economy

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In charge of change (another delayed post)

Posted by on 21 Feb 2016 | Tagged as: children, citizenship, climate, economy, editorial, environment, hope, Making a Difference, musings, politics, Politics and War, Uncategorized

The orginal post was almost finished in January 2009. Here is the original, and how I would finish it now:

It seems to me that a lot of the time people expect government to step in and do clean-up, not matter what the troubles, whether big or small. And it seems to me that, sometimes, government just isn’t equipped to do things especially quickly, or in small doses that might be effective before things reach a crisis state.

Now, I believe we are facing a crisis. And I don’t believe that the crisis is “not as bad as” the one we faced in the Great Depression; or the Cold War; or any of a number of Capital-Letter Events this nation and the world have faced. I believe this crisis is unique and will have far-reaching, long-ranging effects. I don’t know that there is anything particularly special or noteworthy about the crisis other than:

  • millions of people around the world are losing their jobs with little hope or prospect of finding a new one with similar (presumably livable) conditions soon.
  • the climate is changing and there are other conditions making agriculture difficult over large areas, causing crop failure and famine for millions of people, with the predictable political upheaval and conflict.
  • posturing and saber-rattling by military and para-military forces around the world, not unlike that before world war one, and world war two, the cold war… and every war and conflict.

It isn’t any one particular scruffy-looking person on a street corner that indicates homelessness is increasing. It isn’t any one particular “For Sale” sign on a street the indicates the failure of banks. It isn’t any one bank failure that indicates economic melt-down.

It isn’t any one particular event that indicates wide-spread disaster, no more than any one particular monsoon or melting glacier doesn’t indicate global warming is occuring (I hope that I don’t need to explain that global warming is happening?).

The signs of increasing homelessness were my first clue that the economy was in bad shape — and getting worse. Naively, I thought government was keeping tabs on things and would somehow have things in place to avert total disaster. Just as I, naively, expected the military to be able to effect winning campaigns.

Of course, I thought the military would have sufficient support from the bureaucrats who ordered them into battle. And I supposed that the regulatory commissions in charge of finances had the resources and rules in hand to avert the kind of disaster that followed the greedy policies prior to the Wall Street crash of 1929.

Naive. Yes. Perhaps wishful thinking as well — wanting to not have to be responsible or reactive to things not immediately under my control. Going about my own business, doing what I was supposed to do. Noticing of course that there were more people on street corners, that food banks were running low, that more houses were for sale for longer… and I noticed these things before they were on the news. Did I stick my head in the sand? Did I expect too much of my elected government? Did I fail to meet my own obligations?

Like a peasant who expected the liege lord to be sure that enough of the tithes and rents and fees were put aside in case of disaster; I have found instead that those relief supplies were long-since consumed by the departing denizens of the manor-house as they hosted others of similar means. Regardless of the origin of the crisis, the peasant children starve, people die. Though good intentions may now take hold, the new lord lacks the resources to contribute in any meaningful way to alleviate the suffering.

The government finds itself in a similar situation today. Though we have a new president, administration, and the legislative branch is also updated, there is little that remains for them to do.

So what are WE, whether peasants or higher-ranking vassals, going to do?

We can choose to //

I suspect that when I finish a post in mid-sentence that I was called away for kid-duty.

In the case of this post, perhaps it was also related to the hip issues I was having that year, or the class I was taking.

I would now alter the term “global warming” to the more accurate, and less-likely to be misinterpreted climate change. The rest pretty well represents my thinking, and, sadly, how prescient I was.

We are seeing the effects of governments’ lack of action in a world-wide, drawn-out recession that seems to stall each time some progress is made. Strange weather patterns of drought, extra precipitation, heat, cold, and winds are becoming more common. Low-lying nations are ravaged by combinations of higher tides and more violent storms. As I finish this post in February 2016 (seven years later), Fiji is recovering from a direct hit from a Category 5 cyclone. The overall U.S. Economy has recovered from the deep economic woes of the past decade, but by creating lower-wage and part-time jobs that keep the poor in their place and benefit the rich and powerful. Those of us who have been “middle class” are less and less likely to have extra for things like savings accounts, visiting relatives who live at a distance…

Politicians, this being a presidential election year, refer frequently to helping the “middle class” which increasingly, by their metrics, includes families who are barely scraping by. And families earning a quarter million dollars a year. They rarely talk about working class people, or those who live in poverty while working more than full-time hours at multiple jobs.

