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D. P. Lubic

You are not alone in your thinking. Despite all the objections people have to the current president, and despite some disappointments I have in him, the big problem in regard to the debt ceiling is the "conservative" side. This "conservative" side is really a corporatist side, a variation of a libertarian philosophy, but sadly, this outlook ignores the things that can happen when you get large entities (including some corporations) that have a tremendous amount of real power, but relatively little pressure to behave like good neighbors (at least from ordinary citizens).

In short, this is really a struggle about power. How else do you explain that the now-criticized national health care we have was modeled after a state program in New England that had been partially developed and heavily supported by a Republican governor? How else do you explain that the debt ceiling had been raised as a routine matter until recently? How else do you explain that the current administration, with all its faults, has largely attempted to meet the "conservative" opposition in about 75% of what it has stated it wants, but has been rebuffed at each turn? How else do you explain that the "conservative" opposition is willing to cut a bunch of little stuff (Amtrak, National Park funding, etc.)--but won't touch the defense budget, won't touch subsidies for the oil industry, and alternately, wouldn't even begin to consider going back to a tax code from the 1960s, when the maximum marginal tax rate was 90% and the national economy still grew far greater than it has in the last 30 years?

I think we have several things working against us. First, and most simple, the "tea party" crowd has got things backwards--the government is not taking over business and banks, banks and business have taken over our government (look at corporate bonuses for proof). Secondly, I don't think very many people (including the big corporatists) really understand our ailments; certainly I see very few "smart people" (i.e., economists, columnists) making statements that describe our ills in the way I see them.

I think this is because we may be measuring the wrong things, and we are getting false indications. Basically, we are measuring money, but not what the money is doing.

Case in point: The movie industry, a.k.a. Hollywood, which some would not consider the most essential industry in America, is worth some $9 billion per year in California; the (cough, cough) "adult movie industry" in nearby Burbank is worth #13 billion per year! That $9 billion and $13 billion get counted into the GDP the same as making cars, designing computers, building airplanes, constructing buildings, and growing food. Also counted in the GDP are things like those Wall Street bonuses, and the activity that generates them (basically, people who move money around).

You look at things like this, and you have to ask how much of our economy is actually worth anything, you have to ask, "How much of it is real?" More and more, I am convinced the economy of money and the real economy are essentially divorced. One used to represent the other, but it no longer does so with real accuracy.

This is on top of the overbuilding of certain parts of our economy and infrastructure. During the peak of the building boom, we were building something like 2 million houses per year. Normal demand had been only about 700,000 per year. That means we built as many houses in two years as we would normally sell in six. Who's left to buy? Same with cars; we have more cars than licensed drivers, at one point by almost a factor of 117 cars for 100 drivers, a ratio approaching 5 to 4. How many can we really use? In contrast, we are still trying to kill what we have of passenger trains, in spite of the problems we have in an overdependence on the road system and cheap motor fuel. How many "conservatives" (or people in general) actually understand that reality?

This viewpoint is not new; check out what Bobby Kennedy had to say about the national economy in March of 1968, about three months before his death at the hands of an assassin:

"Too much and too long, we seem to have surrendered community excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things. Our gross national product ... if we should judge America by that - counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for those who break them. It counts the destruction of our redwoods and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and the cost of a nuclear warhead, and armored cars for police who fight riots in our streets. It counts Whitman's rifle and Speck's knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.


"Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages; the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom nor our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it tells us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans."

Robert F. Kennedy Address, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas, March 18, 1968

What would be the reaction to a politician saying this today?

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