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Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re: Poor people have nobody but themselves to blame on 10/01/2010 21:08:53 MDT Print View

"The posts have been about the opportunities in the US. So we agree right?"

They were up until your "Other Ben" post, although I admit I was thinking about other countries long before that, both for their own inherent interest and because, if this country continues on its current path, we may find ourselves in similar circumstances in the not too distant future, IMO. As for agreeing, if you were referring to the period from the 1780's up until about 1980, I would say yes, we agree. From that point on the paradigm you extol has become more and more a myth for a variety of reasons, including the moral rot you refer to, the gutting of unions, globalization, and a change in corporate governance. You are what, 59? I am 70. We both grew up in an era when a man with any ambition could expect to take home enough money to support his family, buy a home, and perhaps put away enough to cover emergencies or even help a son or daughter get started in college with the hope that their life would be better than his own. In his old age, he could expect a pension and social security to enable him to spend his senior years in dignity. That man didn't have to be a high achiever like yourself. Smack in the middle of the Bell Curve, he could do it working construction, on the assembly line, in a machine shop like my Father, and so on. Those jobs have vanished by the millions due to outsourcing, first in manufacturing, and increasingly in IT and other high tech areas, even radiology and other medical specialties. So much for retraining. Even a highly trained person here cannot compete with an equally highly trained person in India or China who will work for half or less of the wage required to have a decent life here. The less skilled jobs, construction, landscaping, roofing, even carpentry are increasingly being filled by insourcing from Latin America, both legal and illegal. Other jobs are being lost to automation. The upshot of all this is that we have a large and growing number of people in this country who are essentially unemployable. Add to this the general moral decline and lack of work ethic, and I think this country is in serious trouble. If it continues we will face a situation where even people like yourself will have a hard time making it; you don't work in a vacuum. I guess the question I would pose to you is, quite simply, what do you intend to do with all these people that don't quite measure up to your standard? I assure you they will not go quietly into the night. Bottom line, Nick, you can't build a society where all, or even most, people have to perform to your standards; the vast majority simply cannot do it, either for lack of drive, intellect, or circumstances beyond their control. If you want to have a society where people like yourself can achieve to your potential and be rewarded appropriately, you will have to structure it so the majority can also perform to their level and expect to have a decent, if not affluent, standard of living. Anything else is a fantasy.

"If the citizens in poor countries suffer due to their government...

"it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government" (Hmm, sounds familiar)."

I suggest you visit a few of the countries I am quite familiar with, perhaps start with Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the list goes on, then come back and tell me the above with a straight face. It would also be worth your while to research who supplies "their government(s)" with the instruments of oppression in all too many cases. In this particular instance, I join you in opposing our government forcibly taking my money via taxation.

"We already built the blue print for them. And some of my relatives died for those rights during the revolutionary war."

Our blueprint is one of many. It is based on the rights of the individual and has succeeded beyond any other in history in unleashing creative potential, maximizing individual freedom and, partly due to a geographical fluke,
achieving a level of prosperity previously unknown. Whether or not it is sustainable is another question, for which we shall fairly soon have the answer, I believe.

There are other blueprints based on the group, primarily in Asia, which prospered in their time and probably will again.
Two of them, China and India, have endured as continuous civilizations for millenia, through periods of glory and periods of decay. That they are sustainable is beyond dispute. Whether or not they can rise to a decent level of prosperity for the majority of their citizens is yet to be determined. We shall see. My point is that ours is not the only, or even necessarily the best over the long haul.
Ever increasing material prosperity and individual freedom without corresponding individual responsibility are not necessarily the best metrics by which to judge the results of a blueprint, IMO. I'll stop now before I time out and continue this in a second post.

Edited by ouzel on 10/02/2010 17:34:06 MDT.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re: Poor people have nobody but themselves to blame on 10/01/2010 21:35:57 MDT Print View

"My wife and I do all those tasks ourselves. Except mow the lawn. I did that until I was 37."

Same for my wife and I, and I still mow my lawn at age 70, although it's mostly weeds. But there are millions who don't, and they depend on a mostly shadow army of immigrants to do those things for them as well as nanny their kids, shop, and all the other mundane chores that would interfere with making money or enjoying the fruits of their labor. Fine, no problem, but make no mistake, their lives would be seriously impacted if these people weren't available. My point is simply that our society needs such people, as well as a host of others, who are not a couple standard deviations to the right on the Bell Curve, either intellectually or in terms of motivation. They will always have difficulty making enough to live a decent life under current circumstances and thus may need assistance if they are to have decent medical care or affordable housing in/near the affluent areas they serve, among other things. Is it going to depend on charity? Or is this perhaps a legitimate function of government which requires taxes to fund?

