Saturday, July 24, 2021

I'm interviewed by Lynnette Allen on a wide range of topics. June 2021

Interview in several small segments all here. At first we tested the sound a bit.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Walmart tests out all automated checkout. Is there a better use for human beings than being tethered to the cash register?

First being tried at Fayetteville, AR. A Walmart with all automated checkout.

Interesting to note, according to this article, Store Manager Carl Morris, says the new layout seems to be having a positive effect on the employees and their customer service. Now out from behind a cash register, they are less focused on speed and more focused on each customers’ needs.

“We will go to any register, and we will help you in any fashion you want, whether it’s checking out one item or all the items. Any questions you have, we’re right there for you,” Morris said.

Interesting. Employees freed from being as tethered to the machine. The customer is more tethered instead?

I've noticed, at automated checkouts, that one employee now has responsibility for several checkout lanes. In some ways, they are even busier and their focus is scattered across more lanes. Not necessarily a more human, less production line experience.

As for the customer, each store has a different type of automated kiosk. Customers, including myself, are pretty clumsy and stumbling so checkout is slower. Clerks are more expert at checkout than the customers, themselves. Also, since automated checkout is not standardized across various retail outlets, customers stumble through the learning curve for each store.

Still, I think this is a wave of the future. I hear that eventually, the market basket will tally items as the customer puts items in the basket. Maybe an easier experience.

Former presidential candidate Andrew Yang talked about basic income as things, like artificial intelligence, take away lots of routine work. Are there more interesting things that people can do?

Are there other goals in life besides speed and efficiency? People often choose the shortest, quickest line for checkout. I often use other criteria, like how attractive is the clerk. Some of the clerks, I know, so there might be other reasons for conversation; like; Tim's working today, I'll go through his line.

Some people boycott Walmart, but my main reason for not shopping there is the automobile sprawl around Walmart. Me, being a bicyclist and pedestrian; I usually just avoid the whole part of town that Walmart is in.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Home value inflation begets other inflation

There is quite a bit of talk, especially among people on the political right, that inflation is coming back.

Guess what. Inflation has been rampant for many years. At least 3 significant items, that are considered important in people's lives, have been going way up in cost during recent years. The cost of housing, the cost of healthcare and the cost of a college education.

Now some of the rest of society is trying to catch up with these costs. For instance raising the minimum wage so workers, in places like supermarkets and restaurants, can afford rent. Government spending has been increasing also; for instance subsidizing the cost of healthcare with Medicare, Medicaid and Obamacare.

In my opinion, attempts to create a more fair society does have the side effect of spreading inflation across wider sectors of the economy. Prices, such as found at the supermarket, have been dirt cheap for many years relative to these other things. Society has become used to low prices, at places like Walmart, on the backs of an army of low wage workers.

Technology and globalization has brought down the costs for many goods and services that we have become accustom to. We just can't "have it all." In some ways, we, as consumers, have become spoiled.

In many cases, business gets the blame, but quite a bit of business does operate on a thin margin.

In small businesses, the owner sometimes makes less than low wage employees after bills are paid.

In the case of large corporations, there may be a handful of overpaid executives, but the bulk of the budget pie still goes to the cost of the goods on supermarket shelves and a large army of low wage workers.

Many economists will say that inflation is caused by the Federal Reserve creating too much money. More money chasing the same number of goods and services. They also will say that there is too much government spending. Government pumping this new money into the economy. There is an element of truth here, but the problem is that it isn't easy to turn off the spigot. Turning off the spigot is painful and creates a situation where lots of people can no longer afford things like housing, healthcare and college.

Turning off the spigot also pulls the "punchbowl" away from vast industries; for instance healthcare. It creates painful situations where landlords and homeowners become "upside down" in their mortgages.

Speaking of the printing of money, it seems like government spending needs to be propped up by the Federal Reserve. Idealistically, government revenue would come from taxes, but taxes are never popular. Republicans are pretty much all anti tax to the point of even talking about a "no new taxes" infrastructure bill.

Democrats are not enthusiastic about taxes either. Taxes are a nonstarter on the campaign trail. There is also the fear that taxation will "slow down" the economy and job creation.

It's like no one wants to say it, but consumers and voters are kind of spoiled.

We can change our culture and look more at the big picture, beyond our own self interests, but that takes a new way of thinking.

It's like we can't get beyond blaming government, corporations, "the bad guys," "the welfare moms," or whatever for these problems. What we really need is a cultural evolution.

Sunday, June 06, 2021

The vaccines are a game changer.

