Tuesday, February 05, 2013

The Party Of Stoopid Wants To Destroy Your Life-- Or Let The Financial Predators Who Underwrite Them Destroy Your Life


If the Republicans really cared about not being the stupid party any longer-- instead just fighting among themselves about who's stupider, Bobby Jindal or Donald Trump (an obvious draw)-- they would spend less time being brainwashed by Fox and more time reading Nobel laureates like Paul Krugman. Trump on Fox and Friends yesterday: "He was stupid for using that term. Because that term is so obnoxious, and so good for the other side, he should not have used that term. That term is going to be living now for a long time, and they're going to have his face on television using it." And Trump's. But what do you expect of a party financed by multimillionaires and billionaires like Sheldon Adelson and Foster Friess, stupid enough to run ads against Hagel impersonating disgruntled gay Democrats.

Krugman, meanwhile, is trying to get their attention and let them know that no countries-- none-- which have adopted Paul Ryan-like Austerity plans have succeeded. In fact, every country which did has sunk deeper into an economic, fiscal and social morass. Is that was the GOP wants? Sure; nothing works for the political right like adversity, victimology and an opportunity to blame compromising Democrats (like New Dems, Blue Dogs and Obama) for problems they cause themselves. So Krugman was lamenting how conservatives in the West-- Ryan here, Osborne in Britain, Merkel in Germany's southern European protectorates, Greece, Italy and Spain-- "somehow decided en masse that unemployment was no longer a crucial concern, and that reducing budget deficits should be the overriding priority." Everyone who's read more than one or two Krugman columns in the past couple of years, knows how wrong that is. Yesterday he was laughing at the conservatives for their desperate efforts to unearth a country where the Austerity Agenda has worked.
The search began with a passionate fling between the austerians and the Republic of Ireland, which turned to harsh spending cuts soon after its real estate bubble burst, and which for a while was held up as the ultimate exemplar of economic virtue. Ireland, said Jean-Claude Trichet of the European Central Bank, was the role model for all of Europe’s debtor nations. American conservatives went even further. For example, Alan Reynolds, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, declared that Ireland’s policies showed the way forward for the United States, too.

Mr. Trichet’s encomium was delivered in March 2010; at the time Ireland’s unemployment rate was 13.3 percent. Since then, every uptick in the Irish economy has been hailed as proof that the nation is recovering-- but as of last month the unemployment rate was 14.6 percent, only slightly down from the peak it reached early last year.

After Ireland came Britain, where the Tory-led government-- to the sound of hosannas from many pundits-- turned to austerity in mid-2010, influenced in part by its belief that Irish policies were a smashing success. Unlike Ireland, Britain had no particular need to adopt austerity: like every other advanced country that issues debt in its own currency, it was and still is able to borrow at historically low interest rates. Nonetheless, the government of Prime Minister David Cameron insisted both that a harsh fiscal squeeze was necessary to appease creditors and that it would actually boost the economy by inspiring confidence.

What actually happened was an economic stall. Before the turn to austerity, Britain was recovering more or less in tandem with the United States. Since then, the U.S. economy has continued to grow, although more slowly than we’d like-- but Britain’s economy has been dead in the water.

At this point, you might have expected austerity advocates to consider the possibility that there was something wrong with their analysis and policy prescriptions. But no. They went looking for new heroes and found them in the small Baltic nations, Latvia in particular, a nation that looms amazingly large in the austerian imagination.

At one level this is kind of funny: austerity policies have been applied all across Europe, yet the best example of success the austerians can come up with is a nation with fewer inhabitants than, say, Brooklyn. Still, the International Monetary Fund recently issued two new reports on the Latvian economy, and they really help put this story into perspective.

To be fair to the Latvians, they do have something to be proud of. After experiencing a Great-Depression-level slump, their economy has experienced two years of solid growth and falling unemployment. Despite that growth, however, they have only regained part of the lost ground in terms of either output or employment-- and the unemployment rate is still 14 percent. If this is the austerians’ idea of an economic miracle, they truly are the children of a lesser god.

Oh, and if we’re going to invoke the experience of small nations as evidence about what economic policies work, let’s not forget the true economic miracle that is Iceland-- a nation that was at ground zero of the financial crisis, but which, thanks to its embrace of unorthodox policies, has almost fully recovered.

So what do we learn from the rather pathetic search for austerity success stories? We learn that the doctrine that has dominated elite economic discourse for the past three years is wrong on all fronts. Not only have we been ruled by fear of nonexistent threats, we’ve been promised rewards that haven’t arrived and never will. It’s time to put the deficit obsession aside and get back to dealing with the real problem-- namely, unacceptably high unemployment.
Gauis Publius goes back to James Galbraith to explain what's behind all this Ryan-Osborne-Merkel crap: the predatory state, "a state that enables and is controlled by economic predators, extremely wealthy vampires who feed on their fellow citizens."
That the looming debt and deficit crisis is fake is something that, by now, even the most dim member of Congress must know. The combination of hysterical rhetoric, small armies of lobbyists and pundits, and the proliferation of billionaire-backed front groups with names like the “Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget” is not a novelty in Washington. It happens whenever Big Money wants something badly enough.