"Then I hired a gardener in 1987. He is a first generation legal immigrant from Mexico. He now owns two houses, a fleet of trucks, drives a Lexus, has many employees, put his kids through college, his son served in the US Air Force in Iraq, he has little debt, still speaks broken English, and will be retiring soon. I think it has been a fair business arrangement. Along with all his other customers, I have helped support his family for 23 years. He has never been on the public dole. He has crews that service most of his customers, but he still does my lawn, because I was one of his first customers. He had an opportunity, and he maximized it with hard work. He sets the price for his services. It is a fair trade for both of us. He is proud to be an American."

And I am proud to welcome him. Like yourself, he is a shining example of what can be achieved in our system. But for every example like him there are hundreds who have not done so well. You mentioned that he is Mexican, as are most Hispanics in the US. A countervailing statistic is the high school dropout rate. The Hispanic dropout rate is the highest of any ethnic group. Whatever the reasons, this does not indicate a highly motivated group of achievers. I can quote numerous examples of success
stories from among the ethnic groups with which I am most familiar, primarily South Asian, Chinese, and Vietnamese, but I would be wary of extrapolating from my experiences to draw conclusions about a nation of 300+ million people. Similarly, I would be wary of drawing such conclusions from my own life experience which, in many ways, parallels your own.

"BTW, it is Galt :)"

Ya got me there, Nick; although it comes up both ways on Google, it is Galt in the book. Score one for the nitpickers. I totally understand, by the way; I worked in software, too, long ago and far away. ;)

Edited by ouzel on 10/02/2010 17:37:53 MDT.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Future Economy on 10/01/2010 21:40:44 MDT Print View

Tom:

You are right. We will never recapture mass manufacturing -- high tech or low. The way to riches available back in the 1950's and 1960's will remain closed for the foreseeable future.

In my view, the ONLY way to win the economic competition and maintain our high standard of living is TECHNOLOGY. If we lose out on technology, we kiss our high standard of living goodbye. But if we can keep improving our education and maintain a wide enough technological lead, then we have a chance!!

This is how I see our future economy -- if we play our cards right::

A minority of our population will continue to do what we've been doing best -- create entirely new technologies and industries that will generate enormous profits. This is the critical engine that will help drive the rest of the economy!

A majority of our population will work in the various service and support industries. Most of them will not know real wealth -- but if the cards above are played right, there will be enough trickling down and spread around to maintain a decent enough standard of living. Actually, this trend has been in place for quite some years -- and thus far has increased our wealth even while we have steadily lost manufacturing jobs!! I believe this trend will continue -- and relentlessly so.

Another minority will work in government, agriculture, mining, military, etc.

So, technology will be key. I hope we can improve our general education system, but I am not too confident. What's truly critical is that we make sure that our "Harvard's and Standford's" will stay head and shoulders above the rest of the world. In other words, our elite must remain in the forefront because it will be they who will continue to generate the wealth for our nation.

Elitist view? Yes... but I have little confidence that the majority can all find ways somehow to compete against the China's and India's of the world. I find that unrealistic. And protectionism to shield our uncompetitive population will just end up hurting the entire nation!

I hope our elite will succeed in expanding our economic pie. And I hope our government will do its part to minimize taxes and other encumbrances . As stated earlier, it will be easier to divide up an expanding economic pie than fighting over a shrinking one.

Edited by ben2world on 10/01/2010 21:57:13 MDT.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re: Re: Re: Poor people have nobody but themselves to blame on 10/01/2010 21:59:18 MDT Print View

"In my view, the ONLY way to win the economic competition and maintain our high standard of living is TECHNOLOGY. If we lose out on technology, we kiss our high standard of living goodbye. But if we can keep improving our education and maintain a wide enough technological lead, then we have a chance!!"

Improving our education system is a massive undertaking that will require generations, IMO. It will have to start with cultural change, which does not happen overnight. In the meantime, other nations are not standing still in terms of developing their own education systems. Previously they sent as many of their students as they could to US universities. They still do, but not as many as before. Our universities are still the envy of the world, but the student body, especially in the sciences and engineering, is increasingly composed of Asians. This is particularly true at the graduate level. Up until 9/11, a distressingly large number of them(from their native countries' perspective) stayed here to take advantage of the opportunities for prosperity and freedom. That is changing. More and more of them are weary of the suspicion, outright hostility, and red tape they encounter, and are returning to their native land or moving on to other western countries where conditons are less onerous. Unfortunately, our secondary schools systems are not producing nearly enough students capable and motivated enough to replace them. Changing that will have to begin at home and ripple upward and outward through our entire society, if we are to maintain our technological edge. It's not just a matter of weeding out incompetent teachers; students have to come to school ready to learn, and they are not in disturbingly large numbers. As things stand our technological edge is dependent on foreigners to an uncomfortable degree.

I think your idea is sound in theory, Ben, but in practice I think we're going to have a hard time pulling it off in time to avert a long, slow decline. I hope I'm wrong.

