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It’s Time to Downsize the US

Alexander_cuts_the_Gordian_KnotIn difficult circumstances, such as the current economic crisis, it’s normal to work out how one got there as a means to avoid repeating the process. In the current situation, the discussion seems to range between those who feel that the situation is already working itself out, to those who feel that structural dangers remain and proper regulation is required, to those who feel that the problems were the result of regulation and government programs in the first place.

Count me somewhat on the side of the last group. I say somewhat because I think that the problem has to with the inappropriateness of the regulations that were employed, but unlike them I do not think that the problem is humans using morals and reason to regulate the marketplace. In other, more localized, words, I reject the notion that the Tenth Amendment prohibits spending programs and regulations.

My sense is that the regulations that were deployed to prevent economic disaster were structurally and functionally inadequate because they half-heartedly represented the Great American Project as manifest in the Constitution of the United States. The problem with the regulations wasn’t that they were half-hearted. That half-heartedness is symptom of the larger problem. They were structurally and functionally inadequate because the US can no longer afford to provide its citizens the rights and freedoms guaranteed in its Constitution. The regulations failed because they had a relationship to expectations that are suited to an America that does not exist, in an economic sense. The problems with the public education system, illegal immigration, crime and punishment, and social security, to name a few, are all relatively easy to solve, once the very costly, burdensomeness of the Constitution is overcome. It’s time for America to wake up and downsize its’ dream, the dreams of its citizens, and smell the aroma of the box store, bulk size, generic coffee reality that its best and its brightest have packaged for Uncle Sam’s future.

Downsizing America

Given the economic realities of the new US of A, what aspects of the American vision should no longer be seen as part of the covenant between the citizens and their government? A quick look at some fundamentals of democracy should provide some context about what avenues should be open to being cut. Then the process of contracting out the bureaucratics to the private sector can begin. This said, these are preliminary thoughts, so all that I will provide is a rough and general sketch.

Democracy is expensive and inefficient, even when it’s practised by politicians who are not neo-conservative Republicans. This is unsurprising by design. After all, it’s said that, in an ideal democracy, the populace is educated, they have access to all of the information they need to make a good decision, and they are free to make that decision. How does this ideal fare when it faces the real world?

Immediately, one is struck by the gross redundancy in the ideal system. Providing that much information to so many amounts to an excessive effort for minuscule return. The set of possible decisions for any question is extremely limited, given the options for action, and polling research has already proven that we only need small sample populations to get the gist of what people want. In fact, given the history of their wants, and given the nature of the question, there is probably no need to poll them further because it should be derivable from past decisions. The cost savings to be gained by dismantling the information network should be substantial. Mainstream media can remain as is.

The efficacy of sampling also suggests a direction for schooling provision. Once again, the system is entirely redundant. Imagine, though it’s a laughable thought, that a university degree was all the education one needed to be capable of making good decisions. What do you think it would cost to bring the 71% of Americans who do not have a degree, into the range of democratic competence? How could it possibly be worth the cost? In fact, apart from the decreasing number of specialty jobs that actually require a well-schooled employee, there is no good reason to maintain anything, but a shell of the existing system, apart from creating athletes for the circus part of social diversion. This is because we can use the same polling methodology and randomly choose children from the masses to receive schooling similar to the one that is provided today, and then poll them to find what the rest would have wanted, if they had the schooling.

Given the earlier recommendation of using past polling to extrapolate their wants, this process is admittedly redundant, but it does double duty in terms of providing training for the small percentage of jobs that actually require advanced schooling. Then again, perhaps it is wasteful to randomly select children, as this disregards the advantages of choosing children who are more likely to do well at university, based on their family background. Given past polling, it’s probably best to err on the side of efficiency. The point to take here is that there is no value in giving people more schooling than they need to do the small range of relatively unskilled jobs that await them. Furthermore, think of the dissatisfaction that is avoided when people don’t have enough education to be hired below their level of training.

If the vast majority of people are no longer making decisions, then there’s no reason to prop up the facade that they actually are involved in decision-making. If voter turnout is any indication, many will appreciate avoiding the exercise. To be fair, eternal vigilance is an unwieldy burden to bear, if the only benefits people accrue is to not have decisions made for them by their betters.

In fact, if they are not needed for decision-making, their representatives are redundant for the same structural reasons. The cash to be gained, by trading in the clunker of a public decision-making structure, should be sigificant.

All of these actions would save the economy trillions and once again put America front and center as an economic powerhouse, through the tax dollars it would free up and save. At the same time, it would give Americans a leg up on the rest of the developed/undeveloping world, by readying its citizens for a life of diminished possibilities long before the others face the challenge, should they.

The Constitution is in the way of progress in the US, to the extent it promotes the values of the ideal democracy. Perhaps it was prescient to send home Churchhill’s bust because his notion that “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”, seems to have gone bust for America.

chrwsbwp

This is “a frayed thread” in honor of GW’s administration crying wolf at election time.

