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September 23, 2009

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With the hypocrisy that is essential to moderrn conservatism most Republican politicians opposed the stimulus while supporting the money that came into their own state. A few actually tried to block the money but the rejection was more symbolic than real. Palin, for example, made a lot of noise about how harmful it would be to accept the money while accepting most of it.

I really don't think there is a conservative philosophy unless the partisan pursuit of power through demogogery to serve the rich constituutes a philosophy .

It's important to remember, however, that troops aren't "resources".... You can play therapy session all day with the stimulus opposition if you want. But not with the lives of troops -- they didn't sign up to make the Kagan family feel good about themselves.

Feh. "The troops" are a tool for these people. Tools don't have families or friends. When they break they are discarded and replaced. If a meaningless show of support for the tools is useful for political purposes, then it will be done (AmericaSupportsYou™). Otherwise, they could give fnck-all about the troops, so I don't know why you even bother.

What is often missing from the whole conservative-versus-liberal debate is that so much of what is being labeled as conservatism in America is really reactionary in character. The kernel of conservatism, at least in the classical sense most recognizable in a thread from Locke and Hume through Burke and beyond, has been sharred beyond repair in the GOP, and isn't being re-threaded by the right as a whole. This isn't new, either - the Republicans have been a reactionary rather than a truly conservative party in the ideological sense for some time, beginning with Nixon's Southern strategy which first bore fruit with Reagan, ripened with the Contract With America and metastasized with post-9/11 Bush. At every step, the Republicans gave the right everything it wanted, to the point where the right took it all for granted.

What I would like to see is this dichotomy being called more for what it really is a polarization of - between conservative and reactionary, because if there were a true liberal party in the U.S., we would not have blundered our way into Afghanistan with a current commander whose complicity in Abu Ghirab is still an open question, nor would we still be handwringing over health care reform, because it would already have been done, and done so better than what it's been. The GOP's greatest contribution to the American political landscape over the last 30-odd years has been to poison the civic sense of most Americans, and to position the Democrats as the true conservative party of America by fiat.

So does it surprise me that the far right will scream for war at every turn? Of course not, because it has nothing else to scream for and nothing of value for America. It can only coddle or threaten, and right now it is threatening with everything it can muster, consequences be damned. The GOP has damned itself with this ideological affair with extremism to the point where it cannot extricate itself from its grip, and under Bush compromised its sense of governence to pander to this remit, which is why the damage it has done doesn't give me much sense of optimism about Afghanistan at all.

You can play therapy session all day with the stimulus opposition if you want. But not with the lives of troops -- they didn't sign up to make the Kagan family feel good about themselves.

Is this a Kagan-only criticism, Publius, or do you also contend that John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and General McCrystal are "play[ing] therapy session" when they argue for more troops in Afghanistan. Or that John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and General McCrystal have forgotten that soldiers are "real humans, with real families, with real children, and with real friends"?

McCain is 100% playing therapy -- his entire foreign policy vision is about constructing a Romantic vision of his own steely-spined warriorism.

Graham isn't much better. i can't speak to McCrystal

The bold helped clarify that you were asking me a question. :)

"For instance, on the domestic front, the stimulus saved a lot of jobs"

No it didn't. It will cost a lot of jobs when you have to start paying back the loans needed to finance the stimulus. With interest and factoring in the inefficiency of public works, that's a lot of jobs lost in the future.

The parts of the stimulus that is not paid for by loans, just moves activity from one sector to another. Again, factoring in the inefficiency of public works you will lose jobs on that reallocation exercise.

But I guess that matters less than some politicans that gets some nice photo-ops in front of stimulus projects, telling the whole world how they are "doing something".

Sometimes the best thing to do is to do nothing, but that's one crap photo-op!

All economic literature from the last 50 years has pointed to the uselessness of keynesianism and expansive financial policy. I wonder why that never gets brought up?

/Limagolf

Von: Or that John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and General McCrystal have forgotten that soldiers are "real humans, with real families, with real children, and with real friends"?

I think John McCain has long ago forgotten that anyone outside his immediate circle is a real human with real families, with real children, and with real friends.

