Category Archives: Economics

Modular floating islands could solve extreme poverty, refugee crises and pollution

There are currently about 100 million people who are living homeless because they had to flee a war zone, and there are just as many homeless people living in “peaceful” countries. A billion people live on less than $2.50 per day, and two more billion people live below the poverty line because they don’t have access to resources or opportunities.

Despite the world spending over $100 billion dollars on humanitarian aid and trillions more on public infrastructure, poverty is only getting worse, because traditional cities separate people from sources of jobs, food, water, utilities, entertainment and education. The current housing system is designed to make real-estate more expensive, the more conveniently located it is, which means the poorer you are, the more expensive, dangerous, discouraging, unhealthy and opportunity-less your life will be.

If every country pooled $50 trillion, they could solve extreme poverty and refugee crises by building a self-sustainable apartment complex/office building in the shape of a ring, 100 miles in diameter, where every resident will have immediate access to food, water, shelter, jobs and transportation. As long as predatory capitalists don’t take over the city and raise prices and lower wages to extortion levels, every resident would be able to live fear-free for life.

400 dollar house

A project of this size would face many hurdles. One of the biggest would be, where to build it? One solution to that problem, is to build it on water. This approach would be more expensive, but the benefits might outweigh the cost.

It wouldn’t take much engineering to build a floating city. Instead of building a huge, floating base and then putting a city on top of it, build hollow modules that connect together. Then, a big wave wouldn’t knock any houses or businesses over, because everyone would be living and working “underground.” The surface area could be used to grow food and raise animals.

All you need to make a floating house is a boat hull. You could cast them out of concrete. Engineers have been building hollow concrete boats and caissons for years.

The technology could be easily adapted to mass producing floating houses. Or you could make the hulls out of fiberglass or steel. It might be more expensive, but it would cost less to build a modular fiberglass bobber house than to build a shack in Honolulu or New York City.

Even the sturdiest buoy city would be capsized by a mega wave on the open ocean eventually, but instead of building a monolithic island in international waters, you could connect a line of modular floating homes along the coast of a relatively protected body of water, like the Caspian Sea or the Great Lakes.

If this mega structure were built in the Mediterranean Ocean, you could create a walkable path from Africa to Europe. Refugees wouldn’t use it to invade Europe, because they would already have ocean-front property and everything they need to raise a family. You could use that path as a new trade route, and the new most popular tourist destination in the world.

We wouldn’t need to fight over one location for the project. The governments of the world could build one hundred module factories around the world and gradually build a chain around every protected body of water. Life might be so idyllic, the majority of humans will flee the mainland and leave it to Mother Nature.

I believe the environmental benefit of a floating civilization would outweigh the risks. Since all the food, water and utilities would be created in-house, less packaging and transportation would be needed to get the necessities of life from their point of creation to consumption. The modules could be equipped with traps that filter pollution out of the water, and the hulls of the boats would provide new artificial reefs for fish to eat from.

This idea is crazy for being outside the norm, but not because it’s unfeasible. The richest 1,200 people in the world have over $50 trillion sitting in their bank accounts not doing anything. That’s more than enough money to house every refugee and homeless person in the world off-land. Even if governments footed the entire bill themselves, the money they’d save in humanitarian aid and social services would pay for itself quickly. Plus, it would create jobs, lower unemployment, food scarcity and realestate costs.

Sadly, that’s why the governments of the world would never conspire to build this. If governments cared about their people, they wouldn’t have invested their tax dollars on building unsustainable habitats to begin with. The rich need the poor to live in constant fear and danger, because that gives them the leverage to exploit the helpless. Our cities are designed to create scarcity, because it lowers workers’ and consumers’ bargaining power, which allows businesses to raise prices and lower wages. Extreme poverty and refugee crises exist because the global economy is designed to oppress and exploit the poor.

It’s almost impossible to get rich without gouging your customers and/or employees. So most rich people would be acting contrary to their past behavior if they donated their fortune to building a self-sustainable floating refugee camp, but there are a lot of philanthropists out there with more money than they know what to do with. Hopefully some of them find the motive to give back to the world they’ve taken so much from.

If compassion and foresight won’t compel the rich to mass-produce floating city modules, greed should. The first person to streamline the process will become the Donald Trump of the seas. After Trump runs America into the ground, building a new nation at sea might be his only hope of redemption. Granted, being the greedy sociopathic narcissist that he is, his city would probably be full of slaves serving masters. However, if he can establish and improve floating island technology, it would be worth it as proof of concept. Then better people can copy his architecture and build the humanitarian communities we’ve been waiting for.

As a compromise, an island-loving billionaire like Mark Zuckerberg, could build a modular island factory, produce a string of islands, and after all the agriculture jobs are filled, train new residents as computer programmers, give them jobs that generate a profit, and keep a portion until the cost of construction is repaid, then give the employee ownership of their module.

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How to solve extreme poverty and every refugee crises forever

The most popular Youtube vlogger is Pewdiepie, a Swedish man-child who posts videos about playing video games and acting silly in his computer room. Pewdiepie currently posts about one blog each weak, which means, in the time between each of his posts, at least 1,900 civilians died horrible war-related deaths somewhere in the world, and that’s a very conservative estimate.

The civilians who survive these conflicts are only technically lucky. Over 22 million people are living in foreign countries right now because they’ve had to flee the apocalyptic death, destruction and destitution in their birth-land. That’s not counting the 65 million people who have fled their homes but haven’t left their country. This means there are about 100 million people who are homeless because they would die if they went home.

That number doesn’t count the 100 million people in the world who are just old-fashioned homeless, or the 1.3 billion people who have homes and jobs but are working themselves to death while starving in a shit-covered tin hut with no water, electricity or sanitation.

In conflict zones, it’s hard to get real numbers how many people are suffering, but we know that over 3 billion people live on under $2.50 per day. These statistics don’t highlight a few isolated travesties. Almost half the population of the world lives in extreme poverty, and there are still several billion more who make more than $2.50 per day and live below the poverty level.

Basically, if you have running water, air conditioning, heat, a bed, pornography and an education, you’re one of the most privileged people in the entire world. Drop to your knees and thank God if  the worst problem in your life is that nobody loves you.

If you factor in all the money countries and nongovernment agencies spend on humanitarian aid each year, the cost easily eclipses $100 billion dollars each year. The world could afford to spend more money to fight poverty, but it spends over $2 trillion on the militaries which are displacing people. So tax payers are spending more money on creating humanitarian crises than solving them.

We already spends trillions of dollars every year on infrastructure that is supposed to help people live functionally, but it hasn’t solved the problem because it addresses the problem in a round about way that creates more problems than it solves. All the roads, plumbing and power lines haven’t saved the poor in Detroit or any other major city in the world.

This makes the problem seem unsolvable, but the solution is really very simple. All people need to be happy and healthy are food, clothing, shelter, water, electricity, jobs, transportation and access to markets. If you built a ring-shaped apartment complex with 100 million condos and offices, then dug a man-made river encircling the entire building and used that to water gardens and orchards, you could give the people living there agriculture jobs and a never-ending supply of food and water.

With those problems solved, some workers could specialize in other jobs, which they could reach by walking across the hallway in their apartment complex. Every business would be connected by one road that would never get congested. The bigger you make the diameter of the circular building, the more external markets it would have access to.

