Toward Perpetual Progress

According to the Forbes 400, the net worth of the richest Americans has decreased $300 billion over the past year. The ten richest Americans lost $39.2 billion. Bill Gates alone lost $7 billion and is now only worth a paltry $50 billion.

On the one hand, this is an obvious indication of the economic slump that has occurred over the past year.

On the other hand, I cut my own hair because I can’t afford to shell out $12 (+ tip) at Mastercuts.[1]

I could lament about the obscene gap between rich and poor in this world.[2] One needn’t leave this country to find people living in abject poverty and working people at that.

But what interests me more is the following question: What would human beings do if our notion of “progress” didn’t include “profit” as in its current conception?

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And I Feel Fine

I saw a story today on a morning “news” program about the new wave of survivalists that has sprung up in response to the current state of the economy.  Now I love a good conspiracy theory as much as the next person (actually probably more so).  Among my favorites are Apollo Moon Landing hoaxes, the Illuminati, and the Freemasons. I admit that I am tempted to buy into some of these theories, and frankly, I’m not really set on a line between fiction and reality.

But come on people, have a little faith in the machine.

These survivalists are stockpiling years’ worth of food in their homes in case the economy collapses, leaving the world in complete and utter chaos.  One family even had a year’s worth of water purification tablets so they could drink their swimming pool water.

I don’t have a lot of faith in humanity (individuals – yes, the collective – no) but the last thing that is going to cause a post-apocalyptic, Mad Maxian world to suddenly erupt is the economy.  Nuclear holocaust? Sure.  Giant meteor crashing into Earth? Maybe.[1] Global warming? Eventually.  But the economy?  Never.

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Here’s My Solution

The state of California is basically bankrupt, with a $24 billion budget deficit.  Now, by no means do I think this would solve the problem long term, but here’s my way for California to get their hands on some quick cash:

First, take the 2009 salaries of all the professional athletes in the state, or at least the L.A. Lakers.  Kobe Bryant can afford it, trust me.  His salary last year was $19.6 million.  This does not include endorsements.

Then, take every salary earned this year by every actor, director and producer in Hollywood.  California is cutting day camps and summer school for children in the state, and there have only been three good movies made since 1985.[1] This is not right.

Call it a You-make-way-too-much-money-for-what-you-do-for-a-living Tax.  The gap between the rich and poor is disgusting, the salaries that CEOs make are despicable as well (more so in some ways[2]) and the state should certainly annex their salaries as well, but it’s slightly more disturbing to me that professional athletes and actors make so much money.

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