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  1. Well usually, it's not available to discuss. The first robber baron even when discussing the original Industrial Revolution in the UK is James P. Morgan somehow. A financier with a huge amount of collateral saving a US government and the rest of the world due to a collapse in liquidity. Almost as if the system was rigged way way back then, and even the historians in the UK use JP Morgan as being the first Robber Baron. And then they seem to state that he saved not only the US markets but the markets of the world. History is never perfectly reconciled especially when and if a lot of folks get it wrong. I think the term is more like Oligarchy. Literally.
  2. Thinking about a big country and about economics and merit I thought we all have a lot to learn. This is great website that lists economists and a new way forward. You could spend hours studying not just the math but the social causes many of these folks are focused upon. When I first went there I looked at each contributor and found a whole lot I never expected to see. Enjoy... https://www.ineteconomics.org/research/experts/p2 Peace!
  3. I think we all call for progress. Pelosi has attempted to squash an uprising regarding an abrupt change in dealing with climate change which to me is critically required immediately. ExPDXer and Ran, you are both right! Many moderates wish for the days when bargains could be made. But we are far beyond that considering what has been going on for years with climate change deniers on the right. We need a new infrastructure, and I completely understand there is no one fix, no magic bean that will allow the anyone in the world to consume like we do now and not realize the harm that it will cause future generations. We need action. The fact is it will create new jobs, but the fact is also that we will need to vastly change our current way of life. It will actually bring a better quality of life to most, when we realize how important the use of energy is. Human beings should be more mobile, walking, riding bikes, etc... Using energy and resources like we do with all the food waste, is foolish. We need to act and act now. Nancy please step away! And btw, I was saying that Trump would be impeached and somehow Pence would be disqualified as taking over as president, and Pelosi as speaker of the house be the interim president. But what good would that do, I'm now starting to think. Peace!
  4. TheOldBarn

    What happens between now and January in Congress?

    what is going on with the Republican Freedom Caustics. https://truthout.org/articles/house-republicans-terrible-before-the-midterms-are-now-much-worse/ So they say the liberals should not become too progressive. They might seem to be too socialist. Should they offer up Anti-Socialist Insurance Policies, just in case you are suddenly caught up in an anti-capitalist world, so that you can continue to get screwed by all the rich folk if ever things do change too much and too quickly? It's always what will happen if you allow the socialist to determine your future we hear from the right even though the system is already rigged. I thought this article shows some of the incredible misfits who sit in the US congress these days and how much harm they continue to cause. We all know this. That it is quite insane. Peace!
  5. I agree that NATO is good and partially bad however it has helped hold peace in the region. That being said, the focus on climate change needs to be propelled in a big way. And add to this the need for peace diplomacy needs to be revised in a big way as well. We just don't get the job done in places like Syria. This is a dark area regarding how the worlds powers work together to force diplomacy. Surely we do understand the incredible human tragedy that has gone on for eight years now. So how can any European Country accept business with Russia or any other country that is not fully fledged regarding finding a complete end to this unbelievable strife is a good starting question. We are talking about war crimes where over two hundred thousand Syrian civilians have been killed since the war began. How can that be acceptable? I live in the Bay Area of California. The wild fires in California are not normal. The death toll is rising in Butte County and the air quality in the Bay Area has now been called the worst on Earth with heavy school closures and many people wearing particle masks to protect themselves. Just think about the wild life in the area, they have zero defenses to combat against any of this. Is this a way of life moving forward? What's it going to take to force politicians to act? Peace!
  6. TheOldBarn

    Should the House pursue impeachment

    I agree that impeachment proceedings should likely be held in order to deliver sunshine to the entirety of the Mueller investigation. Surely the Democratic Congress can do this while also offering a whole list of progressive legislation that is sorely needed. And I do think a Rebellion regarding Global Extinction is sorely required! There are so many issues that need to be confronted today. We have been wasting time for far too long!!! https://truthout.org/articles/the-global-extinction-rebellion-begins/ https://rebellion.earth/rebel/ https://truthout.org/articles/green-new-deal-bring-it-but-dont-forget-your-union-card/ Peace!
  7. What is Trump to do now? Here's what he should do in my opinion. Someone needs to be held accountable. 1. Demand and immediate end to Saudi Arabia's hostilities in Yemen. 2. Demand humanitarian aid for all Yemeni people to be paid by the Saudi's - in the billions. 3, Make it clear that if this is not done immediately we will us all US power to sanction them heavily - The Saudi's. 4. A complete diplomatic end to any further hostilities and peaceful settlement. 5. No further US sales of arms to the Saudi Kingdom until complete peace talks have been completed and verified. This should be done immediately! This does not limit additional sanctions and is only the beginning. Peace!
  8. TheOldBarn


