Sunday, February 27, 2011
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Sunday, February 20, 2011
Just Ask Yourself
Sunday, February 13, 2011
So this homeless woman inspired me, with all sincerity, to write an essay on the consequences, with respect to her condition and society at large, of handing her my spare change
And while I expected my message might provoke a direct response from some (whod relate), as it did, I honestly (naïvely) didnt expect to touch what is clearly a very sensitive nerve in others. A couple of altruist-at-heart responders did not (at all) appreciate (nor accurately interpret) what I had to say. I.e., Marty, show a little sympathy, theres more to life than the economy.
Whether were talking the economy, politics, foreign affairs, entitlements or homelessness, I am forever intrigued by the divisions of perspective. While one sees last weeks commentary as a thoughtful exposé, another sees it as a feeble attempt to justify my capitalist-pig-minded self-centeredness While one economist sees our current state of affairs taking us into a sustainable period of growth, a comparably educated and IQd economist sees our current state of affairs leading us down a road to debt-induced destruction While one voter assigns all culpability for todays struggling economy to the Bush Administration, another blames it all on the policies of President Obama While one analyst believes Google to be a good buy at $600/share, another thinks its way too expensive
I watched some of Congresss grilling of Ben Bernanke last week talk about your divided perspectives! The Fed Chairman was greeted by some with a thank you for saving the world and by others with a your printing of dollars, by the trillions, is already showing up in global food prices, when the hell are you going to stop? Meanwhile the bearded wonder adamantly defended all he and his committee has done and went on to suggest that their actions to this point have created 3 to 4 million jobs Huh?
Three weeks ago, eighty-one year old Hosni Mubarak crawled out of bed expecting nothing less than another day in paradise He was the duly-elected president (I mean ruthless dictator) of Egypt, he ruled the Suez Canal, and he was allied to the greatest nation on the planet nothing could touch him Nothing, that is, other than his own people
Ask yourself why totalitarian dictatorships find it necessary to pour money and effort into propaganda for their own helpless, chained, gagged slaves, who have no means of protest or defense The answer is that even the humblest peasant or the lowest savage would rise in blind rebellion were he to realize that he is being immolated, not to some incomprehensible noble purpose, but to plain, naked, human evil Ayn Rand, The Virtue of Selfishness
While I have somewhat joined with the railers against the Feds current monetary policy, having myself bemoaned (ad nauseam) the risk of unintended consequences, higher commodities prices (once such consequence) appears to carry with it a perhaps (time will tell) silver-lining unintended consequence of its own: I.e., while Mr. Bernanke vehemently denies any causal relationship between the printing of dollars and rising global food prices, clearly, higher food prices precipitated Mubaraks demise, and has thus opened the door to true democratic reform in Egypt. Again, time will tell
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
Monday, February 7, 2011
My mind plays the tired-old arguments; don’t do it, she’ll just buy booze or drugs, what about the homeless shelter?, it’s an organized racket. Then my riposte; so what, she’s still gotta eat, and besides, I give for giving’s sake alone…
For whatever the reason, probably age, I seem to have become a bit of a pragmatist. While there was a time in my life when I would have found her irresistible – a time when, without hesitation, I would have slowed traffic to happily extend a few bucks – the only thing I find irresistible today is my urge to explore the economic ramifications (with respect to her as well as society) of giving to the homeless… I.e., I am more than happy to give, but only, if and when, I determine that my goodwill will have served a productive purpose…
And in this case, rudimentary economic law takes us to a swift conclusion:
The basic law of supply and demand dictates that the supply of a given commodity or service (or condition), will, without exception, increase with an increase in its demand? Therefore, in the case of homelessness, we good-deed-doers are indeed contributing to the condition when we contribute to the ones conditioned. The ones who, through lifetimes of mishaps, mental illness and, so often, addictions, dot the street corners of every major city in America…. No matter how we spin it; when we pay the homeless individual to continue her pursuit, we are in fact (unwittingly) demanding homelessness, i.e., we make it profitable.
Some (economists even), such as the proponents of extending unemployment benefits, might argue that I’ve missed the macroeconomic benefit of giving to the homeless. They’d contend that, whether she buys booze or a burrito, the giving has an immediate stimulating affect on the economy and therefore (ultimately) reduces the rate of homelessness…
While at first blush that is a plausible argument, at second blush it’s entirely nonsensical: Simply put; I give her twenty bucks, she spends twenty bucks = I give her twenty bucks, I don’t spend twenty bucks… I.e., her vendor’s gain is my vendor’s loss… I.e., 1-1=0… I.e., no net economic gain…
As for unemployment benefits (since I subtly slipped that in), when we pay people to be (or because they’re) unemployed, we are, without question, contributing to unemployment? Not to suggest that we shouldn’t pay unemployment benefits (or give to the homeless for that matter), I’m just simply stating the facts…
Oh but this one has profound political implications:
Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, while campaigning last year for an extension of unemployment benefits, suggested that “those checks are the best form of economic stimulus”. At the time I thought that to be the single most profoundly stupid statement I had ever heard. Not just that it totally defies good sense, but that someone of her stature ought to know better. Yet it’s not only her, I have since listened to more than a few well-known economists, as well as Congressional Budget Office (CBO) officials, express the same…
Their logic: The recipients will pay their bills, gas their cars and buy their groceries – thus circulate their entitlement throughout the economy. The economy (now in dire need) will therefore benefit from the extension…
The counter: For every dollar we hand to an unemployed person, we take one from a working person – i.e, the unemployed spends it and the employed doesn’t – i.e., 1-1=0, i.e., no net economic benefit.
But let’s say you don’t buy that, that you’d take the CBO’s position, that the extending of unemployment benefits (cause it gets spent immediately) creates economic momentum, and ultimately creates jobs. What happens then when the unemployed becomes employed? What happens then to the stimulus?
So we pay unemployment benefits, those dollars buy stuff, business therefore (they say) improves and employers add to payrolls, the unemployment rate declines and the resource responsible for the increased business goes away… In the end the “stimulus” is like a caffeine high, you have energy to burn, but when it finally burns off you’re left feeling like crap”…
All that said, I’m not at all opposed to paying unemployment benefits (with strings attached) as a transitional aid, or giving to the homeless for that matter (I imagine, my pragmatism notwithstanding, that I’ll continue to do so myself from time to time), but let’s not justify our actions with the flawed theory that our goodwill gestures offer any practical benefit to society or, for that matter, the recipient…
As I close I’m thinking about that dear soul with the cardboard square, the desperation in her eyes – I struggle; how indeed can I deny her, when I am so fortunate? The pragmatist in me says my gift would be nothing more than (figuratively [hopefully]) a hypodermic needle, while the humanitarian in me says just give damn it, she needs to eat.
My reconcile is to increase my support of the Fresno Rescue Mission (their aim is to transition). Come to think of it, why isn’t she there right now?
I wonder if it’s not the strings attached (counseling, etc.), as well as the “goodwill” of others, that keep her “fixed”, palm out, at the corner of Palm and Herndon, a mere ten miles to the north…