Will Work For Food?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

People--A Liability?!

I remember my stepfather telling me once, when we were discussing business economics, that as a manager he had to look at the people who worked with and for him as liabilities to the company. Their salaries and benefits were on the red side of the accounting ledger. But he remembered when he first started working in the 1950s or so, when a different attitude prevailed here in the U.S.--you tried to keep your people, even in an economic downturn. You didn't want to lose the investment you had in them: the resulting decision to hire them in the first place after an process of elimination taking up staff time, the on-the-job training and experience they received from you, the expertise they acquired during their time with you, the value of having a team used to working with each other and having found ways to be productive as a team...losing all of this has costs to the company. Costs that are not often listed in the ledger.

Another important business asset is goodwill. When you have a good reputation this increases demand for your products or services. Once lost this can be difficult to replace. I believe that goodwill is harmed when a business or other hiring entity discards its trained and experienced staff like ballast during economic downturns. People take note that the company or industry is not safe to work for and does not value its investment in the human beings who work there. Given enough publicity it can drive away customers or result in difficulty in finding people to hire with the level of expertise you used to have when times become good again--you have scared them away; they do not trust you; good luck getting them back.

In the past two decades or so I believe there has been a dangerous economic trend which considers people not only to be expendable but encourages "lean and mean" hiring practices. So now we go into stores and have to walk miles to find a cash register. Transactions which were once pleasant are now horrific as we line up to what used to be 9 work stations at a bank, or a governmental body, and only 3 people are working there. The costs are not calculated but result in customers losing time, patience, goodwill towards the place. The customers' time could have been put towards their own productivity. Like inefficient traffic lights, the aggregate of the individual costs add up to a large loss for the economy as a whole, in gasoline and the value of people's time.

Shipping jobs overseas where labor costs are extremely low may make economic sense for an individual firm in the short run. But for a national economy in the long run it is a flirtation with disaster. Every job lost at home is a person potentially unemployed or underemployed. These people can no longer spend at their prior level which is a lost customer for businesses. How brilliant...to work together to make many of your customers unemployed. A way to grow the economy...with voodoo economics.

The lost tax revenue from the jobs the people no longer have also contracts government money. And then the government cuts. More lost jobs. Yes I'm dizzy, now. Can this mean that slowly the economy is doomed to spirally contract until somewhere a weak link in the economic chain can no longer function and starts a domino effect of collapse? In the wake of The Great Recession...I wonder.I'm probably expressing myself badly. I am so tired tonight. But hopefully some of you out there will understand what my words are trying to say!

There are so many people here in California who are angry at the economic state they now find themselves in, with our high costs of living and now-high unemployment. The call is for the government to cut programs and services and thus taxes. On paper this sounds like it could stimulate the economy. But in periods of high unemployment, recession or the "D Word"..do you really want the government to contract and LAY PEOPLE OFF? Let's say you do what supposedly we did and cut your government spending about 20% with reduction in government size. You have people who were once served who are no longer served. People who were getting benefits who now are in trouble and can't buy groceries. Aha, government saved money. But did they? No one thinks of the effects this might have on grocery store owners.

Laying people off means those people must contract their spending. This affects the businesses of which they were formerly customers. These people also now pay less taxes, as do the businesses who have lost them as customers and now have less business revenue. The loss in tax revenues puts the government back in a deficit...and the response is to further contract government spending? Can this work in bad economic times? Or do we get into a spiral of cuts-layoffs-reduced revenue-cuts and around and around we go, where it stops nobody knows?

At the root is that the many roles people play in the economy have been forgotten. The investment in people is not on the balance sheet.

Government cuts in education are a current concern for California. Our "brain trust" was what attracted businesses here. Now that is threatened and there will be jobs which go to other places which continue to invest in education for their residents.

I found this letter interesting. It is from scientists explaining to our governor that savings from cuts to salaries in higher education may not be as helpful as might seem at first glance. But the message seems to have not been received by the public or the government. If you don't pay your good people enough then they will leave the state. And all of the jobs the research generated go with them. The current fad of extremely short-run thinking would make it seem like money would be saved by the cuts. But if one takes the longer view, looking at several years into the future and examining all of the jobs related to the research which now might go elsewhere, there could very well be a large net loss to the state economy. And it is in economic terms, rather than personal passions, which I believe have not been fully explained to the public and which are simply not understood.

