Economic Grows and Consumption

His commitment to sustainability is not restricted to academic life, he is the scientist who also “walks the talk”: his cell phone was hip ten years ago, he avoids flying (which can be a challenging principle to follow at times) and actively encourages his environment to explore the joys of green living.

There got to be a better way

Miklós Antal, ecological economist, is a postdoctoral researcher at the Autonomous University of Barcelona. He now studies macroeconomic aspects of sustainability transitions. Previously he was engaged in energy modeling at the Central European University in Budapest. He got his PhD in economics and MSc in engineering-physics at the Budapest University of Technology and Economics.

“STUPID IS STUPID DOES?”

For me, these results are mindboggling. It is not staggering that “socialist” candidate Obama would be more concerned than Bain Capitalist Romney regarding health care, education, immigration and tree hugging. An economist rating him stronger on crime and defence is moderately surprising, but rating Obama preferable on the economy, is flat out astounding.

I am sitting in the waiting room of the Cook County Circuit Court.  I wait to see if my number is called. I may well spend the next few days determining if a podiatrist is culpable for the minor limp of a 78 year old Cicero resident or  perhaps deciding whether a construction company owes its sewer subcontractor for installing 72 extra manhole covers.  Oh, I hope not.  I want to go hunting in Wisconsin.

I would much prefer to be in my tree stand listening for the slightest sound indicating Bambi’s papa is about  to appear. We want venison brats. Yet, if my number is called, I will do my duty for the one branch of government designed to protect the little guy.

I start a blog entry;  I promised Nathan that I would.  Being in a court, I consider composing an article on the possible effect of November’s election on the Supreme Court.  Fortuitously,  as I am about to hit that first key, my equally bored neighbor returns a copy of  The Economist  to the magazine rack which Rahm Emanuel so thoughtfully provided for the distraction of  bored potential jurors.

The Gurus Speaketh

Wait a minute; screw the Supreme Court idea. James Carville brilliantly said in the 1992 Presidential campaign, “It’s the economy, stupid.”  And sitting before me is the October 6th-12th issue of a highly respected magazine devoted to economics, and within its covers are the results of  a poll in which  “hundreds of professional academic and business economists” were queried as to “who would do a better job” on ten issues of the upcoming campaign.

As an Obama supporter, it was with great trepidation that I perused the tabulations. We are constantly bombarded with the theorem that Romney has the edge when it comes to economic expertise.  Well folks, here are the results:

WHO WOULD DO BETTER?  (note: percentages do not add up to 100%; evidently lots of economists can’t make up their minds )

On the deficit – Romney (42-38)

On health care – Obama (47-36)

On education – Obama (46-30)

On immigration – Obama (44-35)

On the environment – Obama(46-25)

On foreign policy – Obama (45-35)

On defence (The Economist has British roots) – Obama (40-39)

On crime – Obama (34-30)

On abortion – Obama (48-32)

And finally (actually, they listed this category first, but I like suspense):

ON THE ECONOMY (Obama 43 -41)

For me, these results are mind-boggling.  It is not staggering that “socialist” candidate Obama would be more concerned than Bain Capitalist Romney regarding health care, education, immigration and tree hugging. An economist rating him stronger on crime and defense is moderately surprising, but rating Obama preferable on the economy, is flat out astounding.

To be fair, The Economist points out that a disproportionate number of academic economists are Democrats; this is less so among business economists.  When the pollsters separated out these two groups, the latter rated Romney slightly higher on handling the economy than Obama.  Why are academic economists more likely Democrats and business economists more apt to be Republicans? I leave that to another blog.

Whatever your political leanings, I think one can conclude that these respected professional economists are pretty mixed on who is more likely to repair and strengthen our country’s economy. So folks, when it comes to voting for either one of these men, and you make your choice based on one area…choosing the economy is simply STUPID.

Economies are incredibly complex.  Global events beyond any President’s control affect the economy.   Presidents are greatly impeded or aided by his or her Congress.  Economic strategies can and do change with the times. Simply put, Presidents get the credit and blame for results that they have limited control over. So friends, forget the economy…neither candidate is likely to have the panacea.

