Ricardo Miranda Zúñiga

Structural Patterns

Reflections on Art, Technology and Society

Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

The Deficit Myth 001

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I recently finished Stephanie Kelton’s book The Deficit Myth and I’m going to create a series of blog entries considering the material of the book. In doing so, I will liberally be quoting the book as part of my goal is to consider and digest my highlights from the text.

Kelton’s goal is to have us understand Modern Monetary Theory and how if embraced, it can help us create a better society. Kelton asks “What would it look like if the government overcame the deficit myths [the concept of having to maintain a household budget] and started budgeting like a currency issuer instead of pretending that it needs to pay for its spending just like the rest of us?” (pg. 42)

Although I think that we should all read this book (though it can be a bit repetitive), I’m going to copy the main points of the United States federal deficit myths that need to be debunked. These points are in the introduction and are given a chapter each:

First Myth:
The idea that the United States federal government needs to budget like a household is pernicious… “MMT demonstrates that the federal government is not dependent on revenue form taxes or borrowing to finance its spending and that the most important constraint on government spending is inflation.” pg. 9

Second Myth:
“It is possible for the government to spend too much. Deficits can be too big. But evidence of overspending is inflation, and most of the time deficits are too small, not too big.” pg.9

Third Myth:
Deficits will burden the next generation. Ronald Reagan was one of the wort perpetrators of the myth that we would saddle our children with too much debt, because it’s powerful political rhetoric. “As a share of gross domestic product (GDP), the national debt was at its highest – 120% – in the period immediately following WWII. Yet, this was the same period during which the middle class was built, real media family income soared, and the next generation enjoyed a higher standard of living without the added burden of higher tax rates… Increasing the deficit doesn’t make future generations poorer, and reducing the deficit won’t make them any richer.” pg.9

Fourth Myth:
“…deficits are harmful because the crowd out private investment and undermine long-term investment… government deficits eat up some of the dollars that would otherwise have been invested in private sector endeavors that promote long-term prosperity. We will see why the reverse is true – fiscal deficits actually increase private savings – and can easily crowd-in private investments.” pg. 10

Fifth Myth:
“Deficits make the United States dependent on foreigners [China and Japan as they hold large quantities of U.S. debt]… this is a fiction that politicians wittingly or unwittingly propagate, often as an excuse to ignore social programs desperate need of funding. Sometimes this myth has used the metaphor of irresponsibly taken out a foreign credit card. This misses the fact that the dollars aren’t originating from China. They’re coming from the U.S. We’re not borrowing from China so much as we’re supplying China with dollars and then allowing them to trade those dollars in for a safe, interest-bearing asset called a U.S. treasury. There is absolutely nothing risky or pernicious about this. If we wanted to, we could pay off the debt immediately with a simple keystroke.” pg.10

Sixth Myth:
“Entitlements are propelling us toward a long-term fiscal crisis. Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are the supposed culprits… Our government will always be able to meet future obligations because it can never run out of money. The money can always be there. The question is, What will that money buy? Changing demographics and the impacts of climate change are real challenges that could put stress on available resources.” pg.11

Kelton ends the introduction with a call to arms:

“The fact that 21 percent of all children in the United States live in poverty- that’s a crisis. The fact that our infrastructure is graded at a D+ is a crisis. The fact that inequality today stands at levels last seen during America’s Gilded Age is a crisis. The fact that the typical American worker has seen virtually no real wage growth since the 1970s is a crisis. The fact that forty-four million Americans are saddled with $1.7 trillion in student loans debt is a crisis. And the fact that we ultimately won’t be able to ‘afford’ anything at all if we end up exacerbating climate change and destroy the life on this planet is perhaps the biggest crisis of them all.” pg.11

“These are real crises. The national deficit is not a crisis.” pg.12

“THE CRIME OF the tax bill signed by Trump in 2017 is not that it added to the deficit but that it used the deficit to provide help to those who needed it least. It has widened inequality, putting more political and economic power into the hands of the few… We should tax billionaires to rebalance the distribution of wealth and income and to protect the health of our democracy.” pg. 12

As the many citizens of the United States need a financial lifeline from the federal government to help make it through this pandemic, Kelton foresees the stalling of a second stimulus:

“The federal deficit, which was expected to top $1 trillion before the virus became a threat, will likely skyrocket beyond $3 trillion in the months ahead. If history is any lesson, anxiety over rising budget deficits will lead to pressure to reduce fiscal support in order to wrestle deficits lower. That would be an unmitigated disaster. Right now, and in the months ahead, the most fiscally responsible way to manage the crisis is with higher deficit spending.” pg. 13

U.S. Data Privacy 2020

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On the California 2020 ballot is Proposition 24, Consumer Personal Information Law and Agency Initiative (2020):

“yes” vote supports this ballot initiative to expand the state’s consumer data privacy laws, including provisions to allow consumers to direct businesses to not share their personal information; remove the time period in which businesses can fix violations before being penalized; and create the Privacy Protection Agency to enforce the state’s consumer data privacy laws.

Just as California is leading the United States toward a cleaner environment, California will lead the charge toward a more just internet, one in which corporations such as FaceBook do not profiteer on our personal data. Let’s hope that this proposition moves us toward laws akin to what is in place in Europe. If anyone should monetize on ones personal data is the individual themself. VOTE YES ON PROP 24

Written by ricardo

October 8th, 2020 at 6:35 pm

Biden Absent as Trump Rails

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I’m bracing myself for another four years of chaos. Four more years of lies, manipulation, hate, nepotism, self-interest, tax dodging, racism, tax cuts for the rich (who are better at saving than giving), market deregulation, white empowerment, pussy grabbing, virus magically gone by Easter, the phrase “shit hole countries,” separating families, putting children in steel cages, forking over millions of dollars for faulty three-mile border walls, opening precious forests to oil drilling, funding dirty energy like coal mining instead of presenting a better future, climate change denial, civil unrest, hatred…

The reason that I’m bracing myself is because the New York Times mentions Trump at least twice for any mention of Biden. I saw this during the 2016 elections – mainstream media obsessed with Trump whether positively or negatively, mentioning and covering Trump over and over. It’s like feeding the Slime Monster – whether it’s critical news or not, when only one name is mentioned, that name grows and sticks. I’ve often wondered why liberal, one-sided media channels don’t just go on a “he who must not be named” approach. We all know that any news is good news and Trump knows this better than anyone, his entire life has thrived on it. He doesn’t care if it’s negative news as any news can be spun. Most importantly he is mentioned; he who must not be named is named and his power grows.

Biden is a senior citizen who I think would like to stay alive and is not self-obsessed, so he acknowledges the pandemic. Whereas Trump is so self-obsessed that he considers himself a demigod, immortal, perhaps a god, perhaps the Almighty himself who has been so well informed on COVID-19, that he knows that as long as he allows his germophobia guide him, he can show up in-front of large audiences in enclosed spaces without a worry. After all, his minions on an individual-basis don’t matter, so let them be dumb enough to expose themselves while Trump enjoys their adoration of him and gets headlines for brining the minions together, unmasked and inches from one another. All news is good news.

Trump is also incredibly talented at projecting cheesy, televisual images of grandeur. From disgustingly furnished home interiors to way too many flags in front of the White House topped off with very polished golden eagles. Trump’s motto – “if it’s gold, polish it, cause it’s mine…”

Leni Reifenstahl would be proud of this image.

Trump is effectively capturing the ignorant, televisual imagination of the United States, while Biden Zooms to no audience. And I’m not even mentioning Pence flying around with the racist, pre-Civil Rights “Make America Great” message while Harris tries to not choke on toxic air. We are soooo screwed.

Written by ricardo

September 14th, 2020 at 3:23 pm

Brett Kavanaugh Drank Beer

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If Brett Kavanaugh liked beer as much as he declares that he does, there’s no way he didn’t black out at some point, hehehe. This man should never be a Supreme Court Justice or even a judge. If he is appointed, we live in the worst nation state concocted. It is merely a matter of being born into the right situation, and able to mix it up with the necessary network. Drink beet with DoubleYa!

Written by ricardo

October 2nd, 2018 at 9:40 pm

On “The Shape of Water”

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Eliza and Giles with Pie Guy at Dixie Doug Pie Shop

After watching The Shape of Water, one particular scene kept resonating. It was a minor scene, not even necessary for the plot, but a timely scene. The scene occurs in the Dixie Doug Pie shop (not the scene pictured above, but a later scene).

