Archive for November, 2012

A Note on the Economy From Your Friend George

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I think it was Jesus who said, “It’s the economy, stupid.” I’m not entirely sure it was He, but since so many people seem to be so fond of putting words in His mouth, I’ll just join the club.

And lately, it seems like “stupid” is the operative word in that quote.

In this election cycle, people can’t seem to be able to get enough of talking about the economy. They sure do like saying that word. ECONOMY. Well, I’ve got something to say about the economy too. And about taxes. And about voting. But first, let me take you back…

Remember the 90”s? Remember when all the wealthy Americans, your CEO’s and such, were all living on the streets in cardboard boxes, with nothing more than comforters stuffed with thousand dollar bills to keep them warm? It seems like only yesterday that I’d have to rouse the CEO of Exxon Mobil from my doorstep on my way to work. He’d apologize for being there (and for the smell), all the time lamenting the fact that if only the government would give him a break on his taxes he’d be able to pull himself together, quit the junk, and create some jobs. And then he’d offer to clean my windshield.

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You don’t remember that? What?! Hmmmm. Maybe it’s because THAT NEVER HAPPENED. During the 90’s, during Clinton, during our former tax rates, the wealthy were still incredibly rich, and in great shape to become even wealthier. Those are the facts, even though some people would have you believe otherwise.

So what is the economy anyway? Roughly speaking, the economy is the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services. In other words, basically everything we do. An economy is movement, and in general a healthy economy is one that moves. A stagnant economy is… well, stagnant. And that’s no good. So how would you avoid a stagnant economy?

Let’s do a little thought experiment. Say you had a million bucks to distribute amongst a small community of 100 families. A pretty self sufficient community of farmers, carpenters, plumbers, hair dressers, bakers, etc… One family in this community is much, much, much more wealthy than all the other families. They employ the services and buy the goods of the other families, but there’s only so many cabinets you can get built, and so many times you can get your hair did. So things are getting a little… stagnant. How would you try to inject a little life into this local economy? Would you give the million bucks to the rich family? Of course not. You’d spread it around so that the farmer can hire the carpenter who can get his hair did by the barber who is going to buy some extra things from the farmer who is going to hire the musician to play at the party he’s having to celebrate the new barn the carpenter built. And so on…

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Well, Romney and the Republicans want to give the million bucks to the wealthy family so that they can create jobs. Seems ridiculous, right? In order to justify their role as “job creators”, and the tax breaks they got under Bush (and want to keep) the very wealthy would have to be starting new companies – whole new industries in fact – roughly every 20 minutes, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

“Job creators”. It’s such a slick, dirty euphemism. That’s right, the party of FREEDOM wants us all to work for these job creators rather than helping us into a position where we will be our own bosses. When you’re tied to a job for fear of losing health care, you’re not that free. When you can’t afford to ever be sick because you can’t afford health care, you’re not free. When you can’t afford an education, you’re not free. And all this restriction of freedom cuts down on the mobility of the economy, makes it more dependent on a few massively rich individuals, and thus more susceptible to injury and collapse. And stagnation. The American economy is based on innovation, and innovation does not happen easily with so many restraints. And taxes, unlike what the Ruhpublicans say, are not a restraint – they are an investment.

So let’s talk about taxes for a second. And let me take you back once again…

Remember that time when George W Bush took our post-Clinton surplus (can you even believe that we ever had a surplus?) and bought you a nice dinner and a pair of shoes? I don’t know about you, but I got a few hundred bucks from W. But if you were wealthy, you got A LOT more than a few hundred bucks. I honestly have no idea how I spent that check. But I know for sure that for 300 bucks you can’t buy health care, pay for school, pave your road, research new technology, or hire an army to defend yourself. To do anything big like that, I’d have to pool my money with the tax break money that everyone else got, entrust it to some sort of governing body that maybe I voted for (a government?) so that they could use this money to do big things without the over-riding mission of making a profit getting in the way of accomplishing actual goals.

This is why taxes are good, and this is why government works. But taxes only work when they are COLLECTED. And when we work collectively we can accomplish so much. For everyone. Rich and poor alike.

The Republicans would have you believe that all services provided by the government can be provided by private companies and charities. But what if you get that disease where a hand starts growing out of your forehead and no one ever researched a cure because there was no good celebrity to get behind it? What if it turns out that you forgot to raise money for the sewage treatment plant? And the invention of the internet?

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She could have benefited from Hand-head Syndrome research

I, for one, like the idea of a government taking care of stuff that I’ve never even thought of. Even if I never personally benefit from those things. We are stronger if everyone here is strong. So please, take some of my tax money and give it to someone on Welfare. They obviously need it. And I gain nothing from someone starving. Nor does the economy.

In light of Superstorm Sandy, it’s only too clear how important government is. How important bureaucracies like FEMA are. Romney wants to privatize FEMA. When a disaster strikes, you certainly don’t want someone putting profit over people. And there has rarely been so clear an example of how a strong environmental policy IS a strong economic policy. We need to acknowledge the reality of climate change and start actual preparations for actual things that will actually happen. God forbid we had used that post-Clinton surplus money to retrofit the infrastructure of New York, thus protecting the powerhouse of our economy. We don’t need a self-professed “coal man” who makes jokes about climate change.

“I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus actually did say that. It’s too bad the Christian Right is too obsessed with gay sex to think about the poor or to think about that quote. I guess Romney doesn’t have to worry about that because, as a Mormon, he’ll be god of his own planet when he dies. But what if there is no afterlife? What if it is just this? Well then, I’d argue that we don’t have time to wait for opportunity and freedom to trickle down to the rest of us.

So who would you trust to lead us into a better economy? Someone born into wealth, who’s idea of hardship was having to sell some stock during college? Or someone raised very modestly by a single mother on food stamps, who was smart enough to get into the best schools, rise to the top of those schools, and eventually become president of the United States? Oh, and he’s also black which is basically like doing all that with one hand tied behind his back.

Exercise the freedom that you have and VOTE. And vote for Obama.

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