Two Birds With One Stone (aka Think Big)

I love thinking at the macro level. I guess my attitude is “think big or go home”. We have a lot of problems in this country that desperately need solutions. It would be great if one solution could solve multiple problems. That is what this post is about.

The Problems

Problem No. 1 – Teachers aren’t paid enough.

Most everyone agrees that teachers, especially those at the primary and secondary levels need to be paid more. One solution is to make the school year longer but I don’t think the teachers’ union would willingly go along with that. Is there another way to solve this problem?

Problem No. 2 – There are too many lawyers

We are a nation of lawyers. We have more lawyer in the US than the rest of the world. That is a major problem, especially with their promises of getting you a lot of money with little effort on your part. They used to call these guys “ambulance chasers” but since that now seems a noble part of the profession, I’m sure it has another name. Another problem here is that most of those folks in Congress are lawyers. We need fewer lawyers in the country and especially in Congress. Is there another way to solve this problem?

Problem No. 3 – There are not enough Doctors.

With all us Baby Boomers getting old now we need more doctors in this country. The problem is critical especially in rural areas. Because they can generally make much more money in urban areas they just don’t want to put out their shingle in smaller towns. Is there another way to solve this problem?

Problem No. 4 – Our Economic Ladder Is Completely Out of Balance.

How can a ladder that is so top heavy even stay up? The very fat cats on the very top rung of the ladder have as much money as those of us on the ladder. We gotta do something about that before the ladder comes crushing around the rest of us. Is there another way to solve this problem?

The Solution

Here is the drum roll….

Drastically Change How We Are Taxed.

Changing our tax system could solve all of these problems. Here is how:

  1. Let’s put a flat tax on everyone with additional adjustments layered on top of that. Let’s say 12%. I know you are thinking that is way too low, but wait for it…
  2. Remove all exemptions and make all income the same. It doesn’t matter where it comes from, it is income. No more capital gains loopholes, no more subsidizing religious organizations who have morphed more into political ones. Make the exemptions so simple that no loopholes at all are possible
  3. Add a tax adjustment that is occupation specific. I’ll leave it up to the bean counters to come up with the exact numbers, including the base rate above, but will give you magnitude examples here:

Special Adjustments

Teachers at the primary and secondary level-6%
Teachers at college level-2%
Lawyers+25%
Doctors in rural areas+5%
Doctors in Urban areas+15%
Income from inherited wealth+30%
Income from… (fill in the blank)

You get the idea. This plan would go a long way in solving all four problems identified here. Let’s make it a true capitalistic system of supply and demand.

But I also like Elizabeth Warren’s wealth tax idea of putting an annual tax percentage on inherited estates based on the value inherited.

You Don’t What You Don’t Know

There are some people in this world who are just not opened to the possibility that they don’t know everything about everything. It’s interesting to note that mentality was one of the primary causes of “Early Middle Ages”, otherwise known a the “Dark Ages” between the years 500-1000. Basically, the church, which pretty much ruled the world after the fall of the Roman Empire, declared that everything God intends us to know has already been learned. This basically halted all scientific exploration as well as philosophical studies for a five hundred year period. Yeah, the church was that powerful!

Getting back to today’s “I already know everything” people, global warming can’t be true because they don’t believe it. In other words, if something is too complicated then it’s fake. They too often look for that single “silver bullet” that will cure everything. Everything that can’t be solved with gut feeling or a silver bullet just isn’t solvable to them.

Even if they are not formally educated on the subject they consider themselves to be “street smart” and that is all that matters to them. Many of this category likely make up the MAGA base.

In reality, the more knowledgeable you are the more you realize how much you don’t know. That brings to mind something I learned in my only philosophy course in college. The graphic below illustrates the concept.

The Extent of Knowledge

Just think of the box as the extent of knowledge available to you. The top left corner is what you know. The little box inside that box are the things you think you know but aren’t true. Then comes the bigger box of what you know you don’t know. And finally, there is what you don’t even know that you don’t know. Don’t think of the above as being to scale. In reality, the “what you don’t know you don’t know” will fill a football stadium!

Since I found so many neat illustrations I will leave this post with a few of them.

Getting back to the guy who thinks he is an expert on everything (you know who I am talking about), we must realize that he actually doesn’t know much of anything at all and a big majority of what he thinks he knows is wrong. But, the sad part of all of this is that those MAGA followers are even worse than he is, as they unquestionably believe him!

The Ultimate Freedom

This sounds like a pretty grandiose title, I hope the post lives up to it. πŸ™‚ I’m going to clue you in on what I found the ultimate freedom to be. It took me almost seven decades to find it. At first, it seemed more like a prison than freedom but I have found that misconceived view to be the case in more circumstances than I care to remember.

The ultimate freedom was cloaked in darkness when I first came upon it. It just didn’t look like freedom at first glance. Ok, the wait is over I will now tell you what the ultimate freedom is. Ultimate freedom is when you no longer have to do something just to create money.

Now I guess I have to explain my personal circumstances in order to support my dark pre-story.

