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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Industrial Disease

 

Warning lights are flashing down at Quality Control
somebody threw a spanner and they threw him in the hole
there's rumors in the loading bay and anger in the town
somebody blew the whistle and the walls came down
there's a meeting in the boardroom they're trying to trace the smell
there's leaking in the washroom there's a stink in personnel
somewhere in the corridor someone was heard to sneeze
'goodness me could this be Industrial Disease?
The caretaker was crucified for sleeping at his post
refusing to be pacified, it's him they blame the most
the watchdog's got rabies the foreman's got fleas
and everyone's concerned about Industrial Disease
there's panic on the switchboard, tongues in knots
some come out in sympathy some come out in spots
some blame the management and some the employees
everybody knows it's the Industrial Disease
The work force is disgusted, downs tools and walks
innocence is injured, experience just talks
everyone seeks damages and everyone agrees
that these are 'classic symptoms of a monetary squeeze
on ITV and BBC they talk about the cuts
philosophy is useless theology is worse
history boils over there's an economics squeeze
sociologists invent words that mean 'Industrial Disease'
Doctor Parkinson declared 'I'm not surprised to see you here
you've got smokers cough from smoking, brewer's droop from drinking beer
I don't know how you came to get the Betty Davis knees
but worst of all young man you've got Industrial Disease'
he wrote me a prescription he said 'you are depressed
I'm glad you came to see me to get this off your chest
come back and see me later - next patient please
send in another victim of Industrial Disease'
I go down to Speaker's Corner I'm thunderstruck
they got free speech, tourists, police in trucks
two men say they're Jesus, one of them must be wrong
there's a protest singer he's singing a protest song - he says
'they wanna have a war to keep their factories
they wanna have a war to keep us on our knees
they wanna have a war to stop us buying Japanese
they wanna have a war to stop Industrial Disease
they're pointing out the enemy to keep you deaf and blind
they wanna sap your energy, incarcerate your mind
they give you Rule Brittania, gassy beer, page three
two weeks in Espana and Sunday striptease'
meanwhile the first Jesus says 'I'd cure it soon
abolish monday mornings and friday afternoons'
the other one's on a hunger strike he's dying by degrees
how come Jesus gets Industrial Disease?

- Dire Straits, Industrial Disease

 

Over on the “headquarters of the Conservative underground,” Human Events.com, Pat Buchanan has a bad case of the industrial disease.

It’s all doom and gloom in Buchanan’s America.

The country is headed downhill fast and there’s only hell waiting for us at the bottom of the slope.

Pat, he’s depressed, the last decade met his expectations pretty much exactly – and his expectations weren’t all that high. Here at the beginning of the new century’s second decade, Pat Buchanan is certain that the pessimists like himself have been proven right. 

There’s a lot to be depressed about, according to Pat:

- the United States began the century producing 32 percent of the world's gross domestic product. We ended the decade producing 24 percent. No nation in modern history, save for the late Soviet Union, has seen so precipitous a decline in relative power in a single decade.

- The United States began the century with a budget surplus. We ended with a deficit of 10 percent of gross domestic product, which will be repeated in 2010. Where the economy was at full employment in 2000, 10 percent of the labor force is out of work today and another 7 percent is underemployed or has given up looking for a job.

- Between one-fourth and one-third of all U.S. manufacturing jobs have disappeared in 10 years, the fruits of a free-trade ideology that has proven anything but free for this country. Our future is being outsourced -- to China.

- While the median income of American families was stagnant, the national debt doubled.

- The dollar lost half its value against the euro. Once the most self-sufficient republic in history, which produced 96 percent of all it consumed, the U.S.A. is almost as dependent on foreign nations today for manufactured goods, and the loans to pay for them, as we were in the early years of the republic.

The rest of his column is even more depressing. He spends a dozen paragraphs whining about the “snake oil” of the global economy, interdependence, and free trade.  He kvetches about the Fed and the economy and the deficit. He didn’t like Bush, and he damned sure doesn’t like Obama.  And he concludes by lamenting that we won’t be “presiding over the creation of a New World Order” and whether the decline of America is irreversible.

