Category Archives: economy

Economic Stimulus that Might Work

Stimulus Packages That Might Work (and what’s not working now)

You can tell I’m not an economist, or a politician, or a professional historian or anything, but this is how I’m seeing the story of our economy.

First, some backstory.

Ronald Reagan came along and said, “Let’s give more money to the rich people.” And they did. And the magic numbers all went up and they said, “Look, the economy is great!”

It wasn’t great for everyone, but it was great enough that the complainers didn’t get much attention, so that was good enough.

And nearly every president since has said, “Let’s give money to the rich people!” even down to Obama, although admittedly the bank bailout was started by Bush and Obama wasn’t about to change policies in midstep. (If Obama does anything the slightest bit radical, people will freak. But they end up freaking out anyway…)

So, how’s that “giving money to the rich people” thing working out for ya?

They tell us the magic numbers are up. Or were, for awhile, at least. They scratch their heads now and wonder if the economy will still recover or what?

The reason they are so confused is that politicians and economists have become disconnected from what all those numbers are supposed to mean. Pieces of paper get traded back and forth between the financial players with increasingly bigger numbers written on them, and they all go home from work at the end of the day and say, “We made money!”

I guess they did “make money” in a way. The numbers went up, their bank accounts are fatter, everybody’s happy…right?

No. Regular people are still losing homes and jobs and prices aren’t coming down and benefits are discontinued and the guys on tv tell you that the economy is getting better! ‘cuz the numbers are up! Give me a break.

What’s wrong with the economy isn’t that their isn’t enough money in circulation. Well, ok, it kind of is, but the reason there isn’t enough money in circulation is that the RICH PEOPLE ARE HOARDING IT. They’re hanging on to it and passing it back and forth and not using it to create jobs and businesses and farms.

So giving money to rich people, like in the hated bailouts, was the wrong thing to do. And all the unimportant “little” people knew it and we were all pissed as hell, but of course it all went through anyway. And why should they listen to us? Those people just don’t know anything about the economy!

Regular people do understand things about the economy that rich people just don’t seem to get. Money and wealth are not the same thing. Money is a representation of wealth. Money is only useful so long as you can trade it for something of real wealth, something you can actually use…a meal, a car, a house, the services of a handyman or a babysitter. Money is great for exchanges but you can’t eat it or wear it or live in it.

In a society, you have to have people to grow food. And watch kids. And fix cars. And build houses. Maintain roads. Keep the peace. Heal the sick. Manufacture stuff.

You also need some people to manage money. That’s not a bad thing. But if you have a whole huge class of people that do nothing but “manage money” all day, you kinda have to ask yourself how much of that service your society really needs. Do we really need a bunch of Wall Street moneychangers to keep our country moving?

I think 90% of them could disappear off the face of the earth tomorrow and there would be no bad result at all.

It’s like this old Sesame Street sketch where the King gets an owie and the doctor fixes it and he decrees that “Henceforth, everyone in the kingdom will be a doctor!” and then there’s no one to cook food or put out fires and the King has to change the decree again.

I’d like to see some better stimulus packages that might actually work, like:

The Mad Biller: At Rainbow Gatherings, there’s this tradition/legend of Mad Dosers going around freely dosing random people with acid (though I’ve never seen it). Someone could do the same with money. Get some twenties, fifties and hundreds and hand them out. Go to the welfare office and give some to a mom or two. Hand some to shoppers coming out of thrift stores. Leave hundred dollar tips for waitresses. Stick one to the bathroom wall in Wal-Mart with a magnet. Just make sure that it goes to poor people and not rich people. The poor people will go out and spend it. And they’re not likely to spend it on derivatives.

Grants for Farmers: How many struggling small farmers are there out there that don’t qualify for help from the government? Seems like all the farm subsidies that gets handed out to “farmers” mostly goes to the big time businessmen who own huge farms, and anyone with a little land and the ambition to do something with it just has to go and get a second job to fund their little agriculture projects.

(Hell, every time I turn around I can think of something I need twenty bucks for…fertilizer, a tool, seeds, etc., but I can’t get any help from the government for that. I do what I can on my own, of course, there’s no use sitting around waiting for someone to hand me money, but if I was getting any, I’d sure as heck spend it on something useful.)

Grants for Small Businesses: Everybody and their dog in America dreams of working for themselves. Why not fund some of the good projects?

