Sunday, April 29, 2012

Radical Insights (Just Common Sense Really, Folks) From Your Hometown Buds

I was so taken with the response from those very thoughtful readers at Paul Krugman's site to his essay on the long-hoped-for death of the confidence fairy that I thought I'd share some of the best ones with you.

The New York Times only allows 10 free articles a month now, so here's number 11 for you.

Tim Kane
    • Mesa, Arizona

    It's the Golden Rule, Plutocracy style: "He who has the gold makes the rules."

    Expansionary policies would benefit everybody. What's the problem with that? Well, they benefit everybody.

    The economic elites don't want to do anything to help the working class in their own societies, American elites especially, unless they find they suddenly need them to fight in an existential war - heck they sent millions of jobs to COMMUNIST Chinese dictatorship for the very purpose of beating up on the working class. Once you get your head around that fact, the confidence fairy telling make sense. Wealthy capitalist would rather help Chinese Communist rather than help America's working class. Sigh, if this were only the 1930s and real monster's loomed, well scratch that, but you get the idea.

    In the 50s many capitalist were grateful to working class stiffs for fighting WWII, and thought might need them again if the cold war went hot. Once the Berlin Wall collapsed, so did Republican respect for our social contract.

    We are living in a new medieval age: complete with Confidence Fairies, Voodoo, Vampire and zombie economic policies. We can't afford to fix our infrastructure, educate our youth, we even have to rely on the Russians to get into space, we can't do anything, because it might get in the way of tax cuts for the rich.

    Stimulus policies are called for: tax the rich NOW to pay for it. They'll make on the come when demand lifts all boats, including the value of their stock shares
    • Winning Progressive
    • Chicago, IL

    Reality may have struck a serious blow to the austerity peddlers in Europe. Unfortunately, here in the US, reality has a much harder time gaining traction.

    For example, the presumptive Republican Presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, has signed onto the cruel austerity budget promoted by GOP Rep. Paul Ryan. This budget would abolish Medicare and shred Medicaid and the rest of the social safety net, all to pay for $4.6 trillion in tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and to keep military spending unnecessarily high. While the proposal is sold as a deficit reduction plan, it does not actually reduce the deficit unless you assume that trillions of dollars of unidentified tax loopholes will magically be closed.

    For three years now, Republicans have tried to sell the country on austerity budgeting and confidence fairies even as the experience in Europe shows that such policy is an utter failure. The only way for reality to break through here in the US is for voters in November to overwhelmingly reject the austerity for everyone but the wealthy that the GOP is peddling.
    Karen Garcia
    • New Paltz, NY

    Even Paul Ryan had to publicly dump his literary free market heart-throb (Ayn Rand) this week when protesters at Georgetown University accused him of being a heartless austerian, because of his reverse Robin Hood agenda.

    Reading about the uproar in Europe has been a vicarious pleasure. The fact that whole governments can collapse over this stuff gives me cause for hope -- hope that citizen revolts such as Occupy will strike fear and good sense into our own elite political class.

    But old habits die hard, and the plutocrats are as tenacious as pitbulls when it comes to holding on to the 93% share of the national growth they've managed to seize since the 2008 meltdown. The One Percenters are structured to clamp down hard, and never let go until their victims are sucked dry and become limp as rag dolls. So it will take some intense obedience training in the form of regulations and higher taxes to whip them into shape. As beloved Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner put in Portland this week, the wheels of justice turn slowly and you can't legislate away greed and stupidity. (He is another closet austerian, despite trying to talk the populist talk these days).

    Spanish political scientist José Ignacio Torreblanca writes that harsh economic policies just serve to ensure that life will be Hobbesian: poor, nasty, brutish and short. It is time, he says, to call "Basta! to the nonsense of austerity!"

    Is that a campaign slogan, or what?

    • Mark Thomason
    • Clawson, MI
    NYT Pick

    You write, "Suddenly, everyone is admitting that austerity isn’t working. The question now is what they’re going to do about it. And the answer, I fear, is: not much."

    You are probably right about that. However, the practical policy actions supporting austerity were never really all in and wholehearted. It was always half baked austerity. Maybe they had doubts, but maybe that was never their real reason anyway.

    Perhaps what they say about policy does not matter, they do not value what you do. Policy is austerity works or policy is austerity does not work, and the actions are the same. That is because the policies are the excuses for the actions they desire, not the reasons for the actions.

