Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Could a Guaranteed basic Income Save America?

Long, long ago (at least, it feels like a long time), in the ancient days of April 2016 when Donald Trump was merely one of several possible Republican presidential candidates and surely not the one Republicans would be dumb enough to pick, amirite? I wrote a post asking “Could a guaranteed basic income save America's free market economy?” 

Now, as our sick and battered country limps through the final hours of Trump's disastrous administration, I'll ask a shorter version of the question: could a guaranteed basic income save America?

Back in that last April of Obama's tenure I still thought much of Trump's popularity was because he appealed to the economically anxious. The Capitol riot on January 6 gave the lie to that – people who can afford to travel across the country during a pandemic obviously aren't having too many money problems – but even so, the economic issues I mentioned almost five years ago have only been exacerbated by the pandemic and the mass unemployment and financial losses stemming from it.

I suggested (and still support) abolishing the current patchwork social safety net of food stamps and housing vouchers and ever-shifting bureaucratic hoops to jump through, and replacing it all with a modest basic income of around $250 per week for all adult citizens regardless of income or net worth (though there would surely have to be some residency requirements), plus another 10 percent for each child under 18. This won't make you rich or even comfortably middle-class anywhere in contemporary America, but it will cover the barest necessities, and can make for a decent living when combined with whatever wages people earn in a free and functional economy (which we can't have until everyone's vaccinated against covid-19, anyway).

I know many who oppose this on the grounds that if people were guaranteed the bare basics of life without having to work for them, so many would be content to settle for that and nothing else, the economy would completely collapse. “I got all the basics plus my Xbox and my Netflix; why work for anything more?”

True; there probably will be a [relatively] few people like that. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised to see an uptick in young adults who try an updated 21st-century version of the old 1960s-hippie “tune in, turn on, drop out” mentality.

On the other hand, most of those hippies eventually got sick of the dirty-hippie aesthetic, so they got haircuts and jobs and eventually went on to vote for President Reagan. And if you mentioned a basic income guarantee back then, you'd hear many who oppose this on the grounds that if people were guaranteed the bare basics of life without having to work for them, too many will be content to settle for that and nothing else, with the result that the economy would collapse. “I got all the basics plus my Atari and my Betamax player; why work for anything more?”

And yeah, there were people back in 1983 who would have been perfectly content with the bare necessities plus their Atari, Betamax and a selection of tapes and game cartridges. They'd have been perfectly content to do nothing but get buzzed all day, play their Atari games or watch their magnetic-tape videos ... for a couple years, anyway, until newer and better options made those game and video-watching systems obsolete. The Atari/Betamax slackers might never be motivated to work for self-improvement or the betterment of humanity or other noble "Star Trek when Roddenberry still ran the show" ideals ... but there would come a time when they're motivated to work at least enough to upgrade to a Nintendo plus a VHS player and games and videos for both, and later still to a PlayStation or XBox plus a DVD player ... and of course, I haven't even mentioned all the upgrades this guy has made to his home music player and collection, compared to the vinyl records and stereo system to play them he had back in 1983, and the time he finally decided to join the growing number of American cell phone owners, which lasted until he decided to upgrade to a smartphone....

Ad infinitum. My point is, even if you oppose a minimal base income because you view humanity as inherently a bunch of lazy lotus-eaters who require the threat of hunger and homelessness to give them incentive to work – even if we posit that's true, we do not live in a world where “avoiding hunger and homelessness” are the only two possible rewards for holding a job. But we live in a world of amazing luxuries and wonderful things, with new ones being introduced – maybe not every day, but certainly every year or so, to the point where whatever material things made someone content back in 1983, it's a near-certainty that someone today has bought all kinds of cool new things which didn't even exist back then.

And if we did have a basic income ensuring everyone could at least afford the minimum requirements of life, then maybe the incoming Biden administration wouldn't be facing such Democratic criticism over the difference between a $1,400 and $2,000 pandemic relief check.