Basically, the complex would operate like a secular monastery the size of a major city. You could also think of it as a permanent, self-sustaining refugee camp. As long as the residents don’t have to pay rent, receive an equitable percentage of the profits their work produces, and aren’t overcharged for the goods and services the monastery sells, then everyone will always have everything they need, and nobody would live in destitution or fear thereof.

How would you pay for such a mega project, and who would build it?  It costs about $120 per square foot to build a traditional house, but if you built the refugee camp/monastery using earthbags, you could bring the construction cost down as low as $10 per square foot. Since all that dirt will need to be dug up anyway, you can use the dirt from digging the reservoir/water channel/moat around the complex.

It would take thousands, if not millions of people to build a structure the length of a small country, but earthbag construction is relatively simple. You could simply have the 100 million refugees do the work and then move into the home they built when they’re done. Then they would have a sense of ownership, pride and shared identity with their fellow coworkers/neighbors.

The richest 1,400 people in the world have $5.4 trillion dollars just sitting in their bank accounts, not doing anything. If each apartment unit in the earthbag megastructure is 500 square feet and costs $10 per square foot, you could build 1 billion, eighty-five million units with $5.4 trillion. This figure doesn’t take all the building costs into account, but to put this in perspective, it costs $1 billion per mile to dig an underground tunnel to reduce traffic congestion. You could build a mile of earthbag apartments with a road, gardens, utilities and an aquaduct for far less than $1 billion per mile, especially if you built it in the middle of Africa, Russia or China where property values are low.

We have the money to end extreme poverty in less than five years. We just need to stop spending it on constructing and repairing inefficient cities full of economic dead zones, and build a mega-home that fills all its residents’ basic needs.

The picture below has the aquifer in the center of the building instead of a moat around it, but it still illustrates my proposal.

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Billionaires won’t save you and Socialism won’t kill you

In 2010 I wrote an essay titled, “The fundamental problem with the economy,” in which I argue poverty exists because most business owners pay their employees the lowest wages possible while charging their customers the highest prices for the cheapest-made products, and I suggest that business owners could eradicate poverty by paying equitable wages and fair prices. A few days ago, one of my readers left the following comment (with video) in response to that blog:

“We can start by having the biggest US companies follow your example; like Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon, Walmart, Microsoft, Exxon-Mobile, Chase, Wells-Fargo and Berkshire Hathaway. You think they would do it? Most of the giant corporations are run by liberal-leaning CEOs.

Look at Venezuela, they have Socialism and the governments seized too many companies and they’re not producing enough food to feed people. People are going hungry and babies are not getting their milk. What is your analysis on the Venezuelan condition? You should do a blog on it.”

CEOs could end poverty tomorrow if they all collectively agreed to pay their workers a fair share of profits and charge customers fair prices, but small-to-medium-sized business owners can’t do that. As long as most businesses charge extortion prices, they force each other to pass on their operating costs to their workers and customers to keep up with the price of doing business in a cut-throat economy.

Every Fortune 500 company could afford to lower their profit margins, but they don’t, not because it would hurt their business’s chance of survival, but because the owners and investors wouldn’t be able to horde as much money for themselves.

If Microsoft and Berkshire and Hathaway needed every penny of their profits to operate, then Bill Gates and Warren Buffet wouldn’t have been able to pocket billions of dollars in profit. So the price of Microsoft and Berkshire Hathaway’s products and services aren’t based on necessity. They’re based on two factors:

  1. How badly Gates and Buffet want to stockpile money they’ll never spend
  2. How little Gates and Buffet care about their workers and customers’ quality of life

This makes them either the most evil or delusional people in the world. They may talk progressive and give fractions of their fortunes back to the poor through charities, but they’re still driving the train of economic inequality full speed ahead. Even billionaire, George Soros, who American conservatives hate for sponsoring Democratic politicians, is still raping the lower classes to feed his insatiable bank account. Today’s billionaires are the modern day version of feudal lords or colonial slave plantation owners. No matter how neat their ideas are, or how many pet charities they support, they’re still the reason poor people’s lives are a living hell.

Take a minute and let the gravity of this sink in. Generations of our ancestors wasted their lives, working themselves to death at jobs that treated and paid them like they’re less than human. They spent their lives working against their will, doing things that had no personal meaning to them and only kept going to work out of fear. Fulfilling their boss’s contrived responsibility robbed them of the time they had to fulfill their potential and give their lives meaning.

This is why economic theories like Socialism and Communism were invented, because business owners have been literally and existentially killing their workers and customers for all of human history, and they still are.

The poor need a new economic system more than the rich need more expensive luxuries, but America is the world’s dominating super power, and the majority of America’s population identifies as pro-Christian, conservative and Capitalist. Most Americans couldn’t tell you what Communism or Socialism are, but they know they’re evil and, every country that has tried them has failed, which proves (to them) Capitalism is the best economic system.

America can’t change until it can have a sane national dialogue about economics. It can’t do that as long as the majority of Americans believe anything divergent from Capitalism is evil. To that end, they need to learn it doesn’t make any sense to demonize Communism and Socialism for at least four reasons:

  1. None of the countries that called themselves Communist or Socialist were what they claimed to be.

Immediately after Lenin seized power in the Soviet Union, his countrymen raised an army and went to civil war with him because he didn’t implement Communism. He implemented a fascist dictatorship with some poorly implemented aspects of Communism. When his followers pointed this out, he justified this by basically saying, “Yeah, I know it’s not really Communism, but that’s a goal we have to work towards, and these are desperate times. So what we’re doing right now is ‘War Communism,” which will be replaced by real Communism when things settle down a bit.” But instead, he reinstated a limited amount of Capitalism and turned a blind eye to black market Capitalism.

After Lenin died, Stalin took Lenin’s fascist leadership style to the next level, and in less than one hundred years, corruption and greed imploded the U.S.S.R. before anything resembling Marx’s Communism could be implemented.

China’s ruling party calls itself Communist, but the country is run by billionaires and is full of sweat shops. The definition of “Communism” is, “a political theory advocating class war and leading to a society in which all property is publicly owned and each person works and is paid according to their abilities and needs.”

The definition of “sweatshop” is, “a factory or workshop, especially in the clothing industry, where manual workers are employed at very low wages for long hours and under poor conditions.” Billionaires, sweatshops and iron-fisted authority are all antithetical to Communism.

If you were to study any Communist country without knowing it was Communist, and then tried to identify what kind of government it has, you’d probably guess fascism every time. That doesn’t mean Communism is fascist. It means fascist leaders use doublespeak.

I’m not saying Communism is better than Capitalism or that it should be tried again. I’m just pointing out that claiming Capitalism is the best system in the world because Communism failed, is like saying Coke is better than Pepsi because Faygo is disgusting, and Juggalos are crazy.

 

  1. America has made efforts to destabilize every country that has ever called itself Communist or Socialist.

The Vietnam War, the Cold War and the Cuban Missile Crisis were campaigns in the war between Capitalism and Communism. America orchestrated dozens of coups and bloody revolutions in its war against alternative economic models. So the argument that Capitalism is the best economic model because every Communist and Socialist experiment has failed, is like saying your Nike shoes are better than someone else’s Adidas shoes, because you won a race against them after shooting them in the face.

  1. Socialism is a blanket term for a wide range of nuanced economic models.

Socialism is defined, “a range of economic and social systems characterized by social ownership and democratic control of the means of production, as well as the political theories, and movements associated with them. Social ownership may refer to forms of public, collective, or cooperative ownership, or to citizen ownership of equity. There are many varieties of socialism and there is no single definition encapsulating all of them. Social ownership is the common element shared by its various forms.”

