Thursday, April 2, 2020

Trump HAD TO do a 180 Turn, Plus the Coming Depression

Preface
For any new readers here, I'm not a Republican or a Democrat.  I, however, have been a keen observer of American politics since 1956.  I'm a strong believer in Capitalism, but not the Crony-Casino-Derivative Capitalism we have today... which is nothing but a racket, and promulgated by the public and private Plutocrats who run this country.
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For the past two+ months, the Administration's lies (or at best, completely ignorant statements) about covid-19 continued on, and on.  Finally, Trump and Crew were forced by reality to do a 180 degree turn on their view of the subject.  No one any longer believed what they had been saying.

Examples of previous statements---
1.  The virus is "tightly contained" in the U.S.
2.  It will be "gone by April".
3.  One day soon, it will "just disappear".
4.  Unemployment will be "nowhere near 20%".
5.  "We're doing very good" [in handling the crisis], very, very good.".  ~ DJT  I assume he meant, "very well".  No, Mr. President, you're not doing well in handling much of anything... not even presently.

Now, Trump has jumped onto the bandwagon... with too little, too late.

Here's the current situation for the USA---
1.  COVID-19 confirmed cases:  over 239,000.  Total number of cases:  unknown.
2.  Deaths:  over 5,800 (which far surpasses those of the 9-11 attacks).
[Numbers above were updated at 8:30 PM, Mountain Time.]
3.  Testing still lagging behind.
4.  PPE for med facilities and First Responders still inadequate.
5.  Unemployment projected/predicted to be about 30% in June.  [It was 25% in the 1930's Great Depression.]
6.  The probability is high that, if we're not already in one, by this summer we'll be in a full-blown economic Depression.  The metrics are all there.

Trump called covid-19 the "Chinese virus".  I guess that makes H1N1 (swine flu) the "American virus".  It, too, was a pandemic; it lasted a bit over a year & a half.  By Trump's reasoning, arguably we could refer to the current situation with covid-19 in the USA as Trump's Epidemic.  His treatment of most of the crisis thus far has been dismissive, inadequate, and ignorant.  Had he taken things seriously in the past 2 - 3 months, we would be in much better shape at the present time.  Until just recently, his main concern has been for Wall Street, not Main Street.

March 7th the U.S. had 401 confirmed cases and 19 deaths.  Compare that to the numbers above.  Because of a slow initial response by the Fed Gov't, this is only going to get worse... much worse.

We can't blame only Trump & Crew, though, for this public health disaster.  For decades, public health funding has been cut again and again and again.  Neoliberal policies promulgated by the Oligarchs and Plutocrats (both public & private) have been the reason.  The cuts started out years ago in the mental health field, but quickly moved to include physical health as well.  Why?  I only can speculate, but consider the following.

1.  The Super Rich live in a different universe than do the rest of us.  I doubt many of them care much about people who have to use public health facilities.  They probably consider such people leeches of some sort.  As long as the Rich can get private health care for themselves, they don't care about public health care.  I mean, in general.

2.  Plus, the Plutocrats most likely don't see any benefit to themselves in having public money spent on such facilities.  They would rather have it spent on something that allows them to get a piece of the pie... such as war machines, highways, or subsidies for the fossil fuel industry... just to name a few items.

3.  In general, Plutocrats/Oligarchs are Neoliberals, and Neoliberalism greatly favors privatization.  The goal is to privatize the whole world, and that goal is well on its way to being met.

Then we have the non-resilient, weak, and generally poor condition of our economy... headed for a Depression.  That can't all be blamed on Trump & Crew, either.  For decades, both public and private Oligarchs have been (in general) converting our economy to one of just-in-time production--- in whatever factories that haven't moved South or overseas--- and to one of suppressed wages & salaries (which means people cannot save for a rainy day), and financialization, and part-time jobs, and reduced benefits, and deregulation (especially regarding Banking), and job insecurity.  As a result, we simply cannot weather much of any type of economic and/or financial storm.  The condition of our economy is almost always extremely precarious, and that's been true for years.  All it takes is one Black Swan to bring it down.

