DoomwatchTM vs. Timesizing®
Collapse trends - Dec. 11-20, 2000
[Commentary] ©2000 Philip Hyde, The Timesizing Wire, Box 622, Cambridge MA 02140 USA (617) 623-8080
12/17/2000 weekend omens -
12/15/2000 omens -
- [Here's another one about the current irrelevance of the unemployment rate as a gauge of the inadequacy of our current economic design -]
Fully employed, but hungry - More in Oregon face hard choices, by Sally Bourrie, Boston Globe, A8.
...Oregon [right next to megabillionaire Bill Gate's Washington state] has the nation's highest rate of hunger, according to the US Dept. of Agriculture, and one of the highest rates of "food insecurity." The hungry aren't on the streets, though they may be living in their cars. They are overwhelmingly white, and...three-quarters of the hungry households have full-time jobs.... In Oregon, it's not hard to earn more than poverty-level wages and still lack food....
[Gee, maybe that's because our incumbent "representatives" have absolutely no incentive to define a realistic poverty level. But here are some other possible reasons -]
[Photo caption on p. A9 -] Kathleen Bishop, [holding baby and] handing milk to [older] daughter Kara, says she must choose between paying rent or buying groceries.
- The state got a jump on welfare "reform" [our quotes - ed.] by implementing its own program in 1994, and may be displaying problems earlier than elsewhere.
- There are also high housing costs.... Housing costs have risen twice as fast as income since the mid-1980s..\..
- a wide and increasing gap between rich and poor, and
- an economy where low-paying service jobs have replaced some unskilled and better-paying manufacturing and union work.... From 1978 to 1998, the proportion of Oregon jobs paying less than $25,000 increased from 30% to 35%. A 1999 study by the Northwest Policy Center at the University of Washington calculated Oregon's livable wage at $34,000 for a family of three; the federal poverty standard is [still down at] $17,050 for a family of four....
12/14/2000 omens -
- Debt worries spread beyond Europe's phone carriers - $250B in telecommunications debt will come due in the next year, by Edmund Andrews, NYT, W1.
FRANKFURT...- First there was the dream. Now there is the debt.
[So true in so many areas, usually mongo corporate debt taken on to finance giganto takeovers, but not this time...]
In their headlong rush to build a "third generation" of advanced wireless communication networks, European telecoms companies have already spent nearly $90B this year just to acquire licences...
...and will have to spend much more than that before they sign up their first new customer.
Investors have already been badly frightened by the immense new financial burdens, driving down the price of European telecom stocks by about one-third in the last year.
[Well, since most "investors" are functionally speculators these days, and since governments may be the recipient of the license fees - and may centrifuge that $90B and get it reinvested in consumer markets and economic dynamism, this may not be so bad. However -]
...Now anxiety is spreading to financial regulators, who are in turn worried about the exposure of banks and other lenders. ...The Bank of England warned that some of Europe's biggest telephone carriers may have trouble refinancing their loans and that some lenders may be at risk. Noting that about $250B in telecom debt is coming due in the next 12 months, the bank said that many companies may have to pay more to refinance their loans and that bankruptcies of smaller telecom carriers "cannot be ruled out."...
[Sort of like Digital Broadband today (12/15/2000) and HarvardNet (12/07) over here as the DSL market melts down?]
- [Gov't "Responsibility" Dept.]
Audit says Massport donated over $600,000, by Matthew Brelis, Boston Globe, D3.
...[to irrelevant organizations] even as it struggles to pay for its more than $300m share of the Big Dig....
[Compare another article today -]
MBTA ["the T"] seeks to cut personal services contracts - Agency retirees focus of move, by Thomas Palmer, Boston Globe, B4.
They worked for the MBTA [Mass. Bay Transportation Authority] for 23 years, earning full pension and health benefits. Then they retired. Then they came back to the MBTA, in some cases the very next day, earning a paycheck and retirement benefits. It...is costing the cash-strapped agency $746,410 per year, according to T records....
12/13/2000 omens -
- Company defaults are expected to triple, Reuters via NYT, C9.
The number of U.S. and Canadian companies defaulting on debts can be expected to triple over the next year to total 385 to 450, according to Moody's Investors Service, the credit rating agency. Some 114 have defaulted in the last 12 months, the company said....
