I Talk Back to the Wingnut Pundits

George Will writes:

The president, convinced that the only thing America has to fear is an insufficiency of fear, has warned that “disaster” and “catastrophe” are the certain alternatives to swift passage of the stimulus legislation. One marvels at his certitude more than one envies his custody of this adventure.

I talk back:

There is no insufficiency of fear, George. For example, right now I am afraid that I will be evicted from my apartment because I can’t pay the rent. There are millions of other Americans in situations similar to mine. For them and for me, economic relief measures cannot come swiftly enough. For you, the words “disaster” and “catastrophe” must be placed inside scare quotes. They are abstract concepts in your world of wealth and privilege. Indeed, I marvel at your lack of certitude that the consequences of delaying passage of the stimulus legislation would be disastrous and catastrophic even more than I envy the financial security that allows you to see the hell in which I live as an adventure — without scare quotes. Without scare quotes, George. Isn’t that interesting?

Jennifer Rubin writes:

This is an odd way indeed to combat a recession. Usually, the president and treasury secretary in an economic crisis try to project calm, certainty, and a sense of command. The Obama administration approach is something new indeed. Perhaps it is some Zen-like exercise to “be the panic; own the fear!” Whatever they are doing they should knock it off. They’re going to scare the living daylights out of markets, consumers, and businesses.

Jen, I hate to be the one to break this to you (actually, no I don’t), but it’s too late to be worrying about scaring the living daylights out of markets, consumers, and businesses (well, except for Wall Street, of course, which is living high on the hog off of the taxes of Americans who are losing their jobs by the hundreds of thousands every month). Those of us who have used up our Unemployment, who are trying to survive on food stamps and meager cash assistance payments, who are looking for work or have given up looking for work or can’t work, who have no family or friends in a position to help, who spend our days in food pantries and welfare offices where hundreds of people stand on line already at 8 in the morning, with hundreds more inside where it’s standing room only waiting endless hours to see your caseworker only to be told you cannot be helped because you’re missing a piece of paper you were never told to bring, or because you’re only one month behind on the rent and you have to have been served with eviction papers before you can be helped, are well and truly scared shitless already and have been living along a continuum ranging from stomach-knotting anxiety to full-blown panic for so long you don’t remember what it felt like to exist any other way.

Stop bitching and count your blessings, Jennifer. Fall down on your knees and thank God that you have no clue what I’m talking about.

16 Responses to “I Talk Back to the Wingnut Pundits”

  1. radical_Moderate says:

    I hear you kathy. Think of their perspective: the thing that they hold dear, the sort of unfettered Free Market Capitalism that has allowed their ilk to prosper beyond most people’s wildest dreams has been proven to be an untenable system driven by greed and deception, granted it took nearly 30 years to fall apart (aided by the continual deregulation since the Reagan era), but fall apart it has, and now the true believers are left to defend the indefensible. The wing-nuts are still crying “socialism” vis a vis the stimulus on various forums, but let us see them lose their jobs and their homes and still refuse help from the Government (I suspect that they won’t.) It is the nature of some humans to blame others for misfortune as if this will somehow protect THEM from the same; it is the randomness of some aspects of life that scare them, and such people must assign blame or face their own fear. I understand, I really do, but I am also a realist, and as a long time observer of humanity, I also realize that there are some things in life that are out of individual control, and that is why I support the Government’s intervention especially in a crisis such as we are experiencing at the present. In fact, I think that we are just at the tip of the ice-berg, and most people are simply living in a bubble (some prefer to smoke the Rush pipe rather than face reality)….certainly Mr Will and Ms Rubin are living in well padded bubbles.

  2. rawdawg says:

    fre market capitalism (supply and demand) is over

  3. Chief says:

    rawdawg,

    No, no. Only “unfettered” free market capitalism is over. Some sensible regulations, like re-instituting the Glas-Steagall Act would be a good place to begin.

  4. gcotharn says:

    @radical_moderate

    Is free market capitalism about “[allowing] their ilk to prosper”? Or, is it about the most effective, most productive, and therefore most compassionate, use of time and resources?

