When The Election Is Over Can We Focus On The Continued Screwing Of The American Public?

by lizard

Well, foreclosures will be picking up again. Is anyone surprised? But don’t worry, BoA checked out their records, and everything is legit, so they’ll be booting 100,000 households to the streets. Hopefully none of these newly homeless folks will come to Missoula, where some in our community would prefer exterminating them like rodents and putting them in mass graves.

Dave Lindorff at Counterpunch gives me a little hope that maybe some baby boomers will be pissed off enough to start acting like frenchmen, or greeks.

Two issues are rushing to the fore that could have most Americans grabbing pitchforks, guns, shovels, bats, mop handles, and whatever else they have handy that could be useful in the streets.

The first is Social Security, and the angry mob is going to be the Baby Boom Generation whose members, myself included, have paid 13-15 percent of income into the Trust Fund now for over 40 years, expecting that at 66, we could retire and collect our pensions. Now the greedheads on Wall Street and their toadies in Washington are trying to say that we shouldn’t be able to count on that money. They want to make us wait until we’re 68, 69 or 70, and they don’t want to give us cost-of-living adjustments. They say that the money’s going to run out before we die (unless we oblige them and starve), even though the reason for that is that they’ve been stealing all that money and giving us Treasury Bills in return, which they now plan on refusing to honor, saying it would mean raising taxes on our kids. (Actually those T-Bills could be retired by taxing the rich, and leaving our kids alone.)

Anyhow, when we hit 66, let me tell you: if our money isn’t there, or if we get to 76 and they try to take it away (and right now I’m supposed to be able to count on collecting $22,000 a year when I retire), we’ll be ready to take out Washington and Wall Stree. And we could do it, too. Some in my generation, remember, spent a few years in Vietnam, and they got the skills. Me, I’d be willing to take lessons.

But that’s only part of it.

The other is the housing fiasco, and that’s an even bigger cause for rebellion.

See, that was our other bastion for retirement. All these years, Americans have been fed this comforting myth that our homes are our castles, and that the best investment we could make in life was to invest in the “American Dream” of home ownership. Then Wall Street, having already stripped the industrial base down to the concrete pads, looked around and saw this huge pile of real estate ripe for the taking. They couldn’t just steal our property outright, though. After all, we all had these deeds on file with the local county Deeds Office.

But we all had mortgages. And they figured out a way to steal these. They created derivatives, called Mortgage Backed Securities. They took our mortgages and they chopped them up into little pieces, which they then bundled into tranches and started trading like bonds. These tranches were designed to have varying risk levels, which they accomplished by putting “good” mortgages–those that were expected to be repaid regularly–with “bad” mortgages–those likely to default. But since it’s really a guess whether any particular mortgage, good or bad, is going to default, they didn’t really put individual mortgages into individual tranches. They put them all into an electronic data base called MERS, for Mortgage Electronic Registration (sic) System, and then shifted them, or pieces of them, around as needed when they wanted to create a good tranche or a bad tranche or a mediocre tranche.

This is where our national, bipartisan rage should be focused because these are the issues that will decide how impoverished the general population will become during the next ten years.

  1. kathleen

    I recall a line in a michael moore movie — I think the one on health care — that observes that in many other countries the government is afraid of the people and their power, but in the U.S.the people are afraid of the government’s power.

  2. Prediction is a fool’s paradise, but seems an easy profession when one talks about future behavior of Democrats. I believe that Social Security will be taken down, and will be replaced by shaky, underperforming and expensive private accounts that allow untold numbers of charlatans to pocket untold billions in commissions and fees.

    This is the preferred scenario for the power sector in our country, the banks and corporations and wealthy families that make their money by scamming ordinary people. But their power has always been offset, and Social Security has always been protected, by the strength and popularity of the program itself. Frontal assaults, as Reagan in 1981 and Bush in 2004, fail because people are prepared and organized quickly. Even Baucus sensed this in 2004, and rushed to defend the program.

    So the prediction is that Social Security will go down, and it will be the Democrats that take it down. The attack will succeed because it comes from the unexpected source. Nixon could go to China, LBJ could not.