Ultimately, Socialism means employees share ownership and profits of the company they work for. This means co-op grocery stores are the smallest example of Socialism, but you can scale the concept up and mix and match it with different government styles. Just look at Wikipedia’s list of different flavors of Socialism.

Saying Socialism doesn’t work because Venezuealans are hungry is like saying it’s impossible to raise dogs as pets because you know somebody who tried to raise a wolf and it ate their children. Even if Chavezism is a legitimate example of one type of Socialism, the argument that Socialism doesn’t work because Venezuela is collapsing, would still be tantamount to saying fishing is a failed method to get food because people have been injured fishing with dynamite. Just because dynamite fishing is crazy, that doesn’t prove hunting is the only way to get food.

Technically, those metaphors don’t apply to Venezuela anyway, because Venezuela is arguably no more Socialist than China is Communist. Hugo Chavez nationalized a few industries in Venezuela, but he didn’t nationalize every business. So the economy was still predominantly Capitalist.

In theory, the companies he nationalized became the property of the state, and since the state belongs to the people, therefore those companies belong to the people. However, the people didn’t get an equitable share of the profits. A lot of it was stolen by corrupt politicians, and the rest went to subsidizing prices and giving away free stuff.

Plus, the workers didn’t have any control over the companies, and even though Chavez was democratically elected, the policies he implemented and enforced, were his own creation, not the will of the people. When civilians protested him, he ordered police to shoot them in the streets.

If Socialism equals social ownership of businesses, then what happened in Venezuela wasn’t Socialism. It was just fascism, corruption and inefficient bureaucracy failing to fix the problems of a predominantly Capitalist economy.

  1. Communism, Socialism and Capitalism aren’t the only possible economic models.

Communism is one man’s theory on how to fix a country that doesn’t exist anymore. Socialism and Capitalism are both spectrums of ideas. The flavor of Capitalism used in America can be more accurately described as “Predatory Capitalism” than “Free Market Capitalism.”

Capitalism is defined, “an economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state.”

Ask anyone who works for a co-op, they’ll attest private ownership of business isn’t inherently evil. Capitalism only becomes predatory when business owners squeeze the life out of the people they’re meant to serve. So claiming Capitalism is evil because America has apocalyptic levels of economic inequality, is like saying nobody should eat cake because your dad owns a poison cake business.

The easiest solution to economic inequality is for business owners to treat their workers and customers as they would want to be treated. Barring that, there are a million other economic models we could design using concepts taken from Communism, Socialism, Capitalism and new ideas we haven’t thought of yet.

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My theory on the most important factor in the price of crypto currencies, and how that applies to STEEM

If you haven’t heard of Steemit.com, it’s a blogging platform that pays you to post blogs with the site’s proprietary crypto currency called STEEM. One of my first posts on Steemit was “An Introduction to Crypto Currency and Steemit for Minnows.” This explains what crypto currencies are and what gives them value, but after reading a post today by the user, aaagent, titled, “My journey through the Matrix and how I found the red pill (gold, crypto, politics, economics, & geo politics),” it made me realize I didn’t stress enough the most important factor in why/how crypto currencies gain value, which is:

HOW MANY PEOPLE ACCEPT IT AS PAYMENT FOR GOODS AND SERVICES

There are hundreds of different types of crypto currencies, and they each have a gimmick. Some are centralized. Others are decentralized. Some have more transparent histories. Others are more secure and untraceable. Doge Coin is just a generic coin that isn’t backed by anything and has a joke for name. STEEM is backed by the popularity of its social media platform, which is a cool gimmick, but ultimately won’t determine whether or not STEEM succeeds or fails.

Even if Steemit becomes a great site, people will stop investing in STEEM eventually if they can only spend it on one or two websites. Even if the Steemit admins never make another improvement in the social media platform, if they focus all their energy on getting businesses around the world to accept STEEM as payment, the price will go up and never come down.

Compare STEEM to Bitcoin and Gold. Most of the people who buy Bitcoin probably don’t understand how it works. All they know is that a lot of people accept it as real money. Therefore, it must be real. It’s like gold. Gold is useful in the real world, but most people won’t use gold for anything other than buying things with it. Very few people know why gold is so universally accepted, and they don’t need to. All they need to know is, they can buy anything with it, anywhere in the world.

This leads me to the number one reason I haven’t invested money in buying STEEM yet. (Emphasis on the word “yet.”) Steemit practically forces you to keep your STEEM tokens locked up in Steem power, and it takes months to turn your power into tokens and sell them. I’m convinced the only reason Steem power exists is because the admins want to keep timid investors from crashing the price in a panicky sell-off.

This makes the price of STEEM look stable on paper, which impresses speculative investors, but if everyone’s STEEM is locked away, then nobody is buying anything with it. The fewer people who spend STEEM, the fewer people will accept it as payment, because they’ll have nowhere to spend it, because nobody else uses it. When intelligent investors realize they can’t use STEEM for hardly anything except selling it to speculators, they’ll probably stop buying it, which will make its price go down until it dies a slow penny stock death.

When it took two years to power down your account, I had zero faith in Steemit, but I knew the program was in its beta phase. So I used it hoping the problems would get fixed. When they lowered the time to three months, it restored some of my faith. However, it’s all for naught if more businesses don’t start accepting STEEM as payment for real world goods and services. If anyone can share some links to articles of STEEM catching on with merchants, it will make me more of a believer.

You can use this concept to predict the future of other crypto currencies too. Dogecoin is doomed to fail, because it’s not based on anything, and nobody is seriously trying to convince businesses to accept it.

There will always be a real world need for hard-to-trace currencies like Dash and Monero on the darknet, but the value of privacy-centric currencies are likely to stay pegged to the size of the black market. It is possible another Bitcoin could break out of the black market though. So investors should keep an eye on which currencies are growing in popularity there.

The crypto currencies with the most potential are ones like Etherium, Zcash and Ripple, because they’re designed with business in mind, and they’re focused like a laser on getting their currency into circulation, unlike Steemit, which is more focused on manipulating the appearance of its value.

That’s harsh, but I’ll be fair, Steemit did take a step in the right direction by lowering the time it takes to power down your account. If they just do a little bit more to improve the circulation of STEEM, I’ll put my money where my faith is.


Introduction to crypto currency and Steemit.com

INTRODUCTION TO CRYPTO CURRENCY

Crypto currency is like stocks. Neither have any inherent value. The only reason they’re worth money is because people believe they are enough to trade real money for them, which isn’t so crazy, because money has no real inherent value either. Money, stocks and crypto currency are all just tokens that we assign value to on faith.

The value of these tokens are based on two things: scarcity and the reputation of the person issuing them. For example, the U.S. government says, “We’re putting 10 trillion dollars into circulation. You can trade 1,000 of them for a cow. The more stable our economy is, the more our dollars will be worth. Trust us.” IBM says, “We’re putting one billion stocks in circulation. You can trade ten of them for a cow. The more profitable our business is, the more our stock will be worth. Trust us.”

These promises are worthless until someone actually accepts these tokens as payment for real world goods. Bitcoin was just an empty promise until people started accepting it as payment. Once other people saw that happening, they said, “Holy cow! This is worth real money!? Let’s buy and sell it too.” The more demand there was for it, the more money people would pay to get it, and the more it became worth, just like stocks. So you can think of Bitcoins like stocks in Bitcoin Incorporated. It’s even sold on cryptocurrency exchanges that work like the stock market.