    Is cyclical recession about free markets falling apart? Or, is it about the truth that human actors in the market do not act with perfect rationality?

    Is this specific recession about lack of regulation of private enterprise? Or, is it about GOVERNMENT ineptly interfering in markets (especially the mortgage market) while simultaneously refusing to regulate ITSELF (i.e. refusing to regulate quasi GOVERNMENTAL enterprises of Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac)?

    You say persons of the right, as a group, are characterized by blaming their own personal misfortunes on others? You are projecting your own attitude upon others, and are blind to what you are doing.

    You say persons on the right – who are moderately to largely characterized by religious faith that a Supernatural Being is in charge – are largely motivated by their fear of the randomness of some aspects of life? This, again, is projection of your own fears and personality traits to a hilarious extent.

    Re government as solution: consider whether government might actually be the problem, and might actually slow the economic recovery, to the detriment of those who are suffering. Consider whether government action might actually be the cruelest, most inhumane option.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Separately: In this blog, I’ve been called stupid and uncomprehending. I prefer that people specify where and why my opinions are stupid, yet do acknowledge their view(rationalization?) that I am too uncomprehending to grasp such explanation. In fairness, sometimes proper explanation would require an entire essay, and a comments section is not set up for that.

    I do, however, point to the three hundred twenty two professors of economics who signed a statement refuting President Obama’s assertion (my paraphrase follows) that all economists believed in the Keynesian method which the stimulus bill embraces. I cannot refute that I am stupid. I can only say three hundred twenty two college professors, winners of various distinguished degrees and honors, men and women of some IQ and wisdom, are stupid with me. My appeals to authority and to large numbers prove nothing. It’s just nice to have some company:

    [W]e do not believe that more government spending is a way to improve economic performance. More government spending by Hoover and Roosevelt did not pull the United States economy out of the Great Depression in the 1930s. More government spending did not solve Japan’s “lost decade” in the 1990s. As such, it is a triumph of hope over experience to believe that more government spending will help the U.S. today. To improve the economy, policy makers should focus on reforms that remove impediments to work, saving, investment and production. Lower tax rates and a reduction in the burden of government are the best ways of using fiscal policy to boost growth.

  5. radical_Moderate says:

    Oh please, less than 8% of the Fannie/Freddie loans were made in low income neighborhoods, in fact, there was some grumbling during the 90’s that F&F were being too cautious in making loans to low income individuals (but keep up with those right wing talking points blaming the attempt to revitalize inner cities for the current crisis, even if they are half truths and exaggerations), I would say that the further deregulation that allowed private banking to get into the lucrative securitization game, along with Government’s inability to deal with the impending train wreck (remember the Republicans were in charge in 2005 when some in Congress started questioning Fannie/Freddie’s loan practices, and they, as the majority party, refused to reign the agencies in. In addition, the Fed did diddedly-squat to cool down the housing bubble, by raising interest rates, which even the most marginally rational person could see couldn’t last.)

    As for FDR’s spending not working…poppy cock: employment rates went down every year from 1933-1937 and GDP grew during the same time period, most economists, who aren’t out and out idealogues, agree that recovery stalled when FDR slowed down spending in an attempt to balance the budget at the behest of the Conservatives; as it happens, the War broke out and obviously the American Work Force got a big boost, hence the enduring urban legend now expounded upon in ringwingnutia.

    The facts are that YOUR Ideology had complete control of the Government for 6 years and your philosphy of unfettered Capitalism is a failure…let me guess: you were a young person in the 1980’s? Now hear this: tax cuts weighted toward the affluent did nothing to boost the flagging economy; Reagan’s recovery worked because in the 80’s we had high interest rates and taxes, and lowering that financial burden worked (of course Reagan had to raise taxes later.) We have low personal taxes and interest rates at the moment, and it is simply not working. Obama has promised tax cuts to the people who will spend it: the middle and working class instead of the affluent. Time will tell if this is the right course, one thing we do know, is that the course that this country has been on since 2000 is the wrong course as much as it pains you I’m sure. It is time for our side (the Democrats) to take over.

