Thanks for your kind and courteous response. I do appreciate it.
You have an automatic reaction to the word “entitements” that might be worth reconsidering. A whole bunch of things gets lumped together there, some of which you may wish to eliminate, some of which you may wish not to eliminate. As a Liberal, I’m pretty much in favor. I’d need to be shown an entitlement before I made up my mind. Oil depletion allowances, for example, is an entitlement I could probably do without. But I would be in favor of the mortgage deductions for homeowners. You might be against both. I’m for medicare and medicaid, both entitlements. You may be against both of them or not, I don’t know. I’m for the VA system, another entitlement, along with many other VA benefits. I have trouble believing you are against them. I have trouble believing any citizen of this country should be against then, truth be told. “Entitlements” is language that may not be appropriate at this point because many of us believe that certain kinds of social investments are entirely appropriate for a democracy with a memory. That includes VA benefits. And it includes certain kinds of investments a Democracy with actual social goals for its people wants to make to further those goals. That includes mortgage deductions for a society that wants to encourage home ownership, and support for school loans that wants to encourage an educated electorate who is capable of producing sophisticated products.
I would suggest to you that it includes health care for Democracies who actually listen to their businesses when they complain that a big part of the reason they can’t compete on the world stage is health care costs. Myself, I don’t necessarily believe these businesses, mind you. But auto manufacturers have been saying this for years. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to employ a lot of sick workers. Sick workers slow down production time and cost extra money in production costs. Unemployed sick workers can’t buy cars.
That’s one of the reasons Henry Ford paid a living wage to start off with, if you remember your history lessons, so his workers could afford to buy his products. And it’s cheaper to have the government pay for the health care than it is for companies or individuals to do it privately. That expense takes too much money out of the economy as a whole. The percentage is actually growing; and, in the long run, if America is going to make it as an economy, we need to do more than buy and sell health care to ourselves. The insurance companies don’t mind if we do that. Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans, both of whom seem to be reasonably well taken care of by the Insurance and the drug industries, seem to mind it. Somebody has to mind it if we aren’t to be an economy that commences to swallow our tail and them keep swallowing until we vanish in a flash of paradox into our own maws. That would be distressing.
Health care is essentially eating the economy.
There is considerable need for expansion of the job market. I don’t think that it’s likely we’ll get enough slack from “waste” to get a recovery going, though. I do agree with you about money going back to Washington being in danger of being spent, but I think that’s not necessarily a bad idea in this case. The return of the TARP money is money that’s been through the cycle once already and has given the economy one boost. If we can invest it wisely and send it through a second time, that will be twice the bang for the same buck, I think it would be the multiplier effect that the economists keep talking about in action.
I agree with you that you’d think it’d be spent on alleviating the record unemployment rate. You and the President and I all agree that this seems to be the most important problem the country faces. Where I part ways with the man is where, if you read on him is correct, he says we need to stop spending. I think that we need to cointinue spending that TARP money in particular as it comes back on more targeted projects. Infrastructure is always good. It’s the gift that keeps on giving, such as bridge repair, road repair and redesign, desalinization plants, levees for some of those Texas towns and for New Orleans and some of the Gulf States.
Cleanup is also good. It would be nice to have some of the fish stocks resurgent, to clean up some of the local oceans and some of the interstate acid emissions. Some money into research into clean power would be good — likely we disagree here, and especially into possible fusion power. We need our oil supply from manufacture of plastics and other chemical products. We need to put money into good old fashioned basic research, like we did in the fifties and early sixties.
We could also free up some money by tackling the amount of money being poured into the pockets of the insurance lobby for bogus and underperforming health care whose primary purpose is to line the pockets of the investors and to destroy the best of what’s been the American health care system. More jobs would be better. A better way of keeping track of what jobs we’ve lost and what jobs we’ve gained would be useful. The one that I see us using seems too political for my taste. Whether this is simply an observation or a reality at this point, I can’t say.