    I liked this Dean Baker post the other day on Beat The Press. If You Can’t Beat Them, Bilk Them: The Market for Caravan Insurance Written by Dean Baker Published: 15 November 2018 5 Comments (I wrote this as a column for an outlet that chose not to use it, so I am sharing it here.) While the Democrats won an impressive victory this month, it is still distressing so that many people were willing to vote for openly racist xenophobic Republicans. Furthermore, Donald Trump’s bizarre stunt of hyping a “caravan” of asylum seekers walking up through Mexico from Central America apparently worked. Millions of people rushed to the polls to vote Republican, thinking that Donald Trump was the only force to protect our country from this invasion. Apparently, there are tens of millions of people who believe any idiocy that Trump puts out and is then repeated and amplified on Fox News. These people either do not pay attention to other news sources or consider them all to be “FAKE NEWS.” It is difficult to reach these people through normal channels. They either will not listen at all to arguments from non-believers or they will view them as lies, like global warming, cooked up as part some grand conspiracy to deceive them. If we can’t reach these people through reasoned argument, we can try a different route. We can try to reach them through their pocketbook. Suppose we got a progressive millionaire or billionaire to offer “caravan insurance.” For a modest sum, say $300 a year, caravan insurance would compensate people for damage to their property or any physical harm they or their family suffered from any people on the refugee caravan that entered the country. Given the enormous fear that Trump and his friends at Fox have built up around the caravan, this should sound like a very attractive offer. After all, being protected from an “invasion” for just a few hundred dollars sounds pretty good. The obvious way to market caravan insurance would be by advertising directly to the target audience on Fox News. After all, Fox News viewers are the ones worried about the caravan. If the idea of giving money to Fox sounds repugnant, consider the issue from their side. Are they going to allow a commercial break ridiculing the threat from the caravan right after Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Jeanine Pirro, or some other Fox heavyweight has just gone on a tirade about the dire threat posed by these refugees? We don’t have to limit our con job to caravan insurance. We can also offer MS-13 insurance that will protect family members and property from this widely hyped gang. If we got $100 a year from millions of fearful Fox viewers, it should make for a pretty good profit. The same would be true for Ebola insurance. Fox was touting the threat from Ebola just before the November 2014 election. A grand total of 2 people (both medical workers who cared for an Ebola patient) were infected with the disease in the United States; nonetheless, Fox felt the Ebola threat warranted virtually nonstop coverage. We could even offer supplements to insurance policies to take further advantage of Fox viewers’ prejudices and ignorance. Suppose that we made an offer to insurance subscribers, that for an extra fee of $100, they could get a refund of their per capita tax payment to Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), the federal government’s main cash welfare program. At $16.2 billion last year, TANF spending came to roughly $50 per person in 2018, so a $100 payment would net our wealthy progressive $50 for each sucker. Of course, it is not just Fox viewers who are confused about the small size of spending on TANF, SNAP, and other social programs, many New York Times and NPR listeners would be equally confused. The reason for this widespread confusion is that reporters tend to express these spending figures as huge numbers: tens of billions of dollars. These numbers are meaningless to almost everyone that sees or hears them since no one will ever see this sort of money in their lifetimes. While reporters and editors know that their audience doesn’t understand these huge numbers, they nonetheless refuse to report them in a context which would make them meaningful. As a result, on this issue, many highly educated people are as ignorant as Fox New viewers. But we can leave out the budget education for now. The key point is that if right-wingers are determined to believe nonsense about threats that immigrants or other non-whites pose to them, there are great profitmaking opportunities. Why should Donald Trump be the only one to profit from these illusory fears?
  9. the real problem of course is that all sides are still there and divided. How will we ever be able to repair this derision should be the central focus. Basic Democracy will help, but it would only be a first step. How did we earnestly get here? Let's say you are black and you fought in a war and all the while, you were fighting in a wrong war and also facing bigotry seemingly sanctioned by your own government. Then, where is the real power structure in the US, is it corporate, amassed by incredible wealth, the 1 percent? People on both sides not trusting either side, nor their government, and especially now the fourth estate. We are going to need some really good people to help lead the way. It will never be easy. Peace!
  10. TheOldBarn