    “Separately: In this blog, I’ve been called stupid and uncomprehending”

    Well I’ve never called you stupid, and I certainly hope that you keep posting; we may disagree on the particulars, but we are both Americans interested in what’s best for the Country. Free Debate is at the heart of what it means to be American. Look I post over at Pajamas Media and I’ve been called some not so pretty names also, LOL, but that won’t shut me up.

  6. Re government as solution: consider whether government might actually be the problem, and might actually slow the economic recovery, to the detriment of those who are suffering. Consider whether government action might actually be the cruelest, most inhumane option.

    You know what? You’re right, Greg. I don’t have a source of income or even one penny in the bank, but it never occurred to me that the government might be increasing my misery. It would be much kinder and more humane to me if the state of NJ cut off my $140 a month in cash assistance, my $160 a month in food stamps, and my Medicaid; if the food pantry I go to shut its doors; and if Social Security rejects my application for disability benefits. How much better my life would be if I had no food, no way to pay for my medications, and no prospect of getting help to pay my rent!

    I thank you for your compassionate insights.

  7. gcotharn says:

    radical_moderate,

    I enjoy your interest in the issues, and appreciate your courtesy. Yet, for now, I only comment that you and I look at identical history and see different things. Kind of amazing – one would think history would be settled and agreed upon. I cast my lot with the three hundred and twenty two eco profs, and fully understand that you disagree.

    I will mention that I didn’t make any assertion about low income neighborhoods. I said “GOVERNMENT ineptly interfering in markets (especially the mortgage market) while simultaneously refusing to regulate ITSELF”.

    Re your statement “only 8% of loans were made in low income neighborhoods”. The interesting word there is “only”. “Only” is indicative of a misguided belief which is shared by many Americans (including President Obama). A summary of that belief:

    government can hit the U.S. economy in many ways – here, there, hit them again – little hits, and lots of them – hit small businesses, hit individuals, hit them and reduce incentive again, hit them again, keep the corporate tax rate high – and it won’t have any significant effect on incentive and output.

    I disagree with that widely shared sentiment.

    Kathy,

    You obviously need emergency assistance, yet the true and compassionate solution to your problems is a job. If government incompetently decreases your opportunities to get a job, then government policy is effectively cruel and inhumane.

  8. gcotharn says:

    @radical_moderate,

    Now that I think about it, Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” was about government hitting productive individuals and companies again and again – reducing incentive again and again – whilst expecting productive individuals and companies to just keep chugging along as if they are eternal and unflappable machines of production. Rand’s points:

    1) such policy – of hitting private industry again and again – were it somehow to play out to it’s logical, mathematical ending: must result in ruin
    2) individuals and companies will not keep chugging along and producing like obedient engines. They will, instead, significantly reduce output, or even eliminate output.

  9. You obviously need emergency assistance, yet the true and compassionate solution to your problems is a job. If government incompetently decreases your opportunities to get a job, then government policy is effectively cruel and inhumane.

    No shit, Sherlock. Yet, there is more under heaven and earth than is dreamt of in your philosophy.

    I have been trying to find one of those thingies (a decent-paying, full-time, stable job) since 2001. That, in case you forgot, is the entire length of former Pres. Bush’s time in office. If eight years of corporate and income tax cuts targeted to the wealthy, as well as cuts to domestic spending, have not created any jobs, then the problem is not government spending; it’s the idea that tax cuts alone are the way to create jobs.

    Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” was about government hitting productive individuals and companies again and again – reducing incentive again and again – whilst expecting productive individuals and companies to just keep chugging along as if they are eternal and unflappable machines of production.

    So obviously you are saying that George W. Bush’s administration has been hitting productive individuals and companies again and again. He is the one who was president from Jan. 20, 2001 to Jan. 20, 2009, Greg.

    individuals and companies will not keep chugging along and producing like obedient engines. They will, instead, significantly reduce output, or even eliminate output.

