No App For Poverty

David Trammel's picture

One of the biggest issues that I feel Green Wizards can address is how a person can navigate the decreasing economic conditions they will experience as the Long Descent progresses. It's not just being poor that is a problem, it's going to be the way that vulture capitalists game the collapse as a way to steal as much of the limited resources people have access to. And that many who come to Green Wizards for information will be starting in the hole already.

Most people don't go looking for the lifeboats until the ship is sinking.

It's tempting in an age now where the answer suggested is just get an app for it to well, get an app. The principles of financial literacy are well known and often simplistically suggested. Unfortunately, they are often wrong, and suggesting them just doesn't help. In many ways, poverty experienced by people is not a result of personal lifestyle choices but of policy issues.

It's a problem I'm not sure how to solve. Yet.

In the meantime, here's a discussion on the subject.
"Financial Literacy Programs Ignore That Poverty Is a Policy Choice"

Naturally I was caught by the author's call for a tenants bill of rights since I am planning to rent a house we have renovated out via Airbnb. I think it was my own less then sterling experiences long ago as a renter that led me to want to be a home owner.

I have certainly known currant long term land lords and heard many horror stories of damage to their property that leases and background checks didn't prevent. In fact, it seemed that tenants had the most rights as it could take a land lord months to get rid of a bad tenant and still have no way other then small claims court to collect anything to repair the damages that first and last months rent fee or damage fees didn't cover.

My question is, what would the articles of a tenants bill of rights look like? The first thing that comes to my mind is some kind of rent control, but I am sure there are other things. Pygmycory, I know you have strong feelings about this and I hope you don't think I am picking on you, but if you have some insight into this, I would appreciate hearing about it. I think I am missing something here.

Ken's picture

Granted, that article is published on "Teen/Vogue", so I presume it's intended audience are teens, nevertheless, the attitude of the article was so palpably entitled that I could barely read it. I'm not defending financial literacy programs; I know nothing about them. But - I am saying that whining that the "system" doesn't give you everything you want because it's inherently flawed, and then attacking attempts to educate you as to how the system actually works, doesn't really do anything to improve your situation. In fact, it is actively counterproductive. You might not like "late stage capitalism", I certainly think it's a blight on the planet, but if you think that ignoring guidance for how to function in the society that you are ACTUALLY in, is going to help anyone or anything, you are living in a fantasy.

As Malcolm Gladwell laid out quite thoroughly in 'Outliers', success really is predictable; you need 'enough' talent, you need an opportunity, and (this is the part that that article and most young people completely ignore) you need to WORK HARD. This is the case whether you want to be first chair french horn in the symphony, start an organic herb farm or have a comfortable retirement. The problem with capitalism as it is presently structured is the lack of opportunities for those of us outside the privileged inner circle.

It's easy to say throw the whole damn system in the recycle bin and start over with your utopian system of choice, but that's simply not going to happen. I felt the same way as a child, but I'm not a child anymore. Like it or not, we live in the world we're presented with and while I applaud efforts to change it to a more equitable and sustainable one, I'm not waiting around for the glorious revolution to happen. At best, we might be able to apply pressure at critical junctures and attempt to influence the course of events in a better course.

This is important to get straight in our heads if we are going to call ourselves Green Wizards. The Wise don't HOLD the power tightly, for that is the way of ego and short term interests. Our task is to work towards the long term good for the planet and all our heirs.

Copper's picture

Contrary to popular belief, capitalism is not at fault, human third party interference is. That's like saying let's get rid of religion and spirituality all together because they all contain falsehoods and promotes violence yadda yadda yadda. Which if anyone here is remotely spiritual, knows it's just drivel spewed by the types that fall flat on their face trying to rip everyone down with them and aren't aware. Economics as a whole operates much the same way as spirituality. It will be institutionalized no matter what you try to do to prevent it, and people will find creative ways to screw over the rest by controling resources. Do we take out the bad actors one by one or do we just say "YOLO f all yall!". No, for those who know as least some inkling of history, that hardly turns out well, it just brings more death as most of these changes need to occur slowly. Capitalism is perhaps the only system on a micro economic level that will truely allow for resources to be distributed to where it needs to go and allow for necessary changes to take place so that people can transition from say a consumerist mindset into a more sustainable lifestyle by providing choice. Luckily if anyone's been paying any attention, people ARE doing that they're starting to see the narrative crack, but they're having more of a hard time now making that decision because corporations and governments put so much red tape on what we can and can't do and place things like taxes on things that back in the past were not an issue, all for the so called "common good of all". What would be the result if it was left alone? What would be the result if interfered with? Like I said earlier, interfering would cause more issues, mostly because people at the top truely do not know what those at the bottom need and know little of anything about geography or ecology. Three things that effect economics heavily.

