Category Archives: Economy

WE NEED CHANGE.

I think the number of children living in poverty in the U.S. is about the same as in Britain. In the richest countries of the world, including the U.S. and Britain, it is immoral to have so many children living below the poverty line. In fact, I believe the child poverty stats indicate that rich countries like us are morally bankrupt! As the artist who created a nifty and instructive poster said, Zero children should be living in poverty. “We need change.”

Indeed. We as a society (and as an electorate) have both the means and the power to reduce child poverty nearly to zero. But do 51 percent of us want to really do that? Do 51 percent of us even care?

I’m afraid to say the answer.

(You can see the poster by clicking on the Abba1blog post below.)

— John Hayden

abba1blog

This started of as a little sketch of a table and chairs in a coffee shop, which evolved in to a mini poverty poster!

I have been reading so much lately about the hidden and unspoken inequality and hardship that goes on in Britain that no one speaks about, and most probably don’t even know about, for example these insane poverty statistics.I think when your’e eating a cinnamon swirl with a soy latte you realise how lucky you actually are? and that a cinnamon swirl probably isn’t a life necessity (no its definitely not). So all of us in that coffee shop that day who were spending too much money on cake, are lucky people to even be able to have that as a opportunity to us, and i completely recognize that.

The fact that 1 in 4 kids live in poverty I think is really really sad, as like…

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Jon Taplin On The Brave New Technology Revolution

If you have 45 minutes and you’d like to know what’s happening in the worldwide technological revolution, I recommend “Sleeping Through A Revolution,” a lecture by Jon Taplin of the Annenberg Innovation Lab. Watch and listen to the lecture here.

The Internet economy is destroying jobs. Taplin cites the ruins of the music, newspaper, book, film, and television industries. The Internet economy has transferred a wealth of income  from the “creative class” (the makers of content) to monopolistic Internet platforms, such as Google and Facebook, Taplin says. And Amazon.

But wait! Musicians, editors, printers, authors and workers in the TV and film industries are not the only losers in this Brave New World of technology monopoly. Taplin predicts:

“The technological revolution is about to come for everybody else’s job too.”

Do you doubt it? The number of robots in the world is doubling every 30 months, Taplin reports. The lecture covers a lot of ground. Past, present, future. I’m not going to report the whole lecture. I urge you to watch it for yourself. I plan to listen to the lecture at least one more time.

— John Hayden

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The Future Of Air Transportation in Montgomery County

What can be done to meet the present and future needs of Montgomery County citizens and businesses for air transportation?  Continue reading

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Political Apartheid In America

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IT’S NO SECRET.  America has devolved into Red State/Blue State political apartheid. It’s based on geography, lifestyle and issues, not on race or color.

The Northeast and Pacific coast are Democratic Blue. The South, Great Plaines and Rocky Mountains are Republican Red. The problem is abetted within states by gerrymandering.

Development of political apartheid in America was accompanied by the hollowing out of the American industrial base, the demise of labor unions, and growth of the financial sector. A deepening divide between rich and poor is salt in the wound.

Red/Blue apartheid is largely responsible for gridlocking the government in Washington. Some states and cities are also experiencing gridlock and financial trouble. If not for the Great Recession and continuing economic decline, perhaps political dysfunction by itself would not be serious.

Now, the sputtering engine of taxation and government finance is running out of gas, as many American corporations scurry to abandon the sinking  ship. The technical term for this particular form of treason is “corporate inversion.”

Bill Clinton, campaigning this week with Democratic Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky, a Red state, made the following comment, as reported by The Washington Post.

“It would be wrong to try and build a future for America that leaves rural America and small-town America out.”

That’s an understatement. If we Americans allow the pathology of political apartheid/ government dysfunction/ economic decline to fester, we will be inviting collapse of democratic government.

Remember, In our hyper-complex world, the speed of change is balls to the wall. We’re constantly vulnerable to black swans. Or if you prefer, Murphy’s Law.