Giles played by Richard Jenkins sits next to the proprietor of the shop at the counter, enjoying a slice of pie when a black couple walk in seeking to be served. The store owner tells them – “take out only” and the couple protest that the pie shop is empty – why can’t they sit and the owner responds that they must leave. Just before the couple walks in, Giles reacts to the store owner telling him that he is good at his role of chatting with customers by holding the owners hands. The store owner jumps off his stool and basically refers to Giles as a dirty old man. After telling the black couple to leave, the store owner (originally from Ottawa, Canada with a fake southern accent) tells Giles that he should do the same and leave. Giles takes his napkin to his tongue, trying to clean the pie out of his mouth (has Eliza had done earlier with the green pie), tosses the napkin on his plate and exits the pie shop.

Part of the beauty of The Shape of Water is in the nuances; the attention to details that later resonate with the viewer. If one considers many of these details, the film is an anti-capitalist gesture. Early into the film the pie guy explains that his store is part of a franchise and that franchising is the future. Many other elements in the movie represent the future or a changing society in which there is no place for intimacy and oddity. Instead the future is mass produced, sleak, fake and hostile. And tied to the future is commodification and materialism.

We see this alienating future throughout the film. Giles an illustrator, hand paints magazine advertisements. Eventually he finds himself without a job due to the adoption of photography in advertisement. The hand-made has been replaced by the mechanized image that is fast and precise.

Regarding Giles’s Rockwell-like depiction of an ecstatic nuclear family enjoying jello – there is the detail of the color green. Giles originally paints the jello red, but he is told that it must be green. The color green becomes a reoccurring element in the film. The slice of pie that Eliza finds disgusting and must remove from her tongue using a napkin is bright green. To Strickland, the antagonist, the sleek new Cadillac is green. Whether it is the jello, the pie or the car, green is used as the color of artificial products – products that represent the future. Simple associations to the color green are of course envy, greed and money – all elements of capitalism in its purest form that is to generate capital for the sake of greater capital, regardless of any human toll.

As with the green pie which is disgusting to Eliza, the beautiful green Cadillac is scarred by the hand-painted van filled with misfits. In the end, Strickland, the man of the future is defeated and the promise of the future falls short to the monster, the mute and the homosexual.

Written by ricardo

February 18th, 2018 at 11:56 am

Realidad VE

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Realidad VE

Realidad VE is a virtual reality experiment in combining documentary material with a virtual space

Realidad VE is a small experiment that attempts to combine documentary material with virtual space for VR presentation.

Last fall I had an extended interview with José Bergher a retired professor and classically trained musician from Venezuela who was the director of the Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela. Throughout his professional career he worked between New York City and Caracas and the reason behind the interview was to learn about that dual citizenry – about living between cultures and floating from one part of the world to the other. However as the interview progressed, I asked José about the current state of Venezuela – politically, economically and the common problems that people face day to day. He replied with a 20 minute discussion of the rise of Chavez and the current power-grab by Maduro and the lasting influence of Fidel Castro.

I knew that this discussion would not be appropriate for the project that I was working on, but I appreciate his first-hand perspective and given the last several weeks in Venezuela, I wanted to present his voice in a unique format. Entirely based on my news consumption of current protests, clashes and seemingly general instability in Venezuela, I created a blank world with the exception of dead trees and abandoned drilling rigs. The world is populated by men and women running across the space. A boy sits against a tree taking in the world around him. At another spot a young couple argues and elsewhere two friends are in discussion. Along the entire perimeter paramilitary troops stand guard and watch the space. At a couple spots trios of soldiers have friendly discussions. In this world, the military is at ease, though watchful whereas the people appear frantic.

I’m interested in combining documentary material such as the interview with José Bergher with virtual space and employing virtual reality as a platform for documentary. Jose’s discussion of current Venezuelan politics presented an opportunity for experimentation. Pictured above is the project for installation that features an animated José Bergher above the virtual space, the project is online with out Bergher’s video, only his voice accompanies the virtual space as the inclusion of video made an already long load time much longer.

