HuffingtonPost linked to this Salon article which crystalized some thoughts that have been in the back of my mind every time the news carried a story about the push for tougher sanctions against Iran. I came at it from a slightly different point though. My question was 'Where is plan B?" You know--the plan you go to after Plan A fails. I never saw an answer to that. And the push for tougher and tougher sanctions reminds me of the old game of school yard bullies of drawing lines on the ground and daring you mark to cross them (or pushing them into a corner.) Sooner or later they (and you) have only one course--a fight. You might say the have a choice--give up their nuclear development programs, or put them under international control. Two things mitigate against that: national pride and the fact that nuclear powers are treated more respectfully in the international community. We deal with India, Pakistan, Russia and various former Soviet Republics, Israel AND Korea very differently than we do Columbia, Sudan, or Kenya. We have no 'Plan B' and that worries me.
I had a couple of interesting thoughts concerning the Social Security controversy that melds a couple of things I had been reading. For some years we have been whipsawed between those who bemoan the fact that we aren't saving and those who want us to continue to spend heroically. Often those sentiments have followed each other in the soundbites that pass for news nowadays. But we have been saving, and saving heroically, but people just don't recognize it as saving. Every dollar we have earned has been docked for Social Security--that is essentially an enforced savings plan. The only difference is that we don't withdraw from the system the same money we put into it--that is, it isn't tagged with our individual names. And what is more, our employers have essentially had to give us a boost in income we wouldn't have had otherwise. That also goes to Social Security. I wonder--in an imaginary world where Social Security didn't exist but where every worker put the same money (voluntarily) into Treasury bonds and didn't withdraw it for 40+ years of their working life, would we still have all this blather about the Federal government going broke as we started retiring and cashing in the bonds? Is there any real difference between individuals and investment groups buying Treasury bonds and the Social Security Administration--besides the fact that the latter seems immanently more lootable because it is defined as a tax? Another story came to mind as these thoughts coalesced in my mind: I read an article on Japan and how it has been able to fund a debt that, in terms of percentage of GDP (around 200), makes ours look puny. Essentially the debt has been funded by the savings of the WWII generation and their children (equivalent to our Baby Boomers). Those savings, put into government bonds have allowed the government to fund the massive debt over the last couple of decades. Now, however, they are facing the same problems we are. The WWII generation has retired and have been cashing their bonds to live on. Their Baby Boom generation is beginning to retire and will start cashing in their bonds. But the next generations are not saving at the same rates because they simply don't have the employment opportunities their parents and grandparents had. (See the links on yesterday's post.)
Well, that story of the flight attendant who had a meltdown because an uncooperative passenger hit him, accidentally, on the head while trying to remove a bag from the overhead compartment before the ok had been given to do so has taken a new turn as of the news last night. The other passengers tell a quite different picture of a rude, overbearing man who basically engineered the confrontation. And he says he wants his job back. For the most part, the propensity of the news media to cover such stories to the point of nausea doesn't surprise me any more. I was somewhat surprised to see the public response. The numbers of people who thought this guy some kind of populist hero amazed me. But then I had a typically MaryContrary thought. What I think people responded was not the story of the poor put-upon employee dealing with an abusive member of the public but the story of the guy, frustrated with his job, who musters the courage to quit in a particularly dramatic way. Given today's labor market and the number of dissatisfied workers who would love to tell their bosses where to shove the job but are afraid of not finding another anytime soon, perhaps it isn't so surprising that Slater has achieved this level of public adulation. I think the airline would be crazy to hire him back.