Finally teaching, I see the effects of twenty-plus years of misguided political directives on my students. In the failed refusal to support young families by means other than the barest minimums; by failures to fully fund education (Washington state legislators, I am pointing this finger at you); by ignoring overseas hostilities and human rights violations until the issues turn into full-fledged war; and by an increasing disregard for the realities of life on our planet, in part because of irrational fears over science (or is it self-serving economics that makes these politicians work to protect fuel sources that damage the planet and fail to promote measures that heal?).

I am angry about this. My sons, now grown into fine young adults, are starting out in a world that reeks of protectionism, isolationism, racism, and secularism. The founders of our nation would be shocked to see the petty tyrants mow fighting for supremacy in our land. They would be, I think, appalled at the careless disregard for human life, for dignity, and for giving all people a fair shot at pursuing happiness.

So here we are, seven years on from the original post, and I am still wondering if the people of the United States have the fortitude to do what is necessary to take back our nation. Do we have the wisdom to make changes in our personal lives in spending/purchasing, work/career, civic duties?

I purchased a used hybrid car to make my commute of over 30 miles each way to save on gasoline even though it is a big chunk of my take-home pay. We recycle, even though hauling it to the curb twice a month is inconvenient (our driveway is longer than most yards!). We eat mostly locally grown, mostly organic foods that are expensive, but have a lighter footprint for fuel and carbon production. My peculiar allergies mean we purchase many things that come from a great distance but, where we can, we do choose local! We vote…

What can you do? What will you do?

{edited several times for typos due to composing on an ipad… ]

Just angry enough…

Posted by on 21 Dec 2011 | Tagged as: citizenship, economy, editorial, politics, Uncategorized

…to post my extreme dissatisfaction with the United States House of Representatives for leaving all of us working people in the lurch, wondering if we will have enough left over to make ends meet in the new year. THEY have gone on vacation, secure in the knowledge that their transportation to and from work and home is paid for (by tax payers), that their health insurance (paid for by tax payers) is ready to go if they get a boo-boo while skiing on vacation, that their homes are not under foreclosure, their refrigerators have enough food, their winter jackets are warm and their hearths are cozy.

Not so for us, the tax payers. We pay them to do a job, and they have not done it. We pay them to monitor, adjust and rethink the infrastructures that allow us to benefit from OUR hard work. But WE, the tax payers, the WORKERS are seeing our real incomes erode, whether from job loss, cutbacks in hours, increases in costs to work (transportation being an important one), increases in the cost of food, clothing and medicine. Increases in the necessities.

Granted, the intended temporary decrease in payroll tax places a greater burden on the social security system in the future. But at this point in time, raising that back to the original amount creates a current, real, measurable, and potentially devastating hardship for those of us who are close to the edge. And those who are already having to put off buying groceries, or pay the light bill, or wait to seek medical care? It will hit them, too.

The less money we have in our pockets for the necessities, the less we have (obviously) for luxuries. Let’s face it: Right now, our economy depends in great measure, on people having money and time to spend on luxuries — movies, dinner out, consumable goods, leisure activities and supplies.

So the House of Representatives thinks they have earned a vacation?

Let’s give them one next November. Let’s give them a nice, long, extended vacation where they will have time to search for a new job. Maybe if they feel the pinch of insecurity they will have more compassion for those of us who are already searching for jobs, or feeling insecure in our jobs, or employed but wondering how to afford the increased costs when income is stagnant or declining.

UPDATE: December 27, 2011

So the House pulled its head out of its posterior long enough to pass the two-month extension that the Senate had already passed. Before going on vacation. What chutzpah! So now we have two more months of congressional ineptitude and posturing to contend with while people who are more interested in campaigning to keep their seats try to figure out how to squeeze the citizenry of the United States even dryer.