[Let's split the diff, round off and call it 420 - and these are only the ones big enough to show up on Moody's radar screen.]
The principal reasons more companies will default, Moody's said, \are\
Credit quality has been in a pronounced decline this year, and lenders and investors have become much less willing to extend or renew credit.
- rising leverage resulting largely from debt-financed mergers and acquisitions
- rising credit, energy and labor costs
- "event risk" resulting from litigation
[Ah yes, litigation. The American dream has turned into hitting the lottery or suing the deep pocket.]
[Ah, here it is at last. The proximate depression trigger from the late 1920s finally emerges explicitly in the pre-Depression, learnt-nothing-from-the-'30s America of the year 2000.]
- Despite [booming] economy, hunger remains - US working poor finding it difficult to make ends meet, by Richard Benke, AP via Boston Globe, A9.
[Don't sweat it, Richard. You won't be able to mistake this for a booming economy much longer, and then you'll be able to report on widespread starvation in America, not just hunger.]
...Housing and fuel prices have exploded and health care, prescription drug and car repair costs aren't far behind. That's leaving precious little for food budgets this holiday season, almost five years into the welfare reform act's efforts to move people off welfare and into jobs.
"A lot of people that eat here have jobs," said chef Joe Cailteux, cooking up ham, noodle casserole and green beans at Albuquerque's Salvation Army kitchen. "As a matter of fact, we have scheduled the hours that we feed here in order to feed the people who do attempt to work."
A year ago, the US Conference of Mayors found that demand for emergency food assistance grew 18% over 1998 in 26 cities....
[What do our spoiled CEOs and employers say about this? "It's their own fault" or more often, "That's their own choice."]
"It does become a choice between do I take my child to the doctor, pay my utility bill or go to the grocery store and buy food?" said Cindy Cerf, spokeswoman for St. Mary's Food Bank in Phoenix, which distributes 30m pounds of food a year....
[Don't believe us about the cluelessness of CEOs and employers? Go out and meet 44,000 Americans this year as Phil Hyde did to collect 10,000 signatures for a US Senate run vs. Ted Kennedy. It takes 80 signatures a day for 5-1/2 months, and at least once every two weeks you run into an employer who knows absolutely no one who isn't as well-off and self-determined as he is. Talk about "insulated." Some great feedback system we got here in this country - the people with all the decision-making power have so much money that they can easily insulate themselves from the negative consequences of any decisions they make, so their bad decisions go on and on and on.]
The prevailing glow of affluence also can make helping the needy trickier: "It's a little harder to convince people there's a whole group of people who have been left behind by that prosperity"..\..said director Melody Watenbarger \of\ the Roadrunner Food Bank in Albuquerque..\..
Fred Grandy, recently retired as president of Goodwill Industries, says welfare reform was a turning point for that organization. Last year , he said, Goodwill served 373,000 people - three times the number for 1995. "It's a work in progress," he said. "Replacing welfare with work is good idea, but it is a long-term strategy, not a short-term fix."
- A US Agriculture Dept. study last year found 10m families, or 9.7% of US households had inadequate access to food in 1996-98. New Mexico topped the list at 15.1%.... "These aren't people who are depending on welfare," [Cerf] said. "It's just that they're at the low end of the pay scale."...Food stamp rolls dropped 28% after welfare reform [because, according to] Agriculture Undersecretary Shirley Watkins who supervises the foodstamp program: "...There was a lot of misinformation." So people turn[ed] to food banks. The Roadrunner Food Bank [this year] distributed...double the amount since last year, said...Watenbarger. "The flaw in that is we can't do it - we were designed to be emergency food suppliers...."
[So America "the richest nation" has let itself slip from charity for emergencies, to charity as standard operating procedure.]
- ..\..Also suffering are people whose jobs don't include health benefits, said Sister Paulette LoMonaco, exec. director of Good Shepherd Services in New York City. "Their salaries aren't sufficient to provide benefits or a living wage, so when a small problem comes up, it becomes a catastrophe," she said.
- ...The Energy Dept. estimated heating bills for natural gas consumers would be 50% higher this winter than last \with\ soaring demand, low inventories and expected colder weather....
