Deal To End The Partial Government Shutdown Reached

            President Trump, in a live announcement broadcast from the White House around 2:20pm today, announced an end to the partial government shutdown that has gone on for the past 35 days. The deal is that a bill will be signed to open all of the government for the next three weeks, and pay all back pay, while more negotiations take place on the budget and ‘border security’. The expectation is that some part of the final deal will involved a border barrier in some areas as part of funding for the department of Homeland Security border package.

            President Trump claimed that he never asked for or wanted a total barrier from the Pacific to Atlantic oceans, but some supporters may have thought that was what “Build the Wall” campaign slogan meant and expected. It is possible that Trump’s political base may insist on such a barrier going forward and make it harder to complete any deal in the future that does not result in such a full sea to sea border barrier.

            While not much in the way of specific details were provided in the announcement, at least some kind of deal has been made to keep negotiating , open all parts of the government, and pay all government workers while a final deal is negotiated.

            President Trump did say that if nothing was done about a border barrier then there could be another shutdown when the current partial funding ran out in three weeks on February 15.

            Hopefully, there will not be another one of these government shutdowns and all parties can work together to keep the government operating as it should be.

Good Luck and Take Care,

Louis J. Desy Jr.

Friday, January 25, 2019

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Day 21 of the Government Shutdown

How did we get into this situation, where on the 21st day of a partial government shutdown, the congressional constitutional power of the ‘purse strings’, appears to be being run and in control of the executive branch under President Trump?

The current partial government shutdown is the result of The House of Representatives passing a continuing resolution legislative bill on December 22, 2018 to fund part of the government without the $5.7 billion requested by the administration, under President Trump, for a border wall or border barrier with Mexico. (Apparently, border barrier sounds a lot nicer than the phrase border wall.) Since then no progress has been made on passing the funding and the effected parts of the government are still shutdown with only essential personal working, for no pay. It is bad enough that 800,000 government workers are not getting paid; it is worse that about 420,000 of those have been deemed essential and have to work without pay.

This is about to become the longest government shutdown due to a no funding bill. At the moment it looks like no progress is being made towards a resolution of the situation. While there was a meeting a few days ago with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and President Trump on Wednesday, January 9, 2019; the meeting apparently lasted only a few minutes and ended with President Trump walking out of the meeting after being told by the other two that there would be no deal on a border wall. Of course, if a proper budget had been passed along with debt ceiling increase at the start of the fiscal year, then we would not be in this situation.

The possible outcomes are, assuming there is a resolution to the situation and it does not drag on indefinitely are:

1: Congress gives in to President Trump and passes a funding bill that includes the $5.7 billion in funding for a border wall. At the moment it does not look like this will happen because of the fact it would make the Democrat party look very bad politically. This is a big problem for the Democrat party, especially with since it was only just last week that the Democrat party took control of the House of Representatives.  To end up giving in to President Trump and passing funding for a border wall after vowing not to would make it look like the party was unable to get anything done.

2: Congress passes a funding bill with enough of a majority that they are able to override any veto by President Trump. In order to do this, both houses of the 116th Congress would need to pass such a funding bill by two thirds or more; meaning that it would require all of the Democrats plus independents plus get a number of the Republicans in each house to go along with the funding bill. This means that 54 Republicans in the House of Representatives and 20 Republicans in the Senate would need to vote with the Democrats to override any potential President Trump veto.

At the moment, between the two options, I see the only possibility of any funding passing is that the Democrat party decides to fold and pass the $5.7 billion in funding. For whatever reason, there appears to be absolutely no progress on any front with the pressure on individual congressional representatives growing every day. This is the case, especially with today being another day that a number of government workers were not paid plus all of the other problems and fall out from the partial shutdown.

I think it would be best for the Democrat party is they agree to fund the $5.7 billion in exchange for something of equal political value in order to resolve this situation and get all parts of the government open and working again.

One thought that does occur to me is that if a proper budget had been passed before the start of the current fiscal year on October 1, 2018 along with any needed debt ceiling increase, that we would not find ourselves in this situation.

Hopefully, before another week passes and the effected 800,000 government workers miss another paycheck, there will be a resolution and everything will be back to normal.

Good Luck and Take Care,

Louis J. Desy Jr.

