Feet on the ground – head in the clouds.

Posts Tagged ‘unemployment

Three things everyone can do to make the economy stronger

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I go AWOL every now and again, but certain things pull me out of hibernation. This week’s shenanigans on the Hill have been tacky melodrama at best. There are so very few politicians who know anything about economics, but many know something about theatre. 

If I wanted to hear something completely familiar delivered by a bad actor, I’d have watched a Tom Cruise film. Here are three things we can all do to make the economy stronger. These aren’t things we can all read which will simply make the economy stronger, but things anyone and everyone can do.

  1. Mind your wallet. Ask anyone you know if they’re in debt. When everyone has a little debt, it amounts to a lot of debt. Debt, at a certain point, creates friction in our economy. Get out of debt, start spending your money again and you’ll already be helping.
  2. Attempt to understand the economy. Look up terms you are fuzzy about. Get as realistic a vision of a ‘better economy’ that you can. It won’t happen overnight, but it also won’t happen with our heads buried in the sand.
  3. Understand that the economy is not partisan. The economy doesn’t care if you call yourself a Democrat or a Republican. The economy is not waiting for anything. It won’t suddenly ‘do something’. It is simply a machine to circulate money, and it needs lube.

Written by unastronaut

February 7, 2009 at 9:09 pm

Carly Fiorina doesn’t think McCain could run a corporation

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And she would know about not being able to run a corporation.  She would also know about the “problem” that Senator McCain clearly defined on the campaign trail today.  CEOs getting golden parachutes while average Americans lose their jobs.  During her time at Hewlett-Packard, Fiorina lost the company over 20,000 jobs and referred to outsourcing jobs as “rightsourcing”.  I hope you’re enjoying your $46 million severance, Carly.  While average Americans lose their homes your boss returns to one of his seven.  While average Americans hope to hang on to the health insurance they have, John McCain enjoys the benefit of three health insurance programs (VA, Senate, Medicare — he may even have a corporate plan from Cindy’s company).  The facts are being distorted and perverted by the McCain campaign as outright lies are spread with reckless abandon.  

Her original statement:

She’s opposed to golden parachutes?

Her defense of her own golden parachute:

When it comes to the economy, stick to the facts

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McCain couldn’t even begin to understand poverty

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John McCain is on another speaking tour, this time talking about poverty. The It’s Time for Action tour, at least one major news outlet likens this tour to President Bush’s ‘compassionate, conservative campaign’. We now know what a sham that was. It’s not to say that he doesn’t have a few good ideas, it’s that he wants to talk about something he doesn’t – and couldn’t possibly – understand. This further calls into question one of the traditional roles of the First Lady, if he brings his heiress wife into that role. Their hearts may very well be in the right place, but every policy plan McCain rolls out reeks of true legislative elitism. Here is a snippet from the Think Progress story about his economic policy:

The Center for American Progress has the breakdown and analysis of Senator McCain’s economic plan and its impact on the poor. To say he’d be further forgetting these parts of America is an understatement. He’s spent the past year shattering every rational person’s view of him as an unabashed maverick and turned him into a true pandering Republican party loyalist. Partisanship is not what the American people need. Hollow claims of helping the poor is not what the American people need.

$8 an hour, 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year yields $16,640 before taxes. If you don’t think there are single parents out there unable to find a better job, making this much stretch for two or more people. It happens. If you don’t know many people actually living on this much, you’d think it were impossible. You might even believe people who lived on this much did so by choice, or by some guilt of their own. It’s just not always a black-and-white issue.

A lot of the response I hear to things like this are that people are unmotivated, addicted, or otherwise prone to poverty. What I don’t hear is any honesty about the advantages given to those enabled to speak on the issue. I rarely hear people working face-to-face with people in poverty, telling them the low-down on why they are poor and will remain poor. I rarely have someone on the ‘front lines’ of this issue willing to dismiss the struggles of the suffering.

Senator McCain is highly capable and has spoken the truth on many occasions in the past.  He is still living up to that legacy in many respects.  He recently criticized the response to Hurricane Katrina, going so far as to point the finger at President Bush.

Asked at an outdoor news conference if he traced the failure of leadership straight to the top, Mr. McCain, who has vowed to campaign with President Bush, said, emphatically, “yes.”

John McCain can observe a problem and shed light on issues to more people, but as far as understanding this issue, he’s just never been poor or even close.   Many who have never experienced poverty have done great things to improve the quality of life for others less fortunate, and I have no doubt a McCain presidency may yield some benefits for those in poverty.  To offer welfare with no teeth is as cruel as offering nothing at all.  

The problem with poverty is that if you live in poverty, it’s all you see.  If you never live it, you’ll never see.  The subject itself breeds a discontent that makes the entire issue hard to discuss, but it must be done.  It must be done with people who live the experience.  Go ask a grandmother in the poorest neighborhood of your city what happened to her neighborhood.  Ask a worker who was laid off and saw his wife leave, taking the kids, why he might be more open to criminal activity.  This is not to justify behavior, it is simply to understand the problem.  


