An Unfortunate Oxymoron
Ted Folkert – November 17, 2020
One thing we all can agree on is that this virus is awful. It is obviously awful for those infected, but particularly awful for those who have lost loved ones to this dreadful pandemic. The announcements of vaccines is encouraging and provides some much-needed hope for all of us who have been either affected by the virus itself or by the inconvenience of preventative measures which most of us have endured and adhered to.
We are social animals. Staying home is not what we do. Wearing masks is not what we do. Avoiding interaction with friends and relatives is not what we do. Being depressed due to isolation, confinement, hibernation, or quarantine is very painful. We hate it. But it beats the alternative – an alternative that includes spreading the pandemic and infecting more people and enhancing its disastrous impact on humanity. This is a time when we must not only protect ourselves but protect all those we interact with, all those with whom we come into contact.
This is not a time to focus on the profit motive, enhancing our wealth, gaining advantage on those less clever, getting an edge on our competitors, winning the game of wealth accumulation. We have to keep paying our way but we can reduce the impact of unnecessary contact with others until vaccines are broadly distributed among the population and we all feel less vulnerable to this dreadful disease. Once this takes place and we get some positive results regarding the spread we can get back to the normal human impulses which drive the market for goods and services and accumulation of wealth, wealth which we will never spend.
Money, wealth, things, possessions, treasures and comforts and pleasures in life drive the economy, whether that is good or not so good, depending upon your take on the process. But these are also the things which drive diseases and interfere with the control and elimination of such. It is a simple equation, like third-grade arithmetic – the more human interaction, the more spread and the more of a challenge to cure the ailment – the less human interaction, the less spread and the better and faster the recovery.
This isn’t rocket science. It is simple arithmetic, but only if we all cooperate and inconvenience ourselves for a short period of time.
The unfortunate result of this is the negative impact on the economy. That is an impact that is impossible to distribute with any sense of equality. Some of us will be affected more than others. The only salvation is that once we have got the disease under control we can make up for lost time – the pent up demand for goods and service will prevail and we can begin to recover financially. Unfortunately, the longer we resist and delay the healing process the longer and more difficult will be the recovery.
This may be the definition of “oxymoron” but it is the only promising course of action.
We are all in this thing together, we are suffering it together, and together we must be in its defeat.
Rolling Stone Edition – November 2020:
“Biden will be confronted with the challenge of rebuilding a government corrupted by Trump and his henchmen. The current administration, led by a president impeached for inviting foreign interference in our elections, has politicized pillars of our government that previously operated above the fray. Attorney General Bill Barr has acted as the president’s personal lawyer, telling U.S. attorneys that they work not for the people but for the president. Even the Postal Service has become complicit in Trump’s anti-democratic schemes, with Postmaster Louis DeJoy ripping out mail-sorting machines in blue districts to disrupt the election. “At the heart of DeJoy’s and the Postal Service’s actions,” a judge ruled in September, “is voter disenfranchisement.”
Trump is a narcissist and an egotist, a shameless liar and an open bigot, a man who simply cannot understand the notion of sacrifice for the greater good, even as he demands unthinking fealty from those in his service.”
Sean Wilentz tells us that: “Before Donald Trump got himself infected with the coronavirus, he had firmly secured his place as the worst president in American history.” He further tells us: “By refusing to pledge to a peaceful transition of power should he lose, Trump has revealed hid plan for a coup d’etat, with Republican support.”
Tessa Stuart tells us that: “The sheer volume of changes to U.S, policy has been staggering under Trump, and it will take a huge investment of time and money to undo.”
The Rolling Stone further states: “…. the country has been reeling with a broken man at the Resolute Desk. Trump is a narcissist and an egotist, a shameless liar and an open bigot, a man who simply cannot understand the notion of sacrifice for the greater good, even as he demands unthinking fealty from those in his service.”
