MH Jan. 8, 2013

Yes. Better a committed amateur than a casual voter who puts into Congress advocates of "perverse economic dogma."*

The budget-slashing, pro-austerity mantra is loud and repetitious. It has a kitchen-table appeal, which discourages digging a bit deeper into economic history. History strongly suggests that, in recession times, austerity (a frenzy of government budget-cutting) breeds depressions.

Japan is a recent example. The European debacle is another. (It drags on and on with Germany demanding its pound of flesh from other EU countries.) The small-government, Coolidge/Hoover eras led to the Great Depression. The success of Roosevelt's New Deal is probably the most obvious example of policy-making that fit the times.
[Use arrows to cont.]

Of course, small-government radicals will nitpick all those examples in spite of the obvious fact that small or large is probably not the issue. We must prefer what works for the particular time and circumstance.

However, trickle-down economics has never worked--unless you think feudalism is a nifty model.

The closest thing to a thriving economy is one in which there is a lively, broad-based demand. An economy shrinks when demand shrinks, and Inflation need not be inevitable.

Republicans love to gift what they call "job creators." An obvious misnomer. The real job creators are goodly numbers of people in possession of enough money to buy things.

[Use arrows]

Government budget-cutting policies can kill demand just when we need it most. During those times, mere crumbs of stimulus are almost useless. (A hunk of bread still leaves the starving man starving. A Tea-Party-smothered administration is limited to crumbs.)

Our country is in stasis because so many of us have been bamboozled by misleading, kitchen-table economics and the wind-up cooks who espouse it. To vote into office a cadre of the uninformed, along with some cynical liars, is begging for nasty consequences.

We can't all be economic pros, but we must try to become informed amateurs or our votes turn into self-inflicted wounds.

There are hunks of of enlightenment from...

Robert Kuttner: American Prospect
(Sept./Oct., 2012)
"Angela Merkel's Bad Medicine,"


Adam Davidson: NY Times
Magazine (Dec. 23, 2012)
"God Save the British Economy"


Partnoy and Eisinger: Atlantic
(Jan./Feb. 2013)
"What's Inside American's Banks"

...who are economics/journalism pros that may juggle some kitchen-table notions and other misguided assumptions.

Davidson notes that "...in a remarkable joint statement, the I.M.F., along with the World Bank, the World Trade Organization and eight other major economic institutions, warned that austerity was hurting global growth and raising unemployment. They asked the world's major economies to embrace stimulus."

Wow. These are not exactly rabid Keynesians.

* I filched the phrase "perverse economic dogma" from the erudite Kuttner.


"The accumulation of all powers legislative, executive and judiciary in the same hands, whether of one, a few or many, and whether hereditary, self appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny."
  James Madison

Nowadays, he might have added something:
"whether hereditary, self-appointed, elective, or bought..."

  MH July 2011


"Even Reagan, a supply-sider persuaded by Arthur Laffer's pretty curves that his tax cuts would pay for themselves, raised taxes when they did not."
  The Economist

Creeping Rich-Rule

  MH July 2012

What are the markers for RICH-RULE? (Otherwise called "oligarchy," "robber baronage," "feudalism" and other icky nouns and phrases.)

1) Goods, services, and properties gravitate at ever faster rates to fewer and fewer human beings.
2) Some people are allowed to die before they need to--because rich people "cannot afford" to share health
3) Large corporations grab resources, manipulate government, and ignore laws with impunity.
4) Rich people and corporations game the system in order to weasel out of paying appropriate taxes.
5) Rich people and corporations secretly and overtly buy elections, acquiring "public servants" to do their
6) Rich people pass on their property, privileges, and power to their offspring by way of personal connections,
dollars, elite colleges, inheritance laws.
7) The rich-people-party lies, assuming that we are too ignorant (or too busy trying to survive) to notice.

Sound familiar? What might something better look like?

1) Caps on income and wealth. (Leaving just enough near-rich and "free" enterprise to encourage competition.)
2) Support under bottom earners. (Basic sustenance, health-preservation, powerful public education for all--
aimed at self-discipline, love of learning, productivity, and sharing.)
3) A squeeze on wealth toward a wide, flexible middle. (Broad opportunity; a level playing field; rewards for
effort and for special intelligences.)