A day’s work is a day’s work, neither more nor less, and the man who does it needs a day’s sustenance, a night’s repose and due leisure, whether he be painter or ploughman. – George Bernard Shaw

The trouble with relying on statistics…

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Statistics can lie. In fact, all statistics are generated by studies funded by someone interested in finding something. Different research groups get together with an aim and, especially in the social sciences, they either publish all of their successes or abort the project. A bright line can be drawn between social scientists (including myself) and natural scientists. That particular science community is self-checking and one of the most reliable bodies of highly trained problem solvers on this planet. In the “debate” about global warming, how often are you presented with real studies of the issue, done by true scientists? I’ve heard some 3rd-degree evidence, such as the fact that Pluto is warming (and climate changes are being recorded on nearly every other planet in our solar system) and therefore our planet’s warming is not the result of human activity. This seems very convincing until you try to find actual studies, and the methodologies and findings from the study.

It is easy to find analysis and coverage (especially on talk radio) of these studies, but much more difficult to find and examine as a researcher. I am not claiming there aren’t a few scientific studies disproving global warming, but the media blitz set to dumb down and polarize the debate have done an incredible job. You could be led to believe that the debate is raging within the science community, and it’s really not. To what extent humans do negatively and can positively affect our planet is a debate, but the fact that humans have contributed to rapid degradation of some of our vital resources isn’t a question. Some environmentalist causes are complete nonsense, and so are some free market entrepreneurs’ money-making schemes. The point is to have the issues we do agree on sorted out and tackled first, let researchers argue over details and not put every cause and issue under the same umbrella.

A few points of the hype to avoid getting caught up in:

  • Al Gore’s theory of global warming – This is not one man’s theory, this is one man’s philanthropic goal and a majority of scientist’s viewpoint on climate change and the effects humans can have on the planet. If you’re attaching Al Gore’s name to everything Green, you’ve been swindled by someone. He’s involved, but he doesn’t get a cut of your tax credit for making your home more energy efficient.
  • Not every environmental issue is global warming – They shouldn’t even be billed as such, the umbrella of Green has put the stamp of sloganized consumerism all over anything remotely friendly for the environment. For example: if you think we can breathe for long on this planet after we’ve clear-cut every forest, you’re wrong. If you think we’ll cure many more diseases when the rain forest frog population has gone extinct. That isn’t to say we chain ourselves to trees, but stop the PR campaigns and admit what the agreed problems are, there are many.
  • Gas prices are about economics, not the environment – If you had 100 diamonds and only 3 people wanted to buy them, how would you go about maximizing your profit? If you now still have only 100 diamonds and thousands of people want them, would you leave prices the same? This is much the same as the gas price debacle. It has nothing to do with profiteering oil companies. If anything they take more risks being where they are in the Middle East and being liable for employees who need serious protection. This doesn’t make it right, but they aren’t gouging us during a war time. Something different is happening: India and China are developing. In the same way our population and way-of-ease exploded in the twentieth century, so are those of India and China as we speak. That means the teenagers of wealthy parents might be driving a car to school. That means more two-car homes. That means two countries with populations over a billion apiece have more drivers on the road. Demand goes up, prices go up. We need to eliminate our dependence on foreign oil and all fossil fuels if we are to stay ahead in this world. It’s the American thing to do.
  • This was all sparked by a blog by Charles Wheelan, an economist and columnist for Yahoo! discussing the problem with job conversion to overcome skill jobs lost overseas and due to a slumping economy, and his link to how a lack of education is part of the issue. I would say to Dr. Wheelan he’s accepted an incomplete idea when he looks at statistics like unemployment rate by education to justify his hypothesis, that we cannot use empty buildings and available labor workers to train and build a new green energy infrastructure.

    Although I generally agree with Dr. Wheelan, this just isn’t a very solid argument. His thought experiment can be considered another way: how many screw-ups do you know who still never lost their shot at a good job because of their situation at birth? How many hard-working people (or people at all) do you know in the poorest neighborhoods and rural areas in our country? Education is another indicator, a symptom maybe, but not the direct cause of anything. This argument falls flat at the point you realize pursuing an education (for some even beyond 8th grade) is not an equal opportunity. You can easily make it look like a race argument, but it’s truly just another sad testament to the shrinking middle-class. Here are my skillful questions:

  • Are standardized tests in wealthy, well-served schools the same as those in schools in the Phoenix area which do not have any maps in their history classrooms (except for the few instances where the teachers were able to provide one?
  • Are the common jobs people do around those same schools similar in any way? Is the school surrounded by Doctor’s and Dentist’s offices tested using the same material as those who walk by a Church’s chicken and a row of unused (except for the loitering junkies) office spaces?
  • Soon to come: my laundry list for improving our education system.