Part Two – Introducing Malfunctions:
The analysis of the 2020 crisis will take more time to draw conclusions, as we are in the midst of it, however, the CBO 2021 report of the 2008 bailout should be fascinating. Early signs from early 2020 economic impacts suggest a reversal of shareholder supremacy might occur because 2008 was highly predictable and poorly resolved.
Profit-taking on a crisis is the thematic first serve culprit in the 2020 crisis based on similar failures to respond before it was too late. Uncomplicated Health Care 101 resources could not succeed for the lack of a clock and trigger and a national testing regime. An Ounce of Evidence (is worth thousands of pounds of opinions) by Ashish K. Jha will be an excellent place to return for useful facts and recommendations.
The Atlantic and ProPublica are outfits that like to walk us through the weeds with careful, journalistic documentation errors can be helpful as well, nevertheless, the dizzying structure of facts will more than likely, spin into history and fall throughout the American landscape into little piles of hopelessness. For this terrifying reason alone, I think the importance of the facts is secondary because we expect them to become as invisible as a greenhouse gas or a virus.
Like 2008, observers of 2020 will offer a valid list of avoidable errors available for review that will only encourage the MEGO effect (“my eyes glaze over”) that regularly clouds accountability with details far too complex for the ordinary voter. The reviews will say we knew the answers for an effective response and didn’t let go with anything remotely resembling a capacity for system change. That is the problem to dig into because we are dancing around the facts with the wrong music. The following is an argument for pulling out the dissonance, malfunctions, and blockages of system change.
The lack of critical thinking in the private and public realm regarding these two global instances (2008, 2020) is evident. I believe a sharp focus on malfunction and not the details of every rolling crisis should be at the core of this kind of thinking. The corners and edges of the American economy have become troubled assets, subject to a relief program, again. How do you set a piece of paper on fire? Edges and corners, shocking, I know, the because feds threw TARP on the 2008 fire, but it still keeps burning, albeit quietly outside of the nation’s corporate boardrooms. The critics of the Great Recession warned us to develop much higher sensitivity to the malfunctions of capitalism, often referring to it as the American-style.
If this the “sensitivity” at the edge is acquired, how can it be more useful? Perhaps this is the time for a band of writers to create improvements among themselves as a never doubt group. I would ask individual writers to leap among the language art professions to build a reservoir of ideas so beautifully stated that it will uplift the American-spirit.
I started my own list of writers (here – excerpt below) to search for that language and not wait for it to arrive. I am working to add more names, find those who are building the conversation, publishing “the papers” and producing the literature for the never doubt groups throughout America that are help bent on good changes. Read them deeply, and watch them find ways to make the data yield results and where truth can mean something again.
“All journalists need to be understood in the context of action demanded in the vitally important vision of the world held by Ta Nehisi Coates. I spent some time with Vann R. Newkirk II, Adrienne Green, Adam Harris, Reihan Salam Gillian B White, and Matt Thompson. I cannot speak to Ta-Nehisis Coates’s experience. I can read his books or any essay and fully understand the power of his voice and my hope for his influence. Meet him here 2018 and here 2017.“From Writer’s Wanted
Since We are Waiting:
The facts show financial service companies, insurance corporations, and a million families went underwater on bad loans and poor judgment. The facts show, millions of people became sick with a virus that killed a high percentage of the most vulnerable due to lung infections and other underlying conditions, and they died alone.
The national to local response 2008 and 2020 to fix the “money” problem is a focus on the wrong problem. Americans are confronted by comprehensive “health” concerns not only affecting the cells of their bodies, there are shortcomings in the entire cognitive outlook. Exploring the reasoning skills of Americans is what should dominate the argument and the conversation. That is where the malfunctions will be found. The money is important, but it crowds out critical thinking on a long list of concerns. Here is a 2008 example.
In 2008, Wall Street won the case – use federal funds and reestablish aggregate demand, sustain liquidity for global trade, keep employment up, but income marginal (paycheck to paycheck) in a high percentage of households. Attack tax rates, government interference, and expose public incompetence. Hide wrongdoing and continue to reduce mechanisms for public oversight into private financial practices and kill debate. These globalists arguments are persuasive and claimed by the strategic financial practices of the Federal Reserve System on down to your 401(k) fully exhibit a malfunction.
Recently (April 2020) several hundred other private businesses and publicly traded companies dipped into that malfunction. However, Shake Shack and that steak franchise didn’t return a combined $30 million in 0% interest loans to reduce public outrage. Assuring the employment of all workers on the government dime is distasteful to investors as it does nothing for a balance sheet or the tax code and it lacks flexibility. As billion-dollar companies, they know the only way to recapitalize during a full-blown depression of unknown duration is to wait and reduce payroll far more quietly down the road. The bonus is to align the business with American values of freedom and independence that still takes blood to establish and use them to get good public relations.