The difference between crypto currencies and stocks is that there is no Bitcoin Incorporated. There’s no head office, CEO or profit margin, because there’s no product being sold. Bitcoin is like a stock in a company that doesn’t exist. There are just a bunch of servers all over the world owned by volunteers, which run programs that were originally invented as a way to back up digital files in multiple locations simultaneously and securely.

Hospitals and big businesses used this technology so they could guarantee they’d never lose important records, and those records could never be tampered with. So employees couldn’t go back in and cook the books to cover up their mistakes or hide fraud. The system works sort of like Utorrent. There are a bunch of people all over the world running a program that allows their computers to collaborate with each other to write chains of data. Unlike torrent programs though, the data isn’t copied. Each server just shares the responsibility of creating and hosting a set amount of data.

The value of a Bitcoin isn’t backed by this data. The data is the money. So a Bitcoin mining machine is like a money printing press, but no matter how many mining machines are online, they collectively only create a set amount of data every day, which is distributed between all the printing presses. Ultimately, the Bitcoin printing presses will produce 21 million bitcoins, and then they will stop producing new ones. I’ve heard the number 21 million is supposed to reflect the amount of gold in the world, which is in theory should make Bitcoin the gold standard of cryptocurrency. The last bitcoin will be generated sometime around the year 2040. This system makes inflation impossible, but while Bitcoins are still being created, the more miners there are, the less each person gets to keep.

If this sounds rediculous, think of Bitcoins like digital diamonds. Diamonds have no inherent value either. They’re just common rocks. The only reason they seem scarce is because DeBeers has a monopoly on the diamond supply and only lets out a few at a time. Plus, they’ve hyped up the value of diamonds so much that people believe they’re worth money.

If DeBeers flooded the market with all the diamonds they’ve horded, the price of diamonds would plummet, and your warehouse would become full of stupid, worthless rocks. Bitcoin miners can’t flood the market with Bitcoins and crash their value like DeBeers could with diamonds. They can’t split or reverse split the amount of Bitcoins it has issued like IBM can. They can’t print 10 trillion more Bitcoins tonight and crash its value like third world countries sometimes do with their money supply. A foreign country can’t overthrow Bitcoin and crash its economy like America did to Iraq. In a crazy, turbulent world, Bitcoin will always be stable as long as the internet exists. That’s more than most currencies can boast.

INTRODUCTION TO STEEMIT

After people started paying hundreds of dollars for Bitcoins, other volunteers started running similar programs on their servers, creating their own crypto currencies and selling/trading them on exchanges. The founders of one of these exchanges, Bitshare, got thinking, if people will pay money for data records, why not make those records tied to actually human activity? Reddit and Facebook have huge servers that are filling up with bits of data. If we make a social media site that records its activity logs using blockchain databases like Bitcoin does, instead of just dumping them on regular servers, then we could monetize people’s activity on the site and then pay people to use it with the “money” their activity creates. Thus, Steemit.com was born. Steemit is a blogging platform that pays you in a crypto currency called STEEM to post, upvote and comment on its content.

I explained all this to my brother a few days ago, and he replied, “So where’s the scam? How are the guys running this thing making money? There’s got to be a pyramid scheme in there somewhere.”

The answer to that question isn’t black and white, but before I explain it, I have to begin by saying, Steemit doesn’t cost anything. You don’t have to pay-to-play or buy anything. You just use the site, and they give you free cryptocurrency. If that’s a scam, then it’s one I want to be a part of.

The owners can make money by selling STEEM on the site. If you buy it, it might go up in value like Bitcoin, but it could crash if it never catches on. This makes buying STEEM tantamount to investing in penny stocks. The difference between STEEM and penny stocks is that penny stocks crash when the company doesn’t make enough money. STEEM will crash if Steemit doesn’t give away enough money. If your business model is based on giving away free money, it probably won’t fail.

Granted, STEEM isn’t technically free. You have to trade your labor for it in the form of blogging, voting and commenting. By blogging on Steemit, you’re technically working for free in the sense that the owners don’t pay you out of their pocket; they pay you in “stocks” that don’t cost them anything.

If there’s a catch to Steemit, it’s this. Like any business that issues stocks, it doesn’t put all its stocks on the market. The creators of Steemit keep most of the STEEM, just like Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer own most of the stock in Microsoft. So, while you might get sort-of rich investing in Microsoft stocks, you’re making Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer filthy rich without them having to invest any money.

The big question is, will cryptocurrency and Steemit continue to grow, or are they a passing fad? I believe cryptocurrency is here to stay for two reasons. First, as I’ve already mentioned, it’s a stable currency that transcends national boundaries. Second, it’s a useful way to buy products from online black markets without having to swipe your debit card. As long as there’s an internet black market, there will be a real world need for cryptocurrency.

However, the future of cryptocurrency doesn’t depend on the black market. You can already use it to buy regular goods and services. You can even walk into many brick and mortar stores and spend it. Since cryptocurrency is already an established medium of exchange, I see no reason why people would all of a sudden stop using it… unless the entire internet crashed, which means the apocalypse has happened and every currency will probably be worthless at that point anyway.

The future of Steemit and thus the value of the STEEM cryptocurrency depends on people using the site. In order for STEEM to skyrocket in value, the site needs to attract millions of more users. Steemit is currently in its beta stage, which means it still has a lot of bugs to fix and features to add. Below is a list of things Steemit needs to do in order to go viral:

Make formatting posts easier.
In order to center pictures, add bold letters, italics or links, you currently have to use markup language, which isn’t hard to master, but it’s very tedious. In a world where everything is becoming simpler, Steemit isn’t going to go mainstream if its users have to learn a new formatting language to use the site. Most people will just stick to one-click sites like Reddit and Facebook. You can use this site to type your posts in and add formatting easily, but this feature really needs to be built right into Steemit.

Put all the features on one page
For a moment in time I thought Google + would replace Facebook as the premier social media site because Facebook has so few features. Google + took all the best new technology and put it together in one site… but not really. Instead of giving its users one home page where they could use all these great tools, they created a dozen different sites that you have to jump back and forth to. The user experience is fragmented and frustrating. Steemit is currently going down the same path. It has a lot of innovate tools, but you have to make 15 different accounts with 15 different services to get the most out of Steemit. If Steemit can’t consolidate their features, it won’t get off the ground, and it will eventually be killed by the next social media site that succeeds at creating the next-generation streamlined, user-friendly experience we’ve all been waiting for.

Allow users to subscribe to tags or tribes.
Currently, you can subscribe to other people’s accounts. So the content they post shows up in your feed, but you can’t subscribe to tags, categories like subscribing to subreddits on Reddit. This is a major bummer that everyone on Steemit complains about, and someone is probably already working on fixing it.

Give users a customizable home page
One of the reasons Myspace became the first major social media site is because it appealed to people’s vanity by giving everyone a customizable home page to express themselves. Facebook screwed up by not giving people this ability, but at least you have a photo page and some basic bio information in the side bar. Reddit completely dropped the ball by not even having that much. Steemit is somewhere in between Facebook and Reddit. You have a home page, but you can only customize the header, and it doesn’t allow you to put much information in it. Fixing this flaw would go a long way to enticing new users.