Again, tossing people out in which investment has been made has consequences. A truly dispassionate computer would be able to calculate whether the long-term loss makes the short-term gain worthless. But the computers can be used by those who already have their preconceived notions about what is best to do, often based on ideology instead of dollars and cents adjusted for inflation or deflation please...and the answer is corrupted, flawed, false, fool's gold.

In another post I commented on what is going on right now within a part of the science budget in the UK. For whatever reason, such as short-term thinking instead of a fair and balanced long-term assessment, the UK government is choosing to leave this budget in chaos rather than correct a bookkeeping error which happened a few years ago when a new council was formed. Now these scientists seem to be divided against each other in arguing their case for the now-limited funds available. Divided...conquered. I believe the economically oriented voice would be saying: "The bookkeeping error must now be fixed (adjusted for inflation.) The government must simply find a way to replace these lost funds. There are surely many places where this money can be found. If it is not found, the investment in people--the training, the research, the hard-won expertise--is thrown into the garbage dump AT AN UNCALCULATED COST TO THE TAXPAYER." In addition they risk seeing enthusiasm for going into the sciences affected being wiped out after seeing what has happened to those who put their trust in this government for their careers and livelihood and who are being treated as though...people don't matter.

People matter. Even more than things. This is how we build a good economy and a good community. Once people are seen as only a liability the downward spiral begins. Here in chronic deficit-land, where we have people dying from losing their health care and children hungry who are no longer being fed and jobs disappearing like open fields in the wake of housing developments I think we are learning that forgetting what people contribute to the economy as a whole, whether as producers or consumers, is an accounting error which builds on itself until a Roosevelt comes along and spends the way out of the mess.

We're waiting for you, FDR. Where is that reincarnation when you need it? Do I approve of everything he did as President? Of course not. But he knew not to try to cut his way out of a deflationary spiral.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Personal Is Political, As We All Said Back In The Day

I just received some rather unpleasant personal health news. Which only makes this the more poignant for me, someone who has been wearing my knees out praying for meaningful US health care reform for at least 22 years now.

I'm sure the Dems will find the mandate to purchase health insurance, punishable by a hefty fine, with no visible mechanism for assuring affordabilty of policies, a real vote-winner. I think they fell into a Republican trap. Egg them on to "compromise" and then don't sign YOUR name onto the mess...right, Repubs?

Not Shocked At All, Mr. President. Just Sad.

I was thrilled when Obama won the election. He had some very positive things to say in his campaign speeches. He is intelligent and an excellent speaker. But most of all, he was the viable alternative to Raging McCain and Unqualified Palin. If the latter had been elected I think many horrific nightmares could have come to life.

But I always thought Obama was center-right, not center, and certainly not "liberal." It always amazes me to see how bitter and angry the far right is when they get lucky and either don't realize it or don't care because they would rather be bitter and angry. Obama COULD have been a liberal, but he's not. He's bent over backwards to accommodate the right. They just give him no credit for it whatsoever.

Rolling Stone has "Obama's Big Sellout" as the title of this informative piece. But I'm not sure if Obama sold out; I wonder if he was simply seen by many progressives with their rose-colored glasses on to begin with. Understandable, IMHO, given how far the country has shifted towards right-wing extremists since c. 1980. That's a long time to be waiting for a pendulum to begin moving back.

Yes, yes, there was Clinton, but we are still paying dearly for his failure to enact meaningful health care reform, for that horrific Telecommunications Bill, as well as his anti-welfare actions, NAFTA, the cuts to capital gains taxes for the wealthy, and his sexual peccadilloes which, while albeit absurdly focused upon (rather than his policies) by the media, effectively cast a pall over the Democratic Party and any hope for some time of getting center-right leadership again instead of extremist-right.

Anyway. On health care reform...I still cannot support what is floating around the Senate right now. The best I can do is give pros and cons and ask people to judge for themselves. I do hate to stop the momentum for health care reform, and am very concerned we might not get this momentum back again, after so many years of working and waiting for it. OTOH--this is a bad bill in so many ways. Robert Reich is a good read right now on the subject, although I disagree re expansion of Medicare...I think that would be our way out of the darkness if it were eventually applied to everyone. I'm certainly open to a private rather than public solution, but none has been proposed that is cost-effective and covers everyone decently. If there is one, I'm all ears, and here I'm talking to YOU, Party of "No."

