There’s a metaphor I’ve used a couple of times before. “We are standing knee deep in the abyss”. I’m going to modify it by saying we are at low tide and it’s starting to come in. At what point do we start to move to save ourselves. We aren’t really moving yet. The abyss is the climate chaos. Floating on the surface, impeding our progress towards safety are all the other problems of our society, acknowledged or not. They include CRT, BLM, inequality of wealth, health care, education, intelligent infrastructure design, social safety nets, and the list goes on. To use another metaphor, “the elephant in the room nobody is talking about” is the inevitable change coming at an accelerating pace. A massive change in consumer psychology to adjust to climate change will be needed. Overlaid on this is the change in computing technology and robotics. I’ve seen one estimate that a quarter of all jobs will be displaced by AI and robotics. Of course some new jobs will be created, but we aren’t getting ready for the changes. How are we to provide a sufficient living for our population? This will be far more disruptive than necessary. There are some solutions talked about in the various think tanks and academia, but nothing is really happening. The trend in the more conservative states is to wade deeper into the abyss. This moves the average starting point deeper. There will be consequences.
I am a constant reader and seeker of new knowledge. Lately I have been reading about inequality in the USA and CRT (Critical Race Theory). Daily I am exposed to some supposed solution to one of the many problems these subjects include. As I think about it, I feel the fixes are missing the mark. What is needed is not a bunch of people shooting arrows at a moving target. We need an all encompassing approach that takes it all into account. There are so many factors: tax policy, financial market policy, health care, educational reform, discriminatory policies, minimum wage, rules and laws, enforcement of already good laws on the books, equal access to services and the list goes on. People opposing these reforms are smart and willing to play the long game. They have think-tanks dedicated to nuancing the rhetoric and legislation in their favor. Many of the laws that are touted as neutral are in fact racist or otherwise discriminatory in their implementation due to access. Many things not in the rhetoric have influence on the outcome. Studies have shown change in class over one’s parents is a very rare commodity.
For example, when some politician advocates for an increase in minimum wage, the importance of things like paid vacation, paid sick leave, personal time, paid childcare, and retirement benefits are ignored. These are the things that make class movement “sticky”.
Unrestrained Capitalism will be the end of any chance of fixing any of these problems. From the 1930’s to the 1970’s capitalism was well regulated in the USA and business cycles were very mild and the general standard of living was rising at a pleasing rate. With the assertions of the early stages of the current Republicanism, this has all changed. With the elimination of the Fairness Doctrine and the Citizens United decision by the supreme court, our decent into chaos began in earnest. To even begin the process of forging ahead, we need to backtrack and reinstate the Fairness Doctrine and reverse Citizen’s United and campaign finance. We need to start enforcing the laws regulating capitalism. We need to look at breaking up companies that are too big to fail. A cap on the size of any company will reduce the risk of having to bail out companies during an economic downturn. They can simply divide like any single celled organism. This will increase competition and efficiency.
The USA has the economic capability to lift up the bottom third of the population without causing any suffering on the rest of the economy. True, some of the billionaires will feel like they have been targeted, but the damage will be to their ego, not their standard of living.
Pinker, Steven: “Rationality”
Piketty, Thomas: “A Brief History of Equality”
Ray, Victor: “On Critical Race Theory”
Garfield, Bob: “American Manifesto: Saving Democracy from Villains, Vandals and Ourselves”
Reich, Robert: “Saving Capitalism”
Shapiro, Thomas M: “Toxic Inequality”
Frankfurt, Harry: “On Inequality”
The world and our country are filled with problems. Not everything is bad, just more than we need. On this site, I occasionally point out what I feel are pressing problems. I often propose solutions to these problems that I feel will make the world a better place. I do a lot of reading in these areas to expand my mind and become informed. I am not deluding myself, what I say here will be of little impact beyond my right to vote. I don’t have the money behind me that many of the influencers have. I do it for two reasons: I would hope to influence one or two people and also just to get some things out of my mind. Writing it down doesn’t make it go away, but it allows me to think about other things.
