Let’s Subsidize Work Instead of Shareholders

Substation transformer

Looking back, there is no surprise that the result of the tax reductions passed by Republican votes in 2017 failed to rejuvenate the economy. The stated belief was that businesses would use the windfall from reduced taxation to invest in their employees, through higher wages, or invest in productive assets and expand their production base. Surprise! They didn’t. Businesses found that their analysis of the best use of the windfall was to increase stock buybacks and increase stock dividends. The main reason? There is just not justification for investing in new productivity within a mature market like the US.

Production facilities were not relocated from low wage countries, since the cost of labor greatly exceeds the benefits from lower taxation. Therefore it does not make economic sense to relocate low-value manufacturing back to the US for strictly economic criteria. It is only due to events like the supply chain interruptions from the pandemic (and to a lesser extent trade and tariff wars) that created a new incentive for bringing low value manufacturing back to the US.

What is needed is to create new incentive to build businesses that address needs within the US that are additive to the existing consumer base, rather than attempting to relocate existing production to meet stagnant demand. The best place where new demand could be created is in the energy markets and the infrastructure of the electrical grid. Somehow we must make it worthwhile to cause a market shift to use of renewable energy on a smaller scale than through citing of huge power plants, which result in inefficiencies through thermodynamic factors and through distribution from the grid. We already know that large power plants and the necessary facilities to distribute the energy are vulnerable to external shocks. A single large coronal mass ejection event from the sun could result in system wide outages for months at a time until new transformers are built and installed. Similarly, with the destabilization of international relations, use of electromagnetic pulse weaponry could cause equivalent destruction. Either way, our civilization is vulnerable to external forces that would bring us immediately back to the pre-industrial age, leading to immense loss of life.

So it makes it very clear that we need to create enough incentive to enable the decentralization of our electrical system. By doing that, we would improve our own future by reducing the potential for severe disruption. We would also create literally millions of jobs by creating a market for home energy system improvements that would use local labor to install and maintain. And our large scale manufacturing would also benefit by creating the solar panels and battery storage devices that the new grid would use.

Several years ago, we in West Virginia suffered through the aftereffects of a derecho that stopped electrical service across our region for multiple days. Living through that encouraged us to purchase a whole-house electrical generation system, powered through natural gas. Those systems have a weekly 5-minute system test where the generator runs. In my immediate neighborhood in West Virginia, I can hear three generators (including ours) conducting their tests over the course of the week. Good for us. We are assured that we cannot lose electrical power for an extended time. Or are we? Since we would all tap into the natural gas system, would it have enough capacity to handle all of us (and the others up and down the line) who have generators to handle peak demand? There is no way for us to know that except to run the full-scale test and suffer through an extended power outage. Surely this back-up generator expansion is not a scalable solution for metropolitan areas, since I am aware of no studies indicating how much gas would be available if it was being used extensively to replace standard electrical service.

Electrical service is the best example of an area where new means of producing and distributing a commodity (electrons) could be reworked to create new opportunities for investment and entrepreneurship. Unfortunately, other areas of our infrastructure are not as amenable to creating new incentives for reworking and repair. Other utilities such as water and gas are already regulated, and new fees for upgrading service are scrutinized and rarely approved by regulatory agencies. Face it, to replace water or gas lines involves huge investments, and the incentive to do that is not worthwhile for the private market to seek this as an area for investment. But it is crucially needed. Therefore if we are looking for places for government to stimulate the economy, it makes much more sense to provide subsidies for additional productive work rather than to provide tax reductions that only benefit shareholders. And I’m speaking as one who is fortunate enough to receive dividend income through my owned equities, so I am a beneficiary of the current system.

If anything has become evident during this year of pandemicmonium, it is that maintaining the ability of the consumer to keep stimulating the economy through spending is vital. If we suddenly turn off the spigots, then the result is longer term shrinkage of the economy, and a further increase in income inequality. So the types of changes I am proposing are not appropriate for this stage in the pandemic. But coming out of this mess, it is vital that we begin to plan to actually improve the state of our nation and its infrastructure, rather than accept what we had as being adequate. We now have a wealth of data to show that we’ve lived with inadequate systems, merely because it would have gored someone’s ox to fix the problems.