Creepiing rich-rule is an invitation to bloody revolution. Dont vote for it.


  MH Sept. 27, 2012
Recently David Brooks defined a certain kind of conservative as one who encourages people "to work hard, finish school, and postpone childbearing until marriage." (NY Times, 9/25/12)

Oh gawd. I'm a conservative! Defined thus, so are most Democrats. Certainly our Democrat-in-chief and his wife subscribe.

   [Use arrows to cont.]

What the Obamas "conserve" is merely a civilized, rational mode of living.

Of course, to this very basic rationality, these two add courage, intelligence, endurance of much shit, and a determination to improve life in these disunited states. Now that's radical.

In 2012, the Republican conservatism boils down to "let them eat cake." (Conserve and amplify wealth in the hands of people who already have a lot of it.) For them, the work-hard-finish-school-and postpone-childbearing-until-marriage mantra is convenient propaganda to co-opt the 47% (99%?) and convince us to vote against our own best interests.

Modern let-them-eat-cake conservatives will lie, and lie, and lie, and waffle, and distort, and flaunt their contempt for established facts. (Edmund Burke they are not.) They assume that they can get away with it because the rest of us are too busy or too ignorant to notice.

Squawk-Op view:
Discriminate. Conserve only what actually deserves conservation.


Health Services Present & Future

  MH AUG. 16, 2012
  "BIG MED" by Atul Gawande (p. 53...)
If you've ever lain in a hospital bed unable to get help, or been brushed off by a nasty doctor's secretary, or been left totally without diagnosis, or played days of telephone tag to get an appointment or a simple question answered, or if you have waited three hours for a cardiologist (along with two frustrated medical support staffers, forced into idleness), or been yelled at by some hospital employee who seems to be
  [Use arrows to cont.]

shilling for unnecessary emergency-room business for the hospital; or if you have noticed the body fluids on the floor of your hospital room uncleaned for days, or looked at your medical bills--or if you are reading this--you are one of the lucky ones! You are not dead!

You also know how sick, how nasty, how smashed, how cruel to the poor, how under-functional our U.S. health-care system is. (And I use the word "system" loosely.)

Of course there are wonderful outcomes too. And your list of personal horrors is probably entirely different from mine, but they both reflect something unnecessary, unacceptable, and, insomuch as they suggest incompetence, possibly deadly.

What do health "systems" need? Research, knowledge, trained practitioners, of course. Conspicuously missing are checks and balances, and focus on outcomes.

Please SQUAWK BACK about Gawande's article. (It's not "political." It's long. It's controversial. Read it all.)



  MH October 5, 2012

We all teach our offspring ages two to six that sharing is civilized and important.

Nicholas Kristof creates a little story (NY Times, 10/4/12) about a tot who grabs and jealously hoards all the crayons and toys in the kindergarten room, while the other kids in the class work and play with little or nothing.

When advised to share, Kristof's five-year-old is indignant:
    "Do you believe in
  redistribution?" he asks
  suspiciously, his lips curling in
  contempt. "I don't want to
  share. This is America!"

  [Use arrows to continue]

This kid probably grows up to have his own hedge fund. And of course,

    [Use arrows to cont.]

once you have your own hedge fund (skimming off gigantic fees from other people's investments) or your own private equity firm, grabbing and hoarding becomes an American virtue. You are trumpeted abroad in the land. In addition, much obsequiousness from politicians and groveling from the 99% is required. You can run for office!

If you're already the President, hedge-funder Leon Cooperman (go ahead, Google him) may slap your knuckles for insufficient ring-kissing and gather the billionaires to collect obscene campaign contributions for Mitt Romney.

This is an America that needs its "values" examined.

"Small" Business

  MH Fall 2012
How many times do people have to tell us that "Small business" is defined as a business with fewer than 500 employees--and that 99.7% of all the businesses in this country qualify as "small"?

Clearly the phrase needs an addendum:

(Sorry, hedge funds, law firms, and movie stars.)

Of course Republicans would be showering fewer hugs and kisses on the pesky things.

Note: A reader tells me that "small business" is defined as a business with "fewer than 100 employees." Maybe the issue is "defined by whom?" Corrections welcome.

