Homelessness

Homelessness is a social failure. When your fellow citizens have nowhere else to sleep and so sleep in the streets, this says more about you and the people with someplace to sleep than it does about the poor person who just couldn’t get it all together that month and lost their home. Debt snowballs fast when you live paycheck to paycheck. Before you know it they are putting your stuff in the street and changing the locks on the doors that used to be yours, and you wonder how all that debt piled up that quickly.

Just like that, you are homeless. You were a respectable upstanding citizen with an address before the eviction, and after the eviction you don’t exist. Maintaining an address is the baseline for receiving any assistance. If you don’t have an address, the government can’t and won’t help you. Those are just the facts, especially in Texas. Homeless people die every day on the streets of American cities and no one notices their deaths unless it’s a slow news day and so the homeless death notices reach the evening news. The poor, overworked cops who check the scene for evidence of wrongdoing, the workers at the city morgue who take possession of the remains when there is no known next of kin. They’ll notice, but there is little they can do all by themselves.

…and the only thing that separates you from those lowly, unmourned, unwashed street people is the ability to name your home address and prove that you live there. What would you do if you couldn’t go home to comfort every night? Scary to contemplate, isn’t it? That is life for a lot more Americans than most of us are willing to accept.

On The Media – The Scarlet E, Unmasking America’s Eviction Crisis – Part 1 of 4

When I first listened to the On The Media series on eviction, The Scarlet E, I really couldn’t see myself needing to reference the series. I mean, I’ve never been evicted (knock on wood) I don’t have any first hand knowledge about the subject, it would be presumptuous of me to write anything of length about a subject that I hadn’t experienced personally or hadn’t researched thoroughly, and I wasn’t planning on doing either of those things anytime in the near future.

Then, as most things in life happen, I was reminded of design ideas that I have worked on since homelessness started to be a problem I noticed back in the 1990’s. The city of Austin is drowning in homeless people these days, people who were evicted from housing in Austin that now live on the streets of Austin. Any longtime resident that is paying attention to how housing prices have inflated over the last few decades should not be surprised by this. Housing prices have doubled and quadrupled while wages have remained essentially stagnant. This is a recipe for disaster, and that disaster is now sleeping on the streets of Austin.

Donald Trump tried to criminalize homelessness. Anyone who thinks that law and order will put things back to the way they were (as if the hippies of the 70s were known for their adherence to law and order) needs to understand why we are having the problems we currently have. We cannot jail our way out of this problem, and we cannot expand our way out of this problem either.

The camping ban, one of the things that has divided Austin for decades, will not solve the problem. There are many other cities in the United States who have been fighting this problem for far longer than Austin has and they have all come to the same conclusion. Camping bans will not solve the problem by themselves. The problem of homelessness has many facets that have to be addressed before we can even hope to get people off the streets. Adding to their suffering by persecuting these people will just make us worse people than we are now.

What is needed is a countrywide if not continental or worldwide resolution to see that everyone has a home and a bed and decent food. Until we undertake that effort then we will continue to trip over the homeless in our streets. It is a mark of the failings of our economic system that they are in the street in the first place.

The place to start when addressing a homeless problem is to find the right sites to put transition shelters in. You can’t just hide these people and places away, put them out on the edges of society and shun them. We tried that with the State Schools in Texas that were disbanded during the Reagan administration. That was how we handled this problem before and it didn’t work then. I don’t see how doing it again will change the outcome.

The site(s) should be near where the homeless congregate already. Many of the overpasses they sleep under could easily be repurposed into transition shelters. These aren’t ideal locations; but in a crowded city they represent the scarcest commodity of all, under-utilized real estate; which is why the homeless congregate there in the first place. An ideal location would be a large open field near a river. Historically the kind of place that humans have been attracted to.

The transition shelters need to not look like or feel like prisons. No fencing, especially no chain link fencing. No visible guards or towers or patrols. A significant number of homeless people have mental illness problems that being out in nature soothes. The kinds of problems that feeling penned up just makes worse. So don’t pen them up.

The residents of the shelter should be entrusted to do most of the work required to run the shelter. Growing and cooking food, cleaning, etcetera. They are not children and should not be treated as children (children shouldn’t be treated as children either, but that is a different subject entirely) this part of the effort will require the input of metal health experts. These experts should be included in every part of the design process for the transition shelters if we want to avoid repeating previous failed attempts at dealing with homelessness.

