Friday, June 15, 2012

Libertarian Paradise


With even Scott Walker distancing himself from Romney's extreme anti-public employee pronouncements, several Romney surrogates have doubled down on plutocracy's nominee's insistence that America needs fewer teachers, firemen and policemen-- especially fewer teachers. Monday night on CNN Gingrich admitted Republicans have every intention of getting rid of more teachers, just the way states where Republican governors and legislatures have taken control have been doing. "We have to come to grips with how big the challenge is, and does that mean there will be fewer teachers? The honest answer is yes. Does it mean that you’re not going to get quite the same pension plan people have been getting? The honest answer is yes. President Obama may say well, we can borrow our way out of that decision. I don’t think the American people agree with him."

I wish everyone was reading along with me as I plow through Stephen Goldstein's wonderful new book, Atlas Drugged, which envisions what a society based on Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged and Paul Ryan's Republican budget that flowed straight out of its childish ideas would really be like. But I want to pull a few lines from another book I'm currently finishing up, The Fifteen Biggest Lies About The Economy by Joshua Holland. Holland is in the midst of showing how completely undertaxed wealthy Americans are when he also calls up a vision of what a right-wing utopia would look like in America:
Closer to home, the economic crisis, which eviscerated state and local budgets, is giving us a pretty clear vision of what conservatives’ limited-government, low-tax utopia really looks like when put into practice. Consider just a few anecdotes.

Joining Arizona in eliminating health insurance for the poor was Tennessee, which cut 100,000 people from its Medicaid rolls, including 8,000 children. One of those people was Jessica Pipkin, who lost the use of her arms and legs in a car accident in 2005. Pipkin requires round-the-clock care-- at $37 per hour-- but was told that she would lose her benefits because she and her husband earn too much to qualify. Are they rich? Well, her husband makes $19,000 as a satellite television repairman, and Pipkin receives another $14,000 in Social Security benefits.

In Minnesota, Governor Tim Pawlenty, a possible contender for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, submitted a budget that slashed funds from student aid, financial assistance to counties and municipalities, a job program for the blind and the mentally ill, low-income housing programs, mass transit in the Twin Cities, and a state program that helps insure people with costly preexisting medical conditions. It was approved by a Democratically controlled legislature; lawmakers justified their budget by pointing out that they’d rejected Pawlenty’s proposals for deeper, more painful cuts.

Clayton County, Georgia, a mostly African American suburb of Atlanta, eliminated its bus service into the city, leaving tens of thousands of Georgia’s working poor without a way of getting to their jobs. “I don’t know what I’m going to do,” a fifty-seven-year-old worker told the Los Angeles Times. “So many people here, they’re going to be sure enough messed up. We need this bus bad.” As of this writing, Oregon, Florida, New Jersey, and Maryland were also looking at deep cuts to public transportation systems to make up budget shortfalls.

Perhaps the most striking vision of the libertarian utopia comes from Ashtabula County, Ohio. It reduced the number of sheriff’s deputies patrolling the 720-square-mile county from 112 to 49 and cut the number of prisoners in detention from 140 to 30. More than 700 people were put “on a waiting list to serve time in the jail,” including, according to Sheriff Billy Johnson, some violent offenders. When a county judge was asked what citizens should do to protect their families “with the severe cutback in law enforcement,” he responded, “Arm themselves... Be very careful, be vigilant, get in touch with your neighbors, because we’re going to have to look after each other.” A gun instructor told the local news station he agreed with the sentiment. “You don’t have any other option,” he said. “We don’t have the law enforcement out here to handle it right now.”

You'll find the dramatized version of his scenario in Stephen Goldstein's picture of a dystopian, Randian New York City, a dark, brutish world which will be inevitable if Romney and Republicans like him take control of the U.S. and go forward with their plans for privatizing everything. and Republicans like him include former McCain campaign economic advisor Kevin Hassett, the director of economic-policy studies at the right-wing, corporately-funded American Enterprise Institute. In a Bloomberg column back in 2010 he explained the Republican Party framing of why we have a problem with unemployment. He says his opinions are only his own but, in fact, they are standard GOP positions, held by Paul Ryan, Mitt Romeny, John Boehner, Eric Cantor and the rest of the destructo crew. He asserts that "the biggest problem with the labor market right now is that wages are too high." Forget about a living wage and consumers being able to spend money-- out-of-touch Washington Republicans are certain the plebes make too much money already-- not the billionaires, the average American worker. In fact, his column is an attack on minimum wage laws.
Economics teaches that full employment would be reached if wages adjust downward, to a level that better reflects current circumstances. At lower wages, employers would desire more workers. Labor markets generate persistent unemployment only if wages are sticky, failing to fall as demand declines.

A number of reasons help explain why wages don’t and won’t drop, beginning with federal and state minimum-wage laws
Second, because union contracts generally cover multiple years, adjusting wages in response to economic circumstances would require a return to the bargaining table, which rarely happens.

Third, the natural reluctance of workers to accept lower pay is amplified by how their wage helps define their identity. A $60,000-a-year office worker might have an extra-hard time coming to terms with becoming a $40,000-a-year worker.

Really? How about a hereditary billionaire coming to terms with having his head chopped off?

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