    making noise in no holds barred room

    the decline in the middle class is not a new thing even before 1990. 1990 was a rich year, a bubble regarding high tech, lots of companies were buying new computers, servers, and not to mention the new creation of the dot.com's... The dot.com's influence are still very much around. The golden empire of the Amazon Prime - not making any profit, all market capital. They did decimate the big book store conglomerates who built actual brick and mortar stores, until they were no more. And now they, Amazon, are building their own. But as Dean points out, the important numbers lie in the decrease in the middle class, mostly reached at a certain age nowadays in the US. That middle with all its savings still depends on SS and medicare. But what if you are below that middle? What's the strategy to deal with the homeless, or all those who survive after being in wars, or addicted to opiates? What about the strategy to get an infrastructure rebuilt, and if we had the drive to spend the money needed, who would be able to do it? I mean that literally. Where are we as a nation regarding education? You go to an Elite School, well that must mean you are highly qualified to be an executive in a large Corporation. You have that credential, sure, I'm okay with that much, but what about a lot of other bridges that need to be crossed regarding tomorrow in the US and in America and the rest of the world. Climate change is huge. Tomorrow, is this all going to be resolved on Wallstreet? I doubt that very much. Peace!
  11. the other day I posted a Dean Baker article regarding the Trump tax cuts and got immediately a lot of flack and disappointingly I flung back irrational sentiment regarding what Hitler wanted regarding other posts I saw in an attempt to show irony. Anyway it went South, and no one there on the right-wing side really took any note to Dean's article. I take blame for that. I did not sponsor it well. Anyway, here's another I'm thinking about posting. Good News, the Stock Market Is Plunging: Thoughts on Wealth Written by Dean Baker Published: 09 November 2018 10 Comments This post was originally published on my Patreon page. Several people on my Twitter feed touted the drop in the stock market last month as evidence of the failure of Donald Trump’s economic policy. I responded by pointing out that he was reducing wealth inequality. I was being only half facetious. I have always been less concerned about wealth than income both because I think wealth is less well-defined and because income is the more important determinant of living standards. In the case of the stock market plunge, the vast majority of the losses go to the richest 10 percent of the population and close to half go to the richest 1 percent, for the simple reason that this is distribution of stock ownership. When people decry the rise in inequality in wealth over the last decade, they are basically complaining about the run-up in the stock market. The real value of the stock market has roughly tripled from its recession lows. With the richest one percent holding close to 40 percent of stock wealth and the richest 10 percent holding more than 80 percent, a tripling in the value of the stock market pretty much guarantees a big increase in wealth inequality. If we think this increase is bad, then why would we not think a drop in the stock market is good? There is a correlation between the stock market and economic growth. The market generally rises when the economy is strong and falls in recessions, but this link is weak. Remember the recession of 1988? I hope not, because the economy continued to grow at a healthy pace until the summer of 1990. This is in spite of stock market’s largest one-day drop ever in October of 1987. (It did recovery half of its value by the end of the year.) In short, the recent plunge in the market tells us little about the future direction of the economy. If we are troubled by wealth inequality then we should be happy, rich people now have substantially less wealth. This is not the only case where our thinking about wealth may be problematic. The value of a bond is inversely related to interest rates. To over-simply slightly, a very long-term bond has roughly twice the value when prevailing long-term interest rate is 2.5 percent than when it is 5.0 percent. This fact means that, other things equal, when interest rates fall, wealth inequality increases (because rich people own most of the bonds). So should we be upset about the rise in inequality when interest rates drop? Bonds are an interesting case since the payout is fixed independent of the bond’s value. With lower rates, rich bondholders have more wealth, but no more annual income. The situation is actually similar with stocks. Stock returns come from either dividends or capital gains. When price to earnings ratios high, dividend yields will be low. In the Golden Age following World War II, dividend yields averaged more than 4.0 percent annually, since price to earnings ratios were generally under fifteen. In recent years, with the price to earnings ratios well over twenty, dividend yields have been close to 2.0 percent annually. As a result of lower dividend yields in recent years, stock returns were actually much higher in the Golden Age than in the last two decades. From 1947 to 1973, real returns averaged 8.4 percent. In the last two decades they have averaged just 4.7 percent. In effect, the rise in stock prices has meant that stockholders are getting lower returns for each dollar of stock they hold. The rich do have more wealth as a result of higher stock prices, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they will have more income. In any case, if we are really bothered by this wealth, then we should see a lower stock market as good news. Wealth and Middle Income Families For middle income families, wealth largely means owning a home. For the vast majority of middle income families their house is their main source of wealth. Median family wealth in 2016 was just under $100,000, a bit less than twice the median family, as measured by Survey of Consumer Finance.[1] There are large difference in wealth by race, with the median for whites at $171,000, for blacks $17,600, and for Hispanics $20,700. This largely reflects the fact that the median white family is a homeowner, with homeownership rates of more than 70 percent. By contrast, the homeownership rate for blacks is just over 40 percent and for Hispanics it is a bit over 45 percent. There has been much made of the fact that median wealth has not recovered to its 2007 levels. This is a bit misleading. The levels of 2007 were inflated by the housing bubble. Even though there was a sharp drop in the equity share of most homeowners (the share of the house’s value they had paid off), there was an increase in homeowner equity due to the run up in prices. Since this run-up was ephemeral, it was inevitable that homeowners’ equity would plunge when the bubble burst. The more serious concern than the comparison to 2007 is the longer term trend in the wealth of middle class households. The wealth of families between the ages of 55 and 65 in the middle quintile of the distribution is essentially unchanged from where it was in 1989. For families between the ages of 45 to 54 it is actually down by almost 30 percent from its 1989 level. This is a big deal, not only because we should expect