I do not use Facebook. I dislike the company and would never agree to their terms of service. There is a long-standing rule on the internet that, if it is free to you, you are the product. It is the same with broadcast television and radio, and if you think the paltry sum you pay for your newspaper subscription cover the cost of production, you are mistaken. Advertisers pay for our eyes and ears, they target our demographics, and blast us with adverts in hopes of selling us everything imaginable. That is the game.
Here is the bottom line. We need air to breath, food, water and shelter. We need energy. We need transportation, whether it is our two feet, a horse, a car, or a bus. We need reliable means of communication. Telephones and internet access are necessary in our society. These are all things we “need.” NO ONE NEEDS FACEBOOK.
Facebook serves no real need or purpose. It is a toy. It is an insidious toy, but it remains a toy. It is not a public utility, an investment bank, or a drug manufacturer. Facebook does not manufacturer anything. It is just a public forum where people voluntarily sign away the copyright of the their lives in what amounts to a very public Christmas letter they update every day. Deep down inside, every adult user knows what Facebook is, and they accept the terms of service in exchange for the fancy toy. If you are suddenly having a crisis of conscience, delete your account. You might go through withdrawal, but that just means you are an internet junkie. Zuck is not to blame. He is just running a business, and you agreed to the terms of service.
This video by Andrew Klavan is a brilliant, concise explanation of American and global journalism’s intellectual dishonesty. When fake journalist Mika Brzezinski mocked the size of genitalia of the duly elected President of the United States of America, equipment she has NEVER seen, the INTERNATIONAL, GLOBAL STORY was not about what a stupid, disrespectful bitch this vain, fake blond with brown eyebrows is, but about that the POTUS smacked her right back, calling her vain and old. Two real truths, since she is a FIFTY YEARS OLD WOMAN parading as a twenty-nine year old Marilyn Monroe clone. At least Trump’s tweet was truthful.
Between 1950 and 2012 America’s unemployment rate has been between a low of 2.9% in 1953 and a high of 10.4% in 1983, with a median of 5.7%. The Federal minimum wage, adjusted for inflation (2013 dollars), has ranged from a low of $5.95 in 2006 to a high of $10.70 in 1968, with a median of $7.47. The government has increased the minimum wage 14 times between 1950 and 2012. According to many right-wing, capitalist voices, such as radio journalist Lars Larson, every time we raise the minimum wage, unemployment rates will rise and businesses will fail as a result. Is it true?
The quick answer is no, but that is not necessarily a justification to raise the minimum wage beyond small adjustments for inflation.
Originally, our government enacted a minimum wage standard to stop wealthy industrialists from raping the American worker. Today the purpose of a minimum wage is to provide a young kid with no skills, or a disabled worker, a base wage that gives them a sliver of human dignity. It is a place to start, not a long-term survival strategy.
Adjusted for inflation, the minimum wage today is about the same as it was in 1950, the buying power of about $7.25/hour. Between 1950 and 1969 America’s full time, minimum wage was about 95% of the median wage. That means, for those two decades, almost 50% of jobs in America were essentially minimum wage jobs.
Today’s median American income is the same as a full-time, $13.00/hour job. That is $3.50/hour better than the nation’s highest minimum wage, Washington D.C.’s rate of $9.50/hour. Only 4.3% of American workers are paid the federal minimum. Once you factor in the cost of non-wage compensation, things like employer subsidized health insurance, today’s yearly wages and benefits are significantly better for 96% of Americans than in 1950. That is why America’s “poor” can usually afford lattes, smart-phones, high-speed internet, Xbox and Netflix, in addition to the traditional beer and cigarettes.
While wages certainly have not increased at the same rate as worker productivity, and the wealth gap between the top 1% and the rest of us has become vast chasm fueled by extreme greed, no one can rationally say that America’s working poor, as a group, are not better off today than 30 or 60 years ago. All that time, the minimum wage, adjusted for inflation, has essentially been flat.
In today’s America, most minimum wage jobs are found in small, Mom & Pop operations run by your next-door neighbor, like restaurants, landscaping services, small retailers, family farms and the like. These businesses often run on very thin profit margins, and their owners are rarely fabulously wealthy. These are the businesses most affected by increases in the minimum wage. They can handle inflationary increases, but if you think a small, independent business can suddenly absorb the difference between $8.00/hour and $15.00/hour, think again. Unfortunately, when they go out of business, they hardly make a statistical ripple in the economy. While their existence is important to the spirit of America, they do not mean spit to our GDP.
