The World Belongs to All

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Some Things Reagan Got Wrong:

Trickle down economics:

Reagan believed that as the per capita gross domestic product of a country grows, in a free market economy, there will be a growth in income at all income levels in the society – the tide that lifts all boats, otherwise known as trickle down economics. In the period after World War II, up until the late sixties, the growth of gross domestic product corresponded to growth at all income levels. We were the economic engine that provided the goods that rebuilt the world after World War II, which helped our economy grow. World War II had destroyed the infrastructure of many countries, but not ours. Through the Marshall Plan, we also provided resources to help the other countries rebuild.

But, by the late sixties and early seventies, the baby boom generation was entering the work force, so the demand for jobs went up; a higher proportion of women began entering the work force, so the demand for jobs went up; and we started running a trade deficit – mainly due to our oil imports, because the Organization of Oil Exporting Countries cartel was able to raise world oil prices. And, the economies in Europe and Asia had recovered, so we no longer had the world markets that we had had before.

Our income growth started to stop with regard to personal median incomes. The median income for men was first greater than the median income for men in 2014, after adjusting for inflation, in 1969. From 1969 to 2014, male median income was on a roller coaster. (https://www2.census.gov/programs-surveys/cps/tables/time-series/historical-income-people/p02.xls). Female median income increased, though, by a factor of about 1.8, from 1969 to 2014. (In 2014, male median income was larger than female median income by a factor of about 1.6.). The increase in median household income from 1969 to 2014 would have been from more households having two breadwinners. At the same time, more of the labor of bringing up children became paid labor.

The gross domestic product increased by a factor of about 3.4 from 1969 to 2014, adjusted for inflation. (http://www.bea.gov/national/xls/gdplev.xls). The population of those over age fifteen increased by about a factor of about 1.8. (http://factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?src=bkmk https://www.census.gov/popest/data/national/asrh/pre-1980/tables/PE-11-1969.pdf). So, there has been a lot of economic growth, but we have not been seeing economic growth trickling down to men and by just some to women – at least at the median.

Granted, taxes (federal, state, and local) and government spending as a proportion of gross domestic product have not come down over the last 35 years (http://taxfoundation.org/article/short-history-government-taxing-and-spending-united-states). Rather the percentages have fluctuated between about 25% to about 30% of gross domestic product for revenues and between about 30% to about 38% for expenditures.

The world will end in a nuclear fire:

From a show on the Public Broadcasting Network (I think) several years ago, Reagan feared that the prophecy that the world would end in fire referred to a nuclear holocaust. So Reagan worked to get rid of nuclear weapons (a laudable goal). More likely, our world will end in heat from the fires in our coal and natural gas driven steam turbines and our internal combustion engines, because of the greenhouse gasses we are putting into the atmosphere. Reagan, unfortunately, reversed the progress that Carter had made in moving us away from fossil fuels. We are years behind where we should be in dealing with climate change, because of Reagan (and others). And, because of Reagan, we have a generation of Republican politicians who refuse to acknowledge science and our, very good, understanding of what we are doing to our climate.

The problem is not not enough government, the problem is government:

When Reagan was 19 (1930) – the age near which our view of life is formed – the population of the United States was about 123 million, with about 41 people per square mile. By 2014, the population was about 319 million, with about 90 people per square mile, and we were far more urbanized. (Between 1930 and 2014, we added Alaska and Hawaii to our country, which added a lot of area – which diluted the population density.) Our population is getting denser (in more ways than one, given our lack of dealing with our – urgent – problems). Our nation is also a lot more urban now.

When masses of people live in close proximity, people have a lot of judgements of rights and wrongs. In Recovery International’s literature, Dr. Low writes and talks about how, in rights and wrongs, it takes an expert judge to decide who is right and who is wrong, and even then, the decision is just an opinion. Regulations help sort out the rights and wrongs.

We have seen recently in the economic expansion of China, the harm that business can do in a young and poorly regulated economy – from smog in the air to poisonous baby food. Our rules and regulations have grown out of similar problems in the past within our own country.

Even with our current businesses, our national lessons of smoking and climate change bear witness to the fact that big businesses are often unwilling to stop their businesses from producing in the face of harm resulting from the use of their product. We need to put limits on businesses, because business do not necessarily have a moral sense.

