Thieving Thursday: Making the World Better

>> Thursday, May 14, 2009

Joel Klebanoff again has provided me a venue to steal a good comment this week. He wrote a blog this week about how cool (but unlikely) it would be if we could all get along, stop warring and treating people with intolerance, stop killing and raping, stop beating up the old lady and kicking puppies (I'm paraphrasing). Then, he noted the terrible unemployment that would result from all those jobs in the army, in the military contractor venue, in crime fighting, etc that would be lost and horror would lay across the land. He meant it all in fun (and I knew it), but, around here, that kind of thinking is considered just short of gospel.

I don't get it.

Yes, military contractors would have to change focii or go out of business. Horse drawn cart builders did, too. And we survived. So did milkmen and ice deliverers and door-to-door brush salesmen. But they did so because the money still gets spent. People scream at the money the government spends BUT it largely goes back into the economy here. That's working against my argument but bear with me. See, let's say we had a balanced budget and a reasonable deficit (pause for uncontrollable laughter). Chances are, the bulk of the money not spent on ugliness, spent to support police and federal prisons and federal courts and FBI and CIA and the military and all the military contractors would be spent another way. Heck, shutting everything down would probably eat a chunk, at least the first year, and that money would be spent on jobs. But what about next year? Same thing. Or it could be spent to support universal health care that would allow more businesses to do their own hiring and would allow regular people to have more money to spend on other things rather than medical care/coverage. The money still goes out into the economy. Or it could be spent on rebuilding architecture. Or putting those technical minds to NASA or inventions or green energy or ...

Given, of course, that we won't be seeing a balanced budget any time soon or a deficit that isn't frightening, if this happened say, tomorrow, it might just go toward debts we're making or have already made. What about that? Well, everything we pay toward the principal is something we don't have to pay toward the interest, don't have to pay back later. Which means, in the long term it will do the same thing, put that money back into the system, our system, for our benefit.

It's really not complicated.

So, for our economic health, we're supposed to buy that war and violence and intolerance and nastiness in general are a small price to pay? This Rocket Scientist calls BS.

What is unfathomable to me is how the US public is brainwashed into thinking we owe whole industries a living. We're supposed to protect the profits of big oil and the auto industry and the military contractors and the...well, you name it.

Take for instance health insurance. Health insurance is screaming that the government can't be trusted to be a middle man between people and the ones that actually do the healing, that cutting out their incredible profits will somehow do the general populace a disservice and leave them paying more for less. Uh. How? The government doesn't have to make a profit. Hell, breaking even would be great. How could those using it not benefit? And, if there were only a one payer system, every doctor would be on it (thereby providing more assurance of choice, not less), but he wouldn't have to pay half his staff to do only filing for insurance because there'd be only one organization to deal with instead of eleventy dozen - so he could instead hire staff that would, I don't know, help people get well instead of shuffle forms.

And health insurance knows this which is why they're busting a gut trying to convince us we don't need a public option along with all of their private options. If government were really going to do such a crappy job, they'd be pushing for it. But, since they live and die by profit, they will lose in a head to head every time. Good riddance as far as I'm concerned. I have no sympathy for any company that profits on the pain and suffering of others. Maybe they can do something useful now. Or work for the government.

Of course, no one does this like big oil. "You need to keep buying oil and forgo those useless green technologies because they're too expensive." Oil is indeed cheaper. Today. Investing and more research can change that, though not necessarily overnight. However, conservation today saves the consumer money, no matter what oil costs (or green energy sources too, for that matter). And having solar or wind power available does the consumer only good. Every drop of oil they don't spend not only makes the world a better place, but also keeps further off the day when unavoidable skyrocketing oil prices sky high. It also limits our need to poke our noses where it doesn't belong militarily to protect our oil interests.

That, of course, brings us back to war. Shouldn't we be smart enough to know better by now? I've used this quote before but I think it fits perfectly.

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. The world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.
-Dwight David Eisenhower, 1953, a speech to the American Society of Newspaper Editors


  • flit

    A very powerful - and sensible - article.... perhaps you should be running for government.

    Except that you have too much integrity to fit in.

