My Life is Words
Words and ideas turn on the lights in the brain
Homelessness is a topic of discussion in nearly every city with a population of over ten thousand, and maybe a few smaller towns.
Citizens rail about tent cities and go bananas at the suggestion of safe-injection sites. They want the homeless out of sight and out of mind, and they don’t want to pay the taxes required to try to round them up and rehabilitate the homeless because, well frankly, they don’t really care all that much; they just want them gone.
This isn’t total callousness on most people's part, though I suspect that is a part of this attitude. It can also be because most people have enough crap going on in their lives with their jobs, family, and all the intrusions that being an adult forces into your life to set aside the time to address issues like this.
Combine that with a lack of understanding how anyone can fall that low in society because it has never happened to any of them, and you have a lot of people not looking for longterm solutions but a quick fix that lets them go back to their lives.
What if. What if, as a society in any city struggling with a significant homeless problem, we start fixing at least some of the stuff that may lead these folks to the street, what is usually called the root cause of a problem. Here are some ideas.
Education: The following information comes from www.proliteracy.org
▪ Children of parents with low literacy skills have a 72 percent chance of being at the lowest reading levels themselves.
▪ Of adults with the lowest literacy levels, 43 percent live in poverty, and 70% of adult welfare recipients have low literacy levels. There is a clear correlation between more education and higher earnings and between higher educational scores and higher incomes.
▪ An excess of $230 billion a year in health care costs is linked to low adult literacy. Nearly half of American adults have difficulty understanding and using health information.
▪ Individuals at the lowest literacy and numeracy levels have a higher rate of unemployment and earn lower wages than the national average. Low literacy costs the U.S. at least $225 billion each year in non-productivity in the workforce, crime, and loss of tax revenue due to unemployment.
It seems pretty clear to me that a lack of education increases the chances that you will be unemployed and living in poverty if not living on the streets. We need to find a way to educate everyone in this country through at least 12 years and preferably 14 years for more and not saddle them with a lifetime of debt to get an education. Per studenloanhero.com, "Among the Class of 2018, 69% of college students took out student loans, and they graduated with an average debt of $29,800, including both private and federal debt. Meanwhile, 14% of their parents took out an average of $35,600 in federal Parent PLUS loans."
Jobs & Pay: Stagnant and eroding wages coupled with an unlivable minimum wage is a significant factor. This from various sources;
▪ A living wage is defined as “a wage sufficient to provide the necessities essential to an acceptable standard of living, and provides it with some ability to deal with emergencies, without resorting to welfare or other public assistance.”
▪ Unfortunately, in most states, the “Minimum” wage is far lower than a living wage. This disparity is one of the leading causes of homelessness among young adults in America today. Despite having a job, many do not make enough money to pay the bills.
Seattle has moved to lead the way in raising the minimum wage, and while the politicians got a lot of mileage out of that, a lot of workers are still in a bind. With a minimum wage of $15/hour, we tend to relax and think the problem is solved; it is not.
Studies have been done in Seattle to look at the impact of the new wage, and it has found that contrary to all the horror stories that opposed the increase, jobs are still plentiful. Studies also point out that experienced workers employed at the time of the increase did see an increase in their overall income of around $250 per quarter; this is not exactly going out and buying yacht money.
It is also important to note that the population analyzed in these studies worked very few hours per week. On average, the sample worked 18 hours per week, and 93 percent worked fewer than 40 hours per week. Therein lies part of the problem. At 18 hours per week, you will have to find and work 2.22 jobs to earn $600/week before taxes which is still not a liveable wage in Seattle.
Many employers limit employee hours to avoid having to pay their employees benefits as defined by federal law. Zenefits helps explain that Applicable Large Employers (ALEs) have to provide health insurance for full-time employees. To avoid that cost, employers limit the hours of many minimum wage employees.