The problem with homelessness goes deeper than this though. It goes to the heart of our own misconceptions about what an ideal home is. The single family residence is a pipe dream that has never been attainable for most people and would be catastrophic to the environment if we attempted to give every family their own residence with a landscaped yard and two cars in the driveway. We have to get away from these unattainable dreams and start dealing with concretes.

  • How much space does one person need?
  • How much confidence/comfort is required to make a person feel at home where they live?
  • Stopping theft without making prisons.
  • Stopping violence without making prisons.

A work in progress

Privilege

There is a growing sentiment that I’ve heard voiced more and more often since the January 6th hearings started:

facebook/Stonekettle

This recent outrage is just more of the same in my mind. It’s the same kind of thing that he’s done and said since the day he took over his father’s businesses and proceeded to run them into the ground while simultaneously pretending to the possession of obscene levels of wealth. This has gone on far longer than he’s been in the public eye and been the darling of Christianists everywhere.

He’s always pretended to be above the law and said things out loud that most people would understand are an open admission of guilt. Several people have pointed this kind of behavior out to me over the last couple of weeks, as if I haven’t been pointing it out to most of them for more than six years. He’s guilty whether he admits it or not. What he’s doing is a con, a scam, a fraud. It’s clearly sedition and we just need to see him convicted in order to keep him out of office in the future.

Let me put it this way. If a prosecutor will bring charges against Donald Trump. If a prosecutor brought charges in front of a court and if that court convicted him. After prosecuting and convicting him, if that court sentenced him to death by firing squad. Finally, if Donald Trump takes several bullets to the chest in front of a firing squad for his transparently obvious crimes of sedition, only then might I be willing to admit that a wealthy person could be held to account in the United States.

Donald Trump doesn’t need an insanity plea and he’d never stoop to being represented that way in court. He doesn’t have to worry about pleas or legal strategies because he’s convinced everyone of importance that he is wealthy and comes from old, established American wealth and power. Fine, christian wealth. Wealthy people in the United States need not worry about jail time, especially prominent, wealthy, christian white men.

The United States was created by the wealthy for the wealthy. It was created out of the dreams of the average person, the dreams that they too might one day be wealthy. Their dreams, their blood, their sweat and their tears. But this country isn’t for average people, no matter how many of them die for it. This country serves the one percent, the upper echelons of wealth. The truth of this is evident all around us if we only look.

The founders were all landed gentry. Men of wealth and property. The most prominent name on the Declaration of Independence was a smuggler (along with Sam Adams) engaged in evading the taxes levied on them by the British parliament. The founders made grand promises of equality and liberty for everyone; but really, who cares about other people’s liberty anyway? I got mine, get yours.

When I was at my most cynical on this subject, many years ago, I observed that the United States had finally reached economic racial equality because O.J. Simpson managed to get away with killing a white woman and her boyfriend in cold blood. A wealthy black man was finally equal to a wealthy white one when it came to law and justice. It’s just unfortunate for him that he spent all his wealth evading justice on a murder charge and so ended up jailed as a poor black man a few years later.

One day even independently wealthy women will be as bullet proof as wealthy men currently are. On that day Martha Stewart will be able to not only engage in insider trading but almost cut the heads off former lovers and get away with it scot-free. Martha Stewart is no Donald Trump. He can send violent mobs to the Capitol of the United States with the goal of catching and killing his own Vice President, and he can walk around bragging about it for years afterward.

It’s nice to be privileged like that, I imagine. It probably tends to make you even less connected to the real world around you than the average American is. Tends to make you more than a little nuts. But, hey, that’s okay. He has money. He’s a nice guy once you get to know him and he’ll make it worth your while to be nice to him. He’ll get away with sedition, most likely.

NPR: All Things Considered – Proud Boys leader and 4 top members are charged with seditious conspiracy for Jan. 6 – June 6, 2022

While it is true that you can be barred from public office for being convicted of sedition, that charge almost never sticks, as the podcast embedded above goes into. Imagine being the prosecutor that fails to keep Donald Trump from running for office again; or keeps Donald Trump from running again, and becomes the target of every gun-carrying wingnut in the United States. Even less of a winning scenario than the charge of sedition being successful against one of Donald Trump’s lovely, lovely henchmen. Which is still a longshot.