So, what are the general solutions to all of the above?  Specific solutions would have to be proposed by people with specific expertise in several fields.  In general, though, it seems to me the following would be helpful.  First (and I've said it many times here), we must stop drinking the Edward Bernays style Propaganda Kool Aid coming from Oligarchs (public & private) in both major political Parties.  Second, we must get rid of Neoliberalism; it benefits only the Rich and Powerful.  The rest of us get austerity.  Incidentally, in practical terms, there's very little difference between NeoCons and NeoLibs.  Third, we must recognize that our economy has been almost always a Mixed Economy, meaning a mixture of both capitalism and democratic socialism.  [See *** footnote below.]  In that system, unlike Crony-Casino-Derivative Capitalism or Totalitarian Socialism, we can have--- among other benefits--- both a strong economy and a well-prepared and strong public health complex.  It's all possible, but not without ignoring plutocratic propaganda.

*** For any who disagree with the contention that we have some socialism in our system, I offer this---  what do think public roads, public water systems, the VA Health Care System, Social Security, etc. are?  They are socialism in action. I would not prefer to have all roads/highways as private toll roads, maintained by a gazillion different private companies with a gazillion different prices/fees for use.  Would you?  Some utilities must be publicly maintained and operated or else the public, sooner or later, will wind up getting shafted.  Plus, for some things it's virtually impossible to have "competition" play any role at all.  For example, interstate highways--- do you believe that we could have a dozen or more roads--- side by side--- with different fees competing for your dollar, roads running from, say, L.A. to Chicago?  I don't think so.  That's why we have public roads, and that's democratic socialism.  Please get over any distaste for the word, "socialism".  It has been in our system for decades and decades.  Even in the 1800's, we had socialism for the Rich.  Railroads were given vast tracts of lands (on both sides of the tracks, extending way beyond what they needed just for construction) by the Fed Gov't because the politicians wanted to encourage such construction... they knew the value of the railroad system to the country.  Hence, a massive "Handout".  That's socialism.

Not only my opinion.  Be Well

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

President Trump Has Earned a New Title


King Donald the Ignorant
He had some tough competition for the title, but beat 'em all out.  A close second was the Texas Lieutenant Governor.  He basically stated that we should all go back to work.  Even though old people would be put at risk of dying from covid-19's increased spread, they should be willing to do that for the sake of the economy.  Really, Lt. Governor?  You really said that?  You, an elected public official.  Good grief.
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Not only my opinion.  Be Well

Mnuchin is Wrong About Both COVID-19 & the Recession


He recently claimed---
1.  The economy should rebound once the new virus is "contained".  [There are two assumptions in that view:  the bug will be contained; and our economy will or should rebound.]
2.  The designation, Recession, is not "terribly relevant" because it's the gov't that is effectively shutting down large parts of the economy.  The downturn is not due to underlying economic conditions.  Instead, it's due to measures necessary to slow down the spread of the virus.
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All the above sounds reasonable, but is it?  Consider the following.

1.  Containment does not mean eradication.  It means limiting the virus to a smaller number of areas.  The way things are looking, it's too late for that.  [Nevertheless, "flattening the curve" is important.]  This virus, officially designated by WHO as SARS CoV-2 or SARS 2, spreads easily and rapidly.  [SARS = Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome.]  Too many younger people (in particular) appear to be spreading it all over...because, since most cases of infection are mild to moderate, the younger crowd seems to think it's no big deal.  The fact is, covid-19 (SARS CoV-2) is spreading like wildfire both here and globally.  Containment is not likely.  The best we can hope for is slowing the spread and rate of infection (flattening the curve), thus giving the medical establishment time to get caught up, so to speak.  That means rapid testing, isolation, and more PPE (Personal Protective Equipment...for health care staff).

2.  The slow initial response re testing, and the continued slowness of testing, means that this virus is now in all 50 States here...and in people who currently are showing no symptoms whatsoever.  Add to that the instances where people simply are not practicing social distancing at all.  Except for the three cities with large numbers of known infections, I'm mostly convinced that too many people (everywhere else) are not taking proper precautions.  I know for sure they're not in this little valley where I live.

3.  An unknown number of people infected with this bug are going to work.  They're showing no symptoms yet.  Some people with symptoms are going to work anyway; they have little financial choice.

