Diatribes of Jay

This is a blog of essays on public policy. It shuns ideology and applies facts, logic and math to economic, social and political problems. It has a subject-matter index, a list of recent posts, and permalinks at the ends of posts. Comments are moderated and may take time to appear. Note: Profile updated 4/7/12

10 November 2011

Two Things You Can Do Right Now to Help Save America

[NOTES TO COMMENTERS AND READERS: I am traveling and unable to devote as much time as usual to this blog. As a result, responses to comments will come out of order, and some will be delayed. I am responding to comments in the order in which I think they make points of general interest, not in the order received. Eventually I intend to respond to all, but that may take a couple of weeks.

As for finance and the stock market, I have little further to say. (See 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8). Nothing significant about the global economy will improve until Greece defaults, the banks take a huge haircut (as Europe’s leaders have proposed), and the world’s politicians begin to unwind the monstrous global casino that international finance has become.

That process will take some time―perhaps a year or two. It will be slow, halting and painful. The slower it goes, the slower and more painful will be our global recovery.

A cure delayed is always painful. In the meantime, I recommend that readers do what I have done: assume an extremely defensive position in their personal finances, hunker down, and wait. Day traders can take their chances, but the extreme volatility we are now suffering will not relent until political and business leaders have achieved at least a weak consensus on a new direction. We are far from that day.

As for us Yanks, there is not much we can do at all. Under the “leadership” of people like Hank Paulson Tim Geithner, who have sacrificed our real economy to the most outrageously selfish, bloated and short-sighted financial sector in human history, we so far have “led” in precisely the wrong direction. The rest of the world, especially Europe, will have to throw off our dominance and seek an independent path if Western capitalism (as distinguished from Chinese capitalism) is to save itself.

So, while Europe is struggling to come to its senses and its independent voice, I will be writing mostly about how we Yanks can get our own house back in order.

That’s going to take years, if not decades. At the end we will be much diminished in wealth, power, influence and international stature. But if we are successful, we can regain our self-respect and once again earn the respect of others as a nation of good will and common sense. The short essay below is one small step in that direction, but it is directed largely to us Yanks.

Are you worried about our nation’s future? Do your kids have less chance to make it than you did? Do you expect their standard of living to be worse than yours? Are they living at home with you while looking for low-paying jobs for which they are overqualified?

If so, you’re not alone.

And if so, there are two things you can do right now to help. They don’t involve politics, voting or supporting the Occupy Wall Street movement―although all those things can help, too. (See 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6). These are things you can do easily, right now, in minutes. They will improve your life and save you money, too.

First, turn off Fox. I mean really turn it off. Take the pledge. Promise never to watch it again, anywhere, anytime, even in bars or at friends’ homes. If you have to leave, tell everyone why.

It’ll be a bit like losing weight. If you really want to lose weight, all you have to do is swear off desserts and do a bit of exercise. But I mean really swear off them. Go cold turkey. In two weeks you won’t miss them any more. Your love handles will start to shrink. And soon you’ll feel lighter, stronger, brighter, healthier and more alive.

Swearing off Fox is just like that.

I know, I know. That know-it-all self-righteousness can give you a high, a feeling of mastery over a complex and contrary world. It’s like the sugar high you get from eating rich desserts.

But in two weeks, you won’t miss it. You’ll begin to recall the difference between opinion and fact. Your brain will refill with the once-familiar idea that opinions come from facts, and not vice versa. You’ll have more time for your family and for fun. And soon you’ll feel lighter, stronger, brighter, healthier and more alive. Trust me.

The second thing you can do right now to save America is to cancel your cable TV subscription.

Doing that will actually save you money. And you won’t lose a thing. All the things you like on cable TV are now available over the Internet through services like iTunes, Netflix, Amazon Video, Hulu, IMDB and others. Best of all, you can have them for free with commercials, just as on cable TV. Or you can pay for them separately, as on iTunes or Amazon Video, and junk commercials forever, without paying for a DVR or taking the trouble to fast-forward every show.

Canceling your cable TV subscription won’t force your cable company out of business or leave you without an ISP. Why? Because your cable company is probably your ISP, too.

As more and more customers junk cable TV, it will have more resources to improve your Internet bandwith and your online experience. It may jack up your Internet pricing a bit. But it’s got a long way to go to recapture what you pay for cable TV, which is usually the same or more than you pay for Internet access.

Best of all, canceling cable TV will break you out of “audience jail.” You may not know it, but you’re in that jail right now. When you pay $50 or more every month―$600 or more per year―for cable TV, you’re paying for dozens or hundreds of channels that you never watch, likely including Fox. And if you’ve been reading the business pages lately, you know that Fox has had some high-profile brinksmanship negotiations with cable companies like Comcast. It tries (and often succeeds) to squeeze them for more money for the same old junk. Of course customers like you ultimately have to pay the increase, whether you watch Fox or not.

In that respect, Fox is like the Taliban and Islamic terrorists. It’s on the run. It’s losing customers by the bushels. More and more Americans are coming to see its leader, Rupert Murdoch, as the Australian destroyer of America―a liar, thief and scoundrel whose ruthless media prey on anyone, including kids, and promulgate any lie to keep his friends in power and make a buck.

So what does Rupert do to keep the departing customers? Does he improve his service, lower his prices, or actually become more “fair and balanced”? Hell, no. He acts like a monopolist or the titled royalty he no doubt thinks himself to be. He raises prices to cable TV systems, which made him what he is today and can just as easily break him. He’s like the Taliban blowing up yet more people when it’s under pressure and so making yet more enemies.

You can accelerate his (and Fox’s) downfall just by canceling your cable TV subscription, while keeping your Internet service. That will save you money right away. Then send an e-mail to your cable TV company saying that your canceled because you don’t want to pay for Fox.

If a marketer calls to ask why, say the same thing. But be careful. Truth can be habit forming.

And don’t worry about consequences. In two weeks, you won’t miss that snarling self-righteousness. The tone of the bully will fade from your ears and sweet reason will resume its flow through your veins. You’ll feel lighter, stronger, brighter, healthier and more alive. You might even start to believe that America has a future again.

If you like this message, send it or a link to all your friends. Post it on Facebook or Twitter. With my blessing.

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