Opinion

Nicholas Wapshott

Austerity is a moral issue

By Nicholas Wapshott
May 17, 2013

Security worker opens the door of a government job center as people wait to enter in Marbella, Spain, December 2, 2011. REUTERS/Jon Nazca

In the nearly five years since the worst financial crash since the Great Depression, the remedy for the world’s economic doldrums has swung from full-on Keynesianism to unforgiving austerity and back.

The initial Keynesian response halted the collapse in economic activity. But it was soon met by borrowers’ remorse in the shape of paying down debt and raising taxes without delay. In the last year, full-throttle austerity has fallen out of favor with those charged with monitoring the world economy.

Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, has been urging German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has been imposing singeing public spending cuts on her neighbors, and George Osborne, Britain’s finance minister, who has been doing the same to the Brits, to ease up. The IMF is now urging fiscal measures beyond monetary easing “to nurture a sustainable recovery and restore the resilience of the global economy.”

Earlier this month, Lagarde criticized America’s automatic sequester cuts for being too deep, too soon. The United States, she said, “should consolidate less in the short term, but give … economic actors the certainty that there will be fiscal consolidation going forward.”

So much for the economics of austerity. That is only half the story, however. Austerity is a moral issue, too. It inflicts enormous misery upon hundreds of millions. To an American living under a relatively generous economic regime that is providing annual growth at 2.5 percent, the scale of unemployment in Europe is alarming.

We think 7.5 percent is too high. In Greece, it has reached 27 percent and youth unemployment (age 15 to 24) is at an appalling 64 percent. Much the same is happening in Spain, with 27.2 percent unemployed and youth unemployment hitting 57 percent. Italy’s 11 percent unemployed figure disguises the fact that more than that number have given up looking for jobs ‑ so the real jobless tally is more than 20 percent.

The social cost of austerity can be found in widespread political unrest, including mass public demonstrations that often spill into violence. Hard times are encouraging the adoption of simple-minded political solutions, and Europe has seen an upsurge in the electoral success of undemocratic and racist extreme parties that scapegoat minorities. Traditional parties take turns taking the blame, with voters turfing out incumbents of both right and left to punish them for complicity in inflicting such general misery.

The prospect of no work is diminishing and socially corrosive. Depression is rife. Cuts to health budgets have led to a sharp rise in HIV cases. New research from Stanford and Oxford Universities suggests austerity is deeply damaging to individuals and sharply increases the number of suicides.

While mainstream politicians revel in their impotence, religious leaders are speaking out with unprecedented vigor. It takes a lot before senior churchmen dare to intervene in politics, for fear they will offend half their followers. But the extent of the despair being endured has changed the equation.

The Roman Catholic primate of Spain, Braulio Rodriguez, archbishop of Toledo, predicts that austerity will lead to despotism. “We have to change direction,” he said this week, “otherwise this is going to bring down whole political systems. We have to give people some hope or this is going to foment conflict and mutual hatred.”

Archbishop Ieronymos, head of the Greek Orthodox Church, has written to the Greek premier to warn against administering “larger doses of a medicine that is proving deadly.” “Greeks’ unprecedented patience is running out,” he said, “fear is giving way to rage, and the danger of a social explosion cannot be ignored.”

In London, where the ruling coalition’s austerity program has led the nation twice back into recession, the leader of the Anglican church, the archbishop of Canterbury, argues that “what we are in at the moment is not a recession but essentially some kind of depression. It therefore takes something very, very major to get us out of it, in the same way as it took something very major to get us into it.”

When spiritual leaders warn that austerity may lead to the end of democracy, it’s time for political leaders to take notice.

There is little sign that Europe’s political leaders, in particular Germany’s unwavering Merkel, grasp the seriousness of their dilemma. Yet austerity is undermining the very cause they claim to be rescuing by their tough love: closer European unity. Nor is it rescuing the euro, the troubled single European currency designed to bind European nations in an ever-closer embrace.

The latest economic data shows the 27-nation European Union to be in recession for the sixth consecutive quarter. The euro bloc of 17 nations has also been in recession for six quarters. Far from bolstering the value of the euro, austerity policies are causing it to slide against the dollar. Yet the EU insists there is no alternative: Austerity is the only cure, even if it kills the patient.

Germany, with Europe’s strongest economy, has almost alone among EU nations benefited from the acceptance of the euro, which, particularly in its weak state, keeps the prices of exports unnaturally cheap. But German prosperity comes at an enormous cost. Anti-German sentiment in Europe is rife ‑ particularly among the Mediterranean nations, which are reviving memories of atrocities committed during German occupation in World War Two.

Seventy years after German troops massacred 498 men in cold blood in the Greek village of Kalavryta, in reprisal at the killing of German soldiers by Greek partisans, the Greek government is citing such incidents to prove Germany owes $213 billion in unpaid World War Two reparations. A quarter of a million Greeks died during German occupation, most from starvation. Germany agreed to reparations when the war ended in 1945, but stopped payments within a year.

In 1970, the Germans settled for a once-and-for-all payment of $70 million. The sum the Greeks are now demanding would go a long way to solving the country’s debt problem. The angry response from Merkel’s government to the new Greek demands aggravates the newly opened wounds between the two countries and revives the sense, now commonly expressed by non-German Europeans, that the financial crisis has let Germany own by stealth what the Nazis failed to win by conquest.

Europe’s economic turmoil is dragging the world economy down. It is against this destructive display of unnecessary and counterproductive masochism that many here continue to demand that the U.S. sequester be allowed to continue slashing at public spending. On top of this, Tea Party insurgents in the Republican Party prevent the vacillating party leadership from leading.

Few doubt that the level of national debt is unsustainable and must eventually be paid down, but timing is everything. A glance across the Atlantic offers a chilling insight into what would happen here if the fiscal hawks get their way and start imposing European-style austerity.

It won’t be pretty.

Nicholas Wapshott is the author of Keynes Hayek: The Clash That Defined Modern Economics.”Read extracts here.

 

PHOTO (Insert A): International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Christine Lagarde speaks during the conference with top financial officials at the Economy ministry in Paris November 30, 2012. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

PHOTO (Insert B): Irena, 50, a Polish homeless worker, lies on a park bench in central Athens January 15, 2012. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis

 PHOTO (Insert C): German Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) meets with IMF chief Christine Lagarde before a European Union debt crisis summit in Brussels October 26, 2011. REUTERS/Pool/Bundesregierung

 

 

 

Comments
41 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

“Earlier this month, Lagarde criticized America’s automatic sequester cuts for being too deep, too soon.” What she’s really saying is that America may be able to tolerate medicine this bitter, but France and the bloated EU are gagging.

“Austerity is a moral issue, too.” Definitely. Europeans want to keep their relatively fewer hours worked, more lavish leave and vacation and retirements, and insurance for all, cradle to grave (of a sort) but can’t afford to keep paying for it. Tough darts. Up to them to raise productivity or lower expectations. Get real.

“The scale of unemployment in Europe is alarming. In Greece, it has reached 27 percent and youth unemployment (age 15 to 24) is at an appalling 64 percent. Much the same is happening in Spain, with 27.2 percent unemployed and youth unemployment hitting 57 percent.” “ The prospect of no work is diminishing and socially corrosive.” Get used to it. This is the emerging reality of our future.

