Obamanageability, Fun Times, and Tea Leaves

As President-elect Obama made his first stumble-bumbling steps toward introducing himself to international leaders it seemed time to take a look at other problems he has closer to home. I wrote a note to a liberal friend the other day analyzing what I see as the challenges we all face, regardless of party. I’ll share parts of it with you.

On Obama's win, my disappointment is muted. This was not unexpected given the damage the Bush presidency and its associated national Republican repudiation of conservatism has done to the Republican Party. Harry Truman said it half a century ago from the other side of the fence when he told Democrats that, given a choice between Republicans and Democrats who act like Republicans the American people will choose real Republicans every time. It's hard to vote for a party that treats you like you have to drag your knuckles into the voting booth, so Republican turnout was the lowest in twenty years.
I think a lot of Republicans who voted for an Obama, and moderate Democrat candidates, who tacked strongly right in the waning weeks of the campaign also felt that this was a choice they could un-make with new, less disdainful Republicans two years from now if the Democrats turned out to be the wild-eyed commie sympathizers the far-right tried to make them out to be. I've been watching the internals of as many polls as I could get my hands on and the people still self-report themselves as a center-right population. Liberals may be strongly in power in the Democratic Party, but if they get what they claim to want over the next two years they will be screwing the oaken stake into their own majority. Card-check, for instance, would kill them stone cold dead in 2010.
There are other structural problems that bode very badly for Democrats. Social Security has been a key Democrat issue for generations. Insolvency, however, is looming and the promises the party has made over its corpse can't be honored without enslaving generations of people who had no vote on the matter. In that program, in Medicare, and in Medicaid "the full faith and credit" of the United States is nothing more than a promise to confiscatorily tax the American people. (By this I mean there is no mechanism, such as increasing capital capacity, or expansion of production-based profitabilty, that provides real growth for the payment of interest charges for which the public is liable.) Whether it is done directly with payroll taxes or indirectly with corporate taxes that are then shuffled to the people in higher prices for everything (and enormous losses of jobs and capital to countries less burdened with unfulfillable promises) those promises can only be kept at the direct expense of the public.
We will be due a REAL crisis in about 2020 as people here, and worldwide, realize the social promises of prior generations in the Western democracies were just Ponzi schemes. What happens in the following four years will be the greatest test of the capacity of this government and people to survive a complete national reexamination since the Civil War- assuming it doesn't lead to civil war itself.
These things are just part of the natural cycle of things. We would have had to deal with them even if Republicans had won.
In my own writing what I've tried to do is redirect the rhetoric of policy debates away from useless concepts like "jobs", which are really lite forms of camoflaged Marxism, and toward the concept of production. Everything about Obama's message was directed at monetary fixes for economic problems (Republicans this go around were very little better). Such discussions ignore the flight of productivity from the U.S. economy. If we don't produce we will soon have nothing to make our currency worth something. Every man will have a job, and will be a millionaire, unable to feed, house, or clothe a family. No amount of spending, paper-shuffling, or make-work job invention can solve economic problems that result from productivity flight.
On the other hand, if we do substantially grow productivity through capital reinvestment and technological advances it will be possible to produce what the economy must have to take care of our swelling ranks of mature and elderly people without forcing the young into servitude. If Government seeks to sieze the assets of the private economy to fulfill the egalitarian fantasies born of generations of bad economic education it will be unable to make the hard and painful choices an economy must make to become more efficient, more productive.
If that is what underlies Obamism we're all in trouble. If it's not, judging by what I saw among his supporters and in his campaign, he has a hell of an education project ahead of him.

History serves up tests of character for nations. It really doesn't matter who is in charge for the moment. The character being tested is OURS, not his, and it is time for a generation of final exams.

Posted by Lee Emmerich Jamison at November 13, 2008 9:39 AM
Comments
Comment #270252

Lee, there is so much wrong, illogical, and false in this article, I hardly know where to begin.

I will work from the end backward.

Nice metaphor at the end, but, the reality is, in a democratic society, the people serve up their own tests either with apathy and delegation, or personal involvement, oversight, and holding elected officials accountability. This is an entirely first person affair, and history as an outside agent of imposed events doesn’t do the reality justice.

Capital investment and technological investment can go a very long to increasing jobs, productivity, exports, and government revenues, but ONLY if managed properly. You Conservatives want to cut taxes in the good times and bad times, which is entirely ILLOGICAL and Political prostitution form of thinking.

During the bad times like war, recession, etc. deficit spending is usually necessary, and conservative principles DICTATE that when the economy is back on its feet, RAISING TAXES sufficiently to pay down that debt from deficit spending is called for.

Conservative principles that pay heed to the REAL WORLD, that is. In the Real World, as Bernanake, Walker, the CBO and GAO have all indicated, cutting taxes, except in the rarest of circumstances, DOES NOT produce revenues in excess of lost revenues from the tax cuts. In other words, cutting taxes reduces government revenues on net EVEN when the tax cut stimulates economic growth.