FRANKLIN FURNACE @ 40

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Help the Franklin Furnace continue to make the world safe for Avant-Garde Art (the really weird shit that the NEA is afraid of). The Furnace has turned 40 and is now relocated in Pratt Institute, however, in order to re-grant money to artists that challenge the norms of our society, the Furnace needs financial help. Anyone can donate to the Furnace anytime, but at this time the Furnace is holding a benefit art sale and you can participate via Paddle8!

Exhibition, Friday-Saturday April 19-22, 10am-6pm
Reception and Live Auction of Five Works, Saturday April 22, 5-7pm
Metro Pictures, 519 West 24 th Street, New York, NY 10011

FRANKLIN FURNACE @ 40 Honorees
Yoko Ono, Artist
Thea Westreich Wagner & Ethan Wagner, Collectors
Marian Goodman, Gallerist

FRANKLIN FURNACE @ 40 offers for sale original art by:
John Ahearn, Eleanor Antin, Ida Applebroog, Judith Bernstein, Patty Chang, Nicolas Ceccaldi, CRASH, Kate Gilmore, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Ann Hamilton, David Hammons/Clifford Owens, Mona Hatoum, Jenny Holzer, Joan Jonas, Barbara Kruger, Suzy Lake, Louise Lawler, Maggie Lee, Robert Longo, Ana Mendieta, Franco Mondini-Ruiz, Portia Munson, Lorraine O’Grady, Lady Pink, Pope.L, Ed Ruscha, Carolee Schneemann, Dread Scott, Michael Smith, Anton van Dalen, William Wegman, Lawrence Weiner, Martha Wilson, David Wojnarowicz, Martin Wong.

FRANKLIN FURNACE @ 40

FRANKLIN FURNACE @ 40

The Voice Who

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On a February Friday afternoon walking along Fulton near Nostrand in Brooklyn, my son and I encountered an artist/writer/performer/thinker mounting painted wooden statements or declarations to the temporary plywood of a construction site. We paused to ask him about his declarations and he broke them down one by one. According to the artist each sign represents a book that he is working on, but they also sound like moments and reflections from his life.

Written by ricardo

March 7th, 2017 at 8:04 pm

Peaches Strikes At Gender Norms & Ageism

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Peaches has been making music for over two decades and over that time has not reached the popularity that she is enjoying today. With her 2015 “Rub” album she is receiving the recognition long deserved as she puts herself front and center in the current Culture Wars. “I Mean Something” strikes at ageism and “Rub” obliterates any body and gender norms. Peaches work is as timely as ever; perhaps popular culture has finally begun to catch up with her. As Cameron Cook of Pitchfork puts it “Peaches may be the only female pop musician working today who sings about sex while firmly and intentionally diverting the objectifying male gaze.”

In Peaches music videos women are the heroes and they are sexualized, but not as figures servicing men, instead they enjoy one another and reflect self-empowerment.


Peaches – I Mean Something (featuring Feist)

Peaches – Rub (Uncensored) from Peaches on Vimeo.

It’s also pretty great how Peaches has chosen to work with past punk icons Iggy Pop and more recently Kim Gordon.

Written by ricardo

October 7th, 2016 at 5:27 am

Drawings for Bernie!

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Alevo Zkaynak drawing for Bernie

On an outing to Fort Greene Park yesterday afternoon, I met Alevo Zkaynak at the entrance of the park. She was holding a home made banner declaring “BERNIE DRAWS THE LINE – LINE DRAWINGS!!!”. From the banner hung 5 terrific line drawings created by the artist to generate donations for Bernie. She told me that she was out of money to give to Bernie, so she made the drawings to sell; she’d send half the proceeds to the Bernie campaign.

It is this sort of youthful and earnest enthusiasm that makes me wish that Bernie Sanders Political Revolution did occur. Unfortunately as with Obama’s HOPE, the United States is far too divided for any revolution to occur whether it’s a revolution of bigotry and hate or one of openness and love. As with much of Obama’s tenure, the Republicans are blocking the President’s right to select a new Supreme Court judge. When our representatives are unwilling to do their job, it is amazing that any legislation gets done in this country. Change must occur, perhaps it will happen through today’s youth, people like Alevo Zkaynak.