Thus, sitting in the waiting room of the Cook County Circuit Court, I conclude that the area of our government, and indirectly our lives most impacted by this consequential election will be another court, The Supreme Court.

THE SUPREMES

 

Some facts:

Justices are likely to serve more than a quarter century.

The average age of the present justice is a bit over 67.

Four of the nine justices are over the age of 74.

Four of the nine have surpassed the life expectancy at the year of their birth.

THE COMING SUPREME COURT

If Romney serves two terms, it is likely he would appoint a minimum of 4 justices.

If Obama is re-elected and Hillary follows,  they would likely appoint a minimum 6 justices.

The Supreme Court is the ultimate safeguard of our government. Its job: preventing a tyranny of the majority over the minority.

The Supreme Court is the ultimate safeguard of excess from the other two branches.

It protects and preserves the most basic tenets of our government.

Only one justice has been denied confirmation in modern times, and a mere twelve were blocked since our country’s founding.  Presidents get their candidates confirmed.

A sampling of policies and freedoms that are likely to be affected by future Supreme Court decisions:

Environmental Protection

Campaign Finance

Freedom of Choice

Affirmative Action

Capital Punishment

Gay Marriage and Gay Rights

Voter Suppression and Voter Protection

Labor Rights

Regulation of Financial Institutions

Vouchers for Religious Schools

Separation of Church and State

Rights of the Accused

Privacy Rights

Freedom of Speech

Possible expansion of the 2nd Amendment

Conclusion:  It’s the Supreme Court, Stupid.

Oops… They just called my number: “Panel 16 Dismissed”.  I’m going home; watch out Bambi’s pop.

THEORY OF STUPIDITY

Capitalism and the Constitution

I personally do believe that a capitalist, or a free market model, is the best economic model for the United States, but I do not believe that this model is dictated by the Constitution. Unconstrained capitalism acting contrary the general welfare of our citizenry is a violation of one our constitution’s most fundamental principles. Monopolies which diminish competition are a detriment to the free market. Collusion between bankers to fix interest rates, and the exportation of American jobs simply do NOT promote the general welfare.

Wally

Where in the Constitution is it stated or implied that the U.S. economy should be based on vulture capitalism, or for that matter, any kind of capitalism? Nowhere! However,the Preamble to the Constitution does clearly mention “promoting the general welfare.”

“We the People of the United States in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

The United States Constitution’s Fifth Amendment ensuring private property rights to citizens can be viewed as a mainstay of capitalism. Private property ownership allows individuals to do what they want with their goods. That ownership allows and enables a citizen to use his property to start a business or provide a service.

Continue reading “Capitalism and the Constitution”

Voting with our stomachs.

Considering what the country had to go through in four years after the worst economic recession of our time, it does not look that bad. Yes, promises were made. Yes, mistakes were made. But the majority of experts agree that we are on the right path. So, why go back to the same rules and policies that created this recession in the first place? And what happened to the idea that the economy grows independent of policies?

Why social issues are more important than economic issues: According to the Gallup Poll from August 9-12, 2012, 65% of voters believe that economic problems are the main problems facing this country. 

Our freedoms and religion,
Religious right

So, I ask myself, is this right?

Are we going to be happy with our stomachs full, but with our rights substantially diminished by a political party, heavily influenced by money?  

Does it mean that money won?

Does it mean that extreme religion won?

When I lived in the Soviet Union, the government provided everything for the people:  Free education, free medical services, jobs for everybody, subsidized bread, subsidized housing.  Everybody had basic food, everybody had a job and everybody had an income.  Very few had a good income, very few had power.  And those few dictated everything for the country, decided everything for the people of the country.  But those in power made sure that the stomachs of the people were full.  Because when the stomach is full, people do not complain.

So, when the Republican candidate and those who support him tell me that the main issue of this campaign is the economy, and, by the way, we will reduce women’s freedom of choice, we will not recognize basic rights of all people, we will reduce government programs to support science, research and development, education, Medicare and healthcare, it reminds me of the Soviet Union.  The Republican Party is promising that we all will have a full stomach at the price of reduced salaries, increased working hours, increased air pollution, reduced healthcare access.  And, by the way, we will have more guns on the streets, more bigotry and more religious fanatics, less educated people.  Why?  Because big money holders want more money, more power.  The less educated people we have, the more people have to work, the less they think, the easier it is to influence their brain.

