More on Great Divides

Sometimes it seems like mariner’s news sources have been reading mariner’s posts:

Businesses are leading the way on crises like climate change and health care, because institutions like media and government are no longer seen as ethical and competent, Sara Fischer writes from the 20th annual Edelman Trust Barometer.

“Business has leapt into the void left by populist and partisan government,” Edelman CEO Richard Edelman said.

-> But that’s only by default: 56% of the online survey’s respondents (34,000 people in 28 countries) said capitalism as it exists today does more harm than good in the world.

The survey, out today, shows a stark class divide — a growing gap in institutional trust between wealthier, more educated people vs. the rest of the population.

-> For the first time, a record number of developed countries — including Australia, France, Germany and the UK — are experiencing double-digit divides in trust between the informed class and the mass population. [Axios]

– – – –

The western world has emulated the Greek and Roman empires in magical similarity and has sustained their motivations as if time had stopped, carrying forward their principles of war, classism, politics and consumption economics.

But wait – is it time now for the Peloponnesian wars? Is Donald our Nero? Is it time for another Mount Vesuvius? Who will play the role of Attila? Who will be Alexander?

Will artificial intelligence emulate the dark ages? Will global warming purify humanity as the flood did in Genesis? Which new plague will erase millions of humans?

As the twenty-first century begins there is a scent in the air. It isn’t pleasant; more of a wafting that won’t dissipate. It doesn’t have an aroma of the Fullness of Time that is proposed by science and optimistic futurists; it seems more like a day in criminal court. Where is Apostle Paul when you need his reassurance?

It is sentencing time. Humans must pay for their casual dalliances with Mother Nature; humans must pay for raping the environment; humans must pay as the cause of the Sixth Extinction. In regard to the treatment of humankind it is time, in our contemporary emulation of Rome, for a sequel to the fall of Rome in 476 BC.

Ancient Mariner

The Biggest Great Divide

The last post on perception is a lead-in to this post about a great divide. What are our perceptions of the future – not the far future but starting now until 2050? An emerging perception is that millennials (born 1981 – 1996) will live their lives on the fence between two very different social and economic cultures. They will bear the burden of financially supporting both offspring and elders; their own careers and roles in society will be tumultuously tossed about and fraught with uncertainty.

Millennials started their lives in an Adam Smith world (he married capitalism to reformation ethics) and will end it in an economic and social world beyond description today – though many futurists believe the concept of ‘job’ will be divorced from Adam Smith’s marriage; artificial intelligence will disrupt existing class perceptions; Planet Earth will play havoc with resources from Helium gas to the disappearance of vast stretches of dry land, to a shift in weather patterns that will collapse significant agricultural markets.

Progressive economists suggest if the economy isn’t soon redistributed from its advantages to oligarchs, the US may experience rebellion similar to that in other countries in the news today. Data tech corporations are so pervasive and so uncontrolled that a new retail culture may evolve with a US Congress of self-appointed data tech CEO’s and Jeff Bezos as President. (mariner speculates)

Presuming all these hotspots of change may happen, what is the core cultural issue? What will people experience day-to-day? What persistent event will cause foment and disorder as society rewrites itself?

Greater than identity politics, greater than economic imbalance, greater than global warming – it is the educated versus the uneducated; the elite versus the useless; those who can participate in society and those who can’t.

These perspectives are not new. Social philosophers and futurists have suggested this great divide since the 1970’s. But today it is a fresh subject in journals, magazines and online science sites. There are characteristics of the divide that exist today. For example, those who accept that the successful will be successful and others never will be are the same people who don’t believe in welfare, Medicare and Social Security. In other words, if a person hasn’t made it, they are not allowed to have any value in society – they are useless even to themselves.

The French term is ‘raison d’êtra’, which means reason to be or role in life or in personal terms, why am I here? The feeling of uselessness is a struggle often among retirees, young adults without links to society, and especially those who by their class and education are denied the right to succeed or interact with the participating members of society. Psychologists long have defined the emergence of gangs in destitute neighborhoods as a result of not being allowed to participate in society therefore they create their own role within their neighborhood.

