Uncommon Sense

November 17, 2020

Making a Living as a Writer

Filed under: Business,writing — Steve Ruis @ 10:38 am
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Recently I extolled the writing wisdom provided by both C.S. Friedman and Mercedes Lackey on the Q&A website Quora. As an example of this, here is Ms. Lackey’s take on “making a living as a writer” (the question was actually different but it equates to this):


First: Never, never, never, never, never pay anyone anything to publish your book. People who ask you for money to publish your book are frauds and scammers.

Second: You are more likely to be struck by lightning than to be able to make a living at writing, especially from the very beginning.

When you start, you will suck. No one has ever been a good writer without writing about a million words of crap first. You have to learn how to write well by writing a lot and studying writing. This will take years.

Of all of the members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, only about 10% make a living from writing. Only about half of the ones making a living from writing are making a living from writing fiction exclusively.

“You are more likely to be struck by lightning than to be able to make a living at writing.”

Get a day job that doesn’t suck; there is nothing harder to do than to sit down to write after a day so exhausting that your brain has turned off. This is the job you are going to be having for a while, so make sure it’s something that doesn’t make you want to open a vein rather than go to work.

If you are really serious about wanting to make a living from writing, decide, right now, what the minimum amount you can live on is, because that is probably what you’ll be doing for years and years. Learn how to make and stick to a strict budget.

If you are really serious about wanting to make a living from writing, you will be sacrificing your social life. You will not be able to play games, hang with friends, go out for drinks, go to the movies, watch the Big Game, or watch television, much less binge. You will be writing every hour before or after work (some people write better when they first get up, some write better after work) and every weekend, or whatever free days you have. There is an entire 10 year swath of popular culture I know nothing about, because that is what I was doing.

You will be ready to quit that day-job and try full-time writing when you have five published books or screenplays that someone else paid you for, each one has paid better than the last, you have contracts in hand for three more books or screenplays, and you have a year and a half of expenses in the bank. Why the bank account? Because shit goes wrong, and without that cushion you could wind up unable to keep the lights on.

You might decide that you can’t do all of that. That’s fine. Remember what I just said, only ten percent of most writers write full time for a living. There’s no shame in being part of the ninety percent.

But don’t take my word for it. Here’s Charlie Stross, saying basically the same thing.

Common Misconceptions About Publishing

And someone else, talking about how she can write only because she has other people supporting her:

A dirty secret: you can only be a writer if you can afford it

November 11, 2020

The Wealthy Want What They Want and They Want It Now!

Filed under: Business,Culture,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 12:05 pm
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Recently the wealthy in California spent huge amounts of money getting a proposition passed; namely Proposition 22, which exempts “gig workers” from the normal protections of labor laws. See “Prop 22: why Uber’s victory in California could harm gig workers nationwide” <subtitle> Ballot measure exempting ride-sharing companies from treating drivers as employees could serve as model for future laws” in The Guardian.”

While that article addresses the fear that such efforts will spread across the nation (and they will because it is what the wealthy want), the main point is what is never, ever is mentioned in discussing Uber. And that is that: Uber is losing mountains of cash and has no conceivable route to profitability.

Uber is losing mountains of cash and has no conceivable route to profitability.

Uber built its business by subsidizing driver’s wages (and then lying freely on its required financial reports). The amounts collected by drivers are not enough to pay the driver and Uber’s overhead, therefore billions of dollars have been spent subsidizing Uber’s drivers “salaries.”

If all taxi companies were to go out of business tomorrow, Uber could only be profitable by cutting driver’s salaries to the point that most drivers will quit. Yes, it is that simple. Drivers aren’t stupid. They have figured out that after they pay for gas, maintenance (tires, insurance, wear and tear, etc.) they are barely making minimum wage. And when municipalities lose the income from taxi-cab licenses, don’t you think they will come up with an annual sticker for gig worker drivers to display on their cars. (I live in Chicago and we have to buy a sticker annually to be allowed to park in the city. If you never stop and park, you can do without the sticker . . . or in other words, you have to have a sticker. At $75 a year or so.)

Can you see now why rich people don’t want ordinary labor laws to apply to Uber drivers? So much that they were to spend big bucks and lie through their teeth to get a proposition passed to that extent in California?

