Friday, January 4, 2013

No free ride

I seldom venture into the local Wal-Mart store, but yesterday was an exception. Sent to find freezer storage bags unavailable elsewhere, I walked by the clothing section and checked out prices. I was shocked how cheap goods can be had. A nice shirt for $7. Sounds good, no?

Perhaps, unless you’re the poor SOB making that $7 shirt.

Or the local business that wants to manufacture shirts and has to compete with this obscene price.

I hear people say excessive governmental debt is no problem. In the next breath they say we need to create new jobs. Then they say we need unions for fair wages, safe and clean working conditions. And, we need to produce goods in an environmentally acceptable fashion.

We do not live in a vacuum.

When we create new money without also creating more underlying real wealth, we dilute the value of our currency relative to the currencies of the rest of the world. We have gotten away with this for a couple of reasons: first, the notion that oil must be traded worldwide in dollars and only in dollars, and second, a belligerent and powerful military combined with a propensity to punish those that don’t adhere to notion number one.

We all, whether we admit it or not, enjoy an advantage created from the spoils of war.

This unnatural and unfair value applied to the US dollar allows us to buy foreign goods cheaper than we can produce them. Multinational corporations, often bearing names that sound quite American, offshore manufacturing jobs to get away from minimum wage requirements, environmental concerns and safe working conditions.

In essence, the stuff you find in your local Wal-Mart and for that matter nearly any other store or outlet where you shop is made by slaves toiling in unsafe and miserable conditions, while trashing the planet in the process. And we kill those that resist the plan, directly and by proxy.

The result is what you see all around you.

We are not alone. European nations have also long used similar exploitation to live at higher standards than the rest of the world. The European Union is largely a response to losses in power and prestige to the United States and our model of exploitation since World War II.

They and we expect a higher standard of living without questioning where and how real goods and services required to maintain that standard are acquired.

I say there are consequences that come with stolen goods. Call it karma. Reaping what you sow. The law of reciprocity.

There is no free ride.

So, how do we fix this mess? This late in the game, I don’t honestly know, but if someone made me king, I can tell you how I’d start.

First, bring home our troops. All of them.

Second. Institute standards and a certification process for any goods imported into this country in large scale, including minimum wages, environmental standards, and safe and clean conditions for workers in foreign countries. Any non-certified goods should be subject to severe tariffs. You employ slaves; you cannot sell goods in this country, or we will tax the living shit out of you (creating revenue in the process).

Don’t give free money to able-bodied citizens; instead provide employment through projects that raise the common wealth of the country.

Change tactics in the so-called War on Drugs; treat addicts as sick people instead of as criminals; legalize marijuana and dilute forms of drugs created from natural opiates and stimulants; offer the hard stuff to addicts in controlled environments for those wishing to break or effectively control their addiction….

Thereby greatly reducing the population of our prisons; shorter more intense sentences should be employed for anyone considered rehabilitatable (my computer says this isn’t a word. It should be).

Go after fraudsters, allow too-big-to-fails to fail and redistribute resulting assets through auction. Real estate, both commercial and residential is too expensive, largely a result of too much money in the hands of wealthy imperialists and nowhere else to spend it, and values must be reset.

Reduce the size and scope of federal government while augmenting the power of state and local governments. One size does not fit all; to be effective, government needs be nimble and cognizant of local issues and conditions. We’re better off as a confederation, (or union for those that dislike the word) of semi-autonomous states than as a nation where all is dictated from one central governing body.

I am sure a transition to these ends would be uncomfortable, perhaps even disastrous in the short term, but the cause of the pain wouldn’t be the cures I prescribe, but instead the inevitable result of the reckless and immoral imperial model we have applied to get where we are and have what we have.

One thing for sure. There is no free ride in this world.

We will have to go back to work to get out of this mess.

Or, we will fail catastrophically.

Take your pick.