Or how about instituting something where someone with a business could get a small amount of money every month to help out? I picture a lot of moms with home businesses who might do just fine if they just had a little financial support. Sound too much like welfare? Put more of the emphasis on “helping an independent businesswoman” rather than “paying women to have more kids”.

(And did cutting welfare help the economy or reduce the deficit? It did not. It just made poor people poorer.)

Public Works Projects: C’mon, this is so obvious I’m embarrassed to even have to put it in here! Does no one remember the WPA? Let’s build some schools and rest areas and highways and community centers and stuff!

You get the idea, right? Let’s stop giving money to rich people. Let’s give it to real people who do real things that generate real wealth.

Bernanke wants your Social Security check

Bernanke starts talking about repealing Social Security and Medicare. Really.

On December 3rd, Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, testified before the Senate Banking Committee seeking reappointment to his job. They spoke about the economy and Bernanke suggested cutbacks in Social Security and Medicare.

Not a word about making the rich pay more taxes, oh, no, that’s off the table. Just take the money from old people and cripples and such.

He actually had the gall to quote a bank robber.

“Willie Sutton robbed banks because that’s where the money is, as he put it,” Bernanke said. “The money in this case is in entitlements.”

Does this surprise anyone? There’s less money in the economy and they want access to what’s left.

At least since the ’80s we’ve had jobs and factories all going overseas. Everyone who works for a paycheck has seen it get thinner and thinner.

Back in the ’60s your mom didn’t have to work unless she just wanted to; now if both parents don’t work, they’re liable to not make ends meet at all–and maybe not even then.

Unions got busted up or intimidated to where they weren’t very effective in securing higher wages and benefits for their members.

Companies used to promise pensions to their workers upon retirement, and now it barely gets a mention on the news when the pensions disappear.

Welfare got “reformed” to the point that hardly anyone can qualify for it anymore, and no one seemed to give a crap what happened to all those moms and kids that got no longer got any support.

House prices went up…and up…and up…until a $200,000 house started to look cheap and no one in their right mind expected to actually pay off a mortgage on a house in their lifetime.

Health insurance and health care costs seem to go up by the minute, and all our leaders want to do is kiss the shoes of the bastards who are ripping us off.

There’s a difference between wealth and money. You can make money without creating any wealth…just look at anyone working in Wall Street. Do they grow food? Teach kids? Fix cars? Build houses? Clean toilets? Heck no. They’re busy sitting around a big table, passing pieces of paper back and forth to their buddies, changing the numbers here and there, and calling it “making money”.

Anyone that works at a real job is poor, and anyone working a scam is rich.

You can only have so many people in a society “making money” without creating wealth before the wealth starts to dry up. This is what’s been happening for decades. The wealth of our factories are gone. The wealth of a well-fed and well-educated populace is greatly diminished.

The rich in America are busy grabbing the last of whatever money is left that they can lay their hands on now, and welfare reform worked so well, why not go after Social Security and Medicare, too?

There wasn’t much outcry about taking money from kids and mothers in the 90s, especially after the media spent so much energy demonizing welfare mothers on the news. Look for them to do the same thing with Social Security…maybe they’ll put out some propaganda blaming greedy old people for taking those exorbitant checks and ruining our economy. (Curiously, all the people in the news stories will be black.)

Or maybe they’ll just take the durn money from Social Security and Medicare in broad daylight and not even make a pretense of caring what the American people think. It certainly didn’t matter to them how pissed off we were about the Wall Street bailouts.

Picture that little top-hatted capitalist guy from the Monopoly board, lighting his cigar with your dollar bill, thinking: yeah, go ahead and protest, you guys. Good luck with that.

In the article I’ve linked to here, the Democratic Congressman from Rhode Island, Sen. Jack Reed suggested to Bernanke that since there was a lot of money at the very top of the income ladder, perhaps Congress should tax that money.

Sen. Bernie Sanders from Vermont, an Independent, didn’t mince any words when he heard about it. “Bernanke wants to cut entitlement spending? Well, that confirms everything I’m saying,” he said.

“The CEOs and top people on Wall Street make huge bonuses, and what? We’re going to cut back on Social Security and Medicare? That’s what we’re going to do?”

“That’s the solution? To cut back on the middle class and the elderly? That only adds fuel to the fire.”

