Thursday, July 24, 2014

The jobless future; then what?

"The only solution that I see is a shrinking work week. We may perhaps be working for 10 to 20 hours a week instead of the 40 for which we do today. And with the prices of necessities and of what we today consider luxury goods dropping exponentially, we may not need the entire population to be working. There is surely a possibility for social unrest because of this; but we could also create the utopian future we have long dreamed of, with a large part of humanity focused on creativity and enlightenment.
Regardless, at best we have another 10 to 15 years in which there is a role for humans. The number of available jobs will actually increase in the U.S. and Europe before it decreases. China is out of time because it has a manufacturing-based economy, and those jobs are already disappearing."

I'm starting to lean toward the idea of a guaranteed minimum income for everybody.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

This sounds bad; economic problems ahead?

"The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development -- a pro-establishment, rock-ribbed bastion of pro-market thinking -- has released a report predicting a collapse in global economic growth rates, a rise in feudal wealth disparity, collapsing tax revenue and huge, migrating bands of migrant laborers roaming from country to country, seeking crumbs of work. They prescribe 'flexible' workforces, austerity, and mass privatization.
The report, Policy Challenges for the Next 50 Years , makes a number of assumptions about the impact of automation on skilled jobs in the workforce, the end the recent growth in the developing world (especially the BRIC nations), and a series of worsening environmental catastrophes."

I think this is more a call for change then prediction. It's obvious that we are moving currently toward a time when there are only serfs and lords.  The rich accumulate all the wealth, and dole it out as needed to those below.  I thought we had already grown out of this system, but apparently not.

When people talk and cooperate, better things happen

"Using participatory democracy principles, Pitt’s organization organizers met with families and community leaders about their needs and their vision for their new homes, and how the builders can preserve the culture of the Assiniboine and Sioux tribes, such as doorways facing east or north and using tribally significant colors."

"Pitt’s foundation employs lawyers, social workers, and loan workers to help the former residents of the Lower Ninth Ward whom many of which lost all documentation during Hurricane Katrina to get through the mortgage application process. The income of the applicants does not affect the applicant’s ability to obtain a home. The unsubsidized mortgage is designed to be no more than one third of the applicant’s income."

so many times charitable groups go to a place where people are in need, and they impose their own vision of what the people there need.  Pitt's group first ASKS what is needed before trying to help out. This is wonderful.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Universal minimum income?

"In 2012, there were 179 million Americans between the ages of 21 and 65 (when Social Security would kick in). The poverty line was $11,945. Thus, giving each working-age American a basic income equal to the poverty line would cost $2.14 trillion. For some comparison, U.S. GDP was almost $16 trillion in 2012 and the defense budget was $700 billion.
But a minimum income would also allow us to eliminate every government benefit as well. Get rid of SNAP, TANF, housing vouchers, the Earned Income tax credit and many others. Get rid of them all. A 2012 Congressional Research Service report found that the federal government spends approximately $750 billion each year on benefits for low-income Americans and that rises to a clean trillion when you factor in state programs. Eliminate all of those and the net figure comes out to $1.2 trillion needed to pay for a universal basic income, still a hefty sum."

I'm starting to wonder if this is a good idea. It hasn't been tried on a large scale yet, though.  But we've got to consider alternatives to our current broken system.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Libraries; moving from passive to active

"Libraries have compensated for this shift by redefining their mission around providing access to new technologies. The slow invasion of computer clusters that has defined the past two decades of library design serves an important purpose, but that mission, too, now seems increasingly redundant. Already, three-quarters of Americans access the Internet at home, with both broadband and mobile access rising steadily, particularly among younger people. It seems unlikely that providing on-site public access to online media will be a compelling justification for funding brick-and-mortar libraries even a decade from now."

"Across the United States, librarians have been experimenting with ways of expanding on this newly elaborated mission—for instance, by opening so-called “maker spaces” in annexes and areas where bookshelves have been cleared out. A throwback to the mechanic’s library of the 19th century, maker spaces collect old and new technologies, from sewing machines to 3-D printers, and encourage patrons to develop and share skills that cannot be practiced over the Internet. "

what's happening with your local library?  Is it embracing social media?  Turning from passive information storage to resourcing innovative creation?  Does your community support your library?  Do you care?

Saturday, April 12, 2014

"Economic growth" is a problem, not a solution

"Other studies suggest we are approaching real limits to the availability of numerous basic resources necessary to economic advancement. No technological quick fix is going to change the fact that our finite planet has definite limits. And the more we grow, the more we begin to trip over them, in an increasingly chaotic and interconnected fashion. The energy business and its deleterious impact on the environment are only the most obvious of many examples: The trajectory of the hydrocarbon industry toward costly and carbon-intensive tar-sand extraction and extreme deep-water drilling now makes “sense” from the perspective of a market that has exploited most easily available energy deposits and ignores the consequences of its actions with impunity. Meanwhile, hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is pouring more carbon into the air while depleting dwindling aquifers and destroying the very rock formations that some had hoped might be available to sequester excess carbon. The planet cannot sustain this type of growth, but the economy, we are told, commands it.
This is a problem. Our national political debate is so constrained that accelerated growth is presumed to be the necessary precondition for broad prosperity. We’re told the only way to help the 1 in 6 Americans living in poverty is to keep enlarging the pie until everyone has a big enough slice. But is this worth it if we lose Miami in the process? A rising tide used to lift all boats, but now it just drowns our cities. A genuine alternative instead of attempting to press beyond the limits we face would distribute the fruits of our technological and economic prowess away from those at the top and toward the vast majority."

We need a new economic theory.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Europe's energy policy saves it from Putin's natural gas extortion

"If the goal is to reduce demand for Russian natural gas, the most cost-effective way is to do much more of what Germany and, to a lesser extent, the rest of the EU is already doing: promote conservation and mass transit and further subsidize the cost of installing solar and wind energy. That might not sound as hard-nosed as drilling everywhere, polluting groundwater and exposing people to the dangers of transporting a highly explosive fuel, but it is the solution that makes the most economic sense.
The EU model also has the advantage of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and slowing global warming. This is an issue that the tough talkers seem to go out of their way to ignore, but ignoring it will not make global warming go away.
In 30 years, when hundreds of millions of people are suffering from the damage caused by global warming, the tough talkers may want to be able to tell their children and grandchildren about the time they stood up to Putin with their drill-everywhere strategy. The rest of us might prefer to be able to tell future generations about what we did to ensure that we passed along a habitable planet.   "

In the US the solution is just drill more oil and natural gas. Europe has figured out that in both the short and long terms this is a dumb idea.  Oil and gas are finite. Wind and solar are infinite.