Make sharing other people’s content easier
Myspace had a great blogging platform that allowed users to see their friends’ blog feeds right on their home page. However, most of the activity on Myspace consisted of sharing other people’s posts. Steemit has a feature called “resteem,” which allows you to share other people’s posts, but the site’s main focus is on creating and viewing original content. I personally enjoy not seeing every cat video that every one of my friends found amusing, but most people want to share cat videos. If Steemit won’t cater to this “need,” the majority of people will use a site that does.

Put higher rewards on sharing and commenting
On every social media site, the majority of the users aren’t content creators. They’re lurkers and sharers. Currently, Steemit users receive tiny amounts of STEEM for reading, commenting and upvoting, but the only way to make any real money is by posting your own content. If this remains the case, Steemit will only retain content creators, and they’ll lose the rest of their audience. This means they’ll lose the users who make content go viral, which means Steemit will be unlikely to go viral.

Reward people for attracting new dolphins.
Users in Steemit are divided into three categories: minnows, dolphins and whales. Minnows are new users with very little voting power. Dolphins are established users who have earned a significant amount of STEEM, and whales are the biggest accounts with the most STEEM.

Steemit needs new users to grow. So it needs to incentivize its users to draw in new users. If it offered a finder’s fee, people would just create thousands of fake accounts and rake in the rewards. This could be prevented by offering a more substantial reward for attracting new users, but you only get the payout after the new user reaches certain benchmarks for posting, commenting and upvoting.

Eliminate dependency on whales
How much money a post earns on Steemit is determined by how many people upvote it. An upvote from a minnow is worth a penny. An upvote from a dolphin could be worth ten cents. A handful of upvotes from whales can be worth hundreds to thousands of dollars.

So right now, the correct way to use Steemit is to pander to whales. This means you need to write posts about things the whales are interested in. The whales are the founders and executive team members of Steemit. What they want to talk about most, is Steemit. For example, the guy in the video below made $15k in one post, which makes it sound like anyone can get rich on Steemit. The reason he made so much money is because he’s a semi-famous person promoting Steemit, which the executives wanted desperately to promote.

If Steemit remains nothing but a whale hunt, regular users will get fed up and leave. As long as most of the whales are members of the Steemit team, the site will never become much more than a Steemit circle jerk.

Give away more money.
The key to getting someone to do what you want is to give them something they want in return. The thing people want most in the world is free money. The best part about Steemit is that it gives its users free money. The more money it gives away, the more people will use it.

On the surface, Steemit’s business model is based on a “power to the people” mentality, but the actual income distribution looks more like late-stage capitalism income inequality than an egalitarian utopia. As long as Steemit’s whales keep hording the lion’s share of the money, the more likely its economy will collapse. The more money they give away, the more people will flock to Steemit and use it. Thus, the more demand there will be for STEEM. In the long run I believe the whales will make more money by keeping less for themselves and investing it in their users.

Read the following post before investing money in STEEM tokens:

My theory on the most important factor in the price of crypto currencies and how that applies to STEEM


How to Survive the Trumpocalypse

how to survive the trumpocalypse

I compiled a collection of blogs I’ve written into an E-book entitled “How to Survive the Trumpocalypse,” which is available on Amazon. Below is the introduction and links to all of the blogs:

INTRODUCTION

This book is a collection of essays I posted my blog, TheWiseSloth.com, between 2010 and 2016. The tagline of the website is, “Enlightenment for the masses,” and its mission statement is, “to provide editorial, philosophical, instructional, inspirational and satirical posts in the form of essays, lists, comics, and fiction, which tend to be irreverent, humorous and controversial.”

I choose the topics I write about by asking myself, “What are the most important questions people need answers to?” So I’ve spent years writing about the root causes of people’s biggest problems, which often boil down to politics and economics.

When major events happen in the world, readers will E-mail me to ask for my perspective, and during the 2016 presidential primaries, I received several requests to explain the candidates and the election in general. In response I wrote three essays and three comics analyzing the candidates and the political process. In them I predicted Hillary Clinton would be America’s next president, and I only planned on writing one blog about her victory, because I didn’t have anything to say about her that I hadn’t already said about Barack Obama.

I’d never considered writing a blog about Trump’s presidency, because he was just a bad joke that got taken too far. Then, all of a sudden the joke turned real and wasn’t funny anymore. The internet buzzed for days after the election with people asking what it means that Trump won. How did it happen? What will he do next? What do we do next? Nobody had any idea, myself included. I needed answers to these questions for my own closure.

Initially, I assumed I’d be able to cover the topic in two or three posts, but the end of the rabbit hole turned out to be ten blogs deep. The first four attempted to explain what it means that Trump is president. The last six answered the question, “What should we do about Trump?”

By the time I finished, I realized I had enough content on an important enough topic to make a short book, but after compiling the blogs, I felt the finished product raised more questions than it answered, such as, “How did this happen? What are the stakes? What would happen if we did nothing? Why was I wrong about Hillary Clinton? How far can we question the government? What else can we do?” Since I had already written dozens of posts over the years addressing those questions, I went back and added them to complete the narrative.

The blogs aren’t listed in the chronological order they were written, but each chapter heading includes the date it was originally posted on The Wise Sloth and how many days that was before or after November 9th, 2016, the day of the Trumpocalypse.

Since the essays were originally written to stand alone, some of the information in them is repeated, but it’s presented from different angles in different contexts, which shows how it fits in the bigger picture.

“How to Survive the Trumpocalypse” is divided into seven sections: “Obama’s legacy,” “The root of America’s problem, “What poverty looks and feels like,” “Problems in American culture,” “The Trumpocalypse,” “The moral imperative of civil disobedience” and “What do we do now?”

The book begins with three essays written about/during, Obama’s presidency, because I want to establish immediately that Trump is just a symptom of a bigger problem, which is that America has taken capitalism to its most predatory extreme. All of the essays in the next three sections illustrate how, for the poorest of the poor, life in America has been apocalyptic since 1776.

The “Trumpocalypse” section, which includes all the essays I wrote about/during the 2016 presidential election, leads to the conclusion the reason November 9th, 2016 is such a significant date, is because it was the day America’s economic/political system reached its inevitable conclusion by crowning a corrupt, unqualified, mentally unstable billionaire as its supreme leader. In other words, the system officially endorsed the root of the problem to be the solution.

The government crossed a line allowing Trump to become president. Worst case scenario, the Trumpocalypse was an official declaration of war on the poor. Best case scenario, it was a confession of failure. Either way, now more than ever, every American needs to reassess their perception of reality and start thinking and acting differently, which is why I included the section about civil disobedience.

The solutions I propose in the final section are far-fetched, but I didn’t set the bar so high because I’m naïve. I did it because America has a drastic problem that requires drastic solutions, and lowering the bar isn’t one of them.