- Rents have skyrocketed so much in 38 metropolitan areas that the US Dept. of Housing and Urban Development broadened its rent-subsidy program this month....
[No, it isn't even a long-term strategy, Fred, because there aren't enough good entry-level jobs now, and with evermore robots pouring into the economy, and immigrants flooding into the job market, and Americans totally clueless about sharing the vanishing work by enforcing our existing overtime laws let alone redesigning them to convert overtime into training&hiring and cutting the workweek, not the workforce, there are going to be many fewer good entry-level jobs in the longer term. If we're so rich, we need to share the wealth, but you can't do that without spreading dependency unless you share the wealth by sharing the work. But the human work is vanishing. Any attempt to claim that it isn't ignores the waves of robot workers that are pouring into the economy and the flood of makework for humans that has resulted because we have converted the promise of technology - more financially secure free time - into the curse of underemployment by downsizing instead of timesizing. The solution is obvious. We need to reverse our current short-term strategy and start timesizing, not downsizing, trimming the workweek, not the workforce.]
12/11/2000 omens -
- Delta files appeal, wants pilots to work overtime, AP via Boston Globe, C2.
ATLANTA - ...The nation's third-largest airline..\..yesterday appealed a federal judge's refusal to force pilots to work overtime.
[Time to boycott Delta, folks.]
US District Judge Willis Hunt Jr. ruled Monday that Delta did not have enough evidence to prove that the Air Line Pilots Assoc. had coordinated a campaign against overtime.
[So what if they did?! If your union can't protect you, who can?]
But Hunt warned the pilots' union that he saw evidence of an ongoing and illegal concerted effort by the pilots to avoid overtime flights....
["Illegal"? What BS! The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 sets the 40-hour workweek as the maximum work per person since 1940. If we can't even enforce that, we might as well repeal the Emancipation Proclamation and crash all our planes and buses intentionally - since transportation accidents rise steeply during overtime.]
The airline appealed the decision to the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, saying Hunt misinterpreted the Railway Labor Act, which prohibits "self-help" and other job actions by airline and railroad employees.
[Huh? Sounds pretty strange. If that's a correct reading of this law, why not be honest about it and just repeal all labor legislation? Dismantle all power and wealth centrifuges in this economy and see how long the unbounded concentration of wealth survives without crashing into the biggest depression in history. "The more concentration, the less circulation."]
...The airline depends on [overtime] for about 5% of its flights.
[Then get some competent managers who can reduce that percentage. If the pilots are squawking, it's still dangerously high - dangerous for air passengers.]
Hunt's ruling said that shile he had "found that there is an ongoing concerted effort on the part of Delta pilots to refuse overtime work," he was at a loss to determine who to enjoin related to the activity....
[Well, it sounds like this guy may have 'given away the store' here anyway, unless he's including the option of enjoining Delta management from standardly relying on overtime. Overtime is supposed to be for emergencies only, not for any kind of standard operating procedure. It's time all American labor got focused on that and ceased their suicidal acceptance and even encouragement of overtime in many cases. Labor has been its own worst enemy on this absolutely central and strategic issue. Unions need to wake up and look at their own long history - long hours goes with low pay and shorter hours goes with higher pay in the long run. Start encouraging overtime for short-term gains and you'll kill yourself in the longer term - and the longer term is getting here faster all the time. What we really need is an automatic system to convert any overtime into training and hiring. But it doesn't matter how many gains labor makes legislatively, they'll all be undermined by market forces unless we get a grip on our immigration situation, which we don't have now, as the next story shows -]
- GOP and White House near accord on immigrants, by Robert Pear, NYT, A25.
Congressional Republicans [are] nearing agreement with the White House on legislation that would grant legal status to hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants....
[If we're going to keep doing this, again, why not be honest about it and repeal all our immigration laws? People who think we should keep doing this apparently think the solution to the troubles of all the rest of the world is to bring everyone here. That is not an ecologically sustainable solution, and it would hasten the concentration of wealth immeasurably by adding to the already strong downward pressures on general wage levels. Again, it doesn't matter what legislation we pass to centrifuge spending power, it can all be undermined by market forces unless we plug the " leaks" in the system. Even the immigrants who are already here (legally!) are worried about this out-of-control situation, and Phil Hyde is one of them - he's from "remotest" Canada. Whatsamatta with the concentration of wealth? The top 1% now owns as much as the "bottom" 95% - more than they could spend in dozens of lifetimes. Still need convincing? Listen to Alex Rodriguez just yesterday -]
- Rodriguez throws $252m bat at the Mets, by Murray Chass, NYT, C21.
