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9 Ways to Stimulate the Economy for the Rest of Us

chicago dyke's picture

OK, I'm no economist. And hey! I'm really fucking glad! Next to "child rapist" and "warmonger," I can hardly think of a more despicable title to hold right now. What I'm going to write here is likely flawed, unrealistic, naive, and all that other stuff Serious People tell me at the cocktail parties when I've had a few too many and start talking like this. But I'd like to stimulate some conversation about what Our Leaderz can do right now, to help our economy, and not just that of their richee buddies and buttboi friends. Because believe it or not (heh), I'm told that part of the problem with the incoming bunch is that they, um, well...don't really know what to do, when it comes to fixing the actual majority economy. You're shocked to hear that, I'm sure.

1. End the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan as quickly as possible, and close/end construction of our bases there. Bring the troops home. End all contracts with Halliburton etc., and initiate a comprehensive review of how badly they've been ripping us off, and get as much of the overcharge money back as possible, shutting them down if they refuse to open their books.

2. Initiate a plan to bring universal single payer health care to all Americans within 12 months from the start. Expand existing government health care programs, like the one Congresscritters enjoy, to increasing numbers of people, beginning with children, the "above the poverty line" working poor, and the unemployed. Allow people to keep their insurance if they have it, but at the same time qualify for supplemental government programs for those areas of coverage in which their insurers don't satisfy them. Launch a "space race" style education and training program to make up for our health care provider shortfall in various underserved parts of the country. Construct and staff hundreds of new "preventative care" and rehabilitation centers around the country, to help people stay healthy, instead of only focusing on treating them when they're sick.

3. Massively invest in green energy technology. All of it, and not just some favored programs. Don't worry if some of this stuff doesn't work they way it should quite yet, hand out billions in R&D grants to hundreds of smaller, hungry firms who want to figure out the hard parts and can do so with reasonable amounts of research funding. Sort of like how the NIH used to be, before it got all infested with political hacks. Build windfarms, and solar farms, get serious about the whole wide range of biofuels, including the lesser known stuff like "algae-oil" and industrial hemp. The list is so long it'd take up the whole post, but there is a boatload of "green technology" out there just waiting to be tried. Drop the whole pretense that "everyone knows" that "only some of it has any potential or can help us right now." Approach green energy technology as both a problem "right now," but also something worthy of a long view approach, in terms of funding.

4. Bring back progressive taxation of the wealthiest individuals. Tax them, and if they try to offshore it, jail them or revoke their citizenship. Tax all their wealth, not just their "income" or "paychecks." Hell, I'll even say that you can limit this to the wealthiest 2% (for now). The amount of money they are gripping like Midas on a gold bar is staggering in itself.

5. Tax uberlarge corporations, and at the same time, give them some tax breaks for any willingness to break up into smaller, more easily regulated companies. I don't really 'hate business and capitalism,' I'd just like to give actual capitalism, and not cronyism, a try. Smith and the other gods of capitalism agree with me: it only works in a well regulated system with transparency and the common contribution to our shared society via reasonable taxation. Everything else leads to cronyism and the massive problems with the economy we have now.

6. Invest in real education. End the test-taking obsession/excuse for 'education,' and return to proven models that create citizens who contribute to the economy to the fullest of the potential. Fund programs which educate our best and brightest, and not just those who barely have an interest in education, getting the big brains back into teaching. Expand and repair schools so smaller classes are possible. Hire more teacher's aides and educational specialists for "special needs" students (and the gifted!). Cut back on top-heavy administrations, and use that money to hire more teachers, at both the university and secondary level. Fund university R&D programs. Increase educational grants for post-secondary study. Expand programs like "Teach for America." End educational funding by property taxation, and codify funding for secondary environments at a federal standard.

7. End the War on Drugs, and reduce and reign in the prison-military industrial complex. Legalize or decriminalize marijuana possesion. Per #2 on this list, remove drug offenders from prisons, and get them into proven rehab treatment centers. Believe it or not, it's cheaper for someone to get Mayo Clinic level rehab, than it is to keep them in jail.

8. Retool our manufacturing base, and help it become competitive in a global economy. Don't tell me Americans can't compete with the rest of the world just because we demand fair wages and benefits. Look to the German or Irish model, or other civilized and regulated societies who've managed to retain or develop a manufacturing base. Sell things to developing nations who don't have the industrial capacity to make them, including things our 'Rust Belt' factories already are tooled to make. Even if we don't need some 'dated' products from that industrial capacity, nations in Asia and Africa do.

9. Start repairing the environmental damage of the Industrial and Post-Industrial age. This one is dear to my own heart, of course. There so much we could do, again, the list is too long to put here. But everything from community gardens to cleaning up the coasts and lakes, restocking endangered fish, animals and plant life, expanding national parks, replanting forests, funding organic agriculture...well, a grrl can dream, right?