And that is why raising the minimum wage does not now, nor has it in the past had a statistically significant impact on unemployment and business failures in America. No one in their right mind can pin any economic bust on the wages of the least among us. It is the captains of industry and banking, along with political spendthrifts, who are responsible for all our busts, not some kid stocking shelves at the local market.
Despite maintaining a personal appearance similar to Bill Nye the Science Guy, Congressman Earl Blumenauer is Oregon’s most progressive, left-leaning D.C. politician. In an open letter to his constituents February 2nd, 2015, America’s favorite marijuana advocate railed against our government’s failures over the past six years. Corporate profits have doubled and America’s top 1% have given themselves hefty raises every year since President Obama took office. Technological developments are up, worker productivity is up, and profits are up, yet middle-income wages are stagnant or in decline. Student debt is crushing our young generation. Our highway infrastructure is crumbling. The Social Security Trust Fund is rapidly approaching insolvency. Our tax code is in disarray. Our government is an inefficient bureaucracy. Blumenauer thinks he knows how this happened.
“We’ve created more jobs since 2009 than throughout the entirety of the previous 8 years. The Obama Administration did this despite inheriting an economy in free fall, shedding one to two hundred thousand jobs a week and despite Congress making a foolish decision to ramp back spending in the government sector which virtually all independent experts agree would have speeded the recovery.” EB
That is right folks, Congressman “Marijuana” Earl says that our left-wing, progressive legislators and our left-wing, progressive president, a group that added nearly $8 trillion to our national debt in six years, did not “borrow and spend” enough to properly get this great country back on track. Fiscal responsibility is the problem and debt in the answer. I am here to tell you his bow tie is too tight, and this squirrelly loon’s brain is oxygen deprived. Our growing Federal debt is the root system that is feeding America’s demise.
This is the reality of our Federal Debt. The 2014 median income for an American household is about $51,000. The Federal Debt per household about $141,500 – almost three years wages. In 1980 the median household income was $16,354. The Federal Debt per household was $10,000 – less than 8 months wages. That money is owed and that money has to be paid back. The problem is that the Federal Government currently only makes interest payments. It never pays down principal. Without a plan to pay off this debt, the only other way to get it off the books is to devalue our currency with inflation. For instance, $1 trillion of 1981 money bought $1 trillion of 1981 goods. Fast forward to 2014, and that same $1 trillion only buys $380 billion of 1981 goods. Through the use of inflation the U.S. Government effectively paid off $620 billion of debt without actually paying a dime of principal.
Our Federal Debt is made of Treasury Securities (notes, bills & bonds) that people purchase at a guaranteed interest rate. In essence, people around the world lend the U.S. Government money at a certain interest rate. As long as the rate of return on Treasury Securities exceeds inflation, they are a very secure way to grow your money. The Government has to pay the interest on the note for its duration and then return the loan when the note is due. It is the annual interest payments that are the immediate problem for our Government. The Government cannot afford ever-increasing interest payments on an ever-increasing debt. The historic solution has been to cut interest rates as the debt grows to make the payments manageable. As a matter of fact, if we present the National Debt in 1981 dollars for the last 34 years, every time our National Debt doubles, the rate on 10 Treasury Notes has been halved.
There are only so many times you can cut interest rates before the rates fall below the inflation rate. Once interest rates fall below the rate of inflation, loaning money to the U.S. Government actually becomes a money loser. Right now the rate on 10 year Treasury Notes is about 2%. If the rate of inflation is higher than 2%, then whoever owns that note is actually losing money in terms of its buying power.