Despite the depth of the 2008 and 2020 global economic tragedies, other questions that attempt to define and identify the malfunctions of sound reasoning in America go unaddressed. The financial crisis of 2008 and the health and economic crisis of 2020 has one word that tends to deaden discussion of system change and that headliner is “money.” Failing to understand alternatives to money is a malfunction of American cultural thinking.
For example, why is it so uninteresting to wonder out loud, if the world could operate as if wealth is not the only means of meaningful communication? Is becoming an outlier, a monastic monk, or an entire monastery the only pathway to sustainability? What are the alternatives, where are the well-celebrated successes? There are many places and events that have proven capital to be meaningless in the achievement of human dignity. Those four college students had just a few dollars between them at the Woolworths’ lunch counter when somehow they galvanized an established, ongoing “sit-in” movement across the South.
These questions and events exhibit an ingredient of enormous importance to life. A clear dividing line that separates a private marketplace solution for serving a human need to those in the public realm that want to create change. Where is the line that says on this side of it, the use of debt as a cost of money is irrelevant, where the purposes of care keep us all well and sustaining the simplicities of life are priorities that reign supreme above all others?
For Fairness and Equity
The last two hundred years of American-style capitalism is about growth. The next century will need to observe fairness and equity more accurately. This fight requires a search for leadership that Democracy should be best in finding. Only one modern American hero has a national day of remembrance for the courage it took to lead a fairness and equity challenge. His pain became ours, and his name was Martin Luther King.
King’s interest in justice with equity held the U.S. Constitution to account first, but this did not extinguish his view on the economics of capitalism. His demand for change is based on two facts. An economic system built on slavery and imprisonment will not change the rules. Change must, therefore, come from changing the system.
“I am now convinced that the simplest approach will prove to be the most effective – the solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed matter: the guaranteed income…”Martin Luther King –Where do We Go from Here? 1967
Resisting the pressure to create change weakens your outlook and idles your voice, yet the sadness built into this silence is a powerful force in the creation of a new and powerful narrative. For those whose interests lie in connecting the dots with visible lines between the confluence of the 2008 and 2020 crisis will gather their strength by recalling the heart of King’s outlook – that the arc of human history may be long, but it bends toward justice.
The concept of equity in the minds of most people is a good place to begin. Any accountant will explain “equity” as a combination of assets and liabilities. One of the first sources of wealth in the world and pre-eminent in the United States has been to support the acquisition of assets by individual families. Homeownership, with the help of mortgage guarantees, is the prime example. It also formed the perfect storm for converting government-insured mortgages into derivatives in bundles of mortgage-backed securities. Confidence and trust in each household and the economy in which they function is the one fantastic thing that makes the liability expressed by a mortgage possible.
In the post-2008 recovery, millions of families realized they were sold a dream, but not a house. The narrative used said they just tripped into the caveat emptor bucket where all of the inequities of American-style capitalism are poured. That is not the malfunction. The third malfunction is far more disturbing. It was how easily and rapidly a vast amount of capital shifted into serving the demand for rental housing. It was as if the purpose of the crisis was to slice yet another sizeable chunk of households out of the ownership market, but who will put equity into the pockets of the housing investor-class.
The signal of the fourth malfunction worthy of exploration is a failure of the senses to hear the beep. All of us have the ability to know when someone “feels” trustworthy, a person in whose recommendations you would feel confident following based solely on initial impressions.
Confirmation bias is a proven human behavior, it is as if there was only one emoji for every expression. It is illustrated over and over again in the communication between people – it is documented with race, religion, age, a whole set of facial expressions, and all kinds of body language. American’s are a highly sophisticated, visually literate group of people far too easily siloed and willing to stay there.
I say it over and over, the meaning of everything is found in people, not books, newspapers, or TV reporting. Meaning is putting trust in the instincts we have about the people we give power over our thinking-lives and therefore we are entitled to a judgment. Where is the narrative, the journalism, and reporting that openly explores the hair-raising ease with which the writer and reader are privately manipulated into being managed per story?
In visual reporting, there is “same room,” empathy, but never one that could be hand-to-hand. Judgments are therefore personal, the following are mine, no one else. In the discussion of economic recovery policies, I find one group of leaders exhibit a distinct arrogance with a hint of condescension (Mnuchin of Treasury and Ross of Commerce, for example) and other groups who are recommending preventative treatments and therapies for me and the nation exhibit authenticity and sincerity. Dr. Fauci, the face of COVID-19, and Adams our Surgeon General come to mind.
I think all can see a sharp difference between these leaders and their styles. Those with extensive experience in managing unimaginably massive amounts of capital in their personal lives and those with extensive experience in managing services and policies that protect human health represent the bifurcation of our society. I can take these impressions as personal and symbolic as a guide to strengthen my critical thinking skills.
