Archive for January 21st, 2010

I have often promised that I wouldn’t ever turn my blog into a strictly political forum. I hate to sound shrill, even when I’m right. Among other things that I don’t do on this blog anymore are post my poetry, blast my home-made music, or post pictures of Dallas star Victoria Principal naked. Well, I would do the last one, but I don’t own the copyright.

And yet I must say that I feel a bit sad about what happened in Massachusetts last night. There are a lot of people who think that with the state’s election of Scott Brown, a conservative Republican now ironically representing the bluest of states in the U.S. Senate, the political center has turned against President Barack Obama, and my friends on the other side of the political divide insist that I have to take their grievances seriously.

I don’t. Much of what I hear about Barack Obama from his opponents after his first year in office is still bullshit. You may argue with some of his political miscalculations–such as his pursuit of universal health care in the middle of a recession. But that just leads to more questions I would ask of the inquisitors: When is a good time for health care? When is it a good time to raise taxes that are ridiculously and dangerously low, especially when taxes are not what got us into our current financial crisis but unfettered globalization? I am reminded of Bert and Ernie arguing on Sesame Street about when it’s a good time to fix a hole in the roof–you don’t want to when it’s raining out. But why it’s not raining, you no longer see the need.

At some point, somebody has to fix the hole.

Democrats seem to have this unwarranted reputation that they “tax and spend.” That argument is easily eclipsed by the more venial image forming of Republicans in the last 20 years–that they simply spend. No, not just spend. They borrow truckloads of other people’s money, mainly the money of the Chinese and Saudis, so that they can do their big, big spending. They easily outspent Democrats when their great heroes Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush were in office. A Democrat who taxes and spends ought to look pretty responsible by comparison. Taxing and spending allows you to balance the budget, as Bill Clinton did. Just spending allows you to run up monstrously high deficits, like Bush and Reagan did.

So what’s got me so steamed about the seemingly Blue State of Massachusetts suddenly turning red in an off-election year?

Let’s start with some insights from a biz conference today (I do write about finance, as some of you know):

A former president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, not exactly a bomb-throwing communist, said that the problem with populist outrage like the sort seen in Massachusetts last night is that it tends to discount all government activity, whether it’s useful or not, helpful or not, wasteful or not, necessary or not. Many of those “independent” voters of Massachusetts who voted for Republican Scott Brown likely do not make more than $200,000 a year and probably haven’t looked at the tax rebates and incentives they’re getting from the federal government this year. Instead, they’re listening to fire-breathing demagogues and end-of-the-world types. Exit polls found that voters were simply unhappy with everybody in Congress and so they masochistically took it out on themselves and voted for somebody whom they disagree with on most issues. Cutting off your nose to spite your face much?

Then we get to the elephant in the room, and in this case, it’s a raging male elephant suffering from a case of musth:

Unemployment is at 10% and is probably going to stay high. This is not a result of George Bush’s or Barack Obama’s stimulus packages in the last 13 months. If these two had not responsibly come to the rescue of the economy, most economists would agree that unemployment would probably be a lot higher, since, after all, our financial system would have collapsed. Twenty percent unemployment? Thirty? Fifty? How ambitious are the Tea Party Republicans feeling? My friend Gene used to wear an anarchy jacket, and I wonder if he would like to hand it over to the real anarchists of today: Dick Armey, Grover Norquist and Glenn Beck.

Our recession, in terms of business productivity, is over, something Obama didn’t talk about enough with the good people of the Bay State. But globalization is amplifying the unemployment problem: When the labor comes back on line, this time it’s going to go to China and India, where it’s cheaper. U.S. wages for low-skill labor are going to drop in this environment (they are already) and they’re not coming back up. Meanwhile, capital is flowing back to the U.S. in the form of reserve currency, causing interest rates to dip and asset bubbles to form. The only thing that’s really going to help American employment in this global economy is to boost exports. Which ironically means we need foreigners to buy our stuff and our services. In other words, we need the Chinese to turn into Americans.

All of this has nothing to do with the health care bill or taxes or Obama. It has to do with free enterprise, which I thought we had all signed on for (most of us). Any Reagan Republican who tells you otherwise is giving you a reach-around.

The idea that Obama exacerbated unemployment (not globalization) or that somehow it’s high taxes that have hobbled the American economy (not globalization) is so laughable on its face that it sends you into a kind of denial about people and what they will believe. I say this because we’re in an age of total government irresponsibility brought on not just by too much spending but too much borrowing. Taxes right now are irresponsibly low and have been since Bush II and maybe even Reagan, the first and best Republican liar on the subject. You can’t start a $2 trillion war without raising taxes. That’s a fact any economist (or historian) worth his or her salt will tell you. Maybe the health care bill was ill-timed, but since people had the political will to start a war with money they didn’t have, Obama gambled that they would also pay for universal health care–something the majority of Americans have INDISPUTABLY wanted for years. I still have a hard time sympathizing with the widespread antipathy to the current health legislation since its opponents lied about it constantly in a highly flashy campaign sponsored by the insurance industry and voters ate up the misinformation like it was all-you-can-eat night at Mr. Spriggs.

So to recap: Obama was slimed by the people of Massachusetts for letting the free markets be free on one hand (not creating government jobs himself) and then for being too interventionist on the other (stopping a catastrophe with bailouts). Yes, the voters were mad. If you mean crazy, I agree.

One of my friends said today that we Democrats are obviously in denial today. I’m not in denial about Massachusetts. We’ve seen bullies and liars get their way a lot in the past 10 years simply by bullying and lying. When so many so-called centrists get rope-a-doped into a bullshit argument because of a timorous inability to fight off these bullies, you can only weep.

So that is all. Tomorrow expect poetry, and perhaps some of my rockin’ music.

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