August 05, 2009

Go Big or Go Home

I suppose one problem about hanging out in the Grand Ballroom of the Titanic post-collision is that the issues to which I might bring more familiarity (such as civil liberties questions regarding America's POWOTS (prisoners of war on terror) recede into the background as the deck begins to list heavily to starboard. It is, indeed, the Economy, Stupid. The economy all the time. Well, as I've noted before, Walden's longest chapter was about the Economy - it's basic, and Thoreau reduced it to its basic basics: maintaining one's vital heat. As I've noted before, the U.S. is actually one of those countries (unlike the Sudan, for example) which could actually maintain the vital heat of its entire citizenry without importing anything. Not saying it would be the most interesting or creative of existences, but it could be done. We could feed everyone and supply the basic energy for keeping warm, which would include insulated residences. As Thoreau warned, we decided instead to use solutions which are more complicated than the problem itself ("to speculate on the world market to buy one's shoelaces"), and through the mechanisms of capitalism some people became as rich as Croesus and others became too poor to own a pot to piss in. And guess which side America's Christians tend to be on (no fair peeking)?

I watched the O Man in Indiana, and he hit the right notes. He was talking to all the out-of-work factory workers about the need for America to build its own electric cars, devise its own hi-tech batteries, build its own wind turbines, and for the government to invest in all these things. Right on! Along such paths America's future prosperity lies. Seriously, no irony for a moment. O's problem, naturally, is that there is a serious competition for scarce resources - the money to keep people afloat who are unemployed and broke now versus funding the future salvation through a new energy regime and domestic manufacturing. Where we are now, of course, is at the starting line of a race we should have begun about 20 or 30 years ago, but we didn't do anything because, to the extent that Congress had anything to do with it, they always think like undisciplined teenagers (boys, in fact) with no thought for the morrow, no planning, spending their entire allowance and borrowing against the future (stealing from the Social Security trust fund). So here we are, with a collapsing economy and with the real solutions years and years off, but with the problems on top of us now. For example, David Rosenberg, Chief Economist at Merrill Lynch, describes it this way:

The details in today's report left something to be desired. Consumer spending came in at -1.2% annualized, twice the decline expected by the consensus. This occurred in the face of gargantuan fiscal stimulus and leaves wondering how this critical 70% chunk of the economy is going to perform as the cash-flow boost from Uncle Sam's generosity recedes in the second half of the year. Imagine, government transfers to the household sector exploded at a 33% annual rate, while tax payments imploded at a 33% annual rate and the best we can do is a -1.2% annualized decline in consumer spending in real terms and flat in nominal terms? What do we do for an encore? In the absence of the fiscal largesse, it is quite conceivable that consumer spending would have shrunk at a 10% annual rate last quarter! Nonresidential construction action sagged at an 8.9% annual rate and this was on top of a 44.0% detonation in the first quarter. Ditto for equipment & software 'capex' spending, also down at a 9.0% annual rate and this too followed a 36.0% collapse in the first quarter. Residential construction slumped sharply yet again, this time at a 29.0% annual rate. These are the guts of private sector spending and collectively, they contracted at a 3.3% annual rate -- the sixth decline in a row. So while there are many calls out there for the recession's end, it remains a forecast as opposed to a present-day reality.

Things are not working out. One problem is that I think Obama picked up the bad habits perfected during the Bush Years - specifically, you can say anything whether it makes empirical sense or not, and if it's what people want to hear, it will go unexamined. "We're fighting them over there so we don't have to fight them over here." This never made any sense whatsoever. Chances are that fighting them over there increases the chances you'll fight them over here. Similarly, borrowing a lot of money to disburse to the general populace is a nice thing to do, and it's what Paul Krugman wanted you to do, and it pushes the problem off for a while so your first year in office is not enjoyed several thousand feet down in the cold North Atlantic. But it does not solve anything long term. It simply inspires Happy Talk from Larry Kudlow & Co. about "green shoots" and the "end of the recession," and they talk that way because they're trying to get suckers back in the market.

Forget about "ending the recession." This is simply a meaningless milestone indicating that the economy has temporarily suspended its contraction because it's been flooded by government handouts. The huge government deficits are sinking the dollar, driving up the cost of imported oil and food, and getting us nowhere.

A few modest suggestions for Prez O:

1. Do one of two things with your hairstyle: Grow a 'fro or shave your head. Stop looking so non-threatening. Start puttin' it to the Man.

2. Start using some in-your-face terminology. The Wall Street Banksters, for example, should be called part of the "Traitor Class." They insist on greed while 95% of the populace suffers. Why such deference to these creeps, Barack? They're part of the "multinational cabal" (feel free to use) that does all that business with China (& Asia generally) even though China violates every worker's right in the book, cheats on patents and copyright, and uses protectionism to guard its key industries from import competition. Let's impose tariffs to protect our own nascent hybrid and battery-powered vehicle industries, and our wind turbine and solar industries. Stop pussyfooting around. America First, goddammit.

3. End those stupid wars and cut the Pentagon budget in half. Do I really even have to explain it?

4. Bag the Bipartisanship. Look, there's a very ugly segment of this society, probably 20% in number, who are racist to their bone and are never, ever going to give you a fair shake. How would I prove my American citizenship? The same way you have, but they don't care. Look at those Tea Baggers! Their faces are contorted in the same twisted hatred we saw in pictures from the Southern integration fights of the 50's and 60's. They're all still around, as you know better than I. Write them off. Don't water anything down anymore. Win with your majority or lose, but don't lose by giving the game away before you start.

O Man, you're pretty much where Butch and Sundance were in Bolivia. It's going to get ugly, and to switch metaphors, you can either quietly and politely help the stewards and mates with the deck chairs, while everyone blames you for the disaster, or you can begin separating yourself from the causes of the problem and at least begin the American Renaissance. It won't work to play politically correct games of doing acceptable things which are guaranteed to fail. Go Big or Go Home.

1 comment:

  1. hammerud11:56 AM

    "Start using some in-your-face terminology. The Wall Street Banksters, for example, should be called part of the "Traitor Class." They insist on greed while 95% of the populace suffers. Why such deference to these creeps, Barack? "
    From what I understand, Goldman Sachs (i.e. Wall Street) stands to profit immensely from Cap and Trade, pushed by O. Plus, Goldman Sachs is one of O'S biggest contributors, and ex-Goldman Sachs employees are in top Obama positions, running things. Somehow I get the feeling that O says things for public consumption, when the reality is quite the opposite. I guess if he actually said what he believed, he never would have been elected.