    They are doing what they want to do, because that is what they want to do: lower taxes on themselves and their supporters; reduce regulations limiting themselves and their supporters; cut benefits to those who are not their supporters. Their real reasons, their actual policy, is just selfishness. Austerity was the excuse for what they wanted to do. Realization the theory is bogus won't change anything, because it was not the actual reason for doing anything.

    That also explains why the realization won't produce meaningful action, just as you say.
    • Steve Heitmann
    • Portland, OR
    Not until the herd of Paranoid Lemmings goes over that cliff. Because Lemmings are mindlessly repetitive, the Confidence Fairy will die. But not yet.


    Right-wing Republicans are unrelenting devotees of Milton Friedman's economic theories--deregulation, reduced corporate taxes, and reduced taxes for those with the top 1% income. These theories are de facto failures in practice, responsible for the Great Recession, the $1.5 Trillion annual deficit, prolonged high unemployment, the bank bailouts, and so on.

    Not convincing enough. So, David Stockman weighed in—a Republican, a former Milton Friedman devotee, and, under Reagan, the architect of one of the biggest tax cuts in U.S. history. He acknowledged the Confidence Fairy is a failure. Then Alan Greenspan, a Friedman devotee, acknowledged that he was mistaken about the Confidence Fairy.

    Regardless, Lemmings repeat the same mindless act, so the right-wing Republicans continue to promote the Confidence Fairy. They believe they will be saved moments before they all go over that cliff. And they’ll all be re-elected to control the House, Senate, and the Supreme Court, too... and will live happily ever after with the 0.1%.

    The Confidence Fairy will go over that cliff by the force of the Lemming herd. But putting the Fairy out of its misery will require the greatest force a Republic can wield: responsible and well-informed voters.

    Vote right-wing Republicans out of political existence.
  2. Jumper
    • South Carolina
    In FDR's first term, one Republican crossed the line, helped him and encouraged others to help him. Regardless of the economics, FDR was doing things that put money in people's pockets, and gave people a sense of hope that someone understood and cared. This is not mere recitation of readings. With a passionate desire to know, I spent more than a decade traveling this nation and interviewing those who were adults and young adults during the Great Depression. In FDR's first mid-term elections, the Democrats won an overwhelming majority.

    The Republicans this time around were not about to repeat what they felt was a mistake. NO Republican voted to aid the American people by supporting a piece of Obama legislation. Their leader in the Senate proclaimed their goal was to make the President a one term President. They pursued this regardless of the harsh consequences to the struggling and anxious population.

    Now it's coming back to bite them. They middle class has seen the Tea Party/ Republicans in action and are asking, "Why weren't you helping us?"

    The pathetic Republican response is, "We were saving your and the future generation."

    Regardless of facts, their goal is to regain power for the benefit of the wealthy elite. Thte middle class be ... umm, well you know.

    I know this nation. We're so much better than this. Time to defeat a large bunch of either deluded or ignorant Republicans.

    • David
    • TX
    To truly dispel the myth of the "confidence fairy" and austerity, what Prof. Krugman needs to be more explicit about is the actual accounting of the proposed austerity measures discussed here in the US, and what they signify in human terms. And what do such ideas/policies truly mean for today? For example, if Rep. Ryan and company get what they want - cuts in social welfare (so-called "entitlement") programs like Social Security and Medicare - what will be the result?

    Rep. Ryan & Co. claim they will be putting money back into the hands of working Americans and the result will be economic expansion via free enterprise. But how is this possible?

    Social Security cuts might put a few hundred extra dollars in my own pocket each year, but they will take several hundred dollars a MONTH from my 78-year-old mother-in-law. What will she do to for food? Or electricity as the summer heat approaches? If they cut Medicare and Medicaid, how can she afford a doctor?

    My personal gain - a few hundred $ a year - cannot equal what she will lose month after month. Can I help her? I would like to, but the money isn't there, and the Ryan plan isn't going to benefit me enough in annual savings to offset my mother-in-law's monthly losses.

    The great Republican lie is that cuts unleash the forces of the free market and will be for the better as a result. But how many free market entities send $900 checks to old ladies each month just because its the moral thing to do?

