THE BLOG

What It Will Take

12/06/2011 10:04 am 10:04:18 | Updated Feb 05, 2012

(The short version)

Our latest generation of college bred, bound or graduated are now manning the "Occupy" movement instead of being at an office with a job they had the expectation of getting. With something like half of the recent grads unemployed or underemployed, it's easy to see why they have taken up issues with a system that seems long on promises and recently miserable at keeping them. The pundits say not to worry though. Recessions are temporary and young college grads can expect to enter the job force when the economy picks up. You'll just have to work changing tires for a while and not worry that you'll be pigeonholed in that job for life by personnel functionaries.

Along side the college grads at various "Occupations" are the long haul progressives, organized labor, the out of work through aging and illness and a few souls that just take Jesus seriously. There are, of course, anarchist hoodlums, druggies and the rank and file homeless along for the ride, just like there are gun crazies and abortion clinic bombers in the Tea Party. None of this latter "Occupy" contingent have any particular interest in employment prospects nor even the fate of the nation. They are all still entitled to be heard.

The First Amendment would seem to intend the regular citizen a voice in governing, even regardless of their franchise status. The trouble is that our esteemed Supreme Court has ruled that money is superior to citizenship in terms of influence in lawmaking and elections. At least, the more money you have, the more of a citizen you are, irrespective of the vicissitudes of your conscience.

The best the Framers of the Constitution could do to counter total corruption of government by money/power was to create checks and balances. They did this in the hope that no single entity could ever exist that could corrupt all three branches of government and the Fourth Estate at the same time. It appears that they were wrong, or at least did not take the possibility of it seriously enough. None of them could ever have imagined corporations, a new concept at the time of the Framing, could grow in size and money and power to rival even the largest governments. Now, for lack of courage or lack of comprehension on the part of our elected representatives, it falls to the brave souls who take a stand in, or a sleeping bag to, the nations parks and yards to wrest control of our country from the boardrooms and put control back into the kitchens, pubs, churches and labor halls where it belongs. There is increasingly less to lose and therefore increasing likelihood of revolution.

The situation is this, our current government's economic policy is supply side Milton Friedmanism even though no one dare mention his name, he having been so thoroughly discredited through thirty years of failure in implementation, for fear of ridicule anymore. Supply side economics was never anything more than a pseudo-intellectual's rationale for business to return to laissez-faire, laissez-faire under which there were no regulations nor labor rights.

Supply side works like this. If you pay people less money than business can make products more cheaply. If products are cheaper then people don't have to make as much money so you can pay them less and make more money yourself. Milton's supply side was, of course, astonishing in its short sightedness. Following on this economic moment in which a theoretical business makes more money by cutting payrolls is a spiral, of any economy adopting this gospel, into self destruction.

The second, and so on, legs of supply side are that when you lower payroll, you take money out of the economy. Your employees have less money to buy the products of other companies so other companies lower payroll to compensate for the loss of business. You must then lower your payroll to compensate for business lost from other companies lowering their payrolls. Supply side is a perfect recipe for wage and price deflation, leading inexorably to economic depression.

Supply side runs counter to the economic theories of all history which tend to assert that if people are making more money business can raise prices in order make more money. Milton seemed to think institutionalized economic deflation (depression) was a good idea whereas everyone else tends to prefer economic inflation (growth). Inflation is vastly easier and less expensive to deal with than is deflation. Inflation can be dealt with by the Fed raising interest rates. Fixing deflation requires economic restructuring and/or the artificial creation of inflation with vast sums of "printed" money.

Banks don't like either of deflation or inflation. If economic conditions are deflationary, the collateral for loans loses value (underwater mortgages) and they may be forced to recognize the losses on their books. If economic conditions are inflationary, banks are being repaid for loans with the same amount of dollars that are now worth less than before. So the cash value a loan has as an income stream product, like a Treasury Bond, goes down. Banks can't sell the loan cash stream for what it was once worth and might have to recognize the loss on their books. This is why the Federal Reserve Bank, an old boys club of bankers, has been trusted to manage inflation and deflation forces in the economy. It is exactly in their best interest to do so because their own past business decisions as participating bankers could go terribly wrong for them if they didn't.

