Show me the money!

Uncomfortable question to ponder: What does our massive national messaging campaign around our “Stay home” mitigation response to the Covid-19 pandemic say to our half million homeless citizens and residents?

 

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Image by kalhh || CC0

Unsolicited punditry (if that)!

Well, they say only the braveand the retireddare speak difficult truth. However, because of institutional control-systems, “the brave” never last very long. Therefore, only “the retired” can readily slip-past the controls and really meddle.

So, I’m going straight to meddling this week. Here goes (then I’ll unpack):

Because the lower class had previously been (systematically) pressed and squeezed-down to such degree they were already operating their lives hand-to-mouth at very thin margins (e.g., some 25-40% of working people do not have $400 set-back for an emergency), the human/economic system did not have enough slack for President Donald Trump’s unpaid-for trillion dollar tax-cut to benefit the wealthy. Now, the same system is in the process of creating (again, ex nihilo, as in the tax cut) five trillion dollars to sustain the non-wealthy (hopefully not  missing anyone) through the Covid-19 ‘social-distancing’ response.

What!?!

In the context of the Covid-19 response, Harvard economist Kenneth Rogoff has been the only TV-news interview I’ve heard who seems to really grasp what is happening here. Rogoff said,

“I would have no problem with the government debt magically going up five trillion dollars, you know, in the blink of an eye if we could get out of this in two or three months healthily.” (see @ 4:50-5:17, PBS News Hour 3-19-20)

Five trillion! Now, that seems like an outrageously high number. It’s not. Think of it this way, we (the U.S. government) have essentially said:

“We’d like to rent the entire U.S. economy so we can totally shut it down for two or three months. How much?” 

The U.S.A. constitutes an over twenty-three trillion dollar economy annually. To keep the dollars flowing through the economy as usual for two-three months as if there were no pandemic will require nearly 25% of that annual figure, minimally.

So, together that’s five or six trillion dollars, of money that we do not have, just to pay for the overreaching aspects of our competing values. In the first instance the overreach (RED [CP], e.g., greed) of toxic Orange [ER] and in the second instance the overreach (RED [CP], e.g., utopian schemes) of toxic Green [FS]. Thus, Rent Is Too Damn High!

We must recall that we are stuck because we live in a system modeled on scarcity. As a result of that we unconsciously tend to see reality as unequivocally constrained:

Graves’ SD Orange [ER] values system in the U.S. has clearly demonstrated an inability to distribute consumer-edge material equity—because capitalism is far better at growing the pie than at distributing it equitably. So, we can’t afford our greed.

Graves’ SD Green [FS] has clearly demonstrated an inability to distribute moral fairness—because socialism is far better at equitable distribution than in creating and growing the pie. So, we can’t afford fully-inclusive justice in a half-grown scarcity model.

Rent Is Too Damn High!

The “scarcity model” bottom line: We have evolved wonderful higher-order values but applied them through a scarcity model. So, presently we have values that we cannot afford! For any hope of inclusive justice within our ever increasing diversity we need a shift to a “sufficiency” model. “Jesus came to undo our notions of scarcity and tip us over into a worldview of absolute abundance.”RR [see here]. That’s for another blog post.

Toxic seepage

One way of thinking about why a little virus has been able to bring a world super-power and its economy to an existential reckoning, as enumerated above: with the increasingly widening gap between Wall Street and Main Street the U.S. economy’s immune system was very weak going-in to the Covid-19 pandemic. Add our societal-wide political polarization to our human/economic system issues and we reveal that we are a bit too much like those who are older, or have underlying pre-existing conditions, and are at much higher risk of serious illness and death from a bout with the novel coronavirus.

Regular readers know that I have been a regular critic of the unhelpful aspects of Green [FS]. Why pick on Green? Simply because it’s the ‘leading edge.’ By that defining designation, it’s the values system meant to be leading, not obstructing.

—In fairness, as it’s the nature of the blog series, I’ve also been quite critical of the (toxic) shadow aspects of Orange [ER], Blue [DQ], and Red [CP].

So, you may recall my posts regarding what I have deemed the “toxic seepage of  Green [FS].” That ‘seepage’ is just unhelpful residue of some particularly unhealthy content of Green and not FS itself. I’ve argued that ‘extreme-postmodernism’ is the destructive seepage perceived to come from Green, but is really just bad content of FS, as in the overreach of many leading-edge justice claims—e.g., “All hierarchies are bad,” “There is no truth,” “All meta-narratives are false.” 

