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Richard Eskow Asks: Which Side Are You On?

9:32 pm in Uncategorized by letsgetitdone

Education Social Security

Education Social Security

Richard Eskow of the Center for the American Future, posted a very good one a couple of days ago. He used the old union meme “which side are you on” to beat up the President and Congress about Social Security being placed on the negotiating table. I thought his writing on it was striking. Here’s some of it:

“This is a moment of moral clarity. Right now there are only two sides in the Social Security debate: the side that says it’s acceptable to cut benefits – in a way that raises taxes for all income except the highest – and the side that says it isn’t.

“It’s time to ask our leaders – and ourselves – a simple question: Which side are you on?”

“Nancy Pelosi says she can convince most Congressional Democrats to “stick with the President” as he pursues his gratuitous and callous plan to cut Social Security benefits as part of a deficit deal – even though Social Security does not contribute to the deficit.”

I certainly hope that Nancy Pelosi cannot convince most Democrats to risk their seats and prepare the way for a Republican sweep in 2014 by voting to cut SS. The Republicans will respond to this by casting themselves as the protectors of SS, and while this is ridiculous, the Democrats will not be credible in claiming that they are its protectors, and they will lose their identity as the protectors of the safety net, a very high price to pay for the sake of raising taxes on the rich by an amount that is insignificant in the greater scheme of things. Eskow goes on:

“Excuse me: Stick with the President? What about sticking with our seniors and our veterans? What about sticking with our disabled fellow Americans? What What about sticking with the more than 4,000 children on Social Security who lost a parent in the Iraq War?

“If you want to “stick with” Americans on Social Security, it’s time to call everybody who represents you in Washington – your Representative, your Senator, your President – and tell them that they’ll lose your support if they do this deal.

“It’s time for an end to the Orwellian doublespeak. Cutting benefits won’t “strengthen” Social Security, as Nancy Pelosi claims. Cuts of 6.5 percent for a 75 year old and 9.2 percent for a 95 year old aren’t so small that “folks won’t even notice ‘em,” as President Obama claimed. They’re not a “technical” adjustment, as his press secretary argued, nor do “most economists believe … this about getting a proper measure of inflation.

“The smart economists know that even today’s cost of living formula isn’t enough. It undercounts the things older and disabled people use the most, like health care and public transportation. Some other people know the formula’s inadequate, too: Seniors. They live with the costs every day.

“So let’s stop all the double-talk and get down to the real question at hand: Which side are you on?”

The framing is “which side are you on”? Will you stick with the President and the people, who will do a deal at any costs, or will you stick with seniors and the American people. This reminds me of the frame Randy Wray recently used in one of his posts on re-framing MMT. That framing came from Bruce Springsteen: Read the rest of this entry →

Ryan’s Follies: Back to Liberty

5:46 pm in Uncategorized by letsgetitdone

More on liberty from Ryan’s reply to the President’s 2011 SOTU. These are about that old Republican hypocritical favorite, “small government.”

”The President and the Democratic Leadership have shown, by their actions, that they believe government needs to increase its size and its reach, its price tag and its power.”

What planet does Congressman Ryan live on? The Democrats have done very little to increase the size of Government. The measure of that is that the average annual growth in Federal Government spending is the lowest it’s been in the period since Dwight Eisenhower became President. In addition, Federal spending as a percent of GDP is still extremely low compared to National Government expenditures by the nations mentioned in my last post, and has only risen about 5 percentage points from Bush Administration levels, in response to the economic crisis, which, remember, was caused by policies avidly supported by Paul Ryan and conservative Republicans.

In addition, the President, much to his discredit, has done all he could to keep Government expenditures revenue neutral or revenue positive, beyond expenditures for defense, the stimulus, and increases in social safety net expenditures resulting from the recession. His health care reform bill is a disgraceful attempt to bailout the insurance companies without taking them over, because he would not entertain Medicare for All, since it wasn’t “revenue neutral.” Never mind that enhanced Medicare for All would have saved the private sector $900 Billion per year in Medical Costs, and that the stimulus involved in an additional $800 Billion of Federal deficit spending would probably have created an addition 2 million jobs, at least.