There is also the fact that we’ve never prosecuted a President before in 240 years of US history:

In the 240 years since America’s founding, no former president has been indicted for criminal conduct. This isn’t because they were angels—far from it. And it isn’t because post-term indictment is not legally allowed. Instead, it is because Americans don’t like the idea of criminalizing politics. Both parties and the public see the prospect of post-term immunity as a guarantee that the country’s politics will remain civil and that power will transition peacefully from one party to the other. That is what drove President Gerald Ford to pardon Richard Nixon. And it’s one reason why the Office of the Independent Counsel decided not to indict former President Bill Clinton.

The presidency of Donald J. Trump has upended those calculations, and the resistance to post-term investigation may now come at too great a cost. When he leaves office, whether in January or four years later, the next administration or one of the states can and should investigate citizen Donald Trump—a former president whose legal status will be no different from that of any other American. The risk of politicization of such an investigation is far outweighed by the danger posed by failing to uphold our nation’s values. To protect future presidents from retributive investigations once they leave office, however, any investigation should be limited to Trump’s conduct before and after his presidency, not his behavior while he was president. If the findings of such an investigation justify it, prosecutors should indict the former president for violations of criminal law.

theatlantic.com

Until the time that all happens, the indictment, prosecution and sentencing of Donald Trump (the wealthy, white, christian, former President) I’m going to stick to the more doable task of keeping the House Democratic, making the Senate democratic and securing the election system against all future Trumpists. Because I think it’s important to maintain realistic goals.

facebook and facebook.

Postscript

Republicans have upped the ante:

Lindsey Graham, Hawley, Greene, Trump, and Republicans et al, [are] threatening Americans with violence if they don’t get their way. That’s not hyperbole, those are their own words.

And in point of fact, threatening violence over your political/religious beliefs with the intent to intimidate a population and/or to overthrow a government is the very definition of terrorism.

We’ve dropped missiles on terrorist leaders in the Middle East for a lot less than what Graham said yesterday.

facebook.com/Stonekettle

They’re daring our government to do the job they’ve sworn to do, knowing that the government never enforces laws against the wealthy unless forced to. They are counting on us not to force our government into action. To not be able to force our government into action.

If we don’t call their bluff then there is no point in doing anything after that. If all they have to do is threaten violence, then they’ll just be that much more encouraged to threaten and then do violence the next time, and the next time and then the time after that. All of these elected officials who threaten violence should be immediately arrested for fomenting a riot. We’ve seen that their followers are violent, will riot at any sign of encouragement, and they are encouraging them to be violent again. Their calling for violence again is all the proof we need to bring them and Donald Trump himself up on charges.

Why hasn’t this been done already? Wealthy people own this country.

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Restore The Child Tax Credit

This is one of the things that we need to be going to polls for, restoring the Child Tax Credit. If you want to reduce the impact of inflation on the people most devastated by inflation, then you want to ease the burdens of the parents of young children. Their children are the real victims of this economic turmoil.

NPR: The Indicator from Planet Money – Going backwards on child poverty – June 16, 2022

…and it’s much more than that. If you want to reduce the number of abortions you have to visibly provide support for mothers. If you are going to force the end of abortion in the United States (as we seem hell bent on doing, even though it is impossible to achieve) then you must provide support for the children that you are now directly bringing into the world by your interference. There will be a bill due from all of this turmoil, and if we don’t pay it to the children they will take it from those who live long enough to see them come of age.

Up First – How Two Women’s Views of Abortion Changed – June 26, 2022

The common denominator between these two stories is economics; the inability of the mother-to-be to afford the child that they are aborting. If you really want to reduce the reliance on abortion then the thing you need to do is give these women money to raise their children with. If they are expected to work or give birth they will generally not pick give birth and it is stupid to expect them to.

If you don’t provide support, give these people we are forcing into this world hope, they will take their hopelessness out on the rest of us. You have been warned.

Postscript

Writing while on allergy drugs leads to duplication of effort:

…these should have been one article.

