Most stimulus packages–particularly those that are just handouts or temporary tax cuts–make even more private debt public. And, as we know, the government is already deep in hock, financed primarily by official inflows, i.e., foreign central banks. All pipers must, at some point, be paid. At some point, those foreign banks must be paid. Inflation is not a solution. At the core of all our problems lie the twin deficits.
As U.S. assets cheapen or experience trouble, buyers (often SWF’s) will be more than ready to snap up them up. After all is said and done, we are selling off America.
Now, I am not arguing against a temporary stimulus package, but we must think further than just giving the junkie one more–maybe his last–shot in the arm. In short, merely priming the consumer for one more run at the punch bowl is a bit short-sighted. We must think deeper than that. We must look at root causes. Here is my list:
Preamble: I obviously am in favor of a larger government role in many areas. Privatization of everything has been a disaster. Deregulation and no forceful governmental oversight has failed. Financial “innovation” without transparency and no real governmental oversight has created this mess.
- Universal health care: Single payer, government run. Everyone pays. Insurance companies can deal with dental and optional surgery…stuff like that. Government sets the cost of procedures, plain and simple. Without universal health care, our businesses cannot compete; our citizenry is constantly at risk.
- Education: Make it affordable. As Juan said in an earlier thread: Bust or knock down tuitions. The government can do this. Check out how Canada does it, if you need help.
- Regulation: One of the first duties of government. Without proper regulation, there is no real commerce, no effective financial institutions. In our celebration of free markets, we have forgotten one of the duties of government: Protection from the unscrupulous and the short-sighted. Regulate financial institutions, commodity traders, hedge funds…etc. Right now there is absolutely no transparency in our financial institutions. Beef up the rules, beef up the number of examiners. Insist on public transparency. No more Enrons, no more Merril Lynches.
- Taxes. Tax the rich. Roll back the so-called relief on “death taxes,” capital gains and the very, very wealthy. Time for the billionaires to pay a higher rate than a janitor or a teacher. Trickle down does not work. Investment in the in the U.S. has not been forthcoming. All we have done is to create an every more wealthy one percent. If Buffet and Gates can favor the estate tax, that should tell us something. The vast flow of monies to just the wealthy must be stopped.
- Alternate energy sources. Treat the twin problems of energy independence and global warming and pollution like a Manhattan project. No more dilly dallying around.
- Sovereign Wealth Funds: Start thinking about SWF’s and their growing power. Remember who has them, who really owns them. How are we going to deal with them. Big, big question. Some of the suggestions I mention below will begin to address that issue.
- Lobbyists: Cut the umbilical cord between lobbyists and the government. Ex-elected officials or the ex-military cannot become lobbyists. Sorry, Bill, Kissinger, et al. Give the government back to the people. Elected office should be an honor and an act of patriotism, a self-less act of service to one’s country, not a way to feather one’s future nest. (I wonder if Brown with follow Blair’s lead and become a lobbyist? Seems to be the “thing to do” in many western democracies. Frankly, with the well-oiled revolving door, all we are creating is an over-class that merely serves itself. Father-son, husband-wife, general/father-son (fill in the names…isn’t there something sick about this? Nepotism, here we come. I want my leaders to die poor or middle class or at least with honor, not be a step-stone for the son to become president or the head of the FCC, or their wife to become president. Do we want a political aristocracy? Hail, Truman, damn good fellow.
- Middle East policy: It needs a complete overhaul: The neoconservative plan to shake up the Middle East and create democracies has been an unmitigated failure. After a trillion dollars, all we are trying to do now is stabilize the mess we made in Iraq. Shock and Awe has turned into a whimper, revealing America’s inability to use military might as an extension of its policy goals. Meanwhile, neoconservatives are now eyeing Iran as the next target. Yet we lovingly hold the hands of our Islamic “friends” in the area, four or five families with unimaginable wealth, running brutal theocratic enterprises.
- Iraq: Get out of Iraq. Not worth a trillion bucks. Forget about Iran. The Arabs will take decades to sort it all out. Believe me, they will argue and bicker till the cows come home. Kurds, Islamists of all stripes…factions beyond counting. We forget how dynamic and changing countries can be if left to their own devices. Stop propping up dictators. All we do is anger the oppressed and create very dangerous adversaries.
- Israel: Rethink our position vis-a-vis Israel. Insist that Israel talk to its enemies; no more “pre-conditions.” (As a side note, under Bill Clinton, Israel increased its occupation more than it did under Bush.) It is time we think through our real priorities in the Middle East; our priorities may not be those of Israel. Frankly, I am tired of the likes of Leiberman who thinks that Israel’s objectives should be ours.
Our Middle East policy will shift if we begin a Manhattan-like project for energy independence. We can do it.
- The Media: My complaints here are too numerous to mention. News? What news? For starters, we have to stop media consolidation. Without many voices, democracy is in fact dead. Right now the news is just freak side-show with the same talking heads. One liberal commentator had the stupidity of saying that Obama’s health care plan was no different from that of Edwards’ plan. No one challenged him. Hell, no one in the room had any idea of how the two health care plans differed! Why not allow spokesmen for both plans give their pitch? The role of the newscaster is simply to tease out the specifics–without comment or preference. We have forgotten what news really is. Just a mess. As a side note: What would happen if we outlawed polls? More I think about it, the more I like it. Imagine: No more “which horse is ahead.” Maybe we would have to concentrate of the issues and the positions. For example, most candidates have positions on global warming. Have you ever, ever heard one of those positions discussed or laid bare on national t.v.? Gasp. Now, not everyone is as free as the group here is of actually looking for the position papers. Most people do not have the time or the energy. They are simply trying to survive. Imagine what would happen if the news actually covered these kinds of issues, dispassionately, objectively. The news now is just a joke, a “ratings” race, filled with trumpets and loud music.
- Currency manipulation: Immediately take the issue of the dollar peg (China, Saudi Arabia, etc) to the WTO. No more need be said.
- Labor: Stop its Exploitation: Bring the issue of labor to the WTO. China’s sweat shops must stop. All WTO countries must allow collective bargaining–not state controlled bargaining as in China. All WTO countries must have and must enforce regulations protecting labor. If we do not forcefully address the issue of labor rights, then our labor force is toast. In short, the WTO has to change its rules. No easy task. But it is time to step up to the plate and say, do something.
- Trade: Roll back NAFTA. It has been a disaster for the U.S. and Mexico. It is just a corporate give-away. No more fast-track trade deals. The only people who pay attention to the details are those who will make the bucks. Economists simply are simply starry-eyed children when they talk about trade deals. Insist on labor’s rights and environmental protection in all trade deals. In a country does not protect its labor force, i.e., does not allow collective bargaining and worker protection, then no trade deal.
- WTO: Change it or end it. Globalization as practiced is a disaster, creating ever more serious disllocations. As an overseer of globalization, the WTO is a failure. In failing to insist on labor’s rights and on environmental regulations as a precondition for entry, the WTO is a poor global citizen, protecting only corporate profits. The fact that the latest round is stalled should tell us something.
- Global Warming and pollution: America should take the lead in the fight against global warming and pollution. Take a stand. Clean up our own house; and insist that others do the same. Simple policy. Direct.