Ok, it's December and that means it's the start of the Christmas season. For one reason or another, I frequently rue this time of year. If it's not because I'm working retail, it's because I've got no gig at all. I'll go on the record and say that my last two years were the best I've had in about a decade, but I'm back in the slump again. It's a tough month to not be able to afford presents and it kind of sucks to be in that situation and hoping for Christmas money from relatives because it'll go to making sure they don't cart my automobile away. 

Don't worry, though. I'm not in hysterics about the situation like I was last time. This is the more pragmatic look at the situation, but it's the same for me as it is for thousands of Americans throughout the country. I was a guy who, even if he wasn't always excited about it, went to work every day and took pride in doing a good job for a passable wage. The corporation who made that happened in the first place took a large number of solid-but-unremarkable jobs and turned them into below-living-wage jobs. Dell, basically, gets to pocket the remainder, so that's your microcosm for why the economy looks like it does. 

Anyway, that was actually not what I was coming here for. There was something else that I keep meaning to go on about and never got around to it. In this period of economic downturn, it frequently gets relegated to a 'future issue' that's tangential and in the effort of keeping shit focused around here (which I clearly already do a poor job of), it gets left out. But. Ahem.

First of all, realize that I read the article a while ago and don't even know who hosted it. I don't have a citation, so you'll have to take my word for it. You don't have to if you don't want to, but if you're the kind of person who wouldn't, I'll point out that you're reading a political post on LiveJournal. Not quite the hallmark of robust journalism and punditry, this. What I had read was a paleo-conservatives take on OWS; a man right out of the Nixon-to-Regan era talking about the protesters and how it's no surprise that they're unhappy.

However, he went on to say, they're treating wealth like a zero-sum game and it's not. We can always, he went on, produce more things. All the things. As much as anyone could ever want. All we have to do is make that happen. We don't have to take from the rich, and it doesn't matter if there's a huge wealth discrepancy as long as everyone has plenty of stuff. 

There, that's what we're talking about, today. And it's a very reasoned and solid talking point from a reasonable fellow. It's also totally and completely a) wrong and b) missing the point. 

The wealth discrepancy exists and anyone who tries to tell you differently is either terribly mislead (if it's on the street) or in someones pocket (if it's on television). There are a million charts and graphs that will tell you this, and most of them are right. The problem isn't that the 99% don't have enough stuff. It's that they can't afford what they need. Pro-One Percenter's will tell you that we're practically overflowing with things, which is probably true. But a television, smart phone, or game station is cheap. They're the circuses that go along with our McBread. It's gas, cars, houses, and groceries. Saying everyone has a cell phone is obfuscation. We don't want cell phones. We don't want stuff. We don't have security.

More then that, though, the truth is that we actually can't make a never ending stream of useless crap. There's a limited amount of oil for gas and plastics, there's a decaying infrastructure that we're ignoring, and there's the fact that Americans are gobbling up the production of an entire planet. But these are things that can and will run out.

I love 'process' as much as the next guy. It's a fun myth that makes us feel pretty good about ourselves and how we live in the 'future'. And I'll be honest and say that the things we can do amaze me, excite me, and make me feel positive about a hypothetical future. That said, we've intentionally developed an economy that we insist needs to keep growing. It's a consumer economy and that's what capitalism is based on. If we had a never ending supply of material to go with a never ending growth rate of new consumers, that'd be fine. We don't. And that's it.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planned_obsolescence

Our stuff is designed to break because that means we buy more stuff when we don't have to. The lessons we're taught about being frugal and buying things to last all tank our economy and our economy is a construct to facilitate the wealth of our nation. But if you want to know the end lesson of our economic goals, let me tell you that we're already doing it right. This is the end result. This is the economy working as intended. It's basically slave labor and shit that breaks in a closed cycle. And if you think that's a bad thing, you have to re-think capitalism, because we can't afford it. Eventually scarcity is going to be a thing. And peak oil is already here. You can see it from the end of your driveway.

We must become accustomed to the idea that we have limited resources. It only seems like we don't because we've been taking from everyone else. If you want the absolute truth, I've been told that if we spread around the wealth into a number where everyone's got the same number of resources, they'd be scant indeed. I don't know what the number is, to be honest with you, but the argument was against a perceived idea of 'fairness'. They were saying, 'look, if you really wanted to be fair, this is what you'd have. now shut up and go back to your first world problems, because you're the global 1%.' All that tells me is that we're still doing it wrong.
atolnon: (Default)
( Jun. 20th, 2011 02:31 pm)
The economically disadvantaged to not hold the reins of power.

That was the start of what would have been my next commentary, but it really just boils down to that phrase. The poor are not in charge. They don't have access to the machinery that runs society. And to extrapolate from that, the poor cannot be blamed for an economic downturn.

I have seen people pin, say, the housing problem which resulted in the bailouts of entities like Freddie Mac and Fannie May based on the idea that these were people who were making unsound personal economic choices. The institutions that allowed these loans to be made and the people that spearheaded those policies knew that they were shaky. 

The poor can realistically only make the economic decisions that they're allowed to. The poor cannot cause a recession, they can only be effected by it.

So.
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atolnon: (Default)
( Jun. 16th, 2011 10:00 am)
There's been a change between my generation and the one that came before that was sudden and pervasive. Young adults in their early 20's have been graduating from college for the last decade into an environment that doesn't want them; even well educated and eager young adults looking for work are frequently forced to take menial, low paying jobs and forced into living arraignments where we become interdependent with our peers in order to subsist.

