Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Do Conservatives Like Ken Buck Want To Destroy America? Who Knows, But The Sick Policies They Espouse Will Do Just That


After Amato bet me that Obama would fire McCrystal-- I took the position Obama didn't have the intestinal stamina to do it-- I'm a little wary of these pool sharks taking advantage of me. So when one of my friends wanted to bet that he could name someone running for the Senate even more bizarre, extreme and perhaps even more psychotic than Sharron Angle or even Rand Paul, I hesitated. A case could certainly be made about that creepy bribery and coercion guy in Wisconsin. And Vitter's up for re-election. Of course, there's the former Wall Street derivatives trader, Pat Toomey, who's stark raving mad, and that pasty, pudgy guy who hasn't been able to stop eating cane-glazed pork chops with apple chutney since being caught embezzling Republican Party funds with his magic credit card. But then I remembered-- just in time... Ken Buck, the nutroots candidate, straight from Teabaggerville in Colorado.

What I remembered about Buck, another fringy DeMint candidate, wasn't just the ordinary far right claptrap he's been screeching about getting rid of Social Security and ending the whole separation of church and state thing. (These super Constitutionalists actually hate everything about the Constitution except the their interpretation of the Second Amendment.) It's his despicable comments about student loans and the mindset behind that.

Yammering on to a bunch of selfish wingnuts about the evils of Social Security, he recited usually carefully disguised GOP dogma: “I don’t know whether it’s constitutional or not; it is certainly a horrible policy. The idea that the federal government should be running health care or retirement or any of those programs is fundamentally against what I believe. And that is that the private sector runs programs like that far better.” And he threw in government backed student loans in to boot, adding, "over time, we have to wean the American public off those." Like Rand Paul and Sharron Angle, he would like to abolish the Department of Education (but then so would the Republican Party hack he's running against in the primary, Jane Norton).

I want to say something about these Republican greed-mongers, many of whom-- like both Buck and Norton-- have been sucking at the government teat all their lives. Basically they're nihilists and law-of-the jungle, anti-social suck-ups to the ruling elite. Before I retired I was paying nearly a million dollars a year in taxes. I didn't love writing those big checks but I love my country and when you pay that kind of money in taxes, it means you're doing pretty damn well. America did a great deal for me and I was proud I could give back. I couldn't have gone to college at all if not for the state university system-- opposed by conservatives, as too costly from the day they were proposed-- and I still wouldn't have been able to go without grants and loans. And then there was a time in my life when I couldn't quite make the ends meet and I don't know what would have happened to me with food stamps. I don't quite know what the government investment in me was. But I bet it worked out really well, considering I started a business, employed people, paid taxes and eventually generated many millions of dollars in income for American companies. And my taxes in any single month more than paid back the year of food stamps. And the student loans Buck and shortsighted conservatives like him want to do away with! What a bleak vision for our country these blinkered, greed-obsessed conservatives have!

Sunday you may have read Paul Krugman's harrowing column, The Third Depression, something the economics Nobel laureate thinks is descending on us because of a repeat of adopting as policy the same kind of conservative ideology that have caused past depressions.
Neither the Long Depression of the 19th century nor the Great Depression of the 20th was an era of nonstop decline-- on the contrary, both included periods when the economy grew. But these episodes of improvement were never enough to undo the damage from the initial slump, and were followed by relapses.

We are now, I fear, in the early stages of a third depression. It will probably look more like the Long Depression than the much more severe Great Depression. But the cost-- to the world economy and, above all, to the millions of lives blighted by the absence of jobs-- will nonetheless be immense.

And this third depression will be primarily a failure of policy. Around the world-- most recently at last weekend’s deeply discouraging G-20 meeting-- governments are obsessing about inflation when the real threat is deflation, preaching the need for belt-tightening when the real problem is inadequate spending.

In 2008 and 2009, it seemed as if we might have learned from history. Unlike their predecessors, who raised interest rates in the face of financial crisis, the current leaders of the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank slashed rates and moved to support credit markets. Unlike governments of the past, which tried to balance budgets in the face of a plunging economy, today’s governments allowed deficits to rise. And better policies helped the world avoid complete collapse: the recession brought on by the financial crisis arguably ended last summer.

But future historians will tell us that this wasn’t the end of the third depression, just as the business upturn that began in 1933 wasn’t the end of the Great Depression. After all, unemployment-- especially long-term unemployment-- remains at levels that would have been considered catastrophic not long ago, and shows no sign of coming down rapidly. And both the United States and Europe are well on their way toward Japan-style deflationary traps.

