Thursday, February 16, 2012

Goretex and Top Hats

I am dying of lack of computer access.  Not only does my computer not work yet, but the one at my place of business has Explorer -100 or something like that, so all I can get from blogger is a message that "I" should upgrade "my" browser.  Which of course I do not have credentials to do.  And what am I doing blogging at work anyway?  Good question. 

I have striven to put some things on (gasp) paper, and my love affair with Moleskine journals has indeed grown...hopefully those scraps will end up here sometime in something legible.

Meantime I'm taking a break at my public library to let you know that something at work has really been p__ing me off. 

Someone has a cartoon up on their workstation, in full view of everyone, a picture of some ostensibly rich guys (they have top hats and canes...can't imagine Bill Gates with a top hat and cane, but whatever).  One man is saying "And I told them it would trickle down to them!" and the others are laughing and hitting their knees.

Such an ignorant, idiotic sentiment that makes fun of that idea (that, and a Utah Phillips song that I really want to like, but can't) is another piece of evidence of the genetic tendency to worship John Maynard Keynes among Americans....actually, among everyone but the ChiComs, who have their own voodoo economics (yes, I know that phrase was used by George Bush 41 to denigrate supply side economics, but he did recant later).  Even the Castro brothers have learned by now that you don't solve economic problems by throwing (taxpayer) money at it; at least since the former USSR stopped throwing money at them.  Even when I was hanging out with ultra-libs in college and went to rallies shouting for everything they shouted for (not because I was for them but because I figured I would be for them once I figured how to twist logic to fit them), shouting against supply side economics gave me pause.  I longed for the day when someone could explain to me how easing purchasing power among the private sector would hurt other people. 

Writing something under the cartoon, even by sticky note, would invite even more tension in the workplace than just me being mad, and I hate tension, especially in places where I'm not going to convince anyone of anything.

But in my delusions of grandeur, where everyone is standing around awaiting my commentary, I find myself saying, "How can wealth NOT trickle down?  Do rich people keep all their money in their mattresses, never going out, never buying anything, never hiring anyone to give them personal service, never investing it?" 

Say Richie Rich buys a yacht.  These are the people who benefit from Richie Rich buying a yacht:  The boat builder, of course; anyone who works on building the boat; residents of the place where sales tax is paid for the boat (state or city, or both); if government spending could be counted on to help everyone with greater taxes without multiplying the cost by a factor of 5, ostensibly all Americans would benefit; but for right now let's say there is the potential for them to benefit based on any federal taxes collected from Mr. Rich.  And that's not all.  The builder and workers have to eat, and some like to windowshop on their breaks and may buy this and that from local shops.  Any supplies have to come from lumberyards, paint factories, hardware stores, etc.  So everyone from whom those purchases are made--restaurants, grocery stores, delis, souvenir shops, etc--get some of the money, inderectly, given by Richie Rich to the boat builder. 

Once the boat is ready to sale, Mr. Rich will need some kind of license, maybe several (yacht, fishing, etc), and have to pay fees for them. Right now, that privilege is granted to government entities in the relevant region or state; those moneys then have the potential to be used to benefit the residents (I know in Michigan, we're told hunting license fees are used on preservation of forest land and maintenance of the deer herd; perhaps the same is true in Rhode Island or Los Angeles for fishing and yachts). 

So say you are a resident of a community that flooded near the Atlantic shore due to weather or something else.  If you have flood insurance (and you should), that might help repair your home and help you get back on your feet; but if the Department of Natural Resources in your state can pay some employees overtime for helping clean up the debris in front of your house, do you not benefit from this?  What if that overtime money came in part from fishing licenses sold in the state?  Doesn't it keep your home from dipping as much in value as it would have if  left alone; and if you had to clean it up yourself, wouldn't that effort make that value seem more difficult to attain?

The employee got the incentive to work from the additional wage provided by DNR.  DNR got the additional wage from the licenses of people like Mr. Rich.  And along the way, many other people were able to maintain a job or get a temporary well-paying job (I'm assuming the welding, carpentry, etc that goes into yachts pays pretty well), spend money at local shops, restaurants, etc.  Which means of course that a local shop they frequent will benefit, as well as a restaurant; so they can stay open a little longer, give someone a raise, buy more inventory to keep up with demand, etc.

I'm wearing one of my favorite items, a wind breaker bought from LL Beane I bought for my trip to Normandy to visit the war commemoration sites in 2004.  It proved invaluable and has lasted 8 years with no sign of wear and tear.  It has a Goretex lining that has allowed me to use it as a temporary winter coat when my parka is at the cleaners.  The hood is big, which is important for me because I get a headache when my forehead gets too cold, and I like to tie the hood around my head so that only my eyes, nose  and mouth can be seen.  Yes, I know I look like Kenny on South Park.  But I feel so good I don't care.

While I was in Normandy, during a cold April,  I stayed at a  hotel. Across the street was a little shop that sold souvenirs, and the proprietor was old enough to remember the war.  She was so excited to be telling an American all this (or maybe tried to seem so, hoping I'd bring in more business if word got out she wasn't anti-American).  I bought a lot of souvenirs from her because I liked talking to her (and she didn't make fun of my French).  Would I have still gone to Normandy if I hadn't bought the Goretex jacket?  Probably, but I wouldn't have been as comfortable.   I spend much less time sightseeing and souvenir buying  when I am uncomfortable.  At any rate, I sent money to LL Beane to purchase the coat, they sent me a high quality item, and the coat allowed me to buy a lot of stuff in France.

I can hear you protesting:  But you didn't spend it on American products!!!  Well, I'm not big into the buy-American-or-else movement; but I am fiercely proud of the Americans who stormed the beaches I saw there; moreover if capitalist ideas are taken to their logical conclusion, protectionism is anathema.  France specializes in World War II sites, we specialize in technology.  (All French people want iPhones, too).The more money we give the French, the more high quality American products they can buy.  And the sooner we untie the bonds we have on manufacturers, the sooner they can bring these quality items to market.    Anyway, Northwest Airlines got some of my money, too, as did the US car rental company, and Coca Cola, the beverage I probably drank the most there.

Come to think of it, I believe I got a very good deal on the Goretex jacket; because LL Beane had the good sense to either buy or make high quality merchandise at a price affordable for a Michigan social worker; their willingness to do that also ensured that many others received something from that transaction.

So, the trickle down theory is no joke.  It's just the inevitable consequence of capitalism.

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