    • MS
    • NY
    What disgusts me most about the austerians is that those least (not at all) responsible for economic disaster are expected to carry the entire financial burden of the collapse while the engineers and enablers of this fiasco, all of them elites, are enriched and empowered. Conservatives are all singing this same tune, be they European or American.

    I watched Paul Ryan's speech at Georgetown today. He basically defended his budget as being one good Christians and Catholics could embrace even though it cuts 62% of funding for programs that benefit the middle class and poor like Pell Grants, Medicaid, Food Stamps, etc.

    It was bizarre to watch him so confidently and happily describe his plan as fair and just and especially helpful to the poor whom he would completely impoverish if his plan is enacted. It occurred to me that this man who the great majority of the news media characterizes as brave, truthful, even heroic is crazier than Newt Gingrich or any other wingnut that comes to mind. As I recall, Newt's initial reaction to the Ryan Plan was to define it as "radical social engineering", a major political gaffe (when a politician tells the truth) that almost drummed him out of the Republican Party.

    • Malcolm
    • NYC
    For the Republicans, austerity is austerity focused on the poor, and to a lesser extent on the middle class. There is no austerity plan for the wealthiest in our society. On the contrary, we must protect these 'job creators'. And yet the people who have wrecked our economy, and sent much of the world in recession, come from that wealthiest segment of society. The attempt to fool us into buying this nonsense is breathtaking in its audacity, and in November will be an IQ test for the American people.

    • OscarJones
    • Australia
    Contrast these 'austerity' measures with then prime minister Kevin Rudd in Australia who went on a spending spree when the great crash began in 2008.

    His stimulus package that included payments to social security recipients like pensioners, unemployed, etc., and massive building subsidies for schools saved hundreds of thousands of jobs and importantly created an atmosphere of success and a positive outlook. And which country is currently going gangbusters-Australia.

    • David Underwood
    • Citrus Heights

    WE have historical examples to show how the economy behaves under austerity measures and when the government spends to keep it going.

    We have been regaled with how the U.S. is the land of opportunity, and true it was. But most of the immigrants in the 1800s came to work where government spending had created those opportunities. It was easier to start a business and to buy land of course. But that land was available because of the Louisiana purchase. Access to that land was made easier by the building of the transcontinental railroads which were financed by the government. The steel industry grew to be the worlds largest due to the needs of the railroads, which were instrumental in the growth of the large cities. Chicago was the railroad hub for instance. Cattle and grains from the west, coal and iron ore from Minnesota and Pennsylvania all contributed to the economic power of the U.S.

    But we have seen what happens when industry does not conserve. They use up their resources and then complain about regulations. We have seen that the great depression ended with the full employment act of WWII. It was government investment in the space programs that gave us the computer and micro electronics industries. Even the aircraft industry got its start from government funding.

    The conservatives are locked into the Austrian school of economic ideology. it has been tried previously and it did not work then, and as we can see in Europe, it is not working now.

    • Jer.Lew
    • Buffalo
    Many many excellent comments here to read. The problem that the US faces is that ideology trumps fact here in the United States. This is what happens when you dumb down education, I spent almost 4 weeks in high school studying the Great Depression. Our grandparents and parents were invited into the class to tell their stories. Living history. My son covered the same topic in one 40 minute class.

    • Getzville, NY
    I think the world has gone insane. One definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result. Austerity didn't work in 1931. It didn't work in 1936. It didn't work in Ireland in 2010 and 2011. It's not working in the UK. Yet there are continued calls for austerity as pundits and talking heads stick to their ideological guns. And now we have Ryan's budget. Oh by the way, Chrysler has posted its highest profits in thirteen years. GM is growing. Oh, yes, but Keynesian economics is dead so says the right.

    • Richard
    • Bay Area, CA
    "Austerity" and budget cutting to restore the vigor of the economy are often false faces of the right-wing's real motive: to diminish government. They would like to do away with all social services because they don't believe these are a legitimate function of government. Do away with social security (let the elderly starve and huddle together to keep warm in vacant doorways). Get rid of Medicare (who cares if thousands die ?). Government safety inspections ? Just a costly nuisance. The right-wing thinks the only legitimate function of government is defense.

    I've heard dozens of conservatives rail against social security, but I've never met a one who failed to cash a social security check !

    • Ann
    • Berkeley
    The reign of terror will not end I think. Far be it from most politicians to ever ever admit he or she was wrong.

