Why is it that when it was merely below freezing yesterday and my driver’s side window froze shut (this was never a problem when you could roll down windows manually), but today when it’s frigid (-7°F/-22°C) the window works just fine?
Why was my small skim latté with sugar-free vanilla $2.15 at McDonald’s (yes, I am a bad person) yesterday but $2.16 today? Did new tax rates take effect overnight or does the Scottish restaurant have a policy of sneaking in teeny price increases that only a wombat with too much time on his hands will notice?
Speaking of price increases, why do Americans put up with be lied to about them for years? The Social Security Administration’s supposed Cost Of Living Allowance increased payments by a pathetic 1.6% this year when even the hedonically suppressed Consumer Price Index says that inflation is 2.3% and anyone with a brain and a wallet understands that the actual rate is running well north of 5%?
What’s going to happen as the bursting of The Everything Bubble works its way through the economy? In theory at least, we’re stumbling through the 11th year of an economic expansion with near-record-low unemployment. Why then is homelessness increasing? For example, Adam Taggart in a recent post at PeakProsperity.com embedded a video showing tent encampments that have recently sprung up along a walking and bike trail in Sonoma County:
Oddly enough, his post includes the quote by Plutarch that’s on my blog’s home page:
An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics.
I had thought for a while to write a review of Andrew Yang’s The War on Normal People but I screwed up. I was using a piece of paper as a bookmark where I noted specific pages noting arguments he made (I am loathe to write in books, even in pencil) but then managed to lose the bookmark. D’oh! Maybe I’ll re-read it and do a more complete review but the thumbnail version of my review would be that the book wasn’t quite what I thought it would be. I’d thought that it was mostly about Universal Basic Income, but it’s not. The first two-thirds of the book (the part with the most cogent arguments) discuss how automation, robotics, autonomous vehicles, artificial intelligence, and other technological advances are likely to result in huge job losses in the very near future. He’s very convincing.
The last third of the book covers his plans for universal basic income, a Value Added Tax to pay for it, Medicare-for-all, new educational priorities, and societal changes. I have to admit that it was the weakest third of the book, even though I agree that some form(s) of basic income will be hugely important going forward.
But in this third of the book, his arguments aren’t all that rigorous. He claims that UBI would basically make all current forms of welfare obsolete without seeming to notice that all of them have powerful vested interests. SNAP benefits (“food stamps”) came about in part thanks to powerful lobbying from farm states, Section 8 housing props up landlords all over the country, and so on. Yang’s plan for $1,000 monthly payments to people between 18 and 64 completely misses people outside of that range. A young couple might be able to scrape by on their combined $24,000 but a young couple with four kids would get that same $24,000 even as traditional welfare benefits had gone by the wayside. At the other end, there are plenty of 65+ folks out there who get less than $12,000 in Social Security payments as is, let alone future cohorts who might well be paying even less into the SocSec system over their working lives.
And Yang sort of glosses over the VAT. Would it actually pay for UBI or would there be a need for even more deficit spending than we already have? What’s the track record of VAT in other countries? No real discussion. But the biggest problem with the last third of the book is that there’s no discussion of who wins and who loses. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that any big change in government policies results in winners and losers. Who stands to lose if Yang’s proposals are implemented?
The first two-thirds of the book is quite powerful. The last third, not as much. It really needs to be fleshed out in more detail. Yes, some form of Basic Income (from governments? from decentralized blockchains?) is probably coming in the future. But is it to be what Yang proposes?