    • Thank you lizard. We’ll never get anything done if all we do is pay attention to the event-du-jour.

      America is damaged, especially when it comes to housing. The expert consensus is that it will never recover – which means a generation.

      The banks tightening their hold on their money? A consequence of the meager reform we’ve gotten – but also a protest against the same. Those fat cats are used to fee wheeling manipulation and aren’t too pleased that now people are paying attention.

      I bet they get back to their greed once there are electeds there to look the other way.

    • The Polish Wolf

      I’ll call that prediction – what’s your time frame? I say Social Security holds. If anything, Medicare & Medicaid go down. I’d put money on it.

  3. Social security is able to work – there is some reform needed there..and no, they should not increase the age as a means. That kind of strategy is just plain lazy.

    We shouldn’t be giving social security to people who are using it as pocket money for cruises and travel to Europe. Soros…Murdock..Alan Simpson.

    And it’s ridic to be handing out cash to retirees that are in their 50’s and rolling large.

    • My problem with that scenario is that Social Security is – by definition – money that the individuals have paid into the system. It isn’t tax money – it is that person’s own money paid for retirement. In a way, it is no different than the IRA or retirement account you pay into at work.

      The problems with social security stem from how that money is handled by the Federal Government, not who it is being paid out to. If I pay in to SS and then the government mishandles the money so I don’t get payout when I have earned it, the Federal Government has screwed up. This is what people are up in arms about – the idea tha the money they have paid in won’t be there when it is time to cash out.

      • We agree.

        Let’s fix the management of it.

      • Social Security is used to fund war. That’s the truth. We need to make the money untouchable or our government will continue to use it in the killing of “brown” people.

      • A. This isn’t how SS works, has ever worked, or was ever intended to work. I can be upset that my dog is not a cat, but that’s not the fault of the dog, or the pound who gave it to me.

        B. No one has lost a dime of SS benefits. No one will lose a dime unless the people we elect decide to default. The public who is supposedly so upset about their benefits being at risk are on the verge of turning the people who defended the benefits out of office, in favor of the people who have made a generational issue out of cutting them. And have all but said they want default. I can cut my dog’s legs shorter, and clip it’s ears so they’re more catlike. I shouldn’t be surprised, though, that it doesn’t become a very good cat.

  4. The Trust Fund is not “money” any more than a mortgage is money. It is a collective promise by all taxpayers who borrowed money from a subset of taxpayers (wage earners) and repay it at a later date in the form of retirement annuities.

    The questions are 1) Is the Trust Fund real? Yes. It is a legally enforceable contract. 2) Do the assets exist that can honor the commitment? Yes. The American economy is robust and can easily afford to repay the funds.

    So it is a matter of honor. Like any contract, it is no better than the people behind it. We know that Republicans want to destroy Social Security. We also know that Democrats do not fight for us.

    I’d say that Social Security, a financially sound, popular and durable program is in deep trouble due to the quality of our elected representatives, and I hold Democrats mostly responsible. All they need do is stand up and fight. It’s an easily winnable battle.

  5. The Polish Wolf

    They already did under Bush. The TEA party won’t try social security again – they won’t get anything done without the senate, and I imagine dems are looking forward to being as obstructionist as possible, because apparently that’s how politics is done these days.

    But I must say, lizard, I don’t want us to be any more like the French or the Greeks. They are ruining their own countries with debt they refuse to repay. Call me an adherent to bourgeois values, but when you borrow money you ought to pay it back. The international lending apparatus merely helped Greece dig a hole they were all too willing to dig. The French refuse to retire at the same time as Germans, and at the same time they don’t have enough children to sustain their welfare system. The answer? Immigration, the laziest way possible. And so, refusing to structure their native-born society in a fiscally sustainable way (granted, same problem here), and refusing to adequately integrate the immigrants that their demographics necessitate (so far we’ve dodged this bullet, though Arizona is trying), both natives and immigrants resort to burning tires and perpetuating the problems of their society. We may have misguided rallies and Tea Parties, but at least the TP isn’t in the business of physically sabotaging our economy.

