Saturday, September 19, 2015

Hot And Bad And Doing Everything You Want All Night Long

... Probably Get Some Interesting Traffic With That Lead
 (And you thought there would be Porn For You at the end of this. Ha Ha; no )

Over at The Big Picture, a financial blog offered by Barry Ritholz which I've mentioned before (see the post immediately below), is a bright spot in that part of the Internet created by and for actual, sentient humans.  There are others -- but TBP deals with finance, investment, and the occasional non sequitur side trip into this world we inhabit along with with trees, Gorillas, Carly Fiorina, 'Duran Duran', Fire Ants, and the New York Review Of Books.

One of those side trips is a post by Morgan Housel, a guest author, "We're Living Through The Greatest Period In World History", which has been posted around the Net in various places.  Herr Housel is an trader / investment kind of guy, and I would imagine is compensated at an, uh 'much higher level' than the average Jack or Jill.

Housel offers fifty (count 'em, 50) points to prove this thesis. I read some of them, nodding, as Dogs will do; while others left me thinking Oh Jesus God No; The Fuck You Talkin', Man? 

Reading Housel's thing at my Place Of Witless Labor™, I nearly did what I'm about to do (offer a partial rebuttal, one other thing Dogs do) -- but held back, because my Overlords would not like me to spend my time in this way. They're about to Reorg our department, and so it's about Peas and Queues and such-like these days.

Anyway; I'm not going to go through Housel's entire list of 50 proofs as to why we're living in the bestest fun times ever; but as a preface, I'll just say that perception is subjective. He presents a variety of facts about America -- that we work less, are wealthier; live longer; spend huge amounts of leisure time; have fewer homicides, and live in bigger apartments.

But the statistics have no context; there's no explanation of how they came to be, or whether they're true for a majority of the population. They simply are.

If you're a Syrian refugee, shivering in a field on the Hungarian border and trying to keep your family from starving, whether these are the bestest, most fun times humanity has ever had is sort of an open question. But Herr Housel isn't thinking about people and places outside our borders. He's speaking to an American audience, about how awesome it is to be Here. Not a great deal of compassion in that view -- more like, "Hey, I got mine, Jack!"

"U.S. life expectancy at birth was 39 years in 1800, 49 years in 1900, 68 years in 1950, and 79 years today. The average newborn today [lives] an entire generation longer than his great-grandparents could." (Yes, but apparent reported rates of dementia [including what would become known as Alzheimer's Disease], cancer, emphysema, diabetes, and Glaubner's Disease, were lower in 1900. And, a lack of fast food meant anyone named Ronald McDonald was guaranteed not to be a clown, and no one would invent Spandex for a long time.)

"The average American now retires at age 62. One hundred years ago, the average American died at age 51. Enjoy your golden years — your ancestors didn’t get any of them." (How do you know how those people experienced their lives? And thanks to the Social Security Act, brought about by that Franklin Roosevelt, most Americans will have at least some guaranteed income in retirement; all of the Republicans on the debate stage this week would like to end SSI and replace it with funds managed by Goldman-Sachs. And they would like to strangle puppies. Because Freedom.)

"... Infant mortality in America has dropped from 58 per 1,000 births in 1933 to less than six per 1,000 births in 2010, according to the World Health Organization... more than 200,000 infants now survive each year who wouldn’t have 80 years ago. That’s like adding a city the size of Boise, Idaho, every year." (And this population increase is a good thing, Pilgrim?)

"No one has died from a new nuclear weapon attack since 1945. If you went back to 1950 and asked the world’s smartest political scientists, they would have told you the odds of seeing that happen would be close to 0%..." (While that's a good thing, it's hard to feel terrific about the proxy wars between East and West between 1950-1989 (Korea to the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan), and the "War On Terra" ever since.)

"According to the Federal Reserve, the number of lifetime years spent in leisure — retirement plus time off during your working years — rose from 11 years in 1870 to 35 years by 1990. Given the rise in life expectancy, it’s probably close to 40 years today. Which is amazing: The average American spends nearly half his life in leisure..." ('Leisure' is sort of a plastic term; again, kinda depends where on the socioeconomic food chain you are.  And it's about your health. Most of us like being alive, no matter what those conditions may be -- but it's a question of the quality, rather than quantity, of that 'life in leisure'.)

"We are having a national discussion about whether a $7.25-per-hour minimum wage is too low. But even adjusted for inflation, the minimum wage was less than $4 per hour as recently as the late 1940s. The top 1% have captured most of the wage growth over the past three decades, but nearly everyone has grown richer — much richer — during the past seven decades." (If you define "nearly everyone has grown richer" as more people being able to purchase consumer electronics [cellphones, tablets, PC and laptops; iPods, and large-screen Teevees] and have access to services [cable television, data connectivity], then I guess that statement might be correct. However, if you define "richer" in other terms -- that pesky Quality Of Life, again -- then, not so much. 

(Over the past 12-plus years, 90% of income in all forms, not only wages, has gone to the  top 1% of America's population.  But, most of that 90% has gone to the top one-tenth of one per cent -- about 320,000 men, women and children.  Reading this, chances are you're not one of them.  If you are, burn in Hell. Or, you know, not.)

"Worldwide deaths from battle have plunged from 300 per 100,000 people during World War II, to the low teens during the 1970s, to less than 10 in the 1980s, to fewer than one in the 21st century..." ([Sigh] Just one soldier dying per 100K of population, in a world of 7 Billion people, is 70,000 combat deaths.  It's true -- in 2015, more people worldwide die in accidents or of various diseases than soldiers in combat; but that figure doesn't take into account civilian deaths as well:  Since 2001, roughly 1,000,000 people have died in various 'little' wars.  That's less than 0.025% of the world's population, by the statistics -- but try telling that to the families of one million people.)