I have heard from Republican supporters:  Let’s fix the economy, let’s put people back to work, then we will worry about our freedom.  It’s like saying one step forward, two steps backward, especially if all three branches of the government are Republican.

Back to the economy:  Considering what the country had to go through in four years after the worst economic recession of our time, it does not look that bad.  Yes, promises were made.  Yes, mistakes were made.  But the majority of experts agree that we are on the right path.  So, why go back to the same rules and policies that created this recession in the first place? And what happened to the idea that the economy grows independent of policies?

So, please educate yourself and vote with your conscience, not your stomach.

The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games
We consume without much regard as to where the stuff comes from and/or who makes it. We do not think about workers in China and about the horrible conditions in which these people live and work. How ready we are to close our eyes and our minds in blissful ignorance. How ready we are to buy, consume, use, throw out and repeat that cycle.

The author
Nate

I recently read an article in the Tribune about our mindless consumption.  We consume without much regard as to where the stuff comes from and/or who makes it.  We do not think about workers in China and about the horrible conditions in which these people live and work. How ready we are to close our eyes and our minds in blissful ignorance.  How ready we are to buy, consume, use, throw out and repeat that cycle.

Off we go!
We do it for the Economy!

After all, we do this not just for ourselves, but to help the economy.  We want these things; we want new gadgets.  We yearn for the latest and the greatest IPhone, IPads, Nikes, and so on.  We want new clothes because we “have” to wear something different every day.  The ads distributed by the  mass media program us.  We become unknowing consuming robots.  We do not want to know; we do not want to think about those Chinese workers; we need to be happy in order to enjoy these new things.

Do we truly need all these things?  Maybe not.  Even though we can have them, maybe we do not need them.

While I was reading the Tribune article a comparison came to mind:  Suzanne Collins in her book, “The Hunger Games” describes a fancy dinner in the Presidential Palace.  Among a huge selection of delicacies, there were special drinks on the table – which, when consumed, allowed the diner to empty his belly and consume more delicacies while the rest of the country is starving.

It seems an outrageous piece of fiction, but there are disturbing similarities to the real world. We live on a planet with limited resources, and yet we mindlessly consume, oblivious to the consequences. We are blind to the looming environmental disasters.  We are oblivious to the sweat and blood and of exploited workers who produce this stuff.  We avoid thinking about the the toxins spread when we discard our “old” gadgets.

We talk about the economy and its the growth.  And we always check those “consumer confidence” numbers.  Why?  Because consumption makes up 70% of the economy.  We are delighted when people are buying more crap.  Because when when we buy more, the economy responds by producing even more stuff.

For our consumption
For our consumption

We talk about the Chinese economy growing 9% per year, but we ignore the reality that this growth is built on the misery of millions of people and is depleting our planet’s resources.  The Chinese economy reminds me of a huge poisonous mushroom that will soon explode casting its poisonous toxins everywhere.

I read that the Chinese Government wants to increase itsown people’s rate of of consumption.  There are 1.5 billion people in China; that’s a lot of consuming.  One can only imagine the consquences of 1.5 billion more humans consuming at a rate equal to that of the Americans. The consequences of that consumption will be unavoidable –  the reality of those consequences will be here whether we admit it or not; it will makes it unwanted appearnance without invitation.  I just hope it is not too late for our planet and for our survival.

Happy Shopping!

Dreaming the impossible

We have 46 million people in poverty in this country. Millions are on food stamps. Machines and China are competing for our people’s jobs. Without question, the machines and China will win. How do we get out of this mess?

I am not an economist.  I don’t even play one on television.  Occasionally, I am a dreamer.

We have 46 million people in poverty in this country.   Millions are on food stamps.  Machines and China are competing for our people’s jobs.  Without question,  the machines and China will win.  How do we get out of this mess?  

Below is a short,  incomplete, and biased assessment of a few solutions proposed by our political parties.