    If we should be imitating any Europeans, let it be the Germans. We should take care of our poor even as we champion a middle class work ethic; we should install programs that benefit said middle class; we should believe strongly enough in the value of society to pay what taxes are needed to invest in that society rather than indebting it, and lastly we should look out for our neighbors, especially our poorer ones, realizing that they are the future of our economy.

    • lizard19

      what i admire about the activity in the streets in France is the solidarity across demographic spread. and if you think the protests are just about the age of retirement going up two years, you would be wrong, because it’s not that simple.

      the austerity measures are being directly contested by the French populace because they understand the incrementalism of dismantling the social safety net. Europeans are in a similar predicament that we are: our elites are attacking the critical social contracts that previous generations fought and died for, while at the same time shoveling money into the financial system, with plenty left over for constant war.

      here, domestically, i believe it comes down to a simple choice: war and worsening domestic strife, or domestic investment and scaling back imperialism.

      the latter won’t be accomplished through hopeful participation in our current political system. it will only be accomplished through direct action that threatens the impunity of the corporate state.

    • JC

      “I imagine dems are looking forward to being as obstructionist as possible, because apparently that’s how politics is done these days.”

      Geez, how accomodating. If anything dems will continue on with the Obama lunacy of attempting bipartisanship: “NOw that the republicans have a stronger base and presence in Congress we will do our best to work with them in a new era of bipartisanship to move this country forward and meet the challenges of the day.”

      In other words (the words of Beanie Boy), we’ll ratchet another notch or two to the right, and stay there–just like every other time the republicans have picked up seats.

      As long as dems refuse to unite and kick the republicans when they’re down (like with the opportunity they had the last two years), the country will continue its inevitable slide towards t-party domination.

      As to your comments about Greece, blaming them for theirs woes stemming from the mess of the Eurozone and the move towards a unified currency is really disingenuous.

      Likewise Germany’s protectionist stance has allowed them to prosper at the cost of a greatly weakened Europe. If you are going to promote austerity, at least do it on the up and up and don’t do a comparative analysis with countries that have greatly dissimilar economies and problems than ours. You’re comparing rotten apple pie (america) with lemonade (germany) and a compost bin (greece).

      And Social Security privatization??? You don’t think President Palin with a republican majority in both houses of Congress would do that? I give that scenario a 50/50 chance of coming true in 2012.

      Get real.

      • Palin stands zero chance to be the next president. In every poll run on a possible matchup for the 2012 election, Palin has been (at best) third behind Romney and Huckabee.

        That said, there is a good chance that the next election will end with a Republican President unless something radically changes in the next two years. Further, I do not see the Dems as being anything but obstructionist if the Repubs win a majority. They are taking every other aspect of the Repub party on – Astroturfing, Hypocrisy, Corporate Stoogery. Why not obstructionism?

      • If the election of Obama merely carried forward with the Bush policies, does it really matter who gets elected to that office? Isn’t it all just for show?

      • The Polish Wolf

        Social Security will stay public unless Tea party Republicans get a two thirds majority in the senate – because Dems will filibuster and Americans will stand behind them.

        As to the welfare state – the welfare state does need some trimming in Europe. Greece and Portugal can complain about the common currency, but if you look at where they were before they joined the EU you’ll see that its brought them well ahead of where they were. Germany’s protectionism may hurt the rest of Europe, but the infrastructure subsidies and market access have transformed southern Europe. The problem is that they wanted to go from backwards to developed in a generation, and that costs money. Combine that with deeply seeded spending inconsistencies and you have a financial nightmare.

        Yes, I’m for austerity on the up and up. Somehow you have to pay that money back. We’re going to have to do it, too. But austerity only feels austere because people have gotten used to a standard of living that is financially untenable. You can’t retire at 60 with the age structure in Europe, you can’t sustain a Portuguese or Greek welfare state with their fundamental economic problems. These countries are all Republics – if they want to maintain their welfare states with higher taxes on the rich, or if they want to default on their debts (which, by the way, still means austerity, since these countries still have deficits and they won’t be able to get credit after a default), they can elect Royal next time, they can give Socrates a real majority, whatever. But destroying your country because you don’t want to wait for the next election is just foolish, and it is the basis for destabilizing your Democracy.