Society is only a decade from the first waves of white collar job loss. It is a common statistic that artificial intelligence may eliminate from fifty to eighty percent of jobs across every discipline, every skill, and every function that constitutes the ‘common workforce’ today. It does not help that income for middle and lower income people already is suppressed and hasn’t kept up with inflation. Donald’s base, suffering job loss and massive reduction in salary, is a current example of a segment of workers that has fallen on hard times and claim they are forgotten in today’s economy. Indeed they are.

As the months roll by, the issue of joblessness and especially the denial of the right to pursue happiness, success, etc., otherwise known as a raison d’êtra, will reach a breaking point where violence may be the proletariat’s only option.

The federal government has no choice even given polarized parties, wealth-driven politics and the cost of global warming, but to address joblessness which may be at a level commensurate with Venezuela today. The tax code, ensconced for generations as a capitalistic friend, must be dismantled in order to accommodate a very large portion of the US population.

Already in today’s democratic campaign for president, Andrew Yang has proposed a minimum income supported by taxes. A monthly distribution to citizens, especially those shut out of social participation, may be one way of preventing violence and stabilizing feelings of personal worth.

In a recent post mariner suggested that a new concept of having a job was to create a self-managed job. This is a job that a person assumes on their own for the good of their society. A pure example of this is a member of mariner’s family who has taken it on himself to improve the bare space around the base of trees along the sidewalk; he plants flowers and attractive greenery. He is satisfactorily employed but has taken on a role to improve his neighborhood. In the future, this approach to raison d’êtra will be a major way of defining work – and – it will need to be a source of income as well.

Another example is mariner’s neighbor who has chosen to maintain the gravel alley for his block. Again, income was not involved but, given the idea of a monthly distribution from the government, many otherwise unemployed citizens will find roles to play that will, mariner suspects, greatly improve the civility that is in short supply today.

If artificial intelligence and the corporations that control it are brought under control; if the tax structure shuts down abusive wealth and redistributes economic participation to the proletariat; if new job growth can be harnessed to deal with global warming; if international cooperation can be modified to support the economics of sustainability – maybe there will be some fun moments learning a new culture and new economics.

Ancient Mariner

 

Perceptions

Mariner once heard a politician complain about the (liberal) New England states and that the fathers of our country should have just continued the forty-ninth parallel past the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean and left New England to Canada. This happened some fifteen or twenty years ago; even then mariner knew that the forty-ninth parallel crossed into the Atlantic at the mouth of the St. Lawrence River just south of Newfoundland. Self-perception, whether of one’s importance or one’s knowledge of facts, is not a good view of reality. A lesson for all of us; if we are to represent reality, it must be only after a fact check.

Mariner mentions this story because today perception, in whatever form it will take, has replaced reality in its entirety. One of the bad things about perception is that it is short lived. Whether the presumption was useful or not, it quickly becomes useless. It is difficult to step out of one’s perceptions and see reality. Often, one’s immediate perception distorts historical perspective or situational reality. Some examples:

֎ Often, citizens today interpret the US Constitution as if it were written for today’s Internet world and its rapid travel options and its ability to know what’s happening in Winner, South Dakota in seconds, but that perception wasn’t even in the fantasy world of politicians in 1789.

> The fathers of our nation, who suddenly had most of a large continent to manage and states that were suspicious of federal power and jealous of other states if they had more influence, had to manage the situation with nothing more than travel by horse carriage or letters carried in that same horse carriage. Further, enemy nations were present on the continent and wanted to control the new wealth to be had. Certainly the perceptions of today and the perceptions of 1789 are vastly different.

> A well-known perception is the right to bear arms. What else would the fathers recommend since there was no army large enough or transportable enough to police the continent? Authorize the citizenry to defend themselves. Mariner notes the use of the word ‘bear’ implying the right to fight rather than simply to ‘own.’ Over the eons of history, Congress should have recognized the dangers of allowing this militarily important measure to continue in the Constitution but it did not and today guns kill more people than cars or disease – disregarding the realities of 1789. Mariner will not prosecute this case here but wants to demonstrate clearly that perception is not reality.

> “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” is a well-known phrase in the United States Declaration of Independence. The phrase gives three examples of the “unalienable rights” which the Declaration says have been given to all humans by their creator, and which governments are created to protect. Even as the document was created that ideological perception did not reflect reality: African Americans and Native Americans are humans, too. This is an example of how a perception can be deliberately applied knowing full well it is just a perception that would not hold up to a fact check.

