Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Science and the economy and karma

 I'm not an economist. But I think I'm not the only one these days who's trying to give themselves a crash course in economics just to be able to follow the politics and cut through the BS spinning.

I believe in keeping an open mind to all ideas, and to always try to understand your opponents' point of view, now matter how ridiculous it sounds at the outset. At the very least, you will strengthen your own position and resolve.

So, in that spirit, I've been trying to understand why all the diehard conservatives and Republicans are so against Pres. Obama's stimulus plan; besides just the obvious motivation of being contrary to whatever the new administration says--that's a time honored role that I think politicians believe is a mandatory requirement of their job.

The thing is, I'm not a hypocrite; I practice what I preach (or, at least, I try to). I examine the claims that I agree with even harder than those I don't, and I've found a lot I don't like about Obama's plan. But the Republicans don't seem to be against the bill for the same reasons I am... in fact, they don't seem to mention all the bad parts of the bill that allows fat cats to keep their cake and eat it too; at least, so far as I've heard. Instead, they just complain that spending is wrong because, well, that's what "the other side" does, so it must be wrong. They use plenty of standard political rhetoric that means a whole bunch of nothing--no surprise, that's what all politicians do.

So I'm trying to look at what the Repubs would do differently. What is their solution to the economic crisis? What would they do if they had control of both congress and the White House?

And the answer, so far, has been: Pretty much, nothing. Cut taxes some more. Deregulate some more. And sit back and let the "Free Market" sort itself out.

I find this position striking. Let the Free Market work itself out? While how many families loose their jobs and get booted out of their houses because fat cats in Washington and Wall Street made short-sighted decisions? How many people have to suffer because of the mistakes of the few? I find it absolutely remarkable that the rhetoric from conservatives about greed keeps talking about "people who bought a house they couldn't afford" or "ran up credit card debt because they were greedy." What? Visa and Mastercard brought the world's economies to their knees? There is a fundamental lack of awareness about the nature of this recession evident in that kind of thinking. Now, despite the fact that I am pretty sure I know the reasons behind what they're thinking, I don't believe in making claims about people's intimate thoughts; I can't read minds.

Buuut, I was raised Republican, and I was a Republican myself for many years before I started thinking for myself, so I can tell you what I used to think. I used to think that, when bad things happened to people, somehow, they deserved those bad things. If I was still a Republican in this economy, when someone lost their home to a foreclosure, in my mind it would never have been because the housing values plummeted around them through no fault of their own and they couldn't refinance because the banks were scared and their job was laying off employees--no, it was because the person racked up too much debt living "above himself," or he wasn't working hard enough, he should take some more jobs. It was vital that I believed this, because if it wasn't true (at least the majority of the time), then terrible things happen to good people all the time, which meant I was vulnerable to the same random happenstances, and that if I would want help in those circumstances, then I would have to help other people who found themselves in those circumstances. But if someone got themselves into a jam through their own greed and/or stupidity, then they would have to get themselves out of it, and any government assistance that person received was my tax dollars bailing a fool out of problems I was smart enough not to create for myself.

I'm not so naive as to think that every fiscal conservative believes this. But as I read over the comments on my Facebook friends' pages and on blogs and news sites, I'd have to be a fool to think this isn't the opinion of "Joe the Plumber" on the street.

The fact of the matter is, bad things happen to good people. Stop the presses! Real shocker there, I'm sure. But while I understand the GOP looking to score browny points is going to be anxious to toss "Joe Foreclosure" on the street, what I can't understand is why so many of my fellow "Main Street" Americans are ready to see their neighbors jobless and homeless because of some sort of deluded "survival of the fittest in the free market" scenario. Here's a little factoid: survival of the fittest worked great for 3.5 billion years to create new species... and 99.9% of those species are now EXTINCT.

We are all connected. That's not some sort of spiritual woo-woo, that's a fact of the 21st century. It's not just a pun to say that our fortunes are linked. What happens to autoworkers in Michigan effects whether I can run a small business in North Carolina. What happens on the Stock Market on Wall Street effects what happens on Stock Markets in Tokyo, or London, or Beijing. Remember those little charts we made in 3rd grade, where the cricket eats the grass, and the frog eats the cricket, and the snake eats the frog, and the eagle eats the snake, etc.? Yes, the Circle of Life is not just for Simba anymore, folks. What happens to the Bulls and the Bears affects whether you get to keep your job, or whether your neighbor can go to college or has to flip burgers instead. Survival of the fittest worked great to get us here, but it's time is done. We have to move forward. We have to adopt bigger ideals, or we're ALL screwed, not just your imaginary welfare bogeyman.

So, to wind up this incredibly long and rambling post, let me just quote Jesus as he spoke to the money-changers in the temple: "Take your Free Market and shove it."


  1. I am not a republican nor a democrat. The problem I have with the stimulus package is the rushed it through without thought. I would happy if they would have dropped 200 billion. Then got a few smart practical people together to figure out the best way to spend another 600 billion. No politics, just the best most efficient way. No social security building in DC for 400 million, that only creates 400 temporary jobs. The math is 1 temporary job = 1 million. If I had 1 million to make a subway. How many people would that employ? Subways dont cost 1 million. I could have 4 subways. Employ 30-40 people. Then then places I would purchase from would have business. Food services, trucking etc. Now those people have money to buy a sub. Then those are not temporary jobs. Things like that. Sustainable jobs. Not concrete and windows. How long would it take to figure out what would be most cost effective for creating jobs? Then lets do the best ones. Simple...Why didnt Obama do that? I want him to succeed. He is my President. I think he has mortgaged are future without thought.

  2. I agree with you completely. While I agree with the Stimulus Bill in principle, I don't think it's being implemented properly at all.

    My fellow blogger at "A Cleverer Version of Myself" talked about the Science and Arts fundings that got cut in a post of hers a few weeks back. That's another thing I take major issue with; since WWII, something like 40% of America's economic growth has been from science leading to technologies; when the research teams are more worried about their funding than their findings, they can't plan long-term.