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Wednesday: Obamalama-ding-dang

It looks like the media is settling in for some nice narratives.  Let’s take a look at what Obama and Mom-inChief have to look forward to in the next four years.

Ahhh, yes, well that didn’t take long.  Obama is reported to have ordered a $30,000 rhodium and diamond ring for Michelle.  Isn’t that sweet.

Rhodium?  Who knew?!

Rhodium? Who knew?!

(Note to BFF- I don’t like the shape.  It’s too bulky for my long skinny finger.  It would look like I’m wearing an olive.  Alexander Sepkus is more my style.  I mean, if you are running out of Christmas ideas.  {{snorg!}})

Or is he ordering this ring?  There have been some conflicting reports.  His spokespeople say “no”, the designer says “yes”.  No matter.  It isn’t really the point. The point is that Obama and Michelle are made to look like noveau riche social climbers with bad taste.  {{GASP!}}  What will Sally Quinn say?  Will she be obligated to invite them to her soirees?  Will The Village have to pretend that Michelle’s favorite drink is suddenly chic?  What if she orders a Grasshopper or tries to mix one of the single malts with creme de menthe?  Horrors!

The American People will surely be offended by such display of excess, especially when they’ve just been told that some of the decisions foisted on Obama by the wretched economy will not be popular.  But surely, SURELY they knew, as David Sirota and Chris Bowers have recently discovered, that what progressives and the common voting public wanted was totally irrelevent and has been since May 31, 2008.  Or they *should* have known that.  If they’re just piping up now, it can only mean one thing: They’re closet racists.

So, outrage is what the Rupert Murdoch types are going for here.  I have to admit that this little bit of bedeviling distraction coming on the heels of the $600,000,000 that Obama spent on the campaign does allow me to indulge in a bit of schadenfreude.  But what makes me really mad is the fact that Bill Clinton has to divulge every donor to his library while Obama is revealing… what, exactly, about where all his excess millions came from?

Come to think of it, the ring story is probably true.  Unnecessarily large, tasteless and expensive.  The kind of thing a Married to the Mob type would wear.  It will look perfect on Michelle.

Update: Apparently you troll type people don’t get the point of this post.  The point was not that there was a ring in the works.  The point was that this is the kind of story we should expect to see during the Obama administration.  It’s designed to make you take your eye off the ball.  And regular Americans are going to start paying attention when cold hard economic reality starts to set in.  Plus, the media eats this $%@% up.  Both Obama’s are stupidly courting the media and walking on eggshells and this will result in them pulling back on some of the stuff that needs to get done just at the time when it is most needed.  They are trying to avoid criticism but they should have taken a lesson from Hillary.  The media is going to hammer you no matter what.  Might as well do the right thing in spite of the media.  Right now, The Villagers have Obama by the short hairs.  Step out of line even a little, start getting all nostalgic for alphabet agencies, help out labor and homeowners and you will see a lot more of these stories.

But instead of flinging poo about a story that was incorrect, (btw, we never said it was accurate.  We just mused about the possibilities) why don’t you get on Obama’s case for not disclosing who gave him all that campaign cash.  Because if he doesn’t, he looks like a frickin’ hypocrite for making Bill Clinton reveal all of his donors.  Fair is fair.

In other news:

  • Obama’s secret weapon to keep Hillary in check is supposed to be The Enforcer, General Jim Jones.  Mebbe.  Mebbe not.  I don’t have any doubt that Hillary will *not* be a Condi in this administration.  She will be visible and active- because she has to be.  But I would be very careful to not underestimate her.
  • Caro found this little gem at Political Wire.  Sort of knocks the wind out of “the Lightbringer is going to save us all” meme and it’s probably the truest thing W has said in years: “I’m sure some people voted for Barack Obama because of me.”
    — President Bush, in an interview with CNN.
  • Here’s another gem that Caro of Makethemaccountable.com has dug up: “Why Obama’s got Complete Confidence in Clinton” by John Nichols at The Nation.  I agree with Caro’s point that if there wasn’t a sliver of daylight between Obama and Clinton and if we’re all supposed to forget all about Change! ‘cos it’s Nah, Gah, Happen, then why the f^&* did we vote for the least experienced of the two to be the next president?  If Clinton was just as likely to act like Obama, then why not Clinton?  Ahh, grasshopper, but WAS she going to act just like Obama?  Hmmm…  I found an interesting thing the other day.  Do you know who this man is?  This man was Secretary of the Interior under FDR.  He was the guy responsible for administering the PWA and other alphabet agencies of The New Deal.  He also happens to have been the father of *this* man:    Funny how that works, inn’t?  It looks like the one thing the well connected fear more than anything else is a return to The New Deal era.  Well, I guess they won’t have to worry about that anymore, not with Obama in charge.  That $600,000,000 is looking like a pretty good investment to them, probably.  After all, it was a one time investment.  Not some icky tax that would only end up in the hands of the Forgotten Man.  (Sounds like Hillary’s “You’re not invisible to me” theme.  Damn, the wealthy dodged a bullet.  Whew!)

