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The metaphor is far from apt; the real problem is that both tax cuts and government spending are the wrong way to go. There simply shouldn't be a stimulus.

I don't know enough to know if the stimulus will work or not. Do you see the overall economy returning to previous levels within 3 years with out some sort of stimulus? Also, where do you stand on the relatively unsecured transfers to the financial sector? That spending strikes me as getting nothing for a very large something.

Wally - here's my admittedly amateur view of the whole scenario, some of which I admit is cut and paste out of another conversation I just recently had about this ('cause all this typin', ya know, it takes work, and I gotta sleep...).

The Republican explanation for why the government can't create jobs is that any money the government spends to pay employees is money it took from the people in the first place; wealth has not been created, they say, only transferred. We're in the same position we were at the beginning.

Is that true? Well, yes - it would be if the government were in fact taxing its people in order to create the jobs, but that's not what governments do at all when they create stimulus packages. They borrow the money.

Any stimulus package is thus the equivalent of living on credit cards after you've lost your job and are searching for another one. Wealth indeed has not been created (at least in the main; the pro-stimulus argument is that the roads, etc. built by the government will facilitate increased wealth creation later), just borrowed against future earnings.

That means the Democrat/Keynesian idea that governments can "spend themselves out of recessions/Depressions" is also basically false. President Franklin D. Roosevelt didn't improve the health of the American economy by creating massive public works programs; like pain-killing medicine for a patient with a fever, he simply helped our nation not to feel so much discomfort while the malady ran its course.

And that is in a nutshell what our government now wants to do: give us very expensive pain-killing medicine while we wait.

Although Republicans keep repeating the ridiculous mantra "The government can't create jobs", the real reason for opposing the stimulus is the National Debt, which is now so enormous that we can only think about it in the abstract.

The problem with borrowing money is that it has to be paid back. But after FDR's pain-killing in the '30s, the Greatest Generation did not pay. No successful generation has made good on its bills either.

Grandpa's job digging ditches during the 1930's? You're going to pay for it. Or, if you're lucky, maybe you can dodge the bullet and get another generation to do it. But either someone has to do it or the debt will keep growing to unsustainable levels by the middle of this century (check out the graphs of when Social Security, another idea your grandfathers had, goes insolvent) and result in the government's default, which will be disastrous.

Now recently, we're come to realize as a culture that it's our duty not to destroy the environment (I'm not an environmentalist, but even I can agree on that point). Our children would quite justly resent us if we killed off all the sperm whales, for instance, or made the air unbreathable (as it nearly is in parts of China, Southeast Asia, etc.).

Surely burdening our children with our debts is equally immoral. In effect, our letter to the next generation currently includes the line: "By the way, I couldn't get anybody to hire me at a price I liked, so I charged it to you. Sorry, but your grandfather did the same to me... and by the way, he's on your tab as well."

If the government were committed to quickly repaying its debts, we might still afford the pain medicine, but let's face it: politicians are elected by giving us stuff. What politician would survive saying that we need to stop giving state funding to students, or giving foreign aid to African countries, or buying our soldiers body armor, or build the new school because listen, we don't have the money? Much easier to charge it to the credit card, since the bill won't be due 'til we're al well good and dead (we hope - it's like Russian Roulette, isn't it?).

To summarize the problem neatly: the moral reason for refusing the stimulus package is that we cannot afford it.

That's real government responsibility.

Now there's a story - perhaps apocryphal, I'm not sure - of a president cabinet meeting in which President F.D.R. was told that without the stimulus, everything would still be OK in the long-term. Another advisor replied, "People do not eat in the long-term."

It's a fair point, though not the trump card a lot of advocates seem to think it is ("There's no price on Life!" Well, yes there is. Or would you like to bring speed limits down to 5MPH across the country? Nobody would die anymore in car accidents, right? Isn't that worth it?). Whenever FDR-supporters talk about the Depression, they often bring up the human interest stories; nobody can deny that FDR's work programs certainly did a lot for the unemployed.

The moral reason to pass the stimulus back then was fairly obvious for people looking at starving families.

My conclusion, then:

Unemployment right now is at 7.9%, I think (obviously that changes).

Frankly, that's not bad at all. It seems extremely high because we've reveled in a booming economy for a very long time now, but in April of last year Germany was pumping its abstract fist at the prospect of its unemplyment rate sinking to 8.4%. Plenty of other economies are used to rates of no less than 10% - Italy back in the now heady days of 2003, for instance (now it's lower). France's was at close to 10% while America was partying - and is actually far lower now!

So this is not an emergency, no matter what the news would have you believe. And remember, the reporters we see every night on television direly predicting our economic demise are the same people who - when there's nothing interesting to talk about - will try to get you to watch them with advertisements like this:

"Tonight on Fox at 6: Why your next trip to the buffet might be your last. Don't miss it."

We don't need a stimulus package yet. The situation's not nearly dire enough. And the Republicans are right about the fact that passing a stimulus deal won't bring good times back any faster.

If Congress wants to ease the pain of our nation, tax cuts - combined with less spending, not more - is the proper and moral path to take.

insightful and well-reasoned right up until the part about tax cuts. If we owe the bill, shouldn't we be making extra payments? (This is personal because I'm paying my mortgage off 6 years early in April)
Not paying a bill is the same as taking a loan from your creditors. I understand about hard choices in spending. Though I don't always agree, I can understand why people believe that we should cut social programs to balance the budget. The part where tax cutters lose me: "To summarize the problem neatly: the moral reason for refusing to cut taxes is that we cannot afford it."
Your thoughts...


The argument from supply siders such as myself is that cutting taxes increases revenue into the government. Arguably there is a threshold to that where cutting below that will reduce income, but I don't think we're there yet. In this I'm also including corporate and capital gains tax rates, which could be significantly lowered and still be higher than most of the industrialized world.

The real debate here is what is the best way to increase revenue into the government. Some believe it is lower taxes, some believe it is higher taxes, much as the debate over the stimulus really comes down to do you believe that borrowing and spending nearly $1 trillion is the best way to get out of this recession, or should we let the economy run its course?

In each of these cases, one side or the other is right. The problem is that you can find enough "experts" to justify either opinion. Hell, even after the fact you never really know what happened. I bet you I could find two dozen economists right now who could make the case for and against what happened in the '80s, with half praising Reagan's tax cuts, the other half blaming for every ill that befalls America.

Some days I get so tired of politics I just want to throw my hands in the air, say "fuck it all" and buy a cabin in the woods.

Well if you're going to buy a cabin in the woods, now is certainly the time.

Wally: touche. My main point in suggesting tax cuts and less spending was that if you're going to give the people economic relief, then it needs to come from the budget, not out of it. I was basically advancing a principle and forgot the context.

But yes, really tax cuts need to come out of a budget we create which starts paying back the debt.

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