Honestly if anyone's interested I'd say look into Thomas Sowell's Basic Economics. It doesn't go into the equations and stuff but it gives a person a basic rundown of what things should be considered and clarified in economics and critisizes things like corporatism (vulture capitalism), and other things people bring up. Bonus: He's basically blacklisted for his views because he is the only economist that pays attention and says what needs to be said even when retired and being over 80.

David Trammel's picture

Ken, Cooper, I quite agree with your points. I think a really good, basic understanding of economic issues and how you can put them to work in your everyday life is essential. It's like doing some exercise to improve your health. There are many practices you should do as a matter of everyday adult living.

Too many of them though have been given a veneer of pop culture and turn up in shallow, vapid online articles now. The deeper principles have been lost in the sugar coating.

Take the sound principle of having a budget. Yes, you should know how much you have coming in, and how much you have going out. You should set some goals, both short-term and long, and work at accomplishing them. And yet, I see the suggestion thrown out there all the time on FB when people get in the least bit of financial trouble as a solve-all.

I can mention more examples like paying yourself first, using coupons and discounts, making a huge meal on the weekends, then storing portions to re-heat during the week, etc. All good suggestions, yet too often simplistically suggested.

I guess what I'd like to see is a bare-bones common sense type of financial literacy taught here at Green Wizards. Though like many of the things I want us to have, it's on the list and I'll get to writing it once I have the time, lol. Looks like I should be into the new digs as a Phase One, June. I've started fiction writing again, I got 50K pounded out the past few weeks, so now its just setting up some schedule to keep to and get working.

Ken's picture

Glad to hear you are working on some longer fiction! Good for you!

As to financial literacy, it really varies depending on the fiscal system you happen to inhabit, doesn't it? If you are a teenage runaway neo-pagan on the streets of Portland, your resources and goals are quite a bit different than Karen and Steve in their McMansion, especially with the debt they are carrying and the dependence they have on EVERYTHING continuing just as it is at the present. In point of fact, people that own NOTHING are actually financially better off than heavily mortgaged upside down office drones with a sheetrock palace in the suburbs. It may not look like it, but the balance sheet says otherwise.

I think the biggest problem with tenant's rights where I am isn't what's on paper. It's enforcement, or lack of it, and the large power differential between tenant and landlord in a very tight market where there has been very little purpose-built rental in over thirty years.

If you're a low income renter, you often take what you can get, regardless of whether the landlord is behaving fully within the law or not. Because you won't find a better offer in your price range, and you don't want to be homeless. And you don't want to anger your landlord and get a bad reference, either, or you may find it even harder to find new housing even if you can pay for it.

There isn't a lot of legal help available for free, so a lot of the time landlords can just get away with stuff when dealing with low income people with few options.

I know this is much less the case in areas with less-tight housing markets, and I've heard a horror story or two about tenants in these areas myself, but in my entire province housing is really tight, and tenants are at a massive disadvantage no matter what's on paper. I think that it doesn't really matter what's on paper if it's not being enforced on behalf of the people who need it most.

A lot of the reasons for high house prices are structural: insanely low interest rates, income inequality that allows substantial numbers of people to purchase vacation homes or multiple investment properties which may be kept empty or used for non-residential purposes to the point where priced are bid up out of reach of a substantial portion of the population ever owning a home, single family zoning so much land, excessive regulations/exorbitant fees in certain jurisdictions (California comes to mind), high immigration, money laundering from criminal activity, tax structures that don't tax appreciation in house value at nearly the rate they tax income...

I don't think a tenant's bill of rights will do much. We need to deal with the structural causes of this, up to and including raising interest rates, banning foreign investment, taxing empty or short-term rental properties punitively, maybe lowering immigration, removing red tape preventing increased building of housing and such things.

I don't think rental controls are a good idea, especially over the long-term. They disincentivize building rental housing, and provide a massive incentive for landlords to renovict their tenants so they can get a new tenant in who will pay much higher prices.

I don't think making things hard for landlords who are trying to play by the rules, while creating massive incentives and ability for them to break them is a good idea.

That's my two cents after spending quite a while trying to figure out what is causing the insane housing prices and what might be done to fix them, anyway.