        • lizard19

          if you had a better idea of what the global financial system is doing to the majority of people on this earth, i would hope you would be less inclined to poo-poo the “welfare” state of european countries that are being forced to absorb the consequences of their financial elites.

          do you really believe the social safety net needs to be trimmed? how about our “defense” spending, think that needs to be trimmed? what about corporate welfare? think we should continue allowing our elected officials to socialize corporate risk so the general population gets fucked when the high rollers lose it all in their derivative casinos?

        • lizard19

          oh, and don’t worry about us emulating Germany, because we are. too bad it’s the Germany of the 30’s.

          • The Polish Wolf

            Oh I agree. I understand the global financial system pretty well. Here’s the thing – Portugal (I have more knowledge of that than Greece) went from a backward fascist ’empire’ to a modern welfare state in thirty years. That is only possible because of the EU and the global financial system. If they had tried to save and invest that much money after their revolution, it would have taken generations. Instead, it took one generation, but it was done with borrowed money. They improved their standard of living incredibly, but unsustainably.

            The welfare states of Europe are as unsustainable as our own imperial state. Their financial elites didn’t screw them, their parents did. They elected leaders who borrowed money, and that borrowed money didn’t have quite the return for which they hoped. Blame the global financial system if you want, but we are living beyond our means, and the Chinese are living well within them. The difference is, in the US we don’t spend money on public welfare, we spend money on our outrageous defense spending and inefficient taxation. Portugal, Spain and Greece spent the same amount of money on their social welfare. If we want to maintain our empire, and they want to maintain their welfare, it will require have to pay tax levels that reflect that spending.

            That’s how simple it is – in our case, our wasteful spending is defense and to some extent corporate welfare (though I would point out that the ‘bailout’ of the biggest banks actually made us money in many cases); their wasteful spending is inefficient welfare and tax structures. Austerity means cutting out that spending or raising taxes to reflect it. It will mean a lowered standard of living, and people will riot to avoid it. But like millions of Americans, Democratic nations need to realize that we have been living large on borrowed money, and that eventually our lifestyles will have to reflect our actual productivity. We aren’t seven times more productive than the Chinese, but we spend seven times as much. It’s unsustainable.

            Now, the solutions can take many forms. We can tax our wealthy more. We can’t pretend that this won’t hurt our economy. But it is probably better than raising middle class taxes. We can also cut military spending, which we probably should.

            Europe can cut welfare spending, or they can further raise taxes. They don’t have the same base of very wealth people to tax, nor do they have military spending near what it would take to defend themselves if it weren’t for the US, so it seems like they almost certainly will have to cut spending somewhere. This will be true no matter how much they riot.

            • This is the ongoing lament of the modern American right wing – that’s its policies, while currently disastrous, will ultimately succeed, while the polices of more progressive states, while currently successful, will ultimately fail.

              The American right wing thinks we should plan for the future based on that axiom. Seems a little nonsensical to me.

            • lizard19

              i appreciate the thoughtful response, but i still don’t think you’re taking into account the sheer ruthlessness of global finance. Klein’s Shock Doctrine and Perkin’s Confessions of an Economic Hitman are two good places to start.

              when you’re talking about debt, of course we’ve been living beyond our means, but that’s because wage compensation has stagnated for decades, and creditors have had a very lucrative time pushing credit on anyone with a pulse over the age of 18.

              globally the pirates of capital play games with entire countries. read Michael Hudson’s account of what happened to Iceland, or look into how currencies are manipulated to create crises that global financiers then swoop in to take advantage of.

              for third world countries, that has meant giant loans from institutions like the IMF, who then compel governments to privatize everything while slashing social benefits. now this is coming home to developed countries, and we’re going to get the same treatment.

              and yes, at some point when people in this country finally realize the scope of what is being done to us, there will be increased social unrest.

            • You explain private debt quite well, but public debt has other purposes: One, by running a continual General Fund deficit (Social Security is solvent), they can continually claim that we can’t afford popular programs. This had a lot to do with Bush’s tax cuts – he was presented with an (accidental) surplus and had to act quickly, and did, to make it a deficit again.

