Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Corporate State...

Shorter Health Care Industry: While we strongly support free market laws requiring you to buy our product, we stand united against any socialist law requiring us to actually pay claims or people who need medical care.


The lottery, the economy, and politics...

I'd like to propose the theory that the reason why people continue to support politicians, positions, and economic policy that either is not in their best interest or that actively harms them.

People are succumbing to a lottery mentality.

I think most people take it for granted that they will never win the lottery. At least not the big, life-changing multi-million dollar jackpot. Sure, you may pick up $2.00 here and there (after spending 50), but for the most part, as with all gambling, you expect to lose because the odds are against you. And, in the case of the lottery, they're astronomically against you.

And yet, millions of people still fork over money to the state every week which could be going to servicing their debt, putting food (or better food) on the table, saved for a family treat or vacation, etc.

Why is that?

Because they just might win.

I think this carries over into politics a lot more than we think in America. Which is why you have millions od middle class people actively supporting policies which blatantly favor large corporations and the upper class often at their expense.

Make no mistake, I think there are other factors. Frankly, most of us have far better things to do with our lives than pay attention to all of the goings on in Washington and our state capitals. Also, I'm sure the lack of aggressive journalists in America help this, as more often than not, policies are reduced to conflicting talking points that obfuscate the matter more than clarify it.

And, of course, there's the standard human distorted perspective, whereby when I (the collective I) take government money, it's because I'm a hard working, salt o' the earth, middle class American who is just down on his luck, while when my neighbor takes the money, he's a lazy jerk living off of the system.

But I think in spite of all of that, most of us have have been consistently fed the image of the American dream whereby one can rise above their circumstances and become enormously wealthy, despite the unlikelihood of that happening for 99.99999% of us.

So we continue to demand that government not tax the rich at levels that were perfectly acceptable 10 years ago and are far more reasonable than the rates America held for most of the late 20th century, and instead demand cuts in services which are aimed at the middle and lower classes.

We're willing to sacrifice infrastructure, parks, education, health care, our promised retirement benefits, our safety net benefits, and police and fire services to save the upper class a few hundred thousand more dollars a year on their tax bill, because while we're not rich now and won't enjoy the benefit, one day we just might be and would hate to pay for it ourselves.

And that is the lottery mentality.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Another pet peeve...

Let's be honest, shall we? America is not going to become a socialist state, neither will it become a theocratic state.

The entire system of American government is set up to avoid extremes and ensure that any change which occurs is glacially slow. We also have an entrenched system of corporate and political interests that have accumulated a great deal of power and wealth from the current system, and I find it highly doubtful that they would allow an extreme government to come in which leaned to the left or to the right.

If anything, I our government continuing to become more like China's: a corporate friendly authoritarian security state which generally leaves its citizens alone, as long as they shut up and don't trouble.

New Baby

Forgot to mention here that one of the reasons I left a month between posts is that my wife and I recently had our second child, a beautiful baby girl.

Between work, home, and a long commute, it's been difficult to keep up with writing both for pleasure and online.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Pet peeve

Look, no one is particularly happy about paying taxes, the deficit, the national debt, and the government, but contrary to the rhetoric, the government didn't get so big by handing out wads of cash to poor people to buy steaks. It got big because people wanted the services, programs, and goods that it provided to them.

So, I would like to propose a formal rule for all pollsters and journalists out there. The next time you decide to ask someone if they think government is too big or spends too much (or the next time some voter or politician says one of those two lines on camera), you are immediately required to follow up with the following question:

"Great, you want to cut government, which of the following services/departments would you like to cut?"

a. Social Security
b. Medicare
c. Defense spending
d. Homeland Security
e. Drug law enforcement
f. Farm subsidies
g. Education
h. Law enforcement
i. Food and Drug Administration
j. Infrastructure
k. All of the above
l. None of the above.

Make sure they know what percentage each of these accounts for in the Federal budget. And call them on non-answers.

I'm tired of the rhetoric. Put your cuts where your mouth is and be honest. Let's see if most of America really wants to get down to the business of sacrificing and making cuts to achieve a balanced budget or get rid of some tax cuts to keep what they have now.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Fear and loathing

I can't exactly disagree with Eugene Robinson.

I remember the conservative movement and the Republican party being a lot more hopeful and confident in America 30 years ago back when the Gipper was elected president and it was 'Morning in America'. There was a renewed hope and faith in the American dream and the knowledge that we could and would win the Cold War. Back then, it was mainly the left who was playing up the fear factor and trying to scare people of the 'aggressive' president and the Armageddon that might surely follow if he won another term.

These days, it seems that both parties have embraced fear and are choosing to wallow in it.

The right seems to be in a constant fear of the Other (fill in the blank), an ever shifting group of nefarious individuals who are so close to overthrowing America and our way of life that if they (fill in the blank), it's all over and we might as well lay down and die.

The left establishment seems to be very afraid of, well, itself and the American people. While I find many personal examples of articulate liberals who are willing to argue and debate their ideas and show some sort of backbone, their leaders seem to be completely unable or unwilling to do the same in the public sphere, which leads me to assume that they are either secretly ashamed of their own ideas, or afraid of rejection by the public.

And sadly, America is worse off for it.

It's worse...

From Bloomberg,

Sales of U.S. previously owned homes plunged 27 percent in July, twice as much as forecast, evidence foreclosures and limited job growth are depressing the market.
Purchases plummeted to a 3.83 million annual pace, the lowest in a decade of record keeping and worse than the most pessimistic forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News, figures from the National Association of Realtors showed today in Washington. Demand for single-family houses dropped to a 15- year low and the number of homes on the market swelled.

I'd like to see some redeeming signs in the economy, but I don't.

Thinking about the easy credit pitches (and fallen for them myself) in the years before the housing market collapse, where you were told by the 'smart' people to pull equity out of your home to fuel consumer spending because prices would only continue to rise, it would seem that this news makes a consumer driven recovery unlikely, as fewer consumers will be able (or willing) to continue to buy unnecessary items, resulting in a prolonged reduction in demand. Which has led to a reduction in income for business, which leads to layoffs and higher unemployment, which leads to further reductions in demand, etc., etc., etc., until the market stabilizes itself perhaps years down the road.

Now, if you're more of the libertarian philosophy, you're probably willing to accept this as part of the natural market cycle, suck up the hangover pain, and eventually things will right themselves. It's a position I'm sympathetic to, because market intervention can be costly in terms of money and opportunity, and government action generally adds inefficiencies to a market which can have negative externalities.

But I'm also sympathetic to the more liberal position, where we need to back strong government intervention on the demand side of the economy to spur consumer spending, increase demand, and tax breaks and incentives for small businesses to hire new employees. And given that this hangover will have real harmful effects on businesses and families, and acute suffering, I'm more inclined to support economists like Paul Krugman who are advocating a larger stimulus package.