Economists are either clueless or in denial of a fundamental change over the last 40 years. Since inexpensive computers and software have become available, businesses have slowly and quietly eliminated millions of “good middle class” clerks, secretaries, draftsmen, designers, estimators, project managers, project coordinators, etc. “Just in time” order and delivery systems have eliminated countless warehouses, inventory, inventory people.

Computer directed robots machine parts, and assemble complex machinery and sub-assemblies. More and more automobiles are painted by robots. The “bottom line is that with increasing rapidity humans are becoming more and more redundant. It simply takes fewer and fewer people to do what society needs done. What that means is that not only will there likely be less and less work for our children but more and ore competition for what work remains.

“The Roman Catholic primate of Spain, Braulio Rodriguez, archbishop of Toledo, predicts that austerity will lead to despotism. “We have to change direction,” he said this week, “otherwise this is going to bring down whole political systems. We have to give people some hope or this is going to foment conflict and mutual hatred.”

Well duh? These clerics, and “leaders” such as in Egypt and much of the middle east want to dominate the world by sheer numbers of disciples. They and their thinking are hopelessly obsolete. In a world of SEVEN BILLION and climbing, the standard of living for many has peaked and is soon to start a precipitous slide.

The demographic that is reproducing at rates that would make rabbits blush is those with limited drinking water, no land, no money, no education, no skill, no experience, no job and no prospects. All they can produce is feces, urine and more of themselves.

Their numbers must soon arrest and decrease from starvation, sickness, and war and global warming and rising ocean levels will displace billions with little but the clothes on their backs. THIS is what “won’t be pretty”.

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive
 

Well if the picture is really all doom and gloom how come the richest of us are now richer than any time before? In fact they are rich beyond their own imagination. Isn’t part of the problem increasingly uneven distribution of national wealth, plus the unjustifiably low taxation of the wealthy?

Posted by O.H. | Report as abusive
 

True, austerity is a moral issue. Many people think that it is an economic solution, but their reasoning is based on moral grounds not economic ones. Economics is an empirical science, although many of the folks labeled as “economists” are anything but empirical scientists. Witness the recent exposure of the Reinhart and Rogoff work as completely wrong.

Posted by QuietThinker | Report as abusive
 

Economics is always a moral issue. What Mr. Wapshott’s article doesn’t mention is that at the same time so many are suffering from unemployment, poverty, illness, homelessness, and government austerity, the wealthiest individuals are busy raising their glasses and high-fiving each other as they continue to expand their personal wealth. Company profits are up, the stock market is at record highs. It’s no coincidence that as wealth disparity grows, so does poverty, just like it’s no coincidence that the wealthy and powerful have become so involved in influencing legislation around the world, legislation that benefits them.

Greed is addicting and many of the most powerful people in the world have this addition. They’ll let millions suffer and die, let the world’s environment degrade dangerously out of balance, all to keep feeding their addiction. This, of course, is wrong and can’t be allowed to continue. Unfortunately, the people who are suffering the most and those who recognize the imbalance of power in countries around the world are also the people with the least influence.

The world has been here before, but each time there are new factors to contend with. For example, global warming exacerbated by industrialization, deforestation, and pollution are concerns that have never posed such a threat to our survival before, and much of that is occurring to feed that greed addition.

The only advantage the rest of us have is numbers, and numbers can make a difference. But something else that’s different now is the endless sources of information that currently exist, and that can cut both ways. Those in power are fully aware of the importance information plays in controlling the masses and they will, and do, try to utilize it to its fullest capacity. You can see this here in the US with many on the political right. It’s no coincidence that the positions on the issues that conservatives espouse happen to be the same positions promoted by the wealthy profiteers who advocate beliefs that always benefit the profits of the industries they represent.

For example, the gun industry promotes the idea that more guns make us safer and that the answer to protecting children in classrooms is not stricter gun regulations, the conclusion all other countries have reached, but to hire armed security. Of course the gun industry advocates more people buying guns. It means more profits. And as I’ve said, America’s conservatives have bought into this belief even though it flies in the face of logic and empirical evidence. It’s clear they think they’re the smartest people on earth. I challenge that assumption.

The same holds true for their positions on healthcare, oil, taxes, military spending, etc. When industries need to persuade the public into believing in ways that promote the industry’s profits, their go-to demographic is America’s rightwing conservatives represented by the Republican Party. They’re just more docile. The truth may hurt, but it’s never-the-less true.

Posted by flashrooster | Report as abusive
 

@flashrooster,

Your obvious personal frustration and dissatisfaction with the world in which you exist is illogical. By an accident of birth here, you are already part of the “1%” in our world.

You have a place to live, money in the bank and in your pocket, a car to drive, food in your refrigerator, light to read by, running water, and your own toilet. You are literate, have your own computer and reliable access to the internet.

When you look at others and accuse THEM of “greed” the hypocrisy is almost palpable. Even in the midst of your plenty you choose to be unhappy. Why?

The economic system of America is fundamentally capitalistic. This means there must be winners and losers. Profit is not a four letter word. Your impotent envy of the successful identifies you as one of the latter, and your incessant wailing and ranting changes nothing.

The primary difference between “those in power” and “the rest of us” is that the few ALWAYS lead the many and always have. More lords than peasants, more officers than enlisted, more Indians than chiefs, more voters than politicians. Get used to it.

Humanity has faced countless challenges to it’s continued existence, perhaps the greatest being itself. Back in the sixties there was better understanding of the adverse effects of TOO MANY HUMANS on our environment than there is today. Global warming, deforestation and pollution are all inseparably related to the utter stupidity of man.

The Catholic Church and the primal urges of muslims and other primitives, humanity’s least capable and intelligent, are diligently doing everything they can to cover every unoccupied space on our overburdened planer with MORE USELESS PEOPLE. It is not without justice that the coming convulsion of starvation, pestilence and war will concentrate in those irresponsible nations most responsible.

We in America have a relatively low population density. Our still plentiful natural resources make us increasingly self sufficient. With Canada, a good neighbor, to the north, fish to the east and west, and only Mexico to seal off on the south, effects will minimal.

Your fixation with “those in power” and “the rest of us” presumes a stasis unchanging that is false. Your belief that those who are more successful than you have somehow taken unfair advantage is, for the most part untrue.

The truth you cannot accept is that they have played their cards and opportunities better than you to “win”. Your response is not to improve your “game” but to change the rules of the game. Fundamentally immature. Grow up.

In America there is constant movement from the economic and intellectual bottom (the child, the student, the apprentice) up to and through the median. The exceptional make it all the way to the top because of some combination of factors such as their capability, their environment, their inspiration, their motivation, their skill, their perception, their priorities, their goals, the image they project and a measure of good fortune as to the timing of their various efforts.

The U.S. is more of a meritocracy than any other nation. Over the years of American economic pre-eminence the standard of living throughout the world has risen to a level unprecedented (as have world populations). Our leaders are self-made, not born, for the most part.

Those who would change that are the enemies of progress and excellence. They are, today and forever, the disloyal opposition.