4.  Bottom line re covid-19 in the USA:  it already has become widely spread, and continues to do so.

5.  The Administration is reluctant to use the word, Recession (which we're already in); arguably, we're rapidly approaching a full-blown, economic Depression.  [The 1930's Great Depression, which lasted about ten years, was not so named until halfway through it.]  There are at least two economies in the USA:  one for the top 20% (or so) of income earners; and one for the bottom 80%.  When Trump & Crew refer to "our great economy, the greatest in our history", they're referencing the economy of the top tier, not that of the overwhelming majority of Americans.  Even then, they're inaccurate.  Our greatest economy was during the Golden Age of American Capitalism, from about 1946 to the "Nixon Shock" in 1971.  The Trump years aren't even in the same universe, never mind ballpark, as that economic boom.  By the way, mega biz was taxed at up to 90% then... and they still prospered.

6.  In several fairly recent past posts, I've detailed the reasons for the contention immediately above.  No time or energy to repeat all that, but here's a partial, truncated list of those reasons.

a.  Record national/public, corporate, and personal DEBT...and it's all coming home to roost.  U.S. TOTAL Debt is now over $76.8 trillion.

b.  50% of workers in the USA make less than $33,882 per year.  The Middle Class continues to shrink.  (See:  usdebtclock.org)

c.  The Gov't Jobs Report fails to identify how many jobs are part-time, temporary, or both.  Too many people are struggling with two or more jobs.

d.  The unemployment stats put out by the Feds are always way too low.  See this post:  http://individualsovereignty.blogspot.com/2018/02/the-real-state-of-union-rather-than.html

e.  Many countries are dumping Dollars, forming their own currency exchange agreements, and their own Trade agreements.  Trump has so alienated them that they are by-passing the USA.  Even prior to The Don, the same thing was going on in order to oppose American hegemony.  We are becoming isolated in the world economy.  Other countries are tired of our Govt's bullying.

In addition---

7.  Mega Banks and other Mega Corporations do little to nothing to help increase the number of good-paying jobs and manufacturing in this country.  Despite the current Admin's rhetoric, factories & jobs continue to flow South or overseas.

8.  Bizarre financial Derivatives continue to threaten our Financial Sector and/or our economy and the world's, as well.  Essentially nothing is being done to correct that situation.

9.  Mega monopolization in the Business world is stifling small businesses in the USA.

10.  Rampant Financialization (since the 1970's) continues to destroy jobs and manufacturing, suck up Middle and Lower Class income, and cause an exponential rise in income inequality.

11.  Bottom line re Recession:  even without the covid-19 trigger, we were right on the cusp of the overdue Recession.  The virus wasn't the cause of the Recession we're in now; it was merely the trigger.  The causes I just listed above.  Our economy is not resilient.  Even the workers are always in a precarious situation--- insecure jobs, poor benefits, essentially flat wages, low wages, obscene health care costs, etc.  The economist, Guy Standing, refers to them being in the Precariat Class.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nnYhZCUYOxs
Even people who are doing okay, living paycheck to paycheck, have little to no way of saving for a rainy day.  The Establishment doesn't want them to save.  It wants them to spend, spend, spend... and to increase their debt... so that the consumer society can expand, expand, expand.  Debt will be our downfall.

12.  Finally, on both the disease and economic fronts, this is not about only the USA.  It's worldwide.  On the economic front, most of the "Developed" countries (not only here in the U.S.) are on the cusp of--- or already in ---a Recession.  We in the USA cannot be unaffected by that.  The next Depression, like the last, will be worldwide.
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p.s.  The reason the Dems in Congress haven't yet (as of about 7 AM) agreed to pass the COVID-19 Relief Bill--- or whatever it's called ---is because the money going to corporations has too few to zero conditions on it.  Remember the last Bailout Congress passed re the Mega Banks?  No restrictions as to use of that money.  Did they loan it out to stimulate the economy?  Answer:  very little of it.
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Not only my opinion.  Be Well

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

COVID-19 Has Dealt the Trumpian World a Mighty Blow

Preface
Like other posts here, this one is an essay.  It's not an academic thesis.  Essays usually contain both facts and speculation/opinion/analysis.  So, when you read below (for example) Trump & Crew are rolling back environmental-health-safety (EHS) regulations on a massive scale, don't look for footnotes verifying that.  I don't have the time or energy to do a bibliography on commonly known facts.  If you have doubts about the veracity of some statement, you'll have to do your own research.
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In regard to covid-19, Trump tried his usual (now boring) gaslighting--- lies, contradictory statements, outrageous claims, etc.  That didn't work, so here lately, he had to get off his butt and actually do something.  About 90% of his public statements now are totally scripted (to keep him from sounding like a gaslighting idiot)... and he sounds bored to death reading them.  Every so often, he briefly goes off script and returns to gaslighting; but anyone with any sense at all sees through it.  The Trumpian World is starting to collapse.  A tiny virus is bringing it down.

