Money And Politics

Paul Campos has a great riff on Hillary Clinton’s role in the rise of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, well worth reading in its entirety, but I especially enjoyed the quotes he uses to rather forcefully make his point. To wit:

“That’s what they offered,” she explained on Wednesday, when asked why she accepted $675,000 from Goldman Sachs alone. That response carried an unfortunate echo of bank robber Willie Sutton’s explanation for why he robbed banks. “Because that’s where the money is,” he supposedly said. (This in turn brings to mind Bertolt Brecht’s remark that robbing a bank is nothing compared to founding one.)

And then he pulls out this great line from G.K. Chesterton:

“The rich man is bribed; he has been bribed already. That is why he is a rich man.”


A Venerable Strategy

He paused in the middle of his diatribe then assumed a wounded tone as if he anticipated skepticism on my part. However, the conviction in his voice never wavered. “I love my own mother. But doggone it, she doesn’t need a power chair.” His words took on a quieter intensity. “You have to keep walking. That’s what allows us our humanity.” He was more wistful than angry. “They want to put us all in machines and charge us an arm and a leg for the favor.”

Yes, the proverbial They, ever concocting pernicious plans out of our deepest fears. I didn’t share his anxiety at the technological solutions that awaited us at a ripe old age when our biology inevitably fails us. I did allow myself a nod of agreement and a joyous laugh at his concluding remark. “If that ever happened to me, I’d cover myself in honey and go on a bear hunt.”

Indeed. One man’s mercy is another man’s fatal indignity.
Copyright 2016

On Economic Insecurity

Johnathan Chait wrote an interesting piece debunking one of the myths about the 2009 stimulus bill. An excerpt:

Geraghty’s second and third sentences repeat an old and especially insipid Republican talking point: The stimulus failed because the administration’s economists projected it would hold unemployment to 8 percent, and unemployment actually topped out at 10 percent. This is clearly wrong because the source of the error is entirely due to the fact that the administration’s projection reflected official estimates at the time that massively underestimated unemployment levels. As we now know, but did not know at the time, unemployment was already at 9 percent when the stimulus was passed. So of course the stimulus failed to hold unemployment below 8 percent — that would have required going back in time.

I do think however that it’s worth exploring the reasons people believe that the 2009 stimulus (as well as other subsequent attempts to improve the economy) failed to do much if anything. Despite the economic fundamentals (i.e. unemployment rate, productivity growth, inflation, et al.) trending in the right direction, the aspects of the economy that the average worker tends to put more weight on are not doing quite so well. Wage growth for one is largely stagnant, and not only is the average person not getting wealthier but they are getting relatively poorer next to those who are seeing a rise in wealth, those lucky few at the top.

And of course, outsourcing and offshoring increase economic insecurity even if other jobs exist to replace those lost, since it makes planning for future endeavors or making expensive purchases (i.e. homes, cars, et al.) more risky. That type of uncertainty can’t be quantified but it is a potent factor in people’s lives.

For whatever reason, people have trouble squaring the good economic news with the bad. When reports of a low unemployment rate don’t square with people’s sense of
how poor the economy is, they tend to be skeptical. This shouldn’t be, but it is understandable. Economics does not speak the language of human experience as well as it needs to, and unfortunately this divergence is then exploited for ideological ends. I suppose it is a lot to hope that we could expect better from the leaders of our society, but we ought to.

Hope’s Gambit

“I don’t believe in God, but I’m afraid of him.”
–Gabriel Garcia Marquez.


I do believe
    in all things
even the contradictory notions

Perhaps this assumes the question:

As we can grieve
    without having died,
can we parse myth from reality,
present from the future,
time from motion
    from energy from

Then belief is strength yet unlived.
Copyright 2016