Archive for March 25th, 2011

Austerity!

Mar 25, 2011 in Economy

I know anti-spending fervor was just a anti-whatever-Obama-does reactionary fart from the right in America, dutifully copied by serious people, leading to a stunted stimulus and several canceled public infrastructure projects that would have employed lots of people and improved the country, but why on earth did other countries have to copy the stupidity?

Just ask the Irish, whose government — having taken on an unsustainable debt burden by trying to bail out runaway banks — tried to reassure markets by imposing savage austerity measures on ordinary citizens. The same people urging spending cuts on America cheered. “Ireland offers an admirable lesson in fiscal responsibility,” declared Alan Reynolds of the Cato Institute, who said that the spending cuts had removed fears over Irish solvency and predicted rapid economic recovery.

That was in June 2009. Since then, the interest rate on Irish debt has doubled; Ireland’s unemployment rate now stands at 13.5 percent.

And then there’s the British experience. Like America, Britain is still perceived as solvent by financial markets, giving it room to pursue a strategy of jobs first, deficits later. But the government of Prime Minister David Cameron chose instead to move to immediate, unforced austerity, in the belief that private spending would more than make up for the government’s pullback. As I like to put it, the Cameron plan was based on belief that the confidence fairy would make everything all right.

But she hasn’t: British growth has stalled, and the government has marked up its deficit projections as a result.

Our deficit problems are largely fueled by the economy tanking in 2008, causing already low revenues (thanks, Bush tax cuts) to decline precipitously. If we don’t fix the economy constructively in a way that gets more Americans working and spending, then revenue dips even more and trying to shave a few points off Medicare gets us nowhere. Even worse, we cut funding for things that save money in the long run, going directly backwards.

Yet somehow, in our difficult times, we’ve only mustered enough courage for the “hard choices” that happen to coincide with the 30 year Republican dream of starving the beast, defunding the government in order to force shrinkage to satisfy some vague ideological goal. Steadily, we strengthen the impression that America is unable to understand, address, and solve its problems. Thus the mythical “confidence” we do all this to seek dances further from our reach.

-hw

An easy lay-up.

Mar 25, 2011 in Politics

Couldn’t pass this one up:

Michael,

Wisconsin Republicans say the state is too broke to pay for teachers, but they just gave the 26-year-old mistress of a union-busting Republican Senator a state job with a fat raise. It’s a classic Republican scandal filled with hypocrisy, cronyism, and their special version of “family values.”

Here’s the story. Last year, Wisconsin Republican state Senator Randy Hopper left his wife to live with a young Republican political operative. Last month, as Governor Scott Walker unveiled legislation calling for deep cuts in state workers’ salaries and collective bargaining rights, Hopper’s mistress was hired by the state on the advice of Scott Walker’s cabinet as a “communications liaison.” Further, her salary is 35% higher than her predecessor’s.

Randy Hopper is now facing recall. At Daily Kos, by using something called Google Surge, we can make sure that when anyone in Hopper’s district goes online for almost an entire week they will see an ad about the scandal.

Hopper, like Republican Family Values Hall of Famer and 2012 favorite Newt Gingrich, traded his wife in for a newer model and gave her a cush job and a big raise. No doubt the cries of “smear campaign!” will be heard from coast to coast when that little morsel of information becomes better known but it’s going to be difficult to generate any sympathy among regular voters (as opposed to the online devoted) when the “smear” happens to be dead-on accurate.

My vision is strong.

Mar 25, 2011 in Politics

Yet I am wrong.

I haven’t lacked for the scalpel’s precision in my observations of the world, but I tend to hang back and be more measured in what I say. Why? Not because I lack conviction in what is right and wrong, but because I lack omniscience. In the end, even the greatest minds enter the realm of foolishness and folly, littering human history with the travesties visited upon it by the finest and foremost of thinkers. Very few of them escape the tendency to equate their military strength with their righteousness, after all.

We can be Knowledgeable with other men’s knowledge, but we cannot be wise with other men’s wisdom. ~Michel de Montaigne

Thus I understand that not only are there good people on the right, but there are people better than me on the right. Really nice people, generous people, good time at parties, nice neighbors, etc. etc. Smart ones, obviously rich ones, etc.