In the Trumpian World, phenomena such as Nature, ecosystems, conservation of natural resources, biodiversity, and the like count for little to nothing.  At the highest levels, the Trumpistas appear in general to care only about finance, economics, and corporatism.  [I imagine they care about their families, as well.]  I suspect that is why they know little to nothing about Natural Science.  Trump & Crew are rolling back environmental-health-safety (EHS) regulations on a massive scale.  As do many to most Corporatists, they believe forms of pollution are externalities... in other words, pollution need not be considered in the manufacturing, distribution, and pricing of consumer goods.  It's someone else's problem.

The elected and appointed Trumpistas say they represent the common people, but the EHS regulations and standards they're eliminating protect the health and safety of all of us.  In some cases, the health of the planet is being protected as well.  Unfortunately and necessarily, EHS regs usually increase the cost of doing business.  That's why they're being eliminated.  Never mind the health & safety of the common people.  According to the Powers-That-Be, the solution to pollution is to ignore it and/or let it dilute in Nature.  Wow, what genius thinking by ignoramuses in the Executive Branch (and a large portion of Corporate America).

Then along came covid-19.  At the highest levels, the main concern in the Trumpian World was not health, but rather the impact on Business... especially the Financial Sector.  So, the initial response was slow.  The next response was poo-pooing the disease.  The next response was a lack of test kits.  After all, we don't want people to know how widespread the bug is... that wouldn't be good for Wall Street.  [Incidentally, only about 14% (not counting 401k or Pension accounts) of Americans are invested in the Stock Market as individuals.]  All during this whole scenario, Trump is saying it's no big deal, "Relax, it will all pass.".  Off script, he's still saying that.  Meanwhile, in my opinion, the overdue Recession has begun.

Yes, Mr. Pres, just as with the Spanish Flu and the Swine Flu, this too shall pass.  But at what cost in human suffering?  Hopefully, Mr. Trump has learned the following lessons.
1.  Viruses aren't affected by childish gaslighting.
2.  Inept handling of a disease outbreak can have a severe economic impact.
3.  It's not really possible to ignore a pandemic.
4.  It's not really possible to ignore an economic and/or financial downturn.
5.  Business and Wall Street aren't the only things that matter.
6.  Lying about a situation is not usually the best way forward.
7.  Mother Nature is in charge of this planet, not Corporatists.  [By the way, Adam Smith denigrated Corporatists who thought they were "Masters of the Universe".  Some in the Trumpian World think he praised them.  He did not.]
8.  Don't try to ignore Mother Nature, or treat her badly.  You'll regret it.
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Not only my opinion.  Be Well

Friday, March 13, 2020

The OVERDUE Recession is Starting NOW

Preface
Below is the latest email (slightly edited here) I sent to family & friends.  The Recession hasn't officially started, because the Powers-That-Be in Gov't need at least two calendar quarters (I think) of data before declaring it.  Anyone who doesn't have his/her head buried in the sand, though, probably would agree:  this is the beginning.  Act accordingly, as follows.
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Be safe, & keep stocked up.  This is the start of a Recession...possibly even worse, a Depression.  Irrational exuberance re the economy already is evaporating.  Distribution of goods already is being affected.  "Runs" on grocery stores already (just barely) have started.

If anyone never has believed me in the past about the overdue Recession, believe this now:  it has started.  
The covid-19 Black Swan, predicted by Daniel Zhang, is at the beginning of crushing the economy.

We'll all survive that, but those of us with a cache of extra household goods (not just food) will be much more comfortable than others.  Distribution of goods eventually will slow way down...temporarily...maybe only for a couple of weeks, maybe for a bit longer.  It hasn't kicked into high gear yet, but it will...no one knows exactly when.  Stock up... food, OTC meds, paper goods, anything you use daily or weekly.

