Saturday, February 2, 2013

Financial (and Social) (In)Security

Saturday morning cartoons, nay, every kid media production, has evolved into one loooooong commercial to influence buying habits, influence votes, or to influence sympathies.

Sometime shortly after that unfortunate development that media strategy spread to adult media content. There is not single story written in the Mainstream Media that does not contain an agenda - even if that agenda only covers a by-line.

Read this article from Yahoo News about how Americans are being forced to put off "retirement" (defined as the day they quit working and sit around yelling at the TV).

Seems reasonable.

The writer's explanation:

The labor force has been getting older for decades for reasons that range from longer life spans and better health to companies' replacement of defined-benefit pensions with higher-risk 401(k) plans.
Also seems reasonable.

Of course its only partially correct. Yes, we are living longer and, yes, Corporations are no longer interested in being your lifetime provider. Nowhere does the article mention we have all become more and more financially insecure despite/because of decades and decades of tax creep from FICA taxes (Social Security/Mediacare payroll "taxes"). Nowhere does the article mention that our total career span is about the same - 35 years - and that we are starting later and finishing later - ostensibly to become "educated" (as if that only occurs under the watchful eye of someone else and only in your twenties). If one does not get serous about a career until 30, you know after a 5 year undergrad program, back pack Europe, and MBA, you will, by economic and mathematical necessity be required to work until at least 65. After all, you did not finish having children until your 40's, and you have a 30 year mortgage. Nowhere does the article mention that many of today's over 50 workers have sacrificed marriages and having children because corporations required that they be "educated" in order to work at jobs that required little training, weren't all that fulfilling, and resulted in the outcome that the article's featured hedge fund analyst has experienced at the end of his prime working years - not much money, no family, no home, no job.

And for this he slaved away in Wall Street salt mine?

The brutal reality is this: Funding Social Security and Medicare through FICA taxes and state income taxes (in the case of California) and/or property taxes (in the case of the Northeast Big Blue states) are the primary reasons that many people my age have no family (they could not afford children) and have no money. Yet Lefties like Senator Elizabeth Warren are worshipped for their deeply flawed research/writings/assertions on the subject. Go figure.

(Note that birth rates in the U.S have plummeted. This trend is nothing new. When I am bored I will graph the increase in FICA taxes per person and the fertility rate of Americans. I bet they correlate inversely 100%, not that that implies causation - except when it does.)

Not that FICA taxes and state income and property taxes (property taxes have enabled municipal workers to enjoy tremendous financial security at the expense of everybody else) are solely responsible. No, they are responsible for the preponderance of The People's financial insecurity. To be fair, there are some other (materialism/consumerism) contributing factors - but these other factors pale next to these. Well, sort of. The monthly bill from cell phones, internet access, and cable is really far more damaging than widely perceived.

Now the government has these people by the gishgas. This is how democracy/corporatocrocy works in 21st century America.


Gasoline prices are at a record for this time of year. But imports are down buy 1/3. This is not the drag on the U.S. economy that it was just 5 years ago. Europe is a different story.


I spent the last 2 weeks reading Ray Kurzweil's "The Singularity is Near". Stuart Staniford and Stephen B. recommended it to me. Fascinating. Peak Oil might well be just a "stressor", especially if Kurzweil's calculation on the development of Solar energy collection technology is correct, but The Singularity (or some sort of Singularity Light) might be something far, far more impacting.

I highly recommend the book.


Publius said...

As an antidote to Kurzweil's continued ravings on the Singularity (he's been claiming it's on its way for years), you might want to read a critique of his type of techno-magical thinking, such as Kunstler's "Too Much Magic."

The problem with people like Kurzweil is that they really believe that humans can somehow transcend the limitations given to all other species and beings because of our technology. It's a quasi-religious faith, and it's full of holes. Even if you could download your brain into the matrix, would you still be human? I doubt it. It would be existential suicide. I doubt that the technology he claims will convert our world into a virtual paradise will work as advertised, and even if it did, I doubt it would create heaven on earth.

The main problem, though, is that even the matrix and nanotechnology requires energy. The physical infrastructure of the matrix requires massive inputs: something like 10-20% of all electricity usage in the USA is already used by computers and the Internet.

I think that Kurzweil's singularity will be strangled in the cradle by peak energy, among other things.

Final final point: the technology he lauds is also potentially so destructive, that if you care about life on earth, and not just human life, you should hope that he and his mad followers fail.

John said...

There is not enough lithium to acheive Kurzweil's dream. The old metal-hydride type batteries are too bulky so how does one store the power generated by the sun? Solar panels in space with the energy micro-waved to Earth....maybe, but once again is it sustainable? Without taking into account geo-political events. I believe the singularity is his religion. Nothing more than his unacceptance of the finality of death.

Publius said...

I should add that Kurzweil is a genuine computer/tech genius.

Technology is a great tool - that's what the word techne means in Greek, after all...

But all tools should be used where appropriate. The future is about appropriately scaled technology.

I'm afraid that the more complex and "magic" like technology becomes, the more it will empower Big Brother and giant corporations, and leave the rest of us as techno-peasants.

Not all tools are neutral: beware those that are addictive or make you dependent.

Anonymous said...

Even if someone could map your brain and simulate your conscience mind in a computer, it would be a separate entity. When your biological body dies your conscious mind dies with it. Your simulated mind might believe it is you, but you would be DEAD DEAD DEAD. The biological you and the electronic you could survive simultaneously, but would diverge due to differing experience. Somehow, Kurzweil misses this, or doesn't care, as having a simulation that continues after his natural death stokes his ego.


Coal Guy

Anonymous said...

Oil is setting records again today.
Somebody hold me! I'm afraid.

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