Monday: No blank check for YOU

President Elect Obama, the Fresh Prince of Bill Ayers, gave an interview to 60 Minutes last night.  The New York Times watched it so we wouldn’t have to.  Senator Abstract Painting finally told us what he really represents.  In short, banks and financial institutions get all the money in the Treasury; little people losing their houses?  Ehhh, not so much:

President-elect Barack Obama said in an interview on the CBS program “60 Minutes” on Sunday that one of his top priorities will be to “restore a sense of balance” to the regulation of financial markets, but rejected the idea of a so-called “new New Deal” for America.

Mr. Obama acknowledged the parallels between the current economic crisis and the problems of the Great Depression, but said that he supported solutions that are “true to our times.”

“For us to simply recreate what existed back in the 30s in the 21st century — I think would be missing the boat,” Mr. Obama said in the interview. “I think the basic principle that government has a role to play in kick-starting an economy that has ground to a halt is sound. I think our basic principle that this is a free market system and that that has worked for us, that it creates innovation and risk taking, I think that’s a principle that we’ve got to hold to as well.”

Didja get that?  Mr. Smartest President EVAH does not believe in doing his research, finding out what worked in the past and updating those solutions for the benefit of average everyday Americans.  No, he believes in the “innovation and risk taking” of the “free market”.  Well, I’m glad we got that settled.  It only took us a year to figure out W.O.R.M. (What Obama Really Meant).

But wait!  There’s more:

In his first post-election interview, the president-elect also reiterated his support for providing additional assistance to Americans facing home foreclosure as well as government involvement in bailing out the troubled automobile industry.

“It can’t be a blank check,” Mr. Obama said of a plan to help automakers. “My hope is that over the course of the next week, between the White House and Congress, the discussions are shaped around providing assistance but making sure that that assistance is conditioned on labor, management, suppliers, lenders, all the stakeholders coming together with a plan — what does a sustainable U.S. auto industry look like?”

No blank check for you, says Lord of Fiscal Responsibility Who Was MORE Than Happy To Vote on the FIRST Paulsen Bailout Bill That Was Nothing But a Blank Check.  When that first bill came around that gave us taxpayers the unique opportunity to buy up all of the banks’ toxic assets but not get anything in return, Obama was totally onboard with that.  Someone in the Senate, we still don’t know who, snuck a provision in the second bill that gave the government the option of actually owning pieces of those banks.  We’re silent partners, pretty much, but at least if the money ever comes back, we’re entitled to a substantial chunk of it- theoretically.  But this was not a requirement for Obama.  He was content to write the banks a blank check.

Now, he could be singing a different tune in a couple of months.  Maybe someone like Paul Krugman can school him on what The New Deal really was all about.  That way, he won’t end up sounding like clueless laissez-faire free marketeer George Will.  We hope this happens behind closed doors would be far less embarrassing than doing it on national TV:

Stimulating the banks, er, economy with money may not be enough.  A NEW New Deal may indeed be what is called for, complete with restructuring of mortgages with HOLC, government projects that put people to work and affordable healthcare for all Americans so that companies like GM can dig themselves out of the hole they dug for themselves by designing nothing but gas guzzling asphalt boats.  It’s doable.  I mean, he’s only going to have a Democratic Congress to play with.  If things get tough in Appalachia, even the hardest hearted Blue Dog Democrat could be pressured to bend.  Heck, it worked so well with delegates at the convention, I can’t believe Obama’s already lost his touch in 4 months.

You can see where all of this is heading.  We now see Obama for what he is.  The presidency has solidified him out of his air of mystery.  He doesn’t have to play the game anymore.  He could have just said, “Screw it, I’m a Democrat and I cherish the principles of my party.  I’m going to restore the social safety net.  Take *that*, David Broder!”  But he did not.  Personally, I’m angry.  The money is saving the asses of the people who innovated and risk took us into this mess but when it comes to a solution for the rest of us, a New Deal is already off the table.  He must have learned that from Pelosi.  Well, his backers got what they wanted- the ability to to whatever the f^&* they want without consequence and absolutely no obligation to the rest of us.  What’s that you say, Obamaphiles?  That’s not what you wanted??

Tsk, tsk, $600,000,000 in small money donations just doesn’t buy what it used to.

Speaking of money, MABlue pointed me to this chilling article in Portfolio about The End of Wall Street.  Read it and you will want to go sharpen your pitchfork and hunt down the person who dreamt up 401K’s.  There isn’t a prison harsh enough for the people who did this to us.

In the meantime, PUMAs, it’s time to work off those turkey dinners in advance.  We’ve been sedentary for a year now and we need to get up and boogie before the fat hardens.  So, make a commitment to yourselves to put in at least 30 minutes of heart pumping activity into your day this week.  I’m hitting the fitness center at work.  I have stepper today, chisel tomorrow, treading on Wednesday, Spin on Thursday and Zumba on Friday.  That will entitle me to a helping of stuffing with gravy.

Here’s some morning music from Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings to get you started: