Controlling Consumption as an act of Revolution

For the majority of the 20th century, the US economy was based around consumption. Somewhere in the late 1960s to early 1970s, that percentage began to decline.  It is not a phenomenon unique to the US, it is part of an overall global decline in % GDP contribution globally.  worldmfg A decline in GDP % does not mean we are manufacturing or producing less, it just means that the profits from Manufacturing make up a smaller percent of the revenues in a country or world wide.  One natural conclusion of this is that manufacturing is less profitable.  But this is not the simple truth.  The revenue per share for Apple, which manufactures computers, tablets, ipods and phones have increased in a graph that is the inverse of this.  Certainly, some manufacturing areas ( automotive comes to mind)  have struggled- but overall this is not true.  The number of small to mid manufacturers making a happy profit continues to grow.

The other way to have your percentage decrease is to have some other area grow disproportionately.  And there is an area  that shows this very clearly- the financial industry.   ( Graph from Professor James Kwak)


A year ago, Bloomberg gave us some more insights into the growth of the financial sector.

“Let’s start with the question of why finance has grown so much in recent years. We can get some clues to this by considering which parts of finance have grown. Financial economists Robin Greenwood and David Scharfstein took a look at this back in 2013, and found that the acceleration since 1980 has come from two sources: 1) asset-management fees, and 2) lending to households.”

That is, the largest area of profits for the Financial Sector are coming from everyday people- the households who pay what seem like small fees ( 1 or 2 % management fees here and there that add up)  and the households who use credit more and more.

Why is this interesting and important?  What is the link to “compliance”?

In Requiem for the American Dream, Noam Chomsky looks at the impact of the concentration of wealth and inequality , and how it is both a natural progression/cycle and a backlash to the movements in the 1960s that increased democracy. He shows how some of this was even seen as an “excess of democracy” by the people threatened by it.  This is cyclical,  a teeter/totter seeking a balance point and often tipping from one side to another.  But every teeter totter only changes position when force is applied to it.

When the GDP12118999464_37f54f6d3b_m ( and the profits of the super rich)  were significantly made up from the profits of manufacturing, then the people had easy pressure points.  Strike, Sit in, Slow Down, Destroy property– all of these were easy physical actions that had an immediate bottom line impact and quickly built of pressure that required a release of power and an increase of democracy.

We are now playing a different game.  If you are a worker trying to get concessions from a single production company, a strike may still make sense.  But when are are trying to make wide sweeping changes, to put overall general pressure on the pockets of the super rich so that they have no choice but to relieve their pressure by decreasing inequality just a bit, general strikes and the destruction of property have little impact at all.

Let’s go back to those two points where the financial industry makes a profit.  M2823255013_9fa5d21650_management Fees and Credit.  Management Fees will require shopping around and pressure on the asset managers.  For the most part, 401K investments and the like are chosen by companies, not by individuals.  We can and should make sure we are informed and put pressure on people making the choices to make the choices most in our favor, this is a long game.

The second was credit.  Yep, that percentage you pay on your credit card(s), the interest and fees on every loan you take.  This becomes more of a psychological battle than a physical one.  The pressures put on the market place by advertising are powerful and designed to make you feel unhappy and dissatisfied– and to spend to feel better.  I am not saying “Do not buy things”.  That is an absurd statement and would quickly fall apart. But what if we really focus on “Only buy within your means”?  Some would argue that for them, this equals “Do not buy things”, but I say this is where we need to gather together and make this possible.   Everyone has something to offer– there are ways to get those birthday presents or other necessary luxuries that do not always mean going into debt.  Exchange of services or products without exchange of cash can assist in lowering credit usage in some of these cases.

How we can we collectively work to drop the profit out of the credit economy?  How can we force the market out of being a credit market and back to being more of a production market, where the pressure points on our economic teeter totter are more accessible to all?

For me, this means consumption that I am in control of- and not something that is an impulse that continues to drive profits into the pockets of the super wealthy.  It also means careful monitoring of the data to watch for the right pressure points to move the teeter totter back into balance.   The actions of a single person will be close to meaningless.  But the actions of a single person multiplied across millions can be a driving force.

What changes  will it take for you to not contribute to the profits generated by credit?


My Sweet, Sweet Nemesis

Hello, my name is Nan and I am a sugar-aholic.
It is sad, but true.
Worse, I am pretty sure that Sugar is one of the worst things I add to my body. I know this, yet kicking the habit is insanely hard.
By writing it here, I hope to get back on track.

Not so long ago, I spent three years sugar free, artifical sweetener free, simple carbs very very low.  I know it was the strongest, healthiest, most stable I had ever been.

But when stress comes crashing through the door, the first thing every cell of my brain, every twitch of my body screams for is SUGAR. Not chocolate or anything in particular. There are some times when chocolate is the last thing I want. Sugar straight from the bowl would make my brain happier.

When I was in college and my peers were smoking pot, I would eat a 1lb bag of M&Ms and get a better high.