    Companies are reducing output because there is no demand for the products and services that they make. There is no problem with the supply side of the economy, Greg. The problem is with the demand side. You don’t stimulate demand by cutting taxes or giving higher income people tax credits for buying houses or cars. You don’t incentivize demand by cutting taxes to increase supply, Greg. 3.6 million unemployed Americans are not going to go out and buy cars and houses. Car manufacturers and real estate developers are not going to build more vehicles and housing subdivisions when there’s no one to buy those vehicles or homes, Greg. “Putting money in people’s pockets” by cutting taxes when people don’t have jobs to be taxed on will not solve the problem. The problem is SPENDING, Greg. The problem is DEMAND, Greg. The middle class and the working class will spend when they start having money TO spend. How do they get that money, Greg? From private enterprises that are closing down and/or laying off? Explain to me how demand is met by giving tax breaks to companies that have no customers.

  10. gcotharn says:

    Businesses either adapt or die (to shifting demand).

    It’s ruthless, efficient, and extremely helpful Darwinism, and it’s a big part of why America has been so productive and successful through the years. If we lose our edge, our urgency, our agility: our national productivity and wealth will quickly diminish. If government refuses to allow failing businesses to either die or be reshaped through bankruptcy and hostile takeover (even businesses as big as GM), government will: hinder our national productivity, reduce our national wealth, damage (low income, especially) American citizens in untold ways.

    GWB was a “don’t rock the boat + go along to get along” economic moderate. I do not defend him in this area. The bailouts at the end of his administration will end disastrously for our nation.

    The Republican Congress (which everyone seems to forget ended in 2006) was a big spending porkulus disaster which richly deserved being thrown out onto their derrieres. I spit contempt in their general direction.

    During their times in office, GWB and the Repub Congress allowed the corporate taxes to remain sky high, Capitol Gains Taxes to remain in place, and ignorant government regulation to grow and expand (unnecessarily burdening creative private enterprise). Thumbs way down. Had GWB and Repubs not been such big spending and over-regulating incompetents, had they not continued and/or instituted spending and regulation policies which ultimately are cruel and inhumane to job seeking citizens: you would today have more opportunities for employment. They did you wrong. Just maybe not in the way you think.

  11. Kathy says:

    Businesses either adapt or die (to shifting demand).

    Well, then, given that demand is shifting in the direction of no demand, because so many Americans have no jobs and no money to spend on anything, businesses will have to adapt by giving away their products and services. That’s the only way they can survive, if no one is buying what they make and sell. Of course, then those businesses will face the dilemma of how do you survive when no one is buying anything from you, but you can check back with Ayn Rand for the answer to that one.

    It’s ruthless, efficient, and extremely helpful Darwinism, and it’s a big part of why America has been so productive and successful through the years. If we lose our edge, our urgency, our agility: our national productivity and wealth will quickly diminish.

    That can’t be right. Because I have lots of edge and urgency in my life right now, but not a trace of wealth. But maybe that’s the point. It’s *because* I have the edge and the urgency that the investment bankers at Merrill Lynch have the productivity and the wealth. And I know they appreciate what I do for them.

    If government refuses to allow failing businesses to either die or be reshaped through bankruptcy and hostile takeover (even businesses as big as GM), government will: hinder our national productivity, reduce our national wealth, damage (low income, especially) American citizens in untold ways.

    Oh yeah, I can see that, for sure. Failing businesses let a bankruptcy court or another company “reshape” them with massive layoffs and plant closings, and the stockholders’ and CEOs’ productivity and wealth will definitely benefit. I’m not seeing how that helps the single mom in the South Bronx or the factory worker in Michigan, but maybe you can lend me your copy of Atlas Shrugged to aid my understanding.

    Failed businesses equals JOBS, man!

    Building and repairing infrastructure equals MASSIVE unemployment and misery, man!

    If only those Democrats in Congress would realize how easy it is to create jobs. Just do nothing and let America’s businesses keep on shedding hundreds of thousands of jobs every month, and the economy will be back on its feet in no time!