This week I’d like us to consider some other toxic seepage, that is, something Orange [ER] values system related. I’d like to suggest that “Just in time delivery” [JITD] has turned out to be toxic seepage that has contributed mightily to our compromised immune system. JITD manufacturing supply-chain designs are a reflection of Orange innovation, efficiency, and profit values. ER captures the economic benefits of only having capital tied-up for as long as necessary and no longer. The efficiency trims cost margins. Sounds great, right? Yes, great, except for the attending unanticipated/unintended consequences.

We recall that someone who knew said, “Systems tend to produce exactly what they are designed to produce.”

JITD has gradually trickled-down [inadvertently?] from corporate supply-chain and manufacturing design into many other layers of business and society. For example, as I wrote last week

The medical delivery system is no exception and just-in-time-delivery translates to very limited surge-capacity. It’s simply too expensive to maintain surplus capacity as a part of the system. 

And, ultimately, JITD trickles and translates into the lives of the precious souls who occupy the lowest rungs of our twenty-three trillion dollar economy. It translates as the reality that as many as 25-40% (but unacceptable even if 10-15%) of Americans do not have four hundred dollars to rub together in the event of an emergencye.g., like the economy being shut down. Many gig-workers, hospitality industry workers, and countless other categories of workers live hand-to-mouth, e.g., JITD taken to a personal existential level. This can be devastating, especially within the dynamics of the U.S. Covid-19 response.

Impending complexity overload 

The congress will soon be attempting to entirely finance the American people/economy for some (unknown) period of time. All of it. You know, the twenty-three trillion dollar annual economy? The congress is about to find out that the arrangements that define all the rights and responsibilities relative to each of those dollars and each and every American, well, they are all wondrously interconnected in tremendously complex relationships, systems, and sub-systems. So much so that we use twenty-three trillion one-dollar increments to account for all the relationships. As Kurt Vonnegut prophetically wrote: 

In his “Fifty-third Calypso,” Bokonon invites us to sing along with him:

Oh, a sleeping drunkard
Up in Central Park,
And a lion-hunter
In the jungle dark,
And a Chinese dentist,
And a British queen—
All fit together
In the same machine.
Nice, nice, very nice;
Nice, nice, very nice;
Nice, nice, very nice—
So many different people
In the same device. [Cat’s Cradle, pg. 3]

Sadly, I feel there’s a good chance that after we all witness the way our government processes and manages the vast complexity of this very atypical crisis, there will be little to no appetite for anything government-run for at least another generation or two. I’d love to be incorrect on our political leaders and pray they are able to rise to the moment.

Rare opportunity

Last week I wrote:

The most vulnerable always take the worst hit, and yet in some ways we perennially prioritize helping the strong.

So, you know the five trillion dollars we’ll need to rent the economy for 2-3 months? All of those dollars will go directly—or, hopefully, indirectly through their employers—to all the people who are, to some degree, in favorable (perhaps even sustainable) relationships with the pre-virus economy. However, it’s very unlikely that even one of those five trillion dollars will go directly to even one of the half million homeless people in the United States—I do realize there will be money and resources aimed at the homeless on this. You know, the half million homeless folks who are, along with those all the way up and down the scale, called to “Stay home?”

Please contact your legislative representatives Monday as they deliberate and vote on how to rent the economy in a fair way, and remember the poor to them. Please remember those who are, for many reasons, caught-up in the poverty that lies beneath the economy. Whatever margin they lived on in the pre-virus economy is long gone now.

Next week: Reboot: An intrinsic problem [flaw?] in the conservative political philosophy has been on full display in this crisis.

[this post approx. 1,500 words (6 mins)]

Your thoughts?

I never know what I’ve said till I hear the response. What did you hear me say?

Note: Introducing Spiral Dynamics in this format is ambitious. So, I’m using a serial-approach. Blog introduction (June 30, 2018). First in series (July 1, 2018).

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2 thoughts on “Show me the money!

  1. You write, “Sadly, I feel there’s a good chance that after we all witness the way our government processes and manages the vast complexity of this very atypical crisis, there will be little to no appetite for anything government-run for at least another generation or two.”

    I think that it is more likely that there will be large numbers of people who will see the need for an effective and efficient federal government. The New Deal grew out of a national emergency that in many ways resembles where we now find ourselves.

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    1. David, thanks for writing!

      You may be correct. A bit hard to imagine how the SBA and state unemployment departments won’t be overwhelmed by the tsunami of claims and applications coming their way. Then, too, the “non-banked” population (not to mention our half million people who are homeless) will surely be a very difficult one to reach with a money-distribution system.

      As I say, my concern is that government administrators are about to find out that there are far too many moving parts here to get organized on an urgent basis. On the other hand, these kinds of situations often produce leaps in innovation and adaptation. We’ll hope, and we’ll see. 

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