Many of us are still working what are effectively temporary jobs. A large portion of my friends move from one contract to another, never really being able to definitively say how long they'll be employed. Some of us work as almost permanent substitute teachers, unable to find a real, permanent position. An apartment to onesself is right out, because you never know when the bottom will fall out and suddenly you won't be able to pay, and you drop your lease. A house is certainly out - even if you can afford the payment on it initially, there's no guarantee that you'll be able to in 6 months, much less even be in the same location if you have to move to find work.

Increasingly, it feels like there's a nation full of permanent underclass. A group that theoretically has the required skills but has successfully been leveraged by current business processes into a mass of ever-rotating 'assets' that can be picked up and slotted into whatever current business need and dropped whenever they're inconvenient. There's little need for permanent workers, and many of us have what is seen as an identical or similar skill set.

And increasingly, myself and my peers have felt left out of society. A bunch of early 20's to early 30-year olds who struggle to find work bussing tables or working basic tech support. We can't even afford our own place. There's a sense of community, sure, when you're constantly sharing a place with others, pooling food and gas, but it's trying, too.

I feel like all the articles I've read in the past - the ones that are decrying the  young generation as unwilling to grow up citing a tendency to play video games, engage in fandom, and other past times are really missing the point. The activities that seem childish to them are just our points of common interest and have nothing to do about our willingness to work or our drive. The messages decrying our 'entitlement' and egos are self-aggrandizing jokes. It could be that we're tired of sacrificing ourselves to a workplace culture that demands our loyalty and sweat while feeling like it can discard us as soon as we're not optimally profitable.

The laid back, almost fatalistic attitudes expressed are a reaction to the realities we're facing. These problems are bigger then us. We can, and do, continuously throw ourselves at societies brick wall, and we know what to expect. Many of us are already resigned to a life of almost perpetual economically second-class citizens.  
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Bernie Madoff got 150 years.

Dude is 70+ years, so nobody is fooling nobody; he is going to serve some time and get out or he will die, and this is going to speed that process along.

On one hand, I am glad the sucker got his due. The lawyers tried to play the 'but he feels bad' card and the 'but he's old' cards, and neither went, and cry me a fucking river. At this point the amount he extorted is a figure of legend. It was the mightiest of all Ponzie schemes. And I am glad, but that joy is a cancerous one. It is a hollow happiness. It is fundamentally false.

Bernie Madoff is the goat tied to the stake so the wolves get fed. He was old and sick, anyhow. He had made enemies of the rich and powerful, so an example was made. This is not just a statement on the nature of our justice system, which is separate for the rich and for the poor and it is not a statement on our economic system which I speak about often. Both of these are major issues with our society today, but what I'm talking about are our circuses, which determine, every now and again, to sacrifice one of their own number so that the masses are appeased.

Select amoung you the most onerous of your numbers that we may make of him our bread.

So we devour him. We sentence Mr. Madoff to 150 years that don't matter. The public feels no shame in its outrage, because Madoff had wounded them, too. But more honestly, we must realize that Madoff is only a symbol. When he is imprisoned, we feel justice has been done when it has not. Sure, Madoff ripped us off, but his real crime was in getting caught with his hand in the jar. The real reason we feel such a sick satisfaction in Madoff's sentence isn't because we care if he suffers it, but we like to imagine that it is the same sentence being levied out across the board by everyone who has every garnished our wages, cheated us out of our due, paid us too little, bankrupted us when we got tried to use our health insurance, or fired us when we had to take time off of work when ill. Madoff is of that class that we, as members of what we consider to be the working or middle class, loathe because that class perpetuates a system that we subconciously recognize and also detest.

When we see the hangdog look on Madoffs face, we think 'We finally got one!', but we don't expect to win. We know we're being cheated. Our hunger is the hunger of those who are starved for what we percieve to be as justice. But it is also hollow, because it means nothing. And we real no regret because nothing has really been done. It doesn't matter at all. Better to feel a sickning joy then a hollow nothing.

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I thought this was interesting: www.salon.com/news/feature/2009/01/08/damage/index.html
and you might have to deal with an ad, but you don't need to be registered to read it. Once again, I find the dollar values affixed to things to be interesting, even fascinating in their momentus nature. I can't lay this at the feet of G.W., but I can lay a large amount of it at the feet of the Bush administration and, to a fair degree, to the mindset that allowed this to happen. It was and remains a national mindset that we can blow these things off without really worrying, but many of the issues raised in the article are nuts-and-bolts issues.

Part of it is, I believe, the terrifying religious faction that is the dominant strain in the White House - an apocalytic brand of Christianity that really oughtant call itself by the religion it splintered from, in that they can't even get preperation for the end of the world right.

The other is, I suspect, a totally out of proportion look at cost-to-result ratios. The writer mentions 12 billion dollars a month in Iraq. I'll wait while you try to wrap your mind around 1 billion, then realize that 12 of those a month are falling down the hole that is our Iraq policy. (Meanwhile, our soldiers make a little over 100 bucks a day, while contrators make over 600 so I guess you can be the judge of if you approve of that.) The Admin proposed that we go to war with the assumption of 60 billion total, which is still considered a pretty high* price.

Now, New Orleans is still in bad, bad shape. It costs 1 billion to rebuild levies, and they haven't been raised yet. Not a priority, I guess. Costs too much?

Our administration was either stupid or corrupt (or both) and the rest of our government was complicit. This is going to take a long, long time to fix. History is just going to bury its head in its hands and ask how any group of people could be so dense, but I think we can do better.

*lawl, 60 billion is 'pretty high'.

.

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