Edited by ouzel on 10/01/2010 22:01:30 MDT.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Future Economy on 10/01/2010 22:06:33 MDT Print View

Well, Tom, I think even if our overall education standards should deteriorate -- we will still have our "Havard's and Standford's". Our elite will continue to generate wealth and will continue to live very well. The question is really just "how much and how well" -- the answer of which will determine the sizes of the service/support industries that can be supported -- and thus how many of the rest can remain middle class versus getting pushed down into the poorer class.

As stated above, I am pinning my hope on success in maintaining our best schools, universities and research centers. Again, as stated, I have less hope for the rest -- which is why we won't have a huge cutting edge technological industry -- but will have much more service/support industries instead. But as long as the former is "strong enough" -- it can pull the rest of the country through...

Edited by ben2world on 10/01/2010 22:23:44 MDT.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: Future Economy on 10/01/2010 23:46:03 MDT Print View

We can debate this forever. Here are the facts (United States):

- Our population is growing, and is not going to stop.

- To maintain a standard of living or improve it, the economy must continue to expand also.

- Economies expand by the investment of capital into the economy, which creates jobs.

- Investments come from the people who have the money to invest in growth; usually the wealthy, high wage earners, and businesses. They are the ones who take the risks and create the jobs.

- They more money you take from the investors (taxes) the less money available for investment.

The bottom line is that "re-distributing" income is a formula for disaster, not economic growth.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Future Economy on 10/02/2010 09:50:34 MDT Print View

Nick:

The bottom line for me is that there must be some redistribution. I want a competitive economy -- but I also want a appropriately compassionate society. I do not see the two as mutually exclusive at all.

As stated in my earlier posts, I am all for freeing companies from paying taxes and funding social benefits. Let companies compete worldwide unencumbered -- and generate wealth for our nation.

Let the government then tax its citizens both on their income and on their consumption. I favor a simple 2 or at most 3 flat tax rates -- with no deductions, loopholes or complications. I also favor a nationwide sales tax.

From the above, let us then live within our means. Want defense, education, roads, health care, and trail maintenance? Pay for them from the above.

Edited by ben2world on 10/02/2010 09:52:40 MDT.

Nia Schmald
(nschmald) - MLife
Re: Future Economy on 10/02/2010 10:40:23 MDT Print View

"- Investments come from the people who have the money to invest in growth; usually the wealthy, high wage earners, and businesses. They are the ones who take the risks and create the jobs.

- They more money you take from the investors (taxes) the less money available for investment."

This is standard supply side economics which has dominated since Reagan. It just hasn't born out.

At the beginning of the 00s we had significant tax cuts for the wealthiest income brackets and yet a decade where the only "growth" was financial manipulation that has since evaporated into thin air.

At the beginning of 90s we had a not insignificant increase in upper income taxes followed by huge innovation and economic growth. And it was a government funded program spurring innovation.

The picture is a little more complicated than suggested.

David Olsen
(oware)

Locale: Steptoe Butte
Re: Re: Re: Future Economy on 10/02/2010 10:55:24 MDT Print View

"The bottom line is that "re-distributing" income is a formula for disaster, not economic growth."

So money stays with the wealthiest, countries like
Mexico do this. They can be called oligarchies.

The reason the founding fathers had an estate tax (death tax
to you conservatives) was to help keep in check the long
running oligarchs they had witnessed.

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

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Re: Future Economy on 10/02/2010 15:57:30 MDT Print View

Hi Nick

Sorry to have to disagree with you, but:

> - Our population is growing, and is not going to stop.
It will stop, one way or another, when America runs out of resources. The later it stops, the greater the pain. This has happened to many civilisations in the past.

> - To maintain a standard of living or improve it, the economy must continue to expand also.
This statement lacks all logic. It has frequently been asserted, very often by people associated with all forms of Real Estate, but no proof has ever been given. I say it is false.

Basically, when the amount of gear you are trying to get into an SUL pack approaches 70 L, something is going to fail!

Cheers

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re: Re: Future Economy on 10/02/2010 18:08:32 MDT Print View

"Economies expand by the investment of capital into the economy, which creates jobs."

And where are the high skill, high paying jobs, Nick? Increasingly overseas, mostly in Asia, or insourced mostly from Asia. Microsoft's employees are ~40% Asian/South Asian, for instance.

"Investments come from the people who have the money to invest in growth; usually the wealthy, high wage earners, and businesses. They are the ones who take the risks and create the jobs."

See above. I might also add that if many people are not employed, and the incomes of those who are employed is decreasing or at best standing still, there will not be the consumer demand necessary to stimulate job creation, or even job retention, especially with the increasing use of automated process to replace human labor.

"The bottom line is that "re-distributing" income is a formula for disaster, not economic growth."