For example, I have a positive sense regarding Warren Buffet, even Bill Gates that yields the humanitarianism that I give to Dr. Fauci. Mr. Buffet also freely acknowledges selling 100% of his substantial holdings in airline stock, and in the same March 2020 breath, he is widely quoted for saying, “Never bet against America.” Mr. Gates’ charitable experience with spending millions fighting infectious diseases in the world led him to practically yell out very specific warnings regarding lack of readiness to respond to pandemics. I argue that their humanitarianism is not enough as it fails at system change by changing nothing. What are we missing?
Confidence in Change
Recently, the idea of retaining the confidence of the world in the United States was expressed by none other than the American Enterprise Institute in a map they tweeted to the world. The map is used to illustrate one message for all to see — your wealth belongs here. Illustrating the GDP of individual American States in relationship to fifty other countries in the world is designed to make people confident – to trust the systems that are in place now. Before you read the next paragraph, I call your attention to Wisconsin on the map below.
This BEA/IMF map is a blatant public relations, it was published in the April 2020 phase of the pandemic as an unabashed claim of massive economic power, nothing else. Frankly, I know not where this thinking lands on the index of malfunctions. The following is how I am trying to work it out.
In response to the pandemic, a “system change” relationship between public and private equity is something Europe understands and Denmark in particular. I have one example of why Wisconsin should have no difficulty in system change if they were more like Denmark. Hartland, WI, for example, is known as the nuclei of one of the most important regions of Danish immigration in the United States, but there is a stronger point to be made.
The Denmark government stepped forward to continue paying wages for their people even when they are not working. People kept their jobs with their employers and stayed home. Denmark retained some businesses and most family income and stopped the virus from spreading with efficiency. The policy maintained the cultural status quo of the nation with steady, confident anticipation of ending the crisis. The employee’s program is the tip of the arrow program from a full quiver of medical and economic tactics. The system change is rapid, it allows business activity and production to restart with as little cost and disruption as possible. Instead of a half-baked business paycheck protection program, this was a well prepared Protect Denmark strategy.
Spend a few minutes with Mette Frederiksen, Prime Minister of Denmark introducing her nation’s work opening the Climate Summit in Copenhagen (here) and New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardin on COVID-19 (here) then (here) then Trump on Climate (here) via NBC. There was a surprise until the NBC video told me that he can read a prompter well – so stay with it long enough for proof. I leave it to your cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias instincts. Mette’s every word rings with truth to me, that Trump ends with the testimony of a bait and tackle shop owner from Port St. Lucy on ending toxic tide is the only part that rang truthfully.
Remember Port Huron
Consider the four malfunctions summarized below and remember Port Huron if you are of a mind to develop more detail. All of the above brought to me a recollection of the Port Huron Conference because the answers were there and beautifully identified a half-century ago. (here). I am stunned, by their revelations.
First, fully recognize and prepare a narrative that describes how America has a comprehensive health problem that includes the inability to use our wealth far more effectively in self-study, and second, figuring out the importance of equity for all Americans requires a system change that clearly shows the flow of equity. The “one percent” copy line has failed to capture the imagination or the curiosity of people. Third, capital is more fungible today than in the entire history of civilization. Ordinary people like me, barely understand how quickly markets change, that a specimen, such as a variable stock holding can be mutually interchangeable (replace or be replaced) at the speed of light solely for the benefit of the holder in charge of the change. The pensioner will not notice what was taken until it is gone forever. The fourth and most perplexing malfunction examines is how trust and confidence are broken as agents for change. Is it for the lack of a hard “in what?” do I trust and in whom am I confident? Could it be a failure to face the clear signals of confirmation bias and cognitive dissonance? Is there no one helping the American people figure it out?
Aside from my deep belief that the purpose of time is learning how to get the next moment right, the serious malfunctions in communication and therefore persuasion will not self-solve. Courage will be required. Examine the health of our country as a cognition issue, that the perception of all people, from the homeless veteran to the owner of a hundred Manhattan towers should agree to one central point? The creation of equity for both comes at the cost of the other, that the pain of the vet is removed when the powerful owner becomes a partner in a change to the system. What could possibly make that happen?
Recognize the malfunctions sketched out here are not the “have vs. have not” situations that shaped the lives of these two people, it was for the lack of a system change that eliminated inequities between the “knowing” and the “unknowing” of them both as they look out over the landscape of their country.
Thank you for reading System Change, Part Two: Malfunctions. Comments are appreciated on these ideas, references to other readings, and the practical steps needed to bring them into sharper view. Conference recommendations and notifications are appreciated giving that it has been far too long since the insight of Port Huron and the work of Writers Wanted.
I have offer a brief gambit in Part Three. It is a bit of instruction from the teacher in me, but if you still want to know what that is click (here).