Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Re: "Focusing on wrong issues" Letter 14 May 2012

The writer sets out a number of propositions, that:

  • the $15 trillion debt,
  • the $1.5 trillion annual deficit,
  • the high unemployment rate,
  • a failed strategy in the Middle East,
  • and 50 percent of the population paying no federal income tax in an ever-expanding entitlement society.

are all very serious problems that need to be tackled and all of which are far more timely and urgent than marriage equality between gays and straights. I wrote about this letter to the Inky on the subject of whether or not marriage equality was a meaningful issue (I think it is), but the above is an interesting list. The first two items on the list, debt and deficit, cannot be pursued at the same time that the third item, unemployment, is pursued. The President and the Republican Congress spent all of 2010 and the first half of 2011 trying to lower the deficit and at the same time, promised that they were pursuing job growth. They couldn't do both and a quick look at employment growth for the last several years shows some progress in climbing out of the hole of the Great Recession, but very slow progress. The red line going upwards doesn't look anything like a strong, healthy financial recovery. In fact, at precisely the time when job growth should have been really taking off in response to the policies that the President and Congress were pursuing, job growth abruptly slowed down instead. This was a complete surprise to those who had put their faith in the "Comfidence Fairy," but not all surprising to liberal Keynesians. An economist explains on The Real News what the agenda of the pro-austerity crowd is. It's nothing that regular citizens should support and there's a reason that Europeans are opposed to it. Back in 1999, anti-globalists spoke of the "race to the bottom," and that seems to be precisely what's going on.

Not sure how Obama's strategy in the Middle East is a failure. Certainly he's doing no worse than the last president did.

And no, first off, entitlements are not "ever-expanding," the number of people on food stamps has grown tremendously, but that's entirely because of the Great Recession. Why are so many people still on food stamps, years after the crash? Well, if Obama and the Republicans had not "pivoted" towards deficit reduction and away from getting Americans back to work, there wouldn't be as many people on food stamps. There would be more Americans paying taxes because there more of our citizens would have well or at least decently-paying jobs.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Paul vs Paul - Krugman vs Ron Paul

Bloomberg News presents a 20-minute debate between Rep. Ron Paul and Professor Paul Krugman.

From Raw Story:

Paul made his case for Austrian economics, arguing for a limited government that keeps its hands off the economy. In contrast, Krugman made the case for Keynesian economics, arguing that a completely unmanaged economy would inevitably lead to a volatile boom and bust cycle.

After watching the video, I appreciated a very good question that the hosts asked of both participants: "Which is worse, big government debt or high unemployment?" Krugman I believe, answers the question correctly, and says that high unemployment is much worse.

I disagree with Paul's answer that government debt is worse because he's prioritizing an abstract problem above one that causes very real pain to real people in real time. The example I've often used is Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. How could people tell there was a problem? Well, because their streets were underwater! How can people tell that debt is a problem? Only because pundits and experts tell them it's a problem.

There's no way for an average citizen to even tell whether the government's in debt or not. In fact, a local right-winger recently claimed in a comments section that government debt has gotten worse under President Obama. Has it? Actually no, it hasn't. The US debt load is actually smaller than it was three years ago. Why is the right-winger able to claim the opposite with a straight face? Because it's an abstract problem that doesn't directly affect anyone.

Nah, I agree with Krugman, Paul wants to go back 150 years to the Gilded Age. Problem is, there's a reason that the Gilded Age ended and the Progressive Era began.