I suspect that even if they did totally repeal Social Security and Medicare tomorrow, that money wouldn’t last them very long or help the economy. It would just get eaten up by the same greedy pigs that are feeding at the government trough now.

Remember, when they wanted to reform welfare, they pretended that it would help fix the deficit somehow, and yet looking back it made no perceptible difference to the deficit or the economy. It certainly didn’t do anything to create wealth in America–it didn’t bring back any factories, it didn’t raise any wages, and it created a whole lot of really desperate poor people.

So now I suppose they’re ready to have lots of dying desperate old people around, too. And Sarah Palin was worried about death panels! Who needs a death panel to ration health care to the elderly when you can just shove their asses out the door in the cold with no money?

They May As Well Take Everyone’s Money Right Now

 

 

Just when you thought the news about health care reform couldn’t get any worse, it does.

 

Check out this appalling tidbit. 

 

Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) received a handwritten note Thursday from Joint Committee on Taxation Chief of Staff Tom Barthold confirming the penalty for failing to pay the up to $1,900 fee for not buying health insurance.

Violators could be charged with a misdemeanor and could face up to a year in jail or a $25,000 penalty, Barthold wrote on JCT letterhead. He signed it “Sincerely, Thomas A. Barthold.”

 

What? What?! A year in jail or a $25,000 fine? Are you kidding me? Is it a news article or a bad joke?

So, let me get this straight…instead of a scary old single-payer health care plan, Obama decided that we’d go with something a bit more bipartisan. He started this whole debate right from the beginning with a bad move, abandoning the one plan that would have been simple, covered everyone, and would finally have reigned in the insurance companies that have operated like vultures on the health and wallets of Americans. And maybe we won’t get a public option either. And then they want to make us buy insurance from the same crooks who got us into this mess and threaten us with fines if we don’t…and then they’re going to set the fines at $25,000? 

Just how do they think people are going to come up with that money? If they can’t afford $13,000 a year for health insurance, how are they going to come up with $25,000?

They won’t, of course. People will go to jail instead. They better build a ton of jails. Oh, wait, didn’t they do that already?

I can’t believe it has come to this. I just can’t believe it. Our government has completely lost its collective mind. It’s especially telling that they would impose such a severe fine just for refusing to buy health insurance; I suppose a few grand here and there doesn’t sound like a lot of money to them. And don’t forget that your legislators have their medical all paid for by the government!

Now, of course, they’re trying to compare it to making people buy car insurance in order to drive legally, and telling us that it’s our responsibility to chip in for our health care. 

First of all, I think making people buy car insurance is also a damn racket and would be better done by a single payer system run by the government. Why should our government force us to buy anything from anybody? Am I the only one who thinks this?

I still buy car insurance, though. I gripe about it but I get it. But car insurance is relatively affordable and there’s a lot more competition in the car insurance industry. 

Health insurance is different. Some areas are dominated by only one or two health care insurance companies, and it’s buy it from them or do without. Prices for health care and health insurance have been rising uncontrollably for years while the quality of health care available to Americans has just gotten worse. 

The other big difference between car insurance and health care insurance is that you can choose not to drive a car if you really don’t want to buy the insurance, but if every American is required to buy health insurance just for existing then there’s no legal way to opt out of it.

As for my responsibility, I have no problem with pitching in for a good health care system, maybe through a few negligible taxes. Why not? But this is like being shaken down and I resent it.

We’re already at the point that health insurance industries are bleeding people dry with insanely high premiums, and then if you actually need some medical care, they might decide not to pay for it, and you can either go without or find out afterwards that you’re going to be stuck with a bill that’s going to bankrupt you.

We should be setting up an intelligent, simple system like in England or Canada. When Hillary & Bill Clinton tried to do health care reform, at one point they talked about having a plastic card, like a credit card, that would be your card for your medical insurance, and everyone would have one. That sounded really good and simple to understand to me, and I suspect a lot of people would have approved of the plan if the insurance companies hadn’t screwed up the whole debate back then.

But noooooo, no simple easy solutions for us. Let’s not come up with an easy-to-understand plan that covers everyone. Let’s not haul off those insurance scam artists off in handcuffs, like we oughta be doing. Let’s come up with a plan that kills lots of people and takes everyone’s money away!

