Saturday, February 21, 2009

If Only America Were More Like India... (Pt. II)

My YouTube conversations/debates continued. Here's the followup. I'll put the comments directed at me in bold, and leave my responses in regular type, for clarity.

I was commented to-
"Bush also lowered interest rates, as a means of back door taxes, and expanded regulations. Both of those actions were anti free market. Bush only paid lip service to the free market, while upholding Keynsian socialist principles, just like his father who said, "Read my lips. No new taxes."

The idea that politicians care about workers or the lower economy is naive."

I responded-
"The idea that George W. Bush-- ignoring that he spent his last year bailing out his failed comrades on Wall Street-- was somehow not friendly enough to conservative economic policies is insane. The people who believe this probably buy the myth that Reagan was some pure conservative hero too.

There's no such thing as a free market. A market, by definition, is a construct of the society that created it, and is subject to the norms and rules of said society. It is supposed to serve society's needs."

His response-
"Bush ADDED to regulation. Bush lowered interest rates in order to prop up housing prices. How this is not government intervention is beyond me. A market is not by definition a construct of society. It is the term used to describe the buying and selling between various individuals in a society. With or without rules, it exists. To say that the market is supposed to serve society's needs, is like saying the ocean is supposed to ship products across its waters. W/or w/out ships, it exists."

"The idea that the housing bubble was a result of too MUCH government interference, rather than two little (even the McCain/Palin crew agreed on that much), is a leap from reality. The housing bubble was not only Wall Street's ultimate free-market triumph (this decade, anyway), it was also the underpinning for Bush's 'ownership society'... the key domestic achievement celebrated at the 2004 GOP convention.

Very convenient of conservatives to launch him to two terms, then disown when he fails."

I also responded to his comment about free markets and their nature-
"Water exists in nature. Air exists in nature. Etc.

A market does not exist in nature.

It is a construct of society... the buying and selling between individuals is a construct of society (birds don't have a market, for instance). It exists within the norms and rules we establish for it, and these vary between societies, cultures, countries. It is not some magical, pure thing.

As long as the GOP comes off as a party that cares more about magic markets than actual people, they're in trouble."

His response, which went back to the issue of the housing crisis-
"You obviously have not studied credit markets. The government purposely lowered interest rates to encourage people to spend money. It was specifically directed at the housing market, pushing housing prices further up. At no point did the government create any new buyers or did they make housing more affordable (in principle payments) to those who currently rent (such as myself)."

"Lowering interest rates to encourage people to spend more money sounds like GOP economics to me... after all, it's basically the same general defense for tax cuts.

And yes, the government did create new buyers for homes. Through the deregulation (etc) which started at the end of the Clinton years and flourished under Bush, they helped create an anything-goes financial market, which lead to banks giving out mortgages and loans to people who couldn't afford them (and then repackaged them for profit), when a better system of regulations and checks would've curbed this."

And then his next response was back to the question of outsourcing jobs to India-
"So is it wrong for managers of pro ball teams to let go of their aging players for those with better stats? No. Those aging players deserve job security. Did you ever stop to ask why Indian laborers are cheaper? Here we are driving up the cost of capital goods and bailing out companies so prices won't deflate, thereby disallowing the average American to afford to live on cheaper wages. We can't compete, because our government won't let us compete.

Don't diss India for OUR failures."

I responded-
"The goal should NOT be to create conditions that make it easier for Americans to live on the increasingly low wages they receive. The goal should be to get Americans more jobs and better wages, and to create an environment-- better health-care etc-- where we can live comfortably.

I assure you if you ran for office on the platform you espouse (in which humans beings and their work are dismissed as a commodity), there might only be two districts in the entire country where you'd have a shot."

His response?
"I'm not trying to run on a popularity contest on false promises."

And that's pretty much how we left it. I'll also throw in the caveat that I'm no economist. This is just one layman's semi-educated take on all of this... particularly my belief that anyone who looks at this economic crisis and believes it's the fault of too much regulation rather than the vice versa is not someone who's worldview I'm likely to ever understand.

Another user jumped in at the end, and asked me this-
"Jeremy, I don't get it, can you seriously look at yourself in the mirror, and tell yourself that government regulation and high taxes are good your country? Do you seriously trust your government to make the correct decisions in regards to red tape and spending other people's money? Because it seems to me that this is what you advocate."

I responded, again within the space limits of the YouTube comment system-
"I believe we live in a complicated society with many needs, and I see economic libertarianism (I am a social libertarian, however) as anarchy. We've seen how businesses behave when there is no check on them (Enron, the housing bubble scam, savings and loans in 80s, etc). Believing in self-regulation takes a naive view of what motivates businesses.

In recent decades, top salaries increased by thousands of %s while base wages have remained stagnant. This is not good for America or capitalism.

As for taxes, well they pay for police, firefighters, parks, schools, public assistance, etc. All good things. I want the private sector to run stores and restaurants, not the parks or fire department. I'm less concerned w how much I pay, and more concerned that the $ goes to worthy places (instead of military boondoggles or other pork).

The problem is too many people take what we got from the New Deal for granted. I've yet to hear, for instance, of libertarians refusing their unemployment benefits."