֎ Perception is a cousin to prejudice. In many cases perception simply will be a misrepresentation of reality whereas prejudice has a vindictive side to it. Today, in this time of identity politics, prejudice helps its cousin more often than not.

> Donald’s base is a good example. The serious issue of wage suppression and disappearance of profit sharing began during the Reagan administration and has been sustained as a national economic policy by political conservatives, typically the Republican Party. The base, largely disgruntled democrats, perceived that their government had abandoned them; it was the “establishment” that was not protecting them. Given that Hillary had political baggage, did not campaign for the labor class, and proposed an uninspiring image of the future, she became a target of a perception (aided by prejudice) that defeating her would be vindication. They chose an outsider with no record to defend, and who spoke in vindictive terms.

If only the electorate would check the facts. Unfortunately, both news media and social media have no interest in facts, just market share.

Ancient Mariner

 

The US has a bad transmission

The ol’ federal bus doesn’t move very well. The clutch is totally blown because legislators become more and more bound up in polarization, some want to shift gears, some don’t. Unengaged, the bus drifts down the road in neutral, ever slowing; other national buses rush by at the speed limit. Adding insult to injury, the gear box is a skip and miss experience even if the clutch worked.

Each gear tooth, a principled thrust applying torque to society, is bent, missing or warped. If the clutch worked, if the gear box worked, the bus at best would stutter and jump down the highway.

The sparkplugs, a vibrant electorate spark of energy and focus, are old and misfire, not knowing exactly when or even why they should energize their respective pistons.

The carburetor, instead of measuring and controlling the cash flow, leaks profusely, placing the whole bus in peril as hot spots grow and may combust even as the pistons run lean.

So it’s time to take the ol’ bus to the repair garage. A lot of work needs to be done:

The camshaft, sometimes called the Electoral College, causes misfiring. A better grease called National Public Vote (NPV) needs to be applied to restore smooth synchronization.

The valves are worn and should be replaced with newer, unified roles for state voting.

The clutch should be rebuilt with non-binding redistricting.

The entire transmission must be rebuilt with properly applied representation that synchronizes legislative energy with the sparkplugs.

Looking at the bus, many seats are missing and torn; there aren’t enough seats for every kind of rider that wants to go home.

No question new tires are needed that understand the meaning of “where the rubber meets the road.”

The repair had better be sound and functional; the storms of global warming are just down the road.

Ancient Mariner

 

Observations in Passing

֎ Has anyone noticed that constraints on nuclear weapon manufacturing, in place since the cold war days, are gone? Has anyone noticed that mature nations with sound ethos like North Korea, Iran, Russia, China and the US are building these weapons again? Perhaps this is preparation for uncontrolled climate change – something like euthanasia . . . .

֎ Science Magazine had a couple of new insights: the African Grey Parrot has compassion – the only bird known to comprehend the act of sharing between adults without recompense. If a parrot can pass it forward, one would think humans may be capable as well.

The second insight is that the average body temperature of human beings has been dropping for the last 160 years. Traditional perception is a temperature of 98.6 m/l; it has dropped to an average of 97.5. That drop may be a product of lower overall levels of inflammation, thanks to antibiotics, vaccines, and improved water quality.

֎ Rather quickly, Iran announced it was culpable for downing the Ukrainian passenger aircraft. Likely, it was because evidence to the cause of the explosion was available around the world. Nevertheless, mariner thinks Donald would never admit culpability if it were his fault. His Base would have a good guess at whose fault it was – Hillary or Nancy.

It isn’t that mariner is an advocate of continued identity conflict; the US is a nation torn apart and flailing a bit. Still the electorate, mariner’s nemesis, is required to think – even a tiny bit – about the cause and effect of reality. Even if the nation’s ‘astute’ politicians suddenly were to economically repair forty years of wage suppression across the country, the Base would attribute that gift to their emotional and irrational interference with democracy without any concern for the facts and would thumb their noses at Hillary and Nancy. Democracy is a thinking person’s philosophy of government, dammit.