Saturday, January 09, 2021

Get Off My Lawn ... no, wait, I don't have one

Like many anti-Trump Americans (I suspect), I watched the attempted insurrection at the capital unfold online with an odd combination of "I can't believe this" and "I kind of expected this all along." When I saw the first videos highlighting the less-serious aspects of the event, with people wandering around admiring the sights the way my classmates and I did during our eighth-grade field trip to DC, and for a moment I was tempted to criticize them the way my adult self would criticize actual eighth-graders engaged in something cataclysmically stupid ... until I realized not only was everyone a full-fledged adult, but many were even older than me.

You almost have to admire such firm commitment to principle, though: imagine being so committed to the whole anti-mask-wearing "covid 19 is a hoax" narrative, you refuse to cover your face even when you're engaging in felonious acts on federal property and know you're being recorded.

I would never try storming the capitol or similar things, of course, but if I did I would try to do so in a non-idiotic way where I have at least a hypothetical chance of getting away with it. For starters: wear a damned mask (and be glad this is the first time in literally my entire life where wearing a face-obscuring mask is legal and not even considered weird). Leave my phone, GPS and all other tracking devices at home (or at least in my DC hotel room; if the FBI talked to me later, I'd admit I went to the city but claim I missed the rally because I had another flare-up in my medically documented, "I got scrips for this" chronic-pain condition). Wear mirror sunglasses big enough to cover all of my face not hidden under the mask. Pin up all of my unusual-looking hair and hide every last strand of it under a sung-fitting hat. I'd even buy new-to-me clothes and shoes in styles and colors I usually never wear (including the hat, mask and big mirror sunglasses), and throw them all away as soon as I was done. And likely a couple more things I can't think of right now, but would if I actually took the time to plan a public outing where I'm doing something super-illegal. But I definitely would not run around taking selfies and giving video-recorded interviews to people.

On the other hand, a lot of them probably thought their actions were okay, since the President of the United States supported them. And a lot more clearly didn't think much at all.

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Official Unconcern for the New Year


Exactly one year ago, New Year's Eve 2019, I wished all my friends a happy New Year, and we all saw how THAT turned out. So this time, I officially have No Opinion regarding how this next year will pan out for humanity in general, or you and your loved ones in particular. Don't know, don't want to know, and don't care. Because if I wish you well then that'll either turn out to be ironic foreshadowing, or worse, you'll get what you wish for but with some horrible monkey's-paw twist (like when I hoped to escape from that jury duty notice I got for the end of last March, and sho'nuff I did).
So this year I ain't sayin' nothin'. Nope. [Shrug]

Monday, November 23, 2020

The Trump Show: How Will It End?

The no-talent hack who wrote the year-2020 screenplay is clearly getting bored with the whole thing, and inventing evermore-implausible twists like "Have the insane lawyer's spray-on  hair dye melt down his face during a press conference." But I can't help wondering: how is the dysfunctional Trump show finally going to end?

1. He becomes the first ex-president in US history who refuses to leave of his own volition, and has to be carried bodily out of the White House
2. First ex-POTUS in American history to flee to a foreign country with no US extradition treaties
3. Tries to pardon himself on the way out, and has another meltdown upon being told that presidential pardons only apply to federal crimes, not state-level
4. Insists to the end that Democrats and/or "antifa" stole the election via "voter fraud," and repeats his earlier call for his followers to apply a, quote, "second amendment solution" to the problem
5. Behaves like a dignified adult and gives a concession speech paying lip service to presumptive American ideals like "democracy" and "the will of the people" ***
*** I know, that last one was thoroughly ludicrous. I blame it on the fact that I'm currently taking THREE scary-potent meds for various painful spine/nervous system problems I've developed, causing me to have weird hallucinatory thoughts like "Green ideas sleep furiously upon the rainy plains of Spain" and "Trump might actually do the right thing and put the common good ahead of his own narcissistic self-interest, at some point in his life."