The Greed Over Poverty  (G.O.P) Party ;

Firing People = More Jobs Program – Cut funding to as many federal agencies as possible;  this will simultaneously reduce costs and the number federal employees.  Huh?

Let Em Die Program –  Remove and/or destroy as many governmental programs that aid the unemployed, poor, sick and elderly .  What?

I Got Mine Program – Disproportionately tax the least able to afford it. The neat thing about this tactic is that it aids in assuring the implementation of the above programs. Wow!

Remove All Regulations Program –  Get rid of all regulation thus enabling corporations to hire slaves, and poison the Earth.   The resultant corporate wealth would be protected by the I Got Mine Program. Makes sense to me.

Advantages – none to the unemployed –  a bonanza to the wealthy and the razor-wire manufacturers

Disadvantages – some uncontained riots and difficulty in breathing the air, plus a few dead polar bears

The Democratic Party:

Extend Unemployment Benefits – extend benefits to the unemployed until benefits run out and then extend again until benefits run out ad infinitum. Warms the  heart.

Build Bridges and Roads – hire big burly brutes to build bridges and roads. After completion this imporved  infrastructure will employ one toll taker and three guys to fix potholes.  But, we wil have great roadways and bridges  to use in getting  to the unemployment office.

Build Schools and Colleges – hire big burly brutes to build schools which, when completed, will employ many teachers, a few principals and a janitor.  These schools will teach students skills that will no longer be needed once they graduate.  However,  degrees look nice on walls.

Build Clean Energy Projects – big burly brutes will build windmills and install Chinese made solar panels everywhere the wind blows and the sun shines. Once built we will have a cleaner environment, cheaper electric bills, and lots of unemployed burly brutes and a few dozen people cleaning the glass of the solar panels and tending the windmills.

Advantages –  All the above programs will generate a plethora of  funds that can be spent at Walmart on useless products made in China.  We will have good roads for transporting foreign made goods to Walmart. We will have cleaner air for the rich and poor and perhaps less rioting in the near future.

Disadvantages –  these are feel good, short term projects and provide little long term future employment

The Impossible Dream Party

Pass a Universal Health Care Bill

Build small hospitals and clinics across the country (perhaps 5000 or so) – big burly brutes would do the building

Staff these health facilities  – with 100,000s of unemployed people who will be trained by 1000’s of educators to be orderlies, cooks, computer programmers, medical technicians, practical nurses, registered nurses, grief counselors, security personnel, readers of machines that blink and go beep, and any other of the multitude of jobs associated with medical care.

Mandate that all equipment and supplies used in these federal facilities must be made in the USA.  This would include sheets, uniforms, thermometers; the machines that go “beep”, miles of plastic tubing, drugs, bed pans and all the other stuff we use to help sick people.

Advantages – provides permanent employment for a large segment of our population, provides better healthcare for us all. Caring and maintenance jobs cannot be outsourced.  Taxes paid by employed people and the US corporations making supplies and equipment could sustain the program. Escalating costs of Medicare, and Medicaid would be drastically reduced.

Disadvantage – Just a dream

Looking for Answers

“My dear rich citizens, We bailed out many of you, saved your well-being from disaster that, between us, many of you helped to create. But we need your help now. Not a lot…a little, like 3%. We understand that you need to make a living too.”

Yachts of the super rich
Give them a break!

I wrote a letter to our rich citizens January 11:

“My dear rich citizens:  We bailed out many of you, saved your well-being from disaster that, between us, many of you helped to create.  But we need your help now.  Not a lot…a little, like 3%.  We understand that you need to make a living too.” …

You can read the full article of January 11 here:

http://democracyinactionblog.com/2011/01/19/to-american-citizens-who-are-better-off-than-98-of-us/

Below are some excerpts from the article in the NYT by Warren Buffett:

Stop Coddling the Super-Rich

By WARREN E. BUFFETT

Published: August 14, 2011

It’s time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice.

These and other blessings are showered upon us by legislators in Washington who feel compelled to protect us, much as if we were spotted owls or some other endangered species.  It’s nice to have friends in high places.

