New Dole


Nice little stormlet—nothing that carries a mortality rate—just school closings and slips on the ice (Nana’s still in a wrist-cast from a week or so ago). It keeps Claire home, though she’s still working in her office all day. I just feel better when she’s around—especially in dicey weather. I’m one of those unfortunate souls for whom the thought of the offspring strikes more bells of alarm than happiness. I love them both so much—but my love is constituted of more than a small percentage of worry and dread, plus all the more kindly affections. So my first thought is always, “Gee, I miss the boy—I hope those Binghamton winters haven’t put him in jeopardy”—so you see, before I even get to the thought of, “I should call him and say hello.”—I’m already worried that he’s in danger. He’s the worst example, because it includes the knowledge that he’s far too far away for me to come immediately to his aid. But daughter has her own special ‘dreading’s, i.e. life in the Big Apple, nighttime streets—her fiancé is always nearby, and she is no slouch when it comes to standing up for herself, either—but she’s so dainty—even in my reduced fitness I can easily lift her up.

So, I appreciate these storms especially—the TV is full of “Don’t leave home today if you can possibly avoid travel.” And the snow just sits because everyone knows it’ll be 50 degrees F for the next few days afterward. It’s a cozy storm. I thank the wheel for being protected from the cold and wind. (It just blew open the door I leave cracked to disperse my smoke—and made me do one of those cartoon-leaning-into-the-wind moves before I could get it closed!) I’m all too aware of how many people are without proper shelter or warm food and drink.

I had a thought while watching CSPAN. What if we created a New Dole, a stipend that worked out to the same net amount as someone making $30,000 per annum. Now, that’s a lot more comfortable than many of the livings being earned by people who are working three jobs and struggling to buy their kids’ school supplies—but it isn’t the life of Riley, either—it still demands a financial scrupling that most upper-middle-class would think of as being ‘poverty’. So it isn’t quite madness, but it is a great deal more generous than what we have now. What actions would follow?

Firstly, a lot of workers would walk quietly away from the slave-labor conditions of their present lifestyle. A large increase in families claiming relief would occur. The amount spent by the Fed to relieve these families would increase drastically. And so, for the moment, it would appear that it hurts, rather than helps us with reducing the Deficit. But what would follow almost immediately?

There would be a dearth of labor on the market—a lot of hard work will have been left deserted. The companies that paid them a slave wage (or part-time, no-benefits minimum wage, if you prefer) would still need their work to be done—but now they will be forced to pay someone a decent wage to do a respectable, full-time job. Outsourcing has its limits—just ask the new Dragon Lady in charge of Google about how much can and can’t be done ‘remotely’. Plus, manufacturing in America is enjoying a resurgence—so we merely have to ‘out-quality’ third-world-slave-labor’s production parameters, and we see an immense potential for employment.

Roosevelt was right about the ‘Fear itself’. Everyone in this economy who is enjoying a comfortable life-style (and that is a surprising majority of us) is scared to death of falling off their own perches. I know, because it is my great fear, too. But we have good reason to fear poverty so much—we treat poor people just a little better than we treat shelter pets. And we appear to have the same rubric in place, as well: ‘We try to save as many as we can, but we only have so much money’. That’s not good enough. That’s a Hell on Earth, and no wonder everyone is permanently panicked about being thrown onto that same trash-heap!

Our unemployment should be a negative value. It should indicate how much we would appreciate having a few more workers than are already busy as bees and happily employed. One thing we should not be doing is borrowing efficiency tips from regimes that put a lower value on human life, and dignity, than we do. We should continue the American tradition of surprising the world demonstrating how much more powerful humane principals are than the so-called ‘hard-nosed business’ perspective. We must take a step back from Fiscal Fascism and distribute our resources in ways that best serve the people. We fought for two decades over the question of foreign involvement—and we still stick ourselves in the middle of things, only citing a ‘War on Terror, rather than ‘Soviet Expansionism’.

Either way, we should recognize the similar threat presented by corporate lobbyists. We try to avoid ‘foreign entanglements’ with little success, but at least we recognize that as a problem. Industrial and financial lobbyists represent ‘foreign value-systems’ that attempt, piece by piece, to slide into place a ‘near enough’, removing the actual ethic for one more conducive to Business than Humanity. And they should be even more urgently avoided.