Enough income to provide people with a decent standard of living must indeed be redistributed, either via employment or social programs if we are to avoid mass unrest and chaos.
That would be the true disaster.

You still haven't answered my biggest question: What do you propose we do with the 10's of millions of people who aren't making it on their own, for whatever reason?

I second Roger's observation about our continued growth, BTW. Believe it or not, we are subject to the same basic physical laws as everybody else on the planet. A closed system will rapidly sucumb to entropy as its internal supplies of energy and resources are depleted. An open system, which ours has been for some time, depends on outside sources of energy and resources for growth and maintenance of infrastructure. When those either dry up or are insufficient to support not only growth but the maintenance of what we have already built, we will be on our way to becoming a closed system and suffer the inevitable consequences. It applies as well to the human race as a whole. We live in a world of finite resources, which will ultimately limit our ablity to grow.

George Matthews
(gmatthews) - MLife
Congrats on your son on 10/02/2010 18:13:18 MDT Print View

Ben,

That's a great thing you did for your son (you earned Dad status in my book!). I know from personal experience (2x) that putting a student through higher education is quite an investment. I'm sure your son will make the world a better place.

George Matthews
(gmatthews) - MLife
cool LA on 10/02/2010 18:15:46 MDT Print View

Rog,

Interesting info. Thanks.

P.S.

Will there be a study about Ben's new roof? Just kidding. : )

George Matthews
(gmatthews) - MLife
re: Future economy on 10/02/2010 18:27:51 MDT Print View

The truth is NO ONE knows.

With investments there is a relationship between risk and return. Even the safest (lowest risk) bet has a risk associated with it. There is no sure thing. That is the way it is. Of course, government intervention can create moral hazard. For example, a bank acting like a casino because it knows it is too big to fail without bringing the whole house down.

One certainty, if there is at least one, is that the future will be different than the present. Most inventions that will be of significance in the future are unknown to most of us in the present.

I'm sure you've seen the news about the new Earth-like planet. If we don't kill ourselves off via our technology then we just might have a shot at some new real estate. Sounds insane but it's as likely to us now past innovations that we don't even notice anymore.

George Matthews
(gmatthews) - MLife
Re: The Carbon Flame War on 10/02/2010 18:32:20 MDT Print View

http://www.kulr8.com/news/state/104206209.html

WET SUMMER SPOILS SHARE OF RECORD WHEAT HARVEST

Story Published: Oct 2, 2010 at 6:00 PM MDT
Story Updated: Oct 2, 2010 at 6:00 PM MDT
GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — Montana has yielded a record wheat harvest at a time of sky-high prices, but cool temperatures, a wet summer and a late seeding start may have damaged or spoiled a fair share of it.

George Matthews
(gmatthews) - MLife
Re: Re: Re: Re: Future Economy on 10/02/2010 18:37:55 MDT Print View

Agree with Roger...

> - Our population is growing, and is not going to stop.
It will stop, one way or another, when America runs out of resources. The later it stops, the greater the pain. This has happened to many civilisations in the past.


My guess is that the US will go the way of Europe. Think EU. Still important but not running their empires like they were in the good old days when tall ships sailed the seven seas.

China and India are going to run the show for while. Just do the math. It is a no brainer.

George Matthews
(gmatthews) - MLife
Re: Re: Re: Poor people have nobody but themselves to blame on 10/02/2010 18:43:55 MDT Print View

Tom,

Good post.

>> You are what, 59? I am 70. We both grew up in an era when a man with any ambition could expect to take home enough money to support his family, buy a home, and perhaps put away enough to cover emergencies or even help a son or daughter get started in college with the hope that their life would be better than his own. In his old age, he could expect a pension and social security to enable him to spend his senior years in dignity.

I like to relate business cycles to generational cycles. Speaking of the US, there have always been opportunities. But opportunities not only for BETTER but also for WORSE.

My sister did a family tree. It was quite interesting to related generations back and back again to the big events. Just because some Americans roots go way back does not guaranty them a dime.

George Matthews
(gmatthews) - MLife
Re: Re: Re: Poor people have nobody but themselves to blame on 10/02/2010 18:45:33 MDT Print View

>> Two of them, China and India, have endured as continuous civilizations for millenia, through periods of glory and periods of decay.

And they're heading towards glory again.

George Matthews
(gmatthews) - MLife
Re: Future Economy on 10/02/2010 18:46:44 MDT Print View

>>> You are right. We will never recapture mass manufacturing -- high tech or low. The way to riches available back in the 1950's and 1960's will remain closed for the foreseeable future.


I would not say NEVER. There might be some situation that will work, but we don't know what it is yet.

George Matthews
(gmatthews) - MLife
Re: Re: Future Economy on 10/02/2010 18:47:24 MDT Print View

: )