The COVID-19 Pandemic, the inadequate response thereto, and the incompetency of the Trump Presidency in general, combined, have exposed our nation’s weaknesses and failings to an extent unknown since at least the Great Depression. This is likely a do or die moment for America. Recovery will be difficult. Improbable unless we are careful in our choice of goals and daring in our efforts to achieve them. The margins for error do not allow for dawdling. Attempting to just return to a time before Trump and The Pandemic would be disastrous. A time like this should also be seen as a time of opportunity.
First, we must rid ourselves of denominational economics such as Capitalism, Socialism, Hayekism, Free Marketism, … These, but ideologies, dogmas, that some would impose on economics, on the rest of us; have done the Nation great harm. They are, at their very best, reasonings of a time past. As likely to be the answer to today’s problems as Adam Smith is to rise from his grave.
As a first step toward becoming again competitive in today’s world; we must stop blindly paying twice as much for inferior healthcare, internet, and cellphone service,… as is being paid in other developed nations; and while we are at it, we need to solve our homeless problem. These are all essential services that should be provided to all. In the grand competition of things; we’re losing. Have been for a while. Were before the pandemic. Ideology is a luxury we can no longer afford.
Let’s pay for these things that need to be done, and help with our wealth distribution problem, too, by taxing the piss out of the too rich and too profitable. Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, Sheldon, Warren, …; fun and games are over guys, time for you to pay up.
Let’s pay for these things that need to be done by cutting the ‘Defense’ Budget in half. Halve the number of Generals, the number of Admirals, the number of Aircraft Carriers, the number of Missiles, …; and full-stop attacking other nations. Half of $720+Billion is $360+Billion; $360+Billion is aplenty for Defense, nothing for Attack, and about right for expanding Medicare to Medicare For All. Ike was right about that and Harry was right about health care.
I. Internet Access and Cellular Networks
All those fireman who died because of poor communication on 9/11/2001 should have taught us the need for an ubiquitous cellular network. Mobile radio networks separate cellular networks should have shown us the need for one network. A police car with a half dozen radio antennas on the roof is ridiculous.
So, too, the fact that our cell phone uses a cellular network, our computers use a cable based internet service, and that we need a WIFI router to use our laptops. What’s now the cellular network should be the WIFI router and these routers should be all over our homes, all over every floor in every building, everywhere on our streets, and all across and over rural America. Ubiquitous. Today, thousands and thousands of teachers across America are trying to remotely teach kids, many of whom have very limited internet access, over an internet system that is not reliable. When the fires struck Santa Rosa, the cell towers went down. The internet w/ phones must work at all times during normal times and during times of emergency; needs to be bullet proof. This new inclusive internet is too critical to be trusted to the ‘Market’. Cell phone and Internet should be one and that one should be regulated as a public utility; a service, as a service application, and, as always, the application dictates. Not the ‘Market’.
As a Post Office service, maybe?
In order to fully utilize our Nation’s productivity, better fulfill our personal lives, and assist in times of emergency, the Internet needs be ubiquitous and bulletproof. We should be able to access the internet from our backyards, on a hike, in the mountains, in transit, …; from anywhere we are or can be. It was a big mistake letting cable companies have the internet and the cell phone companies the phone towers. Let the cable companies have Cable TV. Internet and cell phone transmission should be one and the same; should be a Public Utility. It isn’t about ideology, it’s about how it should be; what should be. Half-arsed won’t get it. If we continue to stick with ideology and dogma, China, Japan, and the EU will continue to eat our lunch.
II. Health Care
Congress’s responsibility is not to protect and preserve the healthcare insurance industry; theirs is to protect and preserve the health of all Americans. We can no longer afford to pay twice as much for half as much healthcare; never really could. We are dying too often, going broke doing it, while paying this twice as much for half as much. Our lack of a national healthcare system is a national disgrace. As consequence of this national failure, millions of COVID-19 survivors owe $billions that they can never pay. In some States of America, the uninsured COVID infected were, are being, sent home to die. Give us a break, there is no instance anywhere ever of the ‘Market’ solving the healthcare problem. It is likely that by the end of 2020 more than 300,000 Americans will have died from COVID-19 and a like number because of it; surely health care is at least as important as defense.
Just as a COVID-19 test result more than 24 hrs old is worthless, so is an employer provided health care insurance when you are unemployed and sick; need it most. High co-pay and high-deductible health care insurance are almost worthless.
Atop the non-profit Hospital and Health Care behemoths sit huge bureaucracies of the overly paid making decisions about closing hospitals and clinics based not on the need for service but on the ‘Market’; telling us via the media and their personal politicians that it is all being done in the name of efficiency. Spending twice as much for half as much is efficient?
It is estimated that one-third of the US prison population is mentally ill; that one-third and perhaps more of the homeless are mentally ill. America’s jails house 10 times more mentally ill than her state mental hospitals; doing no one any good at all at a cost of approximately $50K/prisoner/yr. Mental illness effects at least 25%, maybe up to 50 %, of Americans; costs the public and individuals $billions, and yet, for all intents and purposes, we don’t have a national mental health care policy.
In California, and in other states facing a homeless crisis, large scale construction of public housing should be begin immediately. Doesn’t have to be fancy, just basic housing. Housing is a basic right. Studios, one-bedrooms, two-bedrooms, … as needed. Let’s end this our other national disgrace. Let’s get Americans out of those merciless homeless encampments, out of those RVs parked on streets all over towns. No civilized, first-world society treats it’s people this way. Throw out the Market Crapology and put people to work building housing.
We have all heard feedback loops in a sound system. Some of us have studied feedback loops in re electronics, physics, biology, … Housing bubbles are an example of a positive feedback loop in economics; an all too familiar example of catastrophic ‘Market’ failure. When it comes to housing, instead of being the solution, the ‘Market’ is the problem. Back around 2013, in the SF Bay Area, rents started going up, landlords began raising their tenant’s rents so as to get their entitle ‘Market Value’. Not because of ROI, or how long the owner has owned the property, but because the ‘Market’ had ‘gone up because there was a housing shortage and the tenants have no options. Raised rents soon begat yet another rent increase meaning the ‘Market’ is up again; means a positive feedback loop is in effect. Landlords raise the rent again because the ‘Market’ has gone up again, …, … All obeying the first law of economics; whatever the ‘Market’ will bear. Rental property values go up because rents are going up. Someone buying a rental property at the higher prices, raises the rent so as to command a ‘Market Value’ based rate of return, … In California, and other states, rents now exceed most wages.
Here in the SF Bay Area, a big driver of real estate prices has been money from China. Brief cases full of cash began to showing up. Bought houses on speculation, left them empty, drove the prices up. The higher prices went, the higher they went. It wasn’t about housing at all. It was about a place to stash money, a safe deposit box, …, sometimes, a way to launder money; and a way to speculate in real estate. The ‘Market’, driven by speculation and outside money, was caught in a positive feedback loop; did everything wrong; didn’t do anything right. A catastrophe. The government did nothing at all.
Another most significant driver has been the tech boom and its associated high salaries; salaries that competed for housing with those making a fraction as much. Whatever the ‘Market’ will bear; unfurnished garage apartments are going for premium in the Google, Facebook neighborhood.
Rather than being the solution, the ‘Market’ is the cause of the housing problem. The housing problem is the cause of the homeless problem. The homeless were evicted because of the housing problem that the ‘Market’ made worse. Homelessness isn’t about personal short comings; it’s symptomatic of a systemic failure. Let’s stop blaming the victims and put the blame on false ideologies; where it belongs. Let’s stop going backward and start going forward.
To be continued.