Wednesday, July 22, 2015

A wake up call, for me and many others

Bernie2016tv did a vigil on Tuesday, July 21st for Sandra Bland. After what happened at Netroots Nation, we started a specific project chatroom about how to reach out to the ‪#‎BLM‬ community and try to create a bridge between the grassroots activists trying to get Bernie the nomination and the activists trying to bring attention to the issue of police violence against the African American community in our country.
During the broadcast, I decided to try and post the names of those killed by police violence in the live video chat. So I looked for a website that would give me the names. I found one.
I started typing in the names, just copying and pasting. I figured 2008 onward would be good enough. There can't be that many, right? Our country is not THAT far gone, and our police aren't that bad. Right?
Wrong.
I ran out of time before I could even get to 2011.
Creating a memorial video is nice. But each individual tragedy deserves an hour. And such a vigil would take days. Weeks. Months.
This is not homicide. This is obscenity. The #BLM community ramps that up to genocide, and I can no longer disagree. I'm ashamed to say that I too thought this was a distraction from "larger issues". Thanks to this vigil, I've learned something today. The list, the sheer volume, is why it's important. That's why they climbed onto the stage. This is why they take the mic. Because there is no other way to get our attention to the issue. The issue of police violence is not a distraction.
I still believe that Climate Change is the "biggest" issue we face. Because it is going to kill us ALL if we don't deal with it. But I will never again consider the #BLM to be a distraction from "more important" issues. Because while some issues might be bigger than others, they are all equal in importance.
And thanks to these 76 names for teaching this to me. I hope this post helps to teach others.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Is our story a Comedy or a Tragedy?

In drama, I was taught that there are two main types of stories.  Comedy or Tragedy.  These two forms of story telling go back to the Ancient Greeks and were used by Shakespear and his contemporaries.

In a comedy, the characters are taken on an adventure, but the adventure does not fundamentally change who they are, how they think or how they feel.  When the adventure is over, life continues on, perhaps slightly changed but not fundamentally.

In a tragedy, the adventure fundamentally changes the characters, or in many cases ends the characters lives.  Having the characters die is what we are most familiar with.  Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Oedipus.

My question right now is this; Is the story of the United States of America a comedy or a tragedy?  Will we be fundamentally changed by being distracted by pretty baubles, or will we get ourselves back on track?

The answer really depends on what you see as the character of our people.

Monday, February 09, 2015

Can we please balance the budget?

The GDP of the United States was estimated to be $16.8 Trillion in 2014. The "GDP per capita" was $37,075.50. (Now, given that this calculates a total population of 316.1 million people, I'm guessing that some of that is business to business. We don't have that many wage-earners in the US yet. But I'll use the number anyway.)

The 2014 Federal expenditures were $3.7 Trillion. That included a $483 Billion deficit.

If every wage earner, both individual and business, paid the same flat tax rate to the Federal Government, that tax rate would need to be 22.44%, or an average of $11,927 out of that $37,075.50. (by the way, that doesn't take into account the number of actual wage earners, it's total population in including our kids and elders.)

Now, 22.44% is a slightly higher tax rate for Americans than we are used to.  Here's a graph showing what it has been over the last half-century:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/75/U.S._Federal_Tax_Receipts_as_a_Percentage_of_GDP_1945%E2%80%932015.jpg

If you consider that with a balanced budget we could really get serious at creating jobs, rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure and actually start paying down the Debt, maybe this would be worth it.

But, nobody is talking about charging everyone $11,927.  Some people earn more, and they pay more.  Some people earn less, and they pay less.  But if we all paid our share, and we stayed focused on the idea that we need to pay enough to balance the budget, we could.

Do we want to?  I do.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Fixing our monetary system

Our current monetary system has three major flaws. What we have to do is find a way to manage these flaws.

The first problem is Fiat Currency. We need currency based on something tangible, not just promises to pay. But we can't go back to the gold 
standard, and the suggestion of sunshine that I saw in an earlier comment wouldn't work because it would give equatorial regions an advantage. My idea would be a currency based on carbon. Not carbon credits, but actual carbon pulled out of the atmosphere and stored in bulk. It's physical and measurable.

The second problem is Fractional Reserve Banking, where banks only have to maintain a fraction of their deposits in the central bank in order to give out loans. This is simply a matter of law. In the 1930's, with the bank reforms pushed through by FDR, the reserve requirement was pushed up. The higher the reserve requirement, the less money the private banks could just invent out of nowhere. This helped keep inflation under control, but I don't think it ever got above 26% in the US. It's much higher in some other countries.

