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You are currently viewing archive for September 2009
Posted By Bakari

My original comment was not meant to imply I don't believe that there are tangible effects on people (most notably unemployment, which is certainly up compared to a few years ago).
All I said was that media and politicians largely made it up.  I think it is a self-fulfilling prophesy to an extent, where in people hear constant messages that times are tight, therefor they cut back on consumption, therefor retail markets fall, therefor manufacturers cut back, and employers start laying people off.  Which fuels the beginning of the cycle even more.  This is why business analysts track "consumer confidence".  In fact, to a large extent it is what the stock market is all about.  Its less a question of how well a company is doing and more one of how popular are they.  If people think its doing well, they buy, which itself drives the stock price up.  It works both ways, so if everyone is convinced the market is doing bad, they sell so they don't lose too much by waiting, and then companies don't have the capital to invest.


I think it is totally unreasonable to adjust what it means to be "poor" based on those around you.
If we did that, billionaires could claim to be poor if those around them are multi billionaires.  In fact, everyone except for the single richest person in the world would be "poor".
Clearly there should be some objective standard of poverty.
I think the only reasonable one is the point at which you have a reasonable fear of not being able to provide the basic necessities for oneself and family.  Food, shelter, clean water.  If you can afford so little food that it affects your health, you can claim to be poor.

It doesn't have to be a "big" car.  If you own a car, you aren't poor.  Period.  Never mind that most people in the world couldn't even afford the up-front purchase price of a car.  Much higher than that in the long run is costs for fuel, insurance, parking and tolls, maintenance, tickets...
For hundreds of thousands of years of human existence even the wealthiest people in the world could not buy cars.
Only in the US do people honestly believe that they are a "necessity".
All over the country people claim to be struggling who are paying for cable TV.  They eat out and buy $2 cups of coffee.  They have cell phones and internet connections.  These are things most people and the world can't afford.  They are not basic necessities.

Supposedly a person in the bay area needs 3 times the federal poverty level in order to live "comfortably"

They take it for granted that everyone needs a car.
And since when does every 6 year old need her own room?!
In the case of the 2nd article, I have no contempt for the person they profile.  She (rightly) considers herself middle class.
(Hopefully, after having been interviewed she doesn't change her own standards).
Now, going into collection, obviously a problem.  Thing is, that is another of those uniquely American things: living beyond your means.


[Due to charcter limit, this essay is continued here: ]

Posted By Bakari
Very important first point of note:
There is an unfair implication in the title.



[While this entry is not entirely unsuitable for public consumption, my readership is likely to include those for whom it is unsuitable for.

For this reason, you may click the link to the full post if you like, but it won't do you any good


Perhaps I will end up doing the same as I did last time I posted something blocked, and go back half a year later and unblock it when no one will notice and its no longer relevant anyway.

Or maybe I won't.  Who's to say?

...Well, me I suppose.  But see, while I have nothing to hide, sometimes when what I write involves other people, its best to use some descrition.  So we'll just see how things go, ok?  If you are really desperate to know all the personal details of my life, you can always ask me to send you this entry.  Or you can just wait until tomorrow when I will post another general social commentary essay for your Bikeari writing fix]

Posted By Bakari

A few days ago, coming home from work after dark, a neighbor came over to ask for a jump.
I took the alternator out of my truck, but the charger I use in its place has a quick charge / jump start option, so I brought that over.
While we waited for it another neighbor, someone new I had waved to but never met, came over to see if we needed any help.
Somehow we got onto the topics of being "green" and the recession.

The neighbor with the dead battery is involved with a local semi-official flea market. They are conscious of the fact that, along with being a way to make money, selling things second hand is also environmentally responsible. They are actively looking for ways to be more so, for example sourcing "plastic" bags made of plant materials. She had never heard of plastic island, but understood how it happened and the significance as soon as I described it.
The new neighbor talked about the house of cards credit schemes that led to our economic situation, about concentration of wealth, government and banks and stock markets roles.
While I had plenty of my own to add, I found myself agreeing with nearly everything both of them said.

This in contrast to interactions with neighbors over the past couple years: the neighbor in the 10ft long trailer who blamed all the countries problems on "the liberals", the neighbor who couldn't see any possible reason to run bio-diesel instead of petrol when it costs more - even when I pointed out that even if he doesn't live long enough to see environmental harm affect his life his kids might, not to mention the narrowly avoided fist fight and the 3 year old who buried his dads meth needle.