Here’s an NPR story on what’s going on Congress Really is as Bad as You Think.

I’d wish us all a happy new year in a few days, but I just don’t feel that optimistic.

LATE Blog Action Day…

Posted by on 29 Oct 2011 | Tagged as: blog action, caring, economy, environment, food, Gardens and Life, Giving, good things, Green Living, Uncategorized

I was so distracted by the trip I took this month that I completely forgot to post for Blog Action Day (which was on October 16).  So here is what I would have said, had I been less distracted, and more alert.

Food is good.  Next to air and water, it’s an essential.  And yet, too many people around the world, and in my own country which is known for abundance, have too little to eat.

It’s not just that they can’t afford the food, sometimes it is that food that nourishes is simply unavailable, as in many places where drought, flood and other weather problems have destroyed the crops or livestock on which people depend. It may be that there is abundant growth in the fields, but not food crops: many farms have switched to corn and other plants that are used in fuel rather than as food. And, it may be that the food that is grown locally is shipped elsewhere, around the world, so that the local people don’t have access.

Could it be that there is really too little food for our world? We just passed the 7-billion-person mark. That’s more than twice as many people now alive on earth than there were when I was born. About 1.5 billion new people since my children were born. Check out the BBC’s online app “What Number are You?” I read today that by mid-century there will be as many people just in urban areas as were in the entire world about 100 years ago. That is, to me, a startling, alarming idea. People in cities generally lack the ability to grow food at all — they must rely on outside sources, so they are more vulnerable to fluctuations in supply, and more vulnerable to unscrupulous sellers who charge premiums on the foods that are available for sale.

What can we do to provide food for more people? We are learning – too late – that when the climate changes we have very little ability to prevent weather-related crop losses. We are learning – too late – that when cropland is converted to industrial zones or suburbia it is very expensive and sometimes impossible to go back. We are learning – too late – that the more people there are on earth, the harder it is to keep fuel costs (both monetary and environmental) down, and the more expensive food and other necessities become.

We are also learning that sometimes the old ways (pre-industrial) work best: Ranchers are returning to free-range practices that restore and preserve grasslands; farmers are returning to no-till (very labor intensive) and organic farming practices which can restore and maintain soil structure and health; urban people are beginning to think about living locally, eating what is in season rather than importing foods from around the world. We are learning that good food, healthy food needs to be available from an early age, so that children learn to eat and prepare healthy food and to avoid or minimize consumption of less-healthy food. We are learning that sometimes less can be more, when we eat foods closer to their natural state without added sugars and salts we tend to be healthier.

I don’t have answers, or even any real suggestion this year. I do have a desire to make this world livable for my children and the rest of the planet. What can I do in my own life to promote healthy food for more people? When I grow food in my garden I can give some of it away to the food bank, necessary now more than at any other time in my life. When I prepare foods for my family I can use in-season, less-processed foods (which are both less expensive and healthier). When I participate in public debate about land use I can advocate for both open spaces and public gardens so more people can grow part of their own food. I can support organizations that help people in weather-stricken areas to eat for now and reclaim their croplands as soon as possible.

I can do little things. If we all do little things, together, we can make a big difference in the health of the rest of the world.

Blog Action Day — Climate Change

Posted by on 15 Oct 2009 | Tagged as: blog action, climate, economy, environment, Gardens and Life, good things, Green Living, Peace Making, politics, rain, Uncategorized, weather

Climate change has been a focus of many debates, some panic, and a lot of misinformation in my lifetime. Things have been coming to a head lately, as climate seems to be at least partly behind many extinctions and local ecosystem failures. And the world seems to be no closer to any agreement on things related to climate change, including and importantly, the sharing of resources as diverse as raw materials, training/education and energy sources.

I read a lot of the BBC articles that are posted on their website. Here is one from last weekend: ‘Scary’ Climate Message from Past

And here is one from Monday, What Happened to Global Warming?

