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Power The Almighty Buck

Stimulus Could Kickstart US Battery Industry 369

Posted by kdawson
from the charging-ahead dept.
Al sends along a Technology Review piece that begins "Provisions in the Congressional stimulus bill could help jump-start a new, multibillion-dollar industry in the US for manufacturing advanced batteries for hybrids and electric vehicles and for storing energy from the electrical grid to enable the widespread use of renewable energy. The nearly $790 billion economic stimulus legislation contains tens of billions of dollars in loans, grants, and tax incentives for advanced battery research and manufacturing, as well as incentives for plug-in hybrids and improvements to the electrical grid, which could help create a market for these batteries. Significant advances in battery materials, including the development of new lithium-ion batteries, have been made in the US in the past few years; but advanced battery manufacturing is almost entirely overseas, particularly in Asia."
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Stimulus Could Kickstart US Battery Industry

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  • by pieterh (196118) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @05:40PM (#26895003) Homepage

    Every time I read "grant", "advanced research", and "tax incentive", I see "gift", "white elephant", and "sleaze".

    Yes, it's good to spend collective funds on roads, bridges, art, maybe even public fiber, insurance, and banking. But anything the market can do, it should. And I mean a free market, not that fake crony capitalism championed by Bush. In a free market, with proper authority to stop the powerful from escaping the rules, every company is free to compete without barriers. Every subsidy, cheap loan, and grant is a distortion of that market unless it goes to areas that cannot make a profit.

  • Why batteries (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jhfry (829244) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @05:40PM (#26895013)

    I don't want another battery, I want something completely new. I hope that the text of the bill doesn't actually use the words "battery" or even "electro-chemical".

    I would so much rather a ultra-capacitor or some similar storage device that could conceivably be free of rare metals, and have extremely fast charge times (were the current available)

  • by bogaboga (793279) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @05:43PM (#26895045)

    Stimulus Could Kickstart US Battery Industry...

    The stimulus *could* do this or that or else...

    I am tired of that kind of language. Can someone tell us what the stimulus *will* actually do? Could this or that or else does not say much at all.

  • by SupremoMan (912191) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @05:45PM (#26895073)
    I must agree with Parent's sentiment. It could do anything, it's a lot of money. I can tell you thou it won't do much probably.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @05:49PM (#26895139)

    You feel good about an agenda being forced on you and paid for with your taxmoney? This has nothing to do with the economy. They are using the economy as an excuse to pay for things that are not necessary.

    drink the cool-aid sheeple.

  • by DriedClexler (814907) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @05:59PM (#26895269)

    Sure, and once the free market assigns clear, enforceable, transferable, sustainable dumping rights in the atmosphere, and thereby puts a market price on using the atmosphere as a dumping ground, we'll know exactly how wasteful -- or not -- it is to research energy-efficient technologies.

    But as it stands, all we have is a "crony capitalist" subsidy to polluters through exemption from liability for harms to others.

    Sheesh, man, it's fine if you disagree with environmentalist arguments, but could you at least acknowledge their existence?

  • by Daravon (848487) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @06:04PM (#26895319)

    The problem with that idea is that we tried that before/during the Great Depression. We jacked up taxes on stuff not made here. US citizen then stopped buying stuff made "there". Once "there" got wind of this, they stopped buying our stuff. We were left holding our dicks.

  • by PitaBred (632671) <slashdot@pitabre ... org minus distro> on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @06:08PM (#26895369) Homepage
    Bullshit. This is just more pork that's avoiding the issue. A "stimulus" would be punishing the people responsible for this mess, setting things up so that it can't happen again, and giving people faith in the system so that they aren't scared to spend their money knowing it will come back to them.
  • by Rei (128717) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @06:09PM (#26895391) Homepage

    Every type of battery is different; categorizing them all with a single statement about the consequences of their manufacturing is silly. You might as well just claim "My understanding is that businesses pollute the environment... do you really want a business in your back yard?"

    FYI, but the sorts of batteries being looked at here -- mostly phosphate or manganese li-ions, lacking in cobalt cathodes -- are among the most environmentally benign battery chemistries out there.

