Monday, October 19, 2009

How to Destroy an Economy

If I were a congressman, this is the speech I would've given a little more than a year ago, as the economy collapse was just happening. I would've been dead-serious as I strode up to the podium:

"Ladies and Gentlemen, we are no doubt living in perilous times. The economy has recently tanked, and the stock market is down greatly. But before we all panic and act hastily, let me read you something. It is entitled 'How to Destroy an Economy.'

If one were set on destroying an economy how would they do it? Here are a few of the ways I could see it happening:

1. Create a state of panic. Threaten martial law. Say how if we don't act now the sky will fall down. Do everything to over-exaggerate the severity of the crisis.

2. Double the money supply in a few short months. Do this by print trillions of dollars backed by nothing but their own paper.

3. Bail out and rescue those whose bad decisions led to this collapse. Create a false impression that some companies are just too big to fail. Create a giant moral hazard for corporations to engage in more future risky adventures and then try to keep a straight face when you say you won't bail them out again. Don't tell the people that the corporations you bail out finance your reelection campaigns.

4. Print a trillion dollars to pass an economic stimulus package based on the dubious premise of what we need is more borrowing and spending. Don't tell people we got into this mess by too much borrowing and spending. Pass the stimulus by saying we don't have a day to spare, but then wait a few days to sign it.

5. Create a scapegoat for the collapse by demonizing capitalism. Tell the masses we got into this mess by having too much freedom. Create the impression that we need more government and more regulation and less freedom.

6. Say that the debate is over on economic policies. Phrase all sentences by saying "all economists agree" followed by your plan.

7. Run a projected $10 trillion deficit over the next ten years. Create excuses for it by childishly saying "but the other party did it when they were in office!"

8. Use the crisis for other opportunities. "Never let a crisis go to waste" some in the highest positions may say. Pass healthcare reform with money you don't have.

9. Give the government institutions who created this mess more power. Let the quasi-government institution that has been the source of all bubbles be the regulator of future bubbles.

10. Reappoint the Fed Chairmen whose nickname is "HELICOPTER Ben!"

Thank you, and I yield back the balance of my time."

Sunday, October 11, 2009

It's Time That the Congress Did its Job...its Real Job

There has been a lot of talk recently about the war in Afghanistan, and whether or not Barack Obama will send more troops (again) to continue it. I was watching an interview on Fox News last week with two Congresspersons, one Democrat and one Republican, weighing in on the war. By the end, I wasn’t stunned by the responses, just disappointed. Disappointed in the utter disregard for the legislature’s duty to provide a check and balance on the executive branch as ordered by the Constitution.

The Republican talked at great length about “supporting the troops”. This is a phrase that we’ve seen many times to justify the perpetuation of war. We often hear rhetoric about “supporting the troops,” and how cutting the funding for the war will put our troops in danger. Cutting the funding to the war is almost unthinkable by many in the congress, even those who don’t support the war. This “support our troops” rhetoric, as it is used by many on the right, deems such action as un-American. It is almost as if putting troops in harms way (un-Constitutionally, might I add) by the executive is less of a threat to their well being, than the Congress ending the funding of the war. This rhetoric has effectively neutralized the Congress’s “power of the purse,” which is an essential check on executive power.

The Democrat went on for a long time about supporting whatever decision the President comes to. Here, again, we see the disregard for the Constitutional powers granted to the Congress. It seems that no one remembers the idea that the Executive is supposed to enforce the laws (and wars) deemed necessary by the Congress—not the other way around. Our system of politics has strayed far from the framing of government provided in the constitution. It is a system of the party, by the party, and for the party; a system where the people, philosophy, and common sense play an insignificant role in the shaping of policy.

It is time that Congress starts doing its job—its real job. Stop blindly following your president and take a concrete stand on issues. The label “Democrat” or “Republican” should not take precedence over your philosophical ideals. If you oppose the war, oppose it. Don’t wait to see what your commander in chief thinks about it. Start providing a check on the authoritarian office that the Presidency has become. Stop undermining your own authority with your rhetoric! Most importantly, follow the Constitution and play your much-needed part in this government. It is your duty not only to this country, but to the people you represent.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Barack Obama: Nobel Prize Winner

The cult of personality that is Barack Obama has reached a still higher level of power and influence today. He was unanimously awarded the Nobel Peace Prize by the Nobel Prize Committee for his vision and the work he has done around the world.

What work, I ask? What specifically has he done to make the world a more peaceful place? Iran is still making weekly threats against Israel, North Korean relations have crumbled further, and he has expanded the war in Afghanistan, encompassing parts of Pakistan and is considering expanding it further with another troop deployment.

