Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Economy and History

I often stress history because it tells a lot of lessons.

When I was a kid....in 1968....a burger at McDonalds cost eighteen cents.  The soda at the school break area?  It was ten cents.

Seven years later?  The same burger would cost  you around thirty cents, and the soda would have cost around twenty cents.  A substantial rise?  Yeah....partly because of the economy, and partly because of the escalation of oil pricing.

I did some research.  If you were around in 1970 and desiring college in Utah....you would have paid around $390 for the entire year....for tuition.  Books, food and housing would have been the substantial stumbling block for your lifestyle.  Today?  That year of tuition at the same university in Utah is $7000.  The books, food and housing?  Probably triple what they were in 1970.

In 1940, you could have bought a simple plain wood house....for around $3,920.  Today, in a non-urban area....like Alabama....you'd need to spend around $65,000 to get the same plain house.

In 1970, you could buy gas for around thirty-six cents a gallon.  Filling the tank up?  It would around five bucks.

For the greater part of the 1970s....economists generally agree that most folks when thrust into unemployment.....were there for fifteen weeks.  Today?  It's closer to being greater than thirty-seven weeks (more than double).  You then consider that there weren't advertised jobs off the internet, highly trained HR squads in companies, or fancied-up resumes in existence.  You generally had some typist fix up one generic resume and made a few copies of it.  In effect, we have three times the effort, the cost, and the delay built into hiring today.....than in 1970.

Industry jobs?  The economists say that we had around eighteen million Americans in 1970's industry.  Today?  We barely have twelve million occupying jobs in industry.  Automation, foreign production, and smarter production values all helped.  There's probably one million Vietnamese folks who are today part of the American industrial cycle....supporting the needs of America....while residing in Vietnam.  If you had said that in 1970....people would have laughed you out of the room.

Locking things?  In 1970....most folks NEVER locked their car-doors, and probably over half of America never locked the door to their house.  Today?  We not only lock the car-doors, but we invested in car alarms and various devices to defeat the thugs.  Our homes?  Alarms installed, and we all have guns in various corners to meet the thugs head-on.

Economists will tell you that in 1970....roughly one in fifty Americans were on some type of public assistance (food stamps, welfare, etc).  Today?  One in six.  Who paid for the difference?  Well....you the taxpayer.  Could we eventually get it down to one in four?  Yeah, probably so.

In 1970, I had access to four channels (ABC, NBC, CBS, and the Alabama Public Access channel....the educational channel as we called it).  Today?  My dad has the satellite TV deal fixed up and could have four-hundred channels flowing into the house.  To be honest, once it got up to ten possibilities....that was all we kinda needed.  The rest?  Just wasted digital space.

You'd think there was some lesson learned out of this history lesson.  But no.....there's nothing much we can learn.  We are simply walking toward further out and wondering just how big a mess you could fall into.

Simply Observations

A couple of things that I've noticed.

Yesterday....another (the second) flight out of Venice, Italy to the US....was forced to land in Ireland because the steward/stewardesses were extremely sick.  Yep, half-way through the flight, and the crew in the back couldn't handle it.  Two times?  You can guess the deal....some kind of cheap hotel for a day of rest, with food poisoning as part of the deal.  You'd think the airline would have gotten smart and found another deal after the first episode (just last week), but no....they were pretty dependent on staying for more.

There's a science report out there over a guy who had OCD bad, and doctors felt they could change his behavior with some pulses sent to his brain (via a gadget similar to a pacemaker).  Things work out fine and he generally notices less and less OCD.  Then, there's this funny discovery....he's passionate about Johnny Cash music.  Well.....to the extreme.  He won't listen to anything else now....just Johnny Cash music.  You can sense.....there's some scientist sitting out there....who'd like to study this guy and see if you could center into this one part of the brain, and you could pulse it enough....to turn people in Bee Gee's fans, Lady GaGa fans, or maybe even Little River Band fans.

You won't see much mentioned in the press about it.....but the feds showed up in Oregon, with subpoenas and are looking at the way they burned through $500 million in three years for a failed Affordable Healthcare Act web site.  What will happen is a couple of fed agents will do the search warrant stuff.....glean over the bills and invoices....then some idiots will get dragged into a grand jury (fed jury) and talk over how fed and state money was squandered.  All this leads you, the accused, to hire up some $400-an-hour lawyers....who eventually soak you for $20,000, then recommend you try to make a deal to screw another member of the crew over, or accept some plea-deal for two years in a federal prison.  All in all....when you do something this stupid....to lose $500 million....you need to go somewhere for your screw-ups.

This VA thing....if you notice....it's not going away.  There's not only court stuff that will come out of it.....but some murder accusations will be tossed around in various states.  Some VA administrators and doctors....will get called into a grand jury room and have their $400-an-hour lawyers advising them to work plea deals.  It just seems....with roughly eighty billion a year spent on the VA, that we'd be better off to identify the GI's who are deserving of the service required, dish out the yearly cost of a GS-health insurance policy, and just let all these former GI's arrange a local private health deal on their own.  Yeah, cease the VA entirely, and we'd likely save everyone money and hassle.

Finally, I noticed over at Slate this morning....this really positive story out of Bama.  Take a few minutes and read it.  Basically, some guys have been working on construction projects for two decades.  The emphasis is.....build a house for $20,000.  What they found was....yes, it's entirely possible to build a regular house, with all the general features you'd desire, for $20,000.  Now, I admit.....Bama folks aren't picky....they aren't pushing for fancy bathtubs.....they don't care for gourmet kitchens.....and generally, every single house has a front porch of some practical use (based on the pictures I observed).  Maybe folks might glean some knowledge by observing this and get practical on the future of house building, for the folks in dire circumstances.