President Trump is being relieved of duty, a huge step in the right direction for America and the world. Obama started us on a track to placate the disastrous effects of global warming, which Trump calls a hoax. Trump took us back and wasted four years of potential progress. He not only dropped the ball, he never picked it up. Now the Biden-Harris team can pick up where Obama left off and set us back on a path of progress on this potential demise of humanity.
Perhaps we should now heed the words of Savern Suzuki, a 12 year old girl in 1992, 28 years ago, at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro: “I am fighting for my future. I am here to speak on behalf of the starving children around the world. I am afraid to go out in the sun because of the holes in the ozone. I am afraid to breathe the air because I don’t know what chemicals are in it. Did you have to worry about those things when you were my age? You don’t know how to bring the salmon back up stream, to bring an animal back from extinction, to grow back forests where there is now desert. You grown-ups say you love us, but I challenge you. Please make your actions reflect your words.” (Comments quoted from: “Hot, Flat, and Crowded,” by Thomas Friedman.)
Now the ball is in the Biden court!
Prudent Political Punditry
Ted Folkert – October 31, 2020
Thanks to efforts of such true politically-inspired Americans like Jim Hightower, author of the compelling and inspirational monthly serving of “The Hightower Lowdown,” grassroots organizations are alive, well and growing.
His October offering discusses the numerous organizations that are beating the odds against success by pursuing what is right for the benefit of all the people, instead of merely enriching the rich and powerful who have dominated the airways and publication channels for decades while convincing those of us who do the work on this planet that they are our salvation.
Hightower discusses the “newcomers” on the political scene, those who are “rejecting the money-paved political path that has led so many elected officials astray.” He state that “instead of being drawn to politics by the perks and prestige of office, these newbies are driven by community needs.”
His list of newcomer organizations includes: workingfamilies.org, workingamerica.org, poorpeoplescampaign.org, ourrevolution.com, movement.vote, peoplesaction.org, and blackvotersmatterfund.org.
We should all visit “Hightowerlowdown.org” and subscribe to this compelling newsletter which focuses on the working-class instead of the rich and powerful, a meaningful step toward a more democratic society and much-needed action for saving our fruitful planet which we continue to take for granted as we unconsciously abuse with actions which will render it incapable of supporting humanity in the not too distant future.
Think about it!!
How important is this Election? That is the question.
Ted Folkert – October 27, 2020
Why do we need a new president and a Democratic majority in Congress? Because – as Al Gore, Thomas Friedman and many others tell us – “we are destroying our planet.”
Al Gore has been telling us this for decades as was explained in his book “An Inconvenient Truth.” The right-wingers laughed at him, calling him names like “tree-hugger, sissy, girly-man, liberal” – all derogatory expressions by those who are either uniformed, misinformed, cowards who think they are tough, or simply don’t care about the future of the planet to support human life – only what’s in it for them today.
Thomas Friedman tells us in his book, Hot, Flat, and Crowded, that: “We are the people we have to overcome. We have been consuming too much, saving too little, studying too laxly, and investing not nearly enough. Our political institutions are the institutions we have to overcome. As long as our political system and Congress and Senate seem incapable of producing the right answers to big problems, as long as our politicians can only act like Santa Claus and give things away, and never like Abraham Lincoln and make the really hard calls, the greatness that America is capable of will elude us in this generation.”
“If we want things to stay as they are, if we want to maintain our technological, economic, and moral leadership, and a habitable planet, rich with flora and fauna, leopards and lions, and human communities that can grow in a sustainable way – things will have to change around here, and fast.”
He said all this more than a decade ago. It seems that not much has changed. Time is of the essence.
Please think about this before you cast your vote. We need a change and we need it fast. We won’t get it from those we have allowed to rule our country for the last four years or more.
Vote for Change!!
In the Eye of the Beholder
Ted Folkert – October 15, 2020
Donald Trump is a case study in the subject of wealth creation at all costs – without remorse, without compassion for others, without restraint, without any thought of the common good. It would be interesting to have him define the term “the common good.” He would stumble over that one for hours without a definition. Actually, he would probably consider “the common good” an unnecessary subject or condition, believing that all that matters are the rich and powerful and that those not included in that definition are merely only necessary in assisting the wealthy in wealth creation.
