Weatherdem's Weblog

Bridging climate science, citizens, and policy

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More Dismal Economic Numbers In January

The effects of failed Republican economic theories continue to make themselves known.  The latest numbers to come out:

Only 550,000 new housing starts (annualized) were started in December.

589,000 new jobless claims were filed last week.

The corporate welfare giveaway didn’t save the banks and now they want more.

The housing number ties together a number of issues.  The Fed’s record low rate cut hasn’t changed much with regard to new housing.  People are refinancing their mortgages like mad, but not many people are buying new houses.  So that policy failed.  (It also failed to get credit flowing through the system.)  Also hurting housing is unemployment.  13.5% unemployment translates to a populace that isn’t able to buy a house.  That effect is maintained by 589,000 new jobless claims.  Over 1 million people are losing their jobs every month.  How are they supposed to buy groceries, let alone new houses?

The solution does not lie with dispensing billions of dollars to mega-corporations.  It’s millions of people and small businesses that need the government’s help, not the tiny numbers of ultra-rich people and corporations.  Rich people are sitting on our billions, letting the economy slide further into recession toward depression; watching as workers lose their jobs and their houses; hoping the spread between them and the rest of the citizenry grows each day.  Which leads to the third article: banks are still “teetering on the brink”, as MSNBC put it, because they used the money to pay for bonuses and buyouts of smaller banks, not to improve their business standing.  Banks who received billions of taxpayer dollars with no oversight or transparency did things with that money that nobody can trace.  But they want more.  Excuse me?  That malfeasance was exactly why I opposed the TARP program from the beginning: the Bush “administration” pushed it through as fast as they pushed the mis-named patriot act through.  But they said the financial system would collapse without immediate assistance.  Well, the assistance went out and the system is still looking at a collapse.  Hopefully the new President and the 111th Congress tries to solve the real problems and not the made-up ones Bush peddled.

A little oversight and some bank-busting would be a darn good start to any implemented solution.  Smaller banks aren’t having the problems that the mega-banks are.  That’s for good reason: they didn’t bundle people’s risky mortgages and bet on them irresponsibly.  Those who did so should be held to account: executives should lose their jobs and be prosecuted (where applicable) and their corporations should be broken up.  Enforce the Sherman Anti-Trust Act.  Work out plans for troubled homeowners and help maintain foreclosures.  Get some of the TARP money back.  It wasn’t dispensed as dictated by law – it should be repaid in full with interest.  Or how about creating a national bank?  One that is transparent and has oversight.  Let it compete with the rest of the banks and let’s let the “free-market” decide which one does the best job.


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Socialism and Wealth

A caller to a radio program this morning complained that Clinton’s and Obama’s plan for changing our broken health care system, calling them extreme leftists.  Then, he called them socialists and brought up their desire for redistribution of wealth.  Redistribution of wealth to the middle and lower classes is a bad thing, apparently.

But let’s look at what’s gone on under Republican economic policies since the 1980s.  Have the lower and middle classes increased their percentage of national wealth?  No, but the top 1% and 10% certainly have.  The difference between top holders of wealth and bottom holders of wealth has never been greater than it is today.

Guess how that’s happened.  The rich have had their taxes reduced year after year.  The non-rich haven’t seen their taxes reduced by a similar rate.  So most of us have continued to pay taxes and the rich have increased their wealth.  Hmmm.  Seems like redistribution of wealth has been occurring, except it’s from the bottom up.

The thing is, Republicans need boogeymen.  Whether its socialists or terrorists or abortionists, some group of people have to be vilified to help Republicans feel good.  They need an ‘other’ to point blame at for things they don’t like.  Republicans developed language in the past 30 years to convince voters that the rich shouldn’t have to pay their fair share of maintaining our country’s infrastructure.  They couched such language in threatening terms of the creeping effects of evil socialism.

No such thing has happened, of course.  But now millions of people are convinced that the rich pay too much and insurance companies denying medical care is a good thing.  The election this November should come down to a candidate representing change and hope and a candidate representing a continuation of 20th century fear-mongering politics.