Vaccines have been a game changer as society seems to be opening up fast. As things open up, being unvaccinated is now more risky.

Too bad there are still lots of people who aren't able to be vaccinated for medical reasons. In cases where folks have compromised immune systems, the vaccines are less effective.

The rest of society isn't waiting for these people. I still do wear a mask in stores as some stores require them while others don't. I would guess Bellingham Food Coop might be one of the last mask holdouts.

I still see more masks than not in stores I go to. One is usually only in a store for a few minutes; so it isn't real hard to wear a mask.

Much of the last year, I've either been in my apartment or outside so I haven't had to wear a mask all day. When I was working, I was in the building alone.

Now I am starting to go back to indoor restaurants. Masks are not worn while eating, but still in transition while away from one's table.

In the last few days, it seems like more masks are coming off in restaurants; even for the staff.

People with compromised immune systems are likely at risk, but that's a subsegment of the population. Too bad, but it may be inevitable. Life moves on. Could be like being thrown under the bus.

Speaking of the bus, I often bring up the accepted risk of car accidents. Around 35,000 people die, each year, in car accidents yet our transportation system still relies on cars. The bus is a lot safer.

The Strong Towns feed, that I follow, has posted quite a bit about designing streets for lower speeds. That would save many lives. We design our streets for too much speed and then rely on law enforcement to cool the speed. Then people complain about the police. In an ideal society, street design would slow traffic down naturally.

I've also read that the death toll goes down in larger cities. This is because traffic has to be slower when there is more congestion. On the wide open road, death tolls go up per trip.

Apparently, during the pandemic, there was less traffic, but what traffic there was went faster and the death rate, per trip, went up. One good thing about congested, slow moving traffic is safety.

I got to thinking that since I-5 is so often slowed to just a crawl in the Seattle area, it might as well be surface streets. Surface streets are friendlier to adjoining neighborhoods; like in Vancouver, BC where the freeways don't carve through the center of the city.

Another headline, I saw, in Strong Towns, says that the future of the electric car is not the Tesla, but the golf cart. I'll want to read that article. I notice a lot of electric bikes on the roads and trails. Kind of like the golf cart, I guess.

Bellingham City Council recently had a meeting to discuss speed limits on the trails. 15 mph works fine for me.

Some of the electrics go quite a bit faster. It's easier to regulate speed than to try and decipher whether an electric vehicle qualifies as a bike. What about electric wheelchairs?

I haven't heard the outcome of that meeting, yet, but just saw some headlines in the Herald.

I guess, if people grumble about slower roads, I can always say, "we have the airplane." There is even a new supersonic plane being developed that can get across USA in 3 hours.

The military is working on a way to deliver cargo anywhere in the world by dropping it from a space rocket. Delivery time in 1 hour.

My ideas beyond just masks to weighing safety, I guess.

Yes, it is good to see things open up remembering that with cars, society has accepted death as a part of life anyway. It's always like the preverbal tight rope walk. How much risk is acceptable versus living life?

Friday, June 04, 2021

Looking back on one of my career goals and why it didn't happen.

From 1972 KHQ Spokane radio TV brochure.

I look back on a career I thought I might have when I was in high school. Broadcast journalism? Radio interested me more than television, but this 1972 brochure from a Radio / TV station I admired shows more TV than radio. TV more colorful.

That career never happened the way I had envisioned it. My nervous conditions and unusual personality was a factor. While having my aspirations, I also worried that I might freak out, flunk out of school or flunk out of college. That didn't happen either.

The industry, I thought I might go into, has it's problems also. On radio and also television, most of the creative programing comes from the top down. It's fed from the national networks. That was true in my high school days and still today; to some extent.

My high school self would have had no idea what the term "social media" met.

It didn't quite work out the way people envisioned, back then, but I have expressed many thoughts, mostly on social media. I made my living in a fairly peaceful way as a custodian.

My life, during my working years, might have been a middle ground between failure and fame. Modest, but I would like to say still worthy. It does kind of make sense, to me, how it turned out.

On a trip from Pullman, where I grew up, to Spokane, I wanted to tour some of the radio studios. My dad took me to a few. KREM, KJRB; also KHQ.

At the wonderful world of KHQ, a staff person playing tour guide ask me what specialty I wanted in broadcasting. Sales, news, cameraman (back in the pre feminist days).

I hadn't decided so I was stumbling for an answer. My dad tried to fill the void by saying, "he wants to be president of the company."

The person giving the tour was taken aback. He said, "well, you really can't start there." I was a bit embarrassed. I basically just was interested in an overview tour.

