Tuesday, September 24, 2013

This (f*%#ing) Town


It seems like a cruel irony to me that as a society, we have never been more advanced technologically. We can now pay bills and connect to billions of other human beings on a cell phone in nanoseconds, from the middle of nowhere. Every day, scientists are making breakthroughs that make us healthier and happier. But when it comes to economics, we are still neanderthals. As a resident of Washington DC, the caveman level understanding of economics on and around the Hill is amazingly sad. The entire institutional bias of this city is about deficit reduction and the various schemes to achieve it. To say nothing of the Republicans, who are simply insane, it is clear from his public statements that President Obama is utterly clueless on macro issues. His various speeches on the subject have been very muddled and riddled with half truths and contradictions, which he and his staff are seemingly incapable of realizing. What further amazes me is the lack of intellectual curiosity and creativity. It is seen as an absolute given, in circles left and right, that deficit reduction is necessary very soon, if not now. As we know, none of these strategies will do anything to improve the lives of the vast majority of Americans.Very few even dare to think that widespread prosperity is possible.

Meanwhile, it is sickening to me how detached Washington is. If you read Mark Leibovich's This Town you got a glimpse into how people at the highest levels think, but they are hardly the only clowns in the show. Many thousands of people in this town live in $500,000 condos, drive luxury sedans, and do all their grocery shopping at Whole Foods. (Dont get me wrong- I like Whole Foods, but I like to call it Whole-yshitthatsexpensive Foods. Most people could never afford to buy most groceries there.) Between the daily happy hours and weekend bar/club binging, people spend hundreds, if not thousands of dollars a month on alcohol and restaurant meals. It is no surprise that the rest of the country is outraged out how people in DC behave. Unfortunately, a great many of the Tea Party idiots, who I really do want to sympathize with, have focused their rage in entirely the wrong places and have made these problems worse.  They have focused their anger on the civil servants, who I want to clearly state are not  the problem. Most government employees are honest, hard working people who continue to serve the public, despite poor pay and constant abuse from Congress and the public. It is the para-government that is the real problem. The massive army of lobbyists, public relations specialists (aka professional bullshitters), media-morons, boot-licking congressmen, and the rentiers that control all of them that are the real problem.

I would add congressional staff to this list, except as a former staffer it is clear to me that most of staff have good intentions; they only turn to lobbying because staffer pay is so ridiculously low that to live decently in Washington basically requires "selling out." This to me is one of the absolute dumbest things that Washington does. Congress, which is the issuer of the currency, is so stupid that it doesn't think that it can afford to invest in having its own top quality staff. It could easily decide to double staffer salaries tomorrow; instead the self-flagellation has gotten so bad that some Republican Senators have even proposed eliminating healthcare premium support from compensation packages. How the staffers in these member's offices haven't gotten up and walked the hell out is beyond me. Its no wonder then that turnover is so high and no one wants to risk proposing new ideas, such as MMT, at risk of being shunned from the established money.


I have no way in hell of knowing how we can change this.

4 comments:

Dan Kervick said...

Well, I'll just offer my opinion again that these guys aren't dumb. Most of them have bosses, and they serve the interests of their bosses. Their bosses are the tiny fraction of Americans who own most of the country. Others, the ideologues, represent the stridently white part of America, and their agenda is to help the white part secede, socially and economically, from the non-white part.

It's about interests. Apart from a few wonks and some of their staffers, politicians aren't making economic decisions on the basis of "macroeconomics." That's an irrelevant ivory tower pursuit from the standpoint of the interests they serve.

Michael Norman said...

Dan,

Yes and no. I've run into many of their "bosses" in my years working for Fox and I can tell you that while they do have an agenda and it's an agenda solely designed to suit them and nobody else, they are ideological zealots and most of them are quite dumb.

F. Beard said...

I have no way in hell of knowing how we can change this.

If you understood how the government-backed counterfeiting cartel, the banking system, has cheated both debtors and non-debtors - virtually the entire US population - then you'd recommend universal restitution with new fiat plus a ban on new credit creation to keep the banks from blowing another bubble. Steve Keen recommends something similiar in his "A modern debt jubilee."

Can you think of a more unifying cause than hatred of the banks plus universal restitution? I can't.

But the problem is that Progressives don't hate the banks; they just want to regulate or nationalize them to build windmills.

Dan Kervick said...

Well I agree with you about Fox and a lot of the rest of the punditry Mike. I just mean that the key policy gurus who set the agenda in Washington - the corporate lobbyists; the Peterson folks; the big think tanks - aren't bunglers. They have an insurgent conservative and plutocratic agenda, and they work night and day on how to sell it. I don't think they are going to be talked out of it by learning more macroeconomics. That's like saying Stalin could have been talked out of taking over Eastern Europe by having some western economist explain to him why Communism doesn't work.