Saturday, October 16, 2010

Bad Assumptions

At an MFA-event after-party, the kind of gathering where the music is uniformly loud and bad, but still better than most of the conversation, I was trying to explain to someone my frustration with Obama, within the larger context of of creeping corporatist drift, and how the Rage of Loonies fueling the so-called tea party movement is being exploited to accomplish its hastening.
Pretty basic stuff in the rhetorical arsenal of any self-respecting and opinionated Socialist, right?

I felt obliged to engage this person on a frankhearted, free-speaking basis, usually a mistake in this kind of milieu, but one I am prone to make—yet another example of my imperfect social skills—when the subject of budget deficits came up, which is always amusing. Even liberals feel obliged to squalk concern over the trillion dollar-plus shortfall, horrified—as I am, thinking about it on the following terms—that a third of our tax dollars are now spent on interest that is servicing debt. This is because, invariably, we think of our national debt in the same way that we think of business-debt, or even household-debt. Of course, they are not the same at all, because businesses and households do not have the legal power to print money.

This is where our discussion was headed, and I was trying to explain something fundamental to the rather confused individual I was addressing when I attempted to preface my next remarks by telling him that political economy is really quite simple—as far as I got, because I was interrupted by some guy passing by, who felt compelled to interject that he'd studied economics for six years, and it wasn't simple at all. He said this twice, feeling very wise and satisfied with himself I am sure, which is just as well, because it caused me to realize where I was, and who I was addressing. I ended the conversation as neatly as possible, and exited without pointing out that the one had studied a capitalist model of economics, designed to perpetuate wealth in the hands of as few individuals as possible, and the other would never understand these issues until the ability was learned to formulate responses after listening—hearing, and engaging—what was being said to him by those who understood them better.

I will, though, finish the thought for you.

Economics is really pretty simple, and anyone who tells you it isn't is selling you something. There is philosophy attached to it, and there are any number of ideas emanating from that, but at its base it is the study of production and distribution of the materials of human life. Every complication is just a parlor trick to justify the idea that some should have more of the pie than everyone else. That's it. The financial instruments that Wall Street used to steal trillions over the past decade are no more necessary to the common weal as a kick in the teeth—they are thuggery, devised by an entitled class that is insatiable, literally bottomless in their greed.

When government prints money that winds up in the hands of those who spend it, it fuels the economy, creates sales for business, tax revenues, and job creation. When government is placed in the position of printing lots and lots more money—as we are now, because of the farce of the housing market-fueled "prosperity" of the Bush years, and its domino effect in practically every sector—the result is that all other existing money is worth less. Amassed wealth is worth less than was supposed, probably significantly so—but that is simply Truth. This is what happens when a decade is spent pretending that wealth was being created, when it wasn't.

Simple, isn't it?


  1. It is hard for people to wrap their heads around how simple economics really is.
    I think a lot of it has to do with the terminology.
    I always try to tell people, no one makes money - you take money. The money you have comes from somewhere (and someone) else. As you have stated, only governments can make money.
    Keep up the good socialist fight, my friend.
    (I'm reading a Zizek book right now about how Socialism and Marxism should be the torch bearers for the revolutionary spirit of Early Christianity, and about how religion should be wrestled back from the extreme right, fundamentalist thugs).
    We are like the spotted owl, buddy. Few of us left, but not going down without a fight.

  2. I agree, re: religion being wrestled away from the right (the Christ-in-Concrete crowd, as Lenny Bruce would say.

    Far as "the fight" goes, I dunno...The stupid all around us becomes nearly overwhelming sometimes...