Turtles are lucky

Mariner tosses a few statistics:

-What cost $1 in 1980 costs $3.12 in 2019.
-The average salary in 1980 was $12,513; in 2019 the average is $41,951.

Given these two statistics, everything seems copacetic. $1 in wages in 1980 equals $3.35 in 2019. Yet today there seems to be economic unrest among the citizens. What these statistics belie is the fact that, adjusted for inflation, salaries are flat while the cost of living has increased dramatically.

One element is housing. The average inflation rate per year from 1980 to 2019 was 2.94%. Housing inflation per year rose by 3.09%. A house that cost $100,000 in 1980 costs $327,118 in 2019. Salaries however did not rise in accordance with housing inflation. Rents increased as rapidly; double and even triple occupancy is a common experience. The chart below covers the years from 1997 to 2013. It is a good pictorial to show the relationship – which continues to this day.

The number of students in kindergarten through the 12th grade who are homeless has increased by 70 percent over the last decade according to new federal data that also suggests it shows no signs of slowing.

Homeless in College: Students sleep in cars and on couches when they have nowhere else to go.

A survey of nearly 86,000 students taken last fall by The Hope Center for College, Community and Justice found that homelessness affected 18% of respondents attending two-year colleges, and 14% of those attending four-year institutions. The number who said they had experienced housing insecurity, such as difficulty paying rent, was much higher, at 60%, among those attending two-year schools, and at 48% for those enrolled in four-year institutions.

Unsheltered homelessness—spending the night in places not meant for sleeping, such as vehicles, parks, streets, or abandoned buildings—rose for the third consecutive year. From 2017 to 2018, there was a 2 percent increase in people living in unsheltered locations. There was a moderate increase in unsheltered homelessness among families with children and a large increase in unsheltered homelessness among adults ages 25 and older. Not counted in these statistics is the large number of young adults forced to live in their parents’ home.

The issue is that, given inflation, salaries have not kept up with housing inflation and new construction is static; young adults, whether in college or not, cannot meet the demands of inflated housing costs. Further, affording a home is disappearing for increasing numbers of the middle class. And if that imbalance is not enough, more than 13 million Americans could become climate refugees as sea-level rise comes to pass.

Housing is in a state of crisis. Not just the traditional lack of housing for the poor but a national shortage of affordable places to live because income has not kept up. This is truly critical for cities where there are jobs: the salaries are insufficient to find a place to live near jobs not by a few dollars but by thousands.

Mariner suggests this may be the major political issue for the next decade. It is complex, economically imbalanced and has devastating effects on citizens who otherwise would be living normal, home-centered lives. Given its higher inflation rate, housing has become an important investment. Multiple family housing is fought tooth and nail by the NIMBYs (Not in my backyard). Zoning and lock-down property standards issued by HOAs (Home Owner Associations) make it difficult to solve suburban issues.

As to the turtles, they inherit a permanent home for life.

Ancient Mariner

God receive you, Elijah

If one is as old as Elijah Cummings, one knows in their heart he was a warrior, a champion and good for his word through calamity, obfuscation and threat. The House will be less for his absence.

Regular readers know mariner is fond of short, meaningful poems. A poem by Parren Mitchell, a US Representative from Maryland in the 1970s and 80s has been in the news because Representative Elijah Cummings (D-MD) recited it on his first day in the House. It was repeated in the news in light of Representative Cummings death on Thursday. It is a classic short poem with profound meaning. Just in case the reader missed it, here it is:

‘I only have a minute, 60 seconds in it. Forced upon me, I did not choose it, but I know that I must use it. Give account if I abuse it, suffer if I lose it. Only a tiny little minute, but eternity is in it.’

Rest well, Congressman.

– – – –

Something mariner’s generation must turn over to the millennials and Zs is climate change. If an elderly person, especially an elected person, has savings and investments to live on, odds are there is oil stock in it somewhere; being realistic, one would not want to compromise one’s financial future unnecessarily. But it is necessary. What the old timers should do is pass the torch by electing millennials to government positions whenever possible. The nice, old, mannerly, gray-haired senator one knows and loves has become a detriment to the world’s population. Not because the senator is evil but, like all other new worldly situations, his generation doesn’t relate to the day-to-day future about which millennials are acutely aware and know it will affect them greatly.

One way to permanently fix the generation problem in government is to have term limits. Mariner would base them specifically on age; most, however, measure term limits by number of terms. Only one presidential candidate has specifically advocated term limits as a platform: Tom Steyer.

– – – –


There are two shadow governments worming in and around this Constitutional Federal Republic. The first is public knowledge: the corporate lobbyists. They are better organized and better funded and get much more done than Congress ever will. The second shadow government is Donald’s coterie of thieves, easily bought opportunists and antiestablishment troublemakers. Only in recent days has the public learned how much Donald has twisted foreign policy into a personal agenda uninfluenced by the Federal bureaucracy. Now, he has performed a blunder he cannot hide in his distracting roadshow: He has upset the Middle East in an irreparable manner. Nancy Pelosi is right: all roads lead to Putin (or existing Trump Hotels). It shouldn’t take many more revelations before Donald may be eligible for charges of treason.

Parren Mitchell’s poem holds true. That minute when one casts one’s vote is a minute that may be lost if abused and the nation will suffer – for eternity.

