The president flew out today, on his way to Europe to talk up his new spending plan. Which, at present, is half what his first spending plan was and does nothing to reduce our spending deficit, not to mention our debt.
Which is fine. Keynes explained it to us: Why it is that, in tough times, we need to borrow and spend so that the good times return sooner. He used many pages of complicated mathematical formulae to back up his premise, and the number of people who can even understand them much less comprehensibly explain them is tiny, so let’s just take his word on it, shall we? The government is right to borrow and spend. We may disagree on how it spends what it gets—
Ah, but that’s the point, isn’t it? We do disagree. We pretty much all disagree, and volubly, at great length.
Some of us, especially among the vast crowd who never read Keynes in college, are of the opinion that we should never borrow, that debt is bad and debt amounting to six times the annual budget of the entire government put together is obscene. Despite the fact that their concept of economic theory — learned, no doubt, at the School Of Hard Knocks — is further informed by such great thinkers as My Uncle At Thanksgiving, with graduate courses from The Guy At The End Of The Bar and a doctorate from the university of What Some Guy Posted On Facebook, even so there’s something attractive about the thought of reducing, rather than increasing, our federal debt.
Biden’s supporters tell us that the entire package will be funded by a tax on the rich. The reason we know that won’t happen is twofold: First, our rich don’t actually have that much money even if we bankrupt them and fillet them to sell as cutlets; second, the politicians now in office are fully funded subsidiaries of Wall Street. Until something is done to correct the situation left in the wake of the Citizens United decision, there will never be an effective tax on corporations and the ultra-rich.
Instead, money will be spent without wealth to support it, and the result of that practice is inflation. Which never hurts the rich; their assets are inflation-proof. It will only ever harm the retired, also cutting Social Security and Medicare expenses. And, given that the inflation adjustment equations are never revised to reflect new realities, most of those cuts will remain permanent. (Think of that as the DoorDash and Expensive Plywood factors.)
And yet, the theory is sound: In tough times you borrow; in boom times you repay. Funny how the government never gets around to repaying, isn’t it? …But I digress. Let’s just agree that it’s wise to spend some money.
Which we did, as it happens: There’s a massive infrastructure bill that everyone agrees on. It contains a trillion dollars in necessary expenses that will help everyone, and which will provide sufficient economic boost that the expenditures will generate enough tax revenue to pay for them. That’s the way tax money should be spent; even The Guy At The End Of The Bar agrees.
Then there’s his domestic agenda package, which is holding up passage of the other bill. It contains two trillion dollars more, to be spent on all sorts of things that — well, some are probably helpful and others likely effective, but the one thing they’re not is infrastructure. Progressives oppose it because it’s too little; centrists oppose it because it’s too much.
Imagine two trillion dollars. Divide it evenly among every adult in America who isn’t on Social Security already. That works out to about $13,000. Rather than going through the charade of pretending to gather nonexistent taxes and then funneling that cash through the infrastructure, why not just write everyone in the country a check for a thousand bucks a month and be done with it? Certainly, it’ll never cure poverty; our poor will spend it immediately and still be just as poor, whereas the rich will find new ways to collect the profits (tax-free, as always). But at least the poor will have had the money for a little while first.
I’m being disingenuous here to make my point; the spending package is spread out over a decade, which mostly means on the off chance it passes it’ll be repealed in 2024, before there’s been any time to recognize the benefits (if any) of the new programs. That’s how it always works. It’ll be like Bear’s Ears; first it’s huge, then it’s small, then it’s huge again — and at no time does the strip-mining ever stop, because that’s also how it always works.
There’s a reason nothing ever changes, and we can’t blame it entirely on Citizens United.
Once upon a time, the population was small enough that you could actually personally get to know your Representative in Congress. The trouble began not when the population grew, but instead when the number of people in the House didn’t. We used to have one Rep per thirty thousand people; right now, we’ve got one for every half million. Forget about gerrymandering and fixing districts; uncap the House and all of a sudden we’ll have districts so small they can’t possibly be funny-shaped unless there’s a river. There’ll be a new one every two city blocks or three townships, depending. Your Representative will be accountable to you, because they live next door.
The reason they’re not is, once politics becomes local again, we start seeing regional parties, and the Two Big Parties will crumble. They can’t retain control of so many people, and they know it. Candidates would actually be open to feedback from their constituents instead of instructions from Above (or, as in our present system, from Below.)
Progressives are pissed off at the compromise package because the best programs have been discarded. Wall Street Democrats are pissed off because the new tax threatens their bankrolls (it can’t hurt them, but it’s disrespectful). Honest-to-Marx Socialists are outraged because nothing will change. And Republicans are horrified that money will be spent on something other than bridges, roads, wars, and fighting crime.
The only way we’ll see this change is if the two party system changes. We need new caucuses, new candidates, new ideas — like Andrew Yang’s “Forward”. We need people to volunteer, and eventually to contribute both their money and their time to make it happen.
Voting Democrat won’t help you. Voting Republican won’t help you. Find a person worthy of electing and make them run — and make them win. It’s the only thing you can do that can actually bring change — and it’s within your power.
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