January 30, 2009

What were they thinking?

The theme at Goat Rope these days is the failure of "conservative" economic policy, but you'll also find links and comments about current events. The series started Monday.

If you've ever looked back at economic history, you'll notice that capitalism has the endearing tendency to blow up or melt down every decade or so, a tendency that can be seen as far back as the early 1800s. As the economy became more centralized in the first half of the 1900s, these crises threatened social stability and possibly the survival of capitalism itself.

One thing that has kept the US economy from tanking as deeply as it did during the Great Depression of the 1930s (up to now anyway) has been a degree of government regulation, tax and fiscal policies and the social safety net.

Those reforms, associated in the US with the New Deal, were often hated by those who most benefited from them, i.e. right wing business interests. It was pretty ironic, since those who had the most to gain from a stable capitalist system were the capitalists themselves.

And for several decades, those forces, along with an ideological noise machine, have fought mightily to dismantle some of the structure that held things together. It seems about as rational to me as sawing off the branch you're sitting on.

As I watched this happen over the last few decades, I honestly wondered what they were thinking. Did they believe the economic system had somehow become bubble- or crisis-proof? If they actually did succeed in dismantling all the worker and family friendly gains of the past, how did they think people would react to it? Did they have a plan to contain the popular outrage that would follow sooner or later? If they succeeded in undermining the economic status (and purchasing power) of the middle and working class, did they think the very wealthy alone could keep the economy going?

And most of all, did they really believe this stuff?

It kind of reminds me of someone who stuck their tongue in an electric socket and got shocked really badly, but wanted to try it just one more time...

ARE WE THERE YET on the stimulus? Maybe not.

HEALTH CARE. Krugman says the time is now.

ON THE BRIGHT SIDE, the US Senate voted to expand health care to around 4 million children. The House previously passed a similar bill.

STATE OF THE UNIONS. Union membership increased slightly in 2008 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. There are other interesting trends as well.

MORE FUN WITH THE SUPREMES. Massey Energy sees nothing wrong with a state supreme court justice elected with its CEO's money hearing its cases. Now that's a shocker.

And, while we're at it, here's the latest on the Aracoma mine fire case, which killed two miners in 2006.


1 comment:

Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

Paul Krugman is unfortunately right about the U.S. health care crisis. It is definitely time for us to reform the system. Tuesday the VA cut my health care benefits, which seems to be going in the wrong direction.

Capitalists who have for decades been cringing at the New Deal reforms began to have it their way with the Reagan administration. “Keep to government (regulations) from looking over my shoulder” seemed to be the battle cry. What they denied was the power of greed. Comically, like Alfred E. Neuman being caught with his hand in the cookie jar denying that his hand is in the cookie jar with the words, “What? Me greedy?”