Friday, January 11, 2019

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Universal Basic Income – How it can come about and what it will be? Part 1 of a series

Recently I have been reading AI Superpowers (2018) by Kai-Fu Lee. While reading this work there is considerable discussion as to what happens to people and work as AI systems and/or robotics take over large parts of the work that people do now. While the estimates are all over the place as to what jobs and how many jobs are at risk, there is the concern that as computers, AI and robotics improve in the coming years that there will be a large displacement of people as jobs simply disappear for humans. While in the past these things happened, where one set of jobs disappeared, it was always accompanied by a new set of jobs being created that needed to be done with the overall net effect of the workforce ending better off after a while.

The concern is that a combined AI and robotics could result in the demand for work by people overall dropping over time as more and more of the workforce becomes computerized and not as many people are needed to do the same amount of work.

One thought that does occur to me is the recent discussions about Universal Basic Income, sometimes referred to as UBI, could help with this situation. As far as I understand the thinking, the idea is that everyone would be given some level of basic income every month to do as they wished with it. The criticism of such efforts is that at the moment no government entity can really afford such plans on a large scale, plus it is not clear what the benefit of doing such a thing would be for anyone, especially if the government entity making the payments has to borrow to make them meaning that eventually such payments would have to come to an end as said government entity was no longer able to tax and borrow to continue the payments. In order to properly do a UBI system, government entities would need to be funding such payments out of current tax revenue and probably really need to pay off most or all of any outstanding government entity borrowings.

My hope is that there is a path forward where once robotics and AI reach the point where the firms using such a workforce would be able to make the tax payments necessary to start UBI programs that were sustainable. At some point if the UBI amounts were large enough, which I believe is possible decades from now, people would be able to chose if they wanted to work or not or do whatever they felt like doing, without worrying about how they were going to make enough money to live on. I hope to shortly write a book about this and how I see we could transition from the current system to one where most of the workforce was computer AI or robotics and how UBI would allow people their part in the system.

While some people in a UBI system might simply do nothing all day, there are other people that even if they didn’t have to work, would still want to work and create things. There are also some things that even with a full computerized AI or robotics workforce may still be too hard for such systems and needs a person to do the work.

As an example of something that I think would take a long time and maybe never be able to be done in a cost efficient manner by robots is something simple like cleaning up the trash that is all over the place. Today, while driving to my friends business from my Worcester apartment to The Citadel in Groton, CT, along I-290 and then I-395, I noticed that just about every single foot of highway has some kind of trash on it! All 70 miles or so of my trip had trash on the side of the road. From my car I could see sparkles of plastic, glass, bottles, pieces of paper, plastic bags and all kinds of assorted trash. While I can see a robot doing that kind of clean up, I can’t see that it would be anywhere near cost effective and would really need a person to do that kind of work. While some people may think of picking up trash as not glamorous work, it is something that will need to be done at some point if we are to keep pollution out of the ecological system and the water supply.

Last night my friend Bob sent me a link about a group with special ship and boom who are cleaning up some of the floating trash collections that are in the Pacific Ocean:

The article mentions the group hopes to clean up half of one of the two trash groups that has formed in the Pacific Ocean within five years. If they can do that I would consider it to be incredible. The group is Ocean Cleanup and the device is Ocean Cleanup System 001. I noted that it looks like no government seems involved in the effort which I find strange considering the amount of money all of the various government agencies spend every year. To me It seems like some agency would be interested in such an effort and doing what they could to assist. From looking at the web suite, it looks like they have one prototype of their system working and a staff of around 80 people.  My expectation is that the entire organization is operating on something like less then ten million USD per year, which makes me wonder why no government organization is not participating in the effort? (i.e. Wouldn’t it be worth it for some agency like the EPA to fund this effort in order to clean up the plastic trash that has collected in the worlds’ oceans? )

Apparently, there are two large areas of trash that have collected in the Pacific and probably another one in the Atlantic Ocean. I remember one account from one of the people that did a crossing of the Atlantic Ocean in a rowboat or maybe bathtub (that crossing was like a publicity event) talking about how he ran into trash and pollution in the middle of the Atlantic in places that were hundreds of miles from land; places that I would have normally expected to be clean and pristine, not filled with trash floating all over the place.

Hopefully, as computer AI and robotics are implemented more and more into the workforce, UBI for people displaced by such technologies will follow and turn what could have been a disaster for people into one of a utopia where a person’s minimal material needs are taken care of. While such an effort and transition will take decades of work, it is something that should be worked towards and achievable over the coming decades.

Good Luck and Take Care,

Louis J. Desy Jr. – Thursday, January 03, 2019

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