In looking at the list you’ve presented, I don’t think they were presented for job creation. Truth be told, if you look at the suggestion that job creation is job one, this wouldn’t be your list. But if you look at reality, not just politics but any sort of group behavior, Job One is never the stated organizational goal, and never will be. the real goal, always unstated, but always first, is to preserve the organization. You can say this is awful, and at times it may be, but when it fails, the stated organizational goal will never have a prayer of getting accomplished.
This is an organizational maintanance goal list. My impression was that this was part of the budget list, not the stimulus II list, but I don’t think it would make a lot of difference either way. These are mostly small public works projects and small educational projects and they seem fairly reasonable for putting small numbers of people to work, for changing neighborhoods in specific places, and most of all, for getting people on line for future votes and for future favors to be called in at a later time. It’s the sort of horse-trading that sounds better when it’s done at an NFL draft or in a baseball trade, but it keeps the process running.
One or two of them sound as if they might evgen go beyond that. Irratable bowel Syndrome really does need research funding for seed money, and not simply if you happen to have that exceedingly awkward and painful illness. It costs the country a lot of money in disability, and treatments and improved management would be a moneysaver for the country in addition to being a lifesaver in literal terms. I don’t know what the Textile research might do, but if it brings some of the manufacturing back to the US, it’d be a good thing. The business about surgical operations in space may yield considerable data about wound healing that I’ll bet you’ll wish they’d have had before they started whittling on you every now and again. It may, on the other hand, be as silly as it does sound. I’ll bet that John might have some ideas about what use that sort of data might or might not have.
As for weather forcasters, you might actual;ly find that interesting. There are a couple of different schools of weather forcasting depending on issues related to global warming. Chris Mooney, has a new science book about that sort of thing that discusses the ins and outs of the weather forcasting biz and how the global warming stuff relates to it. It doesn’t particularly push one or the other side of the two positions taken in the book. It’s not worth buying, but it is interesting to dip into and out of as a library read.
I’m not sure that these are shenanigans, nor am I sure they are pork in the way that I would think of it — which would be purely useless projects beyond the actual horsetrading of favors, and without utility beyond that. These, I think, actually have something of some value beyond the trading of favors, but I’ll tell you, in all honesty, I’m sure you’d be able to find some in the bill where we’d probably agree that there really would be purely horsetrading for favors going on, and little if any public utility beyond that. I think that’s probably the way things work in President Obama’s Washington as well as in any other Washington. Nor do I think you’re trying tpo give the GOP a pass, for which I thank you. The Democrats, being in power, will be doing most of the trading here, though. It will be Obama who will have to make the final determination. I don’t believe though that these are actually entitlements. I hope he doesn’t try to say that the bill has to be pork free to pass it, though. That way, he gives control to anybody who has an animus for some of the items in the bill that the President may consider to be of over-riding importance. He may, like Ronald Reagan, wish for the line-item veto; but we may hope that the congress is wise enough not to give it to him, just as they were wise enough not to give it to Ronald Reagan. It would shift the balance too much toward the Administrative branch. Better to get tagged with being a hypocrite than to function as a tyrant.
Bob, is it reasonable to you that a president would claim one week that we have to stop spending and the next week that we need to spend more? Can you explain that to me, please? This stimulus II is not about job creation....it's simply political payoffs and vote-getting ammunition for the next elections.
Explain it to you, no. Offer a somewhat biased opinion, yes. I believe that this bill is not an either/or matter, as you tend to see it. I think it is very much about job creation, because the President is not a fool, and he knows that if he doesn’t do what he thinks is his very best to create jobs, he’s going to be a dead duck; and he wants a second term. And that is is also about political payoffs and vote-getting on a more professionally political level for the same reasons — that is, if he doesn’t do a great job as a politician, he won’t hold his party together, he will lose his ability to help his people get elected in their districts, and they will not give him the help he needs to push his programs, and once again he will end up as a one term president.
It is not “simply political payoffs and vote-getting ammunition for the next elections”; but “political payoffs and vote-getting ammunition for the next elections” in glorious technicolor, with stereophonic sound and with the latest Dolby additions and on steroids. In addition to being a sincere attempt to do good in the best way the man knows how, with all his glories and limitations.
That’s the way I think of it at least.
Any reactions from you or anybody else?
All my best, Bob Kaven