My goal isn’t to convince you to believe everything I say. I just want to educate and inspire you. I use a conversational tone and try to inject humor and wit while discussing big topics so you’ll be more likely to read the entire book, think about America’s problems differently and look for solutions nobody has thought of yet.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 Obama’s Legacy 

1. Americans, You’re Not Represented In The 2012 Presidential Election
2. What Four More Years Of Obama Means
3. Why Obamacare Made Me Facepalm

The root of America’s problem

4. The Fundamental Problem With The Economy
5. The Cost/Benefit Analysis of Economic Oppression
6. The Downside of Economic Growth
7. Poverty Is The Root Of The World’s Biggest Problems, And Predatory Capitalism Is the Root Of Poverty
8. What’s Wrong With America’s Tax System
9. The Legacy Of A Billionaire
10. Seven Steps To Becoming A Billionaire

What poverty looks and feels like

11. Why Are Americans So Violent And Unhappy?
12. Life Is Hard Because The System Is Inhumane, Not Because We’re Weak
13. You Might Be Depressed Because The System Sucks, Not Because You Suck
14. What It’s Like To Be Poor
15. The Lottery Is A Microcosm of America
16. Advice For Young Workers
17. How To Escape Poverty
18. Is It Lazy To Not Want To Work?
19. How Predatory Capitalism Warps The Way We Define Maturity
20. This Is How We Live Now: Part 1
21. This Is How We Live Now: Part 2
22. This Is How We Live Now: Part 3

Problems in American culture

23. It’s Time To Stop Guilt Tripping Poor People Into Saving The Environment
24. How Pop Culture Warps Our Perception of Reality
25. You’re Delusional If You Still Believe America Is The Land Of The Free
26. Americans Need To Learn The Difference Between Socialism, Communism And Capitalism
27. The Issue of Race In The Occupy Wall Street Movement
28. A White Man Explains The Context Of The Black Lives Matter Movement
29. It’s Time To Stop Guilt Tripping White People
30. American Cops Are Delusional If They Can’t Understand Why Civilians Hate Them
31. An Intervention With The Police
32. We Need To Talk About Ordering Cops To Beat Up Protesters
33. My Experience With The TSA
34. Is It Moral For Police To Enforce Laws They Believe Are Unjust?

The Trumpocalypse

35. Right Wing Entertainment News Is Making America Worse
36. What I Think Of Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton And Bernie Sanders
37. Why It’s Delusional To Vote In America’s 2016 Presidential Primaries
38. Why The 2016 Presidential Primaries Should Make Us All Sad And Scared
39. Why Did Americans Vote For Trump?
40. What Will Trump Do Now That He’s President?
41. Why I’m Glad Trump Won
42. Why Americans Shouldn’t Accept Trump As President
43. How Donald Trump changed my understanding of American politics

The moral imperative of civil disobedience

44. Patriotism Is Not A Virtue
45. Why You Should Not Have Faith In Your Government
46. Why And When You Should Have A Problem With Authority
47. Self-Subjugation Is Not A Virtue

What do we do now?

48. What Should Foreigners Do About Trump?
49. What Should Republicans And Democrats Do About Trump?
50. What Should Racists Do About Trump?
51. What Should Cultural Isolationists Do About Trump?
52. What Should Minorities Do About Trump?
53. What Should Rich People Do About Trump?
54. The Cost/Benefit Analysis of Terrorism
55. Three Things That Won’t Change America, And Six That Will
56. Ten Solutions To Most Of America’s Problems
57. Collapse Is The Product of Unsustainability. Sustainability Is The Product Of Sustainability
58. Why I’m Not Sure We Need Another Occupy Wall Street Style Protest
59. Our Political Model Won’t Change Until Our Economic Model Changes
60. The Quality Of Our Leaders Reflects The Quality Of Our Higher Education System
61. It’s Time To Stop Oppressing The Academically Disinclined
62. A Novel Approach To Taxing The Rich
63. If You Want Everyone To Vote, Then Make Voting Work For Everyone
64. The World Won’t Get Better Until You Stop Being A Consumer Whore
65. The World Won’t Get Better Until You Stop Being A Vidiot
66. Why The World Sucks And How To Save It
67. We Need To Talk About Utopia
68. Conservative Americans, You Don’t Need To Overthrow Your Government To Make The World A Better Place
69. An Open Letter To Generation X
70. My One Point Solution To The World’s Problems


This is how we live now: Part 3

Note: The events of this story are real, but the names have been changed.

This is the third installment of a three-part series, in which I illustrate why half of all Americans live near the poverty line by using my life as a case study.

Case in point, medical bills are the most common cause of bankruptcy in America. In 2016 I became part of that statistic, and having gone through the process, I shudder to think how normal it is. Nobody should have to go through what I did, because getting health care in America is as frustrating and overpriced as buying real estate.

I started learning this four months ago. One morning, as I was brushing my teeth, I looked in the mirror and noticed a white pustule on my gums. At first I thought I had cancer. After suffering an existential crisis, I collected myself and recalled that I’d had two root canals done on one of my bottom, front teeth by a military dentist eight years ago. The most reasonable explanation was the root canal had failed, and the tooth got infected.

Since I no longer had access to the military’s socialized medical system, I’d have to pay a civilian dentist. Knowing they charge an arm and a leg, I looked up cheap insurance on the internet and spent several evenings slogging through mind bogglingly complicated insurance websites. Unable to make sense of all the terms and restrictions, I decided to take another approach.

I searched for a dentist office with good reviews in my area and found out which insurance they accepted. Then I paid $125 for the insurance and waited for it to activate… hoping the pustule didn’t become life threatening in the meantime. In case you’re wondering, the reason there’s a waiting period for insurance to activate, is so you can’t wait until an emergency happens to sign up.

When I finally got my insurance card, I took it to the dentist’s office, which we’ll call Negan Family Dentistry. The secretary at the front desk told me they accept my insurance company, but not my plan. FML.

Afraid to leave the pustule untreated any longer, I paid $50 for a checkup, which lasted about 15 minutes.

A dental technician led me down a long hallway lined with booths like a hair salon. Walking down the assembly line I started to worry I’d be treated less like a family member and more like a fast food order. My suspicions were confirmed when the technician X-rayed the one tooth with the pustule under it. Then a dentist came in and told me it needed to be replaced and left.I don’t even know what the dentist looked like, because he or she stood over my shoulder wearing a mask for the entire forty five seconds they spoke before dashing back to the salt mines.

After the dental apparition vanished, the tech sent me to the front desk, where the secretary gave me a bill for $250 and the phone number for Negan Family Periodontics, two towns away. Everything happened so fast it made my head spin.

In a daze, I asked what the bill was for, and she said, “It’s for a temporary tooth we put in after the real one is taken out.” I asked why I was paying her when she was sending me somewhere else. She said, “We put that part in.”

I told her I’d think about it and threw the bill away. A few hours later I called Negan Family Periodontics and told them I needed a tooth replaced before I died of blood poisoning. The secretary told me their next available appointment was two weeks away, but she promised to call me if they had any cancellations. She never called.

After fourteen days of worrying I was about to die, I drove to the place “my” dentist referred me to. The secretary who greeted me was an older woman with white skin but Hispanic facial features. She spoke warmly, until I told her I didn’t have insurance. Then she snapped into full aggression mode, basically accusing me of not intending to pay my bill. I gave her my credit card and driver’s license, which she copied angrily and pushed back at me.

Afterwards, a nicer lady handed me a bill for $3.5k. By the time I saw my periodontist, Dr. Simon, my head was spinning again. Dr. Simon’s cheerful personality put me a little at ease. He laughed and joked like he didn’t have a care in the world. I wanted to like him, and I tried to act happy but couldn’t stop thinking about how I just paid him six more months of all my disposable income for what would amount to less than half a day’s work on his part.

Pictured from left to right: Dr. Simon's eternally happy smile, and my life circumstances being the opposite of his, thanks to him

Pictured from left to right: Dr. Simon’s eternally happy smile, and my life circumstances being the opposite of his, thanks to him

I offered to barter my professional services in exchange for reducing my fees, which is legal, but he responded with a long speech about how he always follows the rules to a fault. As the overpriced laughing gas kicked in, I wanted to say, “It’s too bad there isn’t a rule about not extorting your customers out of their future life savings every time they have a minor medical emergency.”

