Friday, November 27, 2015

Four Horsemen; a movie with food for thought

This is a useful film to engage thinking about what needs changing and how to start changing it.  I don't like some of the speakers, and don't think the gold standard is any solution, but the movie is still worth watching and pondering over.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Lots of refugees; what should we do?

"There are reasons to oppose bringing Syrian refugees to America.  None of them are good reasons.  Most of them are sickeningly racist.  And all of them are deeply, obviously, blatantly and clearly unChristian.  You cannot object to helping these people and call yourself a Christian.  Jesus himself would rebuke you.  He already has, in fact.  Reread verses 41-46 if you need to.  If you refuse to help the sick and the destitute and the needy, you are going to Hell.
There is literally no way to make that any clearer.  Christians are commanded to help those who are in need.  Not requested.  Not asked.  Not begged.  Commanded.  In plain and clear language.  By Jesus.  There’s no way to wriggle out of this, folks.  You either help these people– or, to do the absolute minimum, get the hell out of their way– or by the words of the man you consider the son of God you are going to Hell."

Excellent article. He makes the 2 points I was thinking of writing about; 1) Christians will be denying their own faith if they refuse to help refugees, and 2) fear is no excuse.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Does welfare make you lazy? No.

"To some degree, this actually undersells cash programs. Two recent RCTs have suggested that giving cash to poor people in the developing world could actually, in some cases, encourage work. One paper by Christopher Blattman, Nathan Fiala, and Sebastian Martinez evaluated a program that gave cash grants ($382 per person, on average) to groups of young, unemployed Ugandans to help them learn skilled trades, and found that hours of work rose by 17 percent, and earnings by 38 percent. Another paper, by Blattman, Eric Green, Julian Jamison, and Jeannie Annan, looked at a program in Nigeria that gave about $150 and some basic business skills training to women in northern Uganda. Work hours increased by 61 percent."

There is no evidence that shows people on welfare don't want to work. Reagan's welfare queens were and are phoney.

Friday, November 20, 2015

more on a basic universal income

"Because the term 'basic income' is viewed controversially, many of the trials aren't using those words even as they push basic income features. In practice, those currently receiving social security benefits will instead be paid a non-means tested sum, without further obligations. Single-person households will receive around €950 ($967), with more going to families with children. Recipients will have enough to live on - but unlike basic income, not everyone will receive all of the money in the initial stages.
The basic income concept has received consistent support across the political spectrum in Holland, said Hoeijmakers, which is why it is now being packaged in different ways to see what works best. Most of the major Dutch political parties, with the exception of the conservative-liberal People's Party for Freedom and Democracy, in some way support the scheme. Even with that party, he said, 'they don't like the idea of "free money," but they will get on board if you call it" negative income tax."'"

Mosre tests coming!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Groundwater is nonrenewable

"The water that supplies aquifers and wells that billions of people rely on around the world is mostly a non-renewable resource that could run out, a new Canadian-led study has found.
While many people may think groundwater is replenished by rain and melting snow the way lakes and rivers are, underground water is actually renewed much more slowly.
In fact, just six per cent of the groundwater around the world is replenished within a "human lifetime" of 50 years, reports University of Victoria hydrogeologist Tom Gleeson and his collaborators in a new study published in the journal Nature Geoscience today."

Well crap. That's news to me. And it is very, very bad for the future. Lots of countries rely on groundwater to grow crops. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

have Americans been brainwashed to see democratic socialism as evil?

"What concerns me is why so many Americans want to  - choose to - find evil in Denmark’s form of democratic socialism.  I’ve been participating in the roller coaster commentary threads following Ana Swanson’s interview with Michael Booth in the Washington Post  and I’m sad to see that so many of the comments are harsh and vitriolic in nature. No amount of evidence or clarification is enough to mollify some of these commentators. They just get angrier and more irritated because positive comments are assumed to be lies or to have negative ulterior motives. You would think that Americans would be curious about Denmark after both Bernie and Hillary mentioned it in the Democratic debate.
Why so much anger?
Here’s my best educated guess: Most Americans have been brought up to believe that the USA is the best country in the world and that most people in other nations wish they could live in it. This means that it feels unpatriotic to admire someone else’s political system; disloyal – close to treason - to even consider the possibility that another socioeconomic system might be superior.
America’s superiority is an assumption I carried with me throughout my life and I probably brought it with me to Denmark when I was hired to teach for one year at the national journalism college. The one-year gig became two and then three and then five until I was granted academic tenure and permanent residency. By then, I was well acquainted with Denmark’s democratic socialism and after marrying a Danish national and realizing that I’d probably be staying forever, I started to consider myself fortunate.  Let me tell you why."

I grew up hearing and believing that the United States is the greatest country in the world. Why, then, would I think tiny Denmark or any other country had a better social system than us?  The first crack in this for me was to hear that Cuba had a lower rate of deaths at birth than the US. Huh? How could that be?  Then here and there I'd hear other statistics like that. Europeans averaged 4 weeks per year of vacation?   Health care does not have the US as # 1 anymore?

Now I am much more open to looking around the world and seeing what works, no matter where the idea comes from.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Another call for a guarnteed basic income

"First, it sets human creativity free to work on whatever comes to mind. For many people that could be making music or learning something new or doing research.
Second, it does not suppress the market mechanism. Innovative new products and services can continue to emerge. Much of that can be artisanal products or high touch services (not just new technology).
Third, it will allow crowdfunding to expand massively in scale and simultaneously permit much smaller federal, state and local government (they still have a role – I am not a libertarian and believe that market failures are real and some regulation and enforcement are needed, eg sewage, police).
Fourth, it will force us to more rapidly automate dangerous and unpleasant jobs. Many of these are currently held by people who would much rather engage in one of the activities from above.
Fifth, in a world of technological deflation, a basic income could be deflationary instead of inflationary. How? Because it could increase the amount of time that is volunteered."

I'm for this idea mainly because it simplifies all the current support programs into one simple one. 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Finland will try a universal income strategy

"When fully implemented, the universal basic income would provide every Finnish citizen with a monthly taxfree payment of 800 euros, equivalent to about USD 881. This would replace currently existing social benefits received through the Finnish welfare system. Any income earned beyond the basic income will be taxable. Kela’s basic income proposal includes a trial period in which the payment delivered to citizens is only 550 euros, while existing benefits such as housing and income support would not be affected."

This isn't so crazy as you might think. Consider how many people in the US get government help right now. This is just a sort of consolidation and equalizing of what is already being done now to a large extent.  Simpler, easier, more equitable.