              The other part is Keynesian stimulus – they don’t call it that, but that’s what has been going on since the 1950’s, milder then and crazy and self-feeding now. They were always Keynesian, but chose military spending as the outlet to keep the economy humming. Even that effect is failing now.

              • The Polish Wolf

                I agree with Lizard that global finance is ruthless. I never read Perkins first book but I found his second illuminating. And yes, I also agree that our national deficit is an intentional creation – Gover Norquist has nearly admitted as much.

                Europe’s debt, however, was incurred pseudo-democratically, because the people of Europe wanted the same living standards as the people of the US, but without actually having that level of development. We all have to learn to live with less. In Europe, where military spending is much smaller than here, getting out of the red is going to mean more taxes or less social spending.

                Yes, the global financial system is callous and willing to ruin millions of lives to get their thirty pieces of silver, and, knowing that, states shouldn’t depend upon them. But that only adds to the urgency of drastically reducing deficit spending, because it is deficit spending that gives global finance that sort of power over Democratic states. If Democratic communities can’t show collective fiscal restraint, they aren’t going to riot their way out of their obligations.

            • JC

              “we are living beyond our means, and the Chinese are living well within them. “

              You realize you just made the argument against free market capitalism, in favor of a strong centrally planned economy?

              And that if we practice austerity in face of the growing chinese economy and military, that it won’t be long until we are totally at their mercy?

              And of course, all progressives demand that the military be cut, but who really believes it will happen as long as we are fighting a global war on terror, and are involved in two real wars, and a third war with Iran looms?

              America under an austerity regime will be relegated to a 2nd world emerging economy status, while china becomes the world leader economically. And we will face increased competition from them for scarce strategic resources, and 3rd world labor to exploit for corporate profits.

              America is headed in the wrong direction, and austerity will just hasten the demise of American exceptionalism.

              WHile I’m no fan of american hegemony and the notion of exceptionalism, I think that we have a uniques opportunity to remake this country into one that is more equal and just, and a better world citizen. But beating the economy while it is down by inflicting pain on the lower class only insures that radical fringe groups like the t-party will ascend to power, and they will be met with radical left wing groups to oppose them.

              I think I’ll call this the la la la la la theory of economic recovery. It’ll only work if people are docile, or if we get more authoritarian leadership, or if everything falls apart and we have a revolution.

              • The Polish Wolf

                JC – Yes, I am in favor of centrally planned economic investment. Like I have said before, I favored the stimulus and would favor additional stimulus. But I am in favor of offsetting them with more revenue and spending cuts in other places. The Chinese responsibly plan their economy by keeping spending under revenue, despite the fact that they do have high spending. Maybe the economy can’t afford immediate austerity measures. But if we continue to sit on this debt for too long, we won’t be able to choose when we implement them. It’ll happen when we have no choice. We do need to choose measures that don’t inflict excessive pain on the working classes.

                That’s actually relatively easy – due to the wealth disparities in this country, the only reasonable place to raise revenue is on the richest Americans who have seen their incomes skyrocket, not the majority who have seen their incomes stagnate.

                The alternative is to have a few more years of overspending before we are financially obligated to make the same economically painful cuts Greece is making now. And if THAT day comes with a Republican president & congress, you can bet we’ll see some economic injustice.

    • As I said, frontal attacks on Social Security have not worked. The deadly force is gong to come from the least expected quarter, the Democrats. Bush’s 2004 attempt was doomed to failure. Clinton, on the other hand, had a privatization plan in place and ready to go, only to be set back by the Monica scandal. It is our “friends” who mean to undo us.

  6. lizard19

    chris hedges: death of the liberal class

    • You ask a lot – 45 minutes of a person’s time. But that was scintillating. It is asking a lot of people, especially Democrats, to take time to watch this video, and most won’t. But those that do will either be deeply troubled afterwords, or sink deeper into unreality and ballot boxes.

      His most poignant message, to me, is that with the failure and collapse of the Democratic Party as a functioning outlet for discontent, with no other avenue available, what follows?