I left the corporate world at fifty-five. After I got my thirty years in and was eligible for a full pension, my corporate division was sold to a Chinese company. We were told that nothing would change, but of course, within six months massive layoffs started. Within a year 95% were gone, including me.

All my life I had lived pretty frugally so I had enough resources along with the fixed pension and future social security payments to be able to live without any additional income. But, as is often the case, I refused to understand what that freedom could give me. It would be several years later before I fully realized what was in front of me.

When I finally went into the full retirement mode six years after leaving the corporate world, the idea of having total control of my time absolutely scared me. The main reason for that is that I didn’t do the work required to really appreciate what I had. Instead, I languished around as pretty much a couch potato for a couple of years feeling sorry for myself and the self-imposed boredom that followed.

Finally, I got it through my head to actually use this ultimate freedom. I finally started doing some things that I had only dreamed about up to then. One was to be a frequent volunteer at a local soup kitchen. Another was to start a blog about my view of the world. I had always enjoyed writing and now I could do whatever I wanted with that skill. Other things would eventually fall in place, but it was not until a few months ago that I decided to try and take my ultimate freedom to a whole other level.

I actually spent the time thinking and dreaming of what I could now do that wasn’t really possible before. That brought up a lot of hidden, or maybe unrealized goals that need to be further pursued. Finally, when 2019 dawned I decided to bring up yet another blog, this one dedicated to creativity. I am now about forty-seven days into this year-long project of becoming a more creative person. If this sort of thing appeals to you, I would like to invite you to come along on my journey. I think we can both learn if we do this together. Click on the CrackingCreativity logo in the right column here to join the fun.

How about you, what is your definition of Ultimate Freedom?

How Would You Describe Yourself?

How you describe yourself is a pretty good indication of how you see your place in the world. Most people start off with their occupation, “I am an engineer…”. Some site past achievements, others family relationships.

I think a major source of how you describe yourself must do with your future. It must be how you want to spend your remaining years on this earth. Your self-description should be about your future, not your past.

With that in mind, letting go of your “have been” life how would you describe yourself?

For most of us, this question will probably take some contemplation to get it right. It certainly did for me. I can’t say “I am an engineer” as I haven’t practiced that profession for years now. I can’t claim to be a volunteer in a soup kitchen as that ended more than a couple of years ago. Here is what I can say. I am a now:

  • Prolific Blogger
  • Nuanced Skeptic
  • Progressive Christian
  • Amateur Documentary Photographer.

I maintain three blogs and a couple of photography sites and I certainly am a skeptic about certain aspects of life. I only recently started calling myself a Christian again and that is because I shed the Evangelical label and adopted the Progressive one. (see my blog at RedLetterLiving for more about that.) One of my passions is photography particularly documenting the historical places I have visited. Looking to the future, however short it is, these are the descriptions that I put on myself.

How would you describe yourself?

A Cloaked Prosperity

As mentioned in a recent post here at RJsCorner, we in the US have been duped into believing that stock market indexes are the only indicators we need to measure the prosperity of our country.

Since the stock market in the last two years went from 19,700 to 24,000 which is about a 21% increase it sounds like we are living in the age of uber prosperity. But when you look at almost any other measure we fall pretty far behind many far less wealthy countries.

A better index for prosperity would include quality of life measures and that is what the Legatum Prosperity Index does. It was developed by a London think tank. Here is a little about that:

The 2018 Legatum Prosperity Index is based on 104 different variables analyzed across 149 nations around the world…

The 104 variables are grouped into 9 sub-indexes, which are averaged using equal weights. The 9 sub-indexes are:
Economic Quality
Business Environment
Governance
Education
Health
Safety & Security
Personal Freedom
Social Capital
Natural Environment

For example, Personal Freedom includes freedom of speech and religion, national tolerance for immigrants and ethnic and racial minorities. The Social Capital sub-index includes the percentage of citizens who volunteer, give to charity, help strangers, and who feel they can rely on family and friends…

Source: Wikipedia

This index is actually an index of indexes that include:

  • Gallup World Poll
  • World Development Indicators
  • International Telecommunication Union
  • Fragile States Index
  • Worldwide Governance Indicators
  • Freedom House
  • World Health Organization
  • World Values Survey
  • Amnesty International
  • Centre for Systemic Peace

As can be seen from the featured image at the top of this post, the United States comes in 17th on this index. It should be of no surprise that most of the world’s social democracies come in ahead of us as do some very small countries.

Money isn’t everything except maybe to the top 2% in our country who actually controls the majority of it.

Remoralization

I don’t think the word “remoralization” is a real word yet but I admire David Brooks for inventing it for the purposes of his weekly article on capitalism. This post is going to be about our capitalist system and the stock market. Let’s start off with Mr. Brooks words:

There’s been a striking shift in how corporations see themselves. In normal times, corporations serve a lot of stakeholders β€” customers, employees, the towns in which they are located. But these days corporations see themselves as serving one purpose and one stakeholder β€” maximizing shareholder value. Activist investors demand that every company ruthlessly cut the cost of its employees and ruthlessly screw its hometown if it will raise the short-term stock price.

source: New York Times – David Brooks

My three-legged stool analogy about how corporations used to be balanced between customers, employees, and shareholders applies here. When equal attention is placed on the three legs the corporation is healthy. When the legs become unbalanced turmoil results and we are, as David point out, in deep turmoil in the US in the last decades. When did corporations become immoral so they need remoralization?