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive
 

Nicholas Wapshott, of all people, should give credit to Frederich Hayek for the theme of this piece. In Road to Serfdom, Hayek wrote in a chapter called “Who, Whom?”:

“Once government has embarked upon planning for the sake of justice, it cannot refuse responsibility for anybody’s fate or position.”

It is precisely the lament of planners that after all their enlightened labor and vision, the secular New Jerusalem is no closer than the sacred one. The same American government that could not win the “minds and hearts” of Vietnamese two generations ago can not provide “universal, affordable healthcare” today. It is a human vice that we think we can solve the problems of others when we cannot solve our own.

Was Europe especially democratic or virtuous before the crash of 2008? Perhaps not. Perhaps the trend of European states to devolve power or even to break-up is gathering strength. In recent history, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia became history. Great Britain has scheduled a referendum on independence for Scotland. Belgium continues to flirt with partition.

The future of Europe may be post-national not because everyone blends into a super-national welfare state but because small, ancient cultures reassert themselves. The maps of the future may be incredibly complex and beautiful because small places like Burgundy or Tuscany or Catalonia have recovered a tangible existence.

The United States never abolished its thirteen States and ordered its future national growth on the concept of States. These smaller entities still exercise real power. Generally they are more effective politically than the bloated, crippled national government in Washington. And most of them balance their budgets. Ordinary people like their States. They have a sense of place and a sense that their governments speak their language.

I would draw two lessons. First, both Brussels and Washington are failing because they are too big and too powerful to ever get anything done. To make them larger or give them more power (read money) would solve nothing. Second, people who have a chance to choose their leaders tend to like mediocrity and limited power in government because they are entirely capable of finding some happiness and some productive work and some meaning in life on their own. They rightly see the road to serfdom may be paved with new and spectacular promises and good intentions but that the trip is still a fools errand.

Posted by lordbaltimore | Report as abusive
 

Wow, OneOfTheSheep, your response is so bazaar I don’t know how to respond.

Posted by flashrooster | Report as abusive
 

Flashrooster,

One cannot respond to the bizarre without sounding bizarre. You’ll either “figure it out” or you truly DON’T “know how to respond. No problem.

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive
 

@ Flashrooster –

Very well said.

Unfortunately, the truth is not what most people want to hear at the moment.

Posted by EconCassandra | Report as abusive
 

Let’s solve the problems in the only way that the right side of the equation will accept – Death. If you don’t have a job and starve to death – so be it. Guns are a Constitutional right. All rules, regulations and laws regarding guns are unconstitutional – do away with all of them. If you are shot to death – it’s your own fault. All gays, Muslims and anyone else who is not a WASP with 2.4 children – open season. No taxes for anything except national defense. Eliminate all government above the level of town mayor.
Within a month, America will be great again – for the few that are left.

Posted by mandrog | Report as abusive
 

Current EU administration is complete moral failure; it should do what Santer commission did.

Posted by satori23 | Report as abusive
 

OneOfTheSheep: What always amazes me about our exchanges is that you take this position that I’m some kind of leftwing extremist, that my positions are radical. I’ve tried in many different ways to make you realize that my views are pretty mainstream and that your positions are positions held by only a small minority of people. The facts belie your conclusions.

Take our positions on guns. Every other country of relative affluence has restrictions on guns. I agree with the vast majority. Guns are dangerous and require regulations. And in that same spirit, I agree with the vast majority of Americans that universal background checks would be a positive and reasonable regulation to adopt. You disagree. Clearly, my position on gun regulations is not extremist, is not radical. It’s mainstream. However, your position is extreme. Of course it doesn’t seem extreme to you, but it is. Only a small minority of people have allowed themselves to be convinced that more guns makes a society safer. Here’s the definition of extreme: “of a character or kind farthest removed from the ordinary or average.”

The gun issue is just one example. The similar argument can be made regarding our positions on healthcare, taxes, military spending, campaign finance reform, global warming, etc. My point is, drop that personal attacks on me just because YOU happen not to agree with me. Stop painting me as an extremist unless you can back it up, show how my positions represent an outlier among the accepted thinking of the human race. Ask yourself if the position you’ve taken on an issue is extreme, is “of a character or kind farthest removed from the ordinary or average.” Think before posting and try to make sure you’re making factual sense.

Posted by flashrooster | Report as abusive
 

@flashrooster,

You’re right. I do see you as a left wing extremist with opinions so in conflict with those historical American values as have provided you the many comforts you enjoy that you really don’t know they threaten the “goose that lays the golden egg”.

More and more individuals leave our public schools believing that incentive, persistence and a good work ethic are unnecessary options in today’s world. They have NO IDEA that their grocery store makes just a few cents on every dollar of groceries sold and many believe profit is a four letter word. And so they wind up unskilled, uneducated, unmotivated, unemployable, and on the dole. But I can’t change that and neither can you.

OK, let’s “take it from the top”. Mr. Wapshott wrote of the “worst financial crash since the Great Depression and governmental responses in Europe where unemployment is much greater than in the U.S. and economic growth much less. He stated that (in Europe): “The social cost of austerity can be found in widespread political unrest, including mass public demonstrations that often spill into violence.”

He goes on to complain that: “Europe’s economic turmoil is dragging the world economy down. It is against this destructive display of unnecessary and counterproductive masochism that many here continue to demand that the U.S. sequester be allowed to continue slashing at public spending.” Yet he admits: “Few doubt that the level of national debt is unsustainable and must eventually be paid down, but timing is everything.”

Mr. Wapshott has argued AGAINST “austerity”, both in Europe AND in the U.S. at this time, believing such bad medicine can better be tolerated later. I offer speculation to the contrary, NOT “factual sense”.

I truly believe today’s level of unemployment can NEVER “recover” because things have fundamentally changed. I wish to warn those who will listen. Truth, particularly in the form of bad news, never wins a popularity contest.

Many of the jobs that the unemployed occupied and new ones for Europe’s children DON’T EXIST and WON’T EXIST for the reasons I stated. In my opinion it is far more important that the world economy face the reality of a “new normal” where soon economies will be shrinking and not expanding.

“Mainstream views” are going to be obsolete very quickly when the very roots of established society are under attack (which YOU, I’m sure, think a good thing). Be careful what you wish for.

At issue will be nothing less than humanity’s choice…quality of life or quantity of life? Waiting in the wings of such a breakdown of society are starvation and “wars of desperation or opportunity”.

Americans will be seen as irresponsibly rich and greedy by EVERY other country. The American “way of life” will be under widespread and sustained attack. Will you fight to preserve it or side with those outside pounding on our gates?

You, my ostrich friend, prefer to sneer at those who have succeeded in making money on their investments against all recent odds dismissing their significant achievement as “greed”. I guess ordinary Americans who have mortgages or own their own homes, have loans or own their own cars, own some stock and/or a 401 (k) are “the rich” to you? If so, yes. You would be a left wing extremist, as most Americans don’t think that way.

At the same time I would guess that as many as two thirds of the SEVEN BILLION humans already on this planet (who should never have been born) could die if a new disease or variation of flu as contagious between humans as that of the 1918 pandemic got loose. Towns and cities are denser, travel distances shorter and continents are jumped in a matter of hours.