This why the Government spends so much time tweaking the Consumer Price Index. Regardless of what the real inflation rate is, they have to come up with a reportable inflation rate lower than the rate on 10 year Treasury Notes. The trouble with this is that by the early 1990s our National Debt had grown to such a point that the reported inflation rate was higher than the return on 10 year Treasury Notes. So the Fed created a new way of calculating the Consumer Price Index. Instead of comparing the price of prime-rib from year to year and coming up with the rate of inflation for prime-rib, the Fed decided to compare the price of prime-rib to hamburger. If prime-rib gets too expensive, consumers are supposed to switch to hamburger. If hamburger gets too expensive, consumers are expected to switch to fried dough. As long as there exists a cheaper alternative, inflation does not exist until such time as the cost of fried dough exceeds the cost of prime-rib. Call it a Means-Tested rate of inflation. If you are poor, and never had the money to buy prime-rib in the first place, your inflation rate is higher than the inflation rate for the rich, who can switch from prime-rib to hamburger to save money.
This is why some people at The Economist very cleverly came up with the “Big Mac Index” as a way to monitor real inflation. The price of a Big Mac sandwich at McDonalds represents a composite of the cost of wages, energy, transportation, basic food stuffs, productivity and profits. Since 1990, the average annual inflation rate of the Big Mac sandwich has been 3.45%. The pre-1990 CPI calculation method says the average annual inflation rate since 1990 has been 6.0%. The Federal Government, using their new Means-Tested CPI has reported an average annual inflation rate since 1990 of 2.63%. The average return on a 10 Treasury Note since 1990 is 4.86%. It appears as though the Government is intentionally under-reporting inflation, so I decided to average the new Means-Tested CPI, the pre-1990 CPI, and the Big Mac Index and come up with a “more accurate” estimate of inflation. For the last ten years the rates on 10 year Treasury Notes have been lower than this “averaged” rate of inflation. That is really bad news. If the government continues to deficit spend, the rate on Treasury Notes will have to continue to decrease if this game of smoke and mirrors is to continue. Unfortunately, you cannot go much lower than 2% interest, so there is little room to drop Treasury Note interest rates. If interest rates start to rise, then the cost of servicing the debt will bankrupt the country. This, folks, is the trouble with “Marijuana” Earl’s solution of spend, spend, spend.
The really bad news is that chronically suppressed interest rates royally screw the middle-class. Big Business is using this unprecedented access to cheap loans to further automate their businesses because low interest capital is cheaper than labor. This drives wages down as people desperately attempt to compete with machines for jobs, while driving corporate profits up. Ronald Reagan was wrong and George Bush was right. Trickle-down economics really is Voodoo economics because greed rules the world. The super-wealthy simply are not sharing these massive profits with the common man. Since Obama and his left-wing cronies took power in 2009, the wealthiest 1% of Americans have increased their wealth from 34.6% of America’s total wealth to 40% of America’s wealth, creating the greatest wealth gap since 1929. This means that new college grads, kids with massive debt at ridiculous interest rates by today’s standards, will not be able to find a good paying job courtesy of our massive National Debt.
Thanks to the National Debt, there are no “safe” ways for the middle-class to grow their money in retirement. While the super-wealthy can afford to lose risk capital, most of America’s middle-class cannot, and few middle-class Americans have the kind of investment savvy required to take investment risks after retirement. For every retired investor winner there will be a slew of retired losers. With 10,000 Baby-boomers retiring every day, how do you think their collective future is going to look from an investment perspective?
While “Marijuana” Earl accurately identifies many critical problems facing today’s America, his “deficit spending” solution is simply not viable. Perhaps the reason Congressman Blumenauer is such a strong marijuana advocate is he is counting on the drug’s ability to neutralize critical thinking skills. Perhaps he is hoping Oregonians will be too stoned to notice just how far left he has drifted.
The Internet is a digital world. You can buy, sell, travel, communicate, work, and play. When you sign up with an Internet service provider, in essence you are purchasing a piece of virtual property in the digital world. The size of that property, its “speed,” depends on how much you want to pay your ISP, but it is your property. You use it however you want. You can purchase a domain name and create a website or blog, and you can hire contractors, like Netflix or Hulu, to bring content to your property. How much you can do simply depends on the size of the property you bought from your ISP.
The reason for needing Net Neutrality is simple. Companies like Comcast want to make lots of money. Once they sell you your piece of Internet property, Comcast then wants to resell your property to anyone else who steps foot on your property. For example, the piece of property I bought from my ISP is big enough for me to hire Netflix and stream movies. I bought the IP address and enough speed to stream movies to three devices. Then I hired Netflix to deliver content to me.