“Stakeholder” which primarily mean the one-percent of the US population, who control more wealth than the bottom 90%, now demand that they get a lion’s share of the attention of the companies they control. This imbalance is one of the primary causes of the populist movement, even if the loudest voices in it don’t realize it. When a very small percentage of people control the economic assets severe unbalance is bound to happen.

How did we get to the point that the three-legged-stool is so completely out of kilter? How did we let that happen? I think a big part of that is that too many of us have blindly accepted the contrived propaganda on the subject.

We have been fed the line and seem to thoroughly believe that the only index needed to measure the prosperity in America are stock market indexes.

Since the stock market in the last two years went from 19,700 to 24,000 which would be about a 21% increase it sounds like, if we are to take that as the measure of our prosperity, we are living in the age of lavish prosperity. But when you look at almost any other measure the 21% just doesn’t begin to happen. If you want to look beyond the top 2% of the wealth holders there are so many other factors involved. More on that soon…

Letting You In On A Little Secret…

For this “Seeking Wisdom” Thursday I am going to give you some of my personal wisdom. Unlike some person we all know, I don’t think I am perfect but I have gleaned a fair amount of wisdom during my years on this earth. Much of it comes from the mistakes I have made, but isn’t that where the really valuable wisdom comes from?

I am letting you Millenials, and anyone else who cares to hear it, in on a little secret. No matter how old you get, you are still a forty-year-old but stuck in a decaying body. It doesn’t matter if chronologically you are in your seventies, you still think and sometimes foolishly act like you are forty.

Why forty? Well, that is the age where, in my wisdom, you become fully adult, if you ever actually become a full adult. πŸ™‚ The teenage years of making stupid mistakes actually extends well into the twenties. After that, it is a learning process to find what the world and your place in it is actually about. By the time you are forty, you should have pretty well gotten all that stuff down. Of course, the years after that pile on the wisdom but forty is the point that your body starts on its long downhill grade. So you lock your mental psyche on that year.

I was never much of a Mark Twain fan but when we visited his hometown in Hannibal Missouri years ago I came across the words in the featured image above. Personally, I know not a day passes that I don’t feel young.

So, the next time you visit a nursing home, or other places where old people hang out, remember all those folks see themselves pretty much the same as you. You insult them when you baby-talk them or just plain ignore them. A lesson in empathy when it comes to old people is to go out of your way to say hi and recognize their presence. Why? Because someday, and sooner than you think, you will be the one on the receiving end of that transaction.

That is enough of my wisdom for now. I gotta go replenish my wisdom bucket now. πŸ™‚

What do you think?

The Wisdom of Jefferson & His Contempt For Stonewall Jackson

Thomas Jefferson Statue at Monticello

I have let it be know many times here at RJsCorner that Thomas Jefferson is one of my main heroes in life. He, and Will Rogers, are who I chose many years ago to how to cope in the best of times and in the worst of times.

Jefferson had a love of words from a very early age. When it came to the written word he was probably the most prolific of all the founding fathers. He was also recognized, even by himself, to be no better than an average speaker. He seldom spoke extemporaneously. In his time in the Continental Congress, he seldom spoke more than a few words. But when given the time to dream, write, edit and then edit some more he was a master of eloquence. It is a fact that even Lincoln used Jefferson’s writing as a pillar for his own.

I have been looking over his words as found in the book “The Quotable Jefferson” as I seem to do on a regular basis and ran across his thoughts about Andy Jackson. Before I get to them I want to re-iterate my contempt for our 17th President. I simply cannot fathom how the Democratic Party can celebrate him as their founder. I admit that I haven’t read a full-length biography but I have read many things about him and have visited his estate the Heritage and read most of the info there. I know from that that he was a threat to our young democracy due to his rash and boastful bravado.

I also know that a picture of Jackson is now hung in the Oval Office as it’s current occupant thinks himself able to compete with Jackson’s legacy.

Before this gets too long I have to give you the quote from Jefferson on his thoughts of Jackson as recorded in 1824, two years before his death and five years before Jackson occupied the Presidency:

I feel much alarmed at the prospect of seeing General Jackson, President. He is one of the most unfit men, I know of for such a place. He has had very little respect for laws or Constitutions, -& is in fact an able military chief. His passions are terrible. When I was president of the Senate, he was a Senator; & he could never speak for the rashness of his feelings. I have seen him attempt it repeatably, & as often chock with rage. His passions are no doubt cooler now; -he has been tried much since I knew him- but he is a dangerous man.

I don’t doubt that Jefferson rolls over in his grave every time his name is mentioned Jackson.