You Lee, are part of the reason the GOP screwed up everything economic so badly. Your writing reflects a wholesale purchase of political rhetoric that IS NOT based in conservative principles and real world data, and your article defends the political rhetoric instead of the reality and conservative principles observing those realities.

Next, you mistake a demographic problem with an economic one. There is nothing inherently wrong or unsustainable about social insurance programs. Our future economic system is under threat due to a population bulge during a time when real wages have been dropping for the majority of workers supporting that system. This is a unique set of circumstances, that require a unique set of solutions. This is not a failed economic paradigm, though Republicans doubling the national debt in 8 years certainly compounds the problem of borrowing as a solution to make ends meet down the road to get over the retirement population hump.

Democrats in general are no help on this either. Many continue to look to the future of SS and Medicare as entitlements instead of social insurance programs, designed to keep the back bone of the economy strong, the consumer class, by insuring them against poverty and bankruptcy for causes and dislocations no fault of their own.

Lastly, the only seeds the GOP sowed to repopulate Republicans in government, are the seeds of the demise of the entitlement programs through doubling the national debt. If however, Democrats are able to make progress on reforming and protecting these programs as insurance for working people against bankruptcy and poverty, those seeds Bushm Cheney, Rove, Paulson and Greenspan sowed will not germinate.

And the GOP has a civil war to fight again, between the fundamentalist right evangelical Christians and the educated, moderate, and suburban fiscal conservative wing of the party. I frankly don’t see any way to unite these two camps again in the foreseeable future, and divided the GOP lacks a wide enough base to pull off victory in majority status of Congress for at least another generation or two.

Posted by: David R. Remer at November 13, 2008 10:37 AM
Comment #270258

David,

A demographic problem? Really? Care to elaborate on Demographic solutions, or do you have a non-economic final solution, as it were?

As to taxes in “good” times, well, let’s all follow the example of the State of New York, why don’t we.

I have made a simple statement of economic reality. We will either solve our problems with productivity or we will not solve our problems.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at November 13, 2008 11:04 AM
Comment #270261

Do eating disorders require eating solutions? Of course NOT. Does criminal behavior require cops to be criminal to fight crime? Of course not. So, why must there be a demographic solution to the retiring demographic problem? Thinking outside the box, just a little, can offer other solutions.

Lee, your NY example is anecdote with peculiar circumstances, which any student of logic knows, cannot be projected to the general level. And leaves your response in the illogical camp of ever diminishing taxes leading to ever greater government fiscal balance. It is an illogical argument, a priori. The purpose of taxes is to pay for government expenses. There is no getting around that fundamental fact of basic arithmetic.

You said: “We will either solve our problems with productivity or we will not solve our problems.”

Such simple views can never reflect reality nor effectively deal with it. Reality in economics is a highly complex system, and such simple rules lead to unintended consequences of enormous proportions as GW Bush has proven so, very well.

Productivity is a measure of the dollar value per unit of input. Productivity does not predict nor assure sound fiscal management of government. Such an extrapolation is false in nearly every construct. Spending by government is a perfect example. If government spending increases beyond government revenues yielded by high productivity, sound fiscal management is not all assured.

Prioritization of spending, even if under the level of revenues from production, in no way assures avoidance of enormously expensive consequences and necessary future spending increases well beyond productivity generated revenues.

Your postulation that we will solve our problems with productivity or we will not solve them, demonstrates a wholesale deficit in understanding the complexity of the issue.

Posted by: David R. Remer at November 13, 2008 11:47 AM
Comment #270262

Lee Jamison-
First, stop taking tokes off the WSJ ganja. It’s their bad s@*% about how tax cuts would pay for themselves, and a deregulation effort in every garage would enrich us all that got us in this trouble in the first place.

You’ve create a terribly unstable market here that nobody can seem to get a handle on here, a Market where what seems like good judgment one day is a terrible mistake the next.

There doesn’t seem to be any place where you’ll admit your assumptions failed. There also doesn’t seem to be any place where you recognize that this is exactly why people have gone over to the Democrats in droves: we recognize that “Money For Nothing” is the title of a Dire Straits song, and not a sensible economic policy.

We probably won’t be able to avoid the economic storms ahead. But who do you think they’ll curse first for that? For so long, tax and spend was your three word description of Democratic economic policies. Republicans though, have merited their own description for their policies: spend, spend, spend. At least Carter paid for most of his government growth. The Republicans never have.

At this point, people expect to see taxes go up. They know we have to pay the piper.

That doesn’t seem to have sunk in with you. As much as you can curse the nonconservative conservatives, you’re not proposing anything much different than they did time and time again. Republicans might in theory consider themselves to have the better fiscal practices, but in practice they’re the drunken sailors of government finance. I don’t think that arrogance is unconnected. I think you folks honestly believed you could get away with things because you always said we were worse.

