Some Money Questions

Some Money Questions

They say the banks are flush with cash, probably better capitalized than they've ever been. So I'd like to throw some questions out since I don't feel quite competent to comment on monetary policy.

I do have a bias: I don't have too much sympathy for banks, or for much of Wall Street, or the many financial players who find a way to profit off of thin air. It particularly bothered my father that so many of these are Jews, not that it has anything to do with this.

I do acknowledge that our economic system owes a lot to the ability to efficiently place capital in the hands of those who can put it to use to advance our economy, and that a strong economy, properly shepherded, can be of great benefit to all of our society.

I guess there's a bit of “I want them to hurt too” here. I know it's not nice, and I'm open to discussion on the subject, but I somehow don't see this hurting the banking and finance sectors like it's going to hurt most of us.

So here are a few more questions:

Why aren't the banks being pushed/required to forego interest?

The Fed has made money just about free to the banks, but they still charge us. The moves towards expanded credit and forbearance seem to me like they will only cause consumers to have to pay more interest: they will likely borrow to make it over this period, and will have fewer resources as they are not working. People will owe more, and it will take longer to repay. Why should the banking sector profit off of this?

Are our corporations shepherded so that we all benefit, or should they be?

What makes me say our corporations? Should we see them this way?

For instance, just to pull a title, CEO compensation has grown 940% since 1978: Typical worker compensation has risen only 12% during that time. It seems that certain people always “recover” better than others. I assume we allow the formation of corporations because we believe the existence of commercial enterprise ultimately inures to all of our benefits. Should or can the benefit be directed?

Also, it seems “stimulus” moves through the banks, but the way it moves its way down to the working stiff I don't necessarily get. And I don't know how you would regulate it so that the money stimulates where it should, but there seems to me there's got to be a way to do it better. Would it make sense to stimulate in such a way that the banks don't decide where it trickles down to?

Why do we skew markets to cause inefficient placement of capital and saddle the recipients with lifetimes of debt?

This is a student loan question. If we eliminate student loan programs, and we eliminate the restirtictions on discharge of student loans in bankruptcy, wouldn't we allow for efficient placement of capital in educating those who will add value to our future economy?

The Spending Side

On the spending side, I'm wondering if we have it so that people who don't work don't get paid, particularly people that we pay as taxpayers.

If the schools and government offices are closed, and folk aren't coming to work, or providing services, should they be paid?

The truth is I don't know if they are being paid or not. I suspect there are different results under different contracts. I also know it's not the worker's fault if he can't come to work right now, but it isn't ours either. I know we want to take care of our public servants. On the other hand, if we don't pay them for the work they didn't do, that might leave a little more for us, either to stimulate our local economies later, or to give us back in property tax reductions or other savings.

Last, this isn't the first black swan event we've seen in most of our lifetimes. In fact, these seem to come quite regularly, whether in the form of hurricanes or other extreme weather events, market shut-downs, or revolutionary or outright criminal activity.

Are we teaching people to live lives of abundance, to be financially savvy, to live within their means, and to save for just these kinds of events? Do people who pay on credit really get the true cost of the things they buy and how long they pay for them? Just for some perspective, a debt of $3000 at a 19% rate with a 3% payment minimum, can take 14 years to pay off with total payments over $6000.

And before you call me a heretic, I'm just thinking out loud here. I believe in our system, but that doesn't make it perfect. And if it's not taking care of enough of us, some intervention might be appropriate.

I, We, Community

I, We, Community

The following comment was made on Facebook by Alex Shapiro. I have no idea who he is, but I couldn't help responding, so I share with you:

My favorite part about the Coronavirus school closures is the extreme panic from communities and parents. “Where will kids eat?” “How will I provide child care?” “How will my kids socialize and see other people?” “How will I maintain a normal life and work routine?”

So go ahead and remember this. Schools provide much more than an education, they literally become a second home for so, so many kids. They are the first lifeline in a time of crisis for families. They give essential services to communities in need. They are a safe space and a shelter (literally) on a near daily basis.

So let's go ahead and think about this next time you vote to underfund them.

