To escape the fantasy world of confidence fairies, invisible bond vigilantes and the economic zombies and pod people who dominate Washington, I went to see Cowboys and Aliens. It was a healthy, life-affirming return to reality. If you prefer horror films, watch CSPAN 2.
In this fun Hollywood escape, violent, prejudiced men trapped in their own machismo join with repressed victims of genocide to confront rapacious creatures intent on capturing the gold market. People captured by the gold freaks are turned into zombies to feed the looters. The heroes are Indiana Jones, 007, and the last of the Mohicans played phoenix-like by the pretty House Lady. There’s a liberal bartender and a kid who becomes a man by dissecting a bug. In the end, the humans of all types realize they have to join together to defeat the rapacious creatures who are looting the planet and turning humans into zombies and pod people. There’s hope for our species!
Back in Washington, D.C. there are no heroes and no upbeat ending. Instead, the looting, muggings and beatings will continue until morale improves.
In our “real” world, there is a radical extremist group driven by zombies and zombie beliefs who successfully blackmail the nation into strangling its own economy. The supposedly “sane” group that is supposed to stop this madness has become cowardly and turned into mindless pod people, who assure the nation that the gutting of American government and essential services and safety nets won’t occur in one step but in several, whose outcome is locked in by an undemocratic Super Congress and the next debt limit blackmail in 2013.
Paul Krugman may not have seen the first movie, so he lacks its more hopeful insights, but he seems to agree with the D.C. description. From The President Surrenders:
For the deal itself, given the available information, is a disaster, and not just for President Obama and his party. It will damage an already depressed economy; it will probably make America’s long-run deficit problem worse, not better; and most important, by demonstrating that raw extortion works and carries no political cost, it will take America a long way down the road to banana-republic status.
The worst thing you can do in these circumstances is slash government spending, since that will depress the economy even further. Pay no attention to those who invoke the confidence fairy, claiming that tough action on the budget will reassure businesses and consumers, leading them to spend more. It doesn’t work that way, a fact confirmed by many studies of the historical record.
Indeed, slashing spending while the economy is depressed won’t even help the budget situation much, and might well make it worse. On one side, interest rates on federal borrowing are currently very low, so spending cuts now will do little to reduce future interest costs. On the other side, making the economy weaker now will also hurt its long-run prospects, which will in turn reduce future revenue. So those demanding spending cuts now are like medieval doctors who treated the sick by bleeding them, and thereby made them even sicker. . . .
It is, of course, a political catastrophe for Democrats, who just a few weeks ago seemed to have Republicans on the run over their plan to dismantle Medicare; now Mr. Obama has thrown all that away. And the damage isn’t over: there will be more choke points where Republicans can threaten to create a crisis unless the president surrenders, and they can now act with the confident expectation that he will.
The only description worse than this is the realization that the President didn’t surrender. All his statements say he believes he’s done the right thing. The White House tells his Pod People this is “A Win for the Economy and Budget Discipline.”
In the Pod world described by Mr. Obama’s own statements, we have to mollify confidence fairies and invisible bond vigilantes; cutting government spending will help an anemic economy just like bleeding helps an anemic patient, and we can talk about jobs returning only after we weaken the safety nets.
In a world ruled by zombies and pod people, humans always lose. Fight back, people!