”We believe a renewed commitment to limited government will unshackle our economy and create millions of new jobs and opportunities for all people, of every background, to succeed and prosper. Under this approach, the spirit of initiative – not political clout – determines who succeeds.

“Millions of families have fallen on hard times not because of our ideals of free enterprise – but because our leaders failed to live up to those ideals; because of poor decisions made in Washington and Wall Street that caused a financial crisis, squandered our savings, broke our trust, and crippled our economy.”

The history of America is largely the history of extending initiative from the economic sector to politics and gaining advantage in both sectors. We’ve seen that with the railroads, the steel and oil industries (including Paul Ryan’s sponsors, the Koch brothers), coal, the mass media, telecommunications, the software industry, the FIRE sector, and most other industries that have scaled the economic heights in this country. There is no way to separate economic initiative from its extension into politics. The idea that these two can be separated is a myth to persuade Americans without much power that what is happening to them is due to impersonal economic forces, rather than the use of previously accumulated wealth and political power to rig the context of the economic system so that the already wealthy can reap even greater rewards in the future.

So, unfortunately, as much as we would like to believe that a company’s success in America has nothing to do with politics. It, most often, is intertwined with either favorable political conditions, political influence, or both. Congressman Ryan knows that very well because he, and his Republican and Democratic colleagues, are the recipients of attempts to “fix” the political system, so that certain private sector businesses can profit.

So, I don’t know whether Congressman Ryan thinks that’s the “spirit of initiative” or not. But I think it’s just as much, if not more, about buying political clout than it is about economic initiative, innovation, and ‘”free enterprise.”

Ryan goes on to blame Washington and Wall Street for decisions that caused the financial crisis. I certainly agree; But I also think that the wrong decisions made by Washington include de-regulating Wall Street, so that the spirit of “free enterprise” and the influence of the FIRE and energy sectors reigned supreme.

That happened during the Clinton Administration under the influence of Robert Rubin and Larry Summers, and then the Bush Administration saw to it that the SEC would not enforce the inadequate regulations that still remained. Unregulated “free enterprise” produced unprecedented accounting control frauds and bubbles in the Real Estate markets which eventually led to the crash of 2008. Then the Obama Administration bailed out the banksters/fraudsters and until now has refused to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators, while moaning about how we have to look forward and not backward.

Meanwhile, Paul Ryan, along with Mitt Romney, are responding to all this by telling us that we need to back off regulation of the private sector, and that will make everything all right. But anyone with an ounce of common sense knows that the only thing that will clean up the banking system, and restore public faith in it, is cleaning up the frauds and punishing the people responsible.

Why isn’t Paul Ryan calling for that if he wants people to have faith in “free enterprise” again? He needs to keep in mind that there’s no freedom without responsibility and accountability, and that his prescription, and that of the Republicans is to put responsibility and accountability aside, and to let working people bear the burden of the failings of the Wall Street FIRE sector and the corrupt Congresses and Administrations that failed, and still fail, to regulate them.

Finally, Congressman Ryan’s plea for a return to limited Government would be far more credible if he were as much concerned about limitations on the size and intrusiveness of Government when it comes to privacy, a woman’s reproductive rights, civil liberties, rights of habeas corpus, protections against torture, and the right to a speedy trial, as he is about the non-existent rights of businessmen to subvert markets through fraudulent activity hiding beneath the skirts of the ideal of “free enterprise. He would also be much more credible in his concern for liberty, if he were concerned that “necessitous men, are not free men,” and were willing, in the interests of liberty, to strengthen, instead of weaken, the social safety net by making its provisions as generous as the safety net in other civilized nations. He would, further, be still more credible, if his concern for liberty were great enough that he would support Medicare for All, so that employees in the United States would no longer be tied to jobs that they don’t like, and were free to move to other employment without having to worry about interrupting or degrading their health care coverage, and risking their lives in the process.