  1. I would agree with everything you said. I think the idea of putting people to work (who can) with jobs improving the infrastructure of this country is an important idea. I can't for the life of me figure out why government doesn't consider this approach. It was done before and it worked.
    I am a longtime reader of yours and appreciate your common sense.

  2. The reason you can not have the general unemployeed working on infrastucture projects is it interfers with all the union construction jobs. The unions will not give on this issue.

    Overall I'm with you for real change but you must have a Stalin like purge of the current government to start the transformation.

  3. Hey Cowboy,
    Am going to post this over at The Agonist right after this. It will probably be buried over there with the new Wordpress system. The post is a week old and the comment page weasels out in no time. Or..., maybe I will be banned for it there. Anyway..., this one's for you partner.

    Thanks for the Ride Don
    I hopped aboard for the ride early Friday morning (1-4-13) Don, when I saw the notification on the Blogger Dashboard that you had a new post up on your Unrepentant Cowboy blog.  “Buy the ticket, take the ride,” said Hunter S. Thompson.  I gave a thought…, a brief one…, about holding off and reading it on The Agonist on Friday night.  Like the old days…, when you were posting regular Sabbath Eve pieces.  Yeah…, back when I could look forward to reading a piece by you and offering a comment... and look forward to catching up on all the weeks comments I missed.  1000 of them if need be.  Sadly, those days are gone.  I’m lucky if I can catch up on one day’s comments in the new format.  So I punched that ticket and took that ride about 4:30 Friday morning on your Blog.
    And what a ride…, thanks again partner.  From your garden and it’s fruits and vegetables that need freezer bags for storage as a hedge against the leaner times…, if not worse than just leaner…, maybe one whole heck of a lot meaner times.  No, you didn’t have to spell that out for me…, I get it.  You don’t have to explain to me how the fair wages you speak of are not paid to Walmart employees, or that many are also collecting food stamps and getting their medical care from hospital emergency rooms so Walmart can keep selling that Singapore shirts at seven dollars.  That ticket has been punched a number of times…, but it doesn’t hurt to shake as many passengers as possible awake every now and again.  You may never be able to shake them all awake…, but I appreciate your effort.  I get it Don.
    The ride touched issues far and worldwide, from debt, jobs, taxes, and the environment, to oil prices and military exploitation.  You don’t have to explain it to me what you mean when you say, “… we expect a higher standard of living without question where and how real goods and services required to maintain that standard are acquired.”  You don’t have to provide me with the numbers to back it up.  I wouldn’t remember them anyway.  If I did, I would throw in here the percentage of resources (particularly energy) the US and Europe burn up in comparison to the third world countries in proportion to their populations.  I get it Don.  What once seemed like a free ride…, if not over now…, isn’t far off.  Whether the rails of that ride were lubricated with King Coal, or Black Gold, or Greasy Dollars matters not.  I get it Don.







  4. Your reign as King…, long live the King !!!  Well…, for as long as climate change allows it anyway.  A list of six things, for a “start”, you are careful to say…, and you are also honest enough to say that you don’t know that it is not too late already.  1.  Huge cuts in military spending could go a long way toward balancing some budgets both fiscal and diplomatic.  2.  We might need some of that tariff money to help off-set the price increases to us in those Walmart shirts.  3.  Numerian has a great piece up over here

  5. The Permanent Dependency Class that somewhat addresses that.  4.  Good signs here with WA and CO leading the way and standing up to the Feds.  5.  We have to keep Wall Street and the Banksteers alive (too much pension and IRA money could find its way into the pockets of guys like Corzine [and disappear] if it looks like they are going to die)…, but they should have to beg to stay alive…, not be bailed out to pay huge bonuses to executives.  6.  I don’t know…, that sounds a lot like what Europe looks like to me…, but as long as you are the King.  I get it Don.