      • lizard19

        i hope folks take the time to watch the whole thing. not too many formerly mainstream figures get radicalized the way folks like Hedges and Paul Craig Roberts have. their insights on our general decline are critical to understanding why conventional approaches to instituting “change” won’t work.

      • But they only become radicals when they step out of the parade, and when they step out of the parade, they fade from view. This is why so many people, given the choice between “having influence” and saying things that are true, choose to go with the flow. I watched the video because I am a long-time admirer of Hedges. I’ll bet no one else did.

    • Well. Damn. If that doesn’t leave a pit in your stomach….

      I had to break it into two pieces.

      I would reiterate his call to act locally. Here at the state level there is much at stake. I hope people remember that.

      Corporatization of America is the problem, and Hedges goes through the history of that. The damage it’s done. Well worth the watch.

      I’ve been to Youngstown years ago when the city went bankrupt. Had a guy with a knife try and hijack the car. It’s a white man’s Pine Ridge. His use of the term “post-industrial” really drives the whole mess home.

  7. lizard19

    Polish Wolf said:

    Yes, the global financial system is callous and willing to ruin millions of lives to get their thirty pieces of silver, and, knowing that, states shouldn’t depend upon them. But that only adds to the urgency of drastically reducing deficit spending, because it is deficit spending that gives global finance that sort of power over Democratic states.

    states don’t have much of a choice when they rely on central banks to set monetary policy, and it’s central banks who have acted on behalf of the financial elite, and to the detriment of the people. domestically, the Fed as a private institution controls the printing press. and as citizens, we have absolutely no control over who presides over our economic future.

    personally, i think setting up a privately owned central bank, and bestowing it with the power of the presses, was one of the biggest mistakes this country has ever made.

    • The Polish Wolf

      How would your run monetary policy differently with a publicly held Fed? I think your idea is intriguing, but I don’t know what needs to be changed about our monetary policy. I do think we have to be careful about having a politically controlled monetary policy system, because our current deficit shows that our elected officials are not good at showing restraint in fiscal policy and I find it hard to imagine that they’d do better in monetary ones. And how besides an independent bank can you run monetary policy in the Eurozone, where numerous countries have a stake? I’m not attacking what you’ve said, because it may well have merit, but I’m unfamiliar with any better plans for how to run monetary policy.

      • JC

        You know, our fiscal policy has been very moderate. Actual stimulus spending has been less than 200b. most the rest of the stim package was tax cuts, and safety net spending that is mandated (medicaid, food stamps, unemployment).

        Our current deficit is the result of some major factors (bush tax cuts, 2 wars, medicare benefits), for sure. But mostly, our current deficit is the result of a tanked economy that has greatly reduced revenues. Not because of much that Obama has done.

        This is what bugs me about you austerians. You’re willing to inflict a bunch of pain in the mid term, in hopes that the long term outlook is good. Yet the unintended consequences could be 10-20 years of high unemployment.

        But the only thing that will really bring the budget back into balance is to grow the economy.

        What is more important to you austerians? Getting people to work in the short to mid term? Or bringing the deficit down in the mid-long term?

        The two goals are incompatible, unless you have a uniques economic theory you haven’t apprised us about.

        And if you really believe austerity is more important than keeping people working, what is your plan to handle the 10% and growing unemployment rate (and the much higher under employed, unemployable, and left the ranks of the employed rate–like 17%+). INquiring minds want to know.

        Or is being an austerian just the new fad among you blue dogs?

        • The Polish Wolf

          JC, you assume I’m out to attack the current deficit here in the US. I agree with projects like the stimulus plan because they do serve short-term needs and, when invested properly, can provide long-term infrastructure benefits. But the American electorate supported the Bush tax cuts & the Iraq war, and seems now to be opposing the stimulus plan. That’s what I mean by not trusting an elected body with monetary policy after seeing what they’ve done with fiscal policy.