In the interests of full disclosure, I do believe BOTH that climate change in the last 200 years is accelerated by human industrial and agricultural activity AND that our world experiences wide-ranging cycles in temperature, rainfall and sunlight. I don’t see the cyclical nature as being incompatible with the concern over “global warming” — certainly the “average” temperature fluctuates, as does the temperature daily.

The main issue, as I see it, is whether the range of temperatures in any given area remain close to historic normal ranges. If the average temperature in August where I live is 65, then it is important to me if that average is reached with highs of 70 and lows of 60 or if it is reached with highs of 80 and lows of 50. Or more extreme. And the same with the average annual temperature…

It is also important to consider when the rain falls – and the water retention that is available. Where I live, year-round water has been abundant for thousands of years, with many aquifers fed by slow snowmelt (some from glaciers) after rain in the winter was stored in the mountain snow pack. With warmer, drier winters and longer spring rains, that snow pack melts more and earlier than normal. Which means our rivers (formerly abundantly filled with salmon) run low earlier in the year, and for longer. It also affects the farmers on the other side of the mountains, who rely on the rivers for irrigation during their long dry season.

Finally, as a person who struggles with mood and energy during the traditional long gray “rainy” season, I admit that a few days of sunshine in the middle of December and January and February always lift my spirits. I get more done, and have more energy for fun things after. However, the sunlight means less rain and has the effect of confusing plants that are adapted to a long, dark season. We have lost a few plants to this, and over time more will fail.

Climate change will have different effects in different parts of the world. I am not a climatologist, I am a gardener, a mother, a person who wants to see humanity as a whole prosper in a beautiful, abundant world.

Right now, I continue to be worried. And I continue to be hopeful that our species’ adaptability and intelligence will allow us to find ways to help the world prosper along with us.

Blog Action Day

Posted by on 12 Oct 2009 | Tagged as: blog action, citizenship, climate, economy, environment, Gardens and Life, Green Living, poverty, rain, social justice, Uncategorized, weather

Coming this Thursday. I plan on posting something, though likely minor. The topic this year is “climate change.”

If you are interested in seeing who else is participating, check out BlogActionDay.org. And check back Thursday — even if it’s only a set of links, I will post something.

Punxatawney Phooey

Posted by on 03 Feb 2009 | Tagged as: climate, economy, environment, garden, Gardens and Life, good things, Green Living, health, hope, Making a Difference, parenting, Peace Making, politics, Politics and War, poverty, social justice, Uncategorized, weather

I don’t know what the groundhog saw yesterday — my life is so busy, I forgot to check! Still, it does feel that Spring may be in the air in the Pacific Northwest. At least it was for today. Sunny, warm enough to be outside without a hat…

The hyacinths under the medlar are already sending up shoots, as are the bright pink tulips by the front door. The irises have nice tall lanceolate growth, and the fruit trees are beginning to bud out. I went outside today in fact, and pruned a little bit on my plum tree. Will take pics of the branches I brought in to force when it happens. A few days from now…

There are trailing blackberries beginning to take over a couple areas of the yard, and himalayan blackberries in places they have never been before. I will be itching to get out in the yard with the children on warm and dry days now… they can pull in an hour what would take me all day.

On a slightly different thread:

Our planet continues to debate the reality of global warming and what governments should do about it. Well…

Two weeks ago I noticed that we have passed 60,000 kWh on our electric meter — remember this house was put on the land for us in 1999, so all that power we have used is really just ours. Makes you think… how much power even our family uses. Of course, for some of those years we were homeschooling, and during the winter if I don’t have bright lights in the house I can’t function; both of those added to the use of power at home. But those points aside, I am trying to think of ways to conserve just a little more. In fact, today I decided to NOT have the TV on in the background while I worked. We’ll see if it makes even a dent.

The pluses for our family’s power consumption are that we don’t have airconditioning, and despite very warm temperatures sometimes, our house usually stays comfortable. The forced air heat for cool seasons is not as completely warming as radiant heat, but for now we stay comfortable enough, especially if we put on a sweater in the winter. with global warming becoming an increasing concern, I am conflicted about using propane for heat, cooking and hot water… but since part of our power also comes from a small coal plant to the south, propane does seem a cleaner heat source (I used to think all our power came from the dams, which have their own set of problems of course).