  6. “Buy the ticket, take the ride,” said HST.  Do you suppose he would tell you what he meant by that if you asked him Don?  Do you suppose he would say that he had a very precise meaning in mind?  Don’t worry partner…, I would no more ask him that if I ran into him at the end of my ride…, than I would ask you now, what you meant by, “We will have to go back to work to get out of this mess.”  I recognize the ambiguity.  I know you meant that we need get to work on jobs for the jobless…, we need to get to work on a more fair trade system between first world and third world countries…, that we need to get to work changing more laws that target young men (particularly minorities) for incarceration…, we need to get to work changing the way money is flying to the top 1% and flying right by the other 99%..., we need to get to work on a more equitable tax system…, we need to get to work recognizing how our actions affect other countries and taking corrective action if it is having a negative impact…, we need to get to work preparing for climate change and doing what we can to mitigate it.  And we need to get to work in our gardens.  I get it Don.
    That Friday morning you took me for a ride before I took the bus ride to the job with Tom McGuane and his “Driving on the Rim” in hand.  It was even a nice day at the job, then a ride home with a quick taste of Tom and a refreshing nap.  At The Ranch I fed the horses, snatched a few beers from The Saddle Bar(n) for the house, caught the last of The News Hour, then a whole segment of Bill Moyers on climate change.  The beers barely kept pace with the sobering message of the show.  Then it was off to the computer in the office/library of a spare bedroom.  I was even thinking that maybe I should submit a link to the Moyers show to The Agonist…, after I concocted something that probably only I would find witty and amusing to comment on your piece.  But I never got passed reading the comments.  I don’t get it Don?

  7. My usual Friday night ritual includes the on-line version of the weekly local paper from back home in Idaho, the weekly Archdruid Report, The Automatic Earth, Facebook…, and more beer.  The only thing I could get to that night was the beer…, and plenty of that.  The more I studied the comments the more confused and angered I became.  It just wasn’t making any sense to me.  I am no literary scholar by any means, but I have a couple of years of English Comp on my resume and I once took a Creative Writing course under Robert Wrigley.  I thought it might have been the beer that was clouding my judgment and I was just over reacting to some valid criticism of one of my favorite writers, criticism that was meant to be constructive in nature.  I thought maybe my thoughts might be clearer in the morning, after a good night’s sleep.  I had a few more beers to insure that was possible…, the sleep that is.  I just didn’t get it?
    Saturday morning I tried again…, for hours.  I still could not see any cause for criticism of the piece overall that moved past the point of petty and unwarranted.  I began to wonder if the comments were really personal attacks veiled as criticism.  I couldn’t get over my anger…, and many years of unsound decisions made in anger have tempered my reactions to it a bit in my old age.  So I just posted a comment that I was going to try to work out a few frustrations doing chores.  I got out to the barn with the shovel and wheelbarrow.  I have been doing this five or six years with that old patched together shovel handle.  I broke it on Saturday.  I don’t get it?
    Don, partner…, you have been an integral part of my Agonist experience for as far back as I can remember.  It was the inspiration from your writing that resulted in our garden…, and I still cuss you because of all the perspiration it has caused me.  But other than that, I can find no fault with you..., or your writing.  I certainly appreciate the precious time to write that you somehow manage to pare away from all the duties and responsibilities that make up a life that few…, if any…, men that I have known could emulate.  And believe me partner…, I have known some damn good men in my 60 years.  Some folks like highly polished, technical writing.  I prefer the raw power that I feel when I read your stuff.  You don’t tell me how or what to think…, you make me think on my own.  You make me see things I’ve never seen.  You may pick me up at times, you may slam me down at times…, but you always make me feel it and there is no doubt which way you are taking me.  But it is always my decision what I do when you get me there.  You have a natural talent and a unique style Don.  It always shines through no matter how rough a draft you present.  I envy your talent and wish I could write like you and make people feel the way you make me feel.  And…, I think I am beginning to get it now Don.
    Right on partner…, write on.  For what it’s worth…, I’ll be buying the ticket and taking the ride over at The Unrepentant Cowboy from here on out.