Even in America how do people in cities eat when the trucks no longer replenish the shelves of our supermarkets, the tanks of our gas stations, the ATMs of our banks? The stored energy in today’s economic imbalance is astonishing and foolish to ignore.

It simply doesn’t matter what you think or what I think, but the reality that lies ahead and appropriate preparations. If you don’t want a gun around, be my guest.

From this day forward this may be the very worst time in history to be without personal defense. There are far, far more gun owners in America than you or anyone suspect, and guns are going to be an ever better investment for the foreseeable future (and ammunition for them, of course).

It didn’t take a genius to understand, looking upon the first mechanical loom, that society was going to be fundamentally changed. So were those who invested in the new looms “greedy” or far sighted? They were clearly a minority, but a perceptive and responsive minority. The mechanical loom and the steam engine, foundations of the Industrial Revolution, were ultimately responsible for huge advances in the standard of living of both rich and poor.

As always will be the case, far, far more of the poor found themselves “under the bus” of that progress. Were the profits of mechanical loom owners justified? Was the manufacture of them antisocial? These many years later nobody cares one way or the other. Life has never been fair.

So if you think the picture I paint is wrong, I hope you’re right. Is it “extreme”? Yep; but so will be the effects of the rising sea levels of global warming, the effects of ever-increasing pollution and deforestation, all resulting from the ever-increasing effect of too many humans.

I fear that man is determined to turn our big blue marble into a big brown marble, the sole remaining question being that of how soon.

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive
 

Well, people do argue that second amendment is a strong safeguard against austerity and/or those ”unanswered questions”.

It’s a bummer that we have this sort of atavistic administration in Europe, one that looks into past to find answers for the future. Crisis brings flaws and weaknesses to the fore, demanding confrontation. It’s an opportunity, for sure; to address burning issues… something that hasn’t been done at all, since the root of the problem is not at the bottom. They say that ”great care must be taken to ensure that pruning is done in such a way as not to kill the tree or destroy its character”. It’s more than obvious that European administrators are careless… I’ll stay polite.

What happened in the EU, among other things, is high treason. Unelected ”philosopher kings” took logical failure as the foundation of their social engineering. In their minds they’re helping people, in reality they’ve betrayed constitutes – forcing structural changes that bring down governments, along the stray.

Posted by satori23 | Report as abusive
 

To state that “austerity is a moral issue” is nothing more than an attempt to deny the ordinary person in society even the basic means of living that are enjoyed in their fullness by the few at the expense of the many.

It is a pathetic attempt to elevate what the wealthy class is doing to the rest of society to a “higher moral ground”, but there is NO “higher ground” in forcing austerity on others while living an obscenely hedonistic lifestyle yourself.

Posted by EconCassandra | Report as abusive
 

EconCassandra: Did you even read Mr. Wapshott’s piece? You really should before commenting. I agree with what you’ve posted, but Wapshott isn’t arguing in favor of austerity on moral grounds. His op-ed is pointing out the repercussions suffered from austerity: “Austerity is a moral issue, too. It inflicts enormous misery upon hundreds of millions.” He also points out that austerity is encouraging the rise of undemocratic and racist groups in Europe that are taking their frustrations out on minorities. It’s a good read.

OneOfTheSheep: When you paint yourself into a corner, which you often do, your refuge is to make things up that will support your indefensible arguments. You can call me whatever you want, but it’s meaningless if you have nothing to back it up with. If I decide to label you a Hindu or a hypochondriac it’s totally empty and meaningless unless I can back it up, and back it up with something verifiable. You are extremist in your positions and I’ve proven that by giving you the definition and examples of your extremist views. Your insipid attempt to counter that is by spinning your generalized impressions of the world and the US, but you always fail to verify. You’d make a lousy journalist.

I can only repeat what I’d already written. My views are pretty much mainstream, and I’ve already provided you with examples. You hold the views held by a small minority, the very definition of extreme. Those are the facts, my friend. No amount of OOTS BS will change that. Your position on guns is extreme. Your position on healthcare is extreme. Your position on self-governing is disturbingly extreme, and stands in contrast to the objectives of our Founding Fathers. Most of your positions are extreme.

You keep saying things like, “You, my ostrich friend, prefer to sneer at those who have succeeded in making money on their investments against all recent odds dismissing their significant achievement as “greed”.” That’s not at all what I said. See, you resort to making things up. Never have I posted that I resent someone for being successful. Because I don’t. Quite the contrary, I applaud the successful. I consider myself successful. I’ve made this clear to you time and time again, but since you continuously fail at trying to dismantle my arguments, you make things up so that it will be easier for you to attack me. It’s cheap and shows intellectual indolence.

I fully support a capitalist system that rewards those with the industry to devote their talents to accomplishing something productive. It doesn’t necessarily have to make the person a lot of money, but I do like to see people financially rewarded for their effort. What I don’t support is a system that is tweaked in a way that only benefits a few while sending a message to the majority that the odds are that regardless of what you do, you’ll never get beyond basic subsistence. That kind of economic environment is a disincentive for self-initiative, not an incentive.

For example, it’s getting increasingly hard for young people to pay for a college education. However, Sen. Warren is currently introducing a bill that will lower interest rates on student loans to the same interest rates being paid by our banks for federal money. THAT’S that kind of use of government that I support. Government that makes perfect sense. That would encourage more young people to go to college. Of course, the Republicans are opposing her bill.

So, you see, there’s nothing extreme about my positions. There’s nothing extreme about wanting to see as many people do well as possible. You, Mr. Sheep, are the extremist.

Posted by flashrooster | Report as abusive
 

@flashrooster,

You keep accusing me of being “extremist” in my views and not supporting what I say. Well, it hard to do the latter when you keep slinging flat out lies so fast. It was Goebbles that believed if you repeated a lie enough no one could tell it from the truth. It seems in you he has a disciple and that would suggest YOU the extremist.

You said: “What Mr. Wapshott’s article doesn’t mention is that at the same time so many are suffering from unemployment, poverty, illness, homelessness, and government austerity, the wealthiest individuals are busy raising their glasses and high-fiving each other as they continue to expand their personal wealth.”

Your utterly unsubstantiated statement is obviously intended to instill resentment in the many “… suffering from unemployment, poverty, illness, homelessness, and government austerity…” and blame who? “… the wealthiest individuals…”!

Who are they? How many are they? It is when YOU that give no specifics that others must speculate as to what you mean.

“Company profits are up, the stock market is at record highs.” You say that as if it’s bad. Companies are the source of all non-government jobs! “It’s no coincidence that as wealth disparity grows, so does poverty…”. Total gibberish.

When companies do better, they hire; which decreases “wealth disparity” and “poverty”. “…the wealthy and powerful have become…involved in influencing legislation around the world, legislation that benefits them.” Well, duh? Why am I not surprised…has it not ever been so? What do you propose to change this? (pregnant silence)

“Greed is addicting and many of the most powerful people in the world have this addition.” This is YOUR personal perception. Where are the facts to back it up? “They’ll let millions suffer and die, let the world’s environment degrade dangerously out of balance, all to keep feeding their addiction.” More pointless ranting.