I hear proponents of Business shouting about how ‘money is the bottom line and you can’t operate in the real world without winning at the money contest’! I hear them, I do. Can’t argue the point, but it doesn’t work that simply. There is the question of how you aim your money-guns. Do we aim them at our competitors, play their game? Our do we try to be ‘American’ (as I’ve always thought it) and point the weapon at the ills of our society? We should beat our opponents by making them slobber with envy at what our nation’s quality of life has become while they were still Mesmerized by the money-changers. Just like we did to the Soviets.

Being rich would become passé. (How do you say ‘thank you’ to MS Word for automatically sticking that accent over the ‘e’ in passé? There, it just did it again! Sorry, what were we talking about?, O yeah…)

The new cool would become living without stress. A nice job, pleasant workplace environment, challenging work (but not overmuch, unless that was how you liked it.) and a nice place, with two bathrooms. We could replace ‘supply and demand’ with ‘don’t call us, we’ll call you’. I suggest that we reverse ‘planned obsolescence’ and ‘go green’ by making as many products as possible last a lifetime or more. Now, the sales department isn’t going to see much good in that—but I don’t see too much good in sales, so we’re even.

We could measure the value of these products as a function of point-of-purchase profit, but with added valuation for the lack of resources required to make new ones every year or two and the reduction in waste products that need composting or recycling. Eternally-rising corporate profits sound good to the owners and managers of the single company, but as a part of the entire economy—maybe not so much.

A great deal of our hi-tech civilization’s energy and resources are spent on inertial running-in-place—every single company has to keep growing or die. We should look at new business models that minimize idle-time costs and look towards products that are manufactured and maintained only occasionally. Tomorrow’s factories will not be predicated on maximum output, but on minimum down-time expense and custom-quality products.

Now, I’m sure this all sounds very Socialist. I am only reacting to the reality I think I’ve gleaned from the media and books and the people around me. I’m no researcher with a huge bibliography to back up my ideas. I’m not even a college graduate (but that didn’t prevent my kids from getting their degrees). I’m just saying—what we’re doing isn’t working. It is causing pain, fear, and stress—it is filthifying our ecosystem—it is using up resources that cannot be replaced once they’re gone—and it keeps even those of us who are snug and satisfied in our cozy, comfy houses living in a state of terror that has nothing to do with Al Qaeda. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I personally also feel guilty about all the people that are already in a place I’m petrified about being damned to.

Fear and guilt do not fit into my idea of the ‘pursuit of happiness’. People argue that government is too big or too small—that’s nothing—what are our goals? And how is the government helping us to reach our goals? It isn’t all about money. Well, it is—but only because of the way it’s set up. We can beat Money, we can tame it, and make it ‘user-transparent’ for all practical purposes.

Just as guns are great tools when used properly, but deadly when misused—money has the capacity to moderate our march towards happiness at the double-step, smoothing the knots of trading one thing for another. We must bend it to our will—not let it continue to make some people dictators and others starved and suffering—that is only what we have foolishly allowed it to become. Just as we try to moderate national arguments with the UN, we should implement a UM that seeks to keep everyone on earth reasonably housed, well-fed and educated (and, if its not too much trouble of course, free internet).

Just as the Hague has a World Court judging international or humanitarian crimes, we need a World Accountant that finds people with just way too much money, and takes half of it—with the promise to return some of it if the person can actually spend the remaining half in their own lifetime. Then the WA would contribute to the UM in its quest to end poverty everywhere on Earth.

And it all starts with our New Dole, a latter-day Emancipation Proclamation that allows everyone to live in relative security and comfort, thus forcing business owners to revalue the salary paid to a working soul. The business advocates don’t want Obama’s new minimum-wage-increase because it will hurt business? Well then, do my idea—it won’t hurt business at all—unless you call forcing them to treat their employees like human beings ‘hurting’ them. A new paradigm beckons us towards a new American Dream—our we could just stick with the seven-billion-man rat-knot that we’re already squirming in.

3 responses to “New Dole

    • I’ve considered mushing these essays into one book–but I just don’t know…
      What I’d really like to do is see people debating my ideas, so I’d have some idea of how near or far I am from suggesting intelligent solutions to real problems.

      • My God.. listening to some of our elected officials debating what their supposed intelligent solution is to some of the world problems.. puts you years ahead of them…

Leave a Reply