Enlightening, isn’t it? His phrasing, I mean.  New World Order. End Times. Judgment Day. This is the same old drumbeat of those rightwing religious conservatives who don’t get their way.  When the nation doesn’t conform to their version of the Divine Plan, well then we’re all doomed.

We’ve let Pat down. America let Pat down. The New World Order of Jesusland that he so badly wanted to preside over didn’t come about and now, of course, America is going straight to hell in a hand basket full of aborted fetuses and porn!  Oh noes! We’ve kicked God out of the schools and now the moral fabric of the country is coming unraveled!  The [Muslims, Liberals, Abortionists, Illegal Aliens, Minorities, Gays, Terrorists, Politically Correct, and etc] are to blame!  The commenters under Buchanan’s post are a pretty good example of the kind of “Americans” who buy into this depressing garbage.  They are convinced that America’s “slide into decline” is indeed irreversible – or reversible but prevented by The Jew. Yes, a fun extra benefit of reading Pat’s comment section is the fervent and pervasive anti-Semitism.  And, of course, they are all convinced that if only we’d overturn Roe v. Wade the course of our rapid decline would be immediately reversed - because then God would no longer have it in for us.

The worse things are, the happier people like Pat Buchanan are, convinced that the ills of the world are visited upon us by an angry God, a God who’d be happy and would therefore stop smiting America - if only we’d just listen to Pat.

Even if Pat and his followers are depressed over things that are not exactly true.

Take Buchanan’s statement “The United States began the century with a budget surplus” – referring to the famous budget surplus at the end of Clinton’s administration. Just one problem, there never was a budget surplus.  The Clinton administration reduced the public debt (i.e. the portion of the national debt owed to the American public) by about $230 billion in FY2000, but increased intergovernmental debt by about $248 billion the same year.  The overall national debt (public debt plus intergovernmental debt) increased to about $17 billion – a relatively small amount to be sure – and then jumped to $133Billion in the last year of his administration.  Clinton did pay down the public debt, but the national debt increased – and as long as you have a national debt, there is no surplus.  In order to pay down the public portion of the national debt, Clinton “borrowed” from Social Security – as he was required by law to do.  Understand, the Social Security administration had a surplus, driven mostly by the DotCom bubble, and by law is required to take the surpluses and buy US Government securities with it – which during the DotCon bubble allowed the Administration to pay down the public debt by using those securities.  But we still owed that money, we just moved it from one column of the ledger to another. There never was a surplus – it’s a myth (I’m not saying that not having a surplus is a good thing, only that if Buchanan is going to be depressed, he ought to be depressed about reality and not some fantasy).

“No nation in modern history, save for the late Soviet Union, has seen so precipitous a decline in relative power in a single decade.” Really?  Spain, France, Great Britain? Germany? Japan?  Of course, that would depend entirely on how you define “modern history” I guess – and the method of decline, and the new heights they reaches following their respective recoveries.

Or take the generally accepted statement made by Buchanan and many of his supporters that things have never been this bad – a surprise, I’m sure, to those who managed to survive The Great Depression and the dark days of WWII.

A reoccurring theme, again by both Buchanan and his commenters, is corruption in Washington perpetuated by a greedy and incompetent Congress and aided and abetted by the White House.

Take earmarks, for example. A number of commenters are convinced that if we got rid of earmarks there’d be enough money to fix the national debt. Sorry, wrong. See, while you can argue the ethics of earmarks until the cows come home, the reality of the matter is that earmarks do not increase government spending – they are a percentage of the total amount of spending that has already been agreed to by Congress for a given year.  In order words, earmarks dictate how some of the money in the Federal budget will be spent, not the overall amount of money.

Cut wasteful spending! they cry next. Unfortunately this too is for the most part a white elephant.  Two thirds of federal spending is mandatory, mandated by law for things like Social Security and interest on the national debt.  The remaining third is discretionary spending, which this year will be about $1.4 trillion dollars. A bit over half of that will be spent on “defense.” Leaving roughly $650 billion to pay for education and transportation and so on.  Now, to be sure and for certain there is wasteful spending in there, but even if every bit of it was cut out it would only add up to about $20 billion.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see where most of the budget’s discretionary funding goes.