  • You can't have it. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by tjstork (137384) <todd@bandrowsky.gmail@com> on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @06:11PM (#26895427) Homepage Journal

    Sorry, you can't have it. There's always going to be some set of people that don't want to live up to the same environmental standards as you. Some people might not care about a 1-million chance of getting cancer, but you might. What right do you have to hold them back, in a Democracy?

    I say, keep the asians out, but let each state do its own thing. I would add though, as an aside, if a state is blocking economic development due to environmental laws, and have to come crawling to the feds for a loan (say California), then maybe they should quit trying to enjoy nature on everyone else's dime and do some work for a change.

    We can only borrow so much government cheese money (stimulus) from the Chinese.

  • by pieterh (196118) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @06:11PM (#26895429) Homepage

    Read my post again. A free market is not the Wild Wild West. Unions, labor laws, and environmental laws are about stopping the powerful from escaping the rules. In a free market, for example, an individual has the option to withdraw his/her labor. Big businesses try to remove this options. Unions put it back.

    At the same time, unions can work against a free market, when they get too powerful and themselves try to escape the rules (like competition).

  • by timeOday (582209) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @06:11PM (#26895431)
    Longer term, the deficit increase is far from certain. If successful, the stimulus will lessen the deficit in the next several years by increased employment, economic output, and tax revenue.

    Of course, we'll never know for sure, even in retrospect. Some people still think the New Deal was a net loss.

    To the grandparent I say, certainty is simply not a realistic request. Would I like certainty before investing in stocks, or taking a job, or starting a business? Sure. Ain't gonna happen.

  • by huckamania (533052) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @06:14PM (#26895475) Journal

    I'm not holding my breath until they do, but if you don't, you're a hypocrite for exhaling (dumping) your CO2 into the atmosphere.

    I'm sure we can find more examples of your using the atmosphere, oceans and earth for your private little toilet. You should stop now. Seriously.

  • by h4rr4r (612664) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @06:18PM (#26895521)

    So other than racism do you have any comment you wanted to make?

    The reality is dumping in China or in California will impact everyone. Do you know where rivers end up going? We can and should set standards on environmental cleanliness. Then to ensure that our companies are not at a disadvantage all products imported to this nation must be produced in a way that meets those standards or its cost should be increased via tariffs to prevent abuse of the commons.

    The reality is dumping has a cost, but it is externalized. A tariff would merely internalize this cost.

  • by Rei (128717) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @06:24PM (#26895611) Homepage

    How do you plan to give people "faith in the system"? Do you have any clue how much toxic debt there is circulating out there? If you think things are bad right now, just wait to see what the unemployment situation is like by the time the financial system has worked it all out of its system; unemployment always lags behind everything else. Right now, about the only entities that *can* borrow money effectively are governments -- in particular, the US government.

    $800B sounds like a lot, but we'll be lucky if it even manages to stop the slide, let alone pull us back. The numbers I've seen going around from economists are more like $2-3 trillion over the same timeframe.

  • by Spy Hunter (317220) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @06:37PM (#26895751) Journal

    Whoa there. If you want to prevent atmospheric pollution caused by burning gasoline, a battery subsidy is not the correct way to do it. Instead, a tax on gasoline (or other CO2 sources) is the way to go. To the extent that batteries reduce gasoline use, they will benefit from a gasoline tax. But unlike a battery subsidy, a gasoline tax benefits every battery company, not just the ones successful in obtaining government grants. Furthermore it's not limited to benefiting battery companies either; it benefits any alternative energy source that reduces gasoline use, leaving the market free to decide the best option. Having the government pick winners and losers in alternative energy might sound nice in the short term but it is a recipe for stagnation, lobbying, and corruption in the long term.

  • by garett_spencley (193892) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @06:52PM (#26895925) Journal

    Milton Friedman argued that the legal framework is already in place to deal with companies polluting the environment. It all boils down to private property. Few people pollute their own land and few people care if someone pollutes his/her own land.

