When Bill Clinton ran for president, James Carville, Clinton’s lead strategist said, “it’s the economy, stupid” and that phrase caught on. I’m not an economist, but it’s clear to me that the use of “stupid” in this phrase could have many meanings, intended or otherwise. More importantly, I used “It’s the economy, stupid” as a title for a post already, so I had to mix it up a bit for this one. But more and more, I think there’s a lot of stupid when it comes to the economy, or at least how people talk about the economy.Continue reading “The stupid economy”
Folks in politics and who talk about politics often accuse others of just trying to gain power. I understand this notion, but I’m not sure what kind of power people are talking about most of the time. Money? Sure. I can see that. Decision-making? OK. Feeling like you’re somebody special? I can understand all of that. But it seems like, maybe for one group more than another, those goals put people on very strange sides of arguments.Continue reading “Is it all about power?”
The partisan divide in attitudes about COVID makes me very sad. It didn’t need to be this way, and it seems like it never would have been this way if not for the self-centeredness of the president. But maybe that’s not true. Maybe it would have been that way regardless of who is in office. Maybe it’s revealing some fundamental differences in how folks on the left and folks on the right see the world. It seems like it comes down to what I think of as a first person vs a third person perspective of the world. Let’s parse that first and then see how it applies to COVID.Continue reading “First- vs third-person view of the world and how COVID fits in”
The COVID pandemic is causing pain all over. There’s no question about that. The United States and many other countries have been responding with orders to shut down non-essential businesses, and this has put many people out of work. But the efforts to flatten the curve seem to be working, and the projections for the total number of people expected to die are looking much better than before. They’re still projecting a tragic number of deaths, but not nearly as many as we could have. That’s good. At least I think it’s good. In several states, however, there are protests springing up about efforts to keep us safe.
The United States is in the early stages of the pandemic of COVID-19 caused by the SARS-Cov-2 virus. As of this moment, there are 597,304 confirmed cases worldwide and 104,661 confirmed cases in the United States alone. Today, the number of cases in the United States grew to the point that there are now more cases in the United States than in any other country. Of course, we do not know if this is accurate, and suspect that it isn’t, because there are very likely many people, in many countries, who are infected but have not been tested. There is a growing movement, especially among republicans, to weigh the potential harm caused by the virus and the harm caused by slowing the economy (because of people sheltering in place, closed restaurants and other businesses). A friend brought this up to me recently, calling attention to a quote in the movie The Big Short: every 1% unemployment goes up, 40,000 people die. It got me thinking…as most things do.
My family has been voluntarily quarantined for six days. My wife was frightened by the novel coronavirus first. We thought she was crazy, and made fun of her, but I soon was infected by her fear. At first I was just trying to be a good husband, and help present a united front for our kids, so they’d fall in line, but after some easy math, I got worried also. I hope I’m wrong. I hope this ends faster than we fear. I hope it takes fewer lives than I fear. I hope for all those things. I am, to a fault sometimes, a man of hope. But I’m afraid.
One of the places where I tend to disagree with other liberals is the defense budget. Attacking defense spending is a common hobby for many liberals. I get the appeal. I don’t like spending astronomical sums of money for the purpose of killing people. It doesn’t sit well with me. But what I’ve come to realize is that the defense budget is so much more than a killing budget. It’s a convenient way for Congress to allocate money to things we need, as a nation, but can’t convince many voters (or even Members of Congress) to support otherwise. How do some countries fight unemployment? They hire lots of people to work for the government. We do that too, through the military. Want to provide education and job training and healthcare for millions of Americans…put money for education and job training and healthcare into the Department of Defense budget and consider it done. Want to spend money on biomedical research, on materials research, on computing research, on all kinds of research…put money into the Department of Defense budget and consider it done.
I have fond memories of emerging technology from my childhood. I remember listening, in awe, as my father put a pair of headphones on me and played a track from Pink Floyd’s Ummagumma with wonderful sounds clearly coming from the left and right, and a bee buzzing in one ear and not the other. I remember my father getting a car phone. Not a mobile phone, not a cell phone, but a car phone. Hard-wired into the car, with a pigtail antenna fixed to the back window and wired through the car to the phone in the center console. We watched the Jetsons and longed for the days when a robot would cook for us, clean for us, and make our lives easier. We had this vision of a world in which automation and technology let us sit by the pool and sip margaritas that a robot would make and bring to us with a tiny umbrella. What we never imagined is that the robots would take away the pool also.
I got a new car a few months ago and it came with a subscription to Sirius XM. I had never had it before, except in a rental, and never appreciated it. Now I have it, and it’s fueling my news addiction. That only matters because it’s directly responsible for me writing something this morning, for the first time this month. A former Congresswoman, a republican, was on CNN. I was listening in the car, and didn’t recognize her voice, nor was I listening when they introduced her and told us who she was. Without the chyron below, showing her name, the piece ended and I was left not knowing who she was. She was asked about the difficulty being a republican in Congress in the time of Trump. She spoke, more frankly than most republicans do these days, about the clear evidence that there was bad behavior by the Trump campaign. She said something like, “honestly, we have to be concerned about the people surrounding the President who were involved with the Russians.” But, in the end, she drew the line and differentiated between what the President (then candidate) knew and did. It’s a funny line to draw, and leaves me with some competing narratives: dueling perspectives…which in my head quickly pivoted to Climate Change. Follow me for the ride.
Yes, you heard that. I think the democrats should give Trump the $5 billion he requested for the wall. I think the wall is a dumb idea. I think we already have physical (natural and man-made) barriers that do good where they’re needed. I think the eminent domain issues will be tied up in court for the better part of a decade, at least. I don’t think it’s a good use of our funds, but it’s about 0.13% of the proposed FY2019 budget, it’s a fraction of important things like the $39 billion budget for the National Institutes of Health, and I just don’t care enough about it to advocate keeping federal workers from getting their paychecks.