I recently came across this Video:

Honestly, I was not sure if I should write this off as quackery or take it seriously. People who talk in absolutes set off warning red flags in my brain. But the more I ponder it, the more it rings true in my life.

Then on April 13, the NYTimes tackled the issue as well.

And then I had another EDS’er mention that his pain was significantly higher when he ate higher sugar foods.

Then I started thinking about my life long “seasonal” allergies– When I was young, I had “chronic bronchitis”- a cough that never stopped and got evil- from sometime in Feb through May and then again in October or so through Decemberish. Some years, it started in October and went straight through to the end of May. My senior year of college, I coughed so hard I separated my ribs ( of course, the EDS helps to explain that a little as well) As I got older, it was diagnosed more correctly as a mild asthma. It has been well under control for a long time, it has been worse the last two years- mostly, I was sure because my stress levels have been higher. The last two weeks, It has been annoying again. I even thought of getting out my asthma meds the other night.

When I stop and think hard about this- the last two weeks, my sugar consumption has been MUCH higher. And my Asthma has been worse. The three years that I was sugar free– I had basically NO allergy issues– not even in the high pollen seasons.

So then I think back to those seasonal asthma attacks. Maybe it was NOT seasonal as in external allergens… maybe it is a seasonal sugar intake tie– October start with my birthday, then Halloween, then the Thanksgiving/Christmas holidays….. quickly followed on by Valentine’s Day and Easter. A Candy eating frenzy. After April, there are hardly any other holidays tied to candy… and the fresh veggies are abundant everywhere. Maybe the season that has been triggering my asthma all of these years is the Candy Season.

Something frightening to ponder. If it triggers my Asthma( an inflammation reaction) what other inflammation reactions is it triggering in my already tender body?

The time has come to do battle with this nemesis again- it will be hard for the first 3 weeks. And I will turn into a cranky, whiny miserable sugar craving ball of mammal— but I will fight through this. I am interested to see what happens to my joint and tendon pain on the other side of this. I started last night by brewing a fresh pitcher of unsweetened ice tea.. I fell down once today, but I am holding out for that as my only falter. Tomorrow, I will falter not at all.

Edits: Here is more information I have found about the ties between the damage Sugar does to collagen-

When blood sugar goes up rapidly, sugar can attach itself to collagen in a process called “glycosylation,” or the Browning Reaction, increasing inflexible and inflammation. CRP is not found in foods. However, its levels in the body are strongly influenced by diet.

Diabetics research has found that antioxidants lower this gycosylation. A plus and maybe a reason why VitaminC and other anti-oxidants help with flexibility and aches.

And this on Inflammation ties:

“Sugar and other refined carbohydrates appear to trigger a chemical reaction that creates pro-inflammatory compounds in the body,” says Andrew Weil, M.D., author of “Healthy Aging.” One 2008 study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that healthy people who ate a sugar-rich breakfast had high blood sugar afterward, along with increased signs of inflammation.

In an ongoing Harvard Women’s Health Study, participants who consumed more high-sugar foods, like white bread and cereal, were more likely to have inflammation and high amounts of bad cholesterol (LDL).

In small doses, inflammation is a good thing. Faced with injury or foreign invaders like germs, our immune cells release substances called cytokines, which help destroy bacteria and trigger short-lived redness and swelling. The problems start when sugar consumption goes from an every-now-and-then thing to a full-blown habit, and inflammation is constant and spreads throughout the body, harming healthy tissue over time.

Studies that link high sugar intake to increased inflammation in the body are troubling, says Mark Hyman, M.D., author of “Ultrametabolism.” “Chronic inflammation appears to play a role in heart disease, cancer, and many other major conditions,” he explains. “Anything that triggers inflammation — including sugar — also triggers disease.”

and then this:

Scientists have long linked oedema, arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease with inflammation. Only recently the medical community has implicated the process to diabetes, certain cancers and other unsolvable degenerative conditions. The latest research links heart disease more to various inflammatory conditions than to high cholesterol. Researchers are doing their best to come up with anti-inflammatory drugs and other cures for this inflammation.

Rather than try to find a cure, it might be wise to find out what causes inflammation and stop the cause rather than look for a cure. There are many things that cause inflammation in the body: viral and bacterial infections, surgery, a bruise, a broken bone, allergies, vaccinations, high blood pressure, oestrogen therapy, smoking, obesity, chronic fatigue, and dental problems, among others.

One of the biggest offenders of inflammation is ingestion of sugar. By sugar I mean table sugar, brown sugar, raw sugar, turbinado sugar, honey (even raw), maple sugar, corn sweetener, dextrose, glucose, fructose and any other word that ends in an “ose”, barley malt, rice syrup, liquid cane sugar, concentrated fruit juice and others. Don’t be fooled by the name organic when it applies to sugar. Sugar is sugar, organic or not, and the following will explain exactly what can happen in the body when you eat as little as two teaspoons.