Build-Up Economics

I’ve been a news junkie lately. I can’t help it. It’s the election, and the subsequent insecurity about what changes will take place in my beloved country. I live on the edge of fear and a feeling of being activated, and I have oh, so many questions.

Today, for example, I was watching a segment of Morning Joe in which they were discussing the future of manufacturing in America. They were talking about the loss of jobs to cheaper labor in Mexico and China, about how $35/hr wages were being replaced with $15/hr wages here in my country, and that was compared to $5/hr in Mexico and $2.5/hr in China. If you listen to the pundits, the vast midwest was a deciding force in our election, and it’s full of people who lost good-paying jobs due to trade deals. So what’s the solution?

On this segment of the program, they discussed the realities of these jobs returning. The prospect was bleak. Automation is geared to replace workers, despite a return of manufacturing. My husband is the warehouse manager of a seed production warehouse. Even here they have automated, increasing production and making a backbreaking job much easier. Fifty pound bags of seed travel by conveyor belt instead of being hoisted from seed filler to pallet, as was the case when he started working there. Still, when he comes home complaining about the attitudes of the guys who work for him, their complaints about the hard work and long hours, I hear in his voice the frustration of dealing with actual human beings. On occasion he’s expressed the desire to fully automate. So where does that leave the American worker?

The issues are real. I can’t imagine right now stressing about my family’s future, but I’ve been in that position. I understand the desire to change, to find something else, something that might work, anything that might work. I can even kind of understand the nostalgia of going back to a time of production and employment that benefitted everyone.

Then my scientific mind kicks into gear and I think of osmosis. For those of you who are not scientifically inclined, osmosis is the process in which a solution is striving for equilibrium. If you put water that has salt water next to fresh water, separated by a semi-permeable membrane that only lets water molecules through, the water will migrate to the salt water space seeking equilibrium. I’ve often thought of this with regard to Mexico and illegal immigration. I used to wonder if it wouldn’t have been better to help Mexico improve its economy and standard of living for its own people. After all, who wants to uproot his or her life, travel to a country where you don’t speak the language, live in crowded conditions, and save as much as possible to send home? It’s a cost/benefit scenario. Osmosis. People who have little in the way of resources migrate to a place of greater resources because the resources can’t get through the membrane in the opposite direction. Societies, like solutions, striving for equilibrium.

Now we have an imbalance in economy. Wages in the U.S. are high, though still not a living wage for many. It’s still cheaper to ship supplies across the Pacific, assemble them, and ship them back than to make them locally.

I live in a small, conservative area that was hit hard by a decline in logging. People are budget minded, I get it. Still, the people of my town who probably voted for Donald Trump are the ones who support the king of low-cost shopping, Wal-Mart. They eat at Taco Bell and were excited when the new, expanded McDonald’s opened up. I know this because I watch it unfold on a daily basis over social media.

So here’s my question: Why do we look toward one person for solutions to this issue when there’s really a lot we can do for ourselves?

Personally, I choose not to shop at Wal-Mart if I can avoid it.If I do end up at Wal-Mart, I will stand in line and avoid the self-checker at all costs. I don’t want to see jobs replaced with automation. I don’t mind spending a little extra for human contact and the knowledge that people in my town have a chance to bring home a paycheck, however small it may be. I will buy the same products from employee-owned Bi-Mart, often for the same price or slightly cheaper. But those products are still mass produced overseas. Some things I have little control over. I’m hoping that my daily decisions have an impact, however small. I’ve heard that within a few years, most products will be distributed using self-driving trucks, putting many, many people out of work.

It’s all about choice. Do we want cheap and mass produced, or do we want a sense of community and national pride at being able to say we produced it ourselves? We live in the time of kickstarters, where a good idea and some people who believe enough in the idea to provide a little backing can transform the lives of whoever is associated with that supply chain. I’ve always thought that my little town could easily set up a small production of a specialized product, a quality apparel item, a craft food product, or sporting good. Small and specialized might be the way of the future. Of course you have to be in a good financial spot to even consider this, and that’s what many people in my country are struggling for right now.

We need to make some tough decisions. I realize that I’m at a good place in my life right now to be able to say I’d take quality over quantity or economy. It took time to get here. It took a vision of a scaled back life, where a smaller home and years of used cars allowed for freedom of financial choices. I think this is something to aspire to. We used to eat in all of the time. Now I’d rather pay a couple dollars more to eat at a local restaurant than to funnel my money up through a chain restaurant to an executive at the top. I’d rather buy my kids bottled soda on rare occasions than boxes of Coke that are on sale at the local Safeway. Even produce can be procured at local farmer’s markets, beautiful, sometimes unique foods that are fresh and support local people. (Though I noticed that local markets often buy local produce.) Those of us who can, should support this local economy.

Committing ourselves to each other needs to be a part of the national discussion. Billionaires are stingy folk. That’s how they got and kept their money. Trickle down economics don’t work. We need to take care of each other.


Photo credit: Tom Simpson via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND
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The world is not a true/false test,
A black and white version of life
With nary a shade of gray.
You may wish to go down the list of questions
And check your box –
Democrat or Republican,
Black or white,
Pro or con.

But there are no easy answers.

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Good News Needed

I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s exhausted with this election cycle. It seems to have brought all of the baseness of human nature to the surface, and I, for one, am sinking into a mire of depression. We have just witnessed the Brexit vote and all of the political fallout and as we watch the UK fall apart, we might be wondering what will become of us as we deal with our own two less than stellar choices of leader.

I’m in need of cute puppy videos. Laughing babies. Anything to steer me away from this feeling that we are at the tipping point with awful things to come.

But laughing babies and puppies, cute as they are, are just a momentary escape. The world will still be spiraling downward out there. What is within my power to change before we reach that tipping point?

In the wake of the Orlando shooting, I wondered what the world would be like if instead of fighting over gun rights yet again, instead of hurling insults and stockpiling weapons, we committed ourselves to acts of kindness in remembrance. Would that get any press?

I’ve also heard a lot on the news about Christian intolerance and Tea Party politics, but I have a high school friend who, with her husband, is heavily involved in Christian ministry to urban youth in Southside Chicago. In a world where black lives matter, they are two very white people who take the whole love your God/love your neighbor mandate seriously and are reaching out to a community in need.

We still need a colorblind society. A just society. A society where nobody gets a slap on the wrist after raping a woman. A society where words are measured before they are thrown out like punches to the gut. A civil society. A society that seeks understanding and inclusion over divisiveness and hate.

We hear over and over about what’s going wrong in our world, and there’s so much going wrong, but I, for one, am in desperate need of hearing about what’s going right. Where has change happened and been successful?

I think that was a lot of the appeal of Bernie. In a world that seems to be going into the sewer, he made us see the other end of the spectrum of what we could be. I joked with my 19-year-old Bernie supporter about the marijuana/free college appeal of the old senator. He steered me toward a post about equality, and I knew in that moment I had raised him right. Maybe the youth are not looking for entitlements. Maybe they are looking for equity and fairness. Maybe, just maybe, they will be the ones to make this a better world – if we just let them.

Vaccinate Against the Hate


Photo credit: NIAID via Foter.com / CC BY

An illness is spreading in our society, a virus that’s propagating and mutating, diving deep within our cells and lying dormant until conditions are right, at which time it flares, infects, and proliferates, leaving disaster in its wake. The Black Death has nothing on this virus. This virus feeds on fear. This virus is Hate.

There are certain carriers, the Typhoid Marys of our age, who may not exhibit outward signs of the virus, but spread it nonetheless to unsuspecting victims. It taps through the tympanic membrane of our ears through radio waves, where it seeps into our brains, degrading synapses, hardening the soft tissue, and silencing the thought processes. It spreads in hazy waves through the ever-present screen to delicate eyes, scaling over the tender visual system and causing a type of blindness that is self propagating. It is transmitted from the podium, where it enters the bloodstream directly in a rush of adrenaline.

Once in the body, the virus starts to spread, seeking out an environment conducive to growth and replication. In the absence of these conditions, it enters a dormant state, walled off, waiting for the right condition to emerge. When it finds the right environment, it grows fiercely, transforming the host into a leprous mass of pathogens. In its final stages, this virus infiltrates the heart, causing it to seize up and shrink in size. This is when it is at its most virulent.

Sadly, once infected, there is little hope for the victim. He or she becomes a vector, passing the virus on to other unsuspecting victims. Family members are the first to be infected, children being the most vulnerable. Unsuspecting friends, if unvaccinated, are also susceptible to the contagion. It may even spread through places of worship. Bombarding the virus with high levels of antibodies may have limited results. Quarantine is often necessary.

Though news of the spread of the disease is distressing, there is hope. A vaccine exists that can filter the virus from the system before it ever gets a foothold. This vaccine is offered to everyone in the country, though sadly, some still deny its benefits. It is available at the local elementary school, where children learn how to work together despite their differences. It is available at the middle schools, where young minds are introduced to the great thinkers of the ages through the written word. Inoculation continues at the high school, where students are taught to filter subjective information through the scientific process. To receive maximum benefit, post-secondary inoculations are required, fine tuning the immune response. Further boosters may be self-administered.

The availability of this vaccine does not guarantee resistance to the disease. The virus may still creep in through lapses in vaccination or dilution of the antivirus. Resistance is only as good as the strength of the immune system. The ear needs to be attuned to diverse voices to maintain flexibility. The soft brain tissues need frequent stimulation through the written word and intelligent discussion to keep the synapses functioning. The tender eye needs reprieve from the harsh and confusing signals of the screen to be able to clearly see the path ahead. Most importantly, the heart needs nourishment and exercise in the form of love, friendship, and generosity to beat and grow. Of course it is always helpful to avoid travel to areas where the virus persists.

If the above conditions are met, there is hope that the virus that is infecting our country may be controlled. Vaccinate. Before it is too late.

This world of ours… must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be, instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect. Dwight D. Eisenhower

Hello world!

This is my second blog. My first blog documented my journey from couch potato to becoming an older runner. I’ve never been much of a talker. I am usually found sitting quietly on the sidelines, taking it all in (thus the blog name). Writing is my form of self-expression, of becoming a part of the world and part of the greater discussion.

My dreams of becoming a writer began in middle school, when my English teacher asked me if she could display one of my poems. Being the incredibly self-conscious person I was, I declined the offer. But the seed was planted. This drive to write had created a positive reaction in my reader. Many years have passed and the drive is still there. Am I still nervous about opening up? Absolutely! But my new favorite mantra is: What would you do if you were not afraid? Well, this is high on the list, so I’m doing it.

20150102_083412Over the years, I have written mostly for myself. I have chronicled my quiet, normal life through journals. I have written letters to the editor that never got sent. (I tend to be a procrastinator more than anything else.) I have written long, drawn out letters to my friends, and wordy, reflections on my teaching practices. But I’ve never really put myself out there for the general public… until now.

I hope to use this blog to make a difference, Phone Pics 2363to spark discussion about topics that are pertinent to our time, including raising teens, environmental issues, societal changes, and civics (as opposed to politics, which is quite the dirty word). I also want to sharpen and hone my writing skills in order to hopefully fulfill my someday dream of being published. I love hiking, exploring, and cooking, so those will probably come up in my blog from time to time. I am also an avid photographer, so I started a second blog for photos only. My wish is that there is something here you find compelling, and I hope to hear from you!

Continue reading “Hello world!”