Sunday, March 24, 2013

Moral turfitude

Image from Men with Foil Hats.
Samuel Knight at Washington Monthly draws our attention to
No, really:
Why is it so important that we Fix the Debt? Why does it matter to your family? To your business? To our country? to YOU?
Our leaders in Washington need to hear from each of us. We need them to know that inaction is NOT an option. We must Fix the Debt.
You couldn’t make it up.
It’s likely that the majority of responses they are receiving are either full of: A) false generalizations about a “spending problem”; B) speculation about the future of Medicare and Social Security under the assumption that rich tax-dodgers can’t do any more or that the government shouldn’t negotiate with drug companies ripping it off; or C) good old incoherent right wing rambling.
Samuel thinks we might want to give them a chance to hear another point of view. Over and over again. Not so much an email bomb as an email stink bomb to skunk up their tubes. If [jump]
you participate, do make a copy of your contribution before posting it (the one you post disappears instantly into their own corporate cloud) and send it to him at the link at the top of this page.
Poster for Shin Geun-ho's film Bwulryang Namnyeo (Romantic Debtors), 2010, from AsianWiki.
I've sent three; two of them, chained together, go like this:
How does the debt affect me? 
Not all that much, to tell you the truth. If the debt was driving up inflation rates the way it's supposed to do that would be nice, as like most Americans I owe plenty of money and nobody owes me. But then it would be driving up interest rates and that wouldn't be so great; on the other hand maybe the bank would be less dawdly about our refinance, which is seemingly taking forever and driving us crazy. The Bush debt, being created out of deficits for lowering rich people's taxes and paying for illegal and pointless wars, just made me really angry; I can't say it affected me except by being so large that when it became really important to run deficits our congress was afraid to run them big enough: that debt, the Obama debt, was at least pointed in a useful investment direction and I guess its existence helps keep my urban hellhole clean and safe and my kid's schools staffed and so on. Things are getting better for me personally as the economy recovers; health insurance premiums are a way bigger problem than taxes, and I wouldn't mind paying higher taxes, but not just on deficit and debt reduction. Government spending is clearly not large enough, as you can see by the absence of inflation. 
I imagine most people who believe they are affected by the size of the national debt are victims of propaganda from the Peterson Institute and such. Goodhearted but poorly informed, older, feeling that the country is in some vague way going the "wrong direction", that young people are disrespectful and certain products are too expensive. They know that credit card debt is a problem, so why shouldn't government debt be a problem too? 
The only time the debt is a problem, to my mind, is when interest rates rise to a point where the government's payments interfere with its ability to pay for important things, which is very far from being the case right now. (Government is totally neglecting important things, but not to make interest payments; it's for stupid military aircraft and stupid deficit reduction and buying off drug companies.) This is going to happen some day, and at that point we will need to reduce the deficit, but it will be a lot easier if we are in a real recovery, with full employment and rising wages. The focus on the debt now is one of the main things stopping us from getting there. 
When I look at the Fix the Debt "Who we are" page, I see faces--virtually all of middle-aged and elderly white men--that have never known financial worry or insecurity, that have progressed without a hitch through college and career, that will never be dependent on Social Security or Medicaid. Professional politicians, heirs of industrialists, a few very successful academics. I see people who have never missed a meal, let alone a credit card payment, and who don't quite understand how somebody can get into a predicament where that's a problem, people with cash savings and portfolios and jewelry and comfortable relatives. And I kind of wonder where that horror of national debt comes from. What I figure is, it's fake--an act meant to attract a lot of sensible older voters, along with the famous "just like you balance your budget at the family dinner table" analogy. What these people really want is to keep bond yields at rock bottom until they're dead.
Debtors' prison. From Cult of the Dead Fish.

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