֎ In a similar model to Russia meddling in US elections, China is doing the same to Taiwan elections. However, the democratic forces won in Taiwan rejecting China’s “one country, two systems” model for unification that China has used in Hong Kong which promises a “high degree” of autonomy, was soundly debunked by the recent election that re-elected Tsai Ing-wen, the current president of Taiwan.

During his career Mariner spent some time in Taiwan and he was impressed with the democratic aura of the nation. It has a tough row to hoe being only 110 miles from the China coast. Three cheers for the solid rejection despite China’s political invasion.

Ancient Mariner

 

 

The First Face of America

Mariner watched a PBS Nova broadcast about the oldest evidence of a Native American in the Americas.[1] All of Nova’s broadcasts are above average not only in reporting historical information but in providing insights into those moments. “The First Face of America” matched that quality.

Much of the broadcast displayed the effort and luck of a group of scientists exploring the lattice of caves underlying the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. Today, these caves are underwater but 20,000 years ago at the end of the last ice age they were above sea level and dry. In fact, the Yucatan was exceptionally dry and early Americans often explored the caves looking for pools of water.

The great find was a complete skeleton of a sixteen-year old girl. Evidently she had entered a labyrinth in search of water and had fallen into a chasm. Carbon dating places her back 13,000 years and is the oldest evidence of humans in North and South America.

Most of us know the general story of how humans crossed over what today is the Bering Strait and followed the coast through Alaska into North America. During the ice age, the Bering Strait was a large, dry plain between Russia and Alaska. It was larger than many may assume – ranging more than a thousand miles North to South. It has been given a regional name, Beringia, because it was a busy, continuously moving place for nomadic tribes following herds and hunting opportunities. Constantly moving, they left little in the way of artifacts.

The skeleton provided a lot of implications about the life of a sixteen-year old girl in a nomadic culture 13,000 years ago. The scientists gave her the name Naia. Naia was 4 feet ten inches tall and led a rough life we today could not tolerate. There was evidence of damaging rape, and likely a stillborn child; she had bone damage on her limbs one of which was a spiral fracture, meaning someone had twisted her arm violently. Insightful to her lifestyle was that her thigh muscles at age 16 were as large as those of an adult male today – evidence of day-in, day-out walking and running; certainly evidence of a nomadic hunter culture.

Mariner ponders how complex society could have been not having a sense of place. These nomads were always moving to find the next meal. There was no expectation of something called ‘home’ – not even for one night! Did these nomads ever feel lost? Probably not but it’s certain there were other anxieties.

Remember this was 13,000 years ago on an undiscovered continent. Civilization as we understand it had not hit its stride; the earliest evidence of semi-permanent civilization outside Africa was on the Fertile Crescent in the Middle East around 15,000 years ago.

So how well have humans fared over the years? Civilization certainly has learned how to be complex but rape and violence still abide.

Ancient Mariner

[1] On PBS at https://www.pbs.org/video/first-face-of-america-m6dgpn/

Just so you know:

֎ A new report from the National Bureau of Economic Research says the cost of President Trump’s trade war has been paid almost entirely by American businesses and consumers, not China. Experts and economists from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Columbia University and Princeton said analysis of tax levies found “approximately 100 percent” of import taxes fell on Americans, despite the president’s assertion the country was “taxing the hell out of China.” Some of the implemented tariffs on Chinese goods are as high as 25 percent. [New York Times]

 

֎ Prices for hundreds of pharmaceuticals went up on New Year’s Day, though the increase was actually smaller than that of a year ago. Data analysis from software company Rx Savings Solutions found that more than 60 drug makers increased their prices on Wednesday by an average of 5.8 percent, following last year’s increase of 6.3 percent. Pfizer Inc. saw the largest average increase this year, raising prices by more than 9 percent on dozens of products. [The Wall Street Journal]

The nation’s inflation rate in 2019 was 1.79 percent!!

 

֎ — FTC chief threatens to drop the hammer: Chairman Joe Simons fired a shot across the bow of Facebook and Google, two tech titans that have faced historic fines from his agency in recent months — and warned that even tougher consequences are coming if the online giants don’t course-correct on privacy. “If they continue to do what they were doing in the past and violate the privacy laws, then they can expect that the repercussions will be even more severe,” he said during an afternoon one-on-one discussion. [Politico]

It’s about time! But zillions of dollars are at stake. Congress will have to jump in, presumably after the elections.