See also How my career plans got changed and I ended up in Bellingham.

Wednesday, June 02, 2021

Broader based inflation may be the price of a more equitable economy.

For a long time there has been a disconnect between things like the cost of housing (in so many metro areas where people want to live) and other parts of the economy.

It's not just low wages for essential workers, it's also bargain prices for a large number of consumer goods and services that people have taken for granted.

There has also been a disconnect between the wages for high end professionals and other workers.

A round of wage increases and public assistance has been due. As the cost of wage increases gets passed on through the system, inflation will likely become broader across a wider range of consumer prices.

Yes, a little inflation, or maybe even more than a little, but consumers can't expect to "have it all."

I've often thought that maybe the problem is that the cost of living, such as housing costs, is too high, rather than wages being too low. I guess that would mean the need for a crash in things like the housing market and homeowners becoming "upside down" in their homes; like in 2008. A difficult situation in it's own way.

Maybe it's always easier to bring wages and prices up, rather than trying to drive things down. Hopefully the goal is less income disparity, not just between the 1% and the rest, but within the rest as well.

As for the owners of business, some business does operate on a thin margin. Great accumulation of wealth is sometimes still needed as its the capital that is the business. It can be the buildings, equipment, patents and so forth. If it wasn't there, the business might not be there.

In other cases, wealth is truely wasted. How many vacation mansions does one need?

Beyond just the very top, I think upper middle class needs to be part of the solution as well. Upper middle class creates much of the market and by voting, the political climate that shapes business. Why do we remain dependent on cars and sprawl? Market and political forces play a role.

For everyone, here comes some higher prices to benefit one's neighbors who work at places like restaurants.

Saturday, May 08, 2021

Businesses create low wage jobs because they too (these businesses) are also operating on a thin margin

Quite a few people are saying that they aren't that enthused about going back to low paid jobs; like they had before the pandemic. Expectations have been ratcheted up another notch by generous corona virus relief packages.

On the other hand, a lot of employers have said that they operate on a thin margin. For instance, supermarkets with discount prices and a thin overhead. Miss matches of the economy.

At the same time, there are huge windfall profits that have been made. Not necessarily at those same supermarkets and businesses that pay the wages, however.

Yesterday, I heard about someone who's house had appreciated 3 fold in value since they bought around a decade ago. They were planning to sell and move to a less expensive area reaping a huge capital gain.

I heard they have family in that less expensive area, so it's not like they are moving to total social isolation though they are moving to Kansas.🤣 After buying a house in Kansas, they will have lots of money leftover.

Washington State's capital gains tax may have missed the mark

Here in Washington State, the legislature has just passed a new capital gains tax, but from what I hear, it exempts homeowners. Maybe it comes from a "stick it to business" mindset taxing capital gains on stock transactions, but exempting windfall profits from homes. I think we need to include windfall profits from selling homes also.

Somehow, we need to figure out how to better balance the economy for people in lower wage jobs. In a lot of cases, even the businesses these people work in are not raking in huge profits.

The wealthy are not necessarily the owners of those particular businesses.

To some extent, raising wages will raise the price of doing business in so many businesses that are on a thin margin. This means higher prices for consumers.

It's like we keep meeting the enemy and the enemy is ourselves. In so many cases, the consumer market is the ultimate employer.

Upper middle class people, eating in restaurants, will now have to "be the change they want to see in this world" if they want a more fair and equitable world.

As the September 4th end date for some of these generous coronavirus unemployment benefits approaches, there will need to be lots of patience and adjusting as we try and accommodate our ever increasing expectations for fairness and equity in society.

We also need to figure out a better deal for many of the people who rent who have seen their rents skyrocket.

Washington State's new capital gains tax is facing a court challenge so it's days may be numbered. Though I am no expert, from what I understand, the new law is based on people's income. The tax applies only if one's income is above a certain threshold. This means filling out an income tax form to the state and Washington State constitution prohibits an income tax.

Personally, I am in favor of income taxes, but that would take more heavy lifting on the part of the legislature. This capital gains tax may be struck down in its present form.

A friend of mine suggested it should have been more like a sales tax on capital gains transactions, rather than based on a person's income. Easier to do legally. Also should include homes.

Based on transactions, it could still set a threshold of high end transactions so as to exempt lower value transactions. That could fix the current legal challenge.

My friend suggested that we also need to raise property taxes on high end residential properties. There are lots of multi million dollar mansions in this state.

Similar tax ideas could be applied nationally.

I may be a bit over my head in discussing taxes, but these ideas seem to make sense to me.