Childhood Poverty

Democracies cannot persist with the kind of income inequalities that we have, and the lack of economic mobility that we have, forever. It is true that children have no lobbyists in Washington D.C. and that may be one of the reasons why; you know, I’ve been there on the floor late at night when people are breaking their back at the end of the year before they go home for the holidays, to make sure rich people’s tax cuts are extended, to make sure that tax cuts for the largest corporations are extended.

When it came to children living in this country, Washington just went home.

Senator Michael Bennet
The Economist – How did America find the answer to its child poverty problem — and then abandon it?

LAST YEAR it looked like America had found the solution to child poverty: spend more. The expanded child tax credit is thought to have lifted around 3.7m children out of poverty. But the legislation expired and rates shot back up. How did America find the answer to a long-running problem, only to abandon it?

The Economist (still looking for a gift subscription)

We are 38th out of the 41 industrialized countries in the world when it comes to child poverty. Parents cannot work and raise children, they have to either work or raise children. I know because I lived in a single parent household from the age of 14 until I found a decent job and moved out of my mother’s house. I raised her children because she was at work all the time. That was 1977-1983, the longest six years of my life.

We treat children like an afterthought here in the US. We certainly don’t spend the time or money to make sure that they are fed, housed, clothed and given access to the educations that they need to thrive. Children are the future and the future is everyone’s problem, not just the parent’s problem. If we had half a brain in this country, we’d be spending far more than what the child tax credit gave to the poor children of America.

Remember this when you go to the polls in November. Republicans and that wannabe Republican Joe Manchin put 3 million children back into poverty. Vote to get them out of poverty again.

Featured image: npr.org/child-tax-credit-poverty

A Cashless Society

Going cashless shouldn’t bother anyone, but it will probably bother most people quite a bit. Most people seem to value those little green rectangles of paper, but paper notes have no real value. They are a liability since they can be easily stolen and the cost of maintaining and policing the physical currency is astronomical (both points are made in the SGU episode segment) Digital currency has all the benefits of physical currency, without the need to carry it around. It is a win-win.

I used to be a hardcore numismatist. I was all in on silver and gold currency, coin collecting, etcetera. Then I tried bartering for goods with silver as a test to see how well it would be received by businesses. Most businesses were not interested. They wanted to deposit their earnings in the bank at night and the bank only accepted federal money, “the coin of the realm.” The test was a failure, as was the silver currency that I was using as my test at the time.

To individuals, the physicality of the money is what makes it valuable. To volume businesses, the physicality is a liability. This is why credit cards took off and why businesses gladly gave four percent to the card issuers in exchange for not having to deal with cash. It makes their jobs easier and safer and the analog or digital nature of the money being traded on the card system makes no difference as long as it can’t easily be stolen or have to be stored.

The value is in the goods exchanged, the location maintained, not in the money that made the transaction possible. Money has no value because you can’t eat it, it won’t keep you safe, it doesn’t make you live longer. The things that do can be traded for money, so long as the person who has those things has them to trade.

The future’s cashless society will look almost exactly like the one we live in now. The government will have to maintain accounts for each and every one of us in order to make it work; otherwise the poor will be shut out of participation in the economy to the detriment of us all and to the eventual destruction of our societies. In the US they may even make us all banks so that the fed can just issue us money directly. You’ll be able to go to the Post Office (most likely) to conduct your federal banking business. The better off will move their funds to private banks, but the poor will have to rely on government issued cards to buy their necessities. Life will go on pretty much as before.

Black markets will still exist. They’ll go to the barter system and commodities like gold and silver. They’ll create bot nets of dummy accounts that will mask the crypto-currency transactions. The buyer will need to show up with the commodity the seller wants in exchange. Currency is irrelevant.

Bob talks about the briefcase full of cash and that magical moment of imagination towards the end of the segment as a reason for preserving the greenbacks. Remember the scene in Pulp Fiction? You never see what is in the briefcase. You only see the golden reflection on Pumpkin/Ringo’s face, but that’s enough to make you understand the immense value of what is in that case. The money in his wallet is irrelevant. The money in your wallet is irrelevant. The money in my wallet is irrelevant. The commodities. They have value.

Standoff Scene from Pulp Fiction (Prime Video)

Based on an email sent to The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe in reference to the segment in episode 844.

Postscript

I have apparently been nominated to be the Jesus of monetary policy. Not quite sure how to take that. Run and hide before the Pharisees send the Romans to crucify me, or stand and accept my fate? I’m thinking I should decline the nomination now that I’ve spelled the conditions out for myself.