Tick-Tock

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The tick withdraws his mouth from the host, where he has been siphoning life blood. As his head disengages, dollars drip from his extended drill bit serving as a mouth. The tick moves on, slowly waddling down a slightly sloped ramp, until he comes to his next victim. There he engages with that next victim, another seeker of favors, and snuggles down to begin the extraction process.

The victims keep coming, willingly, as long as the favors they can procure keep coming as well. It is worth a bit of their lifeblood to enable them to carve out larger cavities in the body of the US government as their favors are translated into new contracts or new rulings in their interest. Sometimes the result of the parasitic infection is a purulent discharge coming from the body of the government, as the host rejects the outlandish demands of its parasitic free rider. But often, the burrowing of the new parasite is hidden, out of sight from those who try to decipher the acts of the government we all pay for. All of us, that is, except for the tick in chief, who pays nothing for his benefits, yet keeps feasting upon those who would request just one favor, just one contract, or just one tweet.

The tick in chief leads his progeny in learning just how to drill into a willing victim. By siphoning off a portion of the victim’s life blood, the family of the tick in chief can keep its engorged status intact. The rest of the world looks on in horror as the images of the tick in chief permeate the airwaves. No more can they revere the country the tick has invaded. Instead, they ridicule it, though the tick in chief keeps insisting that they are laughing with him, not laughing at him.

The tick in chief believes that only through displays of brute force can the rest of the population be brought into submission. Amazingly, there are many who believe that having a parasite at the top of government is just fine, they’d all like to be there sucking the lifeblood if they were ever given a chance, and the more that the parasite can do to weaken its host, the better off they will be.

The tweezers of government have proven to be ineffective at removing the tick from its host body. Though quite credible allegations were provided on multiple occasions, the tick in chief got the report on the allegations quashed by those whom the tick had appointed. And of course, his enablers glommed onto the statements about the allegations being quashed, and they never examined the findings of fact in the original reports. Thus the enablers feel gleeful as they announce complete vindication. In fact, the tick in chief truly believes he has done a good job for his host.

Unfortunately for the tick in chief, a new validation is coming soon. The host has a chance to throw off the parasite that has dominated it for nearly four years. It remains to be seen whether the tick and its many other enabled parasites have infected the host body with an illness that survives beyond the lifespan of the tick in chief. A nation infected with spotted fever or lyme disease would be preferable to one that is infected with the ongoing illness of lack of trust and belief in illogical and silly conspiracy theories. But first, we have to throw off the shackles of the tick in chief. Sometime in early November, we will see if the head of the tick in chief has been extricated from the body of the government. May it be so.

Requiem Bob Gibson

Photo from Associated Press

I came into the world on the day of The Catch. That event, now viewed in grainy black and white, where Willie Mays raced towards the fence to improbably catch the liner that seemed destined to create victory for the Indians. I remember rooting for the Yankees, because I thought they had Yogi Bear playing for them. The images of Dizzy and Pee Wee broadcasting the game of the week, interspersed with advertisements for the Ole Pro and Falstaff beer, remain embedded in my memory.

Thus it is not surprising that in the 1964 season, my allegiances switched from the Yankees to the Cardinals. St. Louis was the team I could follow on an AM radio, switching from the St. Joseph MO station in the daytime, to KMOX in St. Louis when daylight faded. Those were the days when Harry Caray and Jack Buck formed the Cardinals broadcast team, and their prose flavored my formative years. Of all of the Cardinals during those teams of the sixties, the one who stood the highest was Bob Gibson. To receive word of his passing this past week meant that my own mortality was just brought a little bit closer.

How many individuals in any sport were so dominant that they caused the rules of the game to change? Though he was not the only pitcher who shone brightly in 1968, it was his complete dominance that caused the pitching mound to be lowered from 15″ to 10″ in height in 1969. In fact, it was not surprising that he won 22 games in 1968. It was surprising that he lost 9 games that same year. Gibby was undoubtedly the best pitcher in the game, even with McLain winning 30 games that year in the other league.