Well, if this company has no way to make a profit, why do they care? Well, if they jack up the fares so much to be able to pay for everything, the taxi companies become attractive once again, so they can’t do that. Uber states that it is betting on driverless cars being made available in just a few years, which will eliminate the expense of a driver. But it would also necessitate the purchase of fleets of driverless cars, monitoring the cars, and maintaining the cars. (Who cleans the cars when a drunken rider barfs in the backseat foot well?)

As I said, there is no path to profitability for Uber . . . none.

So, why do the rich care? Because they can make huge sums dicking around on the stock market, that’s why. Studies show that the so-called “secondary market” which includes the vast majority of all stock market transactions right now, the buying and selling of stocks already sold, is a vast drain on the economy. That is it sucks money out of the economy, and it doesn’t produce anything in return.

I know, you were taught in school, how the stock market helps companies get started or expand through the initial sale of stocks. This is till true, but is a rare occurrence when compared with the numbers of shares bought and sold that are not new. The “support” for those newbie companies is long gone, the secondary market is just between buyers and sellers, and is considered a bit of a game. (Experts in game theory mathematics are employed.) The winners take money out of the market, and the losers leave theirs behind. Nothing tangible or useful is created and money is siphoned into the pockets of the already rich, who own the vast majority of the shares.

Our problem in the US is greed. The greedy have accumulated a great deal of wealth and they are using it to remake the economy to serve their desires (not needs, desires). If there is any way to disadvantage labor unions, they will do it. If there is any way to disempower working people, they will do it. They love a high unemployment economy because workers are just glad to have a job, any job, no matter how shitty and they won’t cause a fuss.

You see we abandoned slavery and the wealthy really, really miss it.

August 4, 2020

A Pandemic Rude Awakening?

The GOP and to some extent the Democrats have been suppressing wages of working people for decades now. Worshiping at the altar of profits, the route to greater and greater profits has been to lower taxes on businesses (in essence transferring them onto individuals) and reducing the cost of production, which is dominated by wages paid to workers. So, wage suppression has become a fine art in corporate circles.

A consequence of this approach is that people, aka “consumers,” have less and less disposable income to buy the output of American businesses. American companies have taken the strategy to the max. Many jobs that could be kept here have been exported to “low wage” countries, which now turn out to be not so low wage because the wages in those countries have been rising (It’s the demand, idiot!) and transportation costs, obviously, went up a great deal, management, too.

The Pandemic Recession, looking to morphing into the Pandemic Depression, is showing the short-sidedness of the short-term pursuit of profits, profits, profits. Here is an excerpt from a Naked Capitalism post on small businesses:

“It’s depressing, but not exactly surprising, to see a major New York Times story about one-third of the small businesses in the city have died or expected to shutter. Needless to say, it’s not just restaurants.” How’s Your Economy, Small Businesses Death Watch Edition

Small businesses in NY City, it is reported, constitute 98% of the employers and account for 3 million jobs in the city. The businesses close, the employees are without jobs, and while jobless, they will be having trouble paying their bills. This will crater other small businesses and away we go . . . spiraling down the economic toilet.

So, I am told (by Dwight Eisenhower, no less) that one shouldn’t criticize unless one has a better alternative. (It is far too easy to tear something down and much harder to build something up. Take that you “creative destruction” purveyors.) So, what is the alternative? Easy peasy. Be patriotic. Keep jobs here, pay higher wages, make less profits.

What was that? I just saw a Republican running past me with his hair on fire, sputtering “Higher wages . . . less profits . . . Arggghhh!” Please do realize that many believe that in our “pay as you go culture,” a business must make a profit to continue to exist. But even this dictum is soft. I had a fellow professor leave teaching to set up his own business. His first major mistake was he didn’t pay himself enough. At the end of his first year, he had profits, which he paid business taxes on, which he then paid to himself, which he then paid income taxes on and thus got double taxed on what he had made. He learned to pay himself everything that might be considered to be a business profit, and paid income taxes on those sums but no business taxes. His business happily perked along make no profits to speak of . . . but I digress.

The titans of commerce have taken the “We have to make a profit,” an acceptable dictum, to “we have to maximize our profits over every other consideration we can conceive of.” This is dubious at best. There is no limit to how much profit can be extracted from a business (as a percentage, not in absolute terms) consequently using “we have to maximize profits” as a motivation is an incentive without any boundaries whatsoever. This is a fatal flaw of capitalism: there is no limitation on greed.

What if corporations considered one of their “products” to be “reliably good jobs for people in our community,” or “creating healthy lives for our employees,” or even “creating happiness for our employees.” Don’t laugh, all of these have been stated by corporations as goals in the past (or their equivalents).

