No Genius, Just Insanity

Yesterday, sitting with my friend Joan, who is American but has been living in Paris for some twelve years, talk turned to the U.S. and Obama and the Republicans and the general insanity that appears to have taken over American politics. And all one could do is shake one’s head. Today, Joan sent me this link from the Huffington Post – the bit she wanted me to see was the video, her friend Jake, talking about his take on Obama – and I have to admit Jake’s points are well made. Certainly, were I American, Obama’s calmness and intelligence would seem a right treat given the general craziness of the Bush years.

Still, there’s a part of me, I admit, that wants Obama to blast the Republicans; lose some of that civility and tell them they’re bloody idiots. Not to mention the part of me that’s just so damn irritated by these voodoo economics the Republican are espousing that I think, fine, go ahead, do it. Destroy your lousy economy and your country. That’ll teach you. Of course that’s like the depressed person who wants to kill themselves and thinks, that’ll show them.What exactly it would show ‘them’ is unclear.

It just seems so ridiculous. Why would raising taxes on corporations and on those earning huge incomes be such a bad thing?  How is it that Warren Buffet is willing to pay a larger portion of his considerable income in taxes but the party that ought to be his natural ally refuses to countenance it? And finally, what kind of bonehead actually believes that an economic downturn, a recession – with unemployment hovering around 10% – can be “fixed” with harsh cuts in government spending? Even The Economist, bastion of open markets and general right winged-ness for nearly two centuries, warns against austerity during a time when the economy is grinding to a halt.

Neither national budgets nor global finance are comparable to domestic ones any more. Once upon a time one could argue that well, you take in so much in taxes, you spend so much (more or less) and things generally work out. That’s when governments were small and things weren’t so interconnected, complex and debt-ridden. Virtually all countries, even those who have weathered the recession reasonably well, like Canada, have borrowed large sums of money and the lucky ones are the ones whose debts are intra-national (in other words, the money isn’t owed to another country).

But no doubt I’m preaching to the choir here. The people who agree with me already do that and the ones who don’t wouldn’t be caught dead reading this. Not that I think there’re that many people, dead or alive, who are reading this. Voice in the wilderness etc.

Still, as I tell my students, life will go on; shops will still sell things and people will still go to work and school and day care and so on. Markets may fall at bad news from the euro but markets aren’t economies. Markets are just a bunch of jittery folks who follow the crowd(s) and are bears of very little brain.

Too bad the politicans are too.