He would, further, be even more credible, if his concern for liberty extended to providing a Federal Job Guarantee (see posts 42-50) to everyone who wanted to work, so that they had the freedom to do so. And he would, finally, be even more credible that that, if he recognized that liberty is not about small sized Government or big Government, but is, instead, about Government that is the right size, to do those things that will maximize the liberty of as many people as possible in our nation.

It’s about recognizing that the liberty of individuals is often in conflict with the liberty of other individuals, and that you can’t maximize liberty across all individuals by giving some people (big business people and FIRE sector people) complete economic liberty from any reasonable rules, when that means removing or restricting the liberty of many or most of the other people in the United States, by chaining them to the wheel of extreme economic insecurity.

Joe Biden just famously accused Romney of wanting to “let the big banks once again write their own rules. “Unchain Wall Street!” And then continued: “They gonna put y’all back in chains.” Biden was right.

For most of American history, farmers and small businessmen have been chained to the banks. The New Deal ended that. But the banks are back, more powerful than ever, and they do want to chain most of us to the wheel of economic insecurity for their own profit. Ryan, Romney, the Republicans, and too many Democrats are their agents in this. They must be stopped!

Government does need to be limited, but only a simpleton can fail to recognize that its limits have less to do with its size, and much more to do with its having processes that are just and fair and maximize liberty, rather than processes which enshrine arbitrariness, favoritism, exposure to political influence, and special favors for one group, placing them above the law.

Does Congressman Ryan understand that it is not about size, but about justice and activities that maximize liberty? If he does, and if he were really interested in justice and liberty, then he would be worth listening to when he talks about limited Government, and his Party would gain the trust and honor among the American people that it has not had since the time of Teddy Roosevelt, and before that Abraham Lincoln.

But don’t hold your breath waiting for either that interest in justice and liberty, or that understanding about size to happen. It’s just not in the DNA of the 21st Century Republican Party, the party of injustice and of serfdom for the 99%.

(Cross-posted from Correntewire.com.)

Ryan’s Follies: Limited Government, Liberty, and Effective Government

6:01 pm in Uncategorized by letsgetitdone

More Ryan’s follies from his answer to the President’s 2011 SOTU. These are about that old Republican hypocritical favorite, “small government.”

”So I’d like to share with you the principles that guide us. They are anchored in the wisdom of the founders; in the spirit of the Declaration of Independence; and in the words of the American Constitution.

They have to do with the importance of limited government; and with the blessing of self-government. . . .

We believe, as our founders did, that “the pursuit of happiness” depends upon individual liberty; and individual liberty requires limited government.”

I find myself in general agreement with this position; but I think it raises a very big issue, and that issue is: in exactly what ways ought the Government to be limited? Unfortunately, the Constitution doesn’t tell us that in a completely clear way. It leaves it up to us to figure it out. It isn’t so much that individual liberty requires limited government; but that it requires government that is limited in the right ways. So let’s see what Congressman Ryan thinks about this issue.

”Limited government also means effective government. When government takes on too many tasks, it usually doesn’t do any of them very well. It’s no coincidence that trust in government is at an all-time low now that the size of government is at an all-time high.”

Well, suddenly we’ve moved away from “liberty” to talking about effective government, trust, and the size of government. OK. Let’s talk about that!

There are a lot of factors that determine the effectiveness of Government. It’s pretty clear that Government won’t be effective if it’s badly led and managed. So, since 1981 we’ve seen that Government wasn’t very effective in many of its functions when managed by Ronald Reagan and the two Bushes. I wonder why. Could it be that these Republican Presidents wanted Government to be ineffective in the various areas of Government activity established by legislation they disapproved of?

It’s also clear, that Government won’t be effective if the people chosen to lead it by our presidents intend for it to perform poorly. So, when presidents have appointed Secretaries of Labor who were anti-labor, it’s not surprising that the Labor Department performed poorly. Nor is it surprising that when they appointed people to head the FCC, or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that the work of these agencies suffered. And how about their record of appointments to the SEC, or the Treasury or the Fed. If presidents appoint people to these agencies that look the other way, and refuse to regulate accounting control fraud, then you get accounting control fraud run rampant. Or take the EPA, the Republicans keep appointing EPA Directors who are opposed to environmental regulation. Clearly, they are there to stop the Government from performing not, to manage its enforcing the law.

