Sunday, September 25, 2005

Bad Economics from an LA Protest Warrior

Well, maybe not bad, but certainly mean, shameful, and knowingly transferring wealth from the poor to the rich.

On Saturday, after the AYSO13 Opening Ceremony, I went to the demonstration in Downtown Los Angeles against the war in Iraq and in opposition to Bush's Administration, organised by ANSWER LA. There was a small, ten-man Protest Warrior counter-demonstration which included one Yellow Elephant with a handmade sign - I don't remember what it said exactly, something vaguely sarcastic which ended up with the imputation that the Left wants to "shut up" the "republican fascists". His co-protesters carried the usual oversize sardonic posters, and a few others had small ones.

This Protest Warrior I latched on to complained to me twice that as they were marching with the demonstration, they were heckled as Nazis (at the least this shows that the anti-war crowd has more intelligence than the pro-war demonstrators at the Presnit's Crawford ranch, where the Protest Warriors were mistaken for a pro-Sheehan contingent advocating peace by people who couldn't comprehend the signs, and ejected). There was one thing he said that I couldn't speak to, and didn't know about. It was this: that the federal deficit is mostly owned by Americans, not the Chinese, making deficits OK.

So I just moved on in the debate. On the way back home, I realised what this meant. But first, let's look at the numbers. Extrapolating a little from the figures here, I figure the aggregate federal deficit is around eight trillion dollars now. Paul Krugman argues in The Great Unravelling that a chunk of this has been funded by (1) "borrowing" from the Social Security Lockbox, and then (2) forgiving the debt, repeatedly.

Really. No, I mean, really. Can you get your 401K (a fund-based personal pension plan in the US) Administrator to do that for your loans? Didn't think so. Not many people have tried this trick with other people's money: apart from George Bush, I think of Robert Maxwell and Ken Lay. For example. I could be wrong. What do you think?

But back to the debt: less than half is owned by Asia, and apart from the fraud on social security, a good chunk of the rest is owned by Americans: by those 401Ks, and the rich bears who don't trust equities.

But bonds are still loans, and the interest and the coupon still have to be paid over the life of the loan. Where does this money come from, ultimately?

Taxes. So the bears with capital get paid by the Federal system, which ultimately gets its cash from taxes and inflation (aka printing money). The people who can least afford taxes in inflationary times are the poor: they have the lowest expectation of income growth, and waiving the minimum wage for federal construction contracts is shameful.

Funding the committed growth in the Federal Budget by issuing Bonds is a further transfer of weath from the poor to the rich, because the poor don't get paid the bond interest. Such policies further undermine the New Deal and the Great Society, by increasing the disparity between rich and poor in America, and denying the needy opportunity.

How did I leave this chickenhawk? I didn't tell him that the Iraqi Defense Department got ripped off for a billion dollars over the term of the interim government: but I did warn him that by the age of 30, he might find the draft ready to hook him, and gave him a list of questions that army recruiters don't want you to ask. I wonder if there are any volunteers left? I can't think anyone would actually want to go. Not without profound despair, an intense deathwish, or unbridled sadomasochism behind the desire.

Saigon. Shit. I'm still only in Saigon.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Money: draft

Thursday, September 01, 2005

"Shoot to Kill" in NOLA

There have been some astonishing reports that some people are advocating a "shoot to kill" policy for "looters" in New Orleans.

To be sure, the concept of private property is a cornerstone of organized, civil society. But there is no good reason for us as human beings to impose such standards on human beings in extremis: we let them down if they can't all come home again, and we should allow what it takes for them to make it, and do what we can to help them out. This is a cornerstone of compassion.

There is no potable water supply for tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people. Any fresh water they can get will be stolen. Anyone who doesn't die of thirst will be a "looter". Anyone who's picking up such impractical useless stuff as TV's that they can't use - what electricity? - has their priorities wrong, and not just today, but tomorrow and for a long time to come.

They should still have the space to find a way home again, regardless.

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