CRITICAL RACE THEORY
I just finished reading Victor Ray’s book “On Critical Race Theory”. It is an excellent primer for anyone who wants to understand CRT. I wouldn’t have researched it if the republicans hadn’t made such a big deal out of not teaching it. Another backfire. The book is short and a fast read, but don’t let that fool you into thinking there isn’t a lot of important content. The book has certainly added another perspective through which I view the world. I’m not going to lay it out for you, you should read the book. Although he didn’t explicitly state it in the book, I have concluded that one of the best ways to alleviate some of the disparity is work on the things we know need fixing: income inequality, healthcare, education, tax policy, and other social safety nets.
JUST POETRY XXVI
POEM 115 PURPOSE
The quest for knowledge is the purpose of life
It will be chiseled on my tombstone
Having knowledge will light the way
Will quench the simmering blight of ignorance
It is not about faith
Curiosity is the fertilizer of growth
Open to new possibilities
Life spreads into a new future
Consider the consequences
View the future through a new lens
Life twists and turns
Embrace a tranquil reality
Use new knowledge to choose a path
Each step is something new
Accept what comes with gratitude
POEM 116 THOUGHT
A thought comes from nowhere
It must be somewhere
I say what I think I know
Sometimes like new fallen snow
Words I don’t understand
Have I been to Wonderland
They just appear on the page
My mind going on a pilgrimage
It knows where it has been
It wants to go there again
POEM 117 SIGHT
How do I see the world
Through rose, emerald, or sun glasses
Different day, different lens
The lens is never clear
What is reality
What is truth
Light and dark, like the moon
I see what I want to see
I don’t see what you see
Can’t you see what I see?
JUST POETRY XXV
I started writing poetry about the fourth week of the pandemic. It has been a journey. As I write more, I uncover new layers of my mind. I also find new ways to interpret things I read. The human mind, it has been said, has fifty thousand thoughts a day, a good deal of it is chaos. In my mind, since I started, some of it is poetry. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s a struggle for purpose, or something struggling to get out. Maybe it’s just what I see in the whirlpool. Here are the three latest:
POEM 112 NOW
Yesterday is the graveyard of the past
Tomorrow is future’s gateway
Today we are here
Drink it in
Explore your desires
Connect with your other
Empty your troubles
Suck in the pure air
Float on a cloud
Freedom to expand
Let your thoughts run free
POEM 113 SNOW DAY
Rolling out of bed
Blanket of fresh snow
Bread drenched in butter
Chocolate chip cookie
Warm buttered rum
Darkness sneaking in
Back to bed
POEM 114 EACH OTHER
Walking in the forest
We are each other
Soft trail underfoot
Imposing life around us
High, lonely waterfall
Gray mist at its base
Emerald ferns celebrating existence
Time stands still
Eternity is beckoning
We are each other
SOCIAL SECURITY REFORM
There are two aspects to Social Security reform. There is the needed updating to keep it solvent and improvements in the system to make it a better friend of society. As of the writing of this essay, there is a proposal on the table by senators Warren and Sanders that will take care of most of this. They propose removing the cap on the social security payroll tax and increasing the benefits for all by $200 per month. The removal of the cap will make the system solvent for thirty years while effecting only a small portion of the population. The $200 boost will help those who need it most, those receiving a minimal amount from Social Security. In the interest of disclosure, 80% of what I currently live on is from Social Security and the $200 boost would have a significant impact on me.
There are some other “tweaks” I would like to see. Currently, the payroll tax is 6.2%. I would like to see this increased to 6.5%. For example, an individual making $100K per year, getting paid every two weeks would see their payroll tax increase by less than $12 per check. A small price to pay for increased solvency of the system and the benefit of society. I would like to see benefits extended to all who lack the capacity to earn a sufficient income to live. I’m not sure how to judge this, but we should be able to come up with a method. With this safety net, many who currently are not contributing members of society will be able to become one. Lastly, a review of the solvency over time is currently done periodically. This should continue to be done annually. If the forecast falls below 30 years, a deposit from general income tax revenues should be made to the Social Security trust fund to bring it up to 30 years.
I know these will be hard choices, but it is fair and progress toward a better world, which we do have the capacity to fulfill.