In the face of this grim picture, you might have expected policy makers to realize that they haven’t yet done enough to promote recovery. But no: over the last few months there has been a stunning resurgence of hard-money and balanced-budget orthodoxy.

And his conclusion as to why the ruling elites are headed down this road again? Even more chilling: "the victory of an orthodoxy that has little to do with rational analysis, whose main tenet is that imposing suffering on other people is how you show leadership in tough times. And who will pay the price for this triumph of orthodoxy? The answer is, tens of millions of unemployed workers, many of whom will go jobless for years, and some of whom will never work again." If you're a regular DWT reader you're certainly aware that we don't want to single out Ken Buck-- or even a raving sociopath like Sharron Angle-- as if the real toxicity were coming from anyplace else other than the very nature of conservatism itself. And since the fish rots from the head, let's take a look at the most recent random sociopathic utterances of the little orange man who would be Speaker, John Boehner. There's a wealth of information about the conservative mindset in those videos but the two most astonishing takeaways is that Boehner thinks she should cut back on Social Security-- in fact, keep Americans from retiring until they're 70 so that we can afford to pay for the foolish wars the ruling elites want to fight-- and that Financial Regulation is an overreaction, like killing an ant with a nuclear weapon.

The actual Speaker didn't seem especially amused by Boehner's boneheaded remarks. "An ant, Mr. Boehner? It was the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression-- Americans lost 8 million jobs and $17 trillion in retirement savings and net worth. The irresponsible fiscal policies of George W. Bush and Congressional Republicans were much bigger than an ant to American workers, their families and small businesses."

Justin Coussoule is the Democrat running for the seat Boehner is occupying. Earlier today he told us that this kind of shameless grandstanding is par for the course for Boehner. "While protecting bankers and careless polluters he blocks desperate unemployed workers from receiving essential compensation and now suggests that to pay for corporate giveaways and endless war that we balance the books by doing a bait and switch on Social Security recipients. Once again Boehner defends the powerful and tells the most needy in our society that it is time for them to suffer so that his benefactors can continue to wade in shallow water while those who have suffered from his trickle on economics gasp and drown in the deep and treacherous economic waters." Contributing to Coussoule's campaign seems like an exceptionally good idea-- unless you approve of Boehnerism.

Meanwhile, my friend Jill Richardson, author of Recipe For America: Why Our Food System Is Broken And What We Can Do To Fix It, put a very human face on this looming macro-economic crisis, asking a simple question about how, as a society, we treat our own children: Tate Tots Aren't Vegetables: Why Do We Feed Our Kids Crap?
Those who say the deficit must be addressed now via PAYGO ignore the basic principles of Keynesian economics. John Maynard Keynes, the economist most credited with bringing the U.S. out of the Great Depression, encouraged increased government spending-- even deficit spending-- during economic downturns. Recall that GDP is calculated as consumer spending plus investment by businesses plus government spending plus net exports. When consumers and businesses tighten their belts and spend less, the government can increase spending to jumpstart the economy once again. That was the very idea behind last year's stimulus package, which provided for targeted spending on infrastructure, food stamps and other programs that would most create jobs and result in immediate spending to help the economy recover.

Keynes knew that in a downturn, people are earning less so they also pay less in taxes. Simultaneously, more people qualify for entitlements (like food stamps or Medicaid), pushing up government spending. An austerity budget to fix the deficit now will prevent the government from spending what is necessary to bring back our economy. Once the economy recovers, the opposite will be true, and we will be more able to fix the deficit then.

In the specific case of school lunches, an austerity budget (and unhealthy food) now will result in massive increases in spending in the future when a generation of children raised on unhealthy food becomes a generation of unhealthy adults with costly, chronic illnesses. Some say they don't want to pass the deficit onto their children. But what child, when they are diagnosed with diabetes at age 25, would say "Thank you for balancing the budget by saving money on my school meals"?

I don't mean to single out John Boehner but his scary little world, is the conservative mind:

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At 2:16 PM, Anonymous me said...

"I took the position Obama didn't have the intestinal stamina to do it"

He doesn't. But what he does do is whatever a consensus of advisers tells him to do, and that's what he did this time.

At 5:33 AM, Anonymous Mark Scarbrough said...

Wow. That Coussele quote about the shallow/deep water is terrific. Eloquent and spot-on. I'm not sure I've ever seen anyone running for office put it like that. And I felt a little gust of hope when I read it. I think you're dead right: they're nihilists, masquerading as Christians. But if you think about it, suffering is a core Christian "virtue"--so it makes sense you can peddle this stuff in America. Pain is ostensibly some sort of soul cleanser--at least for all us normal people, not for the above-morality plutocrats who continue to have a high time in their golden showers.


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