Lindsay Graham, as I recall, distinguished himself from the general run of pro-torture Republicans by actually arguing and voting for some judicial process for the US's kidnap victims in Guantanamo Bay - though he turned a carefully blind eye to the evidence that the Bush administration had authorised the torture, pretending to believe the problem was lack of oversight. So, half marks on whether Graham is capable of remembering that people who aren't going to vote Republican are human.

General McCrystal has no business commenting on current political affairs at all.

Sometimes the best thing to do is to do nothing

Maybe sometimes it is, but when you have a big collapse of (what people thought was) wealth, that policy has already been tried, in 1929-32, and failed.

Not to derail the thread, but recently, I keep hearing the Depression really started in 1923....from a proffesor accoited with libertarian causes and a prof. accoiciated with hard left causes.

Chapter 5: Why Did Monetary Policy Fail in the Thirties?

Whoa, sorry for that spelling! I'm talking with people and typing, jezzz.

I keep hearing the Depression really started in 1923

You may keep hearing it, but (based on the abstract) that's not what that paper is arguing. It's arguing that one of the major causes of the Depression was the monetary policy pursued by the Federal Reserve from 1923 to 1929, not that the Depression itself started in 1923.

The bold helped clarify that you were asking me a question. :)

I was having a problem with my "?" .... I kept on hitting the period.

"No it didn't. It will cost a lot of jobs when you have to start paying back the loans needed to finance the stimulus. With interest and factoring in the inefficiency of public works, that's a lot of jobs lost in the future."

The argument for a stimulus is something like this:

We know we're going to spend a bunch of money we don't have, and that will bite us down the road (how much, when... these things are a bit difficult to nail down). However, based upon the lessons learned from the Great Depression, this is better than the alternative. [note: whether the stimulus money was spent on the right things, or spent quickly enough, etc., strikes me as another argument, b/c it requires that you accept the idea of stimulus as a good policy in order to quibble with the details).

I'm not a macroeconomist, but my read of history is that Keynes seems to have been largely correct, but since the 80s our politicians have mostly pretended that debts don't have to be paid off. Counter-cyclical spending would involve paying down debt in boom times just as much as it involves running in the red to prime the pump during downturns. Instead, we get "deficits don't matter" and the like.

There are two possibilities, I suppose: 1) the above idiocy is to be expected from our political system and therefore we shouldn't trust the government with more than about five bucks; or 2) the above idiocy can be avoided, it's just that we've done a piss poor job of avoiding it. I tend toward believing #2, but I won't lie: I WANT to believe #2.

All economic literature from the last 50 years has pointed to the uselessness of keynesianism and expansive financial policy. I wonder why that never gets brought up?

My guess is that it never gets brought up because it isn't true.

"Is this a Kagan-only criticism, Publius, or do you also contend that John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and General McCrystal are "play[ing] therapy session" when they argue for more troops in Afghanistan. Or that John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and General McCrystal have forgotten that soldiers are "real humans, with real families, with real children, and with real friends"?
-
McCain & Graham have more than proven they hold the lives & oaths of soldiers in contempt. As did my own personal General, Westmoreland. And the denizens of various wingnut-welfare, incestous "think tanks".
I don't know what McChrystal thinks past he wants more troops to fill out a complicated scenario that ignores fundimental facts abut Afghanistan & surrounds......Im inclined to view that as not giving much of a damn about the lives of his soldiers.
Besides, he's a career man. A non career man, when told to do something he knows cant be done, given history & those stubborn facts, might, as Washington said, not lay aside his duty as a Citizen when he put on the uniform of his country.
Career ender, that. Instead, he wants more "resources", and can only offer up a tepid "maybe" to our question can he achieve (undefined!) goals. Or he's a true believer, of some sort: an ideologue. A think tanker with real tanks.
Im sure the guy is a superb tactician. Strategy is a different matter, & not for the Kagans of that (lucrative) world to be dictating.

All economic literature from the last 50 years has pointed to the uselessness of keynesianism and expansive financial policy. I wonder why that never gets brought up?

/Limagolf

I dunno. Maybe for the same reason that all that economic literature you cite also says there's no such thing as bubbles (Efficient Market Hypothesis) in pricing?