Buchanan’s followers got into a pissing contest over who could be the most anti-Semitic (my personal favorite was the guy who, in a dazzling display of logic, defended Jews as not being part of the problem because “Hitler knocked off six million of them and it didn’t do him any good.” Yeah, go Batshit Crazy, go!).  But the bottom line being that if we’d only reduce or get rid of foreign aid we could save a bunch of money.  Wrong again. Total foreign aid, including aid to Israel to assist in the coming rapture and End Times, is about $20 billion – and that $20 billion buys us no end of strategic goodwill. $20 billion is a bargain for what we get in return.

But my favorite part of the entire article has to be Buchanan’s assertion that “Once the most self-sufficient republic in history, which produced 96 percent of all it consumed, the U.S.A. is almost as dependent on foreign nations today for manufactured goods, and the loans to pay for them, as we were in the early years of the republic.”  I’m not quite sure how to square what appears to be a call for a return to the pre-WWI policy of isolationism with Buchanan’s dream of a New World Order led by a born again United States, or how exactly Buchanan thinks a population of 300 million plus that are accustomed to the lifestyle we Americans are could possibly find the resources within its own boarders to maintain and support such a structure. 

You know, it’s pretty easy to climb on the Buchanan bandwagon. Not everything he says is wrong, pessimistic yes, entirely wrong no. We have lost jobs to Mexico and China, we have outsourced a large portion of our manufacturing capability overseas, and our energy requirements far exceed our domestic resources.

And, yes, we do face the worst economic crises since The Great Depression. 

A lot of people are unemployed and angry and depressed.

And people like Pat Buchanan are busy egging them on. No matter how bad it is, according to Pat, it is just going to keep get worse.

Bah.

See, that’s what chaps my ass, right there.  This nation has faced many, many challenges since its birth. It survived The Great Depression and emerged stronger and wiser and renewed.  And in fact, this nation has survived far worse things than The Great Depression, it survived civil war

Every couple of generations we face a crisis and the conservative pundits proclaim the end of the Republic. They decry the moral decay that led to our decline – and they beseech God to save us. And when they don’t receive instant validation from upon high, they give up and wait for the end - witness those conservatives who gave up and didn’t vote when pre-election polls favored Barack Obama. Rather than stay the course, they stayed home. Some faith, eh? It never ceases to amaze me how those who profess such great faith in God, have so little faith in their own nation. It never ceases to astound me how those who claim such great faith throw in the towel when things don’t go the way they think it ought to. It never ceases disgust me how those who claim moral superiority and superior patriotism are always so ready to give up on America when it comes time to pull together – if they can’t have it all their way, they just give up.  And it never ceases to piss me off when those who profess to lead this country, people such as Pat Buchanan, do nothing but pander to the divide and despair and depression when the chips are down.

Industrial disease indeed.

16 comments:

  1. Damn, Jim.

    I'm not even sure what I could add to that.

    Good post.

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  2. Nick from the O.C.January 5, 2010 at 6:37 AM

    Leaving roughly $650 billion to pay for education and transportation and so on. Now, to be sure and for certain there is wasteful spending in there, but even if every bit of it was cut out it would only add up to about $20 billion.

    Jim, where did you get your $20 billion figure from?

    Other than that cavil, nice post, bub.

    denceb = unit of measurement, used to measure the intelligence of a celebrity. Ex. "Shaving off her hair? That's a few dencebs short of normalcy, I should think."

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  3. You were expecting better from Buchanan and his merry band of men?

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  4. Great post and something that I believe needs to be said. Doom and gloom are very popular right now, mostly because it sells advertising I suspect - and of course preaching to the faithful never hurt anybodies rep - but a little reality-check never hurt anyone either. Things are not solid black in a black and white world. Good things are happening, America is pulling itself out of this situation

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  5. The sky is falling, the sky is falling!!!

    Wonder how much of our troubles- outsourcing leading to loss of jobs, that pesky banking crisis, etc., etc.- were caused by conservatives?

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  6. Nick, those figures come from the GAO and the White House Buget Office.

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  7. Nick from the O.C.January 5, 2010 at 9:03 AM

    Jim,

    I don't mean to nitpick because I have no problem with the other aspects of your post ... but can you provide a better citation? All the numbers I've seen range from three to four times the figure you've provided -- which admittedly does nothing to detract from your point.