As to the Government having too many tasks to do anything very well, it’s quite clear that the size of the Government is not as important as the size of the units of Government performing the tasks they need to perform, and as the communications among units that need to coordinate to perform tasks well. Also, whether units perform well is a function of the resources available to them to perform particular tasks.

For years Republicans and, to a lesser degree, Democrats, as well,have been trying to shrink the Government (because small government is better, don’cha know?), so that much of its work, has to be contracted out to the private sector. Of course, this introduces incentive problems in doing the contracted out government work, and also communication problems, between the private contractors and the government supervisors, which interfere with both efficiency and effectiveness.

After 30 years of this, there is no evidence that the policy of shrinking Government’s permanent civil service employees, and contracting out government work to the private sector has been either less expensive for the Government, or more effective than Government operations of the 1950s and 1960s, which used many more civil service employees, and fewer private contractors to perform Government’s work. In fact, it’s likely that contracting out has been far more expensive and less effective than the old way of doing things, because private contractors have a tendency to stretch out work, and continue it as long as they can, so that their billings are extended.

In any event, the size of the Government doesn’t necessarily correlate with effective performance. We can see this by comparing national governments across the World. Many nations spent more, and some far more, as a percentage of GDP than the 34.6% the United States spent on Federal, State, and local Government in 2007; for example: France; Sweden, Denmark, Sweden, Belgium, Norway, The Netherlands, Austria, Finland, the UK, Germany, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and Switzerland. Arguably all of these Governments performed more effectively than the US Government in that year. But, even if you don’t believe that, it’s hard to deny that they performed at least as well.

On the other hand, many nations that spent more on Government as a percent of GDP than the US, performed much more poorly than we did. My point is that there is no clear, strong, correlation between nations whose Governments are obviously effective, and nations with a particular size of Government, and certainly there is no empirical evidence that smaller Governments work better than larger ones.

Finally, the size of Government, viewed in terms of Government spending as a percent of GDP, is not at an all time high relative to the rest of the economy. It was larger in WWII for one thing. For another, its recent increase is due to the effects of the recession and additional Government expenditures made to combat it. Nor does this increase take into account Government spending at the State and local levels. At these levels, Government spending has been cut drastically inhibiting economic recovery by introducing fiscal drag, exactly when we needed the Government sector to step up and inject funding into the private sector.

Trust in the Government may be at or near an all time low, but that is due to the failures of the Bush and Obama Administrations, the crash of 2008, the Federal bailout of the banks without a corresponding bailout of Main Street, and the actions of a Congress paralyzed by deficit hawkism and small government ideology. That is, the Federal Government hasn’t performed very well, in large part due to the role of the Republicans, including Congressman Ryan, in opposing the passage of Government spending sufficient to create full employment, and in supporting the continued bailout of the banks, the payment of undeserved bonuses to FIRE sector personnel. And also in taking Federal spending hostage through paralyzing the Federal budget process and using the debt ceiling to force spending cuts, and block income tax increases on the wealthy, and in opposing investigations of the mortgage and accounting control frauds that have put so many out of their homes.

This lack of trust, isn’t due to too much Government action, except perhaps in the areas of trans-vaginal ultrasound procedures and onerous voter ID laws, and won’t be fixed by Mr. Ryan’s preferred policies of ineffective, or no regulation of the FIRE sector and fiscal austerity. On the other hand, it may well be fixed by:

– an effective Federal Job Guarantee program,

– a Federal Revenue Sharing program restoring and saving state and local government jobs,

– a full payroll tax holiday for employers and employees including Federal reimbursement of the Social Security account,

– ending the wars in the Middle East completely,

– passing an enhanced Medicare for All bill,

– forgiving student loan debt,

– prosecuting accounting control frauds in the FIRE sector, and

– doubling Social Security benefits.

In other words, if the Government starts doing some things that actually benefit the majority of the population, then it’s very likely that people will trust it a lot more. That’s not rocket science, is it?

(Cross-posted from Correntewire.com.)