I've probably lost the audience to slumber already anyway.🤣

Thursday, May 06, 2021

Liberal, open minded religion provides a good foundation for accepting our ever changing understanding of science

I got to thinking that liberal religion provides a good foundation to accepting science. By "liberal," I mean the accepting that our understanding of truths can evolve. The realization that each of our understandings of truth isn't necessarily cast in stone.

Science provides a pretty good approximation of truth that works enough to get us through the day. It's practical. It provides our technologies, modern medicine and so forth. At the same time, these ideas are subject to revision and improvement.

Liberal religion is okay with an evolving understanding. Okay with change that can come from learning.

Religion isn't necessary for science, but I think a willingness to learn and change is pretty much necessary for science.

Religion, while not necessary, still provides hope for things that science has not yet provided convincing evidence for.

A sense of life being more than just a short trip to a dead end. A sense of meaning and purpose in the universe. The idea that something one thinks of as "good" will ultimately prevail.

There is also a lot of community connection that some people get from religion as well.

Wednesday, May 05, 2021

Biden talks about the successful Northeast Amtrak corridor. I compare it to California.

Biden's speech for the 50th anniversary of Amtrak said some amazing things about the Northeast rail corridor.

Interesting part of the speech, for me, starts at 16 minutes in and goes to about 19 minutes. Just 3 minutes of amazing numbers. Between New York and Washington, DC, Amtrak carries 4 times as many passengers as all the airlines along the east coast. Amazing.

One wonders if these numbers stand up to fact checking, but, so far, I haven't heard it disputed.

If those Amtrak passengers had to go by car, 7 new lanes would have to be added to I-95.

Yes, rail works in the Northeast Corridor. It goes pretty fast, but isn't considered "high speed rail" by certain international standards. Still, it's pretty good.

Biden said that there are only 3 curves, along that route, which could be removed to bring this already existing line closer to high speed.

I got to thinking they already have a good right of way through a densely populated corridor. That's why rail works so good there. The dream of fast trains, in California, is more the brunt of jokes.

High speed going through California's Central Valley, between San Francisco and Los Angeles is too already built up with sprawl for a new dedicated corridor. Too many crossings and so forth. Prime farmland. Sprawling cities, like Fresno. That's a problem with California's proposed high speed line between San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Another fast train idea might work better for California, however.

Los Angeles to Las Vegas, Nevada. That is now being talked about for high speed rail. Much of that corridor is sparsely populated desert with the two large passenger generation points at both ends. Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

I think the dream of a nationwide high speed network is beyond our means, but we can benefit from rail improvements.

When I use Amtrak, I'm on vacation so speed isn't the only criteria.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

I'm relived that the verdict is guilty in this case.

I'm relieved that the Chauvin verdict is guilty. Partially because of the prospect of civil unrest if the verdict wasn't guilty. As for the actual crime, I wasn't there to judge the facts, but seems like, from what I can gather in this specific case, guilty is the proper verdict.

Monday, April 19, 2021

My ideal person is more than one person

Someone ask in a group on Facebook about what your version of an ideal partner would be. My answer was:

My ideal man is more than one man. I find different things in different people. A friendly chat with a young slim guy in a gym shower can feed my fantasies. Other people can be like old friends with a lot of shared times and history. Different people share different interests. I like having a wide variety of people available in community. At the same time, I do like living by myself. Not in isolation, but in close proximity to others who like to participate in various public things. Walking groups, dinner gatherings, political causes, dancing and being on Facebook.

To some extent, society as a whole criminalizes poverty. Police are more a scapegoat.

Police reform isn't necessarily a bad idea, but I do tend to think a lot of the anger against police is misplaced anger against things like gentrification, income inequality, poverty and so forth.

Also I notice (my own hunch at least) some parts of life are less funky, in a way, than in years past. Cities are trying to "clean up the city." When I was a child, we wandered around town with less worry and supervision. Bad things happened, but there was less worry and awareness of it.

Now society demands a higher level of safety. Seatbelts, for instance. Drunk driving laws more enforced. Often for good reason, but not everyone fits those molds easily.

The police are like at the knife edge of a blade cutting through. They get the blame as they are often the bringers of the bad news in efforts to keep the town more tidy.

One of the problems that we have is that poverty is criminalized. There are laws against sleeping in an RV on city streets, for instance.

Some of these laws are now not being enforced, which is good. Looking back, the laws were problematic. Now, with the virus and the Boise court ruling on homelessness, things may be changing for the better.

We could accept RVs, tiny homes and even, in some cases tents, as a legitimate form of low income housing by admitting to the fact that other housing is in short supply.