Idiocy Overseas

I've been so steeped in US health care reform madness. Who would have thought we would end up with a mandate for individuals to purchase insurance, w. noncompliance punishable by a hefty fine, with no public option or any other mechanism for ensuring that at least some policies will be priced low enough for people to afford? It's an insurance exec's wet dream, IMHO, and I cannot believe our citizens aren't screaming for campaign finance reform NOW in the face of what I frankly consider to be corruption, putting lobbyist $$$ ahead of the 45,000 per year who are slain by our health insurance "system."

So I'd almost forgotten that other countries are out there, facing the Great Recession as well, and making really stupid decisions in the face of it. IMHO one example of blatant incompetence in an economic sense is being perpetrated by none other than the UK. We kind of look up to them, don't we? It's the accent or something. But they are busy tossing some of their world-renowned science, and much of their past investment in such, out the door rather than restructure some of their government funding. Talk about inertia. Their astronomy program appears to be particularly hard-hit. Interesting way to close 2009, the International Year of Astronomy.

It's almost as if, somehow, democracy has ceased to function. Perhaps having The People Rule when The People are too tired from being exploited by their multinational employers to learn anything about what their own government is really doing is something our revered forefathers did not foresee.

For more info on the UK happening:

Twitter: #stfc

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Historic Health Care Bill Passes The House

This is an historic moment, despite the complexity of the legislation and the confusion about it and the emotions stirred by it...and yes, I'm calmer now since my last post !

But I didn't find it possible to sift the information and opinions I've come across in the past two days into anything slick and succinct without feeling like that would be unfair. This is a time for intelligent deliberation, not more one-liner sound bites and misleading partial quotes.

What I was able to put together is here: http://donaldburr.com/healthcare.pdf

and thank you Donald Burr for putting it up on your server for free! (Starving Economists love it when we have things done for us for free...)

Health care has been such a third rail for so long, and our nation's problems with delivering it affordably have been the root of so much suffering which often appears unnecessary, that it is unsurprising so many passions have been stirred. Including my own. Thank you to those who have been bearing with me.

We shall muddle through...

Friday, November 6, 2009

Kucinich Amendment Drop Kick

And here is the crushing blow.

Trying not to use the b*-word.

No, not "bitch."



Look, those of you who are viscerally opposed to having anything like Medicare for yourselves, ok. Your state would not have been forced to adopt such a system. But this quote of Senator Kucinich from the above article is still an important point to ponder, my friends:

"...As long as there are for-profit health insurance companies, there will be no effective way to protect consumers against ever escalating premiums, co pays and deductibles, unless the insurance companies know that people at a state level will always have a choice to reject the insurance companies and establish a single-payer not-for-profit system.

"That is why the Kucinich Amendment must be put back in the health care bill, not just to protect the rights of states to pursue single payer, but to protect the rights of consumers to be free of the economic death grip of the insurance companies."

Think about it.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

"State's Rights!" -- oh, no, wait a minute...

Remembering Reagan's speech where he indicated his support for state's rights...a position he stuck with despite charges of racism...I tend to associate the Republican Party with state's rights advocacy in the current political era. Certainly many Republicans have strongly articulated a similar position to Reagan's on the subject.

But when it comes to corruption, that is, the outrageous level of influence a moneyed and powerful industry such as the health insurance industry has on our elected officials, it seems anything goes. I'm not seeing a powerful Republican repudiation of Nancy Pelosi's sudden betrayal of all who have been working to see, at the very least, the chance of individual states to enact efficient, cost-effective, and fair health care systems, despite the toxic mess the federal bills are threatening to become.

There is time to speak out against the removal of this right for the states, but the deadline is 2 pm Pacific time tomorrow! So please see this action alert for information on what to do.

It's hard to get a good night's sleep these days, knowing that as you rest, some politician somewhere is contemplating doing something really horrific. Maybe they need to sleep more.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

San Quentin Fiscal Insanity

It is truly amazing that there are so many places in our society where common sense is drowned out by ideology and our flawed political system. In an era of vicious partisan sniping as well as sound-byte-size news coverage and the high cost of purchasing one's own media time, our politicians do not dare risk being labeled "soft on crime." "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me" isn't true for them...any strong negative branding can cost them their effectiveness in their jobs as well as re-election.

Thus we end up with boondoggles such as a proposal to build facilities for more death row inmates. The facilities would be costly. More people receiving the death penalty would be incredibly costly.

So while we are killing citizens by denying them health care, denying our children and young adults the education they need to function in the 21st century economy, shrinking our government in a time of severe recession and ending up with less tax revenues and even more deficit to cope with, making other horrific decisions all in the name of needing to save government money...we yet somehow can be forced to endure a big waste of this money?