This article was test-posted to Reddit in two places; here and here. In both places the upvotes did not equal the downvotes which proves my original assertion. Most people are afraid of the idea of going cashless. The commentary on the two different thread also proved out my suspicions that a good number of people don’t even understand what going cashless would entail.

MAGA: Rising Gas Prices

facebook.com/McGeachinforidaho

Dear wannbe Governor,

I would have sworn that everyone was onboard with oil prices rising so as to save the oil industry? That seemed to be the mantra under the last president. I mean, the oil industry collapsed under Trump and the glut of gasoline that his pandemic failure caused drove oil down into unheard of negative prices per barrel last summer. Republicans were crying left and right for someone to do something to prop up the price of oil. You can’t sell gasoline if no one is driving, and no one was driving last summer or all of last year. This summer, now that people are driving again, there isn’t enough gasoline to go around. Hence the price rise. This is not rocket science, nor does it have a single thing to do with President Biden.

If you want to thank President Biden for something, thank him for the infrastructure bill that he helped guide through congress with bipartisan support. He’s easily been more of a president in his first six months in office than Trump was at any point in his entire four years in the office. I’ll bet Biden won’t be impeached even one time during his presidency. He’s hands down better than the last guy, but probably not better than what might have been if the woman had won in 2016. What was her name again?

President Biden has been good for the country, in any case. There is no point in trying to throw shade at him for the elevated gasoline prices, which are ridiculous right now. Who’s going to disagree with that? Would you like him to institute price controls so that the cost to the consumer doesn’t go up? No? Then what action by the executive will change the price of gas? Nothing. Nothing that the executive branch can do will reduce the price of gasoline at the pump right now aside from that action.

Joe Biden has not been bad for the country. It floors me that Republican hopefuls think that trashing President Biden will earn them points. If anything, Biden and the Democrats should be doing even more than they’ve already done. They should have already killed the filibuster and passed voter protection laws:

They should have passed the bigger infrastructure bill.

Afghanistan? You want to blame Joe Biden for Afghanistan? Obama should have pulled us out of Afghanistan eight years ago instead of waiting for Trump to make a deal with the Taliban to take over when we left. The only thing that would have been better than that is if Bush II hadn’t been dumb enough to try to colonize Afghanistan in the first place (Graveyard of Empires? Hello?) The bullshit coming off the current crop of Republicans is the same odiferous stuff that Trump was shoveling for the last four years. The people who smell what is coming off the Biden administration and think that what they smell is bad for us should remember that. If what is coming out of the White House smells bad, it’s because the staff there haven’t gotten all the bullshit that Trump left in the White House out of it yet. You can take that observation to the bank.

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Postscript

This country has done price controls in the past:

The Indicator from Planet Money – The beef over price controls – January 12, 2022

Roosevelt signs the Emergency Price Control Act of 1942, and this gives the Office of Price Administration sweeping powers to enforce their price caps and also to administer rations. It hires thousands of people, including a young lawyer named Richard Nixon. You might know him.

npr.org

So, yeah. We could do that and a Democratic president has done it before in a time of emergency. Do we really think it is that time again? Maybe rent control or a re-think on the way we do housing here in the United States, but general price controls? Hardly seems warranted. Do you want to retract this whole move to hold the President personally responsible for the price of your gasoline? No, I didn’t think so.

Republicans blamed Jimmy Carter for the inflation and the high interest rates that had plagued all of his years in the White House, when he was in the White House 1976-80. I remember those days distinctly because those were my first years of semi-independence. They heaped scorn on Carter for things that he did not control. The high interest rates, while painful, were the remedy to the high inflation caused by coming off of the price controls and manufacturing controls imposed during World War Two and partially re-imposed by Nixon when the first moments of inflation scared him. Carter, to his credit, let the money men at the Federal Reserve do the job that needed doing, and they slew inflation at the cost of handing the federal government to the Republicans for the next forty years.

Bush’s two wars that he charged on credit, instead of paying for them with tax hikes, combined with Trump’s pandemic idiocy, have re-awakened the beast of inflation, not some mystical hand-waving thing that Joe Biden did or didn’t do. These are the cold, hard facts that most Republicans will never allow themselves to hear or understand. What I know is that I will be buying electric cars from this point onward, if I ever get to buy a car again. I kind of hope that I don’t have to buy a car again. If you don’t want to be scalped at the pumps, don’t go to the pumps. The solution to that equation is easy to comprehend.