Now, some people are going to look at this and say, "but how do you propose to pay for all this?" Really, I don't want to hear it. If, Yes! We Can print endless amounts of money, 2...3...4 trillion and more and give it to foreigners and bankers, then we can demand they "loan" some of that to us. Or we can take them out of the picture altogether and just use taxpayer's money on the taxpayers (sorry, Big Corporations and Bankers and richees, that's not you and hasn't been for a while). But I refuse to ever again hear the phrase "that's just too expensive." Because that's a bullshit argument this bailout frenzy proves, as clear as day. Money is just a shared illusion about pieces of thick paper anyway; the more important thing is how we all agree to shape that illusion.

Feel free to add your own ideas.

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bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

Most of our base infrastructure including roads, bridges, water systems (fresh and sewage), and electrical grid are 50 years old or more and haven't been invested in properly for decades. There being no free lunch we need to make up for the poor investment practices of the past in many ways but this one is key and we can get started right now. Every state has a list of projects all vetted and ready to start but they don't have the money. Funding them would translate into jobs within three months, and keep a lot of people employed for the next decade doing jobs that can't be outsourced building things that are vital and offer a very favorable ROI.

All together, this area offers many ways to implement Progressive goals. We need a more rational transportation system, using transportation policy to define corridors of light rail commute and goods distribution instead of the willy-nilly solo driver automobile based building pattern of the past. If we are to get any benefit out of new green energy we will need a modern distribution network instead of the patchwork joke we have now. Sewage and runoff mis-management has degraded the environment and is now starting to kill us; that can be fixed and everyone's lives improved. We have plenty of fresh water, but we are inefficient in how we collect it, how we distribute it, and how we use it. All of that needs changed, and pretty quickly.

This is in addition to your list, CD, and not instead of. Thirty years of systematic neglect on top of willful disregard and outright damage, we have a lot of cleaning up and straightening out to do. Puting people to work building useful objects is a great place to start.

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

a forgotten and difficult concept for so much of our SCLM and policy making class.

here's my beef: a lot of the chatter about "infrastructure" misses the essential point that you mention, which is to say it's good for about 3-9mos worth of employment, and not much more. that being the case, it doesn't really qualify as something that "grows" the economy over the *long term* which is what we truly need. again, i'm all for funding state budgets and their long lists of "shit we've been meaning to do, and do right, but haven't had the money for, for decades." and i lurv your nuanced point that doing these projects the *right way,* greening them and upgrading stuff to reflect a green, 21stcentury energy environment...yes, absolutely yes.

but i'm very, very annoyed with the people who speak of infrastructure improvements as if they alone will solve our economic problems, or address the immediate needs of people who don't work in the construction and engineering fields. i have seen a great deal of overly enthusiastic cheerleading for programs that amount to a few billion here and there, and not enough calls for the things that make up the rest of the list. Japan tried the "solution" of pouring a lot of concrete when they had their Bright Depression, and there are people there still waiting to see a return to the stock market levels of their glory days in the 80s.

so yes: infrastructure that is done right, absolutely. but in and of itself: it won't even come close to addressing our total economic malaise.

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

Exactly so; it is a complex and interlocking set of problems and will require a multifaceted approach to even begin to resolve them.

But here's where you're wrong about the key nature of infrastructure in this process. The impact will be swift, because there is a backlog of projects all set and ready to go, needing only funding. The phrase is "Shovel-Ready" and you'll be hearing a lot about that as MMM Barack has finally got his head around it; say what you will about his limitations, the man knows a tasty catch-phrase when he mouths one.

The hiring would start immediately, and we'd have hind ends and elbows moving within a few weeks setting up supply lines and support structures. Actual construction would be underway in three months at most, and it would run for far longer than the few months you predict; it would run for decades.

We've underfunded maintenance alone by 50% for 30 years, so there's 15 years of work just to maintain the systems we already have and bring them back up to sustainability. Add on top the new systems and we have another couple of decades of work, minimum. And it isn't just construction workers who will benefit, but all the suppliers and their suppliers and the shops and businesses that will sell more because millions of people will have spare change in their pockets instead of lint - and being Americans, they will spend it.

Because of the magnitude of the stimulous effect - each dollar spent results in 1.59 dollars of growth in GDP - and the magnitude of the undertaking, it is infrastructure spending that will do the most of any single approach to get the economy back on a positive track.


Like the railroads and the water and power projects and the Interstate Highway System, big infrastructure projects provide not just jobs for the duration of construction but many multiples of new future jobs because they bring such enormous increases in productivity. And that reminds me of the one segment of infrastructure I left out of the earlier comment - the Internet.

We need a universal nationwide upgrade to highspeed Internet, into every home and business and available for no end-user charge. Too bad about the current suppliers, but just like insurance companies and health care we can't afford their profit margins. Equal access to the internet means no-charge to the user. While we're at it, we should make available at some nominal charge basic computers so everyone can get online and engage one another. The single biggest opportunity to bolster democracy is to increase the ability of people to talk to one another and share information and opinion.

Stepping off of soap box for now. I have a home improvement project to finish salvaging, one that my brother started and screwed up royally. Got it redirected and straightened out yesterday, today we finish up and he'll be home from church in another 15 minutes or so. Told him last night to say a prayer that I don't kill him when the project is finished, as a sacrifice of gratitude.