Archive for the ‘economics’ Category

Fixing the Economy: Beyond Bailouts and Stimuli

November 14, 2009

As the year draws nearer to an end, and as economic data about the last several months has recently been released, there has been a plethora of critiques about the various federal efforts to turn things around. Analysts are all over the spectrum, from those who are convinced that the federal actions have prevented the crisis from becoming much worse, to those who feel that the programs have been entirely inconsequential—except for ballooning the budget deficit, to those who declare that the federal recovery efforts have deepened and prolonged the slump. Who is right? Beats me. I’ve seen very compelling arguments on all sides. I can’t pretend to grasp all the economic minutia enough to know for certain, and I don’t think anyone truly can.

I very cautiously and reluctantly wanted to support the various economic policies which were part of the stimulus package. I’m never fond of corporate welfare, but many of the arguments seemed potentially valid. While hardly unanimous, there was a fairly broad consensus that action needed to be taken, with a plenty of Republicans and conservatives jumping on the bandwagon. Reagan economic advisor Martin Feldstein enthusiastically supported the stimulus bill, as did Tony Blankley during the several months during which the stimulus was being debated—albeit far more cautiously—on the NPR show Left, Right, and Center, just to name two. While Mike Huckabee’s warning is well-worth considering (“when someone is in a hurry to pass legislation, you’d better slow it down because the reason to hurry a law is rarely urgency to help the citizens, but urgency to get it passed before people find out what the heck it really is” ), it is conceivable that without quick action, the economy would have plummeted into chaos. As distasteful as the notion of bailing out these bloated corporations was, it might be that without those bailouts, the financial markets would have collapsed, taking the rest of the economy down with it. It is very possible that the building and infrastructure projects funded by the stimulus will ultimately put people to work, providing them with the money necessary to rebuild demand and jumpstart the economy, and provide us the long term-resources necessary for future success. Heaven knows that there is a great deal of critical infrastructure in serious need of upgrading and maintenance due to years of neglect.

All of that is in some sense beside the point. Not that the ever ballooning deficit is irrelevant; I respect the grave concerns which many people have about the deficit and it’s potentially disastrous consequences. But even if I grudgingly accepted that the stimulus might be a necessary evil, I never saw it as any more than a bandage, a stop-gap means with which to keep the economy on life support while the nation re-evaluated the way in which the our economic system is constructed, determining the roots of the problem and make the necessary fundamental changes to our economy and financial system to prevent this sort of catastrophe in the future.

While not terribly surprised, I’m bitterly disappointed on that count. Little has been done to get at the heart of the economic problems. Obama campaigned on change. How is this sort of corporate welfare any different than the bailouts promoted by his predecessor? How are his economic policies any different from the largely corporatist policies so in vogue with both parties since the Reagan Revolution? If we should be looking to the future rather than back to the Clinton era, as he not-infrequently implied when campaigning against Senator Clinton, why is his economic team lead by Clinton administration retreads who are perpetuating the same basic policies?

Libertarians like Ron Paul have pointed to the actions of the Federal Reserve as a primary cause of the economic turmoil, advocating it’s abolition. I’m not yet convinced their argument is entirely correct, but they make some very compelling points. What harm could it possibly do to conduct a thorough investigation of that institution to see if the criticisms have merit? What could possibly be wrong with holding that institution accountable through the rigorous audit proposed in HR 1207 and S 604?

Our financial system suffers from a bizarre concoction of overlapping and competing regulatory agencies (for a good investigative report on the subject, listen to “The Watchmen” from This American Life, 06-05-2009; or read the transcript). Rather than adding yet another regulatory layer, we should overhaul the entire regulation system. We need robust regulation, but it should be streamlined and consistent, so that the financial players cannot so easily find holes in the system. The walls separating the different sorts of financial services which were destroyed by the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act must be rebuilt. And we must ensure that the resulting regulatory entities maintain the funding necessary to remain vital, and prevent the sort of defunding under the banner of “small government” which has render them impotent over the past few decades.

Many of the problems we face may have been caused in part by the very nature of the corporate structure. The corporations which were bailed out because they were “too big to fail” are bigger than ever. We should introduce mechanisms into the corporate charters which prevent them from becoming so large in the first place. Those already bloated to the point of reliance on the government should be broken up into smaller units. The legal principle of corporate personhood should be emphatically overturned. Originally, corporate charters were granted by the state in very specific circumstances, with very defined limits, and with provisions for public accountability. We should revisit that earlier form of incorporation, consider whether it is more appropriate for keeping these powerful entities in check.

I doubt there will ever be a better time for fundamental changes. The public must demand more than staggering amounts of debt and some rearranging of deck chairs in response to the economic crisis.

How Do We Measure Economics?

December 6, 2008

Mary Nelson, president emeritus of faith-based community development corporation Bethel New Life and contributor to Sojourners recently took issue with the narrow perspective with which our society and commentators view economics.

I’m tired of all the frantic talk about how much or little consumers are spending over this Holiday time. Something’s wrong with an economy based on consumer spending, with kids thinking the measure of parents’ love is the gifts they get. We need to figure out a new kind of gauge of well-being, of quality of life, not only for individuals in families, but for communities as well. Studies share that people who are rich in relationships, who are involved in sharing beyond themselves, live longer and have a higher quality of life. A recent radio show shared ways to make this Holiday time special for kids…doing things with them, together volunteering in homeless shelters or food programs, baking cookies and sharing them with a homeless shelter. A different measure (“A Different Economic Measure: Quality of Life and an Economic Bill of Rights,”).

In our modern culture, economics has come to refer almost exclusively to finance. We seem to think that it can all be quantified in concrete figures, such as profits and losses, market share, job numbers, import/export ratios, stock valuation, or GDP.

The word “economics” comes from the Greek oikonomia, “household management.” Budgets and finance are certainly an important part of managing a household, but they are hardly the only aