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Communique 8-14-2020 "Common Cents"

By Philip Drucker

I woke up this morning and as is my daily ritual the first task I accomplish is refilling the dogs’ water bowl. At the same time, I fish out all the crickets that jumped into the water overnight. Most live to tell their harrowing tale of the great lake in the bedroom hallway. But still, like clockwork, maybe a broken clock, new ones appear, drawn no doubt by the promise of a near-holy baptismal experience in the presence of dog. Or, I save them, with little to no fanfare, or, they die. Just like MAGA maggots, except I’m not there to save them. Judging from the COVID-19 death toll, neither is anybody else.

I tell you this as an introduction to a very troublesome conversation I recently had with a clearly crazed religious lug nut who get this, took me to task because I chose Obamacare over death, or at the very least, guaranteed bankruptcy. His scenario was as follows. Because I chose to receive cancer treatments paid through in part by Covered California, I had denied myself to go through the cancer process, thereby missing an opportunity to understand and be with God, sooner rather than later.

Therefore, I was a double dipping democratic devil as I 1. chose life and 2. wanted to keep my house in the process, assuming I wasn’t dead already. I was horrified. As a believer in the Almighty, persons who justify their blatantly stupid ideals and actions as part of His plan, no matter the consequences, in a robe of false piety sicken me. Hint: The one thing you don’t want to say to me is “Only God knows”. That may be very well and true, but it also tells me YOU don’t know and your lack of knowledge, aka your ignorance is now the reason you refuse to think for yourself or act in a responsible way.

In all my years as a professor, there are two things I can tell you I cannot do. I can’t teach you the importance of character, and not surprisingly, no matter how many times I ask you to use your brain, you know, the one He gave you, I have no ability to even help you think. I can point out the benefits and I can identify logical inconsistencies in your arguments for you, but I do not have the code to access or activate your inner software. I can’t. Believe me, I’ve tried.

Regarding Mr. “I Should Have Let Myself Die” who exactly is the pro-lifer here? I know you are pro-birth, forced or otherwise, but mostly just so you can continue the Biblical fallacy that only men know what to do when it comes to women’s bodies (I hear the laughter already). What about free will? Are fate and destiny the same thing? Is Trump really your vessel for redemption or even your personal savior? Right about now is where I get the “at least he isn’t as bad as Hillary/Obama and all the other socialists, including you, who want to take my Freedums away (as if we could).

I could point out that during the Ebola scare, two Americans lost their lives. Benghazi? Four. Covid-19? 160,000 souls that didn’t have to die and rising. I do not wish to seem insensitive to even the loss of one life, but I doubt the experience of dying alone in a hospital with a tube down my throat would have strengthened by belief in a power far greater and beyond that of my own.

Not to break my mojo here, but if you get off on sarcasm, are you having a sargasm? Involuntary celibates, or more accurately, mostly males who have horrible personalities often highlighted by their belief/perception women naturally like being treated as sexual objects, or if you are Ted Cruz needn’t bother to answer. If you are not getting it, you are not going to get it, anytime soon.

Which brings me to my next point. Power. What is power? I break it down into three categories, the power to create and the power to destroy, with the ability to foster change somewhere in the middle. Have you ever stopped to consider your words alone can do all three? Your email, your post, your tweet, can do all three? You can inspire, or be a denier. A leader or a defeater. A sinner, or a saint. Whatever you choose, all I ask is that you try to use your power responsibly. To do so, I recommend you heed the words of Bernard Meltzer following the Buddhist checklist for when to open your pie-hole and when to STFU.

“Before you speak ask yourself if what you are going to say is true, is kind, is necessary, is helpful. If the answer is no, maybe what you are about to say should be left unsaid.” –Bernard Meltzer

As well as another highly applicable little gem of a quote:

“It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.” –Abraham Lincoln/Mark Twain/Samuel Johnson

Regardless of the actual attribution, you might want to double down for anything you say enshrined in pen, pencil, keyboard, social post, meme, video, image and of course tweets for any thoughts embodied in physical form is subject to the forever rule. As in, when historians look back, if for nothing other than his tweets, they will record Trump was nothing but a mean, stupid, unthinking, uncaring, incapable of any empathy or understanding SRT8 up and serious as a heart attack fool. The choice is yours, don’t be a fool, fool. (If you are a subscriber, I know you won’t!)