In practice, though, Democrats have been much tighter in their discipline. It benefits us politically. We have more political cover to make the cuts, to raise the taxes, to do what needs to be done to get things back in order. People want adults back in power, rather than the irresponsible teenagers with credit cards.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at November 13, 2008 12:07 PM
Comment #270289

Re the linked Bolton article, I think that the Russians are trying to roll BHO at the beginning of his term like JFK. They will be hoping for a trade to keep our missiles out of Poland.

On Card Check, why are people so scared of Norma Rae anyway?

Social security will be rescued by the immigrants.

Posted by: ohrealy at November 13, 2008 6:06 PM
Comment #270294

Lee how much credence do you think this Mr. Bolten should be allowed. The AEI is a neoconservative think tank that has led our current conservative president onto the path that eventually leads all nations to bankruptacy and destruction, that of imperialism. How can “real” conservatives that espouse nonintervention in foreign affairs take people like Mr. Bolton seriously with his criticisms of the president-elect.

Are you proposing more of the same in the foreign policy arena as the neocons would want or a change in direction that would seem to bring foreign policy back in line with conservative principles? Seems to me with as you say a real crisis coming spending taxpayer dollars so we can once again point missiles at Russia is money that could be better spent paying off the current neoconservative blunder in Iraq.

Posted by: j2t2 at November 13, 2008 6:51 PM
Comment #270299

The “full faith and credit” of the United States. These days we’re finding new meanings in that phrase.

A “REAL” crisis in 2020? Holy cow, you mean this isn’t bad enough?

Social Security is an easy fix. Rolling Medicare and Medicaid into a universal health plan is also an easy fix.

Lee, you write: “In my own writing what I’ve tried to do is redirect the rhetoric of policy debates away from useless concepts like “jobs”, which are really lite forms of camoflaged Marxism, and toward the concept of production.”

Job creation is Marxist? Whoo boy. I don’t know why anyone would want to depend on increases in productivity. Some will come from technology, sure, but relying solely upon increases in productivity has not worked, not at all. It left wages flat. Corporatins generated profit, but that left about 80% of the population with precisely nothing, except steadily decreasing job security. Outsourcing jobs to China- wait a minute- how come American job creation is Marxist, but outsourcing to China is capitalist?- anyway, outsourcing has undercut the core strength of the economy.

We’re divorced from the products of our labor. We have no security, and no job loyalty. American workers have become interchangeable commodoties. That is wrong. That is fundamentally wrong.

The news about the economy is so grim I can hardly even look anymore. There is no transparency with the bailout, and it’s becoming apparent Paulson and Bush and the Fed lied about what they were going to do. Sadly, I believed them and supported the bailout. Guess I’ll never learn. Conservatism has become tantamount to Grand Theft.

Posted by: phx8 at November 13, 2008 7:58 PM
Comment #270303

ohrealy-
It’s not missiles, it’s that missile defense garbage (you know, the stuff they can’t get to work right?). And comparing this to the Cuban Missile Crisis is a bit much. First, Obama is not president. Second, the Cold War is over.

Third, Missile defense is a Republican obsession, not a Democratic one. Thus this means nothing about intimidation. It’s not called intimidation if you were doing it before under no such duress.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at November 13, 2008 9:06 PM
Comment #270314
And the GOP has a civil war to fight again, between the fundamentalist right evangelical Christians and the educated, moderate, and suburban fiscal conservative wing of the party. I frankly don’t see any way to unite these two camps again in the foreseeable future, and divided the GOP lacks a wide enough base to pull off victory in majority status of Congress for at least another generation or two.

This problem of a “divided GOP” is hardly a new one, and it’s come to the fore recently and again because the GOP has recently lost power.

This isn’t rocket science. The Dems have deep divisions too, but they all pulled together over the last several years and ignored their differences because they wanted to get back into power. The GOP will do the same thing after a period of finger-pointing much like the Dems did in 2000 and 2004. Meanwhile, the Democratic groups who got along so well when they didn’t have the ability to enact all their competing goals will go at each others throats.

Posted by: Loyal Opposition at November 14, 2008 2:00 AM
Comment #270322

Job creation as Marxist- Yep, I meant that. Does anyone recall the discussion in Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country of the mill workers throwing their wooden shoes into the new automated machinery, giving rise to the word “sabotage”? Those workers saw, from a very narrow perspective, that the automated mill threatened their livelihood. In fact it increased their productivity, freeing labor to do other things, increasing the possiblities of the overall economy, and making clothing less expensive for everyone.

The “jobs” we hear talk of are not in and of themselves a good thing unless they cause more marketable goods, services, and innovations to be created in the economy. If they fail to do that they are, as well over half of government jobs are, an unambiguous drain on the economy.

