Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Follw the money

Since polls show that the #1 concern of many if not most voters is the economy, it is worth taking a little time to look at where we are and how we got here. Since Shrub just announced his latest practical joke, which he calls a budget, quite a few publications have weighed in on the topic.

The Washington Post titles their article "Budget Mess", and sub-titles it President Bush's last spending plan only adds to a disastrous fiscal legacy. So no comment needed there.

Another "no comment needed" title is the Huffington Post's "Read it and Weep: Bush's Last Budget" article. Or, from the same source, "Three Ugly Little Truths About The Federal Budget".

At The American Prospect, Robert Reich--who knows somewhat on this topic--titles his remarks "Financing the Common Good", with the sub-title After three decades of government starvation of necessary resources, the next president needs to champion progressive taxation with the proceeds invested in social outlays that make for a more productive economy. That one looks past the Bush debacle to what urgently needs to happen in the next administration. It is perhaps the most important of all.

And while we're following money, cast a side glance at the news that "For Japan, a Long, Slow Slide" is what is happening. Japan, remember? The boom economy that was going to rule the world? It's not really important except as an indicator of how much trust to put in the financial pundits and prognosticators and their "expertise".

There are many subtleties and complexities about economics and economic analysis, and some of them get into higher mathematics. But the long-cherished idea that economics is as abstruse as quantum mechanics is a fraud perpetrated on the public by politicians, who don't want anyone looking at that man behind the curtain, and abetted by economists themsleves, who revel in being seen as priestly keepers of profoundly occult knowledge.

In reality, if you have a good grasp of the law of supply and demand (which, in fairness, many people who think they do in fact do not), you can usually see through most economic questions. There is, for example, no mysterious magic called up from another dimension that allows anyone, or any entity, to go on spending more than they're earning without an eventual smash-up. A household or a nation can safely and healthily have a sizeable debt so long as that debt can comfortably be serviced; that's the basis of buying a house or funding governmental services. You can borrow all you like, provided you have the income to pay the principal-and-interest costs on your debt without squeezing your other everyday expenditures too hard.

What the modern Republican party has done, and quite deliberately, is to run up ever-huger debts, in the hope of--as they put it--"starving the beast", meaning running the debt-service payments ever higher so that ever less of governmental income is available for other things, like oversight of plundering corporations, or even the major and critical services that the Republican governing powers would love to see back in the oh-so-generous hands of private industy (starting with killing Medicare, the Social Security, then unemployment insurance, and so on down the line).

Do you really suppose the arguments about "socialized medicine" have anything to do with the quality and quantity of medical care the average person would receive? As opposed to the profits to be made by medi-busiess, the pharma companies and ever-more-privatized hospitals and HMOs? If so, bless me, the child is simple.

Meanwhile, on another money-related topic, we find that "Republicans Block Stimulus Bill". This is an ugly, purely political ploy, playing football with the urgent needs of the American people. As the AP article says,
Senate Republicans blocked a bid by Democrats to add $44 billion in help for the elderly, disabled veterans, the unemployed and businesses to the House-passed economic aid package.

GOP senators banded together Wednesday to thwart the $205 billion plan, leaving Democrats with a difficult choice either to quickly accept a House bill they have said is inadequate or risk being blamed for delaying a measure designed as a swift shot in the arm for the lagging economy.
That is, the Republicans are perfectly happy with $161 billion in aid, but another $44 billion for the neediest of all in our society--"the elderly, disabled veterans, the unemployed"--is just more than their icy hearts can bear.

But best of all, and so indicative of the lily-livered Democrats on the Senate side, is leaving Democrats . . . to . . . risk being blamed for delaying [the] measure . . . Got it? The Republicans block the measure but the Democrats are supposed to be blamed for any consequent delay. That is so precious it ought to be sewn on a sampler and hung on the living-room wall.

But it's what the Republicans have been doing with everything on the Senate side, even--perhaps especially--after their rout in the 2006 elections: tell the Democrats to do whatever President Cheney Bush wants, and nothing he doesn't, or else be labelled as the obstructionists. And Senator Broken Reid, the mis-labelled majority "leader", has fallen all over himself rushing to kiss Republican ass on each and every one of those filthy measures.

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