  12. gcotharn says:

    Re increasing meta demand
    Dollars spent by government have been removed from a private sector which would have spent them more productively. Dollars spent by government are spent less efficiently, and thus are a drag on our economy.

    What of those stimulus bills passed during Bush Administration? Those were useless, politically motivated horse manure.

    Re allowing failing businesses to fail
    A humming economy = demand = jobs. Failing businesses are a drag on our economy.

    If a failing business is incapable of being reborn (through bankruptcy or acquisition) in more marketable fashion: why would a government want to prop up that inefficient business? The prop up is inefficient and thus retards economic growth. The prop up means fewer opportunities for you to find a job.

    Re this recession
    This is not a failure of capitalism. Rather: U.S. Government meddling eventually crashed the U.S. credit market, which in turn crashed world credit markets. This recession is proof that government meddling is dangerous.

    Finally: government spending is not somehow virtuously motiveated by which expenditures are the most pristine and wise, but rather is influenced by the self interest of politicians. An example is the massive rewarding, inside the spending in this stimulus bill, of companies and organizations which are friendly to the Democratic Party. As a tutorial on the (il)logical thinking of me and the 322+ eco profs: two minutes of Milton Friedman and Phil Donahue. Donahue is asking if greed invalidates capitalism, if the uneven distribution of wealth is an argument for more government oversight and control of markets: video link

  13. Kathy says:

    Dollars spent by government have been removed from a private sector which would have spent them more productively. Dollars spent by government are spent less efficiently, and thus are a drag on our economy.

    Have you been living in a cave for the past several years? The private sector has NOT been spending dollars on creating jobs! The private sector has been cutting jobs by the millions! That’s precisely WHY government spending is required! Government is the only entity left that HAS the money to put into the economy!

    Also, stop hiding behind weasel words like “spending productively” and “spending less efficiently.” Those are just slimy euphemisms for cutting wages, exporting jobs, and laying people off. “Productive” to a corporate CEO does not mean “creating good jobs.” It means “maximizing profits.” And they do that by cutting good jobs, not creating them.

    When you say government stimulus dollars are spent less efficiently, what you mean is that they are spent entirely or mostly on creating actual jobs, and not on corporate profits. That’s not the kind of efficiency we need. Efficiency to someone like you means getting the largest possible amount of profit from the smallest, and lowest paid, possible workforce. That’s not about helping the economy, and YOU are not about helping the economy, or ordinary Americans.

    There were no stimulus bills passed during the Bush administration. There *were* tax cuts — huge ones, targeted mostly to the wealthiest Americans, and they did *nothing* to help the economy.

    Re allowing failing businesses to fail A humming economy = demand = jobs.

    No, it’s the opposite. Jobs = demand = a humming economy. There is no demand right now. Allowing failing businesses to fail means that thousands of Americans lose their jobs. It just happened with GM. Read tas’s post.

    If a failing business is incapable of being reborn (through bankruptcy or acquisition) in more marketable fashion: why would a government want to prop up that inefficient business? The prop up is inefficient and thus retards economic growth. The prop up means fewer opportunities for you to find a job.

    Bankruptcy and acquisition is hugely profitable for venture capitalists and top company officials who can work out cushy deals for new positions and/or golden parachutes. It’s a disaster for the ordinary everyday people who work at those companies. They lose their jobs, and those jobs don’t come back.

    U.S. Government meddling eventually crashed the U.S. credit market, which in turn crashed world credit markets. This recession is proof that government meddling is dangerous.

    This is just plain flat-out false. The world credit markets crashed because Wall Street was cutting up pieces of mortgage paper and repackaging it as other investments and insuring those investments with money that did not exist, in a free-for-all that was completely and utterly UNregulated, and that got so insane that NO ONE could explain what was going on.

    You either know this, which means you’re being deceitful, or you don’t know it, which means you’re a deluded fool. I don’t know which it is, but either way you are as wrong as you can be.