    Companies that pollute another person's property are already liable for damage caused to that property. The problem comes into play when dealing with public property and with the atmosphere. What we need is to extend private property laws to be inclusive of the atmosphere above that property. If someone pollutes the air on your property then you can sue him for the damages. There are already laws in place that touch on this to an extent. For example: here in Canada, if I run a business out of my home I can not allow any toxic gases to escape onto my neighbour's property. The only reason big industry isn't punished under these same laws is the practicality associated. We already have mass dumping into the atmosphere and for the government to say that it will enforce these pollution laws will have gross effects on the economy. There's really no other reason the government doesn't begin to more stringently enforce this principle.

    The way I see it, the public should start suing companies in class action suits for damages to public property, the same way they do for damages to private property.

  • by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @06:54PM (#26895951)

    a few years ago I bought a currie electric scooter, just for fun. it gets about 10-15 mi range before it runs out.

    the idea I would LOVE to see is where there are frequent stops (like gas stations) where you can swap your drained batt for a freshly charged one. they have that idea for propane tanks at supermarkets - you don't have to WAIT to have yours filled; you simply swap your empty for a full one.

    why can't the same thing be done for short-distance pure electric vehicles? the issue with these vehicles is distance on a single charge and if you can make the batts swappable (easily and safely) then you have removed the distance limitation.

    its a huge infrastructure to implement, but at some point, we NEED to rethink our whole energy plan. this could be one way.

  • by Brandybuck (704397) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @06:57PM (#26895995) Homepage Journal

    The average congressman is barely able to find their own ass with both hands and a mirror. Yet we expect that these people are more qualified to run industries than the experts in those industries. This stimulus package is nothing more than a trillion dollars of salted pork.

    Just like 9/11 was an excuse for congress to meddle in our private lives, the economic crisis is just an excuse for congress to spend our money. Obama told us this package was so urgent that we couldn't even take the time to READ it. He didn't care about what was in the bill, he only cared that it had a lot of money in it.

  • by Shivetya (243324) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @07:01PM (#26896031) Homepage Journal

    400 million for climate research? OK, another 450 for the manned space program (drop in a bucket) but their funds that were going to fix the place got butchered? (50m instead of the 250m they needed)

    So out of 789 BILLION NASA gets 1 Billion and that is OK? So, that puts NASA up to 18 billion? Well, who got more?

    So, lets see where did the rest go? The bulk of the 20 billion or so is for the NIH to establish a National Health Registry. Actually the figure is about 19 billion of what is allocated to "sciences" for this purpose alone. That is not about advancing science but advancing government. So we will spend more to establish bigger government control over our privacy and choice instead of funding science?

    Science, the only real science is where the bill was signed.

  • by Brandybuck (704397) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @07:02PM (#26896035) Homepage Journal

    There are only three ways to finance a deficit: taxes, debt, and inflation. Add this trillion dollars to Bush's trillion dollars, and the inescapable conclusion is that payment will be large, painful, and unlubed.

  • by djseomun (1119637) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @09:59PM (#26897657) Homepage Journal

    The fact of the matter is, you would be extremely hard pressed to make any reasonable argument that any asian country is interested genuinely in free trade. Go ahead, name me just one.

    I'll give you two.

    According to the Heritage Foundation, the two most economically free countries(1) are Hong Kong and Singapore. Both had weighted average tariffs of ZERO percent in 2006. And guess where both are located? ASIA.

    Source [heritage.org]

    (1) Yes, I know Hong Kong is not a country. That's not relevant.

  • by wytcld (179112) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @10:36PM (#26897955) Homepage

    If you finance with debt, and spend the money borrowed on something that makes you markedly more productive, in the end it can be far cheaper than never going into debt at all. Let's say I'm selling firewood. If I borrow to buy a chain saw and a mechanized log splitter I'm going to be able to produce 20 times the firewood in the same amount of time, with the same amount of labor. That log splitter pays for itself in the first year. Smart debt is like that.