No one begrudges companies or corporations reasonable profits. Everyone should begrudge corporations who make obscene profits by grinding their employees under their heels to make them.

March 31, 2020

The Class War is Over

The Class War is over. What we have left are crumbs tossed our way in a system ruled by savage class-rule capitalism.

Let me ask you this—here is a passage from the gospel we call “Luke” (in Chapter 4):”

And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and he entered, as his custom was, into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up to read. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Isaiah. And he opened the book, and found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, Because he anointed me to preach good tidings to the poor: He hath sent me to proclaim release to the captives, And recovering of sight to the blind, To set at liberty them that are bruised, to proclaim the acceptable Year of the Lord. And he closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down: and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, Today hath this scripture been fulfilled in your ears.

Do, you know what the Year of the Lord refers to? Isn’t every year a Year of the Lord? (As a child I saw many, many documents dated as such and such a date “in the year of our Lord XXXX.”)

Do, you know what this was?

It was what is often referred to now as a Jubilee year and Jesus just proclaimed this to be one (along with all of the other succor) promised but Jubilee years were usually only proclaimed by kings, often at the beginning of their reign. In the story, this proclamation supports the argument that Jesus thought of himself as a king, which the Romans preferred to exterminate, rather than work with.

In a Jubilee year, all public debts were canceled. This practice came about, not through any largess by the elites but for a practical reason. If private debt was allowed to continue without limit, compound interest, even ordinary interest would result in many people defaulting on their debts. If that debt were held by a private person, the person defaulting was obligated to pay of the debt with their land, and then their labor. well, and the labor of their wives in the bedroom of the debt holder, you know what I mean. But people in debt bondage didn’t pay taxes and they were available to be drafted for public works projects. The elites recognized that the primary debt holder almost everywhere in the region was the central government and the debt was because of unpaid taxes. A crop failure meant someone couldn’t simultaneously feed their family and pay their taxes, so. . . .

So, rulers would start their rule with a debt jubilee, thus making themselves popular and making their economy viable. It was not unusual to need one of these every so often. The Bible even speaks to debt forgiveness.

Now the Pharisees tended to be from the more prosperous segments of Hebrew society, so if Jesus had his way and a debt jubilee were proclaimed, how do you think they would respond? Hmm?

My main point is what Albert Einstein referred to when he was asked what the most powerful force in the universe was and he answered “compound interest.” Our system, however is no longer an autocracy, but an oligarchy. the debt holders are running the country. Do you think for one minute they would sit still for any kind of debt jubilee, even if just for college education debts? Do, you know understand why Bernie Sanders presidential campaign was deep-sixed by the powers that be in favor of a barely comprehendable Joe Biden? (If they would take it from Jesus, Bernie had no chance.)

These idiot oligarchs are acting out the parable of the Goose that Laid the Golden Egg and are smiling through the entire thing, reflecting on their own cleverness.

 

If You Needed a Reason Why a For Profit Healthcare System Doesn’t Cut the Mustard, Here’s One

Filed under: Business,Morality,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 1:00 pm
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From The Guardian:

The frontline in the battle against coronavirus has shifted a couple of hundred yards down the main road through the Kansas city of Wellington.

Two weeks ago, as the virus crept closer and people in other parts of the state started dying, the owners of the city’s only hospital thought it a good time to close down with just a few hours’ notice on the grounds the facility was losing money.

“We lost our hospital abruptly and without warning,” said Dr Lacie Gregory, a family practitioner in Wellington. “Even as the healthcare providers here in town, we did not hear that it was closing until it was a done deal. We received a text message from the director of nursing saying as of now there’s no hospital. So really, really unfortunate timing.”

That has left Gregory and a small group of other doctors and nurse practitioners at the city’s Family Care Center at the forefront of preparing for the coming pandemic with little guidance and not much equipment.

The physicians had assumed the 63-bed Sumner community hospital’s emergency department would deal with people contracting coronavirus while they went on treating more routine conditions of cuts, broken bones and high blood pressure, and that the two would remain safely at a distance. But now the Family Care Center is the first line of defence for the city of 8,000 people.

 

July 24, 2019

We Don’t Need Regulators, Corporations Would Never Do Anything to Harm Their Reputations

Filed under: Business,Politics,The Law — Steve Ruis @ 8:47 am
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The Big Lie is a lie so obviously untrue that people would not accept it unless it became “common knowledge” which it does if the BL is repeated over and over and over.