Defending Entitlements Against the Debt Terrorists

7:00 pm in Uncategorized by letsgetitdone

Dean Baker recently posted on the closed door meetings some prominent CEOs are having on shaping austerity budgets to be used after the election to pressure Congress to arrive at a bi-partisan compromise that will cut spending much more than it raises taxes and “put us on the road to fiscal sustainability and fiscal responsibility.” Dean rightly points out that these concerns are greatly overblown since the most important problem we are facing now is growing the economy and providing for full or near-full employment. In particular, he’s very opposed to entitlement cuts and is opposed to the current bipartisan impulse to sacrifice entitlements on the altar of fiscal sustainability/responsibility. He then says:

”The question is how to make it so that popular sentiment overrides the big bucks of the corporate chieftains. The obvious answer would be to make the protection of these programs central issues in the election. Members of Congress and candidates for seats should be pressed to indicate where they stand on the proposed cuts to these programs.

“That means getting them to answer specific questions, like whether they support reducing the annual cost-of-living adjustment or raising the normal retirement age for Social Security or the age of eligibility for Medicare. These are among the most important issues in people’s lives and voters should not have to go to the polls not knowing where the candidates for the House, the Senate or the presidency stand on them.

“People should also be aware that politicians are true masters of evasion on these questions. A response like, “I support Social Security and Medicare,” should be taken to mean that they are prepared to support cuts for these programs. All of the people running for office are smart enough to know how to say that they oppose the cuts being put on the table, and they undoubtedly would say that they oppose the cuts, if it is true.

“Similarly, a statement like, “I oppose the privatization of Social Security and Medicare” should also be taken to mean that they are prepared to support cuts to these programs. Again, they are not being asked about privatization, it’s not immediately on the table, why would they give an answer about privatization except to avoid admitting their support for cuts?

“The news media should also be pressed into service in this effort. It is their job to tell us the candidates’ positions on important issues and there are few issues more important to voters than Social Security and Medicare. People should harangue their local newspapers and television stations to ask candidates their positions on cuts to these programs. This is far more important than most of the gossip about the campaigns that dominates news coverage.

“The whole effort here must be focused on smoking out politicians on where they stand on cuts to Social Security and Medicare. The CEOs want to do this behind closed doors because they know that politicians who have to answer to their constituencies will never be able to get away with these cuts. The key is to force the debate into the sunlight.”

While I very much agree with the idea that we must force this debate into the sunlight and should focus on getting our Representatives, Senators, and even Presidential candidates to take a “no entitlement cuts under any circumstances position,” I also think that the methods outlined above by Dean are unlikely to be enough to carry the day.

We also need to be trashing the position that says that there is a deficit problem, and that there is long-term deficit reduction/debt problem that need to be fixed. That’s true because unless we do that, we just look like selfish people trying to hang on to safety net benefits, when, the deficit hawks will say, the US reached a period where fiscal responsibility/sustainability demands that we cut those benefits on pain of running out of money, or ruining our capability to borrow money from the bond markets at low interest rates.

Fortunately the position of those who think we need to reduce the deficit and fix the debt is easy to trash because the economic and fiscal assumptions it’s based on don’t apply to currency sovereign governments like the United States. For us the problem of eliminating the debt is neither problem nor a burden, and our current deficits are no problem because they are far too small to produce demand-pull inflation. In recent posts, I’ve both explained why the debt is no problem, outlined how to eliminate it if we really want to and explained why our current deficits are too small. Please see here, here, here, here, and here for the explanations.

Besides approaching our candidates and the media with anger and better arguments and traditional methods of influence, I also think we need to make use of other channels of influence. These days, both officeholders, candidates, and the media all have web sites, Facebook pages, and Twitter sites. These especially need to be flooded with protests and also the truth that there isn’t any debt/deficit problem that needs to be fixed. And also with demands that candidates come clean about their positions on entitlement and other spending cuts, and, as well, plain threats that a vote for entitlement cuts and other programs that benefit poor and middle class Americans will be met with retaliation against the candidate before and during the next primary election and their certain defeat.