We could work with the situation as it is to improve things with various technologies. The smartphone is already used as contact. People can have PO boxes. Composting toilets can help in RVs, there can be trash pickup. Some areas can have reasonable fees for things like trash pickup and water.

Admit that we are a bit like a third world country. Try and make the best of the reality of these situations, rather than criminalizing then.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

The police do make some mistakes, but they get too much blame for society's problems.

I'll admit I may be writing from a position of white privilege, but I do feel that so much media focus on deadly mistakes made by police usually leaves out some deeper issues. These mistakes are bound to happen in tense situations.

Conservatives will say that the violent crime rate is higher in black neighborhoods. Maybe better to say in poor neighborhoods. Discussing underlying causes of these problems is valuable.

I only have my own opinions, but I think about things like restrictive "single family" zoning and it's contribution to the high cost of housing.

Segregation is often an unintended consequence of things, in society, that are designed to protect people's wealth and peace of mind. In the past, there was a history of more overt racism behind lots of urban planning decisions, but now many traditions, rooted in the past, continue without the overt stated racism.

I've seen some articles about this. The racial roots of some zoning rules that have been cleansed of their original, 1950s, language, but still are enforce.

I would think that over dependence on the automobile contributes to problems. The way freeways have carved up cities.

There is the problem of traffic stops in the first place. A fear of what's lurking inside vehicles. Who's behind the tinted glass? Do they have a gun? Were they reckless drivers? Are they on drugs? Automobiles, in the hands of the general public, can be very dangerous. I think about the problem of "stranger danger." How wary ordinary people are of folks they don't know. A lot of people fear using public transit for that reason, but is public transit really as dangerous, or unpleasant, as folks perceive?

I think maybe we should all be more accepting of strangers.

There is a lot of suspicion, out there, created by a climate of fear. Media can enhance fear as it often highlights the one in a million type fluke events and crimes when the overall statistics might say that common activities; like driving a car, are more dangerous. More dangerous than, say riding a bus with unknown passengers.

Scared to ride the bus? Picture of haunted Whatcom Transit bus, Halloween 2010.

When people get to know each other, fear usually diminishes. Problem is that in most situations, there isn't time to develop a rapport with people we encounter.

A group of menacing looking teenagers might be fine, if one gets to know them more. Even just some brief conversation. Most situations don't allow that, however. People will walk across the street instead. I'll admit I'd walk across the street also.

I'm a bit shy on first contact with people, but, if the opportunity is there, I am pretty open to meeting new people. I don't worry too much about privacy or being out there in public. Still, I avoid things out of fear as well.

Some folks are very insular and stay in their small world of friends. That's a common part of human nature. Other folks are more open to mingling with the public, with the diversity that the public mix brings.

Maybe we do need to be more tolerant and not allow as many things to annoy us. Sometimes, though, people can be annoying and even outright dangerous. There are times when one has to call a spade a spade. I would think that the police aren't usually going out there arresting people without cause.

The police have to deal with things all the time. People and situations that other folks, including myself, tend to avoid. Part of the problem is the way our society tends to isolate people from one another. It's kind of a natural cliquishness. I think a lot of the problems, related to the police, are more the symptoms of human tendencies. Things that would cause everyone to have to rethink their own tendencies.

As for stranger danger, here is a funny thought I often have walking on the sidewalk. When I see some young people heading my direction on skateboards, my first thought is often, "they are cute." My second thought is to jump out of the way.

Fortunately, I am still quite agile so jumping out of the way works. Also, even if I didn't jump, they can almost always swerve around me anyway. They are kind of fun to watch.

My point being to try and have a different mindset than fear, or anger is often a good strategy.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

If international competitiveness of corporations is compromised paying whole bill for infrastructure, maybe a gas tax and or carbon tax could help.

Looks like all Democrats may not support Biden's raising of corporate taxes / infrastructure bill. With Republicans probably against it, just one no vote from a Democrat would kill the bill.

I got to thinking, maybe they should spread the tax over a wider base of revenue sources. Raise corporate tax slightly less, but add a gas tax. Also a tax on high income individuals. Small taxes in all these areas.

Basically a gas tax is a carbon tax. Yes, a true carbon tax covers all carbon fuels, but gasoline is one of the worst. We already have a gas tax. The federal gas tax hasn't been raised in years so it could go up a bit. A new tax, such as a carbon tax, might be harder to pass.

