Sunday, November 14, 2010

Back again ...

Back again. I still remember the podcamp speaker who said she hates when bloggers apologize for not posting. Never the less…

I went to a movie yesterday – “Inside Job”. Do you know the story? It is a documentary on the financial collapse. Yeah, I knew a lot of the material, but hardly all. The movie was well put together. Perhaps in some ways too well, but mostly it was words speaking for themselves (if you will forgive the phrase). They had many of the individuals in the crisis, not necessarily the CEO’s of Morgan Stanley or Lehman Brothers, but they had the guy who designed the Bush tax cuts. They had a major financial lobbyist. So I think it is fair to say they had the other side (as well as Barney Frank and others). The movie maker (Charles Ferguson?) asked the questions, to be sure, but there was the other side. It is at the Manor and a Bridgeville Destina theatre right now, and well worth seeing.

By the way, the movie spared neither Bill Clinton nor Barack Obama, they both subscribed to what is becoming our prevailing wisdom of deregulation and coddling the damn financial companies. And speaking of the prevailing wisdom, the movie reserved a chapter (one of six or seven) to talk about how economics has been co-opted, how economists are literally bribed by financial corporations. As someone who hopes that academia can help us understand and find solutions, it was really disappointing to hear (I think it was) the chair of economics at Harvard say that he didn’t think professors should have to disclose their possible conflicts of interest.

Needless to say, at this moment I am even more suspicious (and disgusted) with the prevailing wisdom(s). I don’t like how the Democrats are echoing Republicans, and I am really, really pissed about what the Republicans said before and still say after the election.

And I will pause and pivot here a minute to give my usual Sunday comment about Jack Kelly. I didn’t comment on last Sunday’s column in part because it wasn’t that interesting. He wants Obama to set aside in 2012. How should I interpret that? He talks in a Republican tinged prevailing wisdom, so already his view of reality appears distorted. Is it that he just doesn’t like the black man? He says the Democrats (which by the way I think he means Obama) lost working class whites; but since he doesn’t have a citation, I would wonder who he means – actual Democrats or just independent working class whites. One thing to consider is that apparently Obama only won white males under 30 in 2008. A majority of white males above 30 supported McCain, so Obama and the Democrats never had them to begin with.

This week’s column does much the same for Nancy Pelosi. He suggests she should not run for minority leader, and as proof he says that she might be the most unpopular figure in the country – only 8 percent of independents approve of the job she is doing.

“Independents”? Are they somehow more important than the rest of us? Any discussion of independents makes me think of a character in “12 Angry Men”. The “ad” man (George Webber) was swayed by the last authoritative argument that he heard, so he switched his jury vote a couple of times. Independents were clearly swayed by the Republican’s version of “prevailing wisdom” in the recent election. I already mentioned what I think about the prevailing wisdom, even or perhaps especially if supported by academic economic opinion (especially a Martin Feldstein, although Bernanke and even Laura Tyson did not come off well in “Inside”.

Kelly said a couple of interesting things in the last couple of weeks. Last week he said (and I agree) he foresees gridlock in Congress for the next two years. This week he came roaring back to courting the Tea Party with this final remark:
“We cannot restore the republic our forefathers intended unless we limit the terms of members of Congress, and limit their ability to sell favors.”
Yeah, I don’t like earmarks much, although I understand that politicians first and foremost do want to be re-elected (for better *or* worse), and so want to bring home presents for their constituents. But at a deeper level, Kelly’s folksy BS not only doesn’t help address the current financial crisis, it actively prevents our finding real solutions.

That would be a good place to stop, but there is one more thing I want to put out there, a general proposal to alleviate unemployment. I believe I have mentioned before that the middle and of course upper classes are not suffering as an aggregate group, 4.5% and 4% unemployment for bachelors and graduate level degree holders. But for people who do not even have a high school degree: 15% unemployment. We also know we need to at least shore up if not improve our infrastructure. Let’s put them together, manual labor jobs with preference given to people targeted as need job experience and training for projects working on our roads and bridges. In fact, I could also see public/private partnerships for solar, wind or tidal power corporations. A win win that would help the people really hurt by the recession. Therefore without a chance.

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