If you make money with money, as some of my super-rich friends do, your percentage may be a bit lower than mine.  But if you earn money from a job, your percentage will surely exceed mine — most likely by a lot.

I have worked with investors for 60 years and I have yet to see anyone — not even when capital gains rates were 39.9 percent in 1976-77 — shy away from a sensible investment because of the tax rate on the potential gain.  People invest to make money, and potential taxes have never scared them off.  And to those who argue that higher rates hurt job creation, I would note that a net of nearly 40 million jobs were added between 1980 and 2000.  You know what’s happened since then:  lower tax rates and far lower job creation.

Since 1992, the I.R.S. has compiled data from the returns of the 400 Americans reporting the largest income.  In 1992, the top 400 had an aggregate taxable income of $16.9 billion and paid federal taxes of 29.2 percent on that sum.

Income inequality.
Wealth redistribution.

Many (super rich) have joined the Giving Pledge, promising to give most of their wealth to philanthropy.  Most wouldn’t mind being told to pay more in taxes as well, particularly when so many of their fellow citizens are truly suffering.

But for those making more than $1 million — there were 236,883 such households in 2009 — I would raise rates immediately on taxable income in excess of $1 million, including, of course, dividends and capital gains.  And for those who make $10 million or more — there were 8,274 in 2009 — I would suggest an additional increase in rate.

You can read the full article here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/15/opinion/stop-coddling-the-super-rich.html?_r=2

Also I watched the Charlie Rose interview with Warren Buffett.

http://www.charlierose.com/view/interview/11845

I have only one question to all of you:

Over 80% of Americans support a tax increase for the super rich.  So why are the Republicans dead set against it?

Response from Senator Mark Kirk

I oppose defaulting on any debt and will fight to protect the AAA credit rating of the United States. To protect our economy, we should cut spending and raise the debt limit, putting our nation on a sustainable financial foundation.

Dear Mrs Kagan

Thank you for contacting me regarding the ongoing debt limit negotiations.

I oppose defaulting on any debt and will fight to protect the AAA credit rating of the United States. To protect our economy, we should cut spending and raise the debt limit, putting our nation on a sustainable financial foundation.

Until we enact a final bill, I am also working to ensure the federal government pays all interest owed, Social Security, Medicare and salaries for the troops.

Regarding a final bill, I support the “Gang of Six” bipartisan plan put forward by three Republican and three Democratic senators to reduce our borrowing by over $3.7 trillion over the next ten years. This plan has three major parts:

1) A cap on spending, including a freeze on all salaries for Congress;

2) Entitlement reforms, protecting Americans aged 55 and up while strengthening the long-term finances of Medicare and Social Security for younger Americans; and

3) Tax reform, ending tax expenditures (while protecting the mortgage interest and charitable deductions), in return for lowering the top tax rate from 39% to 29%.

This plan will defend our credit, protect our economy and strengthen the long-term future of Social Security and Medicare.

We need to make these changes now. We are spending money we do not have – upward of 40 cents of every dollar the federal government spends is borrowed from China and elsewhere. This year, we will pay over $225 billion of taxpayer funds to people who lent us money for interest payments alone.

In return for cutting over $3.7 trillion from projected borrowing, we should raise the debt limit of the United States. On August 2, we will pass the legal debt limit of $14.3 trillion. The Chairman of the Federal Reserve and nearly all major economists agree that a plan of spending reductions, entitlement reforms and tax code modernization will reassure the American people, financial markets and our allies that America can live within its means.

Our country has faced tough times before. During Washington’s second administration, he tamed hyperinflation. President Lincoln had credit woes. President Roosevelt eventually faced down the Great Depression and President Reagan defeated high inflation. To honor the achievements of our parents, we should make hard choices again to stop spending money we do not have. When we do, the energy and innovation of the American people will catapult us into economic leadership again, as happened in the 1950s and 1980s.

Thank you for taking the time to contact me on this issue. Please feel free to contact me at (312) 886-3506 or online at http://kirk.senate.gov if you have any questions or concerns before Congress or the federal government. It is an honor to serve you in the Senate.

Very truly yours,

Mark Kirk

U.S. Senate