Category: Solving the wrong problem

A Case For Universal Basic Income

I should start out by saying that I do not agree with implementing a Universal Basic Income (UBI). However I recently listened to a podcast with Andrew Yang, a 2020 presidential candidate, and he made the most compelling case yet for it. I think the alarm bell he’s ringing is true… I’m just am not convinced UBI is the right solution.

Mr. Yang’s premise is that due to AI and automation one-third of all working Americans are going to lose their job in the next 12 years. Most of these workers are going to have a very hard time finding new employment. He makes the case that it’s not realistic to think that you’re going to re-train a truck driver from rural Iowa to write code. By giving every working age American $1000 a month you provide a safety net that will be put back into the economy in the form of gas, groceries, fuel, etc… A UBI paid for by a VAT tax. You have a choice of taking the UBI or social services (e.g. food stamps) but not both.

I agree that the coming AI boom is going to displace mass numbers of people. The Mckinsey research group estimates between 400 and 800 million people will be replaced by automation by 2030 worldwide. In the US, the top ten professions are mostly all lower wage jobs. The top five are:

  • #1 for males – truck driver
  • Retail sales
  • cashier
  • office clerk
  • food prep
  • customer service

The mean annual income in the US is $46,000. Every single one of those most common jobs listed is replaceable by automation. A third of the country out of work is a recipe for a real economic crisis that I’m not sure we can survive. The taxpayers are going to pay one way or another – in the form of food stamps, medical, etc…

There are folks who claim we’ve always had revolutions in technology that displace workers – let them #learntocode (don’t put that on Twitter!) The difference between the first and second industrial revolutions and today’s displaced workers is twofold; first the scale of displaced workers was much smaller and second, those revolutions actually spawned a middle class. An uneducated displaced farm worker could move to the city, work in a factory and support a family. Today it’s actually those lower-middle class jobs we’re removing.

So what’s my solution? I don’t know. As a libertarian-ish person I have a very hard time seizing taxpayer money and giving it to others because they made poor decisions and aren’t busting their ass to improve themselves. I also recognize that a mob of hungry, desperate people rioting with pitchforks isn’t in societies interest either.

Most politicians will push for ungodly expensive government boondoggle spending programs to “re-train” workers. Those are usually bottomless money pits with little positive outcome. I applaud Mr. Yang for at least being brave enough to raise the issue and give a plausible solution.

Is UBI the right solution? The more I think about it, the more I’m on the fence. It’s not often I stumble upon an issue where I don’t have a clear opinion. What do we do with 100 million people in this country out of work and no skills to bridge the gap? I’m curious what you think? What’s the right answer? Is this even a problem? Maybe the revolution will happen slower than we think. It’s certainly worth having a discussion… but I suspect we’ll ignore it until too late.

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Notions Of Cool V.010

A random list of things and shower thoughts that an old guy (who still thinks he’s 20) finds cool or worth pondering.

  • The problem with the gun control debate, as is the case with so many things in government, is that it’s busy solving the wrong problem. The gold standard should be to apply the law retroactively to all the high profile shootings and ask, “would this have stopped it?” In virtually every case the answer is no. So why continue with feel good measures that only impact the 99.9% of law abiding gun owners?
  • Found a great Netflix series, Black Mirror. There are four seasons of independent episodes – think modern Twilight Zone. Worth your time.
  • Had to spend $1800 to have a crew remove snow from my roof. Was getting seriously worried about the weight. Lesson learned for next year.
  • Had a patient who has complete left side hemiparesis from a new stroke tell me: “when I fart now it’s the strangest feeling… only one butt cheek flaps”.
  • I just heard about the #learntocode controversy on twitter. More to come on this. The fact that our outrage culture has an issue with this amuses me. The thought that Twitter is banning people because of it is disturbing.
  • Wingsuit flyers. Yeah, no thanks. Cool to watch though.
  • One more storm, then forecast for March is dry and warmer. I see some serious vitamin D, spring skiing in my future.
  • I mentioned melanoma before. Scared me enough that I have my first ever dermatology appointment in two weeks.

Song of the day: Amerie “Thing”

I Just Don’t Care


You see Bob, it’s not that I’m lazy, it’s that I just don’t care.