Giving People Money Eases Poverty

Our analyses thus far have yielded a fairly simple story:
throughout the crisis, the level of hardship faced by U.S.
households can be directly linked to the federal government’s
response. Despite historically high unemployment, in July 2020
we found that rates of hardship were stable—and in some cases
declining—following the roll-out of Coronavirus Aid, Relief,
and Economic Security (CARES) Act income support programs
such as Economic Impact Payments (EIPs) and expanded
unemployment insurance. Hardship remained relatively stable
into early fall 2020 before increasing markedly in November and
December 2020 as the economic recovery stalled and Congress
delayed action on further relief measures. The trends we see in
these hardship data are consistent with trends in other metrics
of well-being during the crisis.

umich.edu (PDF)

…This really shouldn’t be news. I am flabbergasted that it is news.

The Indicator from Planet Money – The Jobless Benefits Experiment – June 28, 2021

These people who are being kicked off of their unemployment benefits are going to be out on the street in record numbers, that is what is going to happen. Poor, starving people living out on the street with the other homeless people who represent a vast swath of the population that have been failed by the American dream.

minimum wage in Texas is still 7.25 an hour. 

That isn’t a wage. That is a joke.

Hat/Tip to pacesconnection.com

Unpowered Center

This is the way I saw this structure when I first noticed it under construction two decades ago. I was driving through one of the many new power centers that were popping up at the edges of Austin. Here was the new Austin Fry’s being built, and this is the way I saw it. I didn’t see it as the empty shell that would soon be filled with consumer goods that the average tech junkie would be clamoring for. I saw it as it sits now, a building that was aged and worn from twenty years of hard use, cast aside like an empty cardboard container that only existed to hold a transitory meal of convenience. A tribute to the vanity of consumer culture, unloved and abandoned.

As expected, the passengers in the car at the time did not appreciate my insights into the vagaries of commercial construction. They just couldn’t wait to buy more stuff in this new place. How dare I rain on their dreams like that?

spotify

This is life in the city. The structures that seem to erupt suddenly out of the landscape and briefly exist as bustling hives of industry that are almost as suddenly vacant and decaying, a blight on the landscape that was perfectly fine the way it was before the bulldozers showed up to turn a farmer’s field into a parking lot. What, exactly, did this structure offer that wasn’t available at the local mall? The local mall that is now also abandoned or repurposed into something else?

Now the power centers sit just as idle as the malls started doing a decade and more ago, and the real estate developers are looking for the next big thing that they can get us all to go to and spend money we don’t have on things we don’t need. This wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t the same behavioral patterns that hollowed out the centers of our cities back in the sixties and seventies. Maybe it is time to stop seeking the next new, shiny thing and take a look around at what already exists that we can make suit the needs of the moment. Let the corporations and the land developers starve. The people don’t need them if they can’t serve the needs of today.

Fear Unaccounted For

I’ve found myself yelling at podcasters and news hosts for the last week or so as they muse about what is keeping people from going back to work. Strangers stare at me in the park as I appear to be yelling at myself. It is not an attractive behavior. Even my family is worried about my mental health.

It isn’t the unemployment benefits that Republicans and the Right are self-defeatingly targeting in their red states:

All Things Considered – Conservative Economist Blames High Unemployment On ‘Richer’ Benefits – May 16, 2021

…and it isn’t the minimum wage being too low, as the Democrats and the Left are asserting:

facebook.com/RBReich

The wages are too low, but that isn’t even half of the equation. Fear dominates the markets right now. Breadwinners aren’t willing to go out and risk death for any wage if they don’t have to. Their families rely on them to keep them all afloat. So they will wait and make sure the water of commerce is safe before they will re-enter it.

If you want people to get back to work you are going to have to convince them that their families will not starve without them if they were to die doing whatever it is they do for a living. For example: we need to expand and increase survivor’s benefits from Social Security so that every American who has a family that relies on them for their survival will be able to be at peace with the fact that at least their families will be cared for in the future.