Are there other, private, areas where superfluous jobs abound? Insurance, especially in the medical field, much of Law, and the financial industry. These fields do not produce food, housing, clothing, transportation, or significant ideas. They are largely economic overburden, costing society far more than they are worth.

j2t2,
Social Security is an “easy fix”? Laughable. Why didn’t the Democrats fix it over the last two years, then? If it is really easy finding a constituency to force it through will also be easy.

Those three programs as they exist today are nothing short of lies. No fashioning of additional layers of governmental falsehood will be able to hide the lies forever. The earlier comment about immigration “fixing” Social Security is exactly what President Bush and the despicable “moderate” Republicans tried to push through. That policy simply reveals the truth that the only way to maintain the lies of these government entitlements, absent enormous capital investments in the growth of productivity, is to sell out the country.

Absent a concerned constituency arguing against such things Democrats will gleefully sell out the country. The demographics (When I was 25 the median age in America was 26. Today the median age is about 37 and climbing.) will catch up with us anyway.

Now, j2t2, I say all this as a supporter of a central-payer system of a sort similar to that of France, so don’t take this as knee-jerk conservative angst. A system built on lies MUST fail. The only source of growth for the interest to be paid on Social Security “trust” funds, and the now spent funds themselves, is taxation. It must come out of our pockets. There is no magic fix for that but pain.

David,

By your definition of productivity the greatst growth of productivity in European history occurred in Germany from 1921 to 1928. If you care to stand by that I’d agree with you and say that is exactly the sort of productivity government policies happening today and anticipated in the new administration appear likely to deliver us.

For my own part, though, I prefer a gardener’s definition of productivity in which a given number of tomato plants are able, by improved gardening techniques, to produce more tomatoes than they would have produced without those techniques. Real productivity is not defined by how many tick-marks I can contrive to get for a tomato. It is how many tomatoes I can put on my table for my family’s regular meals.

Likewise, to bring the post full circle, real jobs are not about how many people we can place in a garden producing a given number of tomatoes at a given time. Real jobs will produce more tomatoes, and everything else, per person’s effort.

Nothing in current or anticipated policy seems likely to do that.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at November 14, 2008 9:50 AM
Comment #270323

First- I meant 1921 to 1923.

Second, I had intended to comment on the Bolton article. That is simple common sense in relations with dependent allies. Does Obama leave them out to dry as Jimmy Carter did, and thus undermine the sense among our allies that we are reliable in the keeping of promises? From his statements regarding support of Poland it appears he does.

Look at what has been said countless times about the reason Iraqis didn’t trust us after we invaded Iraq in 2003. We had fomented an attempt to overthrow Saddam’s regime after the first Gulf War- but failed to support it when it happened. tens of thousands of people died in reprisals as a result of our failure to stand up for them when they took the risk WE URGED ON THEM.

So far in this war the U.S. has been a steady ally for people in bad places, but such is not always the case for us. If Obama reverts to Carter/Bush 1/Clinton form friends will be hard for us to find in dangerous places.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at November 14, 2008 10:05 AM
Comment #270329

LO-
You’re right to a certain extent and wrong to a certain extent. Democrats are more united than they used to be.

But something else is at work. It’s not the Republican party’s disunity alone.

The Republican party once had some hold on the middle, a middle that could accept certain political contradictions or moderations. They could accept to some degree a party that intruded on moral matters, yet held itself up as the folks who would keep government out of your life. By framing this laissez faire attitude in terms of creative destruction, they could tell people “you or somebody else might lose this job, but they or their children will find another one.”

On this and many other issues, the Republicans had people who would give them the benefit of the doubt on these things.

The policy had to be either moderate, or successful enough to justify its radical departure. The Republican policies were neither as the Bush administration wore on. Emotional appeals, especially ad hominem appeals were made in an attempt to force people to reframe the problems and policies in more positive terms, but as they increased the force of their defensive rearguard action on those policies, their policies failed even more catastrophically, and their ad hominem attacks started landing among their own troops.

This political alienation of the moderate middle among the Republican’s constituency is what’s causing the fingerpointing. But the question is, once the fingerpointing is done, and the Republicans are more or less unified, will their ideology have credibility, and will their ranks have the numbers to turn back the Democratic Majority? Barring some unforeseen event, I think the answer is, no.

Lee Jamison-
I don’t think the recent “creative destruction” has served the cause of encouraging real growth. It’s one thing for the paradigms of earlier technologies, earlier business models to give way to new ones. But what we’ve had, more or less, is people ****ing around with the numbers, not re-aligning, retooling, or doing anything that actually creates real productivity. At some point, creative destruction in this country merely became destruction, with the folks on Wall Street creating a predatory system that finally ate itself.

You need folks out there doing something. Even if you just have them building roads, rebuilding bridges or something else, you need them employed. There’s a way of doing that which is marxism, where the state employs the workers itself, and then there’s government intervention in the private sector, which you folks haven’t been shy about doing yourselves.