The first thing we need are better-informed voters, to put the kibosh on projects which make no sense whatsoever.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Never Understood How There Can Be A "Jobless Recovery"...

when there is high unemployment. Because then it's not REALLY a "recovery", is it?

The highest unemployment in the U.S. right now is in Michigan, Nevada, Rhode Island, and California. The news today is that California hit 12.2 % in August, setting another record. "New postwar high!" What war are they talking about...WWII?

Friday, September 4, 2009

I'm Too Sick To Write...So Here's A Pointer To Something Worth Reading :)

Ugh, I hate having a chest cold-thing when it's summer weather...AND a holiday weekend!

The only advantage is that I have the chills while everyone is complaining of the heat.

Anyway, this interesting piece reminds me of why I don't always feel like doing any writing in public when I'm not feeling well...at least, not with so many really pissed-off people around to send me hate mail.

It's not even very creative hate mail.

On another subject, if you're in the US or from the US, Happy Labor Day weekend!

Ok, wages have been flatlined for years now and jobs have been sliced and outsourced to death and unemployment hit a 26-year high today I think but: do NOT let me spoil the party, since I'm just jealous that I'm stuck in bed!

The last rays of the summer sun are starting to vanish... Enjoy them while they are there.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

PETITION: Dr. Dean Keeping Up The Fight For The Public Option

Stand With Dr. Dean ! Nothing good will happen if we don't keep asking for it.

Health Care: Something For The "I've Got Mine Who Cares About You" Group

The middle class may find paying for health care harder and harder if health care reform fails.

DONATIONS NEEDED: End the CA Budget Crisis Once And For All: George Lakoff Plan!

Pass This On!

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

Our budget process is failing California. Right now, a small minority of legislators (1/3 plus 1) of either the assembly or senate can block the will of the majority. This is undemocratic. It has led to the closing of our state parks, public libraries, andfire departments. It has decimated our educational system and social safety net. It is now time to ACT.

We have an opportunity to pass a proposition in November 2010 to overturn the 2/3 requirement to pass the California budget and raise revenue. Our proposition is simple - one sentence, 14 words:

"All legislative actions on revenue and budget must be determined by a majority vote."

The CA Majority Rule campaign is dedicated to making this happen. This is your chance to change California history with one simple sentence.

In order to run an effective campaign, we first need to conduct a public opinion poll to aid in our message strategy. Author and Professor George Lakoff has drafted questions and we are in the process of hiring a reputable polling company. We need to raise money to conduct this unique poll.

If we don't act now, we may lose the opportunity to pass this initiative.

To DONATE, click on the link below:

Please donate what you can. If each of our supporters donates just $35, we can reach our $35,000 goal quickly and entirely with grassroots support!!

The West L.A. Democratic Club has offered to accept funds for the poll through this special Act Blue page. With your support, WE WILL WIN in November 2010.

Deana Igelsrud

Help fund the George Lakoff Poll go to:

To learn more about CA Majority Rule
visit our website: (www.CAMajorityRule.com)

Man Of The Hour: Thom Hartmann

Thom Hartmann: let us buy into Medicare.
(photo from the web)

Why is Medicare confined to the elderly and the disabled/chronically ill...the most expensive health care users? Why do the private companies get exclusive rights to the healthier population they carefully cherry-pick for maximizing premium collections vs. potential claims? We tolerate this, which lets many of our citizens remain uncovered or undercovered, and also comes with at least 18,000 fatalities ANNUALLY...for what reason?

Could the extremists sit down and shut up so the rest of us could get some health care?

Medicare is not perfect (nothing is) but with what we are paying for our crazy "system" now, we could afford to fix its problems with $$$ left over. Oh, maybe a few bloated executive wallets might suffer, but I can live with that. Can't you?

Thursday, August 13, 2009


I thought I would be shopping at the new one coming to my area. I was wrong!

Their CEO does NOT need my barely-enough food money. I'm not going to fund his propaganda.

Progressive Caucus in San Luis Obispo this weekend

I only just learned about it, so apologies for the short notice! http://www.progressivecaucuscdp.org/home.html

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Cuts That Bleed...

Domestic Violence Shelters

No, I don't know how any policymaker of any political persuasion could have in good conscience slashed all of the funding for the above. I have not figured out how this happened, in the early part of the 21st century.

See Stop Family Violence to take action.