Who is “they”? Hows are the “millions” to suffer and die “their” responsibility. Why do these unfortunates suffer such a fate? Because they don’t have, understand or use condoms? Obviously you’re not well acquainted with the concept of personal responsibility.

“This, of course, is wrong…”. What? According to whom, YOU? “…and can’t be allowed to continue.” Ah, and now we have it. You have decided so. But what do you propose as a course of action? By whom? (pregnant silence)

“The only advantage the rest of us have is numbers, and numbers can make a difference.” Who is “us”? If we presume these to be those who would think as you do, you speak of an “army of short-sighted idiots unlikely to even be able to feed and clothe themselves over time.

So you assail the “wealthy profiteers who advocate beliefs that…benefit the profits of…industries…”. Let’s repeat our lesson from above: When companies do better, they hire; which decreases “wealth disparity” and “poverty”. “…industries need to persuade the public into believing in ways that promote the industry’s profits…”. Well, are you suggesting that the way to have more jobs is to eliminate profit?

Your thinking is juvenile, incoherent and illogical. But at least you make THAT obvious when we pick it apart. To you, “truth” is just another word of no particular significance..a mere projection without principle used for effect. Sad.

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive
 

German economy has a potency of the eunuch.

Cheers,

Posted by satori23 | Report as abusive
 

More logic based on verifiable facts and observations has no affect on the ideologues and the arguments of the plutocracy that is now firmly in control.

Posted by ptiffany | Report as abusive
 

@ Flashrooster –

EconCassandra: Did you even read Mr. Wapshott’s piece? You really should before commenting. I agree with what you’ve posted, but Wapshott isn’t arguing in favor of austerity on moral grounds. His op-ed is pointing out the repercussions suffered from austerity: “Austerity is a moral issue, too. It inflicts enormous misery upon hundreds of millions.” He also points out that austerity is encouraging the rise of undemocratic and racist groups in Europe that are taking their frustrations out on minorities. It’s a good read.

——————–

Actually, Mr. Wapshott IS arguing for austerity on moral grounds. He states, “Austerity is a moral issue, too.”

And, yes, I did read the article, several times in fact, mainly because I felt there was something wrong with it, but couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

If you read it carefully, it is nothing more than an attack on German foreign policy, which doesn’t even come close to the real issues behind this drive towards austerity, which has been caused entirely by wealthy class greed.

That is NOT due to German policies alone.

It is both the tone and substance of the article which I reject as an argument.

This is simply an unwarranted attack on Germany and the German people, and as such, it has no merit whatsoever.

Posted by EconCassandra | Report as abusive
 

@ Flashrooster –

I think I understand what you mean that Mr. Wapshott is arguing against austerity as a moral issue. I stand corrected on that part of my reply to you.

————–

However, if you read my original comment:

To state that “austerity is a moral issue” is nothing more than an attempt to deny the ordinary person in society even the basic means of living that are enjoyed in their fullness by the few at the expense of the many.

It is a pathetic attempt to elevate what the wealthy class is doing to the rest of society to a “higher moral ground”, but there is NO “higher ground” in forcing austerity on others while living an obscenely hedonistic lifestyle yourself.

—————

What I meant was that Mr. Wapshott is playing the “sympathy card”, arguing that what Germany is doing by “forcing austerity” on the rest of the EU, is nothing more than a clever “red herring” designed to sway public opinion against Germany, when the real culprits are not even mentioned.

OK?

Posted by EconCassandra | Report as abusive
 

@EconCassandra

It looks as critique of austerity which is imposed by Troika, yet, when it comes to Europe and Europeans, perceived, rightfully so, as mainly German concept. There are some rather amusing bits on sentiment in the article about ”tears at Eurovision” and there are many viewpoints on the issue.

Views of Aaron Gurwitz, CIO at Barclays Wealth Management are as valid and blunt as any:

http://video.cnbc.com/gallery/?video=300 0065570

I’m quite interested to see how this disturbance in inter-dependence of people (consumers) and markets plays out. Are people more dependent on markets or is it the other way around? After all and apparently.., there’s really no room for Apple in ”frugal Union”… and so on.

Either way, it’s a trap. Ingenious, marvelous, ridiculous… self-made trap – right there, at the heart of the Europe.

————–

That shared, I like and appreciate your effort to broaden the scope. That’s where that high treason kicks in… that’s where we have unelected self-serving elite that serves elites while breaking the back of the people.

————–

Say, have you read the news about disturbed individual that murdered four people in Israeli bank? We have ”introverts”, folks that are brought to such austere state of despair that they shoot or torch themselves and/or their families and we have ”extroverts”, such as the one above or that businessman who shot police officers as Italian government swore in.

Just another reflection of austerity’s capability to breed sadness and madness.., among things mentioned or not.., yes?

Regards,

Posted by satori23 | Report as abusive
 

OneOfTheSheep: You’re showing signs of mental moldering. You fail to grasp the simplest definitions, even when I post them for easy reference. You fell flat on your face trying to make the case that I’m an extremist. Once again: extreme – “of a character or kind farthest removed from the ordinary or average.” I strongly support universal background checks. You do not. The civilized world is laughing at us barbarians because we can’t even pass legislation that requires a background check for all gun purchases. Even the vast majority of Americans support universal background checks. That’s as mainstream as it gets. Your position is “of a character or kind farthest removed from the ordinary or average.” You’re an extremist in most of your views. Now try the same criteria with me. Just don’t make it up, like I hate successful people or I’m against capitalism. Those are lies. Use something I said. Quote me. Use my support for universal background checks or my support for a healthcare system that allows everyone access to affordable healthcare without bankrupting them. Use my support for Elizabeth Warren’s bill to reduce interest rates on student loans to what our banks are paying to borrow money. Use my belief in global warming and support for taking gradual steps to reduce greenhouse emissions. Use my belief that we need campaign finance reform because our government has been corrupted by special interest groups. Any of those will do. Explain how they fit the definition of extreme. I challenge you. I did it with you and clearly demonstrated that you are extreme in your position on universal background checks. Go for it. And again, don’t make it up. Use my words.

Posted by flashrooster | Report as abusive
 

Nicholas Wapshott: Please accept my apology for using your forum to engage in a p_ssing contest. I shouldn’t have and I have no excuse. In this my behavior was indeed extreme.

Posted by flashrooster | Report as abusive
 

@flashrooster,

I waded through one of your disconnected rants [above] almost sentence by sentence to the point of sheer nausea. Specific after specific illustrating your lack of substantiation and/or logic was included. What more would you have me do? What, specifically, am I “making up”?

It is near impossible to “quote you” and still communicate with clarity. You ignore my “point-by-point” analysis as if your words come from others who aren’t around now to help you. “Use my words”? Please. READ MINE!

You claim incessantly to be one of “a vast majority” as if your views are so without merit they cannot stand on their own. You take undue comfort from such “support” apparently unaware that many times in history a majority has been utterly wrong.

You ramble as a fanatic who speaks faster and louder as he looses his train of thought and his point. Your attempt to connect income disparity and poverty with company profits was an utter failure.