Protecting the natural world as our housing base, businesses, and farmland expand is also a real necessity. With more of us, we need to learn to live with the natural world and part of learning to live with the natural world is being regulated.

According to an op-ed by Robert Reich a few years ago, Republicans in Congress and their mission to cut taxes have starved the regulatory functions of our government. We have not had the funds to protect our people at the level necessary and legislated. Reich wrote that the result is the so-called “inefficiency” of government that Republicans like to say exists. Government agencies do not have the human-power to provide the services that are mandated by law. Republicans then blame government “inefficiency” for the poor or lack of or untimely services.

Desperation is a good motivator:

When Reagan was 19, the world was in, and near the beginning of, the Great Depression. Reagan had a good view of the effect of desperation on a society. In astrology, desperation is contained in one of the twelve houses – the eighth house. About one twelfth of our personal and communal lives should be about desperation. However, it is my belief that when a society deals with desperation on a mass scale, we get phenomena like Nazi Germany, the Taliban, and ISIS; all of which grew out of the aftermath of war. There is also the loss to society of the people who never recover after the desperate times – from those who commit suicide to those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Yes, desperation can be a motivator, but it can also be very destructive of a society. We need to do what we can to reduce the costs of desperation, as a society, while maintaining the motivation generated by desperation.

Scared Fecesless

This is being brought out in the elections, but the wealthy people who are pouring money into Republican campaigns are scared fecesless about the future, at least that is my interpretation.  Why?

I read in our local newspaper at some point that Chuck Grassley said that the claim that climate change is real is just an attempt to change the American lifestyle and is not based on the realities of science – if I am paraphrasing him right.  I sent him an email asking him how Pacific islanders were supposed to style their lives.

Change is always hard.  People have money, lives, knowledge invested in the status quo.

Our society runs on energy – transportation moves the goods we buy as well as getting us to and from work and out and about buying things – we have come to depend on our houses and places of work having heating and cooling as the seasons change – our many appliances make life easier for us – we need electricity for lights, servers, computers, printers, copiers – our manufacturers need energy to produce goods – our farmers to plant and harvest.

 Whether all of this convenience and comfort is good for us is another question.  I will say nothing to that question here.

 A number of years ago, when I attended the Iowa Association for Energy Efficiency yearly convention – IAEE is mainly a trade organization – to which I belong – one of the speakers – who was from one of the military branches – gave a demonstration of a computer program that modelled ways of getting us through the future to an energy solution where fossil fuels had run out and were replaced by renewables – if I am remembering right.  The model indicated that all energy resources would be required to get us to that future point at our current standard of living.

I think that is why people with money are so scared.  They fear we will destroy our economy – that there are not solutions to our energy needs which maintain our lifestyle and which do no include the use of fossil fuels.

Models, whether they be climate models or economic models – and I am quite sure physical science is a heck of a lot more rigorous than economic science at this point in knowledge – are subject to the assumptions about and mathematical understanding of the processes being modelled.

There are many women and men who have been concerned about our energy future and our use of energy over many years now.

The Union of Concerned Scientists – which is an advocacy group that started at MIT – and to which I also belong – has done modelling of the use of renewables to supply our energy needs and has found – I believe it was for electrical demand but it may have been for total energy demand – that renewables will do the trick.

My experience with ideas and computer programming tells me that as an idea or program develops, newer and easier ways of approach become manifest.  I think we will find the same will be true with energy.  And the oiling of the ingenuity machine that government policies provide will help us get through this problem.  And, yes, there will be failures as well as successes.

Back in 1973, I was a senior in college – I was a physics major and was doing my senior thesis research on solar energy – I built two solar collectors and measured the amount of heat they absorbed over a few days.  I was inspired to do this topic after reading about alternative energy in the 1964 Proceedings of the United Nations Conference on New Sources of Energy: Solar Energy, Wind Power, and Geothermal Energy, Rome, 21-31 August 1961.  Many of the methods given in the proceedings are being developed now.  If you can find a copy, it’s worth reading.

Anyway, I fear climate change more than disruption from energy resource change, so I have voted Democratic.