 

֎ Today’s polling in Iowa only weeks before the caucuses has Warren, Buttigieg and Biden virtually tied according to realpolitics.com and fivethirtyeight.com, two of mariner’s trusted sources.

Ancient Mariner

The Democratic Candidates – 2

On November 29 mariner published a post analyzing the chances of the zillion democratic candidates, projecting in the final analysis Joe Biden. This perspective was based on the expected response of democrats at the primaries as the campaign rolled out across the nation.

Today the democrats are revisited from the point of view of republicans and an important outlier bloc, estranged democratic voters who abandoned Hillary because they shared the economic angst of the working class across the rust belt and in many cases, also feared the demise of political power for agricultural states if the coastal democrats would realign Congress and eliminate the Electoral College.

Who still is viable:

Biden
Buttigieg
Klobuchar
Sanders
Warren
Steyer
Yang

To wit: If the democrats nominate any candidate who is not white (including Yang), it will encourage marginal democrats who may lean toward racist opinions to vote for Donald. This eliminates Yang.

If the democrats nominate candidates in the progressive channel, it will harden the republican business vote, rural vote and evangelicals. This eliminates Sanders and Warren.

That leaves Biden, Buttigieg, Klobuchar and Steyer. The last three are, in a metaphoric way, show horses in the parade. Each of them is an excellent ideological democrat; each draws attention, each is worthy of party support but none are brand democrats. The primary objective in this election is to defeat Donald. That requires a brand candidate who can attract at least part of the many identities split among the other candidates.

Further, in mariner’s opinion, wise democratic voters would prefer to keep the six Senators running for President to stay in the Senate where they are desperately needed. They are:

Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.

This leaves Joe. He is a national brand democrat; he is a moderate, capable of drawing even a few disgruntled republicans; the democratic Hillary dissidents would feel comfortable voting for Joe; Joe still has the Obama aura among many African Americans. Joe is acceptable to the billionaire democrats – Donald has a record-breaking war chest.

Generally, the election won’t change many opinions. Joe isn’t a policy wonk but then neither is Donald. The popular vote will go to Joe; the electoral representation still is a tossup but maybe there will be enough old friends of Joe in the swing states to make the Electoral College moot.

Ancient Mariner

 

Do You Pay Taxes?

Mariner is certain that Donald does not want primary television coverage on the damage he is doing through his Cabinet and his Executive Orders. One area that may affect many of us is how Donald is stripping the tax laws. Thanks to the accountants who help mariner with his taxes, the following was sent to mariner via USPS. Changes that affect most taxpayers are cancellation of mortgage insurance and tuition deductions.

“On December 20th, President Trump signed into law the Secure Act, a funding bill that also included several tax ramifications. The legislation included the renewal of 34 expired or expiring provisions along with various healthcare tax repeals, changes for not-for-profit organizations, and changes for retirement savings among other provisions. A few highlights of the bill include:

Extenders

Extensions of the following expired or expiring credits through 2020:

New Markets Tax Credit

Work Opportunity Tax Credit

Biodiesel and Renewable Diesel Credit (extended through 2022)

Alternative fuel and fuel mixture credit

Repeal of health insurance plans “Cadillac” tax.

Extension of the PCORI fee (excise tax) on self-insured health plans through 2029.

Section 179D deduction for Energy Efficient Commercial Buildings through 2020.

Energy Efficient Homes Tax Credit under Section 45L for homes produced before January 1, 2021.

Deduction for mortgage insurance premiums for 2018, 2019, and 2020.

Deduction for qualified tuition and fees deduction for 2018, 2019, and 2020.

Retirement Provisions

Repeal of maximum age for contributions to traditional IRA’s (previous age limit was 70.5).

Required minimum distributions start at age 72 instead of age 70.5 (not applicable for those that turned 70.5 before December 31, 2019).

Up to $5,000 can be distributed penalty-free for birth of child or adoption from IRA’s or defined contribution plans.

Non-spouse inherited IRA’s required to take distributions over 10 years instead of beneficiary’s lifetime. There is no requirement to take distributions during the first 9 years, rather, the account has to be emptied by the end of the 10th year.