If we did this, insured that families would not go hungry or homeless if the breadwinner dies, and we increased the wages, then you would see people returning to work in droves. Without it you will have to bribe them with dollar figures much higher than what businesses are offering now. A few piddling extra thousand dollars ain’t going to entice people back into the workforce, and making the poor suffer will only make you, the state leadership, the target of their suffering. Look to see red states become more purple in the future if that behavior continues.

This episode of On The Media:

On the Media – The Ghosts of the Rust Belt – May 14, 2021

…will explain everything you need to know about the delusion that Americans have ever had good, steady jobs that paid well. The haven’t and they won’t until they get smart about politics and economics.

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Featured image: What is Thalassophobia?

texasstandard.org

The Enron Legacy

there were many factors that went into creating the energy disaster with which Texans are now dealing. But at least in one respect, the problems in Texas are a product of an approach to the energy business that Lone Star State companies like Enron pursued at the end of the 20th century.

wapo

Ken Lay was George Bush’s best friend, back when George Bush was governor of Texas. That was what Ken Lay would tell you, if he was still alive today. The story is more slanted now that Ken Lay has been convicted of felony crimes and his flagship business, Enron, went bankrupt and took $40 billion dollars and the fortunes of thousands with it. Also, Ken Lay is conveniently dead of natural causes, so it is easy to blame him for all of the greed that was behind the drive to deregulate the energy sector in the United States.

Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (book) (movie)
Movieclips Classic TrailersEnron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (2005) – Nov 20, 2013

It is because of Ken Lay’s friendship with Governor and then President Bush that the Texas and California electrical grids ended up being the mess that they are today. It’s just taken longer for Texas’ grid to fall apart than it did California’s, which has been on the ropes since Enron arranged for it to start suffering rolling blackouts back at the turn of the century.

I watched/read The Smartest Guys in the Room when the movie/book came out back in 2005. The story itself was just another nail in the coffin of my belief in market solutions, the death of my libertarian delusions. Every time that the fraudsters finally convince someone in authority to deregulate, it doesn’t take long to prove that government regulation had been there for a very good reason after all. Enron bought energy companies and then created energy markets for their power to be sold on. That was what those regulations stood in the way of, huge profits on Wall Street.

One of the last acts of desperation in the failing business that Enron became after its meteoric rise on the stock market was to turn off power generation in California’s electrical market in order to drive up the price of electricity and put money in the pockets of Enron executives and traders. Enron created rolling blackouts on purpose in order to profit from the suffering of California citizens. One of the last acts of desperation of the Texas Public Utility Commision during the recent winter storm was to set the price of electricity high enough on the Texas market to inspire power generators to turn on their excess capacity and flood the Texas power grid in their time of need. It’s just too bad that there wasn’t any capacity to be had because the power generators hadn’t bothered to insure against freezing by weatherizing their supply systems. Just too bad that electric energy generators and their investors were more interested in profiting off of the suffering of Texas citizens than they were in spending money weatherizing against winter storms that they hoped would never show up, but still manage to show up about every ten years anyway.

KUT 90.5 – Texas’ Power Grid Was 4 Minutes And 37 Seconds Away From Collapsing. Here’s How It Happened – February 24, 2021

Millions lost power. Hundreds died. How did this happen? KUT’s Mose Buchele explores what happened during the worst blackout in Texas history, how we got the electric grid we have today and what could be done to fix it.

kutkutx.studio/the-disconnect
kut.org

Shares of Macquarie rose 3.4% in Sydney on Monday after the company raised its profit outlook. They are now down 2.8% over the past 12 months.

One customer told the Dallas Morning News that his electric bill for five days stood at $5,000, the amount he would normally pay for several years of power. Another told the Dallas-Fort Worth NBC affiliate that he had been charged more than $16,000 for February.

wsj.com

It is also too bad that Texas’ hostility to federal regulation caused it to seek an isolated grid through ERCOT, which meant that most of Texas went without power when it’s isolated grid went down and no one could send it power to keep it afloat. Unless you were lucky and lived around El Paso, which (along with Amarillo and the panhandle) are not under ERCOT and consequently only saw minor interruptions in service.

This is what happens when you make the essentials for survival into profit-driven commodities; commodities that no one can understand how to profit from unless they are scarce enough to drive demand over available supply. When there is more demand than there is supply of the essentials some people won’t survive. The death toll across Texas due to the winter storm and resulting power outages is still unknown but is likely to be well over 100 people, and a bank in Australia made 200 million off of those deaths.