Finally, in regards to that last comment, I don't think anyone who's read this blog over the years can accuse me of being a blind supporter of government... or, in recent months, a blind supporter of our new President. However, I am a liberal, and not a knee-jerk one, and I believe the case for this ideology was made recently by that peskiest of debaters... reality. Again, this is just one man's opinion. I'm also happy, if any readers desire, to back up any and all statements I made with supporting links (which wasn't possible in YouTube).


[UPDATE: My friend emails me this reality check link about the quality of life in India.]

Quick Hits

The White House (politely) fires back at those poor, suffering CNBC pundits.

The Obama administration makes a key decision on detainee rights. It's, ummm, not good.

Spoiler alert... we're never leaving Iraq. Or solving climate change.

Friday, February 20, 2009

If Only America Were More Like India...

One of the things I have been doing since I lost the focus to keep up this blog is debating politics elsewhere on the internet... see my recent adventures with the conservative LiveJournal community, for instance. I don't go looking for arguments, but sometimes I come across something so stupid or infuriating and just go off.

Case in point: This video on the YouTube channel of the libertarian magazine Reason, entitled 'What Slumdog Millionaire can teach us about economic stimulus'. Their description reads in part-
Indians were enthusiastic about self-rule, but "the problem was that the Indian political leaders had this very Fabian Socialist idea," says Shikha Dalmia, a senior analyst at Reason Foundation and native of India. "And that completely thwarted the entrepreneurship of the country."

For decades would-be entrepreneurs staggered under the weight of corruption and bureaucracy...

...But in the 1990s, India emerged as a high-tech powerhouse. What changed?

"In the 1990s India started liberalizing its economy," says Dalmia, "and it did three things: cut taxes, liberalized trade, and deregulated business." Although they failed to cut the kind of red tape that entangled Slumdog's orphans, the reforms did make it easier for more Indians to start businesses and hire employees...

...Yet here in America we're turning away from market reform. Says Dalmia, "It's just this great conundrum that at the same time that deregulation and markets have produced such dramatic results in India, they are falling into suspicion in America." Dalmia's prescription for India is at odds with what politicians have chosen to "stimulate" the United States. "What India needs to do is continue apace with its liberalization effort, but expand it to include the poor. Release them from the shackles of government corruption and government bureaucracy."

Yes, it's obvious what causes poverty... government corruption! If only we'd reform our markets (and by that I mean, natch, getting rid of all that pesky regulation and taxes), we could reach our full potential. Just like India!

I responded, within the space limits of the YouTube comment section-
"Yes, India's economy is doing fabulous... at the expense of the U.S. economy.

Our greedy execs have sent so many U.S. jobs there precisely because of the deregulated, lower wage atmosphere the text to the right there wants us to celebrate. If the type of economy that we see in India-- hardly a major world economic power-- and its effect on the U.S. job market is supposed to be a model for us to emulate and celebrate... well, I weep for the 21st century.

We used to aim higher."

I received (so far) two replies to this, and six thumbs down. I suck, I know.

The first response I received-
"If we had similar deregulation, wouldn't that mean those greedy execs wouldn't have to outsource their jobs to other countries like India, and we could get some of those jobs back."

My response back-
"No, it wouldn't mean that. We've seen now what good comes here from deregulation. Both businesses and individuals acting as if there are no rules.

Another example... tax cuts. Bush defended his cuts saying it'd make businesses hire more etc. Instead, companies laid off more than ever and slashed benefits and cut hours in recent years (pre-recession even), and just increased their own top-level profits.

The idea that execs care about workers or the lower economy is naive."

The second response I received?
"So we hould stay rich and India poor? God forbid that anyone else has an opportunity to work and to feed themselves. No we should continue our protectionist policies, keep 3rd world countries poor, and pay them only charity in return for political and military favors. And as Gavinthorp mentioned below, you've already stated how we can be competative and get those jobs back. What in the stimulus package does any of that?"

And my response back, in turn-
"If India getting richer means we get poorer, then yes I absolutely disagree with that. Do a nationwide survey on that too... I think you'll find the vast majority would agree, particularly the growing # of unemployed.

Why can't India pull itself up by its own bootstraps? Why should they rely on our handouts? WINK!

We need to take care of our country's problems-- creating new industries, fix healthcare etc-- and stop sending jobs to some countries while becoming a debtor nation to others."

I ignored his question about the stimulus, because I think that was changing the subject. For the record, I won't pretend to believe that that package will solve all our problems, though, under the circumstances, there's enough good starts in there to at least hope for the best.

I'll also state, in conclusion, that I am not a protectionist or anti-trade. Trade is good. It's a big world, and we all have lots of ideas and goods and culture to share. But the type of trade celebrated here is very one-sided. If the U.S. is in a position of seemingly unstoppable growth and expansion and shared prosperity for all its people, then yes we can reach out a helping hand to struggling nations. But we are not in that position, and haven't been for decades, with the '90s boom as a temporary reprieve. So, two things... a) I don't feel there is anything protectionist about wanting us to get our own house in order before we start throwing away jobs with one hand while unloading our growing debt to China and other nations with the other, and b) I will never be so naive as to think business leaders want to help out the greater good, you know, if only we'd stop regulating them so much.