Peter Gibbons

I don’t care what your cause is. Saving the whales. Education. Transportation. Border walls. Healthcare. Wars. Infrastructure. Climate change. Everyone has their hot button interests. I’m sure they’re all worthy in some way. There’s just one problem. WE CAN’T PAY FOR ALL OF THEM.

As someone once said, eventually you run out of other peoples money. Whatever topic is your burning issue, the one that gets you to fire up the Facebook meme machine… great, more power to you. Advocate the hell out of it. But what I do want you to do as a responsible citizen, is tell me what you’re going to cut to pay for it.

You don’t get to just add spending any more. You want to fund research for the mating habits of the snowy plover? Great! Tell me what existing program is less important that you’ll cut funding for.

Could you imagine? We freeze local, state, and federal funding at it’s current point. Every single program, existing and proposed, has to compete for a fixed number of dollars.

Sorry, I’m under the weather and may have had too much cough medicine. I nodded off and had a weird vision of government. Carry on.

But, It’s Renewable?

There’s nothing I hate more than pointless, feel good statements that are utterly devoid of reality. The latest is the clamor for ending evil fossil fuel and switching to 100% renewable! Yay for me, I love the planet! Let me forward a meme on the Facebook so everyone knows I’m an eco-warrior.

Here’s the percentage of renewable energy use for the major regions in the world:

Country RenewableFossil Fuel
China3%86%
US6%83%
Europe9%75%
CIS0%87%
Middle East0%99%
India 3%92%
Central America8%69%

You can be as optimistic and hopeful as you’d like… but single digit percentages are a not a bridgeable gap right now. Until some fancy new technology is invented, the U.S. is not going to generate the 4,000+ terawatt hours of annual electricity use by recycling used banana peels.

I’m sorry if this crushes your green spirit animal. Renewable energy, as it stands today, is not a viable source of sustainable energy. Period. That doesn’t mean we should abandon all hope and stop trying. Eventually (we hope) someone is going to create a fusion reactor powered by unicorn tears and used tires and we’ll all be saved from the evils of climate change.

Until then, stop with the unrealistic green campaigns and tax schemes. I pay too much in taxes already and current government spending is not sustainable. If you’d like to support green research, be my guest. Don’t just be a keyboard warrior echoing Facebook memes – you can write a check to the company or university of your choice today. You are also welcome to pay more than required this tax season. Bueller? Bueller? Bueller? Anyone? Hello?

Bring Me A Straw

I like wildlife. I want (*most) critters to stick around for the next generation. I’d wager that I’ve spent more time in the outdoors interacting with bambi and whatnot than a large percentage of the population. When it comes to the sea, I got my open water SCUBA certification when I was 13. Grew up surfing and sailing. I’ve paid my dues to the ocean gods.

Why do I tell you this? Because I love plastic. Plastic is one of the greatest inventions of the modern era. It is possible to equally embrace plastic and have an appreciation for the outdoors that rivals many eco warriors. The assault on plastic, while well intentioned, is outrage at the wrong problem. Seeing images of single use bags floating in waterways or piled in landfills, I get why you’d think banning them is the right path. But it may very well be that the overall environmental impact of forcing paper and reusable bags is greater than for plastic bags.

Regardless, trying to kill a very useful product after the fact seems pointless. We’re always going to have waste products that shouldn’t be dumped in the ocean or just buried in a hole in the ground. Selectively trying to ban “bad” things is an ineffective game of whack a mole. The real problem is that we need a more effective waste management solution.

I hate to break it to you, but plastic isn’t going away. Posting “I’m against straws” memes on the Facebook and public shaming restaurants/cities into completely ineffective bans that make virtually no impact is silly. Want to make a real change? Lobby to restrict foreign aid to countries with reprehensible waste management practices. Boycott cruise lines that simply dump their waste. Find out what your city/county’s 10 or 20 year plan is for waste management and publicly comment on it. Ask for more government R&D money for creating that 1.21 jigawatt plastics incinerator rather than funding research into the mating habits of the monk fish.

In the meantime, I want a goddam straw with my fizzy, tropical umbrella drink. And I need plastic bags. The hound poops at least three times every time we run and I have yet to see anything that beats the good ole fashioned poop bag.

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*Except snakes. Snakes can disappear.