The average rent in Seattle (varies with the neighborhood) ranges from just over $1,300 a month to a little over $1,500. Let’s assume you can find a 30/hour per week job at $15. You will gross $450 a week or $1,800 per month. Allow 10% for taxes, and you’re down to $1,620. If your employer is providing some health insurance, you almost certainly have a copay.
The Committee for Economic Development reports that “The average employer-group family health-insurance premium in the United States is now almost $15,500 (shared between employer and employee). If that is divided 50/50 between the employer and worker, that’s another $7,500 a year or $625/month from the worker’s paycheck, leaving about $1,000 for rent, food, transportation to and from work, miscellaneous expensed like toiletries, haircuts, etc.
You don’t have to be an economist to see this just isn’t sustainable by any stretch of the imagination. This post is about homelessness, not economics, but this little bookkeeping journey shows you how difficult it is for people, especially people with few skills and lacking education to pull themselves out of homelessness which is what a lot of people keep demanding of the homeless; you know, the "pull yourself up by your boostraps" bullshit.
There are other issues behind homelessness like drug addiction and alcoholism, some of which may find their basis in the hopelessness and downward spiral of not finding a job that pays a livable wage.
PTSD is of course well known and requires a solution of its own as do many other form of mental illness.
In summary, what I’m suggesting is we have to find a solution to getting everyone the best education possible so they can qualify for good paying jobs and we might need to peg the minimum wage to some formula the takes into account a livable wage as it varies from city to city based on the necessities of life in those cities.
It's not easy; if it was we would have fixed the problem years - make that centuries ago. If we’re not willing to take these steps as a society, then we need to stop whining and learn to live with homelessness like many of the third-world countries have had to do.
If you have cats, you know how much fun they are and how frustrating they can be. We have two Bengals that we adopted about four-and-one-half years ago; they are now 13 and 16 with Casey being the youngest and Zeppelin (ZZ for short) the oldest.
Sharing your house with a Bengal cat can be a little like having a raccoon for a pet. They are wonderful, funny, and very playful. In the case of Casey, that involves opening cupboard doors to explore the contents pretty much every day even though nothing has changed.
Both of these cats have turned out to be a delight; you never know for sure when you adopt older cats. ZZ screams; I don't know how else to describe this howling she does perhaps four or five times a day. The neighbors must think we are torturing her. And Casey is our resident raccoon or monkey.
They are good eaters. Poor ZZ had horrible teeth when we got them, and now she has about half as many. We don't feed our cats kibble or any sort of dry food regularly. We don't even keep a bag of the stuff in the house. It is too dry; it can raise hell with their kidneys, and she doesn't have any teeth to chew them with, to begin with.
So, it's canned food (more water - they need that) all the way with a rare crunchy treat (with a soft center) on occasion. Unlike a lot of cats that get upset with a change of food, these two seem to demand it. They don't much like fish, especially tuna, but seem to like salmon. I check labels to make sure the fish ingredient, if any, is well down the label.
Regardless, they still get a little bored with their food...or at least they used to until I discovered Kitty Kocain, my nickname for Whole Life Freeze Dried Chicken. Wait, before you start to hyperventilate over the price, let me tell you about a deal.
If you have bought freeze-dried chicken, or any freeze-dried product at your local pet supply, you have probably been staggered by the cost as I have been. It's not hard to pay $5.99 for 2 ounces of the stuff; that comes to $47.92 per pound; I can buy New York steaks for less than that.
Along comes chewy.com to the rescue (and probably a few others). There, I can buy 21 ounces (that's 1 1/2 pounds) for $42.99; that's $32.75 per pound, still a hefty price but that is 32% cheaper than this tiny bags, and a little of this stuff goes a long way as I'll explain.
I had bought a few small bags for a treat, and they inhaled that stuff so fast it was frightening. Then I got the idea of dusting the top of their food with Whole Life, and they went nuts. They practically take the dish from my hand. Once I saw that I found the big bag online and bought it in bulk. The video at the bottom show how I use Kitty Kocain.