"Median household income adjusted for inflation was around $25,000 per year during the 1950s. It’s nearly double that amount today. We have false nostalgia about the prosperity of the 1950s ... If you dig into how the average “prosperous” American family lived [then] ... you’ll find a standard of living we’d call 'poverty' today." (The nostalgia is only false if you measure living in terms of personal wealth; what you can buy. There's a Yin and Yang about the Present and the Past -- for every technological advance or collective rise in living standards, there's something we've lost that we'll never get back. 

(Having smart phones, digital and wireless telephony, may be more "efficient" than analog, copper-wire PBX systems -- but when we make the leap from using keypad and mouse to voice-recognition systems like SoundHound or Amazon's Echo, people will constantly be talking into thin air, and another layer of social distance will be reduced by the intrusion of more sound. Get ready for it.)

"...the average American house or apartment is twice as large as the average house or apartment in Japan, and three times larger than the average home or apartment in Russia." (That idea is such a comfort if you live in a place like New York City, Los Angeles, Silicon Valley, or Kiddietown, and pay thousands of dollars for a tiny studio or millions for an 'average' home.)

"The average American work week has declined from 66 hours in 1850, to 51 hours in 1909, to 34.8 today, according to the Federal Reserve. Enjoy your weekend." (Herr Housel implies that the reduction in working hours came about because -- I dunno; technology; or, because The Owner Class really are a crew of enlightened beings who believe the welfare of their serfs employees is paramount. Or, "social progress".  Whatever. Housel doesn't say.

(It's worth remembering that reductions in the length of the work week occurred after generations of organizing and incessant pressure by labor unions on the Owners.  We have an 8-hour day; a 40-hour week; paid lunch and rest breaks; workplace safety codes and Workman's Compensation; "labor-management partnership"  -- all because union members risked their lives (and gave them up) to strike, picket, and pressure the Owners into making those concessions.

Thomas Anschutz, Ironworker's Noontime (1880)
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

(They were bought with blood. By now, everyone takes them for granted and assumes they're a right -- not an agreement which the Owners could decide to ignore.  Because Freedom.  And in a world where labor unions don't swing as much weight as they did between 1869 and 1984, it could happen.

(And, everyone I know works way longer than 34.8 hours a week. Perhaps just not in Herr Housel's office.)

"Adjusted for inflation, the average monthly Social Security benefit for retirees has increased from $378 in 1940 to $1,277 by 2010. What used to be a safety net is now a proper pension." (One dollar, in 1940, had the buying power of $17.24 today -- or, that $378 average monthly SSI payment would have been worth $6,517 today.  And if you think $1,277 in 2015 is a 'proper pension', please see "Rich People: Burn In Hell", above.)

"If you think Americans aren’t prepared for retirement today, you should have seen what it was like a century ago. In 1900, 65% of men over age 65 were still in the labor force. By 2010, that figure was down to 22%. The entire concept of retirement is unique to the past few decades. Half a century ago, most Americans worked until they died." (Hey; pal -- I got a news flash for you: No matter how 'unique' you believe retirement to be, these statistics are less meaningful when you consider that American workers, whose employer-offered 401(k) or 403(b) retirement plan savings were reduced in the Crash in 2008, will have to work years longer to make up for those losses and delay retirement. 

(After Social Security, these savings plans are the primary method available for workers to create additional income in retirement.  Over time they've replaced the union pension system (as the number of union jobs in America shrank), and what were once traditional pension plans of employers (now, too expensive; cuts into profits).  Unfortunately, salaries and wages in America have been flat for most American workers at least since 2005, making it harder to save and replace their losses from the Crash.)

"You need an annual income of $34,000... to be in the richest 1% of the world... To be in the top half of the globe you need to earn just $1,225 a year. For the top 20%, it’s $5,000 per year. Enter the top 10% with $12,000 a year. To be included in the top 0.1% requires an annual income of $70,000. America’s poorest are some of the world’s richest." (I swear to god; I'm not even going to go there.)

"Only 4% of humans get to live in America. Odds are you’re one of them. We’ve got it made." (Unless you're black, and getting pulled over for a traffic violation.)

Oh, and --  Hillary !  Jebby ! 


  1. I share your annoyance at "average lifespan was shorter then - therefore everyone died younger" fallacious analyses. Death in childhood, and death during childbearing, are the major causes of lower life expectancy that have been sharply reduced, leading to higher life expectancies. But consider: All the people who died in childhood were NOBODY's ancestor. This means, necessarily, that everyone's ANCESTORS were more long-lived than the entire POPULATION of that time. Furthermore, although children and young women were reaching the end of their life more often, PLENTY of people lived to their 60s, 70s, 80s and even 90s. The idea that an old person was RARE is just silly. I look at my family tree and its unusual to see someone who died before the age of 70, even two centuries ago.

    1. When someone mentions "Average Life Expectancy", there should be a disclaimer -- "This is an average / median figure. Your individual mileage, and that of your Forebears (or in my case, Foredogs) -- who did not have to contend with current levels of environmental pollution -- may vary."

  2. An "inside the D.C. beltway" type and I were talking yesterday The falseness of the inevitability of Hillary is now apparent to this person - but they think the democratic nominee will be Joe Biden. Maybe - but my money's going to Bernie Sanders.

    May the Creative Forces of the Universe stand beside us, and guide us, though the NIGHT with the LIGHT from ABOVE (speaking metaphorically.)

    1. With the exception of Bernie Sanders (for all the good reasons), and Donald Trump and The Weasel Who Lives Oh His Head (for all the wrong reasons), no one seems very passionate about their candidacy. But it's a question other people around the world ask: "Why don't Americans take their national politics more seriously?"


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