In my humble opinion, the concept of voting on increasing the debt ceiling is bogus. The time to think about the debt ceiling is when the budget is passed. At that point, the money is committed to be spent. The intention is to spend it. The Constitution doesn’t require a debt ceiling. The only thing I could find in the Constitution is that we should pay all our legal bills. No exceptions. Voting on the debt ceiling after the budget is passed is a form of double jeopardy. Haggling over the debt ceiling is a waste of time that could be used for other purposes. The legislature has so much to do and each issue needs to be reviewed. Don’t waste time.
This is the most difficult problem we face for several reasons. Politicians don’t want to do a lot about it, not because they don’t believe, but because if the constituents are slightly inconvenienced, they might vote against reelection. Also it is so big and looming that it is hard to comprehend. How do you comprehend death for all of civilization?
The first thing we need to do is stop using fossil fuels. This will take some time, which we have little of. There are some problems with alternates like solar, but they are the only option. Nuclear power is a good option, but suffers from a PR problem. We need to create incentives to do the right thing. Fusion is a good option 15 years from now. The task is to be alive in a recoverable position when it starts to become available.
I’m just going to throw out some random thoughts:
Carbon offsets: As they are currently configured, they allow companies to emit excess carbon if they buy offsets from other companies. This allows continued emissions from an accounting trick. For example, Tesla, whose cars on the surface have no emissions, sells credits to Chrysler so they can sell dirty cars. The thing is Tesla was going to create these zero emission cars anyway. Their total profit in a recent year was the sale of credits. Their cars still cause carbon emissions because they get the electricity from sources with fossil fuels. Until we can charge batteries without fossil fuels, we are deluding ourselves. If you are going to buy the concept of carbon offsets, it must come from a source that wouldn’t have been existent otherwise. Also their should be a time limit on how long these can be used. Either the emissions must be solved, or the use of the product eliminated.
Consumer psychology: We must get away from our obsession with bigness. The pickup truck mentality will be the death of us. Probably only ten percent of the pickups sold in the US need the load carrying capacity. Giant SUV’s are in the same category. We must develop a practical mindset. The planet can’t afford our waste.
Mass transit: We must focus on building more mass transit and push people toward using it. Things like closing areas to cars and making bikes easier to use. High speed rail between cities is an idea whose time come.
Working life: We must focus on more working at home and ditch the commuter culture.
Power grid: In the future, virtually all energy will be transmitted as electricity. Our current power grid is not up to the task. States like Texas should not be allowed to self-regulate their power grid. Everyplace needs to have a strong power grid to allow for easy transfer between areas of surplus and areas with a shortfall. This is just an observation, but I have seen public ownership of power distribution far superior and cheaper than private ownership.
Tax incentives: Tax on fossil fuels: I would propose an immediate $0.20 tax on gas and diesel fuel including off road use. This tax should be increased $0.03 per month until it reaches $2.00 per gallon. The proceeds of this tax should all be directed towards carbon capture facilities. There should be a $25.00 per ton tax on coal. This should also go towards carbon capture. The burning of coal for power should be phased out by 2030. Some sort of tax credit should be established for investment in new, renewable energy sources. We must reward good behavior and discourage bad behavior.
Compliance: The US should use whatever power it has, in conjunction with other countries, to enforce the battle against climate change. This should be both economic and political.
JUST POETRY XXIV
Fortunately, we don’t always know why things happen. It takes some of the boredom out of life. I can make up reasons. A psychologist can make up reasons, but are they real? Over the last couple of weeks, I have started spewing out poetry again after a long hiatus. I do notice it is somewhat different than what I have written in the past.
Nature is never cruel
The cycle is always in balance
One dies so others may live
High up on the beach
Lies a dead seal
Surrounded by vultures and eagles
More than I have seen in one place
The circle of life spins at a dizzy pace
No shame, no remorse
I hear the death dirge
It plays as new life springs forth
It’s the way things are
Life in a fortress of solitude
Peaceful, but not a great attitude
Planning my escape for an infinity of moments
The eternal question
Do we have free will?
Is not really a question
We are playing word games
We need to get out of our head
We each have a destiny
Defend it with your existence
It’s all you’ve got
Standing on a lonesome ridge
Arms stretched to the sun
trees in every direction
telling me the wisdom of the ages
creatures large and small
watching as I answer the call
I am one with nature
Nature is one with me
Our futures are entwined
Every day, a different wind blows
Our journey is forever forward
Floating in peace