An hour later, he’d pulled out my decayed tooth, cut it in half, screwed in a metal foundation for a fake tooth, and glued the top of the old one back in place so I wouldn’t look like a jack-O’-lantern for the next few months while my jaw bone healed around the prosthetic.

The next time I walked into Negan Family Periodontics, was for a cleaning I didn’t ask for and wasn’t necessary for the tooth replacement. As soon as I sat down in the waiting room, The Dragon at the front desk told me I needed to pay another $1k to the dentist from Negan Family Dentistry, who would be putting my fake tooth in. Stunned, I asked why I was paying someone else more money to finish the job I thought I was paying them to do. In response, she ripped some papers out of a folder and waved them in my face, telling me I already signed something agreeing to everything, and I better pay up now, with a tone of voice that clearly said she didn’t believe I would.

I reminded her she already had my credit card number. So any time she needed another $1k from me, she could just keep charging my card, and I’d just keep being bankrupt. Snidely, she replied, “Great.”

When I asked Dr. Simon about the charges, he explained he would only mount a screw in my jaw, and the original dentist who referred him, would take a mold of the mounting plate, send it to a lab to make a fake tooth from, and then screw it in. I asked why he couldn’t do it, and he lectured me about how he specializes in his field, and other dentists specialize in theirs. So it’s best that someone else screws the prosthetic tooth in. The process sounded illogical to me, but he assured me it was normal. So I let the issue go.

On my way out of the building, The Dragon gave me an appointment date a few weeks later to remove the half-tooth and install a screw into the plate. She also said she would schedule an appointment with Negan Family Dentistry for the same day so Dr. Negan could take a mold of the screw to make the final fake tooth from. However, after calling three times and getting a busy signal, she said she’d try again later and relay my appointment time to me. I never heard back from her.

Two weeks later, the secretary at Negan Family Dentistry called and informed me they double booked my appointment and needed to change it, which turned out to be convenient, not only because I didn’t know what my appointment date was, but because The Dragon scheduled my appointment at Negan Family Periodontics one hour before the appointment at Negan Family Dentistry, two towns away, which would have been impossible to reach in time. So I rescheduled the second appointment for the next morning.

The reason the appointments were supposed to be for the same day is because, after Dr. Negan made a mold of the screw, he normally would have installed the temporary tooth I never paid $250 for. However, I didn’t pay for it because I couldn’t afford to waste money on a cosmetic enhancement I’d wear for two weeks. My only option was to leave the screw exposed while the third-party dental lab Dr. Negan subcontracts his work to, made my fake tooth and shipped it back to Negan Family Dentistry.

So, the morning after Dr. Simon installed the screw, I showed up at Negan Family Dentistry looking like a James Bond villain. After checking in, I sat down and happily thumbed through an uninteresting magazine. After months of racking up debt, driving all over the Houston area and being treated like an asshole for being poor, the ordeal was almost over. My life was finally looking up.

Then the kind, attractive, secretary politely called me to her desk and asked for another $916. I explained I’d already paid that bill through Negan Family Periodontics. Confused, she said they don’t do that. At my urging, she called The Dragon, who told her they didn’t do that. I thought I already paid this bill, but I knew it would be pointless to argue with The Dragon, and I was already mad enough to say things to her I’d regret.

I don’t know where the miscommunication came from. Maybe The Dragon and Dr. Simon did a terrible job of explaining my fees. Maybe I didn’t understand what they were saying because my head was spinning from getting hit with a baseball bat named, “Debt.” Maybe I’m just stupid, but there is one thing I’m absolutely sure of. Nobody ever said anything about me having to pay another $916 for the appointment in question.

If I had known I’d have to pay more after the initial $3.5k, I might not have agreed to it. If Negan Family Dentistry had given me an itemized breakdown of every step and fee involved in their tooth-replacement process the first day I walked in their office, I probably wouldn’t have ever called Negan Family Periodontics. Now I have to wonder if they consciously chose not to be transparent so they could surprise me with outrageous bills after I’d already committed.

Their surprise worked. I didn’t see the debt bat coming until it hit me between the eyes, sending me into that familiar punch drunk feeling again. Clumsily, I used my cell phone to check my account balances to see if I even had $916. I didn’t, but was able to cover the bill by maxing out my credit card and draining all my checking and savings accounts, including money I’d set aside to renew my vehicle registration.

By the time the technician sat me in the exam chair, my net worth equaled $23 in cash and $6k in debt. Financially, it was the lowest point in my life. My body’s fight or flight response flooded my veins with adrenaline causing me to shake as the technician put the bib around my neck. She may as well have injected me with 10 milligrams of fear and charged me $100 for it.

I had a few minutes to close my eyes and try to breathe the nausea away before Dr. Negan casually sauntered in.

Pictured above: a metaphor for my dentist

Pictured above: a metaphor for my dentist

Without looking in my direction, he asked the wall in a rote, disinterested tone of voice, how my Thanksgiving had been. I said, “Pretty good,” which was a lie. The truth is, I had broken up with my girlfriend that week and moved into a cheap trailer next to a railroad track with my brother, who spent Thanksgiving with his ex-girlfriend while I sat alone at our new “home” writing and wearing ear plugs to block the sound of the train horns. Part of me was happy for the solitude, but I couldn’t stop thinking about the fact that the only reason I had to live in a shitty trailer by a railroad track was because my dental bills had erased all my other options in life.

I’d completely run out of fakeness when Dr. Negan asked how I was doing. Exasperated, I replied, “Not good, since you bankrupted me.”

Without missing a beat, he launched into a bitter, condescending tirade, saying, “Oh!? So, you don’t think dentists deserve to get paid? You don’t think ten years of school is worth any compensation? We rack up a lot of debt in medical school, and it’s not cheap to run a dentist office, but hey, if you think our prices are unfair, you can just go to Mexico.”

Dr. Negan gives me a pep talk

Dr. Negan gives me a pep talk

He actually said that. I couldn’t believe it. After taking everything from me, he was bitching me out for not saying thank you.

Ironically, he was right about one thing. I had a friend who’d recently returned from a medical tourism resort in Mexico where he spent $4k to fix everything wrong with all his teeth. Plus, he got a two week vacation at an all-inclusive resort. He wasn’t treated by the dirty, filthy Mexican dentists Dr. Negan was so prejudiced against. He saw American doctors who had moved to Mexico so they could help people without having to charge an arm and a leg and a dream to replace one tooth.

My life would be profoundly better on multiple levels if I had the foresight to go to Mexico. For the same price I could have even flown to a medical resort in Thailand, where the doctors and staff would have treated me like a god instead of a cockroach.

My appointment with Dr. Negan lasted 30 minutes, most of which he spent bitching me out. The rest of the time he made a mold of my tooth space using the same process Dr. Simon used when he took his mold, which makes me wonder if both of these guys were referring me back and forth to each other to rack up referral charges.

If my final appointment took the same amount of time, I would be paying both my dentists an average of $1k per hour. I’ll have to work 40 hours to pay off one of theirs. If I made minimum wage, then one easy hour of their life would be worth 140 grueling hours of mine. That’s a narcissistic, psychopathic assessment of the value of life, based on a lie.

No human being is so much better than another, that an hour of their life is worth 40-140 times anyone else’s. Plus, if they’re charging $1k per hour and work 8 hours per day, that’s $40k per week. Even if half the money goes to expenses, it doesn’t cost $20k per week to run a dentist office. Even if Dr. Negan only pocketed $200 per hour, that doesn’t make it any less painful for me to pay $1k per hour.

