Saturday, November 6, 2010

Dismantling the Government

It seems to me that two reports are a bit late. Perhaps if they had come out a little earlier in the election, the election would have turned out different. Or, at least I would have hoped that. Maybe not. The first report was the "Jobs Report," which said that 159,000 new jobs were created last month, October. Under the circumstances, that was good. The second report, Recap of Fiscal Year 2010 Budget Results, from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), says the deficit turned a corner in 2010; the deficit in 2010 was actually less than 2009. What caught my eye was this sentence: "The large deficits in 2009 and 2010 reflect a combination of factors: an imbalance between revenues and spending that predates the recent recession,..." lower revenues (taxes) and more spending "...associated with...economic conditions,..." and government the cost of federal policies responding to economic conditions.  

The phrase that stood out was "predates the recent recession." In other words, it was President Bush's tax cut, wars and his non-negotiable Pharmaceutical Drug Plan that caused the imbalance of revenues and spending; i.e., taxes were too low and his spending was too high. A chart in the report, "Receipts and Outlays as a Percent of GDP," clearly shows that starting about 1992 and through 2000, while President Clinton was in office, spending was going down and revenues were up. We had a surplus. The fact that spending was going down indicates that government was getting smaller, the very thing that the Tea Party wants. That same chart shows that around 2002, just after President Bush took office, this trend was reversed; spending started up and revenues started down. In other words, government started getting bigger and taxes were cut. Well, Bush said, "it's the peoples' money, and they should have it instead of the government..." In hindsight, now we know that we could have used the surplus to defeat the recession. But, as Bush says in his book about the last few months in office, "...he felt like he was on a ship with nobody at the helm..." No kidding! In fact, the chart shows that nobody was at the helm through his entire presidency since "deficits didn't matter," as Vice President Cheney said. Ha. I guess they do matter!

There were other things that happened in the 1990s that hurt America, however. NAFTA was passed that released the flood gates for jobs to go to Mexico and other countries. Some companies moved manufacturing to Mexico before the ink was dry on Clinton's signature. This agreement was actually started under and promoted by President G. H. Bush (Bush I), and signed by President Clinton in 1994 after Newt Gingrich led the 1994 Republican takeover of Congress. But, there was a long history behind NAFTA; a long period of teaching a philosophy that was being sold to everyone, so it's no surprise that Clinton signed it. He had been sold on the philosophy as everyone else had, including me. Basically, the philosophy was "free trade, open markets and self-regulated markets would provide economic equality to the world." It is a Libertarian idea. It is an "economically liberal" idea. It's funny that an individual can be a Libertarian in favor of "free, unrestrained capitalism" and be an "economic liberal," which is to say that on economic and market matters, they are in favor of benevolent favoritism to corporations. They are, in fact, in favor of "bailouts" because bailouts prop up corporations and markets. Bailouts are the same as "subsidies" to oil companies and banks; always supported by Republicans. Deregulation is the same as a "bailout," since deregulation is a form of subsidy for an industry. Deregulation in in fact a "gift" that says you can do anything you want with your corporation including scam the public and take advantage of consumers. There are no limits and there is no consumer protection in deregulation.

Practically all financial and economic experts who have advised or held offices under Presidents or served in some form or another in the Federal Reserve Banking System for the past 30-40 years are libertarian and Republican leaning, including Timothy Geithner (Fed Reserve Bank, NY under Bush II and Obama's Treasury), Robert Rubin (Clinton's Treasury), Larry Summers (Reagan and Obama advisor), Ben Bernanke (Fed Chair Bush II and Obama) and Alan Greenspan (Advisor to Nixon, Ford and Reagan, Fed Chairman under Reagan, Bush I, Clinton and Bush II). It is these guys who helped sell us the idea that markets should be unrestrained, without regulation and without consumer protections and, in fact, these guys have hurt America by selling us those ideas. Ironically, it is these very same ideas that the Tea Party/Republican movement believes in and the same ideas that most of those that were elected in the Republican 2010 takeover believe in. So, you may have voted against President Obama, Nancy Pelosi, or whoever, in the 2010 election, but you really voted for the same experts that we've always had, so in effect, nothing has changed from the time President Reagan was in office.

