But first . . .

I bought STON at $1.92 yesterday, hoping no one I know will ever be a customer.  I knew them not when, as recently as 2016, their stock was $29 and paid a 66-cent quarterly dividend.  I barely know about them now, except that a smart friend who does follow them closely believes they’re in much better shape than the reported numbers would suggest and is adding to his already not inconsiderable holdings.  Only with money you can truly afford to lose . . . but it’s not crazy to hope for a double or triple from here within a year or two.


I did not buy SPRT yesterday.  I believe anyone who failed immediately to sell at $8 that glorious morning in March when out of the blue it quadrupled was an idiot.  (Though, with the stock having hit $36 before dropping back, he or she might disagree.)

This is a company that burns huge amounts of natural gas into the atmosphere to produce electricity to mine crypto, which is to say: nothing.  The U.S. Treasury also creates money out of thin air, but without polluting that air.  So long as the world loses faith in government-backed currencies –and governments themselves — crypto prices will continue to rise, just as tulip prices would rise if tulips became the medium of exchange people preferred as payment for their labor or their homes.  (“I don’t want $575,000 for my house — I want 60 tulips! or 10 Bitcoin!”)



And now . . .

RCN is my cable provider.  They let people like me suspend service for the summer, if we’ll be away, or the winter, or whenever . . . but it’s their policy to make it difficult, to discourage it.  Call it “Customer Disservice.”

As in, “Hello. Customer Disservice. Please hold.”

(I’m leading to a larger point, so hang on.)

The way it should work, of course, is that you sign on to their website, click a “Suspend/Resume Service” toggle, and you’re done.

Given the huge investment they’ve made in plant and equipment, it would be perfectly reasonable for RCN to give people an incentive not to suspend service . . . to allow, say, no more than two suspensions a year.  Or to charge a fee each time. Or . . . well, lots of ways to do it.

Their chosen method, however, is to require a phone conversation with each suspension and resumption, which is a problem because they are almost always experiencing “unusually high call volume.”

None of the menu options is “suspend or resume service,” so you just have to guess.  I always guess “upgrade service,” thinking that might get me the shortest wait time.

Anyhow, last night I spent 31 minutes trying to resume my suspended service so I could start paying — do not judge me — $177 a month to watch MSNBC.  (Yes, I know. Do not email me about this.)

Much of those 31 minutes were with a really nice woman in Oklahoma, none of whose fault this was.  Each time she asked permission to place me “on a brief two-to-thee minute hold” (four times?) I had two to three minutes to think large thoughts.

Eventually, she got it all squared way, told me how much RCN appreciated my business, told me how much she had enjoyed talking with me — we had become phone friends — and told me it all should be working in about 10 minutes.

Today, and another phone call later, it is still not working — but that’s not my point.

My point is that the U.S. faces two looming challenges:

  • a huge unemployment crisis, as more and more jobs are filled more by robots and artificial intelligence (read Andrew Yang’s The War On Normal People for a sense of how quickly this trend may accelerate)
  • a huge labor shortage as we look to spend trillions on labor to revitalize our physical infrastructure, provide more day-care and free pre-K, more eldercare, and so much more

The sharp-eyed reader will note that each looming challenge solves the other.

Granted, my RCN friend in Oklahoma didn’t sound as though she could instantly pick up stakes once replaced with a “suspend/resume” toggle and start installing solar panels or de-leading water pipes.  But she sure sounded like someone who’d be great as a teacher or elder-care aide, or pretty much anything else that required a good heart, a good mind, and people skills.

So maybe we should move aggressively on both fronts: make our economy as efficient as possible, racking up extra corporate profits . . . and use all that freed up labor (paid for in part with the extra tax revenue on those extra profits) to do the work that really does need doing here.  Because there is a lot of it.

Which leads me to today’s bonus:



BONUS

A Grand Bargain On Infrastructure And Saving Democracy?

Maybe — just maybe — there’s hope yet.

 

 

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