Your boogeyman of “wealthy profiteers needs definition. Is it those who invest in building companies, those who manage those companies, or those who are typical purchasers of publicly held stock in those companies?
You apologize for misuse of this forum, and then repeat your refrain that I am an extremist. Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. May I point out that it is YOU that presumes to call your fellow Americans “barbarians” out of step with the “civilized world”?

YOUR views on gun ownership, capitalism, health care, the environment, student loans, greenhouse emissions, campaign finance or special interest groups in this thread are off-topic. I therefore respectfully decline your invitation to further discuss these topics at length here.

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive
 

Yeah, that’s what I thought. A simple, straightforward challenge and you aren’t up to it. I was just running a little test to see if you could separate fact from fiction. You can’t. I’m not sure what it is you’re doing, but it’s weird. Clearly you can’t even distinguish between an extreme position and a moderate or mainstream position. Even when I give you the definition you still seem incapable of grasping what “extreme” means. For you it’s whatever you want it to be.

Posted by flashrooster | Report as abusive
 

what to heck? are you moderating blogs now? in fear of paper cuts or something… darn.

Posted by satori23 | Report as abusive
 

I think economics focuses on the state of business, not society. That’s why I’ve always wondered why people attempt to suggest resolutions to the societal ills called out in this editorial through the use of various economic strategies. I am unaware of a “proof” that demonstrates that good economic policy is causation for societal improvements … just becuase a widget costs less doesn’t necessarily mean that the society into which the widget is being sold is, on the whole, better becuase of the reduced price.

The American government seems to support capitalist attitudes towards societal issues. The problem (if you want to call it that) with capitalism is that it has no room for morals … it’s very much Darwin-istic in its views. Capitalism’s answer to society’s problems is much the same as how a herd of deer deal with their problems. If one of the deer become injured, the rest of the herd ostracize the injured deer for fear that the injured deer makes an easy mark for predators. It seems sad, but that’s exactly what we as humans in American society do when we adopt the attitude that, “society’s problems (poor, uneducated, unemployed, mentally ill, etc.) are not my problems … let the people suffer for their bad choices or the poor hand they were dealt.” I had hoped we as a society had evolved beyond this mindset, but reading some of these comments has convinced me otherwise.

I do not think austerity is the answer to society’s current woes. I also do not believe quantitative easing is the answer … these are both economic “solutions” to a moral question. If we as a society truely cared and valued each other as meaningful individuals, we would (as efficient members of the society) do what needed to be done to raise everyone’s standard of living to the highest standard possible. Instead, we rely on the crutches of big government or efficient business theory (take your pick) to remedy societal ills with which, on an individual basis, we’d rather not be bothered. I am all for individual accountability in both society and economics, but acknowledge that the world may not be mentally evolved enough to handle it.

Posted by VirtualThumb | Report as abusive
 

People like “One of the Sheep” have no problem with fascism: who else will protect us good people (investors) from the scum of the earth he describes above? His bigoted and racist rants reveal everything you need to know about his worldview: I’ve got mine – it doesn’t matter how – and if any of useless little people think this isn’t utopia they can talk to my gun.

I happen to think the USA was founded on good principles, but those are gone now in favour of rules protecting the wealthy as a class, and favoured/inherited businesses as a rule. Oligopoly has tended to be overthrown by masses of the unwashed. Better stock up on ammo, because the more unfair the system, the less likely it will last forever.

Companies are as rich as ever, yet refuse to do any more hiring. How exactly will that system produce anything but more of the same?

Posted by Benny27 | Report as abusive
 

Benny27: Excellent. It’s nice to see moral sentiment expressed. It seems to have fallen out of favor, at least among the wealthy and powerful, those with influence. After all, it’s not a commodity that can be bought or sold. In fact, it can often end up costing a person in money and advancement.

I had given up on debating OneOfTheSheep on policy positions and decided to focus on something quantitatively measurable, something that can be proven: whether or not a position–in this case, his and mine–is extreme or not. But he does 2 interesting things that make discussion of issues with him an exercise in futility. He assigns positions to others (me) that aren’t true, like I hate capitalism, and in making his own case, he makes things up, like a majority of people oppose any gun regulations. But he’s careful to remain as vague as possible to avoid painting himself into a corner, which he does anyway.

The United States spent several decades proving that by focusing on strengthening the Middle Class that the entire country prospers. The conserfs have taken us in another direction since Reagan, and it’s been downhill ever since. The 2 most positive periods since Reaganomics went into effect were under Bill Clinton and what we have now. And both of those Presidencies were/are far from perfect, but a clear, positive contrast to the Republican Administrations. We have to give the power back to the people. Or should I say, the people are going to have to take it back.

Posted by flashrooster | Report as abusive
 

I confess I must have missed something here. The name calling has been entertaining.

First, Nicholas is pushing the definition of “austerity” when the US government will spend more money in 2013 than it did in 2012. More in 2012 than 2011 and so-on.

On a global scale, government spending in Europe and North America dwarfs anything else. The system of benefits and privileges Western governments provide is amazing compared with what the rest of the planet gets by with. This is austerity? Tell it to Bangladesh!

So I suggest we define “austerity” in some hard way. We are not, surely, in the grip of austerity every week we don’t get everything we think a benevolent, enlightened government should give us?

Is it a moral issue when this generation just keeps writing itself checks and impoverishes its children? Is it a moral issue when taxes are increased as well as when spending is cut–or only in the latter case? Is it a moral issue when the United States promises the Atlantic world a global defense under the NATO treaty but doesn’t come close to paying what security will cost?

The people who hold power, Democrats and Republicans, must be held to account. Ordinary Americans must understand that each party and all the branches of government are complicit.

Posted by lordbaltimore | Report as abusive
 

@VirtualThumb,

Economics focuses on the state of business for one simple reason. Without sustainable, profitable commerce there is NO “society” and NO “government”.

There is every reason for economic theory and experience to concurrently consider incentives and disincentives to shape both commerce and society such that the greatest practical number benefit equitably from it’s success. But the devil is in the details.

It is relatively easy to describe such “moral aspirations” in admittedly subjective terms. Translating these into workable specifics acceptable to a substantial majority is infinitely more difficult, if not impossible. But if such were easy it would have been done long ago. This is the “path not yet traveled”.

The standard of living of people the world over have advanced to a degree unprecedented since WW II and sickness and malnutrition are less of a problem than ever before even though population has exploded to SEVEN BILLION! And yet the multitudes are ever increasingly dissatisfied. They want even more, NOW!

A single word can “make or break” an idea. When the multitudes will invest “more” sweat and skill to have “more” it is ambition. If they just want “more” for their existing sweat and skill it is greed.

An “honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay” may mean one thing to a shoe repairman who takes pride in his work. I’m not sure what it means to one of the union “shovel leaners” along the highway on our morning commute who could not shovel fifteen minutes straight without having a coronary.

Historically, the first example is more typical of America and Americans. The second is more typical of the “old world” economies. The “equitable” balance between capital and labor has historically been elusive and unstable.

Most tax systems originate legislatively. Forever thereafter political wrangling by special interests introduce narrow exceptions to this and that which, over time multiply onto unintended or unjustifiable consequences.