ARLINGTON, Tex., Dec. 12 - Now that Alex Rodriguez has his [record] $252m contract..."To me," he said at one point, "this is like fake money. You don't know what to do with it."...
- [And relative to the mounting general job desperation and the increasing pressures for makework -]
Marketers turn to a simple tool: E-mail, by John Schwartz, NYT, E1 (frontpage of E-Commerce section).
...In these times of dot-com belt-tightening, e-mail looks like a bargain....
[Just what we need, more spam, when we already have to waste time deleting this crap. The cartoon on E14 shows a huge fist shooting out of a computer monitor showing lots of mail.]
For earlier collapse stories, click on the desired date -
- [To the really worthy, the rich can't even give it away -]
A temptation turned down - Vigilant about its faith, Georgia church gives away most of a $60m windfall, by Russ Bynum, AP via Boston Globe, A2.
ST. MARY'S, Ga. - Hundreds of letters fill a small file cabinet. Handwritten requests churn out of the fax machine and curl into a pile. And the office staff at St. Mary's United Methodist Church has stopped answering the phone, which never stops ringing.
The notes and messages that have swamped the coastal church, nestled in Georgia's southeast corner, all seek the same thing - a piece of the $60m a local telephone tycoon [Warren Bailey] left the congregation to spend as it pleases.
After weeks spent wrestling with the windfall, church members made a decision last week. Fearful that the fortune could cheapen their faith, they voted to give away all but a fraction of it....
In the decades before his death in July at age 88, Bailey and his two brothers reaped a fortune from the Camden Telephone Co. Their father bought the company in the late 1920s, when Camden County was still a fishing community and only a few people could afford phones. Bailey took over as company president in 1941, and soon the arrival of a paper mill and a naval base boosted the population and the family business. Bailey never flaunted his wealth. He preferred Hardee's and Wal-Mart to fine dining and designer stores. He refused to pay $7.50 a month for garbage service, toting his trash bags from home to the office garbage bin. And he was nearly 76 when he finally bought a house and left his tiny apartment at the phone company. Long divorced and with no children, Bailey...chose the church to receive the bulk of his wealth because he didn't trust the government with it and couldn't think of anyone else..\.. Bailey had been a member of St. Mary's...for most of his life, but hadn't attended in more than 20 years. [He] had given $100,000 annually to the church for various projects since 1992....
For itself, the church will keep $2.8m in an endowment fund named for Bailey. The church hopes the fund will generate interest of about $100,000 a year, the same as Bailey's previous donations, to be spent on service projects....
[You now, what this country needs is a system for automatically reinvesting excess income at its grass roots, instead of collecting it together in few hands, the best of which refuse to spend it and the worst of which don't have time or imagination enough to spend it, and then wasting it at the end of life on mind-boggling bequests like this to the middle class or the poor or, as in Bill Gates' mid-life case, on 'taking coals to Newcastle' = just giving more money to the already rich, like Gates' gifts to already extremely well-endowed universities. Think of the economic dynamism if all the trillions now looking for market-supported productivity on some gargantuan scale were instead automatically reinvested at their source in their own markets via employee wages and benefits! Timesizing represents the first design outline for such a direct automatic reinvestment system (DARS). Timesizing, as the name implies, gets the ball rolling with 5 program phases that operate on the time dimension, worktime that is, alias employment. Timesizing reverses the current extreme concentration of surviving quality human employment in the face of computerization and robotization. But the same 5 phases used by the Timesizing program can be applied to a series of money dimensions such as income and wealth in order to balance those dimensions too. Just as Timesizing targets reinvestment by the incidence of overtime (and defines overtime by the rate of underemployment, and defines that by referendum of the participating population), its successors will target reinvestment by the incidence of excess income per person (defined by the substandard-income rate, defined in turn by referendum of the participating population) or excess wealth per person (defined similarly).
[With all the superstratospheric wealth sloshing around in this world today, there is absolutely no excuse for an "intelligent" species to be putting up with so much utterly unimaginable disparity and suffering. It's the dawn of a new Millennium. It's time we grew up and for starters, realized the inescapable effect of technology in terms of financially secure family time and leisure instead of in the form of insecure underemployment, unemployment, welfare, disability, homelessness and incarceration. We don't need more charity. Charity is capricious, unreliable, and dependency-fostering. Any system that relies on charity for vital functions, such as some minimal centrifugation of income and wealth, is lethally flawed and cannot survive with any level of stability. We need reinvestment at a colossal level relative to today, and reinvestment in wages is the healthiest conduit for such a new pervasive and massive flow. Timesizing is the first economic design that addresses this challenge and the only one so far that gives an inkling of what is possible for the human race along this path. And if there's any doubt about the need to change our whole paternalistic charity approach, check out our next story -]
- Rich, poor gap found to be widening in Connecticut - Statistics show poverty worse among children, by Lisa Prevost, Boston Globe, E1.
[Notice three things -
BRIDGEPORT, Conn. - Jacqueline Lugo doesn't have a job, a car, a diploma, or a husband. She and her 10-year-old daughter get by on welfare. Her benefits will run out in a year. So [she] is taking job-training classes, learning how to fill out an application and how to interview. For now, all she wants is a position that pays $7.50 an hour. "I don't expect too much," said Lugo.... "If you expect too much at first, you're never going to get it. I don't like to live in luxury. I don't like expensive things. I wasn't taught that way as a child, and I won't teach my daughter that way." Lugo's daughter, however, might wonder about the people around her.
- This one-state situation - in the richest state in the richest nation - is a microcosm of the widening gap across the nation and the world.
- This one state, Connecticut, has the rich end of another widening gap - that among native Americans. Check out the first part of the Globe "Tribal gamble" series today that starts on the front page but comes into focus on page A20 with the headline, "Few tribes share in casino windfall," by Sean Murphy & Adam Piore, 12/11/00 Boston Globe A20, which includes the revelation that "Members of Connecticut tribes earn more thatn $1m a year from the casinos [especially Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, while] in South Dakota, nine large tribes operating gaming facilities earn $179.96 each from the casinos." Not even the heirs of the "noble savage" have come anywhere close to replacing the hopelessly inadequate charity approach with an automatic reinvestment system (such as Timesizing) that would enrich them all - despite the Mashantucket Pequots admirable attempts to jack up the prize money for native dancers and bands from across the continent at their annual Schemitzun (a huge pow-wow or gathering).
- Our current "concentrate the wealth and rely for centrifugation on a capricious discretionary charity approach by a tiny minority" (coupled with blizzards of costly and inefficient, ad-hoc government programs) does not result in a balancing even across a distance of just 10 miles.]
A mere 10 miles or so separate the grim $7-an-hour lives of many Bridgeport residents from..\..the northerly tip of Connecticut's "Gold Coast," [the] Lexus-laden stretch of suburbia [that is] home to some of the wealthiest households in the United States....
[The ultimate result of this trend? Subspeciation - the split of homo sapiens cromagnonensis into the Eloi and the Morlocks.]
The vast and conspicuous gap between Connecticut's haves and have-nots has long been a subject of debate among state policymakers, business leaders, and advocates for the poor. According to the latest US Census Bureau data, poverty is getting worse in America's richest state, particularly among children.... "You expect child poverty to increase when there's a recession," said Shelley Geballe, codirector of Connecticut Voices for Children, a nonprofit advocacy group based in New Haven. "But we've had a recovery going on since 1993, and yet our child poverty rate is still going up."