Texas is misnamed. Texas (tejas) supposedly means friend or ally. Nothing could be further from the truth than seeing Texas as your friend or ally. That is the ploy of the confidence man, the demand to trust him even though he seems to be oilier than all get out. The Texas mascot should be the irresponsible teen who wants to shirk all the day long because he can. It should be the grasshopper that whiles the summer away instead of storing food for the winter. Like the grasshopper and the irresponsible teen, Texas is always unprepared for adversity because of these infantile behavior patterns. Texas is a great place to be young and healthy, because there are no worries about tomorrow here, and no requirement to save anything for that day of need. Texas is a horrible place to be old or sick in because there is no place to go when you reach your hour of need. No allowance for the slackers that we pretend to be fond of, but throw out in the cold the minute that things get tough.

The true beneficiary of Texas largesse is the corporate raider, the false priest, the con artist. Texas is made for thieves. Personal and corporate greed are rewarded here, rewarded more highly than any human virtue. Just look at Ken Lay. He understood what Texas was for. He rode that pony hard and put it up wet counting on not being there when the tax man came for his cut. He died a millionaire, of the diseases of old age he could have avoided if he had straightened up and flown right. Why bother? No one gets out of this life alive.

The Enron legacy is ERCOT and every other Texas boondoggle ever hatched. Every scheme that amounted to nothing more than stealing from public coffers and crafting a golden parachute for yourself. If we had those billions that Enron stole from us, that the deregulation scheme stole from us, we wouldn’t need to go without water or power, the average Austinite wouldn’t have to be out there hand-delivering necessities to people on the verge of death during a pandemic. This lunacy has to stop. The question is, will we pay attention long enough to make it stop?

Featured image from twitter.com/austinenergy

Postscript

The BBC on the subject of the legacy of Enron:

spotifyBBC Business Daily –
The collapse of Enron: Did we learn the lessons? Dec 2, 2021

They don’t go into the facts of Texas’ continued reliance on power systems that were set up for Enron to make profits from. The fact that power systems in all areas where Enron was active are still suffering from the after effects of Enron’s malfeasance.

Governor Greg Abbott made off like a bandit after the legislative session that did not fix the Texas power grid, but not nearly as much of a bandit as one of the owners of Texas’ power generation facilities:

Winter Storm Uri cost us an estimated $293 billion in damages and some estimates put the actual death toll closer to 700. Nearly 5 million Texans lost power; many more went days without water. Remember?

One Texan who hasn’t forgotten is Dallas resident Kelcy Warren, although not because he worried that he and his family were in any danger. Warren, co-founder and now executive chairman of Energy Transfer Partners, lives in a 27,000-square-foot ivy-covered stone castle on nine acres in North Dallas. He bought his humble abode in 2009 for a reported $29 million. We can imagine that the heat stayed on in the Warren manse (or perhaps the family repaired to its private island off the coast of Honduras.)

What the pipeline tycoon remembers, we suspect, is not the nearly $300 billion that the storm cost Texas. It’s the figure $2.4 billion. As Justin Miller reports in the current issue of the Texas Observer, that’s the profit Warren’s company collected during the blackouts, a sizable portion of the $11 billion profit the natural gas industry as a whole collected by, in Miller’s words, “selling fuel at unprecedented prices to desperate power generators and utilities during the state’s energy crisis.”

Warren, a hefty donor over the years to former Gov. Rick Perry, former President Donald Trump and other Republicans, made sure that Gov. Greg Abbott didn’t forget either.

On June 23, Warren wrote out a check to Abbott’s reelection campaign in the amount of $1 million. That’s the biggest check Warren has ever given a Texas politician, according to campaign finance reports. And it’s four times the usual $250,000 gift that Abbott has gotten from his reliable Dallas benefactor nearly every year since he was elected governor in 2014.

houstonchronicle.com

This is the Enron legacy, in spades. This is what the for-profit power generation scheme that Ken Lay wanted put in place is there for. It is there to make billions of dollars for people who control access to the power of the state. We are fools to continue to allow this fraud to continue at our expense, at the possible cost of our own lives. If you vote for Republicans in Texas, you are the biggest fool of all.