But our economy needs something more than mere jobs. It needs clarity. It needs people to know how much their investments are worth. It needs the government to discourage reckless speculative schemes and practices, to make investment something other than a faith based initiative.

Our society does derive economic growth beyond simple material goods. There’s really no problem with that; material production is not the only valid measure of wealth, only the most obvious and concrete. But when we derive values and assign values, it helps if there are checks and balances, feedbacks which bring absurdity in pricing and errors in evaluation back down to earth sooner rather than later.

The nature of the modern economy means that we will move beyond the material economy to other things. As a prosperous society, we can bear more than just the fruit of the land or the fruit of the hand, and still have more than enough to move forward.

Or we could have. The real trouble is, we have built a system on giving people less and less real income, made them dependent on credit, and then have wrecked that credit system. We screwed ourselves out of a sustainable economy, and we’re going to have to make significant, maybe even drastic changes to bring that sustainability back.

Wealth will always find a way to concentrate upwards. The government should not be in the business of helping wealth concentrate at the top. The Greedy SOB’s have enriched themselves, and even continued to enrich themselves on a dysfunctional economic system. We’ve encouraged people to be short-sighted and failed to penalize them when they failed. How can we expect the market to reliably solve our problems when they’re paying bonuses to people who run their businesses into the ground?

The question of where wealth ends up should be answered with one question: what does our economy do? It distributes and redistributes wealth. If the average person is given the wage or salary necessary to afford their needs and some of their wants, the rich will still see the money come in, but those lower on the pecking order will be more productive, healthier, and less conflicted about letting the rich keep what they make.

Let people keep more of the bread they earn. Didn’t your party’s founder talk something about the wrong in having one person say You’ll make the bread, and I’ll eat it? Well, for too long, it’s been the average person who’s worked harder to put more bread on somebody else’s table. It’s time that people got a good day’s wage for a good day’s work. That’s not communism, that’s capitalism that benefits society more broadly.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at November 14, 2008 11:39 AM
Comment #270330

Stephen,
As to the first assertion, yes and no. The economy does distribute wealth, but it also must provide for the renewal of wealth. Henry Ford did this by raising wages and lowering prices as he increased productivity by the application of more efficient technologies. He also confounded his own theories by his attempts to monopolize production vertically.

In any event if productivity rises even stable wages would yield a better standard of living.

Do government inteventions really improve standards of living, though? If, in redistributing wealth, they add an additional cost as a burden on stable production they can’t. That is the essential point I’m making.

Even if there is a more “equitable’ distribution of a given level of resources a greater burden of people who make nothing simply further impoverishes us all.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at November 14, 2008 11:54 AM
Comment #270332

There we go with lables again
The country still self-identifies as “center-right”
That is true, but what is left unsaid is, that if then followed up with questions concerning ACTUAL POLICIES and ISSUES a majority of those who self-identified as “center-right” agreed and supported more center-left items!!

If you go by the label (which is useless except for PR work) your’re right — the country is “center-right” — but this can go two ways
1) — Center-right is not what you on the right think it is — Center-right has actually moved Left (which then puts the center where??)
or
2) I don’t care what you call it as long as we understand what a majority of Americans support.
and they apparently DON’T support the issues/policies that are considered “right of center”

Posted by: Russ at November 14, 2008 1:02 PM
Comment #270333

Lee Jamison-
Look, I can understand that employers can’t be forced to be too generous, but if they’re not generous enough, how do you sustain an economy?

Up ‘til now, the way to do this was to make credit cheap and generally available. You sneezed and three credit offers would be in the tissue. You went bankrupt (unfortunately I’m not kidding you here) and you’d get even more offers in the mail! As long as people could keep borrowing, folks could keep charging. Bad debts? No more, this is the new economy! Just sell them to somebody else!

Well, the trouble is, the market for that has crashed and burned.

We’re thusly left with a serious problem here: how do you maintain economic growth without easy credit? A lot of the supply side theories fail here, because they envision a system where you can cut wages, salaries and benefits to workers lower down, and they’ll simply gut it out by charging, or taking out loans.

You need, therefore, more money in people’s hands. It’s not merely fairness, its more or less all you have left if you want to see growth again, or even just reduced failure.

You talk about an economy being based on a lie. Well the lie was that you could support a national consumer economy, with a strong middle class, on a debt heavy system. The lie is that you could give and give to the upper class, and take and take from those below, and keep growth going forever. We had an economy of quiet desperation. Now it’s become one of screaming despair. Only by restoring the ability of the average person to support themselves, their families, and their local economies can we get back to some kind of working system.

I am not calling for fifties-style interventions. I’m not talking about just warmed over new-deal economics. We’re going to have to be smart about this. We’re going to have to learn that government intervention isn’t always wrong or bad, but it isn’t always good or well done. We got to be smart about these things. FDR, ultimately didn’t replace capitalism with something else, he saved it from itself. I suspect Obama and future Democrats are going to have to do the same.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at November 14, 2008 1:27 PM
Comment #270339

Stephen Daugherty, please reread my comment, and then reread yours, and see if you can find the disconnnect. Your lack of knowledge of history confuses you, combined with the endless need to spin for a guy you barely ever heard of 2 years ago.