In the 1990s while Alan Greenspan was the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Mexico had a significant economic crisis that threatened the world economy. Greenspan, Rubin and others convinced President Clinton to bail out Mexico by giving it $20 billion dollars. What this says is that the people who claim to believe in self-regulation don't believe it when the crap hits the fan, but they'll let the problem grow until it cannot be controlled except by bailout. It was also in the 1990s that the Dot-Com bubble began to rise and the Federal Reserve had a chance to "temper" what Alan Greenspan called "irrational exuberance." But, he didn't. He didn't do anything because he believed that the market would self regulate. It did self regulate in 2000 when a small market crash happened when President Bush took office. But, that 2000 crash didn't threaten the world economy so it was allowed to happen without a bailout. While that small crash was happening, another bubble was already forming that took over the market; the monetary, banking bubble. While jobs were being lost in the tech sector, banks were hiring. The banking bubble started in 1998, when Senator Phil Gramm, a Republican, led a successful effort to deregulate the banks that unleashed the Banking Dogs. All banks were free to gamble in the markets after that and they were picking up steam by 2000. Everything was hunky-dory to you and me, since all of this was hidden to you and me. We really didn't see much of a change from the outside looking in. People like Paul Krugman probably saw it, as did those above. Paul Krugman is probably a rare exception to the normal economist. He's an admitted liberal. He says "do something about uncontrolled markets." He says "they're dangerous!" He agrees with a lot of what I've been reading over the past 10-15 years, since Gingrich's time, when I began to take an interest in the radical movement in America.

Another thing the chart shows is how wrong the Republicans are about Dubya. They now claim that he really wasn't a Reagan "small government" President. They are disappointed in him. In fact, the chart shows that he was a Reagan President. He kept the same deficit levels that Reagan and his dad did. Neither Reagan, Bush I or Bush II really believed in small governments, and neither does the Republican Party of today. It was only President Clinton who actually did something about deficits and made government smaller. Ironically, it is President Obama and those others the Republicans like to hate, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, who are headed in the same direction as President Clinton did. It is Obama, Pelosi and Reid who have the ideas that people say the believe, but vote against.

Well, we've got what we have. Like Alan Greenspan, who finally saw the light when he testified to Congress that he "was mistaken" about market self-regulation in 2008, Ben Bernanke, also saw the light in 2008 and is trying to control deflation, inflation and the market and he is now under attack. Ron Paul, famous for his Libertarian beliefs, is going to be Chairman of the Monetary Policy Sub-committee, and he says, "I think they're way too independent. They just shouldn't have this power. Up until recently it has been modest but now it's totally out of control." Paul is going to change The Fed! I am afraid of him doing that. The funny thing is that "Up until recently" was when President Bush and Alan Greenspan were in control, when the housing bubble was allowed to happen and deficits were okay. Now that Bernanke is trying to put some controls on the market, to bring it back to its senses, the Fed is suddenly "totally out of control!" Like father, like son, Rand Paul, Republican Representative from Kentucky and voted into office by the Tea Party, believes the same thing his father does; let the market dogs lose.

I do not know if Ben Bernanke is right in his latest move to inject a lot of money into the market by buying government bonds. It seems very complicated to me. From what I've read, it could be dangerous especially if "fiscal policy" doesn't follow, meaning that if the government doesn't also stimulate the economy by helping businesses and consumers, Bernanke's move could backfire. But, I would still rather have highly educated economists and financial experts running the Federal Reserve than Ron Paul, a medical doctor from Texas. I doubt that he knows anything about the economy. I have a problem with any politician running anything that requires a doctorate level education in a field of specialization. I can read a chart, however, and I can see the effects of bad ideology, and if there's anything the chart in the report says, it says that Reagan, Bush I and Bush II had bad ideas on running the government. And, we are getting the same bad ideas again with the Republican takeover. And, from what they say, they intend to take over the Presidency and the Senate. Their results won't be any different than the last time they were in control.

There is no doubt in my mind that voters voted against their own best interest on November 2nd. They want the deficit to go down, but Republicans can't do that with the ideology they believe. They want the healthcare reform repealed, but that reform reduces the deficit, especially the pharmacy drug plan paid by the government. We will go back to Bush's very expensive pharmacy plan and Bush's deficit. In fact, it seems the only reason for the Republican takeover was the dislike for Obama and Pelosi, and for no other reason, in spite of the fact that they are doing what the voters say they want. Dick Army led the revolt for corporations and the Tea Party bought it. Tea Party members were really not voting for what they thought they were. Sadly, the Republicans will take aim at a number of programs, such as Social Security, and may win the battle of once and for all in killing them. They seem intent on doing that. I don't believe anyone will be happy with what they kill. They seem intent of dismantling the government.

I don't think I have revised history too much. I primarily depended on my memory of what I've read and learned over the past years. I did not attempt to verify anything by referring back to articles or books that I've read.


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