Posts Tagged ‘investment’

The estimated value of debt


This financial crisis we have just started dealing with is not a surprise, nor was it unexpected.  And it isn’t over.  We are dealing with the consequences of our actions, the paybacks for the greed we all have been guilty of.  Sure, we believed that our homes were appreciating at astronomical rates, and why, of course we took our banker at face value when he said that it would wise to take out a home equity loan.  We wanted to have that money to play with.  We wanted to buy a nicer car to commute to work with, that boat that was on sale, or put in a pool.  Could we afford to do these things without borrowing money?  Not no.  Hell no.  We shoveled debt onto our heads like we were digging foxholes under fire.

What has all this economic activity created, all the money that we spent bought?  And how could so much of it just evaporate overnight?  People think about credit, but what about debt?  How many people think about the fact that most of the wealth that has been created in the last 20 years or so has been nothing more than numbers in computers, based upon the value of debt.  The more people owe you, the richer that you are.  People invest in debt, banks sell it, and nobody seems to want to pay it off.  What a wonderful concept; buy today what you cannot pay for until tomorrow, if you are lucky.

Did anyone figure in the effect of laying off millions of the highest paid consumers on the planet?  Is it really growth when you take jobs away from one group of people and give them to a different group?  Or is that just financial manipulation, to create wealth by cutting costs.  What happens when the cost that you cut is the buyer of your product?

Real wealth does not evaporate, it does not diminish in value, it is durable, and serves all the people.  Real wealth is roads, bridges, fiber optic cables, transmission lines.  How much real wealth has been created in the United States in the last 20 years?  And it is not creating new wealth to repair old roads, it is investing in what you already have.  So, we built a lot of buildings, but were they needed, or were they funding for a developer?

On every level, Americans have chosen to ignore the future, to resist real change, to accept that they were no better than anybody else.  Other people could ride trains and busses, we were going to drive.    So what if our new building doesn’t have any insulation.?  It is cheaper that way.  And the whole time, we have been insisting that everything is worth more.  Not because of any discernable reason, but just because we said so.

We have invested in trying to be wealthy enough to not have to work, not in making our futures better.  Now, we are paying for sitting on our butts.  We don’t create anything of value anymore, and we can’t even govern ourselves without borrowing money to do it.  Instead of spending money to develop the technologies needed to make a future possible, we have invested in moving production from America to some overseas country.  But we have not invested in giving Americans anything to do.  Normally, economic growth means that the leading countries improve their technology, and move from building one kind of product to one which is more complex, advanced, or somehow beyond the abilities of other producers.  Displacement happens as new industries replace old ones, and people have to learn new skills.

We veered off from advancing our technology, because it would have required a long-term investment, tying up our money for decades.  And we wanted to keep our technology to ourselves, so that no one else could use it against us.  In the 1960’s, during the administration of Richard Nixon, it was decided that the United States would not invest substantial resources into outer space.  The Apollo program would be cut, and no other manned exploration would be funded.  The military was going to handle space exploration, and only for the purpose of defense.

Since that time, the United States has spent more on cosmetics every year than has been spent on developing space manufacturing, mining, and processing.  Typical budgets for manned space exploration have amounted to a few brief missions every year, and nothing else.  The US would not have built a space station except because of pressure from its allies to contribute to one.

It is almost like we are committing suicide by starvation.  We give away all of our food, and do nothing to find more.  The world is fighting over a pie, each person wanting a bigger slice, and more people wanting slices all the time.  We need true growth, growth that results in wealth that will not evaporate.  The Earth is being used up, corrupted in our quest for wealth, while everything that we could possibly need exists somewhere in our Solar System.

Americans should be building space ships, working on space stations, or the Moon, doing work that produces tremendous value, so that they could bring home enough money to buy cars from Japan without having to borrow the money from China.  General Motors would be the worlds leading producer of launch vehicles, and Ford would be making deep space probes.  But we chose to be wealthy instead.

Scott P. Holman



Welfare for Science?


The United States just launched a 600 million dollar mission to look for planets similiar to Earth.  Does someone think that we can get to them?  Does finding them mean that we are not alone?  How will such esoteric knowledge benefit the public?  How small is 600 million compared to 750 billion?  Small enough that no will notice?

When we are looking at giving up our capability to put humans into space, with the retirement of the Space Shuttle, merely for budget reasons, what sense does it make to spend money on science?  Especially when we need to change the perception of Space from scientific research to expanding the sphere of human activities.  Very few people I talk with are aware that there are three people living in space right now, one of whom is a woman.

High technology companies have two primary markets:  military applications and aerospace.  Astrophysicists need new data to do original work.  Both are essential to America’s military strength, because the weapons of war have become so high-tech.  Keeping the scientists eating and the high-technology companies in business is now the province of NASA, which is also responsible to our manned space program.  Which we will not have in another year, or so, because the shuttle is going to be retired, and we have nothing to replace it with, except a concept.

600 million dollars, .6 billion dollars, is less than 1 percent of what we are spending to salvage our financial system.  If we had invested that into the space program, we would be in the middle of a real real estate boom, one on the Moon.  Finding Earth-like planets will do us no good if we can’t learn how to live on this one, and the secrets to living on Earth are going to be found off-Earth, in the resources of the Solar System.  Lots of cheap energy, all the hydrocarbons you can imagine, and land just waiting to be developed.

It is time is set Science aside of a little while, and focus on Survival.  Learning to do things where they won’t affect our only home is the key to having a high-technology lifestyle and a low carbon footprint.  Learning to live and work in space is the most important challenge the race faces, in my opinon, because our extinction is almost assured if we do not.