Wednesday, April 15, 2009

It's Not Yours To Give - Washington Ideology And Paul Krugman's Recent Times Article

Paul Krugman is an economist who seems to delight more in political commentary than any necessarily insightful perspective on how to solve the economic crisis before us. Why wouldn't he? There is little fame in economics. Krugman is a favorite of the prevailing Democratic ideology now that the world is going to be saved from Republicans. (Who is going to save us from the Democrats?)

I applaud Krugman for his life accomplishments including an economics Nobel Prize - often used as support for why we should listen to his political commentary. A position that is completely illogical unless you believe economists somehow have some great insight into what is best for our government. Something I find totally hilarious since yapping economists have generally supported our economic model over the last few decades regardless of their political affiliation or accomplishment. Additionally, need I remind anyone that the 1970s, considered a depressionary environment by many and clearly agreed to as the worst economic environment since the Great Depression, was, in large part, a result of the failed economic policies of economic Nobel Laureates in the 1960s. By now I think we all understand the esteemed history of economics. It's what put us in this crisis, put us in the crisis of the 1970s and put us into the Great Depression.

If Krugman wants to talk about how to rebuild the economy by rejecting failed policies he supported, I would wholeheartedly embrace such writings. (If you need some ideas on how to turn the economy, I have plenty that haven't been discussed.) But, unless I am missing something, Krugman had little clarity into the severity of the environment surrounding us before it happened. Sounds vaguely familiar to the financial management we have seen on Wall Street. The difference being he wasn't running a company.

Krugman is very good at confusing political rhetoric with clear-headed economic policy. In fact, I don't see anything remotely similar to economics in this article. Instead he marginalizes anyone who is concerned with the tyranny of massive future tax burdens. First by implying any good Democrat supports higher taxes and seemingly any decisions made in Washington by Democratic politicians. Second, by seemingly associating anyone not in lock step with his political ideology as being irrelevant. In fact, as I understand Krugman's article, he seems to argue the "tea party" resentment that is brewing across America is somehow tied to completely unrelated failed policy of the modern day Republican ideology. In other words, that Republican failures in other areas of governance are a reason why we should all support his ideology and marginalize anyone who disagrees. An unreasoned argument I find even more ridiculous than the Republican ideology he argues against. While we all have a right to express their opinion, this, to me, is a clear case of browbeating so well perfected by politicians rather than any relevance to economics. How did we get to the point where people would label anyone concerned about runaway spending or debt loads that are clearly jeopardizing the future of this country? That we are all rich Republicans who don't give a damn about anyone else? Well, no one has written more about the injustices facing the American people than I. And, I am sure as hell not a rich Republican. But, then I don't subscribe to any political ideology other than a government that works for the people and is fiscally responsible.

Need I remind Mr. Krugman or anyone else that this country was founded in some large part on a building resentment of undue meddling and taxes levied by the British empire? The tax burden at the time of the American Revolution, while substantially different in its makeup today, is generally considered to be about 50% lower than today's tax rates. And this is not taking into account the massive increase in future burdens which politicians of both parties are piling on to the often poor, marginalized and downtrodden of this country - at least half of whom are likely loyal Democrats. In other words, I think it may be fair to conclude Mr. Krugman would have been writing in defense of the British empire's fiscal policies in 1776. Because then as today policies were generally supportive of the most favored games of politicians - empire building and bailing out the ruling elite with strong political ties. Is today really any different than what happened two hundred years ago? Seriously? British royalty spending frivolously to support meddling policies around the world and an unsustainable lifestyle of a ruling elite on the backs of Americans? And now American politicians spending frivolously over the last five decades for the same purpose - political favors for the well-connected and constant meddling in a foreign policy that has bankrupted our country?

Were current policy or money spent to develop the capital stock of society and to provide economic opportunity or social programs for Americans, I would clearly draw a different perspective. Were Mr. Krugman to repudiate current political ideology and adopt a "people first" perspective in politics, I might even vote for him were he to run for public office. Instead there seems to be some reasoned attempt at rationalizing the trillions of dollars in debt we have is a result of endless interventions in other countries, military bases in the vast majority of the world's countries and burdens to support a ruling class - a policy that is pervasive in Washington regardless of party affiliation. We should all feel happy now that included in these ideologies are a few crumbs now thrown at the people?

Maybe economists who wish to preach political rhetoric should read a bit of history before ridiculing Americans with what I view as essentially grammatically-correct blabber. This country has more than enough ability to support a government for the people. Instead it is broke because the rights and needs of the people have been marginalized. And, most nearly any politician in Washington with any tenure has supported marginalizing its constituency. We need a policy of butter not guns. I never voted for an empire. I never voted to bail out people making hundreds to thousands of times more than me.

I would appreciate a self-proclaimed progessive such as Mr. Krugman adopting a public policy position based on sound economics rather than arguing a position based on political ideology and marginalization. But, in order to do so, maybe some people would benefit from a history lesson by reading the Constitution. Then by reading another timelessly classic piece titled it's Not Yours To Give. Below are a few quotes.

The power of collecting and disbursing money at pleasure is the most dangerous power that can be entrusted to man, particularly under our system of collecting revenue by a tariff, which reaches every man in the country, no matter how poor he may be, and the poorer he is the more he pays in proportion to his means. What is worse, it presses upon him without his knowledge where the weight centers, for there is not a man in the United States who can ever guess how much he pays to the government. So you see, that while you are contributing to relieve one, you are drawing it from thousands who are even worse off than he. If you had the right to give anything, the amount was simply a matter of discretion with you, and you had as much right to give $20,000,000 as $20,000. If you have the right to give to one, you have the right to give to all; and, as the Constitution neither defines charity nor stipulates the amount, you are at liberty to give to any and everything which you may believe, or profess to believe, is a charity, and to any amount you may think proper. You will very easily perceive what a wide door this would open for fraud and corruption and favoritism, on the one hand, and for robbing the people on the other.

I think it's quite apparent Washington policy over the last few decades, regardless of party affiliation, could very well rise to the standard of fraud, corruption, favoritism and robbing the people as cited above. Now maybe Mr. Krugman and others endorsing similar political ideology would be so kind as to clearly articulate why any American, regardless of political affiliation, would wish to support greater burdens under the current precept of hapless leadership and spend-happy dunces so prevalent in Washington?

Are you sure you are on the right side of the issues Mr. Krugman? Or would you be so inclined to lead the revolution in new ideas we need in this country? A revolution of ideas based on sound economics instead of the political preaching of marginalization.
posted by TimingLogic at 7:27 AM