“Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose. Nothing ain’t worth nothing but it’s free.”
–Kris Kristofferson, Me and Bobby McGee
“The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.”
― Joe Klaas, Twelve Steps to Happiness
Beginning in the third decade of the twenty-first century the coronavirus laid down a big speed bump to the world. According to President Trump the economy was chugging along just fine, (well for the top tier), and no one could have predicted such a calamity would come along, (it was predicted, he just didn’t listen), and his administration’s response has been great (huh?). With over 75,000 dead and counting he contends without his leadership it would be much worse, so look on the bright side. Apparently, the truth has not set him free, just pissed him off.
From his perch in the lighthouse Mort noted the iron boats hauling taconite sailing to ports that would process steel. Steel that would ordinarily go to Detroit to build cars will now go to Detroit to manufacture ventilators. The auto industry is in a slump, as is the airline industry. Auto makers are offering zero percent financing, and airlines are spraying down cabins telling folks it is safe to fly. There is talk of a federal bailout for which the federal government would have to print more money that somebody, someday, will have to pay back. In the meantime, 33 million are out of work and the unemployment rate rivals that of the Great Depression. The prez says we have to re-open the economy, ignoring the counsel of health experts. Cue the theme from a James Bond movie: live and let die. And so it goes.
Mort noticed the birds—mostly gulls and ravens—flying around and thought about the expression free as a bird. Yeah, free to pick through garbage and eat carrion. Nothing ain’t worth nothing but it’s free.
No thanks. Hi ho.
With all this free time on his hands, Mort sat down with his laptop to chronicle a few thoughts. He thought about that for which he is grateful: Not infected with coronavirus (yet); his pension and social security checks (for now); the lighthouse job for which he is paid for doing nothing (whoopie); and the ham sandwich he packs every day for lunch (yum). If he tried, he could think of more, but instead observed the gulls and the ravens circle the carcass of a dead deer down below.
As he was writing this, he was sorry it was so depressing. But sometimes reality is depressing, and it will piss you off.
Mort reflected on free market capitalism. There are those who contend that free markets have lifted many out of poverty, have created the greatest economy of all time (except for now during the virus), and whose “invisible hand” will self-regulate to the sweet spot point where the markets are in balance. All this assumes a healthy competition from creators of similar services that will act to bring prices down. In this world markets move to benefit everyone.
Others contend that unregulated free markets produce monopolies that drive out competition and leave the victor to dictate terms and set prices. Classic case in point: Standard Oil before Teddy Roosevelt busted the trust.
Over the years a third way has developed: Socialism for the rich and capitalism for the poor. This has happened as the “bigs”—big oil, big agriculture, big banks, and big businesses—have lobbied Congress for tax breaks, subsidies, and other sweet deals. Ergo bailouts to those too big to fail. The justification is these businesses are job creators, and corporations are people. Power to the people. Hi ho.
There is a growing resistance to the third way. Young people, saddled with debt and with limited job prospects, are resisting. You can see it in those who supported Bernie Sanders for president, and in those who support Medicare for All, forgiveness of college debt, and tuition free college. You can see it in the Occupy Wall Street movement that fizzled out a while back for lack of focus and leadership. The question is will you see it in the fall when the contest will be engaged between the Trumpster and Uncle Joe? As the prez if fond of saying: we’ll see what happens.