Prognostication

I am an atheist.  I have been since age 14.  At 14, I felt science was explaining most of what had been explained by religion.  I am 63 now and still feel that way, although my personal view has changed somewhat.  I have experienced little yet that cannot be explained by conscious people (or animals) doing conscious things.

I have an interest in the arcane arts (astrology, numerology, palmistry, fortune telling) and feel there eventually will be a scientific understanding of these arts.  At the same time, I am mainly interested in what is rather than what is believed about what is.  I bring this up because I am going to say something about predictions of the future.

I am certain that there are people who can see the future.

Here is my political spiel:  Two predictions interest me with regard to climate change; the biblical prediction that the world will end by fire and the Edgar Cayce prediction that the map of the USA would shrink, with the coasts far inland from where the coasts are now.  Both predictions are consistent with the causes and consequences of climate change.

The majority of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere due to human activity are the result of combustion – fire.  As a result of the heating due to the greenhouse gases, the sea level will rise.  I have read predictions of a rise over centuries of as high as 45 feet.

From a show I saw on President Reagan, Reagan thought that the fire prediction was about the atomic bomb.  As president, he rejected the movement away from fossil fuel energy that Carter had started.  Thus, we are far behind where we should be with regard to energy and the world is really at great risk.

I am afraid Cayce’s coasts mean the Republicans will win control of our legislative and executive branches with the help of the energy industry and other industries that depend on the energy industry.  I am afraid the Republicans will do nothing about climate change.

One reads that predictions are not set in stone, that the future can change.  (And to change course based on a prediction can have the opposite consequence of that desired.  Witness Reagan.)  I do not know.  I hope futures can change.

Back to me: I am a scientist, with degrees in physics and statistics, and understand the physics behind the greenhouse effect.

Some Comments on an op-ed by Mona Charen – May 14, 2014

Here we find ourselves in the political season again and I will put in my first 2 cents worth of the season and abandon astrology for a while.

I spent much of the winter writing a reference manual for the statistical language R, so, I am behind in my newspapers.  By today I have gotten caught up to one week and one day back.  A few days ago, I read Mona Charen’s May 14th op-ed on “bad science”.  In the op-ed, Ms. Charen spends most of the op-ed writing about the changes in the beliefs based on scientific research as to what kinds of foods are good for us and what kinds are not – particularly with regard to fat.  In the last paragraph of her op-ed, she suggests that if scientific consensus on nutrition can change over 50 years, that scientific consensus on climate change might too.  I am certain that the last paragraph was the reason for the op-ed.

I am quite certain the Ms. Charen is not a scientist.  I am a statistician with an undergraduate degree in physics.  In medical research, there is a tradition of using ‘risk factors’ to give people an idea of the risk of a behaviour on their health.  I think, although I am not a medical statistician, that a risk factor means that persons with a given medical condition have been observed to have commonly also had a certain behaviour or genetic marker.  This is where the statistician steps in.

Correlation does not imply cause!!!

It is unfortunate that so much of the medical community thinks the opposite.

Cause can sometimes be determined from controlled experiments, which use statistics.   Or, cause can be determined by figuring out physically what is going on, in which case statistical measurements can either support or not support the science.

When I first read Ms. Charen’s op-ed, my reaction was that the science behind climate change is over a century old.  Einstein received a Nobel Prize for his insight into this science.  On the scale of the earth, the science is old and known and straightforward.  (Nutrition is quite a young science and, also, has not had as many research dollars as medical or hard science over the years.)

The specific effects from global warming and how the warming affects the climate of the earth is a young science, like nutrition.   A lecturer I recently heard, when asked about how knowledge about climate change has changed over the years, said that the basics that led to the concern over 50 years ago have not changed, but that our knowledge continues to increase in depth and meaning (I am paraphrasing.)

I think that Ms. Charen, in her writing about nutrition, was actually writing about trans-fats versus animal fats.  In the 50’s, Adele Davis was writing about the dangers of hydrogenated fats.  It took until the 2010’s and a great deal of research for the medical community to come to the same conclusion.  I do not know how powerful the vegetable oil lobby was in the 50’s, but I do know that the petroleum, natural gas and coal lobbies are very powerful at this time.

The climate scientists are hard scientists, almost certainly not very well paid compared to industry scientists,  and know of what they speak.  As a disclaimer, I have been concerned about the green house effect since the early 1970’s.