I mean, you’re going to make everyone pay money to those con artists pretending to provide health insurance? They’ve already proven themselves to be completely indifferent to the suffering of the people they “insure”, and I see nothing to indicate that it’s going to get any better. 

In Massachusetts, they’ve set up a system where they make everyone buy into the system. They still have 200,000 people uninsured there, and Massachusetts has the highest health insurance premiums in the nation.

Hell, why don’t we just line up everyone in America and take all their money and property right now? 

I know this will sound rather weird, but I think if we passed a single-payer system, it sounds all “socialist” and stuff but I think it would be better for everyone’s wealth and especially for businesses. (How profitable would American businesses be if they didn’t have to provide health insurance for their employees?)

If we go with this “capitalist” plan, we’re going to end up like a totalitarian Communist regime where the state owns everything and most people have no personal wealth of their own, except in America it’ll all belong to the richest fraction of people, who own the state.

I know in Obama’s address to the nation he mentioned putting some rules on the insurance companies, like making them cover people regardless of pre-existing conditions, and stuff like that; but after hearing Obama advocating single-payer as a candidate and then abandoning it as president, and being for making people buy insurance when he was against it as a candidate, I’m just not going to be too surprised at anything that goes on in this debate anymore. Who knows what they’ll decide to change about it next week.

Of course, I know this stuff hasn’t passed yet, and it’s all still in the talking stages. But this is looking grim. Really grim. I never thought it would come to the point where our government openly considers taking everyone’s money away. It sounds crazy to even say it out loud or write it down. But how else is this liable to end up?

Ya know, this is why people don’t trust the government to do stuff right. Give them a simple assignment (“cover everyone’s health care”) and they’ll screw around with it till they can find a way to enrich the already rich and screw everyone else. And yeah, I know how hypocritical it sounds to advocate for single payer in one paragraph and gripe about how the government messes things up in another.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t follow that private enterprise does things any better. I think the problem with our government is that they’re in the pocket of all the capitalists with money, and the people no longer have the political clout we used to have. 

How much worse can this get? Do I even want to know the answer?

 

Maybe you shouldn’t read this.

 

August 26–

It’s a good thing not too many people read this blog ‘cuz I’m gonna write something that might piss someone off.

 

I’ve been reading various stuff about the economy. Foreclosures. Shrinking wages. Unions as an endangered species. All kinds of people losing all their stuff.

 

I sympathize with people losing their homes, I really do. I’ve been poor pretty much all my adult life and have occasionally been residence-challenged.

 

But my husband did something that most people don’t do. He bought land without going into debt.

 

As a matter of fact, both of us have actually been fortunate to have a practically non-existent credit rating. Our money flow is chronically low and uncertain and we’ve never really qualified for any kind of credit. 

 

So we just stayed out of debt, pretty much. When his dad kicked him some money to buy a place to live, instead of putting something down and getting a mortgage, he bought his first piece of land outright.

 

And he did the same thing with the house we got after we sold that place.

 

And then he did the same thing with the land we bought out here. We had just enough money left over to build a house (well, most of it, anyway).

 

Maybe you can tell where this is going. (Have I pissed you off yet?)

 

I suppose if we’d tried harder we could have scored a credit card somewhere, but we just both dreaded having that monthly payment to come up with all the time, so we just bought things if we could afford them and did without if we couldn’t.

 

People acted like we were crazy. They’d tell us how great credit cards were. When we went looking for our house, our friend who was a real estate agent kept showing us houses we couldn’t afford, and she’d say, “Oh, you can make payments,” and we’d say, “Uh, no, we can’t,” and we held out until we could find something without getting a mortgage.

 

So, now, at long last, the bubble has burst and the economy is no longer a magical place where money just comes to you. People are losing their houses and cars. “Gloom, despair and agony on me!”

 

(Cue the scary music and the black and white images of the ’30s.)

 

Our family is still pretty durn poor, and we still stress out about money, but we’re not in debt, (except for a grand we still owe to the electric company for hooking up power), and we still own our land outright regardless of what it’s supposed market value is. 

 

So how crazy are we now??!?

 

♩♫We’re not in de – ebt! Neener, neener, neener!!!♫♩ (gets up from computer and does little dance)

 

Ok, I bet some of y’all are pissed off now. Sorry. I just had to do that once.

