Friday, February 06, 2009

The Stimulus Package.

It's been weeks since I started thinking about the "stimulus package", and days since I considered writing about it. Yet what's kept me from attempting an exposition of my thoughts is the utter state of confusion that everybody is mired in regarding this prospective legislation. It's simply too big a subject. There may be individuals who claim to understand what it means, but I suspect that this "understanding" results more from ideology (or mere wishful thinking) than any clear perspective about the realities of the situation that necessitates it. My "spidey sense" is telling me that we are fucked beyond conception. Prophets have been foretelling this condition for decades, and so few have heeded their warnings.

I don't think that we can boil down our problems to a demi-glace of credit default and Wall Street shenanigans. The issues plaguing our economy have been sitting rank in the open air for longer than most are suggesting. Sure, our federal and state governments have been compounding the problems with willful ignorance and rampant corruption... but our citizenry must accept its share of responsibility. Ten trillion (+) dollars is an amazing number that lies beyond the reasonable comprehension of the human brain, but that amount is dwarfed by the amounts of personal debt that accumulate when we consider the personal debts of all Americans. And for this there is no easy excuse.

Who do we expect to lead us out of these dark borderlands? If people have built Barack Obama into a sort of messianic figure, it is only because of our desperate need for such a mythical creature. We've already played out that story. How many saviors can we create? Jesus Christ is said to have died for our spiritual sins, and those are certainly beyond quantification. That ambiguity is convenient for those that seek to offer us comfort. But we have created a standard of value for material things, and there will be no symbolic expiation available to clear our books. We are stuck with the prospect of a Day of Reckoning. The "infinite growth" of free market capitalism was a lie. We can't continue to fuel our economy on debt.

Still there is no doubt in my mind that we will try to spend our way out of our predicament, even if we have to pull the money out of thin air to achieve this. Like it or not, hyperinflation is the only answer. The main puzzle to sort out is how to distribute the paper. Shall we continue to put it in the hands of the institutions that have fomented our crisis? Wall Street, the banks, and the global corporate capitalists all ensured us of the viability of our system. They assumed the authority to guide the operation of our society, and they should face the most severe consequences of its failures. Most of us were given no choice to distinguish ourselves from the gamblers. The stakes were pre-determined at our birth.

When I hear the voices of those that have belatedly discovered "fiscal conservatism", my blood pressure rises and the muscles in my forehead spasm involuntarily. When Congressional "leaders" lament the prospect of increased taxes, I feel like puking. Everyone needs to realize that we've already spent our legacy. We've been profligate, and future generations will inevitably suffer from our wasteful ways. If we are going to "inject" more currency into our economy, we have a duty to invest it in such a way that our heirs will see some small benefit. It's time to go beyond considerations of our own comfort. We have earned the impending Depression. There's no avoiding it.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Big picture - good one. JM

10:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well done.

Whether this package works or not may never be clearly known (especially if you take stock in the theory that recessions are cyclical and time has a way of healing all wounds), but I do subscribe to the idea that some drastic measures are preferable to doing nothing.

I am disappointed that some (admittedly a small portion percentage-wise) is pork. That's even now been openly admitted by prominent Democrats. It's pay-for- play, get whatever we can, rewards for past and future campaign support, it's Washington business as usual, and it really sucks. There is no mold-breaking here. My take is this...separate the wheat from the chaff, the clearly stimulus what-we-need-now portions (tax cuts for individuals and business, purchasing incentives, infrastructure improvements that can be started quickly) from the rest and vote them up or down separately. There a lot of good stuff in the latter group (help to schools for example, and there are many others), but if these programs are deemed worthwhile, vote for then outside of the guise of a pure let's-try-to-save-the -economy stimulus package. Stand by your positions with your vote. If the idea isn't good enough to stand on it's own, or can't garner 60 votes, postpone or can it altogether. Let's have some truth in advertising.

Re the bigger picture, when getting a degree in Economics 40 years ago, I considered the U.S. to be already in the declining industrial nation stage. Frankly, it's amazing to me that we have done as well as we have, given what I perceive to be the quality of much of the American work force. If that seems cynical, so be it. It likely has much to do with the lack of ownership, and therefore commitment. That's not to place sole or even primary blame on the workforce, but rather just an observation and perception.

Now, I'll hope for the best, for all.

8:22 AM  

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