Their implementation is by soulless bureaucrats whose primary motivation seems to be the expansion and immortality of their agency and it’s ever-multiplying multitude of minions. Enforcement is given over to the IRS, an essentially unaccountable bunch fully as arrogant and arbitrary as such powers impart.

I submit, therefore, that capitalism is not the problem. Capitalism is a process, an engine, a tool capable of infinite possibilities, both good and bad, independent of morals.

Only a “kinder, gentler, more efficient government is ever going to remake our current society into a more fair and equitable one. Would I like to see that? Of course, so long as such government be economically sound and sustainable.

What is the path from where we are to where we want to get? I see none. All with necessary authority to make significant change are highly “vested” in the status quo.

You say: “I am all for individual accountability in both society and economics, but acknowledge that the world may not be mentally evolved enough to handle it.” I cannot form a single coherent thought from these words.

In both economics and society the alternatives to individual accountability are being part of a larger collective in which the individual can operate almost anonymously, as the current IRS scandal. Since all politics are local, there is no collective “world mind”.

Those of good will can wring their hands and lament from now until doomsday and nothing will ever come of it. Everyone to whom that has been and continues to be acceptable is equally to blame, without exception. As Pogo said, “We has met the enemy and he is us”.

What is conspicuously missing is leadership. We need a leader to bring us into consensus that action is necessary and consensus as to goals and a “plan of action”. Collective and consistent pressure applied effectively make all things possible. Nothing is possible without effective leadership.

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive
 

@Benny27,

I am not a facist. I am an “investor” of sort, owning outright some 90 acres of farm land I lease out to maintain a low tax rate while it appreciates. At 72, I’d BETTER “have mine” and make NO mistakes because I can’t go out and start all over again. And if anyone unilaterally decides they are entitled to something of mine, YOU BET my gun will stand ready to contribute to the “conversation”.

I have never said the United States is “utopia” or in any manner perfect. It remains a “work in process”. But I DO understand that “we, the people” must make many choices day after day from the ones available. Dreamers and wishful thinkers get “left in the dust” by pragmatists all the time, and then grouse about how unfair life is.

You complain constantly without honest suggestions for improvement. You say: “Oligopoly has tended to be overthrown by masses of the unwashed. Better stock up on ammo, because the more unfair the system, the less likely it will last forever.” So your sole idea of “change” is an inevitable revolution (by others…you would never risk anything).

“Companies are as rich as ever, yet refuse to do any more hiring.” Please. Companies have income and expenses. Until you read their balance sheet you have NO IDEA of their actual cash “reserves”, some of which may be reserved for expansion, anticipated litigation, or paying bills due in the next 30 days.

So long as their business is legitimate, what they do with THEIR cash is THEIR business, not yours. That you would presume them obligated to “start hiring” anyone and everyone because they have cash is truly laughable.

That’s on a par with the gal that calls her bank and says: “I can’t be overdrawn, I still have checks left”. How does it feel to be a living, breathing joke?

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive
 

@flashrooster,

“The United States spent several decades proving that by focusing on strengthening the Middle Class that the entire country prospers.” Gee, could you explain that a bit more? Flesh it out with a few facts?

As I understand it during the Great Depression, all the WPA and other “make work” programs did was keep people from starving. Worthwhile, but hardly an “economic miracle”.

It was WW II that brought about full employment plus employing many minorities and wives that had never seen a pay check. With Lend Lease, America produced arms and supplies for all Allies. Very, very profitable.

No consumer goods to spend that money on, so everyone bought War Bonds. End the war, cash the bonds, economic boom time.

One-time shot of a LOT of money into the American economy. Everyone building and buying houses, cars, making babies, going to college on the G.I. Bill, all those taxes rolling in allowed the building of the Interstate Highway System.

American money rebuilt Japan, but the money had to be spent on American goods. The Marshall Plan rebuilt Europe, but the money had to be spent here. The Korean War and the Cold War kept military spending very high. Sputnik was the challenge that sent America to the moon.

What’s missing? Well you said “America was focusing on strengthening the middle class.” How? What was America doing that it quit doing? Looks to me like one thing followed the other rather randomly.

Looks to me like you are a stranger to knowledge and facts, looking only at your perception of life and then creating a story consistent with it. I’ll tell you what happened. American businesses concentrated on increasing efficiency…produce more stuff to sell with fewer people.

Just like farmers quit farming the land and started farming the government programs. Business “follows the money”. Duh.

“We have to give the power back to the people. Or should I say, the people are going to have to take it back.”

I see. Another complainer anarchist, like Benny27! Pathetic.

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive
 

You keep yelling about seven billions OneOfTheSheep, what’s up with that? Would you engage in control of population or something? You’re aware that even the worst case scenario isn’t bad at all? In hundred years, we’ll probably be where we’re now, that is with the same number of people in the world. There’s some decent research on the issue, check it out.

I’m pointing it out to calm you a bit, if you’d allow, some facts for your unfounded fears, so to say. There’s really no scarcity in the world of abundance brother. We’re throwing away half of the food we produce, every year. It’s sad and crazy and comforting at same time, look it up.

Come to think of it, in a very basic, some will look at it and say, that’s one faraway sense…, austerity is based on same logical fallacy that tries and fails to establish syllogism which supports conclusion about finite resources in infinite universe.

Regards,

Posted by satori23 | Report as abusive
 

@OneOfTheSheep, Mr. Wapshott is suggesting in this editorial that Austerity is a moral issue. I’m suggesting otherwise … that Austerity is an economic theory, and economic theories have no way to consider morals in their equations. Therefore, it doesn’t matter how we get the masses to accept / buy into / live with any specific economic theory (that may or may not be any more correct than the next economic theory), becuase that theory will be no more capable of advancing any “moral aspirations” than the next.

Austerity is no more “morally wrong” for Europe than Quantitative Easing is “morally right” for the United States … both of these concepts are hogwash used by members of society that don’t want to accept any level of accountability for the state of that society. We all should have a moral drive to improve the state of our society to the best of our abilities. In my opinion, blaming another person’s situation in society on (insert reason here) is taking the easy way out … it’s much easier to assign blame than to personally attempt to do something to incite change. I don’t understand how, morally-speaking (mentally-speaking / emotionally-speaking) an advanced society can be OK with social Darwin-ism. There is a moral problem in Europe (and in the United States, for that matter), but it isn’t Austerity … it’s much more basic than some rogue economic theory.

Posted by VirtualThumb | Report as abusive
 

@satori23:

“Would you engage in control of population or something?”

Were it up to me, in a heartbeat.

“You’re aware that even the worst case scenario isn’t bad at all?”

Maybe not to YOU. Dissatisfaction among those billions on the bottom of the world economic pie will only get worse.

What can those look forward to with no land, no money, no education, no skills, no job and little hope of any of these things? Yet they pop out more and more of themselves.

They and their children and their children’s children have no productive place in any society. They are simply surplus protoplasm, a mounting problem without solution, a blight upon the land.

They huddle together before the communal Television set and see the “good life” that even the “poor”, who drive in western countries, have; and they envy and hate. From them will come suicide bombers without end.