If your cats are acting like you feeding them wood chips, get a small bag of the stuff and try it out. It also comes in a vast variety of flavors like salmon, duck, liver, and maybe even Robin (just kidding). Not all are in the giant bags, but if you're cat-a-tonic, there is probably nothing you won't do for your little hairball factory.
As we bicker and argue between the political right and left, I'm left, literally and figuratively, to wonder what we should call our form of government.
We like to call ourselves a "democracy" but in fact, we're only partly that. A democracy is defined as a government by the people; a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system. We have evolved to where big money elects politicians and companies are called "people". We seemed to have moved away from a government that is soley, "by the people".
We like to refer to ourselves as a "republic". A republic is a state in which the supreme power rests in the body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by representatives chosen directly or indirectly by them. Again, we have so many non-citizen influences in our government and elections that republic doesn't quite fit any longer.
Socialism? A theory or system of social organization that advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, of capital, land, etc., in the community as a whole. We, the community sure as hell don't own or control very damn much of what goes on in our country.
Three terms that keeps popping up in all these definitions is the word people, citizens, and community. In other words, we are talking about not the factories, or the roads, or any other tangible property. We aren't talking about off-shore bank accounts or year-end bonuses, although both of those are nice and should be part of our deliberations because we are talking about humans. The only reason for any country to exist is the people. Without people, all the tangible assets in the world will simply sit around collecting dust.
If we can agree on that last paragraph, then we need to decide what role the people play in this grand scheme we call the United States. When we say people, we have to mean all the people, from the homeless person on the street to the CEO in a major corporation; they are each human and they want different things from their country and government. Still, they are people expecting 'people solutions'. Therein lies the challenge that we humans have wrestled with since the beginning of time.
Before I ramble on further and lose you, that is how and why I came up with the title of this post - Humanocracy. It seems to me that we need to focus on a government and laws and regulations and programs that benefit humanity; all of humanity, not just a select segment of our society.
The CEO has an expectation based on his/her rise to that position, the work and probably personal sacrifices of time they have made. They expect a certain status in the company, and they expect to make more than the people working in their company.
The mid-level manager has similar expectations to the CEO, but not as lofty. The workers also expect a fair and livable wage based on their work, skills, and education as may be applicable.
The people doing menial jobs also expect something in return for their labor. They want to be respected for the contribution they are making to society. Some may make light of the work a dishwasher does in a restaurant, but imagine your dining-out experience without them. And they expect a liveable wage.
Then we have the unemployed and perhaps the unemployable segment of society. These people are in that grouping for a myriad of reasons. Some ran out of luck and were laid off or are reeling from a personal tragedy. Some are suffering various degrees of mental illness, often a result of PTSD or the complications thereof. Some are our honored veterans struggling to return to society. And, some are addicted to a variety of substances.
So, our Humanocracy needs to be designed to work for all these people, not just the elite few at the top and not just for those living on the streets. To do that, we have to think differently. Perhaps we do need a ratio cap on CEO salaries. Maybe that is tied to how well the people in the company are paid.
For example, let's say a company, Cost-Mart (made up name but you probably get it) is paying their lowest paid employees a wage that exceeds the "liveable" wage establish by a formula using poverty levels, housing costs, etc., by 30%. The CEO of that company would be entitled to make a salary and benefits equal to 200% of the median income in the company. If the median income is $50,000 a year, the CEO could knock down $200,000 a year.
There could be a table that starts at the minimum living wage (CEO gets 110% of company median) and going up to 200% of the liveable wage (CEO gets to earn up to 300% of median). In other words, there is an incentive for companies and their managers to do the right thing and therein to profit themselves from that approach.
All we're talking about here is incentives. Executive managers get this all the time. They get bonuses based on achieving specific goals, most of which are only possible because the people working for them are busting their humps to make it happen. This isn't a giveaway program or socialism, it is capitalism at its best - succeed and reward.