Just raise the gas tax a few pennies. 2 or 3 cents a gallon? These kind of taxes can be regressive so proposed carbon taxes have included complex systems for rebating money to low income people. Often the proposals fail due, in part, to complexity of measures to try and mitigate the impact on low income and essential workers.

Maybe just a small tax is the answer. Keep it simple.

Just a few pennies wouldn't stop climate change, but it's better than nothing. Keeping it low is a simple way to address the regressive nature of such a tax.

Over time, it could be raised. Anti tax people don't like the idea of a tax raising over time. They see it as the camel putting his nose under the tent and then ratcheting it up.

If global warming is as serious as some scientists think, a tax that ratchets up might be the least of our problems.

One problem with any tax change is how hard it is to get anything through the Senate. If we can get enough Senators on board and use the reconciliation tool against filibuster, we might be able to raise modest taxes. If this were the case, the taxes wouldn't have to be the be all and end all solution.

Easier passage through the Senate would allow things to be adjusted on an ongoing basis. This could include taxes as well as infrastructure improvements and strategies for dealing with climate change. It wouldn't have to be the one do or die one big time solution.

We really need to take care of these things as we go along.

As for a tax on wealthy individuals, that could direct a corporation's capital to better uses. Corporations sometimes use much of their money to pad the incomes of their top executives / stockholders. Other times, they invest it in things, like new buildings or scientific research, to improve their products and services.

If the corporation is using it's money to improve it's product and service, that's not necessarily bad, but if the money is mostly going to personal income of the folks on top, it should be more taxed.

Maybe it's easier to sort that out as a personal income / wealth, or even / inheritance tax than as a business / corporate income tax.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Outer space is a different kind of a frontier than the American West. It's more about learning than expansionism in the foreseeable future.

YouTube has a lot of videos from the History Channel.

Last night, I watched part of one about the westward expansion of America. Ever since I can remember, I've thought that one of America's biggest problems is loss of the frontier. By mid 20th Century, our expansionist culture had pretty well run up against environmental constraints.

Outer space is a different kind of a frontier. It's more of a technical and learning frontier. Not one where millions of will head out west in covered wagons. It's not the same as the Oregon Trail or the California Gold Rush.

It's more of a spectator experience for average people, except for the relatively few scientists on teams, such as the folks working with the Mars Rovers. For the rest of us, it can be a great learning experience and the technology is useful, back here on earth.

Last night, I turned off the frontier show about halfway through fearing it would give me nightmares. The brutality of life on the frontier was depicted graphically. A woman screaming while giving birth in a wagon train. A man in pain as they were sewing up wounds from a grizzly bear attack. He did survive, but about then I turned it off fearing the night ahead.

Interesting that the video did drop in a segment with Donald Trump talking about the American spirit of perseverance. While Trump didn't have the physically hard life of the frontier, there is something about his style that has resonated with that spirit.

Today we continue needing to redefine culture somehow. We've made it to the west coast long ago.

Friday, April 09, 2021

Single, child free lives of voluntary simplicity. An overlooked strategy to combat global warming.

Biking along Old Samish Highway.

For the past few decades, possibly over half of the American people have been struggling economically. Just renting an apartment, buying one's first home and raising a family has become more difficult due to income inequality.

I haven't been struggling as much, mostly because I have not wanted to raise a family. Have not sought many of the things other people have aspired to.

One would think lives, like mine, could be more of a role model for living in today's economy, but, to a large extent, they have seemed to be ignored.

The percent of American people who remain single has increased, but I seldom see this described as a solution to our economic problems. Less population growth, less consumption, simpler living, but it isn't discussed that way.

Given environmental constraints, it could lead to a better world for everyone; including for those who still wish to raise a family and create future generations.

There is no point in future generations, if there is no future.

I still think the future could be bright, however.

On thinking, I just reminded myself why simple, childfree lifestyles aren't a big part of national goals. We need a consuming public to keep the economy flourishing. Consumer spending drives much of today's economy.

These days, we are now trying to prop up consumer spending with printed money, tax rebates and so forth.

Even with what I think of as a smaller footprint than most people, I have had a good quality of life. Technological advances, such as the smartphone, have enrichened lives even without everyone having to be a millionaire themselves.

On the other hand just owning a home and raising a family, in a place like Seattle Metro Area, just about requires being a millionaire these days.

Things like the bicycle, rather than driving a car, have brought a different kind of experience for me than most people have. Maybe less mobility; like zipping off to Seattle for the weekend, but it's helped my health. It's also allowed me to appreciate things that other people just rush by; like Old Samish Road.

