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The Simplest and Best Way Out

letsgetitdone's picture

Well, the proverbial s__t is now hitting the fan in our State Governments, and we're looking at struggles in State after State between newly elected Republican Governors scapegoating civil servants, while they insist that taxes can't be raised on the wealthy and large corporations during a recession. Put briefly, the moves to austerity and the resulting conflicts in Wisconsin and other States are partly Democrats' fault, because they failed to pass a State revenue sharing bill to close the gap in State budgets, so that no cuts in services, employee benefits, or jobs would be necessary. A revenue sharing bill of $300 Billion passed in 2009 would have done the trick, and could have been passed as part of the stimulus package.

Why didn't they do it? Well, the gutless wonders in the 21st century Democratic Party wouldn't go after the filibuster when it would have made a difference in January of 2009, and that left them negotiating with a few “moderate Republicans” and blue dog Democrats who ended up controlling the final form of the very inadequate stimulus bill. There's no turning the clock back, of course. But the Democrats should still propose revenue sharing, make a big fuss about it, and talk about how the Rs were perfectly willing to bail out the big banks, AIG, and even foreign banks, but are not now unwilling to bail out their own American States, and would rather attack public employee unions and their collective bargaining rights rather than doing anything constructive about jobs. The Ds should also point out that all the Rs have done since winning the House is to kill jobs, and that their refusal to pass revenue sharing is just another instance of job-killing.

Of course, someone will read this proposal and say that the Federal Government can't afford even a bigger deficit than it has now so that it's not a serious proposal. To them I say that I prefer to deal in reality and not act as if I believe the fantasies of people who think the Government is like a household. I know that people believe that the Federal Government can't afford it. But that belief is based on various fairy tales and myths I've exposed before like:

-- The Government is running out of money

-- The Government can only raise money by taxing or borrowing

-- We can't keep adding debt to the national credit card

-- We need to cut Federal Government spending and make do with no more money

-- If the Government borrows more money, the bond markets will raise our interest rates

-- If we continue to issue more debt, then our main creditors may refuse to buy it, an event that would lead us to insolvency and severe austerity

-- Our grandchildren must have the heavy burden of repaying our national debt

-- There is a deficit/debt reduction problem for the Federal Government that is not self-imposed

-- The Federal Government is like a household and that since households sacrifice to live within their means, Government ought to do that too

-- The only way to tackle our deficit is to cut excessive spending wherever we find it

-- We should also find a bipartisan solution to strengthen Social Security for future generations

-- We face a crushing burden of Federal debt. The debt will soon eclipse our entire economy, and grow to catastrophic levels in the years ahead.

-- The next generation will inherit a stagnant economy and a diminished country

-- The United States is in danger of becoming the next Greece or Ireland

-- Fiscal Responsibility means stabilizing and then reducing the debt-to-GDP ratio and achieving a Federal Government surplus

-- Federal Government austerity will create jobs

Everyone of these myths/fairy tales is used to support the idea that the Federal Government can't afford to do the things it ought to do to end the economic suffering in America, and, in particular, that we can't afford to save State employee jobs and benefits by providing revenue sharing grants of $1,000 per person to every State to close their budgetary gaps. Every one one of them is untrue. Belief in any of them is stopping us from helping the 99ers, from educating our kids, from re-building our infrastructure, from healing our sick, from re-inventing our economy, from developing our alternative energy sources, from creating real wealth for our children and grandchildren, from extending Social Security benefits, and from stopping these completely unnecessary attacks on unions and collective bargaining.

What we badly need is a mental housecleaning in our economic thinking. We need to sweep away the false ideas of neo-liberalism and its practice of “Aztec Economics,” because our experience (most recently, Ireland, Greece, Spain, the Baltic nations, the UK, and even ourselves, since we held back on stimulus and health care reform out of austerity concerns) tells us that they are serving us very badly and causing suffering all over the world. It's time to try the ideas of Modern Monetary Theory instead, and see if they will work better. They tell us, in part, that Federal Government spending isn't in itself a “cost,” since our constitutional authority to spend is unlimited and we can now do so electronically. So, when considering such spending we must never look at its nominal financial cost; but only at its likely real impact. Does it increase value? For whom? What are its real costs in terms of resource consumption and negative outcomes? Does it bring full employment? Does it solve national problems? Is it likely to cause inflation? Does it create a better life for most people?

These are the kinds of questions we should be asking. Asking and answering them correctly and making fiscal decisions based on the answers is fiscal responsibility. Fiscal irresponsibility is watching the impact of spending on deficits, surpluses, debt-to-GDP ratios and other numbers of this type.

The current Administration is fiscally irresponsible, not fiscally responsible. The President's Fiscal Commission exhibited the height of fiscal irresponsibility. And the current Congress, in jumping on the bandwagon of Aztec Economics and austerity, will give us even more fiscal irresponsibility, while congratulating themselves about taking the tough decisions that fiscal responsibility calls for. What more is there to say? We live in Orwell's world. We must find a way out!

(Cross-posted at All Life Is Problem Solving and Fiscal Sustainability).

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