The message must be very clear. It must be given to both parties, and it must be unrelenting from now through the election, and for as long as it takes to make all the advocates of austerity cease and desist their efforts at destroying activist government and a State that fosters equality of opportunity, an end to extremes of economic inequality, and a decent standard of living for all.

(Cross-posted from Correntewire.com.)

Paul Ryan On Limited Government

9:13 pm in Uncategorized by letsgetitdone

In my last two posts I reviewed the deficit reduction aspects of Paul Ryan’s Republican response to the SOTU. But Ryan also placed considerable emphasis on the idea of “limited government” in his response. In this post, I want to evaluate what he had to say on this theme.

So I’d like to share with you the principles that guide us. They are anchored in the wisdom of the founders; in the spirit of the Declaration of Independence; and in the words of the American Constitution.

They have to do with the importance of limited government; and with the blessing of self-government. . . .

We believe, as our founders did, that “the pursuit of happiness” depends upon individual liberty; and individual liberty requires limited government.

I find myself in complete agreement with this position; but I think it raises a very big issue, and that issue is: in exactly what ways ought the Government to be limited? Unfortunately, the Constitution doesn’t tell us that in a completely clear way. It leaves it up to us to figure it out. So let’s see what Congressman Ryan thinks about this issue?

Limited government also means effective government. When government takes on too many tasks, it usually doesn’t do any of them very well. It’s no coincidence that trust in government is at an all-time low now that the size of government is at an all-time high.

There are a lot of factors that determine the effectiveness of Government. It’s pretty clear that Government won’t be effective if it’s badly led and managed. So, since 1977 we’ve seen that Government wasn’t very effective in many of its functions when managed by Ronald Reagan and the two Bushes. I wonder why. Could it be that these Republican Presidents wanted Government to be effective in the various areas of Government activity established by legislation they disapproved of?

It’s also clear, that Government won’t be effective if the people chosen to lead intend for it to perform poorly. So, when the Republicans have appointed Secretaries of Labor who were anti-labor, it’s not surprising that the Labor Department performed poorly. Nor is it surprising that when they appointed people to head the FCC, or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that the work of these agencies suffered. Or take the EPA, the Republicans keep appointing EPA Directors who are opposed to environmental regulation. Clearly, they are there to stop the Government from performing not, to manage its enforcing the law.

As to the Government having too many tasks to do anything very well, it’s quite clear that the size of the Government is not as important as the size of the units of Government performing the tasks it needs to perform, and as the communications among units that need to coordinate to perform tasks well. Also, whether units perform well is a function of the resources available to the units performing particular tasks.

For years Republicans and, to a lesser degree, Democrats, have been trying to shrink the Government, so that much of its work, has to be contracted out to the private sector. Of course, this introduces incentive problems, and also communication problems which interfere with both efficiency and effectiveness. There is no evidence that this policy of shrinking Government’s permanent civil service employees, and contracting out to the private sector has been either less expensive for the Government, or more effective than Government operations in the 1950s and 1960s, which used many more civil service employees, and fewer private contractors to perform Government’s work. In fact, it’s likely that contracting out has been far more expensive and less effective than the old way of doing things, because private contractors have a tendency to stretch out work, and continue it as long as they can so that their billings are extended.

In any event, the size of the Government doesn’t necessarily correlate with effective performance. We can see this by comparing national governments across the World. Many nations spent more, and some far more, as a percentage of GDP than the 34.6% the United States spent on Federal, State, and local Government in 2007; for example: France; Sweden, Denmark, Sweden, Belgium, Norway, The Netherlands, Austria, Finland, the UK, Germany, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and Switzerland. Arguably all of these Governments performed more effectively than the US Government in that year. But, even if you don’t believe that, it’s hard to deny that they performed at least as well.

On the other hand, many nations that spent more on Government as a percent of GDP than the US, performed much more poorly than we did. My point is that there is no clear, strong, correlation between nations whose Governments are obviously effective, and nations with a particular size of Government, and certainly there is no empirical evidence that smaller Governments work better than larger ones.

