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e_moon60

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Poultry for Politicians [Apr. 24th, 2010|01:10 pm]
e_moon60
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I just stole this phrase from my friend Kris, because we both came up with the "Pay politicians who think this chicken for health care is a great idea in the chickens they claim should be legal tender."  And then I thought "Campaign contributions, of course" and why limit it to chickens?  

As a way of explaining to politicians like Sue Lowden that barter really doesn't work that well in modern society for ordinary exchange of goods and services (and that most people a) don't have a lot of chickens to spend and b) don't want a lot of chickens in payment), I think crates of live chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, emus, ostriches, peafowl, guineas, etc. arriving at campaign headquarters (or, better yet, the candidate's home)  instead of good green US money  just might get the point across.  

In some rural areas, some doctors can afford to accept barter for some medical care.   But beyond the occasional chicken or haunch of venison or hay bale (or even several hay bales)--the sorts of items Lowden quotes a Nevada doctor as having received--the realities of barter in extended exchanges lands on the doctor's head.  How much is a chicken worth?  How many medical procedures are worth just one chicken...and how many chickens can a doctor take care of (for later consumption?)   Hay bales are fine if you have livestock that eats hay, the hay is the right quality, and you have a place to store as much hay as whatever you did was worth.   But you can't trade chickens or venison or hay bales for electricity, gasoline, medical supplies.  You can't pay your employees in them.  You can't pay taxes with them (the IRS is quite happy to tax the items you receive in trade, but they won't take the items--only money.  So if you receive 100 bales of hay worth $10/bale, you'll pay taxes on another $1000 of income--with money.  If everyone's giving you chickens and beef and vegetables and hay...what money are you going to pay taxes with?)

Barter works when the recipient needs the item or items--that much, at that time.  Otherwise it imposes a cost on the recipient, who must store the stuff and then try to resell it for actual money.  If the items are live, they have to be confined, fed, cared for.   If you kill the poultry, you then have to store the carcasses for later consumption (freezers use electricity, which costs money.  And you can't sell them, unless you're a licensed, inspected meat packer...and becoming that means a huge investment in equipment and licensing.  Whereas, if you get money, it can sit in the bank until you need it.  

However, since Ms. Lowden is not able to see beyond the golden haze of nostalgia, I think she needs some personal experience with a lot of chickens used instead of money.
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Comments:
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2010-04-24 06:34 pm (UTC)
OH yeah. Flapping, squawking (screaming, in the case of the peafowl), littering, pecking.

I do kinda wonder if her doctor buddy who talked about the delivery of hay to his place reported it to the IRS...
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[User Picture]From: ndozo
2010-04-24 06:45 pm (UTC)
Perhaps the Heifer Project can help: $20 gives a flock of chicks, and the training to raise them, to a needy family. Ms. Lowden might enjoy the thank you cards.

Link to chicken donation page:

http://preview.tinyurl.com/299h8xj

A flock of chicks can help families from Cameroon to the Caribbean add nourishing, life-sustaining eggs to their inadequate diets.

The protein in just one egg is a nutritious gift for a hungry child. Protein-packed eggs from even a single chicken can make a life-saving difference.

Heifer helps many hungry families with a starter flock of 10 to 50 chicks. A good hen can lay up to 200 eggs a year - plenty to eat, share or sell. With Heifer recipients' commitment to pass on the offspring and training, the exponential impact of adding chickens to communities in poverty is truly a model that helps end hunger and poverty....
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2010-04-24 06:57 pm (UTC)
I'm afraid I don't want Ms. Lowden getting thank-you notes for my contribution (our church does a collective Heifer Project donation every year, trying to "fill the ark" so I'm quite familiar with their work--and it's good.)

I want Ms. Lowden to be inconvenienced, embarrassed, and annoyed by the literal use of her proposed health care plan. And maybe educated as well.

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[User Picture]From: finabair
2010-04-24 06:46 pm (UTC)
When my Mom was born (on a farm in Michigan during the Depression) they needed the doctor, and she remembers going with sacks of potatoes and things to pay for when she was born, I think until she was 7 or so. While that did eliminate the burden of storage from the doctor, it was still a difficult arrangement for both parties, and there was no certainty they'd have been able to continue paying; they weathered a lot of problems on that farm over the years.

I'm going to be chuckling all day at the idea of paying politicians with chickens.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2010-04-24 07:01 pm (UTC)
And doctors had generally fewer payments out back in the '30s. Back then even a doctor's office, if in a rural area, might not have electricity (unless the doctor had his own wind generator, the old Aeromotor type.) They didn't need as much equipment (not as much could be done); they didn't need the medications (didn't exist); they didn't need a large office staff to handle all the paperwork (almost no one had insurance.)