the wealth of these households to increase more or less in step with the rate of growth of productivity in the economy (more than 80 percent since 1989), but also because we have seen traditional defined benefit pensions largely disappear over this period. While most workers nearing retirement age could count on getting a defined benefit pension in their retirement in 1989, this is much less the case today. In fact, less than 25 percent of the families who were between the ages of 45 and 54 in 2016 had a defined benefit pension. This means that middle income families will be much more dependent on the wealth they have accumulated over their working lifetimes to support themselves in retirement than had been the case in prior decades. Making matters worse, these younger cohorts will also be seeing lower Social Security benefits relative to their earnings since the increase in the retirement age between 2002 and 2022 effectively amounted to a 12 percent reduction in scheduled benefits. Changes in the calculation of the consumer price index (CPI) also have reduced benefits by close to 5 percent. (Benefits after retirement are tied to the CPI.) Also, retirees are looking at much larger health care expenditures, as the out of pocket bills left over after Medicare are considerably larger relative to their income than was the case three decades ago. The role of pensions, Social Security, and Medicare show the trade-off between the need for wealth and the access to social programs or a regular source of income, in the case of traditional defined benefit pensions. In a context where a combination of Social Security and a defined benefit pension provided a livable retirement income, and Medicare covered the bulk of health care costs, retirees did not have a need for large amounts of wealth. However, when few people have pensions, and Social Security benefits are not large enough to sustain a middle class living standard, retirees who have not accumulated substantial wealth can expect to face serious financial difficulties in retirement. Wealth and Lower Income Families If middle income families don’t have enough wealth, for practical purposes lower income families have none. The Federal Reserve Board did a surveylast year that found that 40 percent of households could not come up with $400 if they needed it in an emergency. This is dire situation for these families, but one that may not be best addressed through trying to ensure that these families have some wealth. After all, if they had a small amount of wealth and then faced inevitable emergencies, the wealth will be quickly dissipated. As a practical matter, it might make more sense to deal with the emergencies that are likely to create the unexpected need for $400. At the top of this list would be medical expenses. If we had a good national health insurance system that covered most of health costs for the public (and pretty much all the costs for low and moderate income households) a major source of unexpected expenses will be eliminated. In addition, when someone is dealing with their own illness or that of a family member, it is not good a time to impose an additional burden. Another source of unexpected costs is a car repair. Since many people need a car for work, facing a $1,000 repair bill and being unable to pay it, is a very serious issue. This highlights our neglect of mass transit. We have starved big city transit systems for funds, causing many to provide poor services and charge high fares. This is a case where a relatively small amount of money could go a long way, especially if it goes to provide bus service, which ramped up quickly, as opposed to various types of light-rail systems which take many years to put in place and typically come at very high cost. Bail is also an unexpected emergency for many families. The simple story here is to eliminate cash bail in most instances. People should not face the prospect of spending months or even years in jail simply because they or their family cannot afford the bail set by a judge. The point here is make sure people show up for trial, not to punish them before they have had a trial. Housing expenses are a fourth common cause of unexpected expenses. This could be a needed repair in a home that is owned, or unexpected rent increase or other expense in a rented unit. We can’t protect people from needed repairs on their homes, but we can limit the ability of landlords to raise rents. Our housing policy has been hugely tilted towards promoting homeownership. This is unfortunate since roughly one-third of the population has been renters and that is likely to remain the case, even as we have modest fluctuations in share of homeowners over time. Some cities do have laws that protect tenants against excessive rent increases or arbitrary evictions, but these are the exceptions. While rent control can pose serious problems if poorly implemented, limiting rent increases for incumbent tenants can provide considerable security for renters. The Quick Summary on Wealth First, the inequality measure is primarily a measure of the stock market. I’m more troubled by income inequality than wealth inequality, but if the latter really bothers you, then you need to be rooting for a drop in stock market. Wealth has become more important for the middle class because of the disappearance of defined benefit pensions. These pensions allowed most middle class people to maintain a reasonable standard of living in retirement. Most middle class workers are not accumulating substantial wealth in 401(k) type accounts both because they tend to change jobs frequently and also the high fees charged by the financial industry. One solution to this problem is the state level 401(k) plans that are being put in place by Illinois, Oregon, California, New York, and a number of other states. These plans will minimize the administrative costs and will also be portable so that workers will be able to keep the same plan as they change jobs within the state. Ideally, these plans will also have a default annuity so that people will effectively end up with something very similar to a defined benefit pension. All the states have people participating in these plans as a default option. This means that they will contribute unless they choose not to. It will take time for these accounts to build up any substantial amount of assets and there is a real risk that many baby boomers and Gen-Xers will retire without traditional defined benefit plans and little savings in their 401(k)s and little equity in their homes. For lower income families, it seems more reasonable to try to shore up the safety net so that they don’t suffer great hardship by virtual of the fact that they don’t have a substantial amount of wealth they can rely upon. Efforts to build wealth among lower income families have often meant more money for the financial industry than the families. If we instead focus on ensuring that all people have access to health care, good public transportation, and secure housing, then the lack of wealth in low income households will be less of a problem. [1] The Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF) defines “family” to include a single person household. The more common definition requires at least two related individuals living together. This is why the SCF has a somewhat lower measure of median family income than is usually reported.
  12. TheOldBarn