Tuesday, October 06, 2020

Covita Trump and Chekhov's Gunshow

In the immediate aftermath of the Rose Garden ceremony introducing SCOTUS nominee Amy Coney Barrett to an unmasked, shoulder-to-shoulder multitude of Republican movers and shakers, when news first broke that Hope Hicks AND Donald and Melania Trump AND Utah Senator Mike Lee AND many others who attended Amy Barrett's White House social on Tuesday all tested positive for covid-19, several of my literary-minded social-media acquaintances made comments about Chekhov's gun. But this went  waaay beyond Chekhov's gun; this was Chekhov's illegal illicit unlicensed underground gun show, held in an abandoned and condemned building, which just caught on fire, and now all the ammunition's starting to go off.

That said: if I knew absolutely nothing of the context, I would have felt deep pity for Trump when I watched his "Mussolini on the balcony" stunt from the other day -- that was obviously a very sick man having great difficulty breathing, to the point where he needed to use almost all of his upper-body musculature to do so. And he put additional strain on his lungs and body, solely for a photo op, because his fear of "looking weak" is so intense that he can't or won't admit "Sometimes, even the strongest people have a genuine medical need to stay in bed and avoid exertion for awhile."
A truly strong man is not afraid of looking weak, but a weak man is obsessed with always looking strong. 
If covid works through Trump's body at the same timeline as it did with Herman Cain, Trump will die only a day or two before the election. Nothing remotely like this has happened in our country's history, and I worry what the results will be. (By this point, sadly, I'm taking for granted that the GOP is not going to act in good faith. It's not the party of Reagan anymore, and hasn't been for a long while.)

Saturday, July 11, 2020


So how are the "open" states doing in regarding to covid-19? Let's see: the top five hospitals in Mississippi have run out of ICU beds. The twelve busiest hospitals in the Houston area are outright telling ambulances "Don't bother bringing people here." Florida continues breaking its own in-state covid death records (meanwhile, Walt Disney World re-opened today. New recommended ad slogan: "The most magical place on earth, and a good time that is to DIE for!")

The only way we can safely even TRY to get most of the economy back on track is for everyone to practice certain safety measures – namely masks, distancing and sanitizers – but of course, a lot of people who oppose the lockdowns are ALSO opposed to the simple measures we can take to safely operate without them. 
Here in north Georgia where I currently have the misfortune to be, after the first lockdown ended, my husband and I tried, very cautiously, to do some “non-essential, just-for-fun" money-spending things -- those of you who know me may recall what a hardcore thrift shop/flea market/overstock outlet addict I am -- ordering carryout from certain restaurants, doing our bit to help the economy …. and then we went back into quarantine after the local cases kept rising, our own county keeps breaking its own previous records, and FAR too many of our fellow shoppers refuse to wear a mask OR stay the hell away from us. 
Oh, and remember when I said “we bought carryout from restaurants?” One of our favorites had to shut down for a couple weeks after one of its employees tested positive. How the hell can we have a functional economy when businesses have to keep closing on the grounds “Oh shit, our place of business is currently crawling with pathogens and we have to sanitize EVERYTHING before we re-open?” And the One Simple Trick that would enable us to have at least a semblance of a normal economy until medical science figures out a way to get a handle on this virus -- wear a mask in public, while practicing certain social-distancing guidelines -- is also the one thing which the Hardcore Heterodoxy tribe refuses to do.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Masks and Parachutes

So the latest anti-mask argument making the rounds is: there's no point in wearing them because any suggestion that wearing masks reduces the transmission of certain airborne contagions is "not validated by any study." Which, so far as I know, is true (at least, I haven't looked for any). And here is something else not validated by any study: there has never, not once, been a scientifically rigorous double-blind study testing whether parachutes are effective at reducing fatalities among people who jump out of airplanes. There exists nary a single peer-reviewed study any pro-parachutists could link to, showing people with parachutes do any better than a parachute-free control group. 
Clearly, then, the only logical, rational conclusion is that parachutes are worthless -- or, at most, are only useful for identifying the cowardly sheeple amongst the skydiving set, eh?
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