“Whatever can go wrong will go wrong.”

Exactly what would replace democratic government, I do not know. I don’t want to think about it, but the words “fascism” and “communism” come too readily to mind.

In the next post, I’ll consider Red/Blue political apartheid in my own home state, Maryland.

John Hayden

What do you think about political apartheid? Your comments are welcome below.

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Cheap TVs And Costly Health Care

Once in a while, a sentence or paragraph in the daily news seems to capture the truth.

“America is a place where luxuries are cheap and necessities costly. A big-screen TV costs much less than it does in Europe, but health care will sink you.”   — Joseph Cohen, Queens College, New York

Makes you wonder, why do so many Americans ridicule Europe, especially the European model of universal health care?

That paragraph is from a story in the April 27, 2014, edition of The Washington Post, under then byline of Carol Morello and Scott Clement. The headline is, “Less Dream, More Reality: America’s middle class is shrinking and is being squeezed by the pressures of diminishing opportunity, stagnant wages and rising expenses.”

The story follows a typical American family with two full-time wage earners and three children. They’re not exactly poor; they qualify as middle class. But as the story reports, they’re “masters at scrimping,” out of necessity.

As the headline says, it’s just a glimpse of reality. Makes me glad I still subscribe to a good daily newspaper.

— John Hayden

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The Student Debt Crisis

itsbeen2years-3

This week’s email brings a reminder from Maggie Thompson at the organization Higher Ed Not Debt about an issue that remains under the radar for much of the population:

“This week we hit a milestone—but it’s not a good one. It’s been two years since the amount of student debt held in this country hit $1 trillion dollars. Americans hold more student debt than credit card debt and auto loans combined.”  — Maggie Thompson

Everyone knows about credit card debt and mortgage issues, but the significance of student debt is still emerging. Higher education student debt should be at the top of the list of issues addressed by Democratic candidates in this year’s elections. Recent graduates (and also students who studied for several years but didn’t graduate) are well aware of the problem, and they could use some help.

The burden of student debt might not be so bad, if more and better jobs were available for young adults. But the fact is, graduates face a stagnant job market and declining wages. How do you pay off student debt and start a family on Walmart wages?

Higher Ed Not Debt is organizing events across the country to put the spotlight on student debt. For more information see the Higher Ed Not Debt website.

— John Hayden

 

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Minimum Wage Increase Passes In Maryland, O’Malley Will Sign It

Tuesday morning, Gov. Martin O’Malley sent out an email recap of the 2014 General Assembly, highlighting bills that he will enthusiastically sign into law. He didn’t mention the bill to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, but I believe he will most likely sign that one too.  — John

middle class

Below is the text of O’Malley’s email message. I’ve put some of the key words in bold text:

Yesterday afternoon, the State House voted to raise Maryland’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.

This effort — which has now passed both chambers — is the culmination of a lot of hard hard work to forge consensus and bring people together to give hundreds of thousands of our friends, neighbors, and family members a well-deserved raise.

I will sign it enthusiastically — because no one who works full time should have to raise their family in poverty.

Yesterday also marked the conclusion of Maryland’s 2014 legislative session. Strengthening and growing our middle class was the North Star of our work — both in this session and for the past seven and a half years — and I’m pleased to report that we took meaningful action this year to move our State forward:

– We passed a bill to expand Pre-Kindergarten for 1,600 children in low-income families because investments in early childhood education make a huge difference throughout a person’s life.

– I’ll sign a comprehensive package to strengthen protections for victims of domestic violence, furthering our work to keep families safe. Since 2007, we’ve driven down the rate of female and juvenile homicide in Maryland, and this year’s effort builds on that work.

– Maryland’s Wildlands are critical to preserving and protecting the last untouched landscapes and waterways of our great State. As Marylanders, we have a duty to ensure that these open spaces can be enjoyed by future generations and that is why we passed this measure to expand our State’s Wildlands by 50%.