    Just wondering what I missed.

    chmkembo = African martial art involving use of sharpened obsidian "swords" ... alleged (apocryphally) to be based on the movements of chimpanzees and baboons as they fling poo at each other.

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  8. Nick, I'll post a link to the data when I get home. I can't access the information or post links where I'm currently at.

    However:

    There is, of course, a significant margin of error when it comes to this figure. The $20B figure I used comes from a study by the GAO as a reasonable estimate of 'wasteful' spending in the discretionary portion of the federal budget. However, there are a number of qualifiers, the first being a definition of 'wasteful' in this context. A number of folks consider the National Endowment for the Arts as wasteful, or a least the part that goes to art that they don't like, for example. Others see scientific grants as wasteful, since they believe science should fund itself. And you can think up a dozen more examples, I'm sure. The definition of wasteful is pretty damned vague, and you get wildly different figures depending on where you draw the line.

    The $20B figure I used was an estimate of the percentage of the non-defense portion of the discretionary budget only that could be considered wasteful -using general accepted criteria. It is unlikely that you could get consesus from Congress on any higher figure. Watchdog groupls would probably place the figure much higher.

    The larger figures you mentioned, those in excess of $100B normally include the entire budget and include such large scale things as fraud in the Medicare and Social Security Administrations for example, or hugely expensive weapons systems within the defense portion of the budget (a hugely significant fraction of overall government waste is normally attached to the defense budget). I didn't include those, because there is no hope in hell of eliminating waste in those areas, they are simply too lucrative. The only area that is normally looked at when it comes to 'reducing wasteful government spending' is in the non-defense portion of the discretionary budget.

    Now, if you really want to reduce government spending, then you have to look to the 2/3's of the budget that is mandated by law - and you'll have to change those laws. And that will result in such things as reduced benefits to Social Security recipients. Good luck with that.

    Or you have to raise taxes on the majority, i.e. the middle class, and really good luck with that. (raising taxes on the "rich" doesn't provide enough increase to make any significant difference, there aren't enough rich).

    Bottom line, $20B is the estimated maximum amount you could maybe save, if everybody agreed to shelve their pet projects and put the good of the nation ahead of their own agenda.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Nick from the O.C.January 5, 2010 at 10:56 AM

    Jim, okay I get you now.

    I was thinking about "improper payments" reported by OMB and GAO, which are basically payments made by the government that were erroneous or otherwise inappropriate. Reports, which have heretofore focused primarily on HHS activities (e.g., Medicaid payments) put the annual value of improper payments in the $60 - $90 Billion range.

    I agree that one person's waste is another person's pet initiative.

    Thanks for the response.

    cogica = special headache one gets when trying to figure out the backstory of the new Battlestar Galacta and its Caprica-class movies on SyFy.

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  10. Hey, look on the bright side Jim. Most of the people who would take you to task are probably to depressed to bother!

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    ingestor = a theoretical entity which constantly takes in matter but never ejects either reformed matter or energy. A required component of the FTL propulsion model.

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  11. I just want to say I'm fairly young and just getting into politics but have the republicans ALWAYS been so damn stupid. Because I can't understand how anyone would have ever voted these people in to office if they all act and think like the mainstream republicans you see now.

    Those crazy people always talk about wasted money and so forth. How much does a new F-22 cost? Could that money be spent elsewhere?

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  12. Nick from the O.C.January 6, 2010 at 6:33 AM

    Between one-fourth and one-third of all U.S. manufacturing jobs have disappeared in 10 years

    So you're saying that Mr. Buchanan doesn't believe in free market forces? Do you think he would then be in favor of government regulation to force the national economy back from services to manufacturing?

    My head, it aches.

    aniling = an act of sodomy, performed by male hobbits (aka halflings).

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  13. S, no, the GOP hasn't always been so stupid - but Reagan and later the Bushes needed the radical rightwing fringe and brought them into the main party. The neoconservative movement then ate the GOP and shifted the entire party miles to the right, straight into crazyland.

    Nick, why do you hate America?

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  15. Dear Spammer please fuck off back to India. Thanks

    ReplyDelete

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