Finally, the size of Government, viewed in terms of Government spending as a percent of GDP, is not at an all time high relative to the rest of the economy. It was larger in WW2 for one thing. For another, its recent increase is due to the effects of the recession and additional Government expenditures made to combat it.

Trust in the Government may be at or near an all time low, but that is due to the failures of the Bush Administration, the crash of 2008, and the Federal bailout of the banks without a corresponding bailout of Main Street. That is, the Federal Government hasn’t performed very well, in large part due to the role of the Republicans, including Congressman Ryan, in opposing the passage of Government spending sufficient to create full employment, and in supporting the continued bailout of the banks, the payment of undeserved bonuses to FIRE sector personnel, and in opposing investigations of the mortgage and accounting control frauds that have put so many out of their homes.

This lack of trust, isn’t due to too much Government action, and won’t be fixed by Mr. Ryan’s preferred policies of ineffective, or no regulation of the FIRE sector and fiscal austerity. On the other hand, it may be fixed by an effective Federal Job Guarantee program, a Federal Revenue Sharing program saving state and local jobs, a payroll tax holiday for employers and employees including Federal reimbursement of the Social Security account, ending the wars in the Middle East quickly, and passing a Medicare for All bill

The President and the Democratic Leadership have shown, by their actions, that they believe government needs to increase its size and its reach, its price tag and its power.

What planet does Congressman Ryan live on? The Democrats have done very little to increase the size of Government. The measure of that is that Federal Government spending as a percent of GDP is still extremely low compared to National Government expenditures by the nations mentioned earlier, and has only risen about 5 percentage points from Bush Administration levels.

In addition, the President, much to his discredit, has done all he could to keep Government expenditures revenue neutral or revenue positive, beyond expenditures for defense, and increases in social safety net expenditures resulting from the recession. His health care reform bill is a disgraceful attempt to bailout the insurance companies without taking them over, because he would not entertain Medicare for All.

We believe a renewed commitment to limited government will unshackle our economy and create millions of new jobs and opportunities for all people, of every background, to succeed and prosper. Under this approach, the spirit of initiative – not political clout – determines who succeeds.

Millions of families have fallen on hard times not because of our ideals of free enterprise – but because our leaders failed to live up to those ideals; because of poor decisions made in Washington and Wall Street that caused a financial crisis, squandered our savings, broke our trust, and crippled our economy.

The history of America is largely the history of extending initiative from the economic sector to politics and gaining advantage in both sectors. We’ve seen that with the railroads, the steel and oil industries, coal, the mass media, telecommunications, the software industry, the FIRE sector, and most other industries that have scaled the economic heights in this country. There is no way to separate economic initiative from its extension into politics. The idea that these two can be separated is a myth.

So, unfortunately, as much as we would like to believe that a company’s success in America has nothing to do with politics. It, most often, is intertwined with either favorable political conditions, political influence, or both. Congressman Ryan knows that very well because he, and his Republican and Democratic colleagues, are the recipients of attempts to fix the political system, so that certain private sector businesses can profit. So, I don’t know whether Congressman Ryan thinks that’s the “spirit of initiative” or not. But I think it’s just as much, if not more, about buying political clout.

Ryan goes on to blame Washington and Wall Street for decisions that caused the financial crisis. I certainly agree; But I also think that the wrong decisions made by Washington include de-regulating of Wall Street so that the spirit of “free enterprise” reigned supreme. That happened during the Clinton Administration under the influence of Robert Rubin and Larry Summers, and then the Bush Administration saw to it that the SEC would not enforce the inadequate regulations that still remained. Unregulated “free enterprise” produced unprecedented accounting control frauds and bubbles in the Real Estate markets which eventually led to the crash of 2008. Then the Obama Administration bailed out the banksters/fraudsters and until now has refused to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators, while moaning about how we have to look forward and not backward.

Meanwhile, Paul Ryan is responding to all this by telling us that we need to back off regulation of the private sector, and that will make everything all right. But anyone with an ounce of common sense knows that the only thing that will clean up the banking system, and restore public faith in it, is cleaning up the frauds and punishing the people responsible. Why isn’t Paul Ryan calling for that if he wants people to have faith in “free enterprise” again? He needs to keep in mind that there’s no freedom without responsibility and accountability, and that his prescription, and that of the Republicans is to put responsibility and accountability aside, and to let working people bear the burden of the failings of the Wall Street FIRE sector and the corrupt Congresses and Administrations that failed, and still fail, to regulate them.

