Well the New Year is upon us, and it's time to take stock and see if I can make any sense out of the goings on of the last year and the interaction of reality with my own mind. This is my crack at it.
1. I believe that gun ownership should be a privilege and not a right. The 2nd Amendment was constucted to be similar to the Swiss model in which citizens formed a militia for national defense. There was no standing army. That was the original intent of the framers of the Constitution for exactly the same reason: there was no standing army. Today that rationale is not relevant. Even Switzerland has moved the guns from homes to depots to prevent what little gun violence takes place there.
I don't believe background checks and a database of those with mental problems will solve much. In almost every mass murder, the perpetrators had no prior record of mental health problems although in retrospect everyone agrees that there were mental health problems. In almost every case, the guns were obtained legally. That tells you something which is that it is the proliferation of military type weapons with high capacity magazines that is the problem. These guns should not only be made illegal, but they should be taken off the streets, that is, confiscated or gotten rid of with buyback programs.
Terrorists have only been able to kill 17 people in the US since 9/11, but 88,000 Americans have died in gun violence from 2003 to 2010. Britain, which has very strict gun laws, had 41 gun murders in 2010 while the US had around 10,000. 6,626 Americans have died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. About 3000 died in the tragedy of 9/11. The cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan so far is around $4 trillion. At the same time zero dollars have been spent on the war on gun violence in the US in which about the same number of people die every year as died on 9/11 plus Iraq and Afghanistan (Americans, that is). Does this make any sense? As Pogo said, "We have met the enemy and the enemy is us."
2. I believe there should be a floor on poverty and a ceiling on wealth. For most of the last decade, the percentage of Americans living below the poverty line increased each year, from 12.3 percent in 2006 to 15.1 percent in 2010. In 2011 the official poverty rate was 15 percent, meaning that 46.2 million people live below the poverty line. The Walton family has more wealth than the lower 40% of the American population combined while workers at Wal-Mart subsist on wages so low that they need to supplement their incomes with food stamps and other social services driving up the cost of government.
Much of the wealth that the upper 1% possesses is used to distrort the political system and was gained fraudulently by those in the financial sector. I wrote this in 2010 on Will Blog For Food:
"Hedge Fund manager John Paulson helped to design the Abacus fund for Goldman Sachs and filled it with a bunch of garbage. This fund was then peddled to unwary investors while Paulson shorted it. As a result, when the garbage in the fund went south, the investors lost $1 billion and Paulson's gamble netted him $3.7 billion. But that isn't even the worst of it. Taxpayers who bailed out the system actually paid Paulson the $3.7 billion - as if he needed it."
John Paulson hasn't been prosecuted for this fraudulent investment scheme and paid taxes on his income at the "carried interest" rate of 15% just like his fellow private equity fund manager, Mitt Romney. He has used some of his ill gotten gains to contribute to conservative causes as has billionaire Sheldon Adelson who has made his money off of seniors gambling away their social security checks.
I don't think anyone needs an income of more than $10 million a year, and a family of four needs an income of at least $40 thousand. These would be my recommended limits, for what they're worth, for the ceiling on wealth and the floor on poverty. Remember anyone earning an income of $10 million is going to store much of that as accumulated wealth which is going to provide a certain percentage return on investment (ROI in plutocrat speak) as unearned income each following year in addition to the $10 million earned (yeah, sure) income.
3. I believe that global warming is happening right now and is a result of human beings polluting the atmosphere with carbon emissions. As the saying goes "Don't shit where you eat" and we are shitting on Mother Earth. Future generations are going to have to eat and breathe here. Europeans and native Americans settled this continent without sending massive amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. We're going to have to relearn how to do the same, and there is not much time to waste without suffering the consequences that we're already starting to suffer.
As the number of billion dollar weather events starts to pile up, we will soon run out of money. We need to divert money from the bloated and wasteful military-industrial complex and spend it on infrastructure redevelopment in order to counteract and protect ourselves from the devastating aftermaths of extreme weather events like SuperStorm Sandy and SuperTyphoon Bopha. As I previously said, we have spent trillions to avenge the deaths of approximately 3000 people while spending hardly anything on gun control or infrastructure hardening. Both of the latter are bigger threats to American security than are the handful of self-proclaimed Al-Quaeda terrorists who have done a trivial amount of damage to the US since 9/11. Yet we spend trillions of dollars on them which mainly goes into the coffers of corrupt politicians and defense contractors. Not to mention the millions of civilians we have killed in Iraq and Afghanistan which guarantees a future generation of terrorists bent on avenging those deaths.
4. I don't believe that good middle class jobs are coming back as we recover from the Great Recession. They were disappearing long before the Great Recession hit. The combination of automating and computerizing manufacturing processes combined with the outsourcing of menial labor combined with the deunionization of the country means that we shouldn't sit around and hold our collective breaths expecting that everyone who has lost a good middle class job is going to get one back as we recover from recession and the unemployment rate gets down to 5%. The jobs that are being created are for the most part minimum wage service sector jobs. Even so-called full employment, if we achieve it, will consist in large part of those kinds of jobs. So what good is full employment as a measure of anything or a goal?
The so-called job creators are really job destroyers and they know that. They are just laughing up their sleeves as they automate and outsource thereby slashing the cost of production and increasing profits while at the same time calling for lower taxes on themselves on the grounds that they are job creators. This makes Wall Street very happy and top management is handsomely rewarded for doing this. As CEO pay soars, jobs are either outsourced or subcontracted to temp agencies who hire non-full time workers at minimal wages to do the heavy lifting. By this means the major corporations take no responsibility for low wages. It's somebody else, a sub-contractor, that's paying the low wages, not them. And a college education is no panacea. Middle aged college degreed folks are being let go, laid off and downsized never to be rehired again. A good job right out of college is no guarantee of continued employment as you become technologically obsolete in about 10 years.
What's the solution? I believe that self-employment is a big part of it. When you are employed by a corporation, you are vulnerable to being laid off for any reason at any time. When you're self employed, you can never be laid off. It may be too late for a lot of people, but young people coming up in school, even those college bound, should learn a trade while in high school that they can fall back on if need be. Most trades that serve the local community cannot and will not be outsourced and are amenable to self employment. The college educated crowd needs to think about what occupations and professions allow them to be self employed and which only allow them to be employees of some corporation. And most corporations don't want you if you've been laid off after the age of 50 when you are most vulnerable and desperately need a job.
I also believe that government has to be the employer of last resort. Corporations are in the business of outsourcing and creating temp jobs. Even startups usually only need employees until they really get rolling, go public and get obsessed with their stock price which means they need to reduce the cost of labor. At that point the job creators seek to creatively destroy American jobs and pocket increased profits.
Well, folks, there you have it in a nutshell. These are some of the topics I will be writing about in 2013. I also like to bring in the San Diego connection as what's happening in the wider world is also very definitely happening here as well. As far as our political system is concerned, my prediction is that Republicans in Congress will obstruct any meaningful legislation whatsoever and put a halt to any initiative President Obama wants to make. Better hope that 2014 brings a return to majorities in both the House and Senate for Democrats and that Obama can manage to get something constructive done for the good of the country in his last two years in office.
Happy New Year to All.