          Second – my support for austerity was in the context of Europe. Nonetheless, in the US there are also easy ways to reduce our deficit so we can reduce our reliance on global financial markets and Chinese government bond purchases. We face a huge income gap that is sapping the vitality of the middle class. The answer is clearly to raise taxes on the wealthy, for whom the economy is fine, in order to spare the middle class, for whom the economy remains weak. That’s what Obama has proposed, and I would argue as far as using targeted estate taxes to raise revenue.

          As far as reducing spending, I think lizard rightly pointed out military spending, especially that which primarily serves to stimulate local economies rather than increase actual defense – projects like further F-22 purchases even when the pentagon said they didn’t need them. Unfortunately, few politicians are brave enough to actually propose cutting military spending. And that’s the base of the problem – our politicians will never tell us we have live on less. We’ve been focusing on the short term for decades, and we have to wake up eventually. The sooner we do the easy things – taxing the very wealthy, cutting wasteful defense spending – the less likely we are to have to take the hard steps like we’re seeing in Southern Europe.

          • JC

            The problem is, when you preach austerity, you are lumped into a basket with a whole lot of other arguments.

            You can pick and choose what you want, but I would not label allowing the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy to expire as an austerity measure. NOr is bringing the Iraq/Afghan wars to an end an austerity measure. Those simply return us to the status quo we had when Bush took office–which was a budget that was balanced, and an economy capable of paying of national debt.

            ButI havre to disagree that cutting the defense budget is “an easy thing.” I would like nothing more than for us to begin tearing down our hegemony, and getting out of all the countries and bases where we really don’t need to be.

            But tell me how you do that? It is anything but easy. That’s why the t-party and conservative go after entitlements and the welfare state. Because those really are easier battles than cutting defense.

            When’s the last time we’ve actually cut defense spending? And what did Clinton do? He reformed welfare at the behest of the republicans, because that’s all they’d let him do.

            When I, and most other progressives, hear the word “austerity” it reminds us of Japan’s “lost decade.” It is fraught with pain for the lower classes and the unemployed. It indicates that the government is more concerned about potential future problems, than with current ones. It inhibits our country from doing the investment we need in infrastructure, research and development needed to compete in a quickly maturing global economy. It puts us at greater risk for china to dominate us economically and militarily.

            Those that preach austerity need to come to the table with a well thought out, and comprehensive economic plan, or else they are nothing more than a tool of those that own the t-party.

            Again, rolling back the Bush tax cuts and ending the Iraq and Afghan wars is not austerity. It is returning to a healthy status quo that existed before the neocons and military industrial complex decided they needed to raid the public coffers before the dems got in control again–so that then they could preach austerity to wrap up the job of privatizing social security, rolling back entitlements, and downsizing government.

  8. The Polish Wolf

    Well then, if the definition of austerity is limited to cutting social spending, I suppose you’re right – opposition all around, at least in the US context. If we can get back to a Clinton era budget and maintain that, we’ll probably be alright as long as we use our periodic surpluses during good years to pay off the inevitable deficits we’ll incur in bad ones.

    In southern Europe, the situation is quite different. Their total debt is not proportionally higher in all cases, but they are bleeding money and their taxes are already quite high. There, austerity is the only way to make the situation financially stable – they are trying to consume more than they are producing.

    As to our military – we can maintain virtual hegemony with a much cheaper military – it just means accepting corrupt governments and civilian casualties. Look at Afghanistan – we could have toppled the Taliban with air power alone, but we would have had to accept that the country would remain in a truly devastating civil war (as opposed to the current situation, wherein Afghanistan is about as dangerous as a bad neighborhood in Brazil).

    We drove Serbia out of Kosovo with air power, we heavily impaired Saddam’s weapons program with air power (under Clinton). What we don’t need to maintain our empire is the ‘economic stimulus through military spending’ – maintaining a huge conventional and nuclear force capable of dealing with a myriad of threats that don’t exist. The Pentagon even knows it, which is why even they argue against programs that nonetheless get authorized because they are in sensitive congressional districts.

  1. 1 Madam President… « 4&20 blackbirds

    […] in a wide open republican primary, not everybody thinks the same. The CW goes like this, as Moorcat succinctly put it last week: Palin stands zero chance to be the next president. In every poll run on a possible matchup for the […]

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