– We passed a responsible budget that invests in job creation and innovation, expands opportunity, strengthens our State’s middle class and puts us on a path to eliminate our inherited structural deficit by 2017. And we did it without raising any taxes or fees.

These accomplishments did not happen by chance — they happened by choice.

Hope drives belief. Belief drives action. And action achieves results. We achieved together this legislative session, and I thank you for your help moving Maryland forward.

All the best,

Martin O’Malley
Governor, Maryland

A quick graphic look at the Maryland budget dollar.

A quick graphic look at the Maryland budget dollar.

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Amazon, Books, And Publishing, Read All About It

If you love books, please do not read “CHEAP WORDS: Amazon is good for customers. But is it good for books?”

books headerDon’t read it, because it will break your heart. If you love economic competition or American culture, the article about Amazon.com will also break your heart. If you’re an aspiring author, writing your e-book to sell via Kindle, Nook, or Apple, you probably have a conflicted love-hate relationship with Amazon.

For the fearless reader, the scary, in-depth report by George Packer about Amazon.com may be found in the Feb. 17, 2014, issue of The New Yorker, filed under “Reporter At Large.” Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

On the positive side, if you own stock in Amazon, Mr. Packer’s comprehensive report might make you fall in love all over again:

“The combination of ceaseless innovation and low-wage drudgery makes Amazon the epitome of a successful New Economy company.”

You could credit Amazon with creating jobs. But in the not-too-distant future, most of those warehouse picking and shipping workers will likely be replaced by robots. And whether we believe it or not, in the long run Amazon just might deliver books, and other merchandise, by drone. (Books are now a small part of the company’s business. Amazon is a digital general store, selling nearly everything under the sun.)

Wikicommons photo

Wikicommons photo

I’m not going to give away the whole Amazon love-hate story, which is too long for most of us to read on a computer screen. I printed it out, and it came to 25 letter-sized pages. It’s a must-read for everyone who’s interested in books and/or the publishing industry, so long as you can handle the heartbreak. I’ll give you a taste of Mr. Packer’s judgement:

“Lately, digital titles have leveled off at about thirty per cent of book sales. Whatever the temporary fluctuations in publishers’ profits, the long-term outlook is discouraging. This is partly because Americans don’t read as many books as they used to — they are too busy doing other things with their devices — but also because of the relentless downward pressure on prices that Amazon enforces. The digital market is awash with millions of barely edited titles, most of it dreck, while readers are being conditioned to think that books are worth as little as a sandwich.”

And now I’ll localize the story a bit, which is an editor’s oldest trick on a slow news day. Here in the metro Washington, D.C. area, the newspaper many of us rely on for our news, The Washington Post, has been purchased by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. Will the sale lead to the newspaper’s salvation or its continued demise?

— John Hayden

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A Homeless Guy, A Billionaire, And A Dumpster. Be Happy.

blue dumpster

So a rich guy and a homeless guy walk into a bar . . .

Sorry, let me start over. So a rich guy and a homeless guy walk into a dumpster . . .

One more time. A rich guy and a homeless guy walk into The Washington Post . . .

America is officially a “Tale of Two Cities,” as New York Mayor Bill de Blasio says.

The grand canyon between extreme wealth and abject poverty has grown so wide and deep that we have lost all perspective. We have become indifferent and uncaring.

It’s common for the rich, especially, to believe that poor people choose to be poor. The rich imagine the poor are HAPPY.

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Christmas Gifts Delayed By UPS And Snow

United Parcel Service

United Parcel Service (Photo credit: Dust Storm)

Santa Claus is legendary for customer satisfaction and on-time Christmas Eve performance.

UPS package delivery, despite its ubiquitous brown trucks . . . not so much.

Thousands — probably hundreds of thousands — of gifts failed to arrive in time for Christmas. Don’t blame Santa. Continue reading

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