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[User Picture]From: ndozo
2010-04-24 07:13 pm (UTC)
Do the chickens have to be alive?
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2010-04-24 07:59 pm (UTC)
I think live chickens, in this instance, would be more suitable. And not cute little chicks, either. It's the obviously inutility--the flapping, squawking, pooping, pecking--that I'm after.

Though I suppose home-killed, unplucked but cleaned (I'm not MEAN) carcasses would also work. Heads & feet still on.

I would like her to experience the inconvenience, the time, the space, the expenses associated with this method. It's not that barter can't work--there's a natural reciprocity we all use from time to time--but that it can't work as efficiently, for as many things, as money...and it's particularly unsuited to medical care in the modern world. The person who's just discovered she has cancer and is going into treatment can't promise to paint the barn or dig out flowerbeds or sew the children's clothes...that expensive chemo might still fail. The city dweller with a broken back from a car wreck--now paraplegic--won't have livestock, livestock feed, vegetables to trade, won't be able to walk the doctor's dogs or do the doctor's errands.

It's just a stupid, stupid, typically brain-dead idea from someone who is so out of touch with reality she might as well live on an extrasolar planet.
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[User Picture]From: beccastareyes
2010-04-24 09:27 pm (UTC)
I'm an astronomer. In other words, you pay me and science (or lessons on science) comes out. Most doctors don't find astronomy terribly useful in its raw form, and it would take a lot of lectures on 2012 myths and 'what that thing you saw in the sky was' to pay my medical bills. At least with a chicken, the main problem is scaling and the fact most people wouldn't know how to handle a single chicken if they got one live and squawking, rather than dead, cleaned and wrapped in plastic.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2010-04-24 09:35 pm (UTC)
Actually...the main problem that chickens are totally impractical for anyone not living on a farm or ranch. There's the scaling, but there's also...how do you get chickens and have them in reserve if you're living in a city or (God forbid) a gated community with prissy Homeowners' Association rules?

Ditto with hay--your lawn clippings aren't going to be good animal feed. And skills. Painting the doctor's barn or house--one patient every ten years, maybe, but repainting the house every week (as different patients try to barter their painting skills) isn't practical. As you point out, some skills aren't considered that useful in the raw form by doctors (or the people the doctor needs to pay.)
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[User Picture]From: beccastareyes
2010-04-24 09:43 pm (UTC)
Heck, I think this was taught to me in elementary school. We watched some info-tainment cartoon about people on an island trying to barter things and ending up developing a monetary system so you didn't have to go on a fetch-quest every time you wanted to get some milk or visit a doctor.

Which says a lot about the idea.
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[User Picture]From: fair_witness
2010-04-24 11:14 pm (UTC)
I think I remember that info-tainment cartoon, or at least a similar one where I learned that unless you have something another person can use, barter only goes so far.
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From: gramina
2010-04-24 09:55 pm (UTC)
Seems a little hard on the poultry -- I don't really trust her to be more decent to chickens etc. than she is to people -- but the image is *wonderful.*
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[User Picture]From: ysabetwordsmith
2010-04-25 04:47 am (UTC)

Hmm...

I think the rich fucks have sucked enough money out of the economy that people are rediscovering a certain truth about cash: it is only more useful than barter if you HAVE it. Almost everyone has skills they can barter; many people have goods of one sort or another too. If nobody will give you cash for those things, you get shut out of the cash economy. When that only happens to a few people, it can be ignored. When it's happening to many people, widespread, and for a long period of time -- well, they start looking for alternatives. That's a good thing. Either we need to make sure that people have access to a minimum amount of cash to cover their basic needs, or we admit that in the absence of cash, barter is preferable to doing without those things necessary for life such as food, shelter, and health care.

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[User Picture]From: londonbard
2010-04-25 09:28 am (UTC)

Re: Hmm...

Here, that's been called a Letts scheme - and the trouble is that there's no way to enforce it, in many city environments.

People claimed that they'd done the painting or whatever and then did not get the goods or services in return.

Edited at 2010-04-25 09:31 am (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2010-04-26 02:44 am (UTC)

Re: Hmm...

