The Talking Dog

September 12, 2010, Economic policy change you can believe in

Evidently, census data is going to show that the nation's "poverty rate" (an arbitrary definition to be sure, but unlike unemployment, at least a consistently measured one) will slide to a nearly 50 year high for 2009. While the A.P. piece observes it may be useful political fodder, I tend to agree with the observation made that "middle class unemployment" (somewhat of on oxymoron, but we know what they mean) will prove to be the more potent electoral issue.

Of course, one must step back and note the whole subtext: the untold suffering of untold millions that, while fully felt during the Obama Administration was obviously well on its way from the Bush era (the latter two years of which, btw, Democrats controlled Congress)... has been reduced simply to a quesiton of horse-race politics, rather than looked at as something... troubling... in its own right, let alone something in need of remedy (other than remedy for political horse race purposes, of course).

Anyway, the ultimate pull of American politics, be it the creation of the total national security state, the total prison (for swarthy people) state, the total Victorian wealth distribution (and lately, income distribution too)... has been remarkably "bipartisan." Lest we forget, it was a Democratic President (the current one... who was evidently way to my left back when we were in college, though, to be sure, I'm probably some kind of "Political Case of Benjamin Button") who passed a "health care reform" that consisted not of a Government run social program to ensure that medical health services were delivered to the most needy, but a huge subsidy to private industry, specifically to a "health insurance sector" that shouldn't even legally be allowed to exist! And the same President has, of course, doubled down on Bush era tortures by making them off limits even to inquiry, let alone accountability, upped the ante on American aggression in Afghanistan, oh... here's where I was going... gave us a "stimulus package" loaded-- loaded-- with yet more tax cuts for the uber-rich, as if trickle down f***ing worked... and, as I noted recently, proposed yet another tax cut on research and development as a tepid election year "stimulus" of jobs, when of course, it would prove ultimately to be quite the opposite if implemented, which it probably won't be.

This country has, uniquely, a fetish against any kind of "national industrial policy." The premise, of course, is that even though the Government intervenes in virtually every aspect of our economy, it's o.k. as long as it does so in the parochial interests of the people who care enough to hire lobbyists and bribe Congress members to get laws favorable to themselves... any premise of a "national interest" in such economic policies is met with tut tutting. The result, of course, is that no one is concerned with stupid questions like... if big business gets new government subsidies and tax credits for "research and development"... won't it likely invest them in yet more "labor saving devices" ... or even if labor is required... how can we ensure it will be domestic labor?

Look: nice rhetoric is wonderful. I'm delighted that the President is (apparently, though he'll eventually be undermined by his own party) holding the line on not extending the Bush era tax cuts for those earning over a quarter million dollars annually. And talk of "green energy sources" and "new technology" and so forth is pleasing to the ears... but if the answer is yet more tax cuts to plutocrats... well, see above, re: poverty stats, because "trickle down" works great if what we want are jobs as gardeners and butlers (or jobs at McDonalds and Walmart, where the gardeners and butlers will eat and shop)... but is that really going to develop a decent economy in five, ten or fifteen years time?

Our income and wealth distribution is wildly out of whack, and in case no one is paying attention, this has long undermined our efficiency and long-term viability (there comes a point when workers, and even "small business," realize that the game can't be won without cheating, and basically do "just enough" to survive and leave it at that). And our economy ain't creating jobs. The brilliant gambit of the Bush II Administration, of course, was to encourage "the ownership society"-- if virtually everyone has a house, and that house continues to irrationally increase in value-- then no one dare point out that the entire economy is a Ponzi scheme. But... the financial collapse and the Great Recession have scraped that particular gloss off... and yet... a Democratic President proposes... the same old Republican premise of the world, because, of course, our political class is of one mind, even if professional pundits (and these days, bloggers) devote incredible time, money and effort to trying to tell us that minor superficial differences between "the two parties" somehow matter.

Well, I've said it before: until our overfed, overmedicated, overweight and overwrought population takes to the streets... whether it be to protest the Neo-Victorian policies of the Republicans, or the virtually-identical-in-practice-if-not-in-rhetoric Neo-Victorian policies of the Democrats... 'twill be ever thus, and ever more of same. Lather, rinse, repeat.

This has been... "economic policy change you can believe in."