In my life, I have been more cautious than most of other people. I've held onto the same jobs, rather than trying to advance. Some people have done well by advancing in their careers, but I know a lot of people who have fallen back as they've tried to advance. They've gotten a new job and then been in over their heads, or they have had a bad boss at the new job and gotten fired. In some cases, they have become homeless.

I've played it very safe, but I haven't advanced career wise. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but few people seem to offer "non advancement" as vocational advise. Few people seem to aspire to the kind of life I live.

It's true that if everyone was like me, there wouldn't be the Facebooks and the smartphones, but everyone isn't alike anyway. I enjoy using the Facebooks and smartphones, but everyone doesn't have to be a star in Silicon Valley to have those things in our world. It only takes a small percent of the population to be like Thomas Edison. He had a creative mind and he was also a very shrewd businessperson.

I remember my second grade teacher saying, "if everyone daydreamed like me, we would still be in the dark ages." I guess a good answer would be, "if no one daydreamed, we would still be in the dark ages."

It takes more than one kind of person to make up the world.

Seems like my lifestyle has worked, but it's been kind of a well kept secret as far as mainstream culture is concerned.

Thursday, April 08, 2021

I wonder if Senator Manchion has an alternative to the corporate tax hike to pass the infrastructure bill?

To pass an infrastructure bill, Democrats may need to get all the Democrats in the Senate to vote yes using reconciliation with Kamela Harris's tie breaking vote.

Even just 1 Democrat, like Senator Manchion, who has reservations about the corporate tax hike, could kill the bill. I wonder if Manchion has any alternative proposal?

The corporate tax hike is still milder than what corporations were paying before the Trump tax cut. It wouldn't go all the way back up to what that tax rate was before; just part way back up.

America's economy did survive even that higher corporate tax hike. Jeff Bezos, of Amazon, has said he supports the corporate tax hike. Apparently it wouldn't be the death nail to Amazon.

Since the Trump corporate tax cut, there hasn't been a big improvement in manufacturing moving back to USA as far as I can gather. Our trade deficit is still pretty high.

There is a gradual move of manufacturing back to USA, not as much related to taxes, but to technology. 3D printing is relocalizing a lot of manufacturing, from what I hear.

Personally, I still suggest an individual tax hike as an alternative to taxing corporations which just pass the cost along to individuals anyway, but we can survive a mild corporation tax that isn't even as high as before.

We do need to do something.

Monday, April 05, 2021

Taxing corporations might be a way to make it look like your not taxing anyone

People want good infrastructure, but not the taxes to pay for it.

Senator Manchin has a concern that our corporate tax rate needs to remain competitive with other industrialized countries, such as Canada and European nations, so our products remain competitive on world markets.

I'd add that most of those countries have low corporate tax rates, but higher individual tax rates. We can't have it all. If corporate tax rates stay low, I think individual tax rates will need to go up.

Corporations usually pass the cost of their taxes along to consumers so high corporate tax rates could make our products more expensive on world markets. At the same time, we do need good infrastructure so someone does need to pay.

Couldn't we do as I think other countries do and raise the taxes on wealthy individuals? In the end, it's people who get the money. A corporation is mostly just a vehicle that passes money to individuals eventually.

It's like we are a bunch of spoiled kids who want to always pass the taxes on to someone else. A corporation is a target as it's not a person (in spite of laws making it an artificial person). In the end, the corporation just passes everything along and it's people anyway. Why not just tax the people; especially the rich and probably also upper middle class?

It's kind of like we are trying to hide from this reality all the time. If we want good infrastructure, it does need to be paid for. We can print the money, of course. That might actually work; for a while at least.

People seem to always want to "have their cakes and eat them to;" as the old phrase goes.

Sunday, April 04, 2021

Maybe there was less divorce in the past when expectations were lower and people just persevered through marriage?

I know that there are people who have been happily in a relationship for many years, but it seems like most romantic relationships are full of turmoil and / or short lived.

It doesn't seem worth it to me.

My own parents seemed to get along well. Among my brothers and sisters, there are two who have been (I assume happily) married for life. The rest of the 5 of us have remained single. We all still get along okay. I grew up in a 1960s household. I'm the youngest of 5 kids born between 1938 and 1954.

During my childhood I remember, from conversations, having the impression that we were a dysfunctional family. After growing up and seeing the conflicts and problems in other people's upbringing, it seems like every family is dysfunctional. Ours wasn't too bad compared to the others.

I remember that there seemed to always be a simmering bit of conflict in the family. This was thought of as being dysfunctional as it was never resolved. Most of the time, things were good, but there were conflicts that would come up and there would usually not be much resolution.