First of all, it’s beyond dispute that a philosophy of life cannot be justified merely by success. It’s nice when CEOs write memoirs about how they worked hard and rose to the top, but many reach the top by being vicious, ruthless, robotic, controlling, obsessive, rigid, unimaginative, dull, and so forth. And there is certainly no shortage of wealthy liberals who succeed in business practicing good principles and sound ethics. Terrible and stupid people can win, and good smart people can lose. Plus, skill at something that generates money doesn’t necessarily translate into good perspective.

This really is one of the core narratives that grips this country, one that conservatives love to perpetuate: Hey, those liberals sure are smart, but conservatives got that noble gut! It’s a theory that says it’s really not important to understand things like evolution, climate science, human sexuality, etc. What’s important is bashing and demonizing liberals to the point where you can say if they’re for it, you’re against it.”

“Hey, why are you dumping arsenic in the river?”
“Well, it pisses liberals off, so it must be good, right?”

The right has absorbed prosperity theology into their political platform. Prosperity theology means if you are rich, if you have succeeded in America, it is a sign of God’s blessing. If you haven’t succeeded, you are flawed, sinful, and lazy. You deserve no breaks. If you have succeeded, then you are validated as one of the good people, your indiscretions are understandable, and you are sympathetic to all. Thus the rich pay historically low taxes and balloon in size, while we’re very concerned about them lazy horrible teachers making $40K a year with benefits. One group has been waved through the gates, the other must sit outside and repentantly wait for crumbs.

But there is a lure to prosperity theology, and the GOP has become very good at convincing some of the people to keep themselves down, to just work harder and that all good things will come to them with due subservience. It appeals to those who have a good work ethic. It appeals to those who still want to believe that America will give you a fair shot. It appeals to those who have seen lazy co-workers bitch and moan all day instead of doing their best.

But it’s all illusion, and Governor Scott Walker has done a lot to dispel it for the 98% of us for whom the American Dream is ever receding. The gig is up. The message control is shaky. The truth is getting out. And the truth is this: Fuck you.

Fuck you, I need my bonus. Fuck you, I need my stocks to rise a few more points. Fuck you, I need my re-election coffers filled quickly. Fuck you, I’m sitting pretty and I can’t build a factory because there’s no demand, but I’ll blame it on Democrats anyway because they might raise my taxes. Fuck you, because it’s a game that I’m winning and you’re not, and I’m shooting for a high score. Fuck you, because if you’re not happy with what you got, then you’re an ungrateful pig because what you have is all you deserve.

At some point, the disrespect just can’t be ignored. After America just heard that we had to cut a deal on the Bush tax cuts to spare the rich, we’ve gotten an endless litany of how everybody else has to make do with less, less, less. Turns out, all that government spending runs into rather sensitive areas pretty quickly, no? And then suddenly, with working people agreeing to every number necessary to balance that budget, it’s not good enough. They had to go and place all their bets on total castration.

So despite all the best hopes and intentions among well-meaning Republicans that pushing for low taxes and deregulation will actually bring greater returns for ordinary people, the real “class warfare” has been exposed. It’s just over. If you aren’t in the top 2%, they’re not just not on your side, they’re actively coming after your ass. Their wealth has expanded so exponentially that they’re fully insulated, much like the nobles of yore, from the effects of a disintegrated society. Whatever gap yaws before you, they can cross, because they have enough money to cover the difference. I’m not always so sure the uber-wealthy are behind killing certain infrastructure projects like Christie’s New Jersey tunnel, but given the widespread permeation of their low-tax theology, it’s not much of a chore to do the commute in the back of a limo, is it?

I understand that there are limits to my knowledge, like any person should understand, but as John P. Ryan in The Outlaw Josey Wales said, don’t piss down my back and tell me it’s raining.

Enough is enough. Look for better Democrats, sure, but it’s time to quit pretending any Republican is going to solve the problem. They are the problem. May a spontaneous eruption of conscience, or even raw self-defense, sweep away the foolishness of 2010 and get this country back on track.

-hw