In the end, the truest measure of Dr. Negan and Dr. Simon’s morality is the size of their retirement accounts. They might have taken on a lot of debt in school, but they’re not going to lower their prices after paying it off. They’re going to charge as much as they can get away with for as long as their career lasts. In the end, they’re going to retire in mansions surrounded by space-age luxury that would make a medieval king jealous, and the only reason they’ll get to do that is because their vaults will be full of peasant’s gold.

I’ll spend the rest of my life living in a trailer next to a train track, wearing ear plugs in bed and getting stomach ulcers from lying awake, worrying about how long I can put off getting extorted by family friendly medical professionals.

The last thing the Dr. Negan said to me before he ejected me from the dental assembly line was, “Hey, man. Everything’s going to be fine. Everything is going to work out.” If he truly believes that, then living in a gated community must have disconnected him from reality. In the America where I live, I’ll never be free. Perpetual debt will always force me to work for a boss who underpays me, just to pay off the businesses who overcharge me and add on extra fees for not having any money.

Pictured left to right: Dr. Negan deciding what he'll do with my life savings, and the look on my face as I watch him horde my hopes and dreams

Pictured left to right: Dr. Negan deciding what he’ll do with my life savings, and the look on my face as I watch him horde my hopes and dreams

If medical school, rent and medical equipment are so extortionately priced that dentists are struggling to keep their practices open, there must be better solutions than passing on the extortion to customers. If medical professionals truly cared about their clients, which Dr. Negan assured me he did, then they would be doing something to fix the problem.

As it stands, they’re just shrugging their shoulders and saying, “If I can pass this problem onto the customer, then it’s not my problem. Fuck em…” just like I metaphorically said to the single mother who rented my duplex unit in Austin.

The simplest solution is, stop fucking your customers in the ass with a friendly smile, but if you can’t afford to do that, then try to imagine how angry and dejected bankruptcy must make all your customers feel. Then take that anger and shout it in the face of the people who are overcharging you. Unionize and boycott those people. Write blogs and give speeches about how you have to double the cost of your products to pay rent or a mortgage that’s twice as expensive as the property is worth.

The least you could do is not be silent, but if you’re smart enough to earn a PhD, then you should be able to think of at least one solution to high operating costs other than raping your customers and bitching them out when they say, “Ouch. You’re killing me,” instead of, “Thank you, sir. May I have another?”

If you’ve read this far, you may be thinking, “Hey, Travis. Wake up. The common denominator in all your problems is you. If you were better at adulting, and less angry about life, then you wouldn’t have dug yourself into a pit of debt and made enemies with people who just wanted to help you.”

If you’re underwhelmed with my plight enough to leave a comment telling me what an irresponsible, whiner I am, then you need to take to the streets and shout the exact same speech in the face of the other 6 billion people in the world who live below the poverty line. Maybe I am whiney, but if everybody stopped complaining about normalized extortion, the only thing it would change is how much longer the majority of humanity stays in poverty.

If you believe I can’t blame anyone except myself for my bankruptcy because I didn’t have insurance, then you’ve either never used insurance, or you’ve accepted insanity as normal.

The reason I needed insurance in the first place is the exact same reason why medical tourism resorts exist: because the cost of medical care in America is inflated beyond reason by insurance companies.

If you’ll recall, I did buy the insurance Negan Family Dentistry advertised they accepted. If they’d been more transparent, I would have known the right policy to buy. If they didn’t pick and choose which policies they accepted, I could have just used any insurance.

It wouldn’t have mattered much if I did, because all policies are designed to be as useless and difficult to use as possible. The company I work for offers medical insurance for $124 per month, but it has a $6k deductible, which wouldn’t have covered the cost anyway.

If I had paid $124 for medical insurance every month since I separated from the military in 2007, I would have paid $13k by 2016. Even if insurance would have covered the entire cost of my tooth replacement, I still would have saved $8k in the long run by not having insurance since 2007.

Doctors don’t even like insurance even though it pays so well, because they have to hire an otherwise unnecessary employee just to file all the paperwork. Since doctors don’t want the extra cost to impact their salary, they pass the cost onto the customers by raising prices accordingly, which I’m sure they feel terrible about.

To make matters worse, doctors have to wait months for insurance claims to be processed and pay out. As much of a nightmare as insurance companies are to work with, doctors should know better than anyone, bitching customers out for not having insurance is blaming the victim.

The problem is that the insurance companies have rigged the system to require everyone to buy extortion protection in the first place, and doctors have chosen to go along with it. I wouldn’t have lost the game if it wasn’t rigged.

I can’t afford anything, because everyone gives me the “fuck you” price instead of “the friend discount,” and you don’t have more nice things, because you get treated the same way. So if you’re mad at me for getting extorted, then be mad at yourself too, and be mad that someone convinced you to accept this sadistic system as normal.

My story ends with me going back to Negan Family Dentistry to get my fake tooth put in. Before leaving the house I checked my bank account to see how much money wasn’t in it, just in case I got surprised me with another bill. There was no need to check how much wiggle room was left on my credit card, because it was already maxed out. Luckily, the secretary surprised me by informing me they wouldn’t be hitting me in the head with a baseball bat wrapped in barbed wire again.

The whole appointment took about fifteen minutes, and most of that was done by a tech who makes as little as supply and demand will allow Dr. Negan to get away with underpaying her. The tech put some kind of clip on the screw sticking out of my gums. Then Dr. Negan came in and snapped the crown on. The procedure didn’t even require any cementing or heating, which proves everything Dr. Simon told me about me needing to see Dr. Negan for the final procedure because he was a specialist, was a complete lie. I could have done the final step myself.

At the end of the appointment I gave Dr. Negan a slip of paper with the address to this blog on it. I told him I didn’t use his real name. I just needed to tell my customer service story, and that it wasn’t glowing, but he could use it to fix the holes in his process.

He didn’t understand what a blog is. So I had to explain it to him. His eyes told me he  still didn’t understand. So I wasn’t surprised when he pressed me to just tell him what the essay said.

I told him, the biggest issue, and the reason I was so upset the last time we met, was because his prices were deceptive, and I wasn’t given the total cost at the beginning. When I said that, his eyes bulged out, and he blurted, “You’re a liar!”

Experience has taught me that trying to give someone advice who doesn’t want to admit when they’re wrong, will only result in them attacking you until they’ve said something ugly enough to convince them-self you’re the problem. So I just turned on my heel and walked out the door. Dr. Negan chased me down in the lobby and tried to bitch me out some more. I’d already said everything I had to say in the blog, and I didn’t want him to ruin my day any more than he already had. So I continued walking, right out the front door.

As I exited the building, he shouted, “Have a merry Christmas!” His attempt to take the high road didn’t impress me after calling me a liar for trying to point out the metaphorical broccoli stuck in his teeth. It just reinforced my perception that he’s a delusional ass hole.

I don’t even believe in Christmas, and he obviously doesn’t believe in Christian values.

The worst part of the story is that, even though I’ll never go back to Negan Family Dentistry or Negan Family Periodontics, I won’t get a better price anywhere else in America. I’ll just keep getting my head bashed in and my savings looted, just like you… unless something drastic changes.

Before the world can change, people like Dr. Negan and Dr. Simon need to change the way they justify their predatory business practices to themselves.

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