    The whole point of "capitalism" is capital - specifically borrowing it through various mechanisms so it can be employed to produce efficiencies that more-than-pay-it-back. A system without such mechanisms of debt isn't capitalist at all. Not all uses of debt work out; but when they do it's the very genius of the capitalist system.

  • by Russ Nelson (33911) <slashdot@russnelson.com> on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @11:04PM (#26898163) Homepage

    And the end of the stimulus will kickstop the US Battery Industry. There are many examples of subsidized industries that died when their subsidy went away -- and industries that remain subsidized because they lobbily heavily to keep their subsidy (cough ag subsidies cough) (cough mortgage deductibility cough).

    Subsidies are fucking stupid. The stimulus is fucking stupid. A trillion dollars later, we'll have tons of jobs -- all of which depend on further borrowing, further taxation, further inflation. Or do you think the US government can spend a trillion dollars without distorting the marketplace?

  • by arekusu_ou (1344373) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @11:09PM (#26898197)

    Maybe if overpaid workers and grossly overpaid management aren't raising the prices of products, they'd sell better overseas. Granted the auto-industry is too easy a dead horse to kick at the moment.

    But the fact of the matter is, the US economy is on a race to collapse, called inflation. They try to make profit as high as possibly raising the price of goods. This forces cost of living to go up, ultimately forcing the wage to go up following suit, and companies with set unrealistic profits raises the price of goods to maintain their profit. It's a vicious circle where the wage workers are always barely making ends meet at the bottom of the barrel.

    Some countries, whether or not it's ultimately good for their economy, forces inflation down. Forces cost of goods down. Forces wage down. Forces their currency's worth down. And keeps all the wealth in the government (and elite few), and in an ideal world, manage the money for the best of the country better than spreading to everyone in the country who'd squander it on luxury and living beyond their realistic means.

    Think about it, does it really make sense that you're making $50k a year, and paying $4.50 for milk and in 2000 making $33k you were paying $3.00

    You want an easy example of economies collapsing due to artificially created currency, look at MMORPG. In Everquest, items are bought and sold by the millions. It's not the same force driving inflation but it's the same result of inflation. Although if you want a real life example, Zimbabwae. While you purchase your month's grocery by a hundred dollars, they're doing it in millions.

    I'm not an economist, but it's easy to see when something like this isn't working out.

    Although I suppose if we take suit from Star Trek. We'll have a global war devastating the planet. Find alien life and realizing there's more to the world than just ourselves. Band together, removing currency (and replacing it with credit), and somehow get rid of greed (hahaha) and live in a socialist/communist society simply for the safety of the race, and further the collective achievement.

  • by kestasjk (933987) * on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @11:10PM (#26898203) Homepage
    How convenient, after years of economic prosperity on the back of trade with China (which both benefited from) now that there's a crisis they're against free trade and everyone should isolate themselves.

    Like it or not it was the greed of certain Americans that caused this crash, the reason it spread all across the world is because the whole world has been investing in the US sub-prime sector.

    Trying to deny that we live in a global economy, just as it goes into a crisis, is extremely irresponsible and we'd only end up hurting ourselves.

    Finally if you want to "Kick them the fuck out" try not buying their products.. Good luck, their products are what make the Western lifestyle affordable.
  • by tjstork (137384) <todd@bandrowsky.gmail@com> on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @12:14AM (#26898675) Homepage Journal

    Maybe if overpaid workers and grossly overpaid management aren't raising the prices of products, they'd sell better overseas. Granted the auto-industry is too easy a dead horse to kick at the moment.

    Maybe if you actually paid your workers something, you would have a domestic economy, rather than having to unload all your junk on countries that actually do pay their workers. That's really the essence of mercantilism is that, these mercantile countries get screwed. All that money that is being hoarded as currency reserves could and should be spent to benefit the people.. but it doesn't. How stupid is that? What good does it do the Japanese people to know that Japan has a trillion USD sitting in a computer somewhere, or China? Where's all that Chinese money going... to those slave ladies making keyboards for 42 cents an hour? Is that overpaid? Is that how everyone should be paid? Yep, China didn't pick Capitalism to emulate, it actually picked the very sort of economic mercantilism that lead to the birth of communism in the first place. Shitty conditions for workers, an export driven economy, a few connected people get mega rich and the government doesn't change.