Donald Trump’s idyllic board of directors to join him in leading the world probably include Vladimir Putin, Mohammed bin Salmon, Kim Jong Un, Xi Jinping, and other actual or would-be dictators, people he has expressed admiration for and tries to snuggle up with, with that look of sincerity and hardy handshake. Others who we know he admires include Rupert Murdoch, Roger Ailes, Sean Hannity, Karl Rove, Kelly Anne Conway, Tucker Carlson, Rush Limbaugh, Rudy Giuliani, Roy Cohn and others. These probably wouldn’t make the board of directors. They are just sycophants, useful hangers-on, some seeking fame and fortune by exciting the right-wingers with the vitriol they need to spread hate and disinformation to the public – and some for inexplicable reasons such as selling newspapers or enticing TV audiences. As H.L. Mencken once said, “If they say it isn’t about money, it’s about money.” I guess we could say: “If they say isn’t about power, fame, and fortune, it’s about power, fame, and fortune.”
Trump actually admires and channels dictators who have the populace groveling at their feet and shrinking in fear of evoking displeasure. These are the types of world leaders we thought we had helped to reduce in the world as the US became a world power. But never doubt that they are still alive and well and do not seem to be fading into the past. Of course, this is the way Donald’s lecherous father raised him, the way he taught him to use his ill begotten wealth to control everyone in his path and continue to pile up riches to the amazement of the entire world. These lessons had to be reinforced time and again as Donald failed at most every endeavor which he pursued, all with the renewed financial backing of his father, backing which continued to be forthcoming regardless of his failures and which culminated upon his father’s death with an inheritance reported to be about 500 million dollars.
Everyone certainly wants a comfortable way of life and opportunities for their families, but what drives the race for riches? The drive for wealth and more wealth has to be about power and personal image – fame rather than fortune. The reason for such an analogy being that wealth only buys things and how many things can one person buy and enjoy. The more things you buy which you don’t have use for only creates unnecessary management of such assets. So what is the point? How does that make life more enjoyable? If you have all of the pleasures and necessities of life, what more can make life more satisfying, more enjoyable? Some believe it is merely keeping score – that it is all a game and when the game ends the one with the most toys wins.
Most of those of us considered the working-class are basically career-minded, seekers of a reasonable standard of living – people who have no inclination of fame and fortune. Careers are not all valued by money. They are often valued based upon the way that we perceive them.
This is a reminder of that famous story about the circus worker who was shoveling manure and someone asked him why he didn’t get a real job. His response was: “What, and leave show business?”
Maybe those who consider themselves worthy purveyors of political correctness have no remorse about the ultimate results of their actions. Maybe they find solace in their mistaken but useful belief that they are saving those of us who struggle in the trenches of toil from the trenches of poverty.
Show business must be alluring at all levels and fame must be perceived in the eyes of the beholder. Who decided that occupations should be rated by the level of monetary compensation? Is the job of the guy shoveling manure less important than that of the executive? It depends upon your time and place. If you are walking around the circus grounds, do you need an executive? Do you need someone shoveling manure? Who is going to contribute more comfort and importance in the moment – someone providing relief from smelling manure or stepping in it, or someone signing his paycheck? This is a case where the executive needs the guy shoveling manure more the guy shoveling manure needs him. So, who gets to decide which one is more important? Well, it depends on your time and place, and, of course, odor and messy stuff. Basically it depends upon perception, the eye of the beholder.
And some of us think that the rich and powerful who think like Trump are the ones shoveling manure. How much pride and fame and fortune can one wring from outsmarting, outmaneuvering, and separating those less fortunate from their money – those who don’t understand the true values which life offers, values which do not include dishonesty, debauchery, and trickery – values which include doing something which makes them proud to be a useful part of society, someone who cherishes the wholesome life which includes that famous cliché which we call the “Golden Rule – Do unto others as you would have others do unto you,” the cliché which the Trumps of the world really means “Do unto others before others do unto you.”
Vote for Joe Biden. Four more years of Trump, especially without a second term as a goal, could be devastating for the working-class in this country. This, as some have said, is the most important election of our lives now.
We must have a new president to lead us to a government of sanity and world leadership again.
Sour Grapes for Dinner Again
Ted Folkert – October 10, 2020
Our so-called “Tax Code,” a fancy word for “White-Collar Crime,” is a quagmire that creates thousands, perhaps millions, of jobs but produces nothing we can use. It produces no material thing such as food, clothing, shelter, healthcare, or law and order. It merely creates all these jobs to employ clever people and clever tactics to avoid paying taxes. What kind of system is this? It is quite obvious that the working-class pay a greater portion of the income they could use for family benefit to the government than any other financial class.
The tax laws and the ways to maneuver them to one’s advantage takes up many shelves in the public libraries and book stores of our world. Just writing about tax maneuvers is an industry in itself. There are colleges and special education schools which provide nothing but clever methods for avoiding paying taxes. What a waste of intelligent people. This puts food on the table for the accounting profession but does nothing for the production of anything the majority of the populace need or want for sustenance or enjoyment.
Why not eliminate all tax deductions and just tax every exchange of money, whether income or expenditure, by 1% or some other figure which will sustain the government to provide the common needs of law and order and other essential government services. If you earn $100.00, $1.00 goes to the government. If you spend $100.00, $1.00 goes to the government. This would save enough paper used in printing books about tax avoidance to print millions of books about how to enjoy life while protecting the environment we are destroying each and every day, much to the demise of future generations who will live on this planet.
The revered tax consultants of the country can demand any price for their services they choose if they have a track record of finding clever ways of avoiding taxes. What kind of society is it that rewards those who find ways of denying government the funding necessary for providing the services we all need? Well, it is a society which has been hoodwinked by the rich and powerful, those who don’t need any more money, to amass greater riches, which they will never need in their lifetimes, at the peril of those doing the work in this country of providing the products and services to assure these lavish lifestyles enjoyed by the rich at the expense of the workers.
And how can we change this system which enables the rich and powerful and huge corporations to finance political campaigns for those they choose to maintain such undemocratic principles? Well, they say we can do it at the ballot box. And just how well has the worked out thus far? This, of course, is a rhetorical question. We already know the answer. It is like asking the murderer being hanged if the noose around his neck is comfortable. And the problem with this cliché is that they don’t ask us if the noose is comfortable. The rich and powerful and gigantic corporations, many of which do not pay any income taxes, own the government lock, stock, and barrel, and guess who they have over the barrel?
It is what it is.
Ted Folkert – October 10, 2020
Wow, what a brilliant statement! The coronavirus “is what it is.” This is the way our fearless and compassionate president expresses his concern for this devastating pandemic. Where do we start in listing the coronavirus-initiated chain of events and employment impacts in some of our major industries?
According to news reports airlines have cut more than 400,000 jobs in the last few months. These are not minimum-wage jobs. These are middle-class jobs. The chain of events to follow is coming. This amounts to 400,000 people who are now limiting their spending to basic necessities. They have to have food and shelter, but what about clothing, entertainment, education, insurance, transportation, and all the other budgetary items on the list? The full impact of this has not yet reached the economy, getting some help from benefits from employer-provided and government-provided unemployment programs. But the full impact is coming because these programs have time limits. And the fear for the economy is that many of these jobs and those of other effected industries will not soon, or perhaps ever, be restored.
Disney just announced the layoff of 28,000 employees from their theme parks. So, obviously the devastation is not limited to airlines, it affects all businesses which rely on crowds or lots of customers, situations which provide places for distribution of the virus as customers interact face-to-face or in close contact with each other.
These are just a few examples. How about employment at other forms of transportation, housing, household furnishings and goods, entertainment, elective healthcare – all of the other industries which employ us? The labor department has reported that the US has experienced 22 million job losses over the last six months due to the virus and that less than 50% of them have been recovered to date, and that perhaps 5 million workers could face long term joblessness. Unfortunately, in situations such as this, some of these job losses are never recovered as companies realize that they can survive without them or have scaled back operations with limited profitability.
The Real Deal magazine posts a story call “Rent Relief for Retailers is Expiring. Now What?” This could be an unmanageable situation for the retail real estate industry and the retail industry. The industry as a whole is still far from a back-to-normal condition and in an unlikely position to pay agreed rental amounts let alone the backlog of deferred payments.
The term “nonessential” has suddenly taken on a more threatening meaning. No one wants to be determined nonessential when their industry is declared nonessential and starts eliminating nonessential jobs or nonessential employees. Nonessential is the term state governments use to require certain industries to cease or curtail operations in order to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
As the employees from bars, restaurants, movie theatres, gyms and other industries determined to be nonessential hit the job market or join those seeking unemployment compensation the spending must follow the same pattern. Those affected must determine what is nonessential for them. Some eliminate some entertainment expenditures, visits to friends, unnecessary vehicle trips, events which draw crowds, any unnecessary exposure to others.
These events must ultimately take a toll on discretionary spending throughout the economy. It could be tempered by government grants to all US citizens such as some of those already implemented, but this is temporary relief and cannot go on indefinitely. And what happens to the government debt incurred in this process, which will forever require interest payments since the debt will not likely ever be repaid.
The assumptions of some of our prognosticators regarding the declining impact from the virus seem to be missing the mark as predicted. Now those who had forecast a decline and ultimate end to the crisis have backed off and have become mum to the subject. The answer is that nobody knows and all prognostications are merely speculations or wishful thinking. They all come with a lack of certainty and parameters which tend to protect one from miscalculations. So why listen?
Like our debt-ridden, dishonest, embezzling, lying, stealing, and cheating president says when he has no answer or seeks a way to duck blame: “It is what it is.”
I guess that explains it. But don’t try to take that one to the grocery store when your unemployment compensation runs out. And don’t try to lay blame of this on our dear president even though he ignored the crisis in the early stages and declared it a simple case of the flu which will disappear very quickly, ignoring the warnings from our most trusted healthcare advisors, such as Dr. Deborah Birx and Dr. Anthony Fauci. I wonder which medical school Dr. Trump graduated from?
A Fish Story – A Baseball Story
Ted Folkert – September 28, 2020
You know how fish stories go. In the sequence of the fish economy the tiny fish is eaten by the small fish, the small fish is eaten by the big fish, the big fish is eaten by the shark, the shark is eaten by the whale and we kill the whale and scavenge the parts we can use. And, as fish stories go, the fish-story teller usually has an exaggerated memory of the size of the one which got away.
A fish story could help to describe the predicament we are in as a struggling economy. The same pattern of consumption is apparent in the economy of a would-be democracy such as ours. The smaller ones get eaten by the bigger ones and so on up the line, certainly not a democratic process, but one which prevails.
Most of us realize that many small businesses are experiencing an unanticipated slowdown due to the corona virus and the sagging economy. This is a problem with limited solutions for struggling small entrepreneurs. It is also a problem for the real estate industry throughout the country. Some entrepreneurs and realtors have not experienced this but it is almost certain that they will. Unforced closings of small businesses due to lack of business, or forced closings due to municipal government actions or financial failure, obviously cause substantial financial hardships for the business owners and consequentially for the real estate owners who lease the facilities. As a third victim, the lenders for much of this real estate are, or will be, adversely affected due to some property owners being unable to service their loans in a timely manner due to the default of timely rental payments.
Of course, the normal course of action on such defaults for a property owner would be legal steps for collection of delinquent rents or eviction of the delinquent tenants. And the normal course of action for the lender upon default by the property owner would be collection of delinquent loan payments or foreclosure of the property. It is easy to understand such actions in normal times. However, in times like this there are other considerations perhaps should be considered in many cases.