 

Bernie Madoff, scapegoat

 

June 29, ’09–

 

On Bernie Madoff, Class War, the Economy, and Waiting for Revenge

 

Sitting around with my husband watching morning news, just saw that Bernie Madoff got 150 years.

 

I’m kinda shocked, really. 150 years? It seems excessive to me. The guy is a scapegoat for relieving tensions in the current cold class war.

 

Sure, he ripped off a lot of people. That’s bad. He should be severely punished. But he’s not the only one who ripped off people in the last few years (or, hell, the last few decades), he’s just the guy that’s currently in the spotlight during a time when rich people are becoming villains in the financial news playing out on tv.

 

People are mad that a handful of arrogant self-important money traders on Wall Street have been living large, draining the rest of us in a big financial casino that seems to be rigged in favor of the house. 

 

Especially since the ’80s, rich people have been lionized in the media. Everyone wants to be them (of course…me too!) If you see some story on tv about “success stories” they show people with lots of money. The dollar is America’s de facto unit of measurement for one’s worth as a human being. Rich people are thought of as successes, and poor people are losers. 

 

Think back with me a ways. When welfare reform was introduced in the ’90s, there was a orgy of mom-bashing in the media, blaming single mothers for every ill in society, and implying that those lazy whores should go out and do some real work instead of laying around on their fat old welfare checks. Poor, doe-eyed children are only cute around Christmas. Give ’em another stuffed animal. Why doesn’t their mother take better care of them?

 

(I don’t know about the rest of y’all gals, but I found that whole thing really insulting as a mom and a woman. When some journalist (*cough*moralist*cough*) talks smack about single mothers, and implies that their kids are all a bunch of criminal retards, they’re basically saying that there’s not a woman in the world capable of being left alone with her own kids without some man there to supervise her. Welfare reform was all about the subjugation of women played up to look like it was only about money.) 

 

And when minimum wages didn’t go up for years, and unions became scarcer and scarcer, and jobs split for China and Mexico, we’d hear that American workers were just too damn uppity and demanding, and American businesses could only survive by using desperate underpaid labor. 

 

Kids go into debt to go to a college that ought to be free and come out looking for a job that just got flown to India. 

 

House prices went up and up and up and same for car prices, and you can’t survive in most areas of America without a car, so people have become a  21st century version of serfs, tied to their job and their car and their house by a debt which will never be paid for, maybe just traded for another debt on a different car or house.

 

People go into more debt over unpayable medical bills and then when scores of them lose homes over it, the tv commentators pretend that it’s all about ordinary consumers overspending on doodads. 

 

So. Yeah. When you see some guy on tv that has plenty of money, and he’s “earned” it by trading a bunch of pieces of paper around with a bunch of his buddies somewhere in an office in New York, you just want to see him get his. 

 

It’s like watching a Clint Eastwood movie, where the bad guys keep messing with the protagonist and killing his friends and his girl and his dog and stuff, and you’re just waiting for the part where Clint finally gets revenge, ‘cuz that’s what the whole movie is building up to.

 

So all us poor people have been watching this “movie” on the news play out and we’ve been waiting for the revenge part that it’s been all leading up to.

 

I would’ve been ok with the whole Republican “free-market” economics crap if it would have been taken to its logical end. If the people who had played fast and loose with the money in the last 10 or 20 years weren’t bailed out by the government, they’d have crashed. And crashed big. And maybe, just maybe, there would have finally been some affordable houses on the market.  Maybe some of those fatcats would have finally had to become poor. Finally. And those of us who have been doing real work would finally have some kind of advantage.

 

I don’t know about the rest of y’all, but that’s the whole reason the bailout pisses me off. We’ve been robbed of our revenge scene. We’ve been robbed of our chance to come in and make opportunities for ourselves. 

 

So now that the economic shit has hit the fan, and the viewers are crying for blood, Madoff walks into the spotlight. Poor guy. He’s just the one out of the crowd that got pointed out. I don’t get much satisfaction from seeing one guy getting his life ruined.

 

(Sorry, y’all…most people who want to throw people in jail for years and years and years have never spent a day in one and don’t realize what they’re doing to the people they put in there.)

 

What I would like to see is Bernie and all those guys like him getting a few years each. I’d like to see the lot of them out on the highway in orange jumpsuits picking up trash. And if we can’t actually convict them of some crime, couldn’t we at least quit giving them money? Please?