I was thinking (before writing) today, about our economic system. It is easy to call it late term capitalism, meaning the markets are so “mature” that the only way to grow a business is through the acquisition of a competitor’s existing market share. If the terms “predatory”, “sharp” or “dirty tricks” business practices come to mind, you are on the right track. Capitalism in and of itself does not require winners and losers. It needs competition, innovation, and new, exciting products for a new generation of customers. In other words, capitalism works best when based on fulfilling, and then some, consumer expectations, and not on higher profits for shareholders, aka greed.

What would happen if we did away with money? What if each product or service was sold on its own flaws or merits without the intermediate step of conversion into cash? I’m not saying do away with compensation for those who meet and/or exceed consumer expectations, but isn’t it true with or without the allure of numbers followed by zeros in an off-shore bank account, inventors would still invent? Scientists would still make discoveries and Artists of all kinds would still create?

Why, if we did away with the illusion of a piece of paper having value beyond that of a used napkin, the only class of persons I can see out of work are businessmen, you know, the Monopoly Man (FKA Rich Uncle Pennybags) aka the inevitable middlemen. Didn’t Michael Keaton in Night Shift say something like feed mayonnaise directly to the tuna fish and cut out the middleman? Funny movie and worth tracking down.

Fact: What we have is an economy that is no longer based upon manufacturing. You don’t think so? Both Amazon and Walmart don’t make any products, do they? They do move stuff around into a single location or directly to you for a slightly cheaper price. But both companies are far better explained as an outlier, or phenomena in the service industry and not of products or goods sold. The imbalance and concentration of corporate compensation in so few hands alone, cries out for a new evaluation of who we want to be compensated for and, for what?

How about we start with value. Value to the consumer, and value to society? What does this person or that company contribute to a better life for everyone? (see Rawlsian theory) Silly? Consider the following. Why do we pay more for an actor to imitate a doctor in a movie than an actual doctor to keep us in good health, alive and kicking? Please don’t email me about ticket sales and entertainment value. You are missing my point.

We need to stop basing OUR value systems on the mere ability to generate income, meaning whatever the market will bear, must include an analysis of the utility to do the most good for the most people involved. This is what a sane society does. A sane society pays its teachers a fair salary.

It compensates its first responders, law enforcement and firemen, fairly and not in the faint praise of their sacrifices, one of which is adequate monetary compensation based on their value to us. Let me know if you think Mel Gibson should be paid more for portraying a somewhat suicidal and out of control cop than the guy that keeps you and me safe at night.

Isn’t it time we stopped overly rewarding the segment of our society who “earn” their living, often from the compound interest of compound interest from funds inherited and therefore, not in any true sense of the word, from the efforts of the beneficiaries? Again, before you start running around with your hair on fire, I’m not saying no compensation, but as part of a grand inquiry into and a restructuring of our basic values translated into a fair, workable economy, every stone in the wall must be in its proper place. Otherwise, that wall won’t hunt. Or something like that.

Politicians? Nope didn’t forget them but the fix is so easy, you wouldn’t believe it if I told you. So here it is. What if we tied congressional salaries to the federal minimum wage? 40 hours a week at $7.25 an hour = $290 X 4 =$1,160 a month. I’m sure one of two scenarios would play out, both good for us, the American consumer. 1. A new class of politicians would arrive on the scene with at a minimum a different set of priorities and perhaps even a better understanding of the meaning of “public servant”. Think AOC on steroids. Or 2. Congress keeps raising the federal minimum wage putting more $$$ directly into the hands of consumers who will spend it on, you guessed it, better products and services.

More demand means more production. More production means hiring more workers. When the workers’ salaries reach the point of being able to afford the very products they make, like the Ford Model-T, the all but gone middle class will return. Out of the middle class, more entrepreneurs will emerge to foster the creation of new and better products and services, perhaps many of them tied to information services and green technologies to name a few categories ripe for a tune-up, if not a complete overhaul.

Not quick enough? How about this. As instructed in the Bible outlaw interest payments on loans, or at least a “jubilee” or forgiveness of debt every seven years. It’s in Leviticus. Didn’t know that? Well then, I guess you are still eating shrimp, pork and think persons of different sexual preference are “abominations”.

Again, I can’t make you grow a brain or a conscience. But think for yourself for just one moment, what if I am right? Or, partially right? How good or at least better would all our lives be? A land where the average consumer is king. Not just a Burger King, but the economic force that drives our ability to live a better life? A Meritocracy so to speak? Or, isn’t it time to go back to having it our way? Oh, and about the resurrection of unions…Let’s leave that for later, but not too much later. In the meantime, let’s all try to think outside the Jack in the Box, shall we?

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