Before I wind this up, you may be wondering how this would deal with those at the bottom of the ladder, the homeless and the hopeless. That depends. If the individual is unable to perform in a job in a way that contributes to the goals of the business, they have to be on some kind of public support. It would be some kind of subsistence program. These are people who, try as they might, will never be able to hold a job that allows them to support themselves. Those of us profiting from a vibrant economy with jobs, homes, cars, etc., have to embrace the notion that part of our "taxes" is to help pay for these people who are left behind by life.
The drug addicts, PTSD, and the unemployed all have the potential to move away from their predicament and rejoin the productive part of society. If we have the society structured in such a way that there are real incentives - not just some crap job that pays less than minimum wage and for only 15 hours a week - they are more likely to work to pull themselves out of their situation. Specific programs would be designed to help these folks.
And, there are those who, again for reasons most of us will never understand, have "dropped out." They don't want a job or the responsibilities of family and owning assets. They have always been around and will always be around until something like genetic engineering removes those traits.
They are part of our society nonetheless, and they deserve to live without fear, without hunger, and without retribution. The arrangements for them would be minimal but humane. I fail to see how any society can have pride in what it has accomplished when it dumps on these people. These folks deserve at least the minimum we afford prisoners who are serving time; food, shelter, and medical care.
In my opinion, these are the kind of conversations we need to have in our new Humanocracy; how do we make this plan work for everyone? How do we move away from our growing autocracy toward a more humane model for our society?
The Constitution of the United States and its addendums (amendments) are between 243 years (the original version) and 26 years old (the last amendment in 1992).
The original was written by men, mostly younger men, during a time when there were still such things as witch trials and slavery. There were debtors prisons that, for a multitude of reasons, were a failure. These are a couple of examples of the world they lived in.
In the 18th century, daughters literally belonged to their father or a woman to her husband. The "laws of coverture" prohibited a married woman from owning property, even if it was hers before the marriage.
Dating wasn't really a thing then. Marriages were a business between two men, their bargaining chips being their sons' inheritance and their daughters' dowries.
Nevertheless, and given the beliefs and practices of the time, the authors and signers of the Constitution did a remarkable job of authoring a document that would guide the United States to a position of being the most successful social endeavor in history. Still, the 27 amendments to that document suggest that it isn't perfect.
I am by no way suggesting we tear up the Constitution and begin again; that would be preposterous. I am, however, suggesting that in light of the 21st century, the information age, technology, and monumental challenges like climate change, we need a very new and perhaps radical approach to how we manage and govern our society. The old ideas from the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries just don't fit the challenges of today.
As I write this in early 2019, there are new voices in our government that are challenging the old guard and the old ways. These voices that are proposing radical and big ideas like the New Green Deal that lay out some bold goals for the future. True, the details of how to get there are fuzzy as yet, and the consensus of how much and how fast we should embark on this journey are however to be defined, but it demonstrates a change in leadership that is sorely needed.
In addition to renewable energy and learning to live on a planet with 7 billion people and snowballing to 9 billion, we face a variety of social and technical challenges for our country.
We have a crumbling infrastructure that will soon fail us if it isn't repaired or replaced. The challenge there, using freeways and bridges as an example, is to create for the future. Will we be driving cars as we know them today or will we be riding in bullet trains or in small and compact air vehicles? What is the future of aviation and ground transportation? I would submit to you that it is unlikely that a bunch of septuagenarians, as loyal and patriotic as they have been, may not be the people to provide that vision.
The Internet, DNA, genetic engineering, replacement organs that are grown in a lab, conception, and birth outside the human body, and many other advances await us. Some of these we can't yet recognize, and some are yet to be imagined. All these will change our world dramatically, and we need the leadership that has grown up with and understands these issues to guide us through this social engineering maze.
I'm suggesting that since this new future will belong to the younger generation who will live through all this that the old silverbacks are not only incapable of designing that future, they have no stake in it because they won't share it with the people who are 40 and 50 years younger than they are.
That is why I say it is a new day and we need a new way lead by new people.