Big Money has been gunning for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid for decades-- since the beginning of Social Security in 1935. The motives are partly financial: As one scholar once put it to me, the payroll tax is the “Mississippi of cash flows.” Anything that diverts part of it into private funds and insurance premiums is a meal ticket for the elite of the predator state.
It's certainly given a dim-wit former aerobics instructor, GOP Budget chairman, a pathway to fame, fortune and celebrity. Pretty shocking that the party of Hatred, Bigotry, Greed and Selfishness have so little of substance to lay claim to that the entire mass of them desperate embraced Ryan's childish Ayn Rand-inspired notions which are now, thanks to Hate Talk Radio and Fox, Republican Party dogma-- Republican Party dogma that corporate-oriented Democrats are all too eager to "compromise" with and adopt.

Today, the other kind of Democrat-- 10 of the smartest, most fearless and most dedicated progressives in Congress, Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Keith Ellison (D-MN), Ed Markey (D-MA), Judy Chu (D-CA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Jim McDermott (D-WA), John Conyers (D-MI), Jerry Nadler (D-NY), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Yvette Clarke (D-NY)-- proposed The Balancing Act a plan to repeal sequester while achieving balance in long-term deficit reduction between revenue and cuts while investing in job creation-- and paying for the whole thing with savings from balancing defense and non-defense cuts. It's a serious answr to Ryan's unserious demand for failed European-style Austerity.


 Round 1: $1.7 trillion in cuts
 Round 2: $737 billion in revenue
 Round 3: The Balancing Act

 * Achieves 1:1 Revenue and Cuts-- by replacing srquester ($948 billion) with revenue
         * Achieves 1:1 Defense and Non-Defense Cuts- by eliminating $278 billion in wasteful         Pentagon spending and investing it in job creation
         * Job investment provisions would create over 1 million jobs

 Long-term deficit reduction from the three rounds of over $3.3 trillion


 28 percent limitation on certain deductions and exclusions ($428 billion)
 Close carried interest loophole ($17 billion)
 Close loopholes for jets and yachts ($4 billion)
 Close international tax system loopholes ($161 billion)
 End fossil fuel subsidies ($94 billion)
 Close exclusion of foreign-earned income loophole ($71 billion)
 Close corporate deduction for stock options loophole ($25 billion)
 Close Estate Tax loopholes ($23 billion)
 Close S Corporation loophole ($13 billion)
 Reduce corporate meal and entertainment deduction to 25% ($70 billion)


 Making Work Pay extension for one year ($61 billion)
 Support for teachers and school modernization ($55 billion)
 Transportation infrastructure investments ($160 billion)


 Rep. Markey's Smarter Approach to Nuclear Expenditures ($106 billion)
 Limiting excessive contractor compensation ($50 billion)
 Relocate troops from Europe to the U.S. ($3 billion)
 Reduce troops levels 4% by attrition ($48 billion)
 Limiting the purchase of Virginia-class nuclear subs to one per year ($22 billion)
 Replacing F-35s with F-18s ($23 billion)
 Eliminate one Ford-class carrier ($14 billion)
 End production of the V-22 Osprey ($9 billion)
 Limit military bands ($2 billion)
 Reduce General and Flag officers to Cold War standard ($1 billion)

Finally, a serious response to Paul Ryan's very unserious Austerity Agenda. I only have two quibbles. Can we just reduce military bands by $1.5 billion and... well if we reduce corporate meal and entertainment deductions to 25% does that mean there will be no more strip joints and high-priced hookers? And what happens to Spago, Alain Ducasse, Alinea, Joe's Stone Crab and Katsu Ya?

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At 11:22 AM, Blogger John said...

As long as the health of the economy is assessed mainly by "growth," and the definition of said "growth" has nothing to do with employment, then those who control the economy will continue to gorge on the carcasses of abused workers, whose legitimate interest in our economy has been systematically diminished for decades and now is rapidly approaching zero.

Further, given the absence of the words "economy," "economics" and "economic system" in the constitution, the economic system that has evolved, to the increasing detriment of the many, needs to be critically examined in light of the basic constitutional, national mandate/mission of "the general welfare."

John Puma

At 12:36 PM, Blogger Suzan said...

I'm with John.

If we don't take this moment of extreme nefarious lying as the perfect impetus to rethink our government's approach to employment and "national health," we have missed the gold ring and will continue our slide to economic oblivion.


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