How fortunate I was in those days. Even though baseball on TV was limited to only Saturday afternoon games, I saw matchups like Koufax and Marichal, Seaver and Gibson, Drysdale and Ferguson Jenkins. Even now I can remember the high leg kick of Marichal and his bewildering variety of pitches. Maybe it is a case of less being more, since back in those days, not having the cable channels feed me a baseball buffet, made me value the games I saw more highly. Now, you look back to the complete game statistics, and number of pitches thrown, and you compare it to the 100 pitch limits seemingly enforced upon all but the very best pitchers of today, and you marvel that those old-timers were able to withstand the rigors of the season without debilitating arm disorders.

But there was little doubt that the fiercest competitor among pitchers was Gibson. You need only look back to July 15, 1967, when Gibson’s leg had a collision with a liner hit by Roberto Clemente (a fierce competitor in his own right). Gibson pitched for 3 more batters, then collapsed. It was discovered that the liner had fractured his fibula. Ironically, the injury only kept him out for a couple of months, and by the time of the World Series in October, he won 3 complete game victories.

When you’ve been a baseball fan for as long as I have, there are many memories that sustain you. I’ve seen the battles between Pittsburgh and Baltimore in the 70’s, the advent of the Big Red Machine in the 70’s, the unbelievable pitching dominance of Atlanta in the late 80’s and 90’s (but only winning one championship among all of that pitching brilliance). Since I grew up in Lincoln, Nebraska, when the Royals emerged, I became a fan of the grit of George Brett, and the determination of 5’5″ Freddie Patek. I’ve become a fan of the Pirates over the years, even through their 20 year drought of losing teams. But the memories of the Cardinals of the 60’s, and of listening to their games on my transistor radio (remember when they told you how may transistors the radio held?), are still fresh in my memory.

Seeing pictures of those World Series in the 60’s was like visiting a foreign era. All the images were of the daytime, since the World Series was not contaminated by the need for every bit of television revenue. Seeing the mainly male crowd, almost exclusively in white dress shirts and ties, reminds me that it was not so long ago that a different ethos and culture existed then vs. now. But recalling the almost superhuman feats of Bob Gibson, brought back to me the purity of a different age.

I know now that under the surface, the image of baseball would begin to crack. In fact, it was a Cardinal – Curt Flood, who literally opened the floodgates and challenged the legal structure that bound players to teams. Thus came the age of free agency, and the loss of team loyalty, so that today you celebrate the careers of players who spend their entire playing time with a single team. With the need to pay for free agents, came the need to switch to night baseball for the Series, thus forever changing the ability of the kids to follow the events of the Series breathlessly. Even worse, the designated hitter surfaced as an attempt to appeal to the casual fan by increasing offensive stats.

Still, those of us who remember the joys of watching 1-0 games with complete games thrown by both winning and losing pitchers, were brought up short with the death of Bob Gibson.

Yesterday

In the past week, events ran at such a pace that a poor blogger was not able to keep up. I initially wrote this piece a week ago, after the “debate”, and the story about taxes from the NYT, when I believed that just maybe, a sense of reflection would have come across this President. Then came the news of the positive result for COVID, and the subsequent hospitalization. While tempting, I will not resort to cheap expressions that I feel karma has overtaken events. Still, it may be that the President has actually had the chance for reflection over the past few days, so my offering here is provided with that in mind.

My apologies to the Beatles.

Yesterday all my troubles seemed so far away.
Now it looks as though they’re here to stay.
Oh, I believe in yesterday.

Suddenly, I’m not half the man I used to be.
There’s a shadow hanging over me.
Oh, yesterday came suddenly.

Why they had to blow,

My cover, they wouldn’t say

I did all things wrong

Now I long for yesterday

Yesterday fraud was such an easy game to play

Now I need a place to hide away

Oh I believe in Putin’s sway

Why I thought they’d know?

I’m the best, we’d be ok.

I did all things wrong

Now I long for yesterday.

Yesterday, all my dreams were part of daily play

Now I’ll need a brand new place to stay

No more TV from Fox today

Mm mm mm, mm mmm mmm mm.