[This is definitely a problem for people who really think this has been a recovery, or boom. We, however, think it has been a narrowly funneled recovery or boom for the top brackets - who own the media - but really a huge bubble masking a continuing and deepening depression for the the bottom - a bottom that is extending upwards through the income brackets now that the top ONE PERCENT of the American population owns as much as the "bottom" NINETY-FIVE PERCENT. The disparity is incomprehensible, and extremely inefficient and prosperity dampening. If you use the standard media blinders, you think we've got wonderful prosperity. It is NOTHING compared to the prosperity, national security, stability and goodwill that we would have if we implemented even the most primitive automatic reinvestment system - because we have essentially split into people with time and no money, and people with money and no time - or need - for shopping. Result? Domestic markets that are a tiny minuscule fraction of what they should be for a population with this much wealth. "The more concentration, the less circulation." With this much work-saving technology, there is no reason we should not ALL be living in heaven, instead of splitting apart into two or more mirror-image hells.]
Poverty is concentrated in the state's urban centers, particularly Bridgeport, New Haven and Hartford, the latter two ranked among the 10 poorest urban centers in the country in the 1990 Census. These pockets...stand in glaring contrast to the picture-perfect bedroom communities that dominate the surrounding landscape. Residents of communities from Westport to Greenwich pay sky-high housing prices for the privilege of living in safe neighborhoods with excellent schools and prime recreational facilities.
Recent income statistics suggest that the state's two extremes are moving further apart: between 1988 and 1998, the richest fifth of Connecticut residents enjoyed an increase in their incomes averaging 17.7%, while the poorest fifth saw their incomes drop by nearly 26%, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington, DC. The disparity is not the largest in the country - that distinction goes to New York - but it is all the more glaring in such a small state.... US Census Bureau figures released just before Thanksgiving...showed that between 1995 and 1997 the poverty rate among [young] Connecticut residents under age 18 rose from 13.6% to 14.7% [- a one percent rise in two years].
...Connecticut's poor are victims of a vicious squeeze: manufacturing jobs have disappeared while the state has become an increasingly expensive place to live. Connecticut lost more than 100,000 manufacturing jobs during the last recession, and about three-quarters of those have been replaced by lower-paying service sector jobs, says Geballe.
Meanwhile, the concentration of money at the top - much of it generated from out-of-state sources such as Manhattan salaries and the stock market - is driving up the cost of living, according to Christopher Bruhl, president and CEO of the Southwestern Area Commerce and Industry Assoc.
The high cost of living means that even families not on welfare are struggling to get by. These are the "working poor," roughly defined as families making $20,000-30,000 a year. (The 1997 federal poverty level for a family of four was $16,400 [what a joke - ed.].)... The state estimated last year that a single parent with two children would have to earn $16-22/hr depending on where they live, in order to be self-sufficient..\..
In such an environment, advocates say, job training becomes crucial.
[But job training is just what has dried up in this global labor glut that we are sinking ever further into, although our two-guy media (Turner&Murdoch) are spinning it as a "shortage of qualified candidates" so intense that we're "forced to" issue hundreds of thousands more visas for pretrained and inexpensive young people from India.]
..."For those folks who are doing well, the poor folks are invisible.... They don't see the lines at the homeless shelters. They don't see the lines at the food pantries," \said\ Marilyn Ondrasik, director of the Bridgeport Child Advocacy Coalition, [who] says the Governor should declare child poverty a state emergency..\..
[So we've got a problem with a blindered press - the present article is extremely unusual so we're spending a lot of space on it - and we've got a huge training problem -]
...As Geballe points out, at the federal level, the political winds are shifting away from funding job training, especially for people moving off welfare. As a result, that task will fall increasingly to states and communities. Connecticut has "placed an emphasis" on job training for people moving off welfare, says Dean Pagani, a spokesman for Gov. John Rowland. But state money, including funds allocated for job training, may not be going where it needs to.... The state allocated $1.6m in welfare funds for welfare-to-work training and employment in SW Conn. this year. But a majority of that money was used to establish a state-mandated, case-management system, and thus only about $540,000 went directly to employment and training....
[If we believe in capitalism, we really need a simple automatic way for the private sector to take care of its own rising needs for increasingly continuous training. Timesizing takes care of this by targeting training by the incidence of overtime, and funding it by the intensity and duration of the overtime. And the Timesizing approach sets up the incentives for the private sector to take care of it all by itself - instead of subsiding ever deeper into the pathetic, incentive-deadening corporate socialism that our near-sighted CEOs have been suckering themselves into.]
Aug/98 and before.
Questions? Comments? email email@example.com).