We live too far from town to reasonably car pool, and there is no bus service (on which I have commented/ranted more than once). I cannot ride a bike at the moment, but Tom and the children often do, to the little store or to my parents and to friends’ houses. It works out. We do “bundle” our trips into town as much as possible, and try to keep the cars in tune so they get the best possible mileage. And since trips into town usually entail some shopping, we try to bring reusable bags/containers and buy things with minimal packaging. But convenience does win out, more now that I am in school, and often enough to get my conscience a little bothered.

A plus to saving energy and materials is that we spend just a little less, and eat a little more healthily. Though we are not scraping bottom, our margin right now is much less than I like. And we are trying to model good world citizenship for the children. Every little bit helps!

Back to the original thread: Spring will be here soon. My garden needs work to be ready. I need work to be ready. Spring is a time of new beginnings. We can make fresh starts, try again to be what we dream of. We won’t be perfect, but how nice that we can be better!

Next Steps

Posted by on 20 Jan 2009 | Tagged as: caring, citizenship, economy, friends, fun, Gardens and Life, Giving, good things, hope, Making a Difference, parenting, politics, Politics and War, poverty, social justice, teaching, Uncategorized

Well, after the partying is done and the confetti is swept up, after the last tourists have returned to their homes and life in D.C. resumes its normal frenetic pace, the president, his administration, congress and the people need to get on with life. The rest of us… we need to get on with life, too.

We were all urged, during the president’s first official speech after his swearing in, to be willing to go the extra mile, to do more, to demonstrate that, while the citizens of the United States have many good things, they are also tough enough to do the right thing. Like my grandparents, who were young adults during the Great Depression, we need to focus on the really important things in life, pull together and support each other, and do what we can.

I don’t know about you, but I was motivated by this. I had been putting off finishing the readings for my homework this week — and finishing the short paper that is due tomorrow. I decided that, blurry vision or no (I have an eye infection that makes it hard to process what I am seeing), I could do this. So I did. The readings are done, the paper nearly so (just tying up loose ends).

What else can I do? I will meet in a couple days with a student I normally see on Monday because the holiday meant we didn’t have a chance to work together and I don’t want to go two full weeks. I will meet for a snack with a friend on Friday. I will spend some time tomorrow looking for my address book so I can send out some new year’s notes. Connecting with people seems to be a good thing to do right now.

And next? Try to figure out a way to study for the next set of tests I will take… contact the school to be sure I am on the right track with my studies. Get my financial aid form filled out as soon as our current year’s taxes are complete. Clean out the closet, finding the clothes that I no longer wear that may yet be useful to others. Get the rest of the bookshelves up on the walls so I can walk around the house in bare feet again — the boxes of books are a bit in the way. And pick up the knitting needles and the rest of that large skein of yarn…

These sound like such baby steps. But they are important, to my productivity and to my family and friends, and to the people in my community. I am not likely ever to make a direct difference in the life of somebody in Africa or Asia, or even on the other side of Washington state, but perhaps if this corner of the world is a little better because of my actions, then the rest of the world will follow.

Our children are watching us! Are we teaching them how to take charge of less-than desirable situations and make the best of them that we can? Or are we teaching them how to complain and wait for rescue (remember the princesses in Shrek III)? We don’t have to solve everything today, or overnight, we just have to make a start.

The next steps are the first steps.

Prices Fluctuating

Posted by on 13 Jan 2009 | Tagged as: economy, editorial, Politics and War, poverty, Uncategorized

After several months of overall fuel prices dropping in our area (we got down to $1.76 for gasoline at the closest stations), they are now rising again.  Almost 30 cents in two weeks at the local station which yesterday was at $2.08).  No, it’s not my imagination, here is a link to KIRO TV’s article about the phenomenon.  What I don’t understand is why the prices rose so quickly, so dramatically, in the absence of any obvious trigger.  Yes, it’s winter — but usually gasoline prices fall in the winter.  Yes, we had a massive snowstorm followed by major flooding that cut off our section of the country for a few days.  But gasoline (and natural gas) here is delivered primarily by tanker ships and pipelines — our fuel supply was not limited.  And prices rose before new deliveries were made…

Washington state does not have a law against price fixing or profit-taking on necessities.  Perhaps it needs one. Meantime, we will cut back even more on our driving, as much as possible, given that the reduced gasoline prices were almost offsetting the increased cost of food. I really don’t know how people who are close to the edge financially are coping.