Finally, Congressman Ryan’s plea for a return to limited Government would be far more credible if he were as much concerned about limitations on the size and intrusiveness of Government when it comes to privacy, civil liberties, rights of habeas corpus, protections against torture, and the right to a speedy trial, as he is about the non-existent rights of businessmen to subvert markets through fraudulent activity hiding beneath the skirts of the ideal of “free enterprise. He would also be much more credible in his concern for liberty, if he were concerned that “necessitous men, are not free men,” and were willing, in the interests of liberty, to strengthen, instead of weaken, the social safety net by making its provisions as generous as the safety net in other civilized nations. He would, further, be still more credible, if his concern for liberty were great enough that he would support Medicare for All, so that employees in the United States would no longer be tied to jobs that they don’t like, and were free to move to other employment without having to worry about interrupting or degrading their health care coverage.

He would, further, be even more credible, if his concern for liberty extended to providing a Federal Job Guarantee to everyone who wanted to work, so that they had the freedom to do so. And he would, finally, be even more credible that that, if he recognized that liberty is not about small sized Government or big Government, but is, instead, about Government that is the right size, to do those things that will maximize the liberty of as many people as possible in our nation. It’s about recognizing that the liberty of individuals is often in conflict, and that you can’t maximize liberty by giving some people (big business people and FIRE sector people) complete economic liberty from any reasonable rules, when that means removing or restricting the liberty of many or most of the other people in the United States, by chaining them to the wheel of extreme economic insecurity.

Government does need to be limited, but only a simpleton can fail to recognize that its limits have less to do with its size, and much more to do with its having processes that are just and fair and maximize liberty, rather than processes which enshrine arbitrariness, favoritism, exposure to political influence, and special favors for one group, placing them above the law. If Congressman Ryan understood that it is not about size, but about justice and activities that maximize liberty, then he would be worth listening to when he talks about limited Government, and his Party would gain the trust and honor among the American people that it has not had since the time of Teddy Roosevelt, and before that Abraham Lincoln. But don’t hold your breath waiting for that understanding to happen. It’s just not in the DNA of the 21st Century Republican Party.

(Cross-posted at All Life Is Problem Solving and Fiscal Sustainability).

Declare War On the Dems: Make The President Dismiss the Catfood Commission

10:22 pm in Uncategorized by letsgetitdone

I urge all Real Democrats to declare war on the Democratic Party and this Administration by

– refusing all appeals for financial contributions to Democratic candidates,

– refusing to do any work at all for the Party,

– refusing to go to Party functions,

– going to meetings held by Congresspersons and Senators and

– demonstrating at the meetings against the President’s Catfood Commission,

until he dismisses that Commission.

If the President fails to dismiss that Commission before election day, then I urge that every real Democrat see to it that the Democrats get beaten very badly in the 2010 election, either by staying home, voting for a third party candidate, or even voting for a Republican if it comes to that.

I know the result will be painful. I know that people will suffer because we do this. But I also know that we cannot continue to support office holders and a political party that refuses to keep its promises to its base, and then laughs in our faces because we "’effin retards" have nowhere else to go.

The President must be compelled to do what is right, and the only language at our disposal is the language of promising to vote against the party, and then fulfilling that promise if the Party fails to perform. We need to teach the lesson by choosing a specific issue that is very visible. That issue is the very existence of the Catfood Commission, and its attempts to place the Social Safety Net, which is at the very soul of the Democratic Party, on the chopping block.

No real Democrat can fail to be offended by this. We need to let President Obama know that we will tolerate this openness to cutting the Social Safety Net, no longer. An end to the Catfood Commission, I say! And not another dollar, or another hour, or another vote for a Democrat until that is done!

(Cross-posted at All Life Is Problem Solving and Fiscal Sustainability).