    The USA is not going to collapse any time soon. Even now, this crisis of cash has not and most likely will not trigger a rush to go after the numerous physical assets this nation has. There is enough shale oil in Colorado to burn for a 100 years, if we bothered to get it. There's a trillion dollars of oil sitting in Alaska that we're not going to get, because it bothers us that a few polar bears might get hurt. There's also about 500 billion barrels of oil sitting in North Dakota... and on top of that, the entire country is is just a food producing machine. We have wheat fields and corn fields that are larger than some other nations. We have so much goddamn food that we are burning it to power our giant cars, the rest of you fools can starve.

    Even the French actually have said that when the dust all settles from this financial "crisis", the USA will come out on top. Communism is crap. Even in Star Trek, there is only one Captain of the Enterprise, not a central planning committee.

  • by tjstork (137384) <todd@bandrowsky.gmail@com> on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @12:24AM (#26898759) Homepage Journal

    How convenient, after years of economic prosperity on the back of trade with China (which both benefited from) now that there's a crisis they're against free trade and everyone should isolate themselves.

    China and the USA have a complicated relationship that goes through weird phases. By and large most Americans like Chinese people... Chinese food is great, the history and artwork are just amazing. There's always going to be an American soft spot for China because the two countries are opposites in some ways - China is very old, and America is very young.

    Like it or not it was the greed of certain Americans that caused this crash, the reason it spread all across the world is because the whole world has been investing in the US sub-prime sector

    Well, I'm not buying the sub-prime thing. The total value of all mortgages in the USA is only about 10 trillion dollars, and so I would think that if the subprime mess were the problem, that's only about two trillion worth, and the USA has already pumped that much money into the banking system to cover those losses, either via TARP, or via games played with the Federal Reserve.

    Finally if you want to "Kick them the fuck out" try not buying their products.. Good luck, their products are what make the Western lifestyle affordable.

    Um, the western lifestyle was more affordable before those products happened. It used to be, before free trade, that a single man could work 9-5 at a steel mill, support a stay at home, a bunch of kids, pay for medical expenses out of his pocket, own his house and have two new cars and a TV, and he could send his kids to college. When he retired, he got a company pension that lasted not only until he died, but until his wife died. Since the emergence of free trade, bit by bit, that standard of living has been eroded and that's what the Democrats are just screaming about while, foolishly, Republicans keep pushing the free trade button despite all the ruin that it caused. Yes, its good on paper, free trade is, but it just doesn't work.

  • by Tubal-Cain (1289912) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @12:36AM (#26898851) Journal
    Some good projects are just too big to be undertaken by the private sector. See also: Hoover Dam.
  • by MadMidnightBomber (894759) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @02:17AM (#26899387)

    I'm perplexed. Why is there so much fuss about spending $800bn on at least vaguely useful stuff when the Iraq war has already cost you $600bn and that's not counting ongoing medical care for the 30k+ injured veterans? Serious question guys - I really didn't see people complaining about the cost of the war in the same way as they're complaining about this stimulus bill.

  • by AK Marc (707885) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @02:35AM (#26899471)
    The broken window fallacy would be in play if they were paying 500 people to mess up a street and 500 more to clean it. Instead, they are doing FDR-style work (or intending to). Back then, they put people to work doing useless things like building the Hoover Dam and many government buildings still in use today. It's not just paying to fix something they break, or paying someone to sit idley (actually more efficient than breaking something then fixing it). No, they are building something that, has a use. They may not be projects that would have been worth the full cost, but they are certainly better than fixing a broken window or idleness.

    Ah yes, taking money from one pocket (mine) and moving it someone else's pork barrel is a wonderful way to stop the slide.