  Pistol-Packin'-Perry & the Taliban GOPs

  MH Sept 2011
At the Reagan Library GOP presidential debate, Rick Perry said that he didn't lose any sleep over the extraordinary number of executiions in Texas under his governorship. When the moderator mentioned the 234 figure, his audience applauded. Yes, believe it. They applauded. If only Texas would cut off a few hands, stone someone to death, or behead a few, these ghouls would be popping corks and dancing in the streets.

Class War: First Pop Troops  

  MH October 2011
NY City's Wall Street Protesters may be the first fully visible front-line pop troops in our prolonged class war.

We the unrich have retreated and avoided that phrase "class war," perhaps not wanting to face our humiliating battle losses in legislation, taxation, earning- power, and in the media.

Are the protesters aware that they have picked the 150th anniversary of our bloody Civil War to act? Let this one be a sane and "civil" conflict.

    [Use arrows to cont.]

May the goddess of war keep it unbloody. May she remind the philosophical great-grandchildren of Ghandi and the grandchildren of Martin Luther King to limit their protests to standing, walking, sitting, and dancing--committing them to non-violence. May she remind NYPD and police departments around the nation that they are smarter and more civilized than the henchmen of Ghadaffi or Assad.


    [MH August 2011]
Watching the riots in London, I can’t help wondering how long it will be before the underclass in the U.S. (euphemistically called “the middle class”) will sit still for rule by 21st-century robber barons and their minions in the Congress.

  [Use arrows to cont.]

Obviously when economic unfairness comes to riot, thuggery on both sides ensues. The scum of the underclass (car-burners and store-smashers, and Robespierres) and the scum of the oppressors (tank-tyrants and crowd-murderers, and dictators) take stage; and no one wins except the angel of death.

At this juncture, much louder, non-violent pushback from the under/middle class is called for. Where are the Martin Luther Kings of our decade (insisting, marching, appealing to our morality, rubbing our noses in our hideous inequality)?

It’s depressing that we have sunk so far. As for riot-prevention, the best path for the U.S. is the election of Democrats. Democrat majorities are much more likely to restore some fairness to the national scene. They are much more likely to shun bumper-sticker fictions, junk economics, crippling superstition, and money-lust. Well, maybe not koney-lust.
But they might actually solve some problems.

Krugman on Debt--Again ...

  MH January 2, 2012
Paul Krugman, one of the few economists who knows how to write for economic civilians, has been trying to tell us for a long time that a nation's debt cannot be compared with a family's debt. Krugman's 1/2/12 NY Times Op-Ed column comes pretty close to making the difference graspable.

Scared to tackle the real Keynes or the real Adam Smith, Friedman, Stiglitz, Yellen, et al., I've been reading a lot of economics journalism lately. I have hopes of
[Use arrows to cont.]

becoming a sane voter, one who actually is able to tell the difference between fact-deprived nonsense (stuff that politicians get from their talking-point memos) and real-life economic truths--or at least some well-informed analysis.
  [Use arrows to cont.]

Krugman warns us not to fall for national debt-hysterics. Most of the debt we owe is to ourselves.

But the Chinese! The Chinese! we cry. "...America actually earns more from its assets abroad than it pays to foreign investors," says Paul.

We have been misinformed, he concludes.

Krugman admits that "taxes must be levied to pay the interest, and you don't have to be a right-wing ideologue to concede that taxes impose some cost on the economy, if nothing else by causing a diversion of resources away from productive activities into tax avoidance and evasion." Ha! You gotta love it, even though "avoidance and evasion" is probably a redundancy.


  MH Sept. 29, 2012
Sex is fun. Especially for males, it seems.

Abused four-year olds and overworked prostitutes may diasgree, but mostly people sign on for the joy of orgasm.

Why then do we create such convoluted, expensive efforts to squelch commerce in it? Read Noy Thupkaew's silly essay in the 9/23/NY Times, which outlines our complicated, mostly unworkable anti-prostitution efforts.
    [Use arrows to continue]

Like others who talk about sex and civilization, Noy is prolix about everything but the most obvious and universally ignored fact: Excessive sex drive is a drag on human progress and connected with a long list of vicious, sometimes murderous human behaviors.

A nice, quick sex-drive-tamping injection for newborns might just solve the whole ugly problem! Simply add it to the required immunizations list.

Too avant for you? (Take note Johnson & Johnson. A whole new sorce of profit.)

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