Appearing with Dennis Miller, Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform drew a brilliant analogy of government attempts to stimulate the economy. Here’s a slightly amended version:
Government stimulus is like taking a bucket of water from one side of a lake, walking around the lake, pouring the bucket back in and saying you’re stimulating the lake to a great depth and soon the waters will rise…
Mr. Norquist named current members of government, but the underlying problem is bigger than the current government. It’s not really about a lake, either, at least not a real lake like Erie or Titicaca. If we take a step back from Mr. Norquist’s metaphorical lake we see that this is man-made and fed not by the mainstream economy, but by a diversion sluiced from that mainstream. That sluice is the federal revenue stream.
The problem with our central government is that it’s come to focus on that sluiced off revenue and the slough created by it as the real economy when it’s not. The economy that creates real jobs and real prosperity is the one back upstream, the one they’re tapping to create federal revenue. While it doesn’t excuse their excesses, the behavior of statists becomes understandable in the light of this gross misunderstanding. Naturally, they think stimulus projects that benefit the slough will benefit the economy because to them it is the economy. Naturally, it doesn’t occur to them that closing the sluice brake, diverting less, shrinking the slough will help. Naturally, they think higher taxes is good for the economy because it makes their stream flow faster and the slough they’ve created at the end of it bigger and deeper (and so harder to see the garbage and waste polluting it).
What is happening, of course, is that the real stream of the economy is being shrunk to a dribble by the amount being diverted into the government slough — which is rapidly becoming a swamp.. People who could be drinking from the real stream are now dependent on the slough-water. The hard task ahead of us is to lift the eyes of the nation from the swamp and turn it back to the living waters of a truly free economy.
Remember this episode of Boston Legal? It featured a ranting summation by James Spader (the literal mouthpiece for show creator David E. Kelley) on how the credit card companies don’t really want to be paid back but prefer to keep debtors paying into the companies’ bulging coffers ad infinitum. Pure evil, right?
Mark Steyn, speaking on The Dennis Miller Show, notes that the payments on our debt to China are enough to fund 80% of its military and soon will be the equivalent of 100% of that communist dictatorship’s military funding. Of course, they don’t really want to be paid back, either, they want us on the string until they use us up the way Robert Prosky wanted to use up Jimmy Caan in Thief. Pure evil, right?
In both cases, however, consumer responsibility for borrowing has to be addressed at some point. On Boston Legal a contrived debt restructuring prompted the case and made the credit card company appear to be a bad actor — not unlike the way Spader appeared delivering the summation, but I digress. In the case of the US and China we have to own our nation’s culpability as a reckless spender and wastrel borrower. We’ve brought our problems on ourselves. We have to change.
There is just so much wrong with this David Frum article for CNN but let’s confine ourselves to the root of his error:
I see some things I don’t believe in:
Forcing the United States to the verge of default.
Shrugging off the needs and concerns of millions of unemployed.
Protecting every single loophole, giveaway and boondoggle in the tax code as a matter of fundamental conservative principle.
Massive government budget cuts in the midst of the worst recession since World War II.
We have not been forced to the verge of default during the current “debt crisis”. We have been forced to the verge of making hard decisions about how much our government can do and spend and, largely, Congress cut and run from making those decisions. Last on this point: borrowing more and more money is what really drives anyone or any entity to default.
The needs and concerns of the unemployed should include ceasing to be unemployed. Government debt endangers real economic growth and government jobs drain tax dollars. Those dollars are presumed to be replenished though federal employees’ spending but as federal programs garner more of our GDP that replenishment diminishes until it reaches the point seen in the PIIGs nations of the EU. Right now we are on the edge of that penumbra headed towards an eclipse. However, unlike heavenly bodies, we can change our direction.
Most of those taking the hardest line on borrowing and spending also favor some form of flat or “fair” tax, “fair” retains a graduated tax but both ideas close loopholes. Both parties are guilty of wanting to protect loopholes, programs and pork that favor their states and districts — including the tax breaks given to middle and low income earners under the “stimuless” bill. Legislators from both parties need to be admonished, both need to change or be changed for legislators who understand the proper, Constitutional role of the central government.
"Massive" cuts wouldn’t be needed if the government hadn’t been allowed to grow like kudzu in Georgia. Every aspect of the federal government needs to be pruned. For example, the Department of Education spends $11 on itself for every $8 it gives away. No business could survive with that kind of administrative overhead. It’s bad enough to be taxed to support that kind of inefficiency, to fund it through debt laid on the heads of our children and grandchildren is intolerable.
Comments posted on the CNN site praise David Frum as a sensible conservative but there is no sense in trying to conserve a status quo that is ruining the nation.