The free market is quite good at setting the daily price of a can of beans or a college degree. But the free market actually kind of sucks at predicting the future value of either beans or brains. The existence of the Fed is an institutionalized recognition of the fact that the free market is inherently unstable and therefore risky for banks. It's equally risky for everyone else, but banks are more organized at dealing with it. The Fed manages the risk of past decisions coming back to haunt the banks in a free market. This, coincidentally, tends to stabilize the economy and employment.

The problem is not the banks or the Fed, per se. The problem is the Milton Friedman enabled laissez-faire crap that Libertarians and the GOP seem to drawn to like a sailor on leave to a red light district. Libertarians seem to think that a totally unregulated free market, free to adjust the price of everything instantaneously, will be inherently stable. That hope/fantasy is based on the assumption that information is equal among all people trading in the market at any given transaction moment. The dimensions of information dissemination and honesty/dishonesty assure that the Libertarian fantasy is just that. The typical GOPer is just not bright enough to have thought it through at all. Milton Friedman didn't think it through at all, as his contemporaries often complain.

Right now, the fate of our economy and thus our nation is political and dependent on the economic policies implemented by the resulting government. Great treasure troves of cash have been expended by the very rich to revive the inglorious laissez-faire American past. Great treasures of cash are being spent right now to ensure that we do not subdue business to the benefit of the nation as a whole as we did in the 1930s. Ridiculously, conservatives cling to the delusion that that subjugation harmed business when it, in fact, benefitted busines in as much or greater measure than it benefitted the middle class.

The extravagantly-funded right wing polity is currently holding America hostage by a wholly-owned House of Representatives and a rapaciously filibustered Senate, which is therefore effectively owned. Acting as if they were serving the same J. P. Morgan class of insatiable autocrats that used their accumulations of wealth and power to bleed the country and its people for more and more profit, they obstruct and vilify any efforts of relief or remedy for the economy just as their grandfathers did in the 1930s. They hope, as they did with Roosevelt, to discredit the Democratic administration as ineffective. This while proposing no alternative but to trust the same J. P. Morgan class of rich autocrats that are even now still grinding the livelihoods of the regular public to sand under their heel. Political and economic history is, right now, repeating itself in ghostly fidelity.

To exercise the franchise in order to replace these GOP servants of the rich is a clear enough objective for 2012. But to replace them without a clear message as to why they are rejected is simply to invite a rematch with yet to be defined rules. America, the 99%, has to be clear on what needs doing, without delay, by our government, government of every political stripe. The accomplished goals and unrealized initiatives of the GOP for the last 80 years have to be overturned and spurned with burning specificity. To that end:

1) Save the social safety nets, paid for entirely by recipients, from depredation by the rich by taxing the rich.

2) Reject Supply Side by first closing off incentives to offshore jobs.

3) Labor rights are human rights as canonized in the Bill of Rights. Re-invigorate the NLRB to support labor and collective bargaining.

4) You may not yet have legislated right to health care provided by government, but you do have a right to expect government, under the commerce clause, to stop profiteering on a life and death necessity. Break up health care monopolies, nationally and regionally.

5) Prohibit higher education abuses of non-profit status. As with point 4, you may not yet have a right to it, but don't let government coddle abusers of this fundamental life need.

6) Large concentrations of money can to enormous good and enormous harm. Bring back Glass-Steagall.

7) The vastly rich are finding it difficult to get a return in conventional business and consumer investments, investments through which their wealth is recycled into the economy. As a result, they are bloating commodity prices world wide on everything from water to gold. Reregulate commodity speculation.

8) Pass and ratify a Constitutional Amendment to ban corporations from political activity. One man, one vote is the definition of democracy.

Except for number 8 which will take as long as building the pyramids, these things will create and or save jobs in a matter of instantly to a couple of years, save the economy and probably the world, all without the need for further piling on of economic stimulus. Number 8 will help assure that we don't need to fight for 1-7 again.

In economist circles, FDR is said to have saved capitalism from its laissez-faire self. Do these things above or that salvation will have proved itself temporary, and that capitalism can't ultimately be saved. Capitalism can be domesticated, it has been. It just requires the public to assert that capitalism serves the public at the pleasure of the public and not the other way around. This, as an intrinsic goal, will create future U.S. employment and global economy stability. It is, after all, one giant labor and management dispute.