What companies like Comcast want is to sell me Internet speed, then resell that same Internet speed to Netflix. They just sold the same piece of property twice. If they get their way, no matter how much I spend for Internet service and speed, Netflix will never work unless Netflix pays the ISP for the Internet speed I already purchased. That is why your support of Net Neutrality is important. ISPs have no more the right to pick where you can go and what you do on the Internet than VISA or MasterCard have the right to pick where you drive and where you eat.
I am privacy wonk. I do not like faceless people peering into my life anymore than I like peeping Tom’s peering into my windows. People who peek give me the creeps. They are the cockroaches in the walls of our lives. I am also a copyright wonk. I own everything I think up, whether it is has immediate value or not. I own the copyright to my books, my blog, my habits and attitudes as well as my shopping list. Anyone who copies my shopping list or my e-mails or my anything without my express permission has both violated my privacy and the copyright of my life. By virtue of my birth, I own the patent and copyright to my genetic material. Its value does not matter – it is not for the taking without my permission.
There was a time, not too long ago, where this discussion was not relevant. It was not possible for Corporate America and Big Government to record our every word, movement and purchase. No one could use our DNA for anything interesting. That time has come to an end. Today, through the unethical use of rapidly emerging technologies, corporations across the globe are copying and tabulating who we are for their own personal gain without our express permission or any compensation. What should be a seller’s market, where I set the price for my goods just like I set the price for my books, has become a thieves market where Big Business simply takes what they want… and then discriminates against consumers who have the unmitigated gall to try to protect their private information.
I live in a cookie-cutter copy of Every Town, USA. I have the same strip malls with the same chain restaurants and chain retailers that dominate the American shopping experience from sea to shining sea. I can divide these retailers into two rough groups. Those who require customers to sign up for a customer loyalty card in order to get advertised prices, and those who will honor their best price without discrimination of any sort. The goods and services they all sell are the same. They sell the same brands names from the same manufacturers. The everyday prices and advertised sales are generally similar, and there is not a discernible difference in quality of service. If anything, the everyday prices are higher and the service is worse at shops that require loyalty cards. The only real difference between the two groups is that one steals a copy of your shopping list, tabulates your purchasing habits, and attempts to create a hidden revenue stream using the copyright of your life without your permission and without compensating you, while the other offers you the same goods and services at the equal or better prices without spying on you and stealing from you. It is ironic that the companies demanding loyalty are in fact betraying their customers, while the ones who do not demand loyalty are actually demonstrating that very virtue.
Obviously, I do not use loyalty cards, but the average American consumer has eight. The only time I shop at businesses that require loyalty cards is when time and convenience outweigh the ensuing fight. Last month I was in such a situation. I was traveling out of town and needed fuel and a drink, and was not willing to drive out of my way to find it. I stopped at a major national grocery chain with a gas station in their parking lot and went in to get a soda and a snack. I picked out a couple of sale items and went to the register.
“I am not a Club Card member, but I want you to honor your advertised price,” I told the cashier. I was friendly, but firm.
“If you are not a Club Card member, I am not going to do that!” he was just as friendly and just as firm. He had a haircut that made him look like Princess Toadstool and ear gauges so big I could have drove my truck through them.
“Then I want to talk to your manager.” I smiled. I have had this fight before.
When the manager arrived, I explained I felt his company was discriminating against me, and that he should honor his advertised price. He grumbled and he frowned and he smoldered, but in the end, he pushed the Club Pricing button on the register and I got my soda and snack for the advertised price… but not before that asshole made me feel like I was a back-of-the-bus, second-class citizen. He really did not want my business if I refused to give him my name, phone number, address and e-mail address. So I paid cash, just to piss him off. I refused to even give him my credit card number.
Today, if you want the aggravation of that kind of fight, you can get most of these chumps to honor the sale price without the loyalty card. Tomorrow, I am not so sure. I can easily see a future where it is extremely difficult to buy, sell or trade, without registering first. If that is the future we get, it will be of our own making. Just check your key-ring and wallet and count all the retail loyalty cards. Why aren’t you shopping at the competition and rewarding them for respecting your privacy? In today’s world it is not possible to make yourself invisible, but that does not mean you should sell your soul for a buy-one-get-one 50% off vitamin deal. That is just 25% off each, after all.