Behind Again…

Posted by on 07 Jan 2009 | Tagged as: children, climate, economy, environment, Gardens and Life, rain, Uncategorized, weather

and it’s only a short week into the NEW Year!

I still need to finish going through and editing the photos from the trip to Victoria, now almost two weeks ago. I want to blog about my new class… and will. Soon. Maybe tomorrow. I hope.

But this week has been hectic, in part because one of the children is STILL not back to school, the other one has begun rehearsals for the school play, the other one has been going to debate practices (even though school is out they are meeting at a local college), my new classes are …interesting but I have not had time to stop and just think to get the reading and writing done. Not too challenging, I think — not after last quarter, but still it will be time consuming. And my new glasses won’t be ready until Friday at the earliest. Which means my reading is slow right now because I can only stand so much close work at a time.

And today… it’s raining. No, really. we have had close to 4 inches here at home, if not more, since yesterday late afternoon when it began. Some places have more, most have less. BUT — with the melting snow and the saturated soils… It looks like the same areas that flooded thirteen months ago (December 2007) are getting washed out again. Highway 8 between Olympia and Gray’s Harbor is closed again, at about the same spot as last time. And our favorite BBQ place is right there — they were due to reopen any day! Interstate 5 is being watched carefully as the Chehalis River comes up again… All of this as our state is beginning to really feel the effects of the RECESSION that has already caused so much distress around the world.

Have I ever mentioned that it tends to be very wet here in the winter?

Election Night

Posted by on 04 Nov 2008 | Tagged as: citizenship, economy, education, environment, Gardens and Life, good things, musings, parenting, Peace Making, politics, Politics and War, poverty, social justice, Uncategorized

It appears, from very early returns and exit polls, that Barak Obama will be the 44th president of the United States. This is an historic day. Despite my hating to hear people use this phrase indiscriminately, in this case it is true. The people of the United States appear to have elected a person who is not of 100% European extraction. For the first time.

Recognizing that returns that are counted later this week — and next week — could change the outcome (as I write this fewer than 50% of all ballots had been counted), my heart says the reported results are probably correct. The news media have “got it wrong” before…

NOW comes the real test of my fellow citizens: can we work together now to address the pressing issues, to rectify the failed policies of the current administration, to regain our standing around the world as a true leader?

If you voted, good for you. If you didn’t, and you were registered, I hope next time you will vote. If you were eligible to vote, but not registered, I urge you to take the first available opportunity and get registered. In my own opinion, LOCAL races are the most important — the ones that have the most immediate, most personal meaning for citizens. And local elections are held frequently, annually at a minimum, even up to three times a year sometimes in our area. Most actual “seats” — the offices to which people are elected — are elected every two to six years. But there is generally at least one office on the main ballot for the year.

And there are usually levies for the local schools as well. Remember, our country’s future — and the comfort of your retirement someday — depend on the youth being educated properly. Even if you are not (never have been, never will be) a parent, consider the people who cook the food in the restaurants, the people who drive the trucks and handle public transportation… consider the nurses who will administer medication, the judges who will decide legal issues, the scientists who may (or might not) find a cure for your aches and pains. The good work of these people depends on good education. And good education depends on the support of the communities schools are found in. [Please note, this is also a plug for you to MENTOR youth, to VOLUNTEER to help the schools – in the classrooms or in fundraisers, to BE PRESENT in the life of a child, an adolescent or a young adult.]

Stepping off my soapbox now…

Congratulations, U.S.A.! Record numbers turned out to vote despite long lines, bad weather and other obstacles. Democracy in action.

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