    Evidence? What is that? Statistical information? Why anyone can lie with statistics; everyone knows that.

    No, the only thing that will cause change is throwing the bums out. And not elect them and their clones back.

    Back here in the US in campaign mode now, we will all hear of the confidence fairy, the bond vigilantes, the debt is too high, a country's budget is like a family's and we will be turning into Greece any moment now ad nauseam.
    • Steve Heitmann
    • Portland, OR
    Such irony! Ayn Rand’s early life was forged in the caldron of severe hardship, and Paul Ryan, indeed, right-wing Republicans in general, could care less about such people.

    Even more ironic that Ryan considers Rand to be his raison d’etre for entering public service. Rand’s Objectivism is the antithesis of public service—the penultimate in selfishness, it’s about serving only oneself. Sound familiar?

    The purpose of public service is to serve the public within our system of government by helping and improving people’s lives—it’s not to change the system altogether to something completely different, like Objectivism or Plutarchy. Ryan and right-wing Republicans in general have missed the entire point of being a public servant under the aegis of the U.S. Constitution and Democratic Republic.

    While we can't legislate away greed and stupidity, we can vote it out of office. The sooner we vote Ryan, in fact all right-wing Republicans, out of office, the better for us all and our Republic.

    Get ready for Occupy, 2012. That’s how We The People will effect change when Congress is too dysfunctional to do its job
    • walterrhett
    • Charleston, SC
    Earlier this week, Sweden's pony tailed finance minster Anders Borg set with officials from Mexico, India, and IMF president Christine Legarde and in an interview with Charlie Rose trimmed away all focus on growth and jobs to fully support the "structural" adjustments of austerity led by Germany. For him, fiscal plans for lowered government spending, reduced debt and deregulation lay the basis for "sustainable" economic growth. Austerity creates the "credibility" "to get growth back," he stated

    His absolutist views align with Germany, France's far right and US Republicans. He labeled stimulus policies the cause of Britain's second depression and the US' meager recovery. He offered no evidence, data, or principles other than a one-cause-fits-all ideological narrative that blamed governments and stimulus for problems clearly created by hosts of issues, including the private sector (Spain, the US!).

    Ms. Lagarde pointed to "slow, protracted growth, high unemployment" as urgent sticky points that need immediate attention as they threaten the recovery and can not be overcome by structural changes (budget cuts) that don't address the lack of demand.

    But for Borg and the Minister from Mexico (and US Republicans!) the fiscal side is the only reality. The human side, esp. jobs and the elusive demand, are “adjustments,” painful but necessary. Fiscal policy increases business profits as it decouples growth, jobs, demand, and social resources.

    The zombies are alive and well.

    • r5169
    • Midwestern U.S.A.
    All depends on your own thinking, I guess. What you consider "facts" I consider "ifs." Was the government spending beyond its means? Not if you consider it was mostly being spent on ourselves and things that would make our own lot as a country better. Were we better off with defined-benefit pensions instead of 401ks, which were never designed to be a primary form of financing a retirement but were originally only intended to supplement retirements? I think so. Were we better off when so many folks were not under employed, and in fact was putting more money into the system because they made more money? I think so. Just how many government workers were non-essential? That's a political football; the right has absolutely savaged anyone who works for the government. You seem to think that all government spending is wasteful; I don't. I like the a lot of the safeguards that our government provides. Could government be run more openly, when we know of abuses in the system? Sure. No doubt we could do better. But I also believe that this is endemic to capitalism as a whole, and the government, rather than being the cause of so many problems you describe, is in fact just symptomatic of the corporatism that our capitalistic system has devolved into. If you want to clean up problems in the government, start by revisiting the power of the corporation in our society, and the money and resulting sway organizations like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have over the government.

    • FPC
    • Seville
    Ok granted that something must be done about the deficit and the debt. Granted that some services need to be cut. So, the middle class, the people on Medicaid, the retired people on Medicare, the children on school lunches, preventive medicine for women, people on unemployment compensation all must contribute to the effort. The question is: are the wealthy going to contribute anything to this enterprise? Or should we give them still another tax cut in the hope that they won't open another business in China. invest it in derivatives or stash it in the Bahamas.

They're pretty good aren't they? Wish they all lived in my neighborhood.

Now, to get organized!

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