Sunday, December 07, 2008

Editorial: A step is not marathon

Yesterday, president-elect Barack Obama gave a speech which Peter Baker and John M. Broder (New York Times) describe as offering "the largest public works construction program since the inception of the interstate highway system a half century ago as he seeks to put together a plan to resuscitate the reeling economy." That statement shows more understanding than the left.

Christopher Hayes (The Nation) insists this is "the outline of the stimulus package". How sad. For several reasons including that Barack has supported bail-outs for Fat Cats but the average person will have to slave away in order to get a "stimulus package". Also because this really isn't that.

This will stimulate some individuals pockets. We're not begrudging them that. People need jobs.

John Nichols also calls it a stimulus plan (also at The Nation, but no link to trash). John Nichols has embarrassed himself throughout 2008 but never more so than with a column that reduces the biggest economic issues to a brief aside in a sentence ("a new approach to trade policy").

Our economy is complicated. We could close off from the rest of the world (or try) and simplify it, possibly. We're not recommending that, but, theoretically, it could be staged and it might or might not work.

Barring such a move, we interact with the world. We've done that long before the term "globalization" was invented, let alone tossed around.

Barack's got some public works programs. They will put dollars into the pockets of workers and jobs are needed.

But that doesn't solve anything other than temporary employment.

Why is that?

The only exportable 'manufacturing' industry still holding its head above water is the entertainment industry. Every other sector's been shipped overseas.

How does that matter?

America doesn't make anything (other than entertainment) anymore.

A worker gets X dollars in a country that manufactures nothing? The money Barack intends to circulate (that's not an insult) among Americans turns around and goes right out of the country. And because the US does not manufacture, we have no goods to speak of that bring the money back in.

Yes, we are oversimplifying. But this problem has been obvious for some time and it is, in fact, why we have the current crisis in our economy. So let's keep this as simple as possible.

The housing bubble burst. Yes. And before that, the tech bubble. And what's your point?

Both of those bubbles were supposed to make up for the fact that we had few goods to sell on the international market because manufacturing has been allowed to die decade after decade. The claims for why these production jobs have gone overseas have included "lower taxes!" and "less regulations!" The reality is greed. Greed will allow you to pay someone not just less than they deserve but less than any human deserves. Greed will allow you to destroy another country's eco-system. Greed and a global system that allows the aggressors to set the so-called standards.

The US needs to return to manufacturing items and the world needs fair trade policies.

This isn't an editorial slamming Barack. We're happy to slam him and will continue to do so. But what he's put forward is a way to circulate the US dollars -- already in the country -- back to workers. That's important for workers as a first-step. But without fair trade agreements that protect the rights of people and places and without rebuilding the US manufacturing sector, the step is meaningless. Barack can't implement the other two needed things now. (He's not yet president.) We're not slamming him for that.

But we are calling out the reaction that tries to tell you this is something wonderful, amazing and it's a brand new day!

Cuba re-circulates their dollars through public works programs. Most countries do. But Cuba is denied many markets so all they really do is recirculate those dollars (and dollars sent into the country by family members who have left). Unlike Cuba, the US is not denied markets. It's just made the decision to destroy its own manufacturing sector.

The thing being applauded right now, being treated by some on the left as a second-coming, is basically using American Express to pay this month's VISA.

Cheerleaders on the left need to buy a damn clue.
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