    Dems Flip House

    yes, that's right. 2020 will be when they do conduct the 2020 census. I hope they do a good job - hope folks like Explorer are involved. That's another interesting question however... the questions that will be asked, and the participation that is required, and totally necessary. Indeed! Peace!
  13. We are out there. The soul of right from wrong. And we want change. I guess what we really truly want and need just now is the truth. And the delivery of truth is not happening from the Republican party. Not in the least. Peace!
  14. TheOldBarn

    health in America

    I tried to post something new regarding the Democratic fight for healthcare in this Nation. First is getting all people covered with private insurance. That was the whole point of the ACA. But the Republicans fought against it big time. Those with known illness at one time were basically disavowed to have healthcare by insurance companies since they were the ones who produced the most cost. I wanted to say that I recently spent 29 hours in an emergency ward with my 16 year old daughter over a bout of deep depression. Took 29 hours to get her into a decent adolescent psychiatric hospital setting. But more than that, I witnessed what goes on in an emergency ward over a full 29 hours, and it wasn't pretty. Things aren't done in a best care way. Yes, there were homeless folks showing up drunk. One man came in drunk with a botched colostomy, he was loud and abusive to the nurses. He came in with his clothes all soiled. They stripped him down and pulled the curtain. He shouted out terrible expletives, get me a bag you b.... he shouted. If I s... all over myself I'm going to walk naked all over the hallways, etc... A lady who was an alcoholic and was homeless came in, she waited it out until she was partially conscious, and they found her a cab back to her car that she calls home. She was back in the same state 7 hours later. She sat on a gurney moaning, I need help, I really need help. I have to pee. They gave her a bedpan and she urinated all over her clothes. I would say about 70 percent of the people who filled that emergency ward were indigent and on the street. And this was in Fremont, CA which is a fairly expensive place to hold residence. But I guess that's anecdote only since I encountered it by happenstance. When I was there I did some investigation. I found out that there is no real conclusive understanding on how to deal with mental health, especially for adolescents. And what's more there are inadequate at best resources currently to deal with what appears to be epidemic. And when I was young and worked in research I worked at Wayne County Hospital that for the most part took in indigents county wide in Wayne County. It was a big and nasty place to be since it serviced all of Detroit and surrounding areas back in the 1960's and 70's. The poor were there then too, this I knew. But not a whole heck of a lot has been done since then it seems. Peace!