Monday, August 15, 2011

What if China fails?

I was sitting in Barnes & Noble a few weeks ago and some book title I can no longer remember caught my eye.  It made me think of this question: what if China fails?  It got me thinking.  What if the Chinese economy collapsed today?  What would it mean for all of us here?
This is particularly important in light of the excuses given for the trumped up debt debate (a blatant excuse to impose an austerity economy) when it began in April.  These massive loans are being taken out from the Chinese!  Won’t the Chinese inevitably overtake us the global superpower?  Fear our Chinese overlords!
So I got to thinking about that and the irony of the Chinese superpower equation demands that the Chinese economy grows while ours...
For full story, go here.

Austerity...mmm, smells pretty rancid

So, the debt debacle is over and everyone has declared their winners and losers and moved on.  I haven't.  Not just because I can't get over it, but because I'm still waiting for the reaction that I had in all of this: we've chosen the wrong path.

Despite the fact that everybody is pissed off at the deal itself and even more pissed off at the process, we haven't gotten down to the real reason why we should be pissed off: the reasoning behind making this a debate in the first place.  The ideology.  That ideology of austerity and it is a classically conservative economic approach.

Yes, liberals should be pissed because the president and the Democratic leadership demonstrated a willingness to even make a deal in the first place, allowing this to become a thing and not simply a clean vote about the debt ceiling.  Yes, conservatives have some right to be pissed off for not getting everything they wanted, I suppose; not to mention the economic downgrade.  But here is the thing we should all be pissed off about: we never had a real conversation about austerity.  Democrats and Republicans fought about how much austerity we should have, but we never talked about whether or not it was a good idea.  And with dozens of polls coming out in the last couple of weeks demonstrating a super majority of Americans opposing austerity, at least in the unbalanced cut-only approach, even showing majorities of Republicans opposing it, we should be livid.  Again, not because of "process" and "Washington" and "politics" and "sausage-making", but because they flat-out ignored our demands.  They refused to do what we asked for: tax increases on the wealthy.  They refused to use an approach that would preserve future growth in the national and local economies, favoring instead one that would lead to only painful cuts.  This will as certainly lead to job losses not unlike those occurring in all the states that have cut back.  What economists have been asking for is more stimulus, not cutting back.

So here's the deal.  An ideology has been adopted without reasonable debate that will impede job growth, slow financial growth for the national economy, and will continue to lead to market volatility at a moment of tremendous uncertainty.  And that ideology is conservative in origin. This is the long-term win for the Republican Party.  Just as begun in the the late 1970s, liberals have cared more about the process of governing, focusing their attention on the minutia of winning small debates and specific elections by appealing to a fickle group of dual-minded voters in the mythical "center", while conservatives have spent that same time waging a war for ideological supremacy through clubs and universities and the growth of the conservative brand.  As president, Bill Clinton adopted a pretty classic conservative economic policy and spearheaded a generation of "neo-liberals" into a world of bubbles and massive deregulation. With that timeline, this move into austerity is like punching the ball into the end zone.  Now what will liberals do with possession and a 7-point deficit?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Leaving Nana at the airport

My Mom has been visiting us for the last two weeks. It was a Godsend. Rose and I needed a break and some help and the opportunity to relax. My Mom was great at this: Sophia stuck by her side the whole visit and we even had a few opportunities to go out! We went to two movies in two weeks: a big deal for parents of a preschooler. Today was our last morning, and the two of them got one more walk in before we left. By late morning…

For full story, go here.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The coming Republican civil war

I honestly have never seen so much coverage of an issue as we saw about the debt ceiling over the last three months.  The funny thing is that the coverage was all filtered through a lens of partisan bickering, rather than the more honest assessment:
  1. Tea Party Republicans didn’t want to rubberstamp the deal
  2. Mainstream Republicans saw the opportunity to make a deal out of a rubberstamp issue
  3. Democrats tried to get enough votes to pay bills for money already spent for something that previous Republican presidents (including the beloved Reagan) got rubberstamped

But most of the media is obsessed with this as “partisanship” and “bickering” when it wasn’t, and is dishonest if presented as such.

A few journalists have been speaking out about how bad the journalism has been throughout this conversation, but they are in the minority.  And now that it is finalized, maybe we can turn our attention to what the House Speaker was actually doing.  He was stuck between a debt default and splitting his political force in half.  Unlike the Senate Minority Leader, who seemed eager to play the role of spoiler, Speaker Boehner was put into a position to actually reject a dream bill offered up to him by the president.  Much attention has gone to Grover Norquist’s role in getting no-new-taxes pledges from all of the Republicans in Congress, but little is being made of that fractured constituency in light of any inevitable compromise.

Of course the smart money should have been on pushing through something solid in the Senate, knowing enough Republicans would buckle and getting every Democrat to go along with it.  This would have caused some stress on Boehner and the Congresspersons that would vote for it.  But in dividing the House, Boehner won’t be able to go back and say, they made us eat this to stave off default while aiding the people he had fall on the sword.  He is left trying to unify a traditional half that sees this as a big win and a Tea Party half that no doubt still thinks he caved anyway and should be removed. 

The politically bloody primary season has only just begun and the battle between Bachmann and Romney seems already set as a proxy for the Tea Party vs. Traditional GOP.  I can’t help but imagine that this is about to get interesting during the August vacation.