The third problem is Compound Interest, where we pay interest upon interest upon interest again and again and again. I recently got a debt consolidation loan that had a fixed rate, without any compounding. It's wonderful. I think all loans and credit cards should be like that. Need a loan for 10K at 10%, you'll pay $1K in interest for a total of $11,000. That's it. This could be required by law.

The banks would fight these changes tooth and nail every step of the way, but if we made changes like these it would bring our monetary system to heel and make it a servant of the people instead of our money being our master and us being the slaves.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

From Washington State Democrats, how to help Oso

Like you, we are stunned and devastated by the destruction caused by the Oso mudslide.
We’ve already lost over a dozen Washingtonians. With many still missing, this could be one of the deadliest natural disasters in state history.
When one community in our state is hurt, it hurts us all. Our hearts are breaking for the victims taken by this disaster, their families, and all those affected.
With tragedies like this, heroes emerge. We learn about the strength in our communities that we didn’t know was there.
We thank and honor the first responders, relief organizations, civic and government leaders, volunteers, and all those who are working day and night to help those affected.
It’s hard not to feel powerless at times like this. But a donation to help the relief effort is one way that we can do our part.
In solidarity,
Jaxon Ravens
Washington State Democrats Chair

Monday, October 07, 2013

Learn more about the ACA (Obamacare) at Planned Parenthood!

Want to learn more about the Affordable Care Act?  One of the best places to go (in my humble opinion) {Wait, have I ever had a "humble" opinion?} is Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest.  They have twelve ACA In Person Assisters (ACA-IPA) {Sounds like a beer from Elysian}, and they are in PPGNW clinics in the following cities:
Centralia, Everett, Lynnwood, Marysville, Olympia, Port Angeles, Puyallup, Shelton and Tacoma.

In addition, clinics in King County are looking for a few good volunteers {Interviews in progress} to provide assistance to people looking for more information.  It's an unfunded contract, but if you're interested in helping people that's a great place to go!  And they will be there until coverage begins in January, at least.

Here's a web page to learn more:
http://www.plannedparenthood.org/ppgnw/affordable-care-act-41851.htm

And here's a paragraph from that page that applies:

"If you are interested in talking to an assister or setting up an appointment for enrollment assistance: Call 206-320-7610 or send an email to ipa@ppgnw.org.  Include your zip code, and someone will get back to you."

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

The path across the Rubicon

I saw a post on Facebook linking to an NPR article about how the US Treasury is paying down $35 Billion dollars of the National Debt. This is the first time in 6 years that they have done this, so before the 2008 crisis. A couple of questions come to mind.

First, how are they doing this? Are they retiring some of the Treasury bonds early? Normal Treasury bonds are 30 year bonds, although they have shorter term bonds out there as well. Which ones are they paying off? Who owns them?

Second, if this was done 6 years ago, sometime in 2007, why don't I remember hearing about it? Is this something that the Treasury does on a semi-regular basis, no matter who the President is? It reminds me of posts in 2009 up to today clamoring for the President to re-install the solar panels on top of the White House that Reagan had removed in 1981. Actually, if you truly pay attention to the news, you would have knows that President Bush reinstalled them through the National Parks Service near the end of his first term in 2003. Not everything is black and white. I wouldn't have expected a Republican President to direct the Treasury to pay down the National Debt, but I guess he must have.

Third question came from another search result that came up when I was looking for more information. It seems that NPR did a story about a government report from the year 2000 talking about the changes that would need to happen if the Federal Government was able to retire ALL of the debt. There are some major foundational aspects of our financial and monetary system that would have to change, and the report talks about them.

First, investors looking for an asset free of credit risk can no longer count on an abundant supply of U.S. Treasury securities, and Treasury securities may no longer provide a reliable benchmark for other interest rates.

Second, the Federal Reserve may have to change the mechanisms by which it conducts monetary policy.

Third, continued surpluses after the public debt has been paid off will require the Federal. government to acquire assets; either directly or though the Social Security Trust Fund. This raises issues about what kinds of assets might be acquired, and the best way to manage this task.

This research brought me back to a concept I've been thinking about for several years, wondering how a government agency could operate without debt. I believe that our monetary system has flaws, and they have been identified many times in many different venues. The most blatant expression of them was in the movie Collapse, which is about the work of Michael Ruppert. He identifies three main issues with the current monetary system.

  • Fiat Money, value set by a promise, not connected to any real commodity like Gold.
  • Fractional Reserve Banking, with banks only required to hold a percentage of their on-book assets in the central bank.
  • Compound Interest, meaning that we pay interest on interest on interest when we take out a loan.

There are solutions for these issues. It's not easy, and it takes a great deal of change in the way we think about money. But it would be possible. If anyone is interested, I can expand on these ideas and continue. But please let me know that you're reading by commenting below.