Other Provisions

Kiddie tax reverts back to pre-TCJA and no longer uses trust tax rate tables. Applies to 2020 and future years but can be elected to apply to both 2018 and 2019.

Increase in various failure to file penalties for returns due after December 31, 2019.

Retroactive repeal of parking tax for tax-exempt organizations that provide transportation fringe benefits.

Up to $10,000 of 529 plan funds can be used to pay down student loans. The $10,000 is a lifetime limit per beneficiary.

What Was Not Included

The Secure Act does not address drafting errors made when the TCJA was signed into law. For example, the error related to the depreciable life of Qualified Improvement Property was not addressed.

The different effective dates for net operating loss deductions (NOL’s) was not updated. This may impact certain fiscal year taxpayers.”

If the reader is specifically impacted by these changes, it would be prudent to check out further detail.

Ancient Mariner

The New Economics

For the last post or two, mariner has been lamenting the human creature. A creature who foremost is selfish, then vain, grossly insufferable and narrow minded especially as seen by other creatures in the biosphere. There are more adjectives but the reader gets the point. If the reader is a human creature, do not discount one’s self; you are selfish, vain, grossly insufferable and narrow minded. Mariner speaks his mind in the name of his alter ego and mentor, the prophet Amos.
More abstractly, the societies that human creatures build are based on their inherent characteristics but formulated into a system of measure that illustrates their success at being human creatures. The measuring system is economics in its varying forms and philosophies. Very briefly but without jaundice, consider these behavioral definitions of various economic patterns:
Capitalism is parasitic. Profit is the end product of consumed biosphere – whether human or environmental. Profit is a visible measure of selfishness, vanity, oppressive behavior and narrow mindedness.
Socialism is less parasitic as long as defined territories guarantee that everyone is assured of being equally selfish, vain, grossly insufferable and narrow minded.
Communism is less parasitic in that it constrains the opportunity for just about everyone to be selfish, vain, grossly insufferable and narrow minded.
Corporatism is parasitic, a child of capitalism that has developed better skills at being selfish, vain, grossly insufferable and narrow minded.
There are other isms but by and large they are governmental variations applied to economics that promote selfishness, vanity, oppressive behavior and narrow mindedness. One thinks of authoritarianism, dictatorships, slavery, monarchies, militarism, plutocracy and oligarchy. Oh, about democracy: it’s a method of altering overly abusive practices between human creatures; it’s just like war but it takes several generations. Parasitic economics isn’t the focus.
Mariner is sorry to be redundant but again he references the Native American societies that existed for thousands of years across the North American continent – until white man appeared. The Indians may not be any less vain, selfish, etc. than white people but they had not mastered Mother Nature. Indians had not learned how to be parasites. As human creatures they still were bound by a quid pro quo with their ecosystem. What was their economic philosophy? Sustainability.
The tribal hunters were the ‘capitalists’ except that the profits taken from the environment were not owned by the hunters; the ‘gross domestic product’, if you will, was distributed to the entire tribe (That is not true today in white man’s world).The primary requirement was sustainability – not profit or possession or any of the other human creature adjectives. Indians could not dominate their environment; rather they had to survive within the constraints of their quid pro quo agreement. The first order of economic importance was sustaining the ecosystem. The Native American economic model worked for thousands of years. Dependence on the ecosystem held a cap on abusive selfishness, vanity, oppressive behavior and narrow mindedness, AKA parasitic behavior.
– – – –
Today, just a few decades past Adam Smith, John Maynard Keynes, Karl Marx, Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman, the planet itself has bought a seat at the economics table. New issues that aren’t focused on the human creature adjectives have come into play. Things like global warming, overpopulation, disappearing agriculture, scarcity of minerals and critical chemicals, depth of ecological sustainability, global extinction of important plants and animals and the chemistry of survivability itself.
Whether human creatures want to or not, it is time to settle with Mother Nature. The combination of parasitic behavior, planetary cycles, and shifting biosphere dependencies all will have serious impact on human creatures in the near future and in the far future.
The new rule for human economics is not parasitic behavior. It is sustainability as a member of the biosphere. Sustainability has no room for parasites.
Ancient Mariner