The Atlantic's James Fallows has reprinted the NY Times chart that purports to show that the deficit is all due to Bush-era policies. At least Fallows is too smart to repeat the false claim in the Times that entitlement spending is flat. It’s not covered in the chart because its growth is due to factors other than it being a “new policy”.
The chart is also unbelievably forgiving of Obama-era spending. Spending to date is optimistically spread out over two terms as if it were static — it isn’t and it won’t be. While the chart honestly lists the tax-cuts of the Obama stimulus bill neither Fallows nor the Times mentions that those tax-cuts have let nearly half of the tax-base skip paying, mostly middle and low-earners.
There is also the question raised and repeated often by Keven Eder: what about the ROI on Bush-era spending, especially on military and defense? We got something for that spending, it’s just not something that The Atlantic and the NY Times like. On the other hand, Obama-era spending has produced little for its borrowing and spending, nor is it likely to.
Obama was elected to change the economic direction of the nation. Instead of doing so he merely borrowed more and spent more. The chart seen in The NY Times and The Atlantic is an example of the third kind of lie described by Dilke and popularized by Mark Twain. Even if weren’t, the current administration and Senate leadership have exacerbated our economic woes, not fixed them. Why should they be rewarded for having done so? Keep throwing out the rascals till we’re rid of all of them!
There’s actually enough money to pay the military and all entitlements. The president is trying to hold those funds hostage to scare people and leverage support from 2012 incumbents. The only budget the president put out had so much overspending his own party’s solons rejected it. Raising the debt ceiling is like buying fat clothes: sure, you’re not naked but you’re still destined for a heart attack. As far as taxes go, only a flat/fair tax that kills loopholes will work but the president wants a raise without those reforms - at least to start. It’s an offer we can refuse…and should.
If any one thinks that there are or ought to be somewhere in society guarantees that no man shall suffer hardship, let him understand that there can be no such guarantees, unless other men give them–that is, unless we go back to slavery, and make one man’s effort conduce to another man’s welfare. Of course, if a speculator breaks loose from science and history, and plans out an ideal society in which all the conditions are to be different, he is a law-giver or prophet, and those may listen to him who have leisure.
Two of the three branches of our Tree of Liberty are full of rot — and they are beginning to spread their rot to the third branch. It is natural for the federal government to grow and for those who work in it to see their work as good and necessary and so applaud the growth.
This tendency is why so-called RINOs who have come to power in the central government are unable to see the need to deeply prune it back to the form envisioned by the Founding Fathers. Where we can we must open their eyes and change their minds, in cases where they refuse to see what must be done, then they, too, must be pruned via the ballot box.
What could possibly go wrong?
I’m a Green Lantern fan from the Silver Age, Hal Jordan era. I know a little about the Golden Age GL, Alan Scott and more about John Stewart, especially as ably voiced by thinking-man’s actor Phil LaMarr in the animated Justice League series. I knew pretty much nothing about the new explanation of the GL power rings’ inability to affect the color yellow — until I saw the two most recent Green Lantern movies.
With a GL feature in the theaters I had my oldest grandson over for a Green Lantern movie festival. We watched the animated feature Green Lantern: First Flight — a story combining Hal Jordan’s GL origin with Sinestro’s betrayal featuring Chris Meloni (Law and Order SVU) and Victor Garber (Alias) in those roles. In this story the green and yellow power batteries were powered by green and yellow “elements” whose power opposed each other. It was in the second animated movie, Green Lantern: Emerald Knights — an episodic offering with Nathan Fillion as Hal Jordan — that I learned that in current lore yellow energy represents fear which breaks the will needed to wield a green power ring.
This concept is also at work in the live/cgi action adventure Green Lantern which opened this month. In that story the Guardians who created the Green Lantern Corps considered but rejected moving to fear as a power source but one Guardian refused to give up and in his experimentation becomes Parallax — a creature who feeds on fear and destroys whole worlds in the process.
I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration… — Frank Herbert, Dune
Intentional or coincidental, the relationship between Parallax and terrorism is obvious. Terror itself is more important to terrorists than the destruction they cause. They seek to break the will, the resolve of those they target far beyond the destruction they cause. To defeat them we must not only root them out and kill them, we must not let them break our will and our resolve.
Unfortunately, our current policies reflect much fear and little will beyond a willingness to limit the freedom of many for fear of offending someone. We grope children and old ladies at airports because we fear to follow the successful, profile-driven methods used by Israel. Terrorists attack and we fear to even name them as jihadists no matter how much those ideas influenced them, how loudly they yell, “Allahu akbar!”
It is a black, if not the blackest, night for the United States. While our soldiers defend our freedom from foreign enemies, on the home front we cower in a little, fitful, fretful yellow light and pretend that it is the light of freedom while the shadow grows around us.