Not to sound too heartless here, but these are the kind of questions people should have sorted before they choose to be parents. Here are some answers:

  1. They will eat at your table.
  2. Maybe a “we” should provide child care—let's call it parenting—instead of an I. Part of the evolution of human pair-bonding (traditional marriage?) is that parenting becomes a team sport.
  3. You, or your community, will come together to parent your child/ren.
  4. Your kids will go out and play, unsupervised. Maybe hand them a ball and some chalk and send them out to the street or playground.
  5. Normal? Who knows what the new normal will be?

Your questions are “I” based, but then you talk about “communities in need.” Maybe different answers/novel solutions will come when the communities in need act as communities in addressing their needs.

How to Rob the Corona Virus of its Relevance

How to Rob the Corona Virus of its Relevance

Here's the thing: What scares us about the Corona Virus is that we might be dead sooner, in some arbitrary way that wasn't already figured into our calculations.

A Stupid Fear

If you think about it, this is downright stupid. There is no limit on ways to die that we don't pay any mind to that could hit us any moment. Do a quick search on “unexpected things that can kill you,” and you'll find poison plants, and chimneys not properly taken care of, and televisions and dressers tipping over, and increasing risks of infection because we try to be too clean.

And then research the risks you either aren't aware of or blithely underestimate, like falling from ladders, electrocution, trampoline and pool accidents, too-hot tap water, ants, dogs, falling ice, falling out of bed, autoerotic asphyxiation, farm animals, too much exercise, too much water/salt/caffeine, left-handedness, lightning, crossing the street, and even vending machines.

And sometimes we're just delusional: at least 70 percent of us think we're better than average drivers, but most accidents occur due to human error.

The truth is that your next cigarette or can of coke is more likely to cut years off your life than the next pandemic will. And texting while driving, or drinking and driving, you're raising a wholly avoidable risk of death to yourself and others. I'd guess even driving late on a Friday night, or after a New Year's party, or the Superbowl, or living in the wrong part of Chicago in August, would raise your risk of death at the hands of some other idiot greater than all the world travel you could do would raise your risk of being killed by the Corona virus.

The problem is, for some silly reason, we think some of those things are in some way under our control. They're not.

You Will Die

You will die. You could die suddenly. It happens every day. It could be from a freak accident. It could be from the Corona Virus, but it's unlikely to be.

So Why Freak Out

Yes, our lives may be suddenly cut short, but so what? What bothers us is that most of us are putting off living. We think there will be a tomorrow that we can look to. We're waiting for a bonus, or a break, or that big trip, or a bride that will make our lives complete. We think about the big plan.

But the thing is for most of us tomorrow will be a lot like today. That big trip may never come. When we get the big raise, it'll only pay for the bigger expenses. And before you know it, we'll have spent 75 years of todays that look a lot like today, and pretend that that's a life.

There's always an Existential Threat

So what I suggest is that you live this day as if it were your last, and every day, but don't be an idiot. You can also plan for a better richer tomorrow, but don't forget sometimes all we get is the way, and if we expect something will come along, or come together, tomorrow, or next year, or whenever, and that will make us fulfilled, and it would be a pity if we didn't live long enough to see that, we're doing it wrong.

The way to beat the Corona virus, and every existential threat is to know you've done all you could up until today to have a great life, that you've made people smile when you could, that you've taken care of your people, and that they know that they are loved and perfect the way they are.

Get that down, and your living an hour or another fifty years won't matter, because you will be here now, and that's what counts.

Bloomberg: Just Another Democrat

Mr. Bloomberg has disappointed me. I just finished Ken Stern's book Republican Like Me: How I Left the Liberal Bubble and Learned to Love the Right, and I had a hopeful moment.

At its core, this book suggests that Americans still have a lot more that unites them than they do that divides them.

When your only tool is a Hammer . . .

When your only tool is a Hammer . . .

It's said that when your only tool is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. In that context I offer you this idiotic response to last week's attacks in Monsey:

We need stronger laws, tougher penalties, more stringent prosecution against hate crime.

Senator Richard Blumenthal, as quoted at New12 Connecticut, at 1:04.

The problem here is that Senator Dick is a law-maker. He apparently thinks that's his job. And while it might be a tool of it, and the primary one at that, his job is to represent us in Washington.