    Oh really? They took it from you? So, your taxes jumped by about $8000 this year? No? Then you are lying. They didn't take anything from you. They increased the $100,000 or so you already owe. And if you have a problem with that, you should have brought it up before, as the paltry $800 billion is nothing compared to the increase in debt over the past 8 years.
  • by dodobh (65811) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @02:43AM (#26899507) Homepage

    Perhaps you need to adjust for the fact the Free Trade is in fact benefiting a few million people out there, who just don't happen to live in the US?

  • by ZorbaTHut (126196) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @03:10AM (#26899617) Homepage

    Um, the western lifestyle was more affordable before those products happened. It used to be, before free trade, that a single man could work 9-5 at a steel mill, support a stay at home, a bunch of kids, pay for medical expenses out of his pocket, own his house and have two new cars and a TV, and he could send his kids to college. When he retired, he got a company pension that lasted not only until he died, but until his wife died. Since the emergence of free trade, bit by bit, that standard of living has been eroded and that's what the Democrats are just screaming about while, foolishly, Republicans keep pushing the free trade button despite all the ruin that it caused. Yes, its good on paper, free trade is, but it just doesn't work.

    Technically, you are correct.

    However, the person staying at home had fewer luxuries. No large-screen TV. No XBox 360. No electronic picture frames. The food was probably not as varied - yes, the ingredients may have been higher quality, direct from the market (but of course you can do that today), but eating at a restaurant was more expensive.

    Yes, they had two new cars. But those cars were unsafe, noisy, and slow compared to cars we have today.

    The TV was half the size, a quarter of the resolution, and received an eighth of the stations.

    And medical expenses . . . why yes, he could pay medical expenses right out of his pocket! Of course, if he got cancer, he was just dead. If his children got any number of unexpected diseases? Yeah, they're dead too. Get into a car accident in your giant steel car with no airbags? Dead, probably.

    So, while technically you are correct . . . you're measuring the wrong things. Anyone who wants to live like someone from the 60's can do so easily, and they don't even need to work 9-5 at a steel mill.

  • by WaZiX (766733) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @05:28AM (#26900159)

    I'm not an economist, but it's easy to see when something like this isn't working out.

    I am, and your comment made absolutely no sense...

    But the fact of the matter is, the US economy is on a race to collapse, called inflation.

    The US had an annualized inflation rate of 0,09% in December 2008 and hasn't had an inflation rate above 4% since 1991. What exactly are you talking about?

    Maybe if overpaid workers and grossly overpaid management aren't raising the prices of products, they'd sell better overseas. Granted the auto-industry is too easy a dead horse to kick at the moment.

    BMW, VW, Mercedes all produce their cars in high-wage countries. The problem with GM is that they make cheap shitty cars in the US. No one wants their cars AND they are expensive to manufacture... Not exactly what I call a brilliant business model. If anything, wages in the US should _increase_, because American workers are highly qualified.

    Some countries, whether or not it's ultimately good for their economy, forces inflation down. Forces cost of goods down. Forces wage down. Forces their currency's worth down. And keeps all the wealth in the government (and elite few), and in an ideal world, manage the money for the best of the country better than spreading to everyone in the country who'd squander it on luxury and living beyond their realistic means.

    To lower inflation you increase the interest rate... which decreases its exchange rate (and hence INCREASE its value). You can't both artificially keep your currency low AND keep inflation low. (Unless you use price-fixing, but that always backfires anyways, so that can only work in the short term).

    Think about it, does it really make sense that you're making $50k a year, and paying $4.50 for milk and in 2000 making $33k you were paying $3.00

    Euh, yeah it does, not only because you have 8 more years of experience and should be paid accordingly, but also because the real growth (growth - inflation) is positive, and therefore goods should be cheaper to buy on average.

    You want an easy example of economies collapsing due to artificially created currency, look at MMORPG. In Everquest, items are bought and sold by the millions. It's not the same force driving inflation but it's the same result of inflation. Although if you want a real life example, Zimbabwae. While you purchase your month's grocery by a hundred dollars, they're doing it in millions.

    The creation of money is governed by supply and demand of loans, there is nothing artificial about it. Comparing the US to Zimbabwe is not very credible, I'm sorry.