Only a fool would believe this real and increasing threat and suggest “…it isn’t so bad”. You have no clue as to the actual “worse case scenario”.

For much of the world there looms an ever increasing prospect of a Mad Max stone age world of depleted and inaccessible natural resources with a pitiful tiny population forever limited by available food, potable water, sickness, starvation and ever present war.

For Europe, the future may well be much like the world of Charles Dickens. No thanks.

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive
 

What? In times when we’re creating matter in vitro? At times when we lack room to store oil that keeps pouring out of the ground? People are not deprived because we lack resources; they’re deprived because malice found its way to root at the top. Universally speaking, there are far better things pretending… or better, ascending to the throne. Beliefs and consequences and all that…

Sure, parts of the globe will have remarkably sad evolution, which, in context of this thread could be remembered as policymaker’s choice… but as a whole, we’ll be much better off once turmoil is over.

There’s no lack of water on water world, it’s quite silly to read such stuff…

Relax,

Posted by satori23 | Report as abusive
 

OOTS: Let me start by stating that you can’t expect people to take you too seriously when you refuse to even agree on the accepted definition of extreme. That’s just denial. You just avoided that entirely, that and the simple challenge I proposed that no one with any conviction in their positions should be afraid of.

That said, you wrote: “Well you said “America was focusing on strengthening the middle class.” How? What was America doing that it quit doing? Looks to me like one thing followed the other rather randomly.

Randomly? When it comes to economics, very little, if anything, is random. However, there are people who would like you to believe that. The Goebbels effect. There are many factors that have hurt the American Middle Class. To name just a few: 1.) allowing corporate America to take over our government (that is probably the biggest single blow to we, the people. And this is well documented. See Hedrick Smith’s Who Stole the American Dream) 2.) the demise of labor unions; 3.) cutting taxes to historical lows for the rich. (This has put us in the unfortunate situation we’re in now, where conserfs argue that the deficit and the debt must come down at the expense of government programs that help everyone except the wealthy. The wealthy don’t need the government. The rest of us do, whether you choose to admit that or not.) 4.) the cultivation of a corporate culture that shows no allegiance to our country and will do just about anything to increase their profits. 5.) The GOP’s legislative bias against the Middle Class. (For example, they blocked a bill that would have given tax breaks to companies bringing jobs back to America and ended tax breaks for companies that took jobs overseas; or preventing Americans from buying cheaper drugs from Canada; or passing a law banning Medicare executives from negotiating for lower drug prices from pharmaceutical companies; or their Supreme Court nominations that put corporate interests above national interests, and declare that corporations are people. They most certainly are not. A corporation is a business structure, just like a union, or the Chamber of Commerce.

There are other issues hurting the US Middle Class and some were unavoidable due to expanding international markets. A lot of our problems are a result of #1. Take our healthcare system. Healthcare lobbyists pay our elected officials not to change healthcare. But our healthcare system is broken and grossly illogical. The only thing it does well is make lots of money for the top execs in the healthcare industry. It’s a serious burden to the American Middle Class. You call it the free market. The truth is, it’s plutocratic meddling, sacrificing America’s best interests for their own profits. We could do much better for the American people but the healthcare industry won’t let our government.

None of these things are random.

Posted by flashrooster | Report as abusive
 

@flashrooster,

“OOTS: Let me start…”. No. I choose to ignore where you only repeat yourself.

I asked the legitimate question “What was America doing that it quit doing? As usual you ignore the question YOU cannot answer, substitute your own topic as to randomness in economics, and proceed to address that instead. You have not the foggiest concept of legitimate debate. Worse, you then utterly fail to establish your new “point” as credible.

You argue that there is certainty in economic theory and economic outcomes. How, then, would you explain the continuing cycles of “good times” and “bad times” that economists do not predict or perceive until “after the fact”, and can not timely and effectively manage?

“…there are people…”. Who? How is such a vague enemy identified and confronted? “Corporate America”? Last time I looked American corporations remain THE major source of “middle class” jobs (i.e. people working for others). So if you would take “corporate America” down, you tank the economy permanently…kind of like applying a tourniquet around the neck. Such a “cure” has worse effect than the worse than the disease.

“…the demise of labor unions…” is the direct result of a majority of Americans rejecting the right of a privileged minority to “live better” than they do at THEIR expense. Primarily in the East they control the building trades, but traditionally their presence has added unnecessary costs into the cost of American made cars, the costs of government and government contracts…wherever this expiring malignancy still clings to life.

When the “…the deficit and the debt…” originate with bloated “…government programs that help everyone…” INCLUDING “the wealthy”, that’s what you target for reduction. The doctor doesn’t look at your head when you break a toe.

Every “culture” looks first to their own interests, including corporate management. Profit is their sole reason to exist.

The legal profession has all but taken over American politics, and so complexity and “playing one side against the other” skew perceptions and obscure remedies, , the public interest be damned.. The primary agenda of unionized government employees is to enlarge and perpetuate their little feifdoms at the expense of everyone else, the public interest be damned.

You seem unaware that liberals and conservatives must find common cause if there is to be a way forward. I would fully support the passing of legislation that would give “…tax breaks to companies bringing jobs back to America.,..” and end “…tax breaks for companies that…[take]…jobs overseas.

I agree with you that Americans should have access to cheaper drugs from Canada. Actually, they do, but “our” IRS won’t let you deduct such legitimate medical expenses from your taxes.

I agree that Medicare SHOULD negotiate “…lower drug prices from pharmaceutical companies.” America’s Supreme Court has long been a “loose cannon” as evidenced in ways far too numerous to go into here. Both conservatives and liberals have “blood on their hands”. I see no cure.

I agree that “…our healthcare system is broken and grossly illogical.” But unlike you I do not rush to replace it with an even more complex and expensive unproven alternate. While I do not favor change for the sake of change, I very strongly favor intelligent change.

Your “life view” and thinking, as I have said before, are distinctly juvenile. Your mind seems arrested at the point just before graduation when youth is convinced they know everything there is to know…the sword fresh from the fire not yet tempered and seasoned by experience. A world of blacks and whites with no grey.

You bristle when I point out that your views are fundamentally socialist. You seem ignorant that the sole reason there is no longer a Socialist Party in these United States is because, beginning with the terms of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, every single plank in the Socialist party platform of the early nineteen hundred is today long-established government policy.

The fundamental difference in our respective perspectives is that I see our present government as “the problem”, whereas you see ALL government as “the solution”. I have always appreciated the saying of the French: “If you’re young and not a Socialist you have no heart. As you get older, if you remain a Socialist, you have no brains.” Today the French themselves are mostly Socialist. That speaks volumes of their society and it’s values.

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive
 

“businesses have slowly and quietly eliminated millions of” jobs doing things we already know how – an why – to do. No surprise there.

Seems the only thing missing is new goals appropriate for all the manpower being made available?

What are we doing instead of exploring new options … watching the 1% wallow in depravity?

You’re saying that humanity is bored? And that the 1% most sociopathic are sequestering static assets from their communities? For what purpose? Just the hoarders acting without restraint or community regulation?

Who lobbied for this? NeoCons?

Posted by roger_erickson | Report as abusive
 

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