Thanks to the slow response (& lack of previous preparedness) by most governments--- especially in the USA ---covid-19 sooner or later will infect multiple millions, and will devastate the world economy.  If we all don't pull together on this situation, many fewer millions will die (directly or indirectly).  That's not hyperbole.

p.s.  Worldwide:  140,000+ cases; 5,300+ deaths; 123 countries (including "territories").
USA:  1,650 known cases; 41 deaths; 47 known States.
Compare these numbers to those in the March 10 post/essay immediately previous to this one.
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Not only my opinion.  "Be Prepared"  (A long, long time ago, I was a Boy Scout.  For those who don't know, that's their motto:)

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Latest COVID-19 Stats - Not Looking Good (at 11 PM, I edited the numbers)

Preface
This info is from several sources.  The main one is:
https://ourworldindata.org/coronavirus
Multiple charts/graphs there to analyze.
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Latest Stats---
Deaths
Worldwide - 4,026
USA - 31
Known Cases of Infection
Worldwide - 118,000+
USA - 901 (a short time ago, this number was 2, & in the past 3 days, it has more than doubled)
Global Death Rate
Depending on the information source, the fatality rate ranges from
2.3% to 3.48%.  As I pointed out in the last post/essay, even at one percent covid-19 is ten times deadlier than the flu; and the flu kills up to 650,000 people every year.
Countries and USA States Known to Have the Virus
Countries - 105 (not long ago, this number was 50)
USA States - 36 (not long ago, this number was 7)
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Speculation

Trump recently stated (regarding covid-19), "...and then one day, it will just disappear.".  That's possible.  SARS seems to have done that, but maybe not.  It just as likely could have mutated and hopped back to some animal population.  In the future, it could mutate again in such a way that it jumps back to humans.  In my opinion, instead of Trump's scenario about covid-19, it's more likely that we're stuck with the virus...in the same way we're stuck with the common cold and influenza.  They haven't disappeared.

Like with the cold and the flu, it's possible that warmer weather will scale back infections of covid-19; but it's too early to tell.  It's every bit as possible that won't happen.  One thing's certain:  this virus is not contained.  Despite reluctance by WHO and the CDC to declare it such, it's a pandemic.

Trump is looking very grim these past few days.  He's not concerned about covid-19 infections; instead, he's worried about the impact on our economy, and thus the impact on the upcoming election.  The way he talks about the whole virus situation is truly pathetic.
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Not only my opinion.  Be Well
p.s.  Again, for any new readers here, I'm not a Republican or a Democrat.  Despite what The Don says, this issue is not about politics.  It's about health.


Saturday, March 7, 2020

Here's Why COVID-19 is MORE DANGEROUS Than the Flu

Preface
Stats regarding the 2019-2020 flu season (not yet over) in the USA---
Infections:  over 20 million;
deaths:  over 20,000;
death rate:  .1%  [This is a best guess because not all infections are reported.]
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So, why is covid-19 more dangerous?  The Executive Branch in DC is trying hard to downplay the effects and risks of this new virus.  That's probably because before the virus was detected, Trump cut funding to the CDC and disbanded the global health/pandemic response unit in the Exec Branch.  Now we're in a pickle.  The following is what the Administration is not telling you.

1.  COVID-19 is a new virus... because of that, we have no natural immunity, never mind no vaccine.  World population has been building up natural immunity to the flu for hundreds & hundreds of years.  [Many people still get the flu because viruses mutate faster than bacteria.  Mutations decrease natural resistance to infection, and decrease the effectiveness of flu vaccines.]

2.  COVID-19 appears to spread faster than influenza.  That's based on early evidence, and may change.

3.  Already there are two different strains of covid-19, "L" and "S".  S appears to be the ancestral strain, and L, based on early evidence, seems to be more aggressive.

4.  Even if the death rate of covid-19 is only one percent, that's ten times more deadly than the flu.  The flu kills between 200,000 and 650,000 people per year globally.  Yeah, the flu.

5.  A vaccine for covid-19 is months away, perhaps as long as a year.  Even when it's available, how many new strains of the virus will there be?  In other words, the effectiveness of the vaccine may be questionable.

6.  The flu doesn't have the effect on the world economy (including in the USA) that covid-19 is having.  Brace for bad times.
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Current covid-19 stats---
Confirmed infections:  over 106,000 worldwide and 401 in the USA;
confirmed deaths:  over 3,600 worldwide and 19 in the USA.
Only a few days ago, these numbers were much lower.
When I started this covid-19 series, the virus was known to be in 7 States (USA); it's now known to be in 29 States.  An educated guess:  it's in all 50 States, some just aren't yet confirmed.
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Not only my opinion.  Be Well