  • by drsmithy (35869) <drsmithy.gmail@com> on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @05:55AM (#26900277)

    However, the person staying at home had fewer luxuries. No large-screen TV. No XBox 360. No electronic picture frames.

    This argument pops up all the time in these types of discussions, and it's specious. Yes, people might not have had a TV half a room wide, or a massive SUV, or any of those fancy toys they have today.

    But they had contemporary equivalents, which is the OP's point - while absolute living standards have continued to increase, relative living standards (may) have declined.

    (Back then, of course, people like you would have been saying how half a century earlier no-one had cars, washing machines or electricity - and 50 years before that it would have been about how no-one had running water.)

  • by MadMidnightBomber (894759) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @07:33AM (#26900705)

    OK, you've won me over with your thoughtful, well-argued post. Consider the matter closed.

  • by maxume (22995) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @10:04AM (#26901897)

    There really isn't any need to pay off the entirety of that debt with the money that happens to exist today, especially if the term on the debt is 20 or 30 years (like the $10 trillion that is in mortgages). That comparison is a red herring. If there was never any consumption or production of goods and services you would be correct, but that isn't true, even in the United Services of America.

    The whole principle behind credit is that it is probably o.k. to give me money I don't have today in exchange for me paying it back over time. Given that GDP is in excess of $10 trillion, $47 trillion seems managable (but taxes are going to have to go up eventually, and spending down, as the debt won't be paid off by taking out new debt).

    I do think that the U.S. government and people are carrying too much debt (financing a television is idiotic, and government debt, while managable, isn't a win as often as the goverment thinks).

    Since you are spouting this nonsense elsewhere, here is a simple way of looking at it: say Canada gives the U.S. 10 pounds of wheat, in exchange for a certificate that says that the U.S. owes Canada $20 (U.S.). The U.S., having come around to the notion that it doesn't want to owe Canada money anymore, plants some seeds in the ground and grows some grain. Cananda says "We will give you $25 (U.S.) for 15 pounds of wheat". The U.S takes the money for the wheat and then says "Hey, Canada, can I pay you back?" and then gives Canada the money (which was really just a placeholder representing the value of the wheat).

    The basic problem isn't that it is conceptually impossible for a nation to pay back a debt, the basic problem is that the U.S. government doesn't have any interest in paying back the debt.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @10:05AM (#26901919)

    You seem to completely miss the difference in STANDARD of LIVING. With the exception of health care a family could EASILY live the same lifestyle as you describe today IF they were willing to live the lifestyle you describe.

    That steel worker doing 9-5, his house was less than 1000 sq ft. His car didn't have 1/4 of the engineering into safetly features and comfort as ours. His tv was at most 20 inches. He at most went out to dinner twice a month and the movies once a month. He didn't own movies at home. He didn't have a cell phone. He didn't have cable. Unlike what you believe, he didn't own two new cars, he owned one, maybe two, used cars.
    And most importantly, he wasn't paying interest on a credit card because he had to have everything now instead of waiting a few months to save up for it.

    He also didn't expect to live more than a couple years past retirement. In fact the reason pensions went away was because when they were laid out people weren't expected to live so damned long.

    All that extra stuff costs extra money. The fact is that people who can't afford it still buy cable at $100 USD or more a month. If a person lived with the same standard of living, for the same amount of time they could have almost all of that for an equivalent career.

    The only items I do agree with you on is medical expenses and college. College has become extremely over priced, partly as a result of demand, a huge part as a result of bureaucracy. However the medical is another story. One of the biggest reasons expenses are so high now is because we keep people alive long past when they would have died if it was still 1950. Cancer was pretty much lethal in a short period of time back then. A heart attack almost always signaled death was only a year or two away. Basically you went to the doctor for a broken leg, if you had anything too much worse than that you just ended up dying.

  • by dodobh (65811) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @02:19PM (#26905447) Homepage

    Actually, free trade was forced down the throats of a lot of countries by the world bank and the IMF, primarily under US pressure to open up their markets to US goods. They were offered US markets in return, and now that they are climbing up the value chain, the US is going to have to suck it up.

    What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

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