    I can’t watch your video link because I’m writing this in the public library, which I’m doing because I can’t pay for cable anymore and thus don’t have Internet access at home. So as a result, I have to forego luxuries like watching videos and have to put up with rude and thoughtless idiots who take cell-phone calls at public computers, have loud conversations with friends at other computers, and suck and crunch endlessly, without stop, for hours, on candies and mints at the computer next to me.

  14. gcotharn says:

    Businesses/banks/corporations certainly made bad decisions and contributed mightily to the mortgage collapse and the worldwide credit crisis. However, it’s also true that businesses/banks/corporations were egged on by a U.S. Government which interfered in several areas to disastrous effect. Thomas Sowell covers an aspect of this: LINK

    Re bundled mortgages as financial instruments
    Fannie/Freddie were bundling mortgages and selling them all over the world. Financial institutions rationalized (pretended?) purchasing these financial instruments on theory that the U.S. Government stood behind and guaranteed the bundled mortgages. Fannie/Freddie (inclu. Franklin Raines) pushed the bundled mortgages as “risk free” investments. Fannie/Freddie execs (inclu Raines and Mistress of Disaster Jamie Gorelick) received compensatory bonuses based on Fannie/Freddie selling more bundled mortgages – which turned out to have very great risk indeed – which discovery went a good way towards crashing worldwide credit markets.

    The fingerprints of disastrous government meddling are all over the credit crash which spawned our current economic difficulties. Our current mess is a classic example of a government which ignored the most important rule: “First, do no harm.” This will be studied in economics classes for at least the rest of this century. Those professors and students will conclude the U.S. Government created this credit collapse and resulting recession.

    Other points:

    I disagree that private investors/entrepreneurs do not want to invest. It’s what they do.

    Spending productively refers to spending closer to the ground, with greater knowledge of what will work

  15. gcotharn says:

    GM can reshape itself – one way or another (bankruptcy, acquisition, financing) – into something which works, as GM has done numerous times in past.

    The goal is not for workers to keep jobs, but rather for workers to be as productive as possible. The alternative is a stagnant economy inside which citizens will soon enough suffer greatly.

  16. Kathy says:

    The goal is not for workers to keep jobs, but rather for workers to be as productive as possible.

    That’s your goal, as management/CEO/business owner, Greg. The goal for workers is to get and keep a job that pays a decent, livable wage.

    I disagree that private investors/entrepreneurs do not want to invest. It’s what they do.

    I can’t find the spot where I wrote that private investors/entrepreneurs do not want to invest. The point is, they want those investments to be as profitable to them as possible with the least amount of cost. Their goal is not to hire people, provide jobs, and pay good wages. Their goal is to make as much money as they possibly can with as little expense as they can get away with. The least number of workers possible, the lowest wages possible, the fewest and/or least expensive benefits possible, etc.

    Spending productively refers to spending closer to the ground, with greater knowledge of what will work

    More evil gobbledy-gook jargon intended to obscure truth. “Spending closer to the ground” — talk about spitting with contempt. Spending as close to zero as possible on anything that isn’t profit going directly into your pocket is what you mean.

    “Greater knowledge of what will work” — for whom? Most of what is needed right now to make life “work” for most Americans is stuff like strong and healthy infrastructure — bridges, tunnels, road repair, school buildings, hospital facilities, firefighting equipment, child care centers, affordable housing. You know — all the stuff that makes people’s everyday lives better but does nothing for investment bankers’ bottom line. Venture capitalists and investors and entrepreneurs are not going to get those jobs done. It doesn’t make a profit! It doesn’t create personal, individual wealth for them. — even though overall it makes for a better, stronger, economically healthier society.

    There is a place for capitalism and private enterprise, but there are some things that need to get done that the private sector just cannot do, because it is not in the private sector’s genetic code to do those things. The private sector’s entire reason for being is to maximize profit to a relatively small number of people. By definition: Unfettered, unregulated capitalism is about personal, individual self-interest — it is NOT about the public good. There are some things the government simply must do, or they will not get done.

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