  • Roy

    Brava, Steph! No need for me to say or add anything because you said exactly what needed to be said. So just... Brava!

  • Stephanie B

    Thanks, you two.

    Sometimes, seriously, you just need to think things through.

    Of course, not everyone will agree with me...

  • Shakespeare

    I especially love your number eleventy dozen. Brilliant.

    And I agree with the rest, too.

  • Richard

    Steph - interesting arguments, and I suspect they would be correct in the medium to long term. It might take 10-20 years for such a complete change in the world's economic structure to settle into a new and prosperous pattern.

    The problem of course is the uncomfortable transition period, when organizations that are quite comfortably prospering under the status quo would first falter, and then crumble if they were unable to evolve.

    Unfortunately the first casualties of the failure of such large, and in many cases multi-national institutions would be the workers. We're seeing something very much like that with the current economic crisis, and already public support for real change is shrinking in favor of solutions that prop up the existing structure to just stop the bleeding. It's hard to look to the future when you've got your head down just trying to pay the bills in the present.

    The real challenge is to find a way to transition to a more sustainable world order without the pain, to build the critical mass of support needed to change our path without resorting to revolution. How do we do that?

    If had the answer to that question, I'd be a lot more than an unemployed free lance writer. ;-)

    As usual, a very thought provoking post.

  • Stephanie B

    I hear what you're saying and I do understand, but I disagree that propping up the current clearly dying organizations isn't the answer for three reasons.

    (1) Pouring money into a dying institution doesn't save the jobs. We poured billions into banks and credit organizations so tight credit wouldn't cost jobs. They were lost anyway. Ditto the auto industry. Why? Because, if you know you're going down anyway, the people with access to the money (management) squirrel it away and pull out massive layoffs to look like they're responding to the situation. When what they're really doing is protecting themselves with money accepted under false pretenses.

    (2) Every single time we've had a big shakeup, a serious change called for in how we do business, all those with ties to the status quo have screamed bloody murder at the end of life as we know it. And here we are, no longer chiseling out stories on stone or using horse drawn carriages (although that may take on a new appeal). We survived and thrived. Computers and robotics didn't eliminate the need for people, just made it so one person could do more. We never run out of things to do. Holding back, trying to ease the transition is how we GOT into this situation. Has the automotive industry known for years that they were going down a stupid path to destruction? Yep. But, rather than fix it, they chose to wring as much profit as they could until now there's no way to go forward intelligently and without deep and abiding pain. Oil industry is on the same path. Ditto health insurance. You have to be pretty foolish to see how the "let's wait and hope it gets better" method has gone and think, let's keep trying that. They love those types in Vegas. They're called suckers.

    (3) One thing that has helped the transitions in the past is that the changes and improvements were immediate or soon to everyone concerned. In this case, because feet have been dragged for so long during times when transitions would be simple and relatively painless, the situation is made more difficult by the fact that those that will benefit by our sacrifices are our children and grandchildren just as those that will pay for our excesses and failure to act today are the same. It SUCKS, but the price tag for our children for our inaction is immeasurably greater than our burden to act. I find it completely immoral to act in my own behalf at their expense.

    On the other hand, I have children. And I'm not unemployed.

    I am very very sympathetic to those who are struggling to find work in this horrible environment. It may not sound like it, but I am. But throwing good money after bad in the hopes that it will make it good again makes as much sense as justifying war for the economic advantages.

    We have to find ways to use our money that will pave our way to the future or the pain of today won't end.

    My husband was reading about to helping trade workers interact, get networked, get training and jobs.

  • Aron Sora

    This reminds me of an augment that someone made about this economy. He argued that this economy was caused by having too many educated people, he claimed that we need labors and we fell because we are becoming to college educated.

    I completely disagree with that man, all I see going on now is the systems which discouraged education falling. The current system needs uneducated men, but that is wrong, to require certain members of your society to be uneducated. Everyone should be educated and this economy is forces those who have depended on manufacturing jobs, people who have been discouraged all their lives to get an education, people who claim that they can't get an education to get an education. And this is what we need, we can no longer live on like we have been in the past.

    We could become a space based economy, a green economy, an internet based economy, or an economy based on a technology unheard of before. All these paths require an educated society.

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