Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Five Things

The writers at Tom Dispatch usually provide thoughtful and meaningful discussion on topics of the day, but the other day Mattea Kramer wrote on five things that won’t be discussed in this election cycle and why they matter in the future of this nation. At least two of them actually are being discussed, Medicare and deficit reduction, and she has some rather odd ideas as to why they matter.

1. Immediate deficit reduction will wipe out any hope of economic recovery: is her first point and she might be more accurate had she used the word “immediate” twice, the second time being just before “recovery.”

“When the government cuts spending,” she says, “it lays off workers and cancels orders for all sorts of goods and services that would generate income for companies in the private sector. Those companies, in turn, lay off workers, and the negative effects ripple through the economy.”

This is the standard pablum of speakers who argue against reducing military spending, but I have argued that the purpose of the military is to defend against foreign enemies, not to provide civilian jobs. Likewise, the function of our government is to govern, not to provide direct employment of the civilian labor force. In the first level of employment that Ms. Kramer applauds, where does the government get the money with which it pays the salaries of those workers? Right, it gets it from that second level of workers who are employed by businesses other than the government. Sooner or later, the private sector must be weaned off of the government teat, and the longer it takes for that to happen the harder that process becomes.

2. Taxes are at their lowest point in more than half a century, preventing investment in and the maintenance of America’s most basic resources: and on this one I agree entirely. Politicians on both sides have been pandering to the self indulgence of a lazy and greedy American public with endless and self destructive tax cuts and this fiscal irresponsibility has led to a position which becomes ever more painful in recovery. And still this campaign is one of even more tax cuts and a circular firing squad of blame for “overspending.”

3. Neither the status quo nor a voucher system will protect Medicare (or any other kind of health care) in the long run: which is another issue that actually is being discussed.

She’s probably right on the point she makes, but then she says that, “Medicare could be significantly protected by cutting out waste. Our health system is riddled with unnecessary tests and procedures…” and goes on to blame complexity and overuse for the cost of health care, which is utter nonsense. The cost of health care is due entirely to the for-profit model of health care delivery and the government’s unwillingness to regulate that industry to even the most miniscule degree. The monetary abuses within the health care delivery industry simply stagger the imagination, and the government is fully complicit in all of them.

4. The U.S. military is outrageously expensive and yet poorly tailored to the actual threats to U.S. national security: and the only argument I have with that is that there actually are no threats to U.S. national security.

5. The U.S. education system is what made this country prosperous in the twentieth century -- but no longer: a point which is sheer idiocy.

What made this country prosperous in the twentieth century was first and foremost that we were the last man standing after World War Two, and second that we developed a robust and effect labor movement which protected the well being of the American worker. Certainly the GI Bill and our education system made a difference and I would not argue that our education system has not deteriorated, but to think that we will regain prosperity by sending everyone to college is absurd.

Obama’s premise that “the jobs of the future require a college education” envisions a future in which everyone is sitting at a computer processing data and manipulating financial resources and where all the goods and services somehow magically happen without human intervention. Garbage picks itself up, foodstuffs pick themselves at farms and transport themselves to… Delusion.

1 comment:

bruce said...

1. Government spending = taxes. Providing services is their job, and some hiring has to be done for that, but efficiency and quality of the service should be the goal, not just providing the job. Yeah, it sucks to not have a job, but pouring $ down a hole and borrowing more just to do that is ridiculous.

2. It really annoys me when politicians decry deficits out of one face and bleat about tax cuts from another. And it annoys me when people just lap it up. You cannot have it both ways!! And borrowing is NOT a solution. At least as a long term solution, short term might be necessary. And it annoys me when the millionaire politicans (yes, most of them are) hyperventilate about Romney paying so little in taxes - they don't? or don't try? BS..... Reform the tax code, Congress, and then we'll see who complains. BTW, Romney pays mostly capital gains taxes, not income taxes on wages. Oh, and why lower the SS tax? for short term political gain, long term reduction in SS trust fund income, but then the can will be kicked down the road, the current crop of politicians are out of office or can blame something else.

3. Neither the status quo or cost shifting (via vouchers) is a fix. Medicare spending is escalating and will only increase in the years to come. People are afraid of change, but something has to give. The only giving here is $$ from the govt to providers. Nothing is being said or done to address WHY things cost so much. This is also applicable to healthcare in general. A universal health care system could take care of both the general health care debate and medicare. Changing the healthcare model to a non-profit one would be a huge undertaking - and didn't we just get into that with the USSC?

4. Reducing the Defense budget means reducing the global mission. What does that mean to the US public at large? probably not much... except for the returning vets who have no job to come home to. But if you turn that $$ over to doing stuff internally (of a non military nature). Do we need to be all over the world so much? Not really. It's just that the Pentagon and military has so many fingers in every state, it's like it has a US mission as much as the global one. I'll bet if we took a aircraft carrier worth of $ and built a desalinization plant in the Sudan, we'd get a lot more good will than drone stikes. Of course, we could use that plant here as well.

5. Education is an issue and the cost and funding of it is a critical issue. But not everying needs to go to college or even wants to. Where are the plumbers, electricians, builders, car mechanics? these are needs as well as doctors, nurses, architects, engineers, etc. These should not be stigmatized or denigrated. I suppose you don't need a college degree to be a rap star or football player, but these are not an end all either.

6. Not mentioned here, but what about regulation, such as Wall street and financial markets? These guys make outrageous amounts of money from pushing money around and creating financial "products" (like a derivative is a washing machine or something).

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