I take it your position is that the precipitate fall in housing values (and earlier, the tech stock fall) had to do with a sudden, vertiginous change in the underlying value of the assets without any visible external inputs being involved??

If you want to cite economics, it would be well to understand the underlying debate. First of all, economics literature is not as monolithic as you cite (nor, I presume from your statement, as monolithic as you'd like it to be). Second, the reason the stimulus was passed is because of a burst bubble that your (presumably) favorite economic theoreticians would say can't exist. Thirdly, at a time of slack demand, public investment does not drive out private investment on a one for one basis (Ricardian Equivalence), as your second paragraph implies.

Just for the record.

What IP said.

As for McCain, the irony (from his intro to Halberstam's book):

“War is far too horrible a thing to drag out unnecessarily,” he said. “It was a shameful thing to ask men to suffer and die, to persevere through god-awful afflictions and heartache, to endure the dehumanizing experiences that are unavoidable in combat, for a cause that the country wouldn’t support over time and that our leaders so wrongly believed could be achieved at a smaller cost than our enemy was prepared to make us pay.

“No other national endeavor requires as much unshakable resolve as war. If the nation and the government lack that resolve, it is criminal to expect men in the field to carry it alone.”

All economic literature from the last 50 years has pointed to the uselessness of keynesianism and expansive financial policy. I wonder why that never gets brought up?

Here, take one of these and write us in the morning:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/06/magazine/06Economic-t.html

And I'll follow up Mr. Martin's older Krugman post with one from today: The Backlash from Chicago.

Key Points, IMO:

What I think you have to understand here is that for a long time — in fact, for three decades — the Chicago position has been that Keynesian economics was nonsense that has been utterly refuted. Now, you might have thought they’d at least slightly reconsider that position with the rise of New Keynesian economics — an approach that involved plenty of math and lots of hard thinking, and generated a large literature in major journals.

[...]But no macroeconomist who has been paying attention for the past 20+ years would assert that fiscal policy is useless as a matter of principle.

Yet that, of course, is exactly what the freshwater types asserted en masse — along with claims that nobody, or anyway nobody at a quality economics department, believes that fiscal policy can do any good. Sneers take the place of actually engaging the argument.

Brad DeLong does a yeoman job of collecting the fallacies. As he says, they show famous economists making sophomore-level errors, again and again. They also show that the Chicago School has spent the past generation looking entirely inward — paying no attention to ideas and research elsewhere. Basically, their worldview has been frozen in amber since around 1978.

"I'm not a macroeconomist, but my read of history is that Keynes seems to have been largely correct, but since the 80s our politicians have mostly pretended that debts don't have to be paid off. Counter-cyclical spending would involve paying down debt in boom times just as much as it involves running in the red to prime the pump during downturns. Instead, we get "deficits don't matter" and the like. "

That's pretty much my position, except that I'd note that, prior to the 80s, politicians mostly pretended that they meant to pay off debts, and never got around to it.

Counter-cyclical spending is a moderately good policy, which simply can't be implemented by the American political class.

Well Robert Rubin, under Bill Clinton, cut the annual deficit to zero and started paying down the debt.

While the Republican Party in its next life came back as pimps and sluts, James Carville became the well-known performance artist -- J. Bond Marketty.

"Counter-cyclical spending is a moderately good policy, which simply can't be implemented by the American political class."

It has been implemented, sort of.

The problem, in my view, is that so many the "American political class", whatever that is, in one Party couldn't implement a chili dog with fries given their infestation by and devotion to the lowest, demagogic dregs of society.

The other Party is just full of cowards.

"Well Robert Rubin, under Bill Clinton, cut the annual deficit to zero and started paying down the debt."

And this, of course, had nothing to do with the Executive branch and the Legislative branch being under the control of opposing parties, and locked in a no holds barred impeachment struggle. Which happened to coincide with a stock market bubble.

And even with those unlikely to be replicated circumstances, the government just barely dipped into the black ink. At the level of the Clinton/GOP surplus, how long would it have taken to pay off the national debt? A few centuries?

Keynesian counter cyclical spending would have the debt paid off between recessions, so that the government could borrow anew for the next round of stimulation.

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