I'd heard of the same problem with similar schemes in US cities. Barter seems to work best in the flea-market/farmer's market-type setting: face to face, with exchange made right there, right then. "Those are gorgeous strawberries--would you trade me a box for this basket of mushrooms?" I know of cases where people traded work (such as cleaning stalls) for riding lessons, but any business enterprise can afford only some of that because it's going to have overhead that must be paid in cash. The taxes, if nothing else.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2010-04-25 11:59 am (UTC)

Re: Hmm...

Consider the single mother (because hubby walked when their second child turned out to be disabled too) whose disabled kids need a full-time caregiver. Maybe she has skills...but she does not have time. Or--after a few years of selling everything salable to get enough food and rent money, let alone the doctor bills still arriving at the door--anything left to sell her kids don't need. Not as uncommon as you might think. (Something learned from being on multiple parent-support lists now and in the past.)
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[User Picture]From: starshipcat
2010-04-25 06:03 pm (UTC)

Re: Hmm...

That's yet another huge problem that's somewhat tangental to the one at hand -- the person whose time is so completely consumed by non-paid familial caretaking that there's nothing left for paid labor, and who has run out of negotiable possessions.

I know it way too well -- I have a close relative by marriage who is a full-time caretaker for a disabled parent, and who is himself disabled, such that he would have reduced earning power if he were to enter the job market in order to use the resulting earnings to hire a caretaker for the parent. They're eking out an existence on the parent's pension, but it means going without a lot of stuff, including a lot of healthcare the caretaker child really needs (no insurance, of course).

I just wish there were a way that society could meaningfully (as in so that it makes a material difference in their situation) recognize these people and compensate them for the value of their unpaid labor of caretaking. If they weren't there, the people they're taking care of would become public charges simply because they're unable to care for themselves. But not only do we not recognize these people while they're doing it, but when it's over, the sacrificed working years mean a permanent reduction in their earning power, not to mention permanently lost pension/Social Security contributions and thus impoverishment for themselves in their final years (the relative I mentioned may well end up facing penury and dependency upon the rest of the family as thanks for years of devoted caretaking -- effectively being told "don't let the door hit you on the way out" as thanks).

This is why I'm apt to get a bit snarky when people start getting critical of adult children who put their parents in nursing homes instead of caring for them at home. Or otherwise condemn people for working and paying a caretaker (thus making everything a market transaction, rather than a gift exchange), when our society effectively penalizes keeping it all a gift exchange within the family.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2010-04-26 02:40 am (UTC)

Re: Hmm...

Sarcasm glyph on: But...you're suggesting commodifying sacred family values. Sarcasm glyph off.

This has been a problem for a long time, especially when there's such fierce resistance to providing any public support for anyone in need...such concern about someone "taking advantage" of it. (Oddly, the people most convinced that veterans' families and the families of disabled persons would 'take advantage' are the same ones who don't think CEOs making millions a year are taking advantage of shareholders or--when the big corporations come to Congress with their hands out--taking advantage of taxpayers...they seem convinced that although it's OK for rich people to get government money and still live high, people who started more modestly or poor should live as meanly as possible.)


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[User Picture]From: emma_in_oz
2010-04-25 04:49 am (UTC)
Crazy stuff.

Though we did have a politician here who suggested a flat tax of 2% on all exchanges. So, importing a car - 2% tax. Building it in the country, involving buying metal, swapping stuff, etc - multiple 2% taxes.

Still, at least she was thinking about using money. She hadn't reverted to a pre-monetary system.
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[User Picture]From: londonbard
2010-04-25 09:23 am (UTC)
Another way of doing it might be to send fruit or veggies as campaign donations. After all, who needs hay in a city? Tomatoes, strawberries, etc. could possibly be posted in egg boxes in plastic bags inside envelopes?
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[User Picture]From: nolly
2010-04-26 08:22 pm (UTC)
I like this, because the other seems rather unfair to the poultry. Though the noise, mess, etc. does create an appealing image.
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[User Picture]From: londonbard
2010-04-26 08:50 pm (UTC)
Well, we wouldn't want her to get lonely and bored so one way would be to expose tomatoes to fruit flies first, then time them so they are nice and ripe when they arrive.

Any poultry around will appreciate the larvae and any insects that happen to survive, too. (A duel purpose gesture? We had four chickens when I was an infant and I used to feed them. Ours were fairly loud and messy, but they had distinct personalities - and possibly rather more sense than Ms Louden.)

In any case, the conversation between Ms Moon and Starshipcat, above, reminded me of what it's like to spend years as an unpaid family carer and that seems to have uncorked a streak of mean...




Edited at 2010-05-03 08:14 am (UTC)
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