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Posts Tagged ‘economy’

First, a reminder that, to help you through isolation, two of my novels are available free of charge, in Kindle ebook format. Free thru this Sunday. Tell a friend.

Now, to the subject at hand.

It’s been a tough week, here. I’ve been fighting depression and towering rage in equal proportions. We’re all still healthy, here, so no worries on that front. No, what’s been troubling me is a trend that has been gathering steam in recent weeks.

As the pandemic crisis has grown in America, most states have issued “stay at home” orders. Here in Seattle, we were among the first to implement such measures, and they have proven effective in slowing the spread. We have cut the transmission rate in half, our hospitals have not been overwhelmed, people have not died because they couldn’t get proper treatment, and we’ve actually been able to send ventilators from Washington to some of the harder hit areas on the East Coast. That’s all good stuff, right there, but it has come at a cost.

Our local economy has taken a beating. Even with our state’s rather liberal definition of what constitutes an “essential business,” a lot of people have been laid off, furloughed, had hours drastically cut, or have found that their employers have simply closed up shop. Restaurants, always a razor-thin profit margin enterprise, have shuttered by the dozen. Family-owned businesses have closed doors that have stood open for decades. Artists and artisans have no place to display their wares, as Pike Place Market and other venues echo in emptiness. People are hurting, unable to pay bills, unable to pay for basic necessities.

It is this—the economic shutdown—that has given rise to a line of discourse that, to be frank, keeps me up at night and fills part of every day with hair-tearing, are-you-kidding-me incredulity. The argument I’ve been battling boils down to this:

The economy is more important than people.

I’ve heard it from the president, from senators, from right-wing pundits, and from folks I know online. “Open the economy.” “Time to get back to work.” All in total contradiction to what science and medicine are telling us is the safest way forward.

I am more than flabbergasted that this line of reasoning even exists. I am more than shocked that it should be promoted by such a large proportion of our society. I am more than offended, more than disgusted, more than outraged, more than appalled.

This rhetoric positively frightens me.

Make no mistake: this rhetoric puts a price tag on human lives. Those who espouse it are saying that it’s better to let people die than to lose money, and that’s some weapons-grade reasoning, right there.

It is unconscionable that this is even an acceptable stance. It is grotesque. And the fact that it primarily comes from the ideological bloc that also aligns itself with “pro-life” causes makes it doubly so.

Those who promote this view usually wrap it up in the guise of “more people will die from a failed economy than from C19,” but never do they support this assertion with any data. In fact, the data that do exist on the topic say the opposite. During the Great Depression, mortality rates dropped and longevity increased. It wasn’t a picnic, as any of our elders will attest, but society did not crumble. And why? Why didn’t society devolve into armed gangs and anarchy? Because we pulled together. We pulled together during the Great Depression, during WWII, and we are pulling together now. All of these stay-at-home orders? They are us, pulling together, to save our fellows, our neighbors, our selves.

Society does not exist to serve the economy. The economy exists to serve society. And it’s not like somehow, during this temporary shutdown, be it for two months or six or even more, the economy will disappear, crumbling into dust and ruin for lack of souls to feed upon.

It’s just an economy, stupid.

We built this economy, and we can build another if we have to. But we won’t have to, because after this hiatus our economy will be revivified. Hopefully, it will be different, requiring better care for all and better wages and conditions for those who we realize truly are essential workers, but it will be there, it is there, ready to get fired up, ready to go. Ready, for when we need it again.

But before that time, we must work to save lives, for without us, without our toil, there is no economy.

In the interim, go, read a book, watch a movie, make love, get a bit squiffy on whatever makes you squiffy. We will be OK, when we all emerge from our burrows and see once more the light of day. And I truly believe, we will be better for this, as long as we hold true to our ideals.

It’s people who make a society, and if we don’t band together against a common threat, what the hell is the point?