We have been told by the “De-Regulators” that all of these regulations and regulators are unnecessary, that “The Market™” will take care of all of the bad actors. And, certainly major corporations would never, ever do anything to harm their reputations.

How many times do we need to see this is not only not true, but very, very false?

Read this!

Capitalism gone wrong: how big pharma created America’s opioid carnage

The biggest drug epidemic in the U.S. created not by human weaknesses but by the profit motive. (Read this sentence again!)

July 2, 2019

The Absurdity of Maximizing Shareholder Value as a Business Goal

I have written about this before, but this post over at Naked Capitalism drives the nails home into the coffin of this very, very bad idea. (Being a Zombie idea will make this turkey very hard to kill.)

Rebel Economist Breaks Through to Washington on How Shareholder Value Theory Rewards the Undeserving

 

May 23, 2019

What, The Huge Trump Tax Cut Didn’t Prevent This?

Filed under: Business,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 12:44 pm
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In the category of we all have short memories (and much of that is taken up by bullshit comments by our current POTUS):

Ford Begins Final Round of US Layoffs

Ian Thibodeau, The Detroit News on May 21, 2019

DETROIT — The first of 500 U.S. Ford Motor Co. salaried employees are expected to be notified in meetings Tuesday that they’re being let go.

. . .

CEO Jim Hackett notified employees in an email Monday that Ford was nearing the end of its months-long bout of white-collar layoffs that would eliminate 7,000 jobs globally, roughly 10% of the automaker’s global salaried workforce. When the U.S. layoffs wrap by June, Ford would have cut around 800 jobs in addition to 1,500 buyouts that occurred late last year, or around 7% of its U.S. salaried workforce.

The layoffs come months after General Motors Co. cut 15% of its global salaried workforce. Both sets of layoffs are largely a result of a slowing auto market and looming economic recession. Ford’s layoffs are part of a $25.5 billion pool of cost cuts expected to roll out over the next few years.

* * *

Gee, I thought those huge … permanent … business tax cuts were going to allow them to hire more workers and raise their wages? Hunh! Since that tax cut didn’t work, expect the Trump administration to ram through another tax cut for these poor, suffering corporations.

May 10, 2019

Trump’s Business Losses

Filed under: Business,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 12:22 pm
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The New York Times is reporting that IRS records show Donald Trump’s businesses lost approximately $1.15 billion dollars during the decade from 1985 to 1994. That sounds like a lot of money and was. But it is not in current terms. I picked the year 1990 at the center of this period as a form of averaging and used an inflation calculator to convert those dollars into what they would be today.

In today’s dollars, Trump’s losses would be . . . wait for it . . . wait for it . . .

$2,240,000,000.

This raises schadenfreude to whole new levels!

December 5, 2018

The Rich, They Are Not Like Us

The Republicans like to frame the rich as “job creators.” Well, one of the very rich, Alice Walton, reclaimed the crown as the richest woman in the world, as her fortune leapt from $33.8 billion to $46 billion over the past year. In September 2016, she was reported to own over US $11 billion in WalMart shares alone.

So, did she earn that money? Did she make that money? What did she contribute to society that so much money came to her? Is she creating jobs?

Owning stocks and investing in stocks has been shown to be the sham it really is. We are taught in school that selling stock is a way for businesses to finance their growth. This is clearly poppycock. Stocks are purely speculative instruments. The Apple corporation acquired $95 million in its initial stock offering. It hasn’t issued stock or gotten money from a new sale since. It has paid out billions to its stock holders in dividends. Imagine a bank load for $95 million that required billions of dollars to be paid back and the loan is still out!

Alice’s father, Sam Walton (founder of WalMart) made the money, she has simply played money games to expand the quantity.

The Founding Fathers comment often and long, as have many other prominent Americans since, that allowing accumulated wealth to accumulate by inheritance is un-American and counter to democratic principles. Yet, our inheritance taxes have been reduced to pure vapor under the guidance of bribes from rich people to Republican and Democrat politicians. This is what the rich like to call a “good investment.” They offer bribes of a few hundred thousand dollars here and there and they benefit by the many millions, if not billions.

Did you notice that Alice Walton’s net worth went up $12.2 billion in just one year? The Republican tax cuts played a big part in that. And, in case you are wondering, to spend that additional $12,200,000,000 in one year, she would have to spend $6,500,000 every hour of every work day of the year! How much money is enough? Apparently in a capitalist system there is no upper limit.

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