Posted by: ohrealy at November 14, 2008 4:29 PM
Comment #270342

Lee,
No one would argue in favor of maintaining obselescent industries. I would also agree that certain areas of a service economy, such as law, finance, and insurance, all provide vital roles, but in a healthy economy they should only make limited contributions to job creation.

The fallacy in the reasoning comes with the idea that a laid off millworker is “freed” by technology to provide labor elsewhere, either because the technology is more efficient, or the product is obsolete.

The fallacy, you see, is that today’s equivalent of the mill worker is not being laid off because of technological improvements or product obscelensence, but because the same job can produce the same product overseas, for less.

Car manufacturing is still necessary. Computer programming is still necessary. However, a person overseas will do the same job as an American for far, far less. They will do it because their governments are corrupt, and perfectly willing to exploit labor. The foreign worker does not enjoy the protection of labor unions, environmental rules and regulations, health concerns, and so on.

The ultimate goal of the right wing economic perspective is to bring the wages of American workers down to the wages of foreign workers. In the process, the goal is to destroy the institutions which protect labor, primarily labor unions and government regulation.

Wages will remain low in the right wing dystopia. Profits, enhanced through “productivity,” will be high, with no need to share it with the people who actually produced the goods and rendered the services.

Yet the worker will be without protection, with flat wages and no job security and no hope of retirement, and at the mercy of cost increases in food, transporation, utilities, health care, and other basic needs.

Look around, Lee. It’s here, right now. This is it. This is the vision of the right wing and the Wall Street Journal coming true. This is the conservative economy. This is the result of outsourcing, deregulation, and privatization.

Posted by: phx8 at November 14, 2008 5:13 PM
Comment #270343

The goal needs to be lifting foreign workers to American standards, not decreasing American standards to the lowest common denominator.

Posted by: phx8 at November 14, 2008 5:15 PM
Comment #270352
The ultimate goal of the right wing economic perspective is to bring the wages of American workers down to the wages of foreign workers. In the process, the goal is to destroy the institutions which protect labor, primarily labor unions and government regulation.

No, the goal is to make American industry competitive so it can continue to even EXIST. You’re not doing American workers any favors with approaches that make it impossible to hire them in the first place.

The goal needs to be lifting foreign workers to American standards, not decreasing American standards to the lowest common denominator.

We have very little power to “lift foreign workers,” unless you mean that we should continue with our open-door policy to illegals and employ foreign workers here.

One of the deep ironies of the contemporary Democratic party is that they enjoy the support of American labor at the same time they favor loose immigration enforcement, something that wildly expands the source of cheap labor right here in the United States.

You talk about outsourcing and how cheap labor is overseas, but meanwhile, we’re literally bringing into the US (and even welcoming) millions of undocumented workers. Ultimately, this is what is going to destroy the economic prospects of American labor, and the Democrats are welcoming this development with open arms because it means more votes come election time.


Posted by: Loyal Opposition at November 14, 2008 11:10 PM
Comment #270355

Loyal Opposition,
American laborers who are here legally and are covered by a range of benefits and pay into the system may be earning minimum wage, but that is a far cry from the situation where illegal immigrants are given no benefits, and do not pay into the system, and earn less than the minimum wage.

Outsourcing somewhat resembles illegal immigration in that both depend upon the grossest exploitation of labor. Both depend upon undercutting labor unions, preventing regulations and enforcement of health standards in the work place, disregarding environmental laws and other rules intended to protect the public commons. However, outsourcing does not merely undercut ‘cheap labor’- thanks to technology, almost any job can be outsourced, from the worker on the assembly line to the computer programmer.

Immigration is an odd issue which cuts across party lines. Currently Hispanics seem to be voting for Democrats, but I don’t think it is so much a matter of Democrats favoring ‘loose’ immigration policy, as it is angry white Republicans favoring policies based upon racism and bigotry.

Posted by: phx8 at November 15, 2008 12:40 AM
Comment #270360

Stephen

You talk about an economy being based on a lie. Well the lie was that you could support a national consumer economy, with a strong middle class, on a debt heavy system. The lie is that you could give and give to the upper class, and take and take from those below, and keep growth going forever.
actually this is an area where I think you have been right before, though perhaps not for the reasons you thought you were. When Republican bankruptcy “reform’ was passed a few of years ago (with Joe Biden’s enthusiastic support) the finance industry had been, in effect, subsidizing the strength of the middle class. There were limits on how much interest they could charge, but they still stuck their necks out and sent out the applications for credit cards, in spite of losses to bankruptcy. This was a clear instance of a market place that was working to the benefit of everyone.

In a “reformed” market, however, there has been a steady contraction of credit availability. Lending institutions, wanting lending to be essentially risk-free, thought they had off-loaded risk and could now be assured profitability. More burdensome consumer credit has come home to roost, though, because the consumer is the ultimate source of economic liquidity, and now the fearful consumer won’t spend. In fact the “debt heavy” system (where lenders experienced the heavy hand of risk) used to work.

For the economy to work stuff has to be created and change hands. When people become fearful of transactions that process falters. The real value of the stuff in a “stuff-market” ultimately will be served regardless of how we denominate that value initially- and how that value is then readjusted after-the-fact in currency gyrations.

The real trick is to keep the stuff moving in those moments of clarity when governments and markets can no longer hide the truth.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at November 15, 2008 11:34 AM
Comment #270361

phx8,

Currently Hispanics seem to be voting for Democrats, but I don’t think it is so much a matter of Democrats favoring ‘loose’ immigration policy, as it is angry white Republicans favoring policies based upon racism and bigotry.

This is simply offensive. Everything you count on from society is defined by the rule of law. The people, for whatever reason have insisted on an orderly, restricted regulation of immigration. Objecting to violations of that process, as defined in law, is a defense of THE LAW. Possession of this country and its uses, no less than the posession of any other form of property and ITS priviledges, is a substantial portion of our legal protection for any and all of our rights.

To lay the law aside in one area because we are afraid of being called names is an open invitation to having any insistence on the defense of liberty made the object of an insidious derision.

One who thinks the law itself is racist should get a constituency together nad change the law. One who thinks public support of the law as it exists now is racist is a fool.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at November 15, 2008 11:50 AM
Comment #270380
phx8,

Currently Hispanics seem to be voting for Democrats, but I don’t think it is so much a matter of Democrats favoring ‘loose’ immigration policy, as it is angry white Republicans favoring policies based upon racism and bigotry.

There is nothing simple about this statement….and it certainly isn’t offensive…from this side of aisle. If your interpretation is that it’s offensive, than I’d say it’s simply true…and hit a nerve.

Posted by: janedoe at November 15, 2008 2:15 PM
Comment #270390

Racism and bigotry are offensive, and a hallmark of the conservative Southern Stragegy. Although a recent Repubican head of the RNC apologized for pursuing this strategy, we see it writ large upon the electoral map and in the make-up of the GOP. We see it in bright neon lights, and yes, conservatisim and the GOP are offensive, because on every issue that offers the GOP’s and conservatives to choose between policies supporting minority groups, and policies intended to maintain the rule of angry white males, the GOP and conservatives come down on the same side, every single time, against minorities and in favor of the status quo.

In economics, in immigration policy, in civil rights, in voter registration, you name it, and the result is the same: the GOP and conservatism favor policies because the base motivation is racism and bigotry.

Lee,
Generalizations do not necessarily apply to individuals. However, doesn’t it seem odd that the philosophy you support somehow always finds a way to favor the same group of people, to the detriment of minorities? That the philosophy always suggests everything will be fine in the future for all alike, therefore the past should be ignored, and nothing done in the present to remedy the past? That the GOP and conservatives favor building walls to keep out Hispanics, English only language intitiaties, marriage forbidden to gays, opposition to affirmative action, and so on.

Opposing the occasional issue would be fine, but when a consistent pattern emerges, it is fair to draw conclusions.

Posted by: phx8 at November 15, 2008 3:29 PM
Comment #270392

ohrealy-
I don’t agree with the premise that the missiles are all that meaningful, or that the situation compares to the Cuban Missile Crisis, which was JFK’s test early in his term. If we invaded Cuba to take out the missiles, JFK was facing an invasion of West Berlin, which would have meant a full scale war, given our treaty obligations. Nuclear war, given our mutual strategic stances.

JFK was bound to keep his missiles right where he had them. His trade of obsolete missiles in Turkey was kept secret; one mistake, and it could have been worse than an embarrassment, since he was obligated to keep up the defenses in Europes.

This situation with the Missile Defense in Poland simply doesn’t compare. Democrats are none to warm to this grandchild of SDI. It’s been the hobgoblin of the Neocons, who have been pushing it as a defense against rogue states developing nukes. But it’s so ridiculously easy to overcome these systems that they won’t constitute a fart in a hurricane if a real nuclear exchange actually occurs.

We’re not talking about anything of real political importance here, nor are we talking about something which Obama would be really losing a fight on. Obama’s not saying that these missiles are being reconsidered because Putin’s scaring him, he’s reconsidering it because it’s a big damn boondoggle.

The strategic importance of the missile defense position in Poland is nowhere near that of the importance of the position we had in Berlin, or the Russians in Cuba. Putin could not threaten Obama like Khruschev could, nor is it likely that Obama holds dear the military strategy in question, the way JFK had to. So there’s no way the Russians would be rolling Obama like they did with JFK. At worse, this is a basic misunderstanding on the part of the governments there that Obama and his staff really didn’t want to leave out there. If you think its a failure, the real question is, what did he lose? The real loser, I think, is the guy who just tried to put words in Obama’s mouth.