I'm sure 'Slumdog Millionaire' can teach us something, but I don't believe that's it.

Hit-and-Run 2/20/09: Wall Street Tea Party Edition

Here's some more quick hits of news and commentaries before I fall asleep again...

President Obama unveiled his mortgage/homeowner relief plan earlier this week and, while struggling homeowners are probably optimistic, the super-in-touch folks at CNBC are not. One network star, Rick Santelli, has gained cult-hero status on the right (look out, Sam Joe the Plumber!) for his rant, in which calls those facing foreclosures "losers" and calls for a new Boston Tea Party. As one blogger stated, "The revolution has begun. These workaday stock traders are going to take back this country for the laissez-faire capitalists who are entitled to it." Bailed-out fat cats of the world unite!

You may have seen the above story pimped enthusiastically by Drudge who, as Time's Joe Klein points out, is also rooting for Obama to fail. You can see this every day for the last month, how the entire structure of his page is dedicated to tearing down the administration and highlighting every piece of bad news. Just another reminder of how the President is naive to assume that the current GOP-- who lost by running a base campaign, but seem determined to try again anyway-- can ever be negotiated with in good faith. The stimulus proved that their votes are not needed in the end, we have the majority... cut them out of the process. They'll come around, or get voted out. Either way, he wins.

Speaking of... top GOP governors act tough for said base, claiming they will refuse stimulus money for their states. Spoiler alert: they won't. Unlike random GOP congressfolk, they have some sense of political self-preservation.

And with growing talk over "nationalization", the right again engages in false debate to scare people. No one is talking about some mass nationalization of the financial sector (Bush already did that [/sarcasm]). To the extent that such a thing is being discussed, it's merely (and would be temporarily) for the handful of top banks who took bailout $$ but seem incapable of correcting themselves. At this point, I say just do it and get over it. Or shut up.

The National Review throws Schwarzenegger under the bus?

Random thought... the Democrats are having some shitty Senate luck this year.

Moving on to international news-- I'm ignoring Hillary Clinton's trip, because it seems like all PR-- this situation in Pakistan with the Taliban seems very disturbing. This is where 7+ years of ignoring a mess takes you. I'm also ambivalent about the Obama decision to send more troops to Afghanistan because, while I admire his commitment to fixing this mess, I think we're just way past a point for any kind of major military solution. What's my suggestion? I have no clue, and I don't think anyone else does either.

Finally, Obama promised to end the Bush/Cheney war policies. So is he?

Recommended Viewing

The issue of how our economy got to this place is a complicated matter (though the discussion still tends to ignore the 30-year-old trend of squeezing the middle class, and how this is is also the dominoes from that going over). Here is another video which tries to make sense of it-

The Crisis of Credit Visualized from Jonathan Jarvis on Vimeo.

Or: If you're a conservative... it's all Barney Frank's fault. That fag.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

How To Debate a Fox News Host

The mayor of Lansing, Michigan shows you how.

We need more people pointing out the double standard of economic accountability in this country. Kudos.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Hit-and-Run 2/17/09: Economic Girlie Men Edition

Here's one of those quick hit-and-run posts I mentioned. Enjoy...

President Obama signed the stimulus package into law today, and set up a website-- to track its progress (in theory). Polls indicate the public is optimistic about this. My feelings? It's probably not good enough, but certainly better than whatever nightmare McCain/Palin would've inflicted upon us. Here goes nothing.

And why was Treasury Sec. Geithner's financial rescue press conference last week so vague? The answer? They're still not fully sure what to do about this mess. And, to me, that may be a good thing given the mindless clusterfuck that was the 'plan' they inherited.

Bill Clinton on his role in the economic crash... Don't blame me. STFU.

And is it time to nationalize the big, failed banks? A once-crazy idea now seems more reasonable.

Speaking of the economy, depressing news from California: "California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said layoff notices would be sent to about 20,000 workers starting Tuesday, after legislators failed to pass a plan to help close a projected 42-billion-dollar state budget deficit." More here. Part of the stimulus package, by the way, opposed by Arnold's DC GOP counterparts, is designed to send aid to prevent these scenarios. For some reason, I'm having a flashback to 2004...

Gen. Petraeus and some other Bush-era military leaders have been fighting Obama over the Iraq pullout (staying forever is way funner). Now others are fighting them on that effort.

The U.S. Mint is apparently trying to turn every coin into a collector's item.

Bristol Palin states the obvious about conservative abstinence-only obsession.

Finally, why do people insist Rush Limbaugh is a juvenile bigot? I just don't see it. {*cough*}

The State of the Blog

So maybe you've been wondering (?), as I have, where this blog stands. The sad fact is that I don't have the mental energy right now to devote to it as I did in years past. I hope that changes again soon, I do enjoy the process of blogging, and my passion for politics remains.

I will continue to post here as I find the time, though likely in shorter, more hit and run-ish posts than usuals. As always, if anyone is curious for my take on a subject, just post a comment, and I'll respond with an entry.

I am also considering a podcast. More thoughts on that in the weeks to come.