A lender who forecloses on a loan for commercial space will ultimately end up with the property with which the loan is secured. This would be a normal process. But in a time such as this, when everyone in the industry is experiencing cash flow difficulties, what are the chances of the lender re-selling the property or the chances of the real estate owner re-leasing the property in a timely manner and at a rental amount commensurate with the property value and adequate to support the mortgage payment?
Well, the answer to both questions is that the chances in many cases are “not very good.” Who would want to jump into the market when it is collapsing or declining significantly? There are always bargain shoppers or bottom-feeders for troubled real estate in such times as this but such a resolution may not be the most prudent outcome for any of the parties.
If the tenant defaults and the property owner forecloses who will be ready, willing, and able to lease the property at a comparable rental amount?
If the property owner defaults and the lender forecloses who will be ready, willing, and able to buy the property at a comparable valuation?
Perhaps everyone should understand the position of the other party, sometimes referred to as walking in someone else’s shoes. Establishment of a “workout” plan could minimize the financial impact for all parties. Just the cost of litigation, foreclosure, eviction, and re-occupancy would be substantial or perhaps not recoverable for any or all parties – the business operator, the property owner, and the lender. Taking the legal expenses and future occupancy of the property into consideration, perhaps the only prudent decision would be to work it out. Perhaps all must share in the unfortunate condition of the economy. All of us will probably be better off by willingly sharing the pain – pain which will probably be shared whether or not any of the parties are unwilling. Sometimes it is necessary to share the downside when times are difficult just as we are able to share the upside when times are favorable – taking the bad with the good.
Consider baseball as an example. Times at bat are not always successful. They vary according to skill of the batter, the skill of the pitcher, luck, and unexpected consequences. A long fly ball can be a home run or just a big out, but the redeemable part in any case is that the batter will probably get another time at bat. Perhaps unfortunate business owners should get another one too. A batter who hits the ball safely one time out of four, a 250 batting average, is often considered a superstar. Maybe a business owner should get another time at bat. For many small business owners a batting average of 1000 is required, allowing for no do-overs, no second chances, no more times at bat. The question in a foreclosure is “who wins.” And the answer is often “no one wins.”
It seems that it would be more promising to consider a struggling business like a baseball game and give the entrepreneur another time at bat. With the right swing and the right pitch it could be a home run the next time at bat. It happens quite often in baseball. And it could happen often in business during difficult economic times.
The debacle for the consumer as this fish story evolves in the business world is the elimination of competition. Competition is perhaps the most effective element of price control, thereby serving as a check on monopolization. Eliminating competition drives prices higher invariably, much to the obvious advantage to the behemoth business and to the obvious disadvantage to the consumer who has no leverage in an non-competitive market.
This process is easily confirmed by acknowledging the enormous increases in the share values of the behemoth corporations and the enormous increase in executive salaries based on corporate income and growth in recent years, both of which have increased substantially while worker income has declined.
The owners of the behemoth corporations don’t have to talk about the one which got away. They fish they hook, the American consumer, is captured game, only partially protected by the fleeting laws of free enterprise which are legislated and frequently re-legislated in favor of those who provide a substantial portion of campaign funding, sometimes referred as “pay to play.” In baseball, “pay to play” would require paying the umpire to make a call of a dropped fly ball or a tag on a runner in favor of the higher bidder. Our system doesn’t seem to provide a redress of grievances affordable by the American consumer that is commensurate with the financial ability of the corporations who finance the campaigns of our fearless leaders who legislate according to their principles or perhaps their instructions.
Our system of free enterprise certainly follows the principles of a fish story, a process which flies in the face of democracy, that term we cherish and strive for, and it certainly flies in the face of a baseball story, about a game we all cherish as the great American pastime, which is administered on democratic principles. We acknowledge and tolerate “pay to play” in the business world but we certainly wouldn’t tolerate in the baseball world.
A dishonest politician seems to prevail unchallenged. A dishonest umpire would probably be hung from the nearest flagpole.