This selection is like the last presidential election in miniature. The judges were clearly so won over by his flowery speech and promises of a better world that they paid no attention to his track record, which is essentially blank.

I honestly would rather have seen Bono get the Prize. I'm serious.

Brb, off to buy a commemorative T-Shirt!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Controversial topic

For my political science class I must write a 3-4 page paper on a controversial topic concerning a constitutional amendment. When I finish the paper, I will condense it into a blog post or an article for our news paper. I will probably be posting things I find from my research too, so look out for it in the next couple weeks.

Before I can do any of this I must pick a topic, so does anyone have any ideas for a topic? Right now I'm thinking of Plaxico Burress and the Second Amendment or California and the Tenth Amendment (Marijuana). Any suggestions will be much appreciated.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Two-Party System: Tyranny of Two Majorities?

I was in a class discussion section earlier today for my History of American Political thought class, and my TA proposed to us a question: "Madison, in the Federalist Papers, warned against the dangers of faction, and argued that if a wide array of viewpoints and interests was not represented in the Congress, a 'tyranny of the majority' would be formed and force their agenda on the populace. Considering the current look of our U.S. Congress, how well have we followed his advice? To what degree are the populace's views accurately represented?"

I raised my hand and replied: "I believe the current system could be called a tyranny of two alternating majorities, where only two specific sets of political ideals get a fair shake and a real say in the legislative process. There are a huge amount of political parties in this country that you never hear about, or maybe you've never even heard of. The fact that the Democrats and Republicans are the only two political parties most people are aware of is proof that we have not followed Madison's advice."

A girl replied to this by saying that I was incorrect, that the Republicans and Democrats offer two very different viewpoints, and within the party there are many different individuals with diffuse interests who accurately represent the people of the nation.

She gave examples of areas where Democrat (she referred to Dems as 'We' and Repubs as 'they') and Republican policies supposedly differ: "Afghanistan, taxes, size of government, Iraq, health care, and education, to name a few" she said.

I challenged her on that. I asked "Just how does the current administration's Afghanistan policy differ from the previous administration? You know Obama has INCREASED the war budget, right? You realize government GREW drastically during the Bush administration? These two parties operate in a very narrow framework and are much more alike than you think."

Then the bell rang, and class was dismissed. I'm glad I was able to get some kids in class to think about the goals of the framers vs. the system we know today. This is why groups like YAL are important. We have to continue to increase our influence on the political system, despite the choke hold of the two dominant factions, and insert viewpoints into the national political dialogue that people aren't used to hearing. That's how to avoid the tyranny of the majority, and make America more free.

Sukawatis vs. The Man

I'm in Anthro 104 - Cultural Antrophology - this semester. Most of the class so far has consisted of depressing statistics about how women are always oppressed and probably always will be. I'm no women's studies major, so I didn't find this terribly enlightening - but there was one horror story that I did pick up on. In Bali, there is an indigenous tribe of agricultural peoples called the Sukawati. They had a beautiful and ancient culture that revolved around ideas similar to Aristotle and eastern philosophies. Unfortunately, they were brutally disrupted when the USSR deemed that they were not productive enough, and were not doing their part to serve the rest of the members of the country - selfishly producing only what they needed to survive, so they decided to force the Sukawatis to grow higher yielding type of engineered rice. Now, one thing we take for granted as US citizens is the ability of our farmers to farm year after year on the same plot of land. This is a relatively new ability of humans, and requries a huge amount of capital and technology. To cope with the problem of overfarming, some less technologically-heavy societies, such as the Sukawatis, use a process of crop rotation to let the land heal. This is no easy process, and they even had extensive cultural practices - rituals, holidays and temples - dedicated to regulating and smoothing out the complex process of crop rotation in a society of thousands. When the new rice was implemented, its shorter growing period threw off all of the tables, rituals and customs these people had known for centuries, and their food production industry crumbled.

What I noticed when I heard this story was something I head noticed from almost every instance of government interaction - their inability to deal with spontaneous orders. Notice that the problem of the Sukawatis didn't arise because of a failure of communication, since even the Suwatis didn't know the purpose of their cultures, or the underlying structure or meaning to their water schedules, since they were both produced by the same invisible hand method, over hundreds of years, without the direct intention, planning or well-meaning of any individual that could be asked. The problem with most government interactions isn't that they haven't been done by the right people, it's that they can't be done efficiently by any human, since their underlying structure and purpose is beyond the scope of any one humans comprehension.