Like I have written, its funny that global warming is the thing that finally got peoples attention - even though there isn't hard scientific evidence that human activity will change it in a significantly more dramatic way than the natural climate cycles already do - when we have known for many decades that our use of resources is totally unsustainable.
But whatever. Doing the right thing for the wrong reasons is better than not doing the right thing at all.

Now combined with economic changes, ideas I have been thinking about all my life are becoming more and more popular. What will life be like after the credit based economy has its debts called in, and we no longer have the capacity to exploit natural resources at an unsustainable level, (as is absolutely vital for the American way of life as we know it)?
Of course there were always others who imagined it coming someday, with varying levels of serious - movies like Six-String Samurai on the one end, cults and militias on the other.
But now I am finding it everywhere.
The Gubbins Experiment, a blog I read about a guy who has given up not only driving, but also accepting rides in any motor vehicle for a year, wrote his most pessimistic post ever. My boss, a small business owner with a contract with BART to run the BikeStation seemed to imply that the end of civilization as we know will happen within the next 20 years, and that it will hit dramatic and fast when it does. I met my most recent friend in part via (literal) dreams of a post-apocalyptic future.
And now, even here in the trailer park, people are thinking in global terms about sustainability and economics.

Contrast it also to discussions I have had recently with some single issue activists, who I found by and large narrowly focused on not just one issue, but one side of one issue, unable or unwilling to consider other points of view, ignoring historical and current contexts that don't support a pre-determined conclusion, and offering more criticism than real solutions.

Maybe I had it wrong all along.

Maybe it is the general public, the random ordinary everyday people in whom our potential salvation rests.
That is the most encouraging possibility I have come across in many years.

Posted By Bakari

I am considering asking for a raise.
A 33% one at that.
I am fairly confident I will get it, seeing that I am the CEO and majority shareholder as well as the sole employee.

It is not because I need the money.
Just the opposite.

I have too much money, not enough free time (well, maybe not "too much", but more than I need)

I am hoping that a moderate price increase will discourage people from calling me.
The decrease in work would be made up for by making slightly more when I do.

I justify raising my prices to myself in two ways:

1) I now have 3 years of experience.  I have all sort of fancy equipment.  I have moved hide-a-bed sofas, large potted trees, and several 600lb safes.  My repair skills are getting increasingly refined (as I get to practice on my clients houses).  I am gradually moving along the skill level scale from day laborer toward contractor.  That experience makes me more useful.

2) I am still well below the standard moving company rate.  Not long ago I got a call from someone who wanted to hire me to unload a U-Haul from a local move.  I pointed out that the cost of the U-Haul rental alone would be as much as my charge, and wouldn't include a laborer (me).  I priced the job at about $130.  She was immensely relived, and told me she had gotten several quotes, all above $500!
At the new rate, it would have been $160; still far below what she was told elsewhere, and in fact still competitive with renting a truck and trying to do it all alone, (including a dolly, blankets, and insurance makes a one way U-haul rental $155)

Wow.  I was on the fence when I started writing this, but after doing the math just now, and looking up U-haul's rates, now I am quite sure!

So, anyway... I'll leave my minimum where it is, at $50.  Going up to a more divisible number means I will be able to charge to the nearest 15 minutes instead of the nearest half hour.  And I'll be able to afford to make my no car discount $10 off per hour instead of just $5.
Also, I am instituting a sliding scale.  If someone genuinely can't afford even the discounted rate, I will add in an additional $5 per hour poverty discount.
I'll count that at $10,000 (approximately the federal poverty line for an individual) even though things are expensive in the Bay Area, because I don't really buy that things Americans have gotten used to calling "necessities" really are.  Granted, I don't have kids, but I did live nearly half my adult life on less than $10,000 a year - and pretty comfortably at that.  Of course, I will trust my clients on their word regarding income.
I'll also add something explicit on my pricing page about tipping for people above the median income for our area (about $50,000 for a family, $35,000 individual).
I had been excited for a while about having a sliding scale, but couldn't figure any reasonably simple way to institute it.  I think having a base rate, but with exceptions, will be the best way to accomplish it.

I'm thinking beginning of next month.
So if you need something moved, recycled, or repaired, you may want to schedule it quick.