As I think about things, it seems like this is almost unavoidable. Life is never totally ideal and people just persevered. Persevering, like that, was probably more common decades ago.

These days, it seems like there are higher expectations that usually end up being unfulfilled anyway. Our tolerance for just persevering is diminished.

At the same time, it seems like that tolerance is one of the things that kept families together, back then and it created the space for the many good things that we (my family) had and still have.

Maybe the big problem is not the water. Why do voters have to wait so long in line?

About the law in Georgia banning even distribution of water to voter's waiting in line, the big problem is, I guess, the line itself. Something is wrong when people have to wait hours in line to vote.

Here is Washington State, we have mail in ballots. That's the best way to go, in my opinion. Even when we had polling places, I never remember having to wait more than 20 minutes at most.

Maybe there have been budget cuts in states where they still have to hire workers for polling places?

My mom used to work in a polling place and there was a law that prevented people from discussing, or having campaign material in the polling place. Maybe there is worry that political talk will seep in with the water? Talk while the water is being handed over?

I can sort of see this worry in the polling place, but how far out the door and down the street does it apply?

The big problem is, there shouldn't have to be a line out the door and down the street.

Remember Northern Tier Pipeline? If it had been built, maybe now it would be working in reverse?

Some people say it's stupid to oppose an oil pipeline since an alternative is to send the oil by train or truck. Pipelines are said to be much safer.

I think the problem is overall consumption of oil. Not that the pipeline is worse than rail or truck.

Seems like a lot of issues are shaped by legal maneuvering. When a pipeline goes through environmental review process, the laws talk about leaks. Not as much the big picture of a pipeline's role in enabling oil consumption. A pipeline can bring down the cost of oil and gasoline which really, isn't a good thing. Yes, people are still dependent on inexpensive oil.

For a trip down Memory Lane, old time Washingtonians will remember the "Northern Tier Pipeline." It was a proposal to build a pipeline across the northern tier of states to ship oil from Alaska to consumers back east. Back toward Chicago and points beyond.

Oil from Alaska has been coming to our local refineries since construction of the Alaska Pipeline back in the 1970s (80s?). It comes by pipeline from Prudhoe Bay to a port in Valdez, Alaska. Then by tanker ships to Northwest Washington refineries, here in Whatcom and Skagit Counties.

Northern Tier was to send some of that oil back east to more markets.

Well, it looks like we used up much of the Prudhoe Bay Oil anyway. Oil is now coming west, instead of east. Some of it is now coming from North Dakota to Washington State by train.

If Northern Tier had been built, maybe it would be working in reverse? The oil flowing west, instead of east? The pipeline wasn't built so it's going by rail.

Alaskan oil is starting to run out, except for maybe more in the ground at Anwar Wilderness Preserve.

Since the 1990s, higher prices and new technology have ramped up oil production in North Dakota. Oil from the Bakken Shale. Some of our oil is now coming from the east. North Dakota has produced oil before, but the Bakken Shale Fields has significantly ramped up North Dakotan production in the 2000s.

Thursday, April 01, 2021

Legalizing recreational marijuana, in Washington State, created a new multi million dollar private sector industry. Meanwhile government is good a providing needed services, such as the public library.

On the radio, I often hear conservatives say that government doesn't create any wealth since it doesn't create a product. This may be an old version of economic thinking where wealth is seen as material things.

These days, a lot of wealth is services and knowledge. Government does provide a lot of needed services such as, for instance, police and fire protection. Other services, like city parks, libraries, schools, roads, airports and so forth are of value. They are usually provided by government.

In quite a few cases, private companies might do a better job providing services than government bureaucracies. Big corporations can be very bureaucratic also, however. Still using private companies as vendors for services is often a good idea. Private companies can often innovate and do a better, more efficient job that the government, but there still is the problem of the marketplace.

A lot of the valuable services that governments provide are not things that people are accustom to paying for. Public libraries, parks, schools police and so forth. It is conceivable that these things could be paid for by the private market, but it would be a rude awakening for many people. Toll roads, for instance.

It would take a while for people in this society to get used to that way of doing things.

Meanwhile we need to value the kinds of services that governments normally provide. Other things that are normally provided by private enterprise can continue.

One example of a product provided by private enterprise, here in the state of Washington, is marijuana. Since Washington State has legalized recreational marijuana, a new multi million dollar, taxable, private industry has been created.

Not that pot is necessarily a bad thing, but it's kind of ironic what works on the private market that steriotypical conservatives think of as about the only force creating value in our society.

My related Article in The Betty Pages.

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.