun legislation, that can be turned into an argument for universal access to mental healthcare and maybe single payer.

Some Republicans say that guns aren't the problem, the problem is mental health. Maybe that could be turned into an argument for universal access to healthcare. Possibly an argument for single payer.

Ironically, Republicans are not likely to embrace that logic, however.

Today I hear in the news that quite a few people will loose access to healthcare as the pandemic emergency winds down. Some low income folks, in states like Texas, will loose access to Medicaid expansion; states that still refuse Obamacare's Medicaid expansion.

Others, even in states like Washington that has the Medicaid expansion, will likely get confused by the myriad of choices and miss open enrollment periods as some people need to reenroll in various plans as things change after the pandemic.

In some cases, folks will fall through the cracks and loose access to psychiatric medicines that they need as the complex landscape of healthcare finance keeps changing.

Add to this more and more guns in society and you have a recipe for problems.

Biden's new energy standards for mobile homes may only cost pocket change compared to renting a space for a mobile home anyway. Might as well not fret about that.

Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) is asking the Biden administration to delay new energy standards for mobile homes set to go into effect at the end of next month.

I say, "why bother fretting about this?" It seems like the $750, added purchase cost for a singlewide mobile home to make it more energy efficient, is just pocket change compared to monthly rent for a space at mobile home parks in this (western Washington State) area, at least. I've heard that rent can be around $800 per month just to be in a mobile home park; if one is lucky enough to find a space. That's not counting utilities. One month covers that entire cost difference for the better insulated homes to save lots of money, over time, on heating and cooling.

I assume the cost is only for new mobile homes as existing ones would be grandfathered in, for a while, anyway.

This may be one difference between "blue state" and "red state" thinking as maybe, in South Carolina where Senator Scott is from, rents and property prices are lower. In Bellingham area, rents and property values are high as our blue state economy tends to be booming. That prosperous situation does bring other challenges, however; like rents so high, in our "hoity toity" communities, that they dwarf the cost of things like better insulated windows.

I've never been to South Carolina, but I hear that rents may be more affordable, but that's just a stereotype?

Maybe it's expensive in the Charlston area. I do have a college degree in geography. I hear that, in North Carolina, Ashville rents and property values are through the roof.

Wednesday, April 05, 2023

What if DeSantis were to become president and pardon Trump?

Here's a thought experiment. What would happen if Ron DeSantis became president in 2025 and pardoned Donald Trump? I realize that DeSantis and Trump are rivals, however, for the Republican nomination. They aren't exactly buddy buddy.

On the Trump topic, I haven't said much lately. My reaction to the indictment ranges from "glad that it's proceeding" to a bit of "indifference." Long term issues, such as the economy and climate change, tend to captivate me more.

I've always been, pretty much, a moderate Democrat, myself.

It seems like it's gotten to where ethics are more and more determined by politics. Guilt or innocence, ethical or unethical depends, to a large extent, on who one asks.

Republicans tend to think one way, Democrats another.

Seems like there are a lot of things that Trump has done that would do more than raise the eyebrows of; for instance, evangelical Christians, but these days most Republicans do give him a pass. That's why I ponder the question, "what if DeSantis were to pardon Trump if he were President by 2025."

What if red states were to protect their red friends and prevent them from being sent to blue states for legal proceedings? The United States ununited? So far, that hasn't happened, however.

I often think that when in power, Republicans tend to show more bias toward their own comrades than Democrats do. For instance Senator Al Frankin stepped down, rather quickly, after mild acusations related to the Me Too movement, while, around the same time, Trump could "double down" and still keep his support.

Most likely there was never a totally objective basis for ethics anyway. It just seems like, as time goes on, there is less and less of an illusion of objective ethics.

I still try to hold to my own set of ethics, however. As for society, there still seems to be enough common ground that, for the most part, society still does function.

Thinking more deeply about the basis of ethics.

From observation of human behavior, I tend to think that ethics evolves out of our need to function among one another in this world. Our need to be neighborly and reduce harm or pain to one another. Our need to work together for building the institutions of society that allow us to achieve more than we would as isolated groups or individuals.

I don't rule out a spiritural dimention to life, but seems like our rules, beliefs and ethics are separate from that. Maybe they are inspired, but looking at how humans function, I am skeptical.

There are the laws of physics and there are a lot of open questions about intelligents and spiriturality that I enjoy contemplating.

There is so much that we still don't know so I go at it with a bit of humbleness.

The behaviour of fundamentalist religious people tends to discredit any idea of a divine basis for human morality. At the same time, I haven't thrown out the idea that a divinity exists, it just seems like we (humans) get into trouble when we try to define it in our own terms.

In politics, it seems to me like extreme left, or extreme right, doesn't lead to good governance. Middle ground, with some compromise, works best.

Monday, April 03, 2023

Slowing population growth could benefit the nations where people still want to live. Benefit democratic ideals.

Elon Musk is worried about the population bust with it's potential drag on world economies.

Instead of that, it looks like population is shrinking in places like Russia, where people are trying to get out, but population is still growing in places like Canada, where people are waiting at the borders trying to get in.

If economic growth follows population growth, countries like Canada, with better respect for diversity, will grow. This sorting out of nations could benefit democratic ideals, however worldwide economic growth can still present problems such as climate change.

Electric trolley style mass transit gets around the battery chemicals problem

There is some worry, not just from right wing pundits, but from others that a green energy revolution may be difficult. One big concern is the chemicals needed in batteries for cars and utility power storage; the mining and so forth.

I still think we should migrate more to public transit which can function without batteries. Seattle's trolley bus system, for instance. Electricity fed direct from overhead lines.

More compact city planning, more transit, walking and bicycling is needed.

Electrification is better than fossil fuels, but the transition may not be as easy as some folks think. Heat pumps can save lots of energy for buildings. They are better than regular electric heating, but smaller homes are a virtue as well.

We need to think beyond just sitting back and expecting that battery technology will do it all for us in just the next two decades or so. That's a tall order.

More deaths among medically expensive people, plus more homecare has bolstered the solvency of Medicare

Catch your breath. Medicare is on stronger financial footing than was feared a few years back. The deadline, for it's costs to outstrip revenue, has been pushed back 3 years to 2031.

Trustees anticipate some cost savings for Medicare, thanks to a switch to less-expensive outpatient treatments and because some people, who would have required the most costly care, died prematurely during the pandemic.

That does sound a bit harsh as some of the most costly people have died, but it means a savings for Medicare.

Social Security faces a projected revenue shortfall by 2033, unless raising the tax cap or instituting benefit cuts. Increased taxes have been proposed by Democrats for shoring up both the Medicare and the Social Security systems. Another alternative is less services and / or more deaths.

Link to article that I got this info from. I saw beyond the headlines.

Natural disasters create more stumbling blocks to Republican budget cutting plans

The Republican goal to cut federal spending would be hard to achieve. Seems like every time we turn around, there's another disaster. Recent tornados across the Midwest; a case in point.

More and more money is needed for disaster relief and budget planners don't seem to take that into account. The disasters are often larger than anticipated.

Way back in the days before our government was as large as it is today, communities were more left on their own to repair the damage based on private charity. Many needs would go unmet.