Lee Jamison-
Why would you want to keep giving credit to somebody who’s proved incapable of paying down their debts?

That’s what has been done for quite some time in the credit industry, a usurious approach which both enables and makes pathological the acquisition of debt by consumers.

Essentially the strategy was to get people deeply in debt, sell the debt to somebody else, and write up the bad debt as a gain rather than a loss. Only in a system that perpetually gave new credit to people, regardless of their ability to pay, would that work. If there wasn’t anybody else to take that debt off your hands, well then you would end up screwed, to put it in polite terms.

The liquidity of debt, the secondary marketing of it is no problem, just as long as you can be sure that your debtors, the people you’re giving credit, have the funds to pay down that debt. Now that means that not everybody can get that credit, or get it to the degree that they would want it. Which means growth won’t always take place, as people recharge their savings to buy products. Keeping wages up will be more of a priority. Businesses will actually have to be successful on more than paper.

There’s an article I’m going to write an entry on later that talks about how investment banks used to be private, used to have to spend their own money to make investments. Then they went public, and they had other people’s money to get rich off of.

People aren’t stupid, and they’re not always moral. Create a system in which those at the top can rake in the cash without having to give something back in return, and this is what will result. I guess an oversimplified way to put it is that the system was essentially making up liquidity that couldn’t possibly be there.

And the wise masters of the market? The people who should have known that this kind of leverage could not last forever? They weren’t so wise. They didn’t have to be. They could print free money. And if they screwed something up, somebody would be there to give them a golden parachute and pay them a big check in the next job.

We needed something better than this. We should have gotten it long before now. Unfortunately, people confused what was narrowly good for somebody’s business with what was good for the economy.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at November 15, 2008 3:43 PM
Comment #270446

Stephen, you still have it wrong on JFK. You had better do more extensive reading in real books rather than trying to find everything on the interenet. Unfortunately, there are still about 67 days of W left, and the electoral college has not even voted yet. I hope nothing eventful happens in this interregnum, but there are concerns about the Russians getting a base in Iceland and send more missiles to Cuba, besides other possible moves in Latin America. I hope none of that happens, but the people in charge in Russia are probably more knowledgable of our history than even the “tier one” types here.

Posted by: ohrealy at November 16, 2008 3:53 PM
Comment #270451

ohrealy,
“… There are concerns about the Russians getting a base in Iceland…”

No, there are not. Those are just weird Neocon fantasies. Iceland’s involvement in the capitalist global markets didn’t go too well. The country went belly up, and it is essentially for sale. Most likely the Danes or Norwegians will buy it. The Russians are candidates and viewed favorably only because they have cash. It has nothing to do with bizarre Neocon dreams of a new Cold War.

Putting an anti-missile installation in Poland doesn’t even make sense. The only people who are ever likely to benefit are the manufacturers of things that aren’t needed or don’t work in the military industrial complex. It’s time to be realistic and practical. That kind of crap needs to be shut down, and the US needs to stop arming the world.

Posted by: phx8 at November 16, 2008 5:27 PM
Comment #270468

ohrealy-
More missiles into Cuba NOW?

In 1961, ICBM technology was not in a state where they could be made mobile. They required huge launch facilities, and could not be kept ready for launch. Medium and Long Range Missiles, with lesser range, could be made ready quickly, and deployed on mobile launch platforms.

There would be no reason for the Russians to pick Cuba for new missiles now. And there would be no reason for Cuba to want those missiles there now, not with moves towards ending the embargoes and all that other stuff. Russia has no need to put missiles in Cuba, Cuba has no reason to want them.

Additionally, Iceland is a member of NATO. Why would they let Russia put a base there?

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at November 17, 2008 8:28 AM
Comment #270491

That NATO station in Iceland is…or actually, WAS, Keflavik and was closed a couple of years ago. My husband climbed the radomes there as part of his inspection assignments, more than once.

Posted by: janedoe at November 17, 2008 1:34 PM
Comment #270730

With the advent of the age of tolerance and all, I have a few items on my wish list for this presidency.

One of these is that it will become unseemly to foist undeserved, blanket criticism upon the Southerners. The last bastion of public incivility is the unwarrented libeling of the South as racist, cousin-marrying rednecks. It would be great if idle comments to this effect draw disapproval from polite society the way racial slurs or gay bashing does.

As someone who lives in the ONLY part of the country that is desegregated, I find it ironic that people who have so little diversity in their community that they can have an awareness of Irish neighborhoods vs. Italian neighborhoods, freely bash the South.

Think about it and you will see the logic of what I am saying. If not, feel free to apply regional prejudice with no fear of reprecussions.

All hail tolerance in the New America!

Posted by: goodkingned at November 21, 2008 4:52 AM
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