Stay safe.

k

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My garbage, the refuse created by my household, must now be separated into three categories: compostables, recyclables, and, well, garbage. It’s a chore I now have to do, a decision, an evaluation I must now perform each and every time I want to dispose of something. Is this OK to go into the yard waste? Does this plastic have the little recycling triangle, and is it one of the accepted recyclable plastics? Is it clean enough? Yes, I now have to wash my trash before disposing of some of it.

Many stores now have “self-checkout” queues, where I can scan and bag my own groceries. This is sold as a time-saver, but usually it isn’t. Usually, I have to get approval to buy a beer, and usually, I put something into the bag too fast or too slowly for the machine to register it, requiring an override from a person, which means that usually, it’s not a time-saver, it’s a pain in the tuchas and, almost always, it’s slower than letting a pro do it, especially if the pro has been teamed with a bagger.

We pay many of our bills online, but it can be a hassle. The way it used to work, we got a bill, we wrote a check, we mailed it off. It took, literally, like thirty seconds. Now, there are login IDs, passwords, account numbers, and procedures, and if there’s an issue, it can take days to resolve. It is definitely not faster, but when they change the due dates so you only have six or seven days to pay the damned thing, well, sometimes online bill-pay is the only option if I want my payment to arrive in time.

Yesterday, reading an article online, there was a button at the bottom. “Report a Typo,” it read. Excuse me? You want me to proofread your articles? I mean, I expect that from some of the more dodgy publications, but the Boston Globe? CBC? ABC? The National Post? I’ve become so inured to poor editing in online news—typos, bad grammar, extraneous words—that it’s obvious they’re all cutting corners by cutting editorial staff. But asking the public to report typos? Have you seen the posts regular folks put up these days? That’s like asking a sixth-grader to tune-up your car.

My point here is this: Increasingly, we are all being used as unpaid employees and, along with increased automation, we are all tacitly complicit in the ongoing loss of jobs. Every time we check out our own groceries, separate our trash, or edit someone else’s article, we’re taking a job away from someone who can do it better, faster, more efficiently.

Better, faster, more efficient, but also more costly for the corporation. Employees cost money. We, on the other hand, are free of charge. We cost them nothing.

But we, by our compliance, cost someone a job.

My options are limited, of course. I must separate my garbage or deal with it all myself. I can pay my bill with a check but risk it being late. However, I can go the the checkout line with a human (or two) behind the conveyor. I can click that “Report a Typo” button, but not tell them exactly what it is or where.

It’s a small thing, I know, but if it keeps one person from being laid off, it’ll be a big thing to them.

k

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Dragons AheadI used to love programming but it’s changed so much in the past 25 years, I can’t stand it anymore. When I only stay at a job for the salary and the time off, when I hate everything about what I do, when I wake up at 4AM with my heart pounding because my brain is preparing me for the day’s fight with a surge of adrenaline, it’s definitely time to go.

But, as I posed it in the previous post in this series, what career to I pick instead?

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Dragons AheadYour reactions to Part I landed in one of two camps: Most readers remembered fondly their own youthful creativity when funds were thin, while a few wondered why the hell I’d even contemplate this at all.

I enjoyed the anecdotes you shared, and it reinforced my belief that being short of cash when young is a good thing; it helps us appreciate things more and teaches us skills we need later. As for why I’m considering this at all, well, that’s the subject of this installment.

Why be poor, if I don’t have to?

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Dragons AheadI know from poor. Not poverty–I’ve never known poverty–but I know what it is to be poor.

As a music major at SF State, I earned money playing orchestra and quartet gigs, worked minimum wage jobs, but still didn’t have much by way of money. To supplement my meager budget, I used to go around the back of United Market in San Rafael and pick fruit and veg out of the dumpsters. The produce manager was kind enough to turn a blind eye to my forays, occasionally even handing me old orange crates to pack up my booty. Beans and rice were the mainstays of my diet (I was a vegetarian, then), and any extra money I was able to cadge went to new strings for my viola and gas money for friends taking me to symphony gigs in Stockton or Santa Rosa. (more…)

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