The California Budget, as signed in July 2009

California is still suffering from high unemployment (a shout-out here to my own household and to so many friends who have also lost their jobs) and shows other indications of economic weakness. So the hope was for something less contractionary than the current all-cuts budget, with the cuts affecting mainly the poor and the middle class. Isn't this a classic way to fuel demand destruction?

In addition, from a humane, common sense, let's-get-out-of-the-short-term-thinking-trap point of view, this budget is the nightmare many of us prayed we would not see in real life. It is needlessly cruel and dangerous to many vulnerable citizens, such as the sick, the disabled and children. It takes from education, thus eroding the pool of talent our state needs to both attract and keep businesses here and to cope successfully with the new economy of the 21st century.

This budget is not a permanent solution to the deficit problem, and adds new debt. For those of you concerned with the cost vs. benefits of the presence of illegal immigrants in our state, this budget does not address that issue in any way. The closure of our parks will take away more than 2 dollars from our economy for every 1 dollar saved. The cuts to firefighting allocations, from the point of view of someone who was recently close to the Jesusita Fire, the Gap Fire, and the Tea Fire, simply take my breath away.

There WERE other alternatives--so why these and other terrible furies leashed upon us? It is as if the leaders were trying to punish the citizens of this state. Is that a crazy thought? Or is it perhaps something real, such as retribution for those who did bother to vote having voted a big NO on the ballot propositions of last May, in a special election which was to help balance the budget -- with the one YES vote from the electorate going towards prohibiting increases to legislators' salaries during times of budget deficit...?

I cannot say for certain what produced this horrific end product of months of tortured negotiations. But it is interesting to note that once again, a minority successfully held the majority hostage, delaying the signing to the point where the state began to issue IOUs instead of paying obligations, delay which once again wasted a great deal of money and time.

As a former Republican, I keep calling on the California GOP to please move back towards the moderate center, where the majority of us are sitting on the Confused Couch, wringing our hands. No one I know, Republican or Democrat or Other, refused the entire idea of more taxes to help balance the state budget. People don't want their money wasted. They want to see government, including politicians, sharing in the sacrifice we all must make to get the books permanently in order. But only extremists are ok with ripping health care from sick citizens, leaving disabled people without care, taking away education and health insurance and funding for necessities of life for children, closing our parks, reducing our firefighting capabilities, and in other ways attacking our communities.

Most of us just want common sense. So naturally questions begin to be asked, such as why is California the only oil-producing state which does not have an extraction tax (as opposed to such commie pinko liberal hangouts such as Alaska and Texas) ? Why were there recent tax cuts for corporations in the billions of dollars? What was so wrong with the proposed FIFTEEN DOLLAR PER YEAR fee to be added to the vehicle license fee which would have kept the parks open? I'm very low-income and yet I could have come up with that, and would have gladly contributed to something so important to our state.

Now the silent sane majority, who would have stayed quiet had this 2009 budget been a rational product of sincere negotiation, are now going to have to join some of the passionate advocates for reform of some of the provisions which were slipped into Proposition 13, many years ago. At that time people were voting to help homeowners who were losing their homes due to rapidly rising home values and the accompanying too-rapidly rising property taxes. This was the famous "Tax Revolt," which was to usher in an antitax national rebellion. If it in any way contributed to Ronald Reagan's election, perhaps it did do some of that ushering. But that was thirtysomething years ago and our economy has changed dramatically in those years.

The voters who proudly voted back in '78 to keep property taxes on homes from rising too fast were not also vocally championing keeping taxes on commercial property artificially low as well: but that's what 13 gave them, thus making the state heavily dependent on income tax revenue, which varies wildly in "boom" and "bust" years. 13 also slipped in a mandatory requirement for 2/3 of the legislature being needed to agree before a tax could be passed, before a tax cut could be repealed, and for a budget to be passed. 2/3 is hard to get in a large state with strong political divisions. In fact the only other states who require a 2/3 vote to get a budget passed are Arkansas and Rhode Island. California does not have much else in common with these states, AFAIK. I know Rhode Island pretty well, actually. Have ancestors there going back to the state founder. Arkansas, I need to rely on others to tell me about.

Anyway, for 30 years this state has had trouble getting any needed revenue increases passed as well as getting budgets passed on time. And we scratch our heads and wonder where these deficits come from.

Hello Out There

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An undergrad economics degree was all I could afford. Alas and alack, it did not guarantee me regular meals.

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Except where individually noted, photos for this blog were taken by xbeepx .