Ancient Mariner



Interesting Notes about Wall Street and Your Street

In the October 5 issue of Economics Magazine, an article claims that the role of automation and now Artificial Intelligence (AI) has taken over Wall Street. Note the following excerpts:

  • Funds run by computers that follow rules set by humans account for 35% of America’s stock market, 60% of institutional equity assets and 60% of trading activity. New AI programs also are writing their own investing rules, in ways their human masters only partly understand.
  • A final concern is corporate governance. For decades company boards have been voted in and out of office by fund managers on behalf of their clients. What if these shares are run by agnostic computers or worse have narrow objectives such as paying high dividends at any cost?
  • Hey Siri, can you invest my life savings?

In the eighteenth century, one showed superiority by wearing machine made, unfitted, uncomfortable shoes made in Europe instead of the commoner’s choice of a locally made, measured and fitted, comfortable shoe from solid, inexpensive materials which were easily reparable. While this seems incredulous, this practice dominates all retail today. Given the turn in international economics, ‘made in America’ AKA ‘Made by me’ as a personal experience doesn’t mean much anymore. Try to find a shoe repair store today. Try to have a shoe repair store make the reader a pair of personally fitted shoes. Alas, past his time, mariner remembers a local shoemaker who made shoes.

Mariner is old enough to remember the old days when Mothers, Aunts, Grandmothers and even Great Grandmothers made, knitted, repurposed, patched and otherwise sustained the family wardrobe. That was before inexpensive replacements could be bought from some Asian country or replaced by cheap but irreparable rayon and other -ons. Similar observations are visible in other disciplines: appliances for task-based jobs, automobiles instead of public transportation, accepting uncertain information from TV and YouTube instead of reading fact-checked and vetted newspapers and books – not to mention the greedy, life-controlling munchkins hiding in the smartphone.

Before the non-romantics rise up about preferring to not darn socks and make clothes, shoes, chop wood or make pasta from scratch or canning apples or other day-to-day self-rewarding activities, mariner understands the role and benefit of progress. He doesn’t want to darn socks either. But. But. How does an individual sustain personal value and satisfaction? How does an individual feel personal competency and life achievement within one’s daily life? How does an individual sustain an ethic centered on one’s psyche?

The most common metaphor from mariner’s posts is, “How does an individual feel about achieving intimacy and bonding with a spouse offered up by a corporation?” A whole segment of life experience and the exercise of emotional discipline are traded for spouse shopping with a spouse-salesman. Are trade-ins next? Mariner’s mind leaps to the phrase, “She’ll make a good first wife”, or “He’ll make a good first investment.” What happened to investing one’s libido and aptitude? As a realistic metaphor, many retirees develop hobbies that reflect personal achievement – perhaps for the first time in their lives. Mariner knew a judge from Baltimore who retired and learned to weld and repair trucks. Many folks actually drop a career to pick one that provides personal value, e.g., charity work, community leadership and the arts.

Individually, mariner understands the desire to improve the time/work/result ratio. What comes to mind, however, is how eager humans are to trade for the easy life by surrendering personal accomplishment at the existential level.

With AI, there is a new relationship: just as humans defer to corporate perceptions about life, humans don’t set the rules for computers anymore either. It may be that the only color available for clothes will be unbleached fiber – whatever color that is – because AI says it’s the cheapest solution for corporate profit.

As to Wall Street, J.G. Wentworth may become the largest lender in the nation if Siri won’t allow a withdrawal from the savings account to pay for a vacation in Acapulco.

Another down home decision that’s disappearing: personally meaningful, moralistic voting.[1]

Ancient Mariner


[1] In case the reader doesn’t notice commercials, J.G Wentworth will buy an individual’s structured accounts, e.g., insurance policies, so one can say, “It’s my money! I want it now.” Of course, one takes a financial hit when the smoke clears.

Mariner concedes

Writing and thinking, in whatever confused state, remain the defenses against mariner becoming a premature zombie. For his own wellbeing, mariner must continue to express his observations about anthropology, reason, philosophy, and the vagaries of power in the world at large.

However. There must be compromise. Mariner no longer concerns himself with the Lord of the Rings drama in Washington. There is too much that suffers in an impoverished state because dystopian drama is more important to media and to the major actors of power.

A second compromise is to produce one post weekly – delivered on Monday. Consider this post as the first one. The main reason for identifying a specific day is because mariner’s email notifications never worked and most were returned as undeliverable. Perhaps, like the old, retired draft horse, everyone will remember to come to the barn at least on Mondays. Mariner will send email notices only for this post to notify as many – or as few – that mariner is posting again.

Returning on a positive note, mariner observes a delicate awakening to the realities of the rest of this century. The elders need not feel pride; it is younger millennials and Zs that see the future. More and more articles in quality news and literature address climate change, racism and destructive economic policy. Even unions have begun to flex themselves in an effort to bring an end to forty years of salary oppression. Mariner’s chief issue, privacy, is emerging as nations around the world are beginning to levy heavy fines on big data corporations. Further, this awakening is international; it is global as it must be.

At the moment, guru’s attention is focused on two issues that are harbingers of what direction American society will take in the future: the two measures in focus: (a) abortion rights and (b) education. The first a measure of the right to manage one’s life as an independent creature among a myriad of religious, cultural and prejudicial movements; the second a measure of how important valid knowledge is as a compass to rationality. A major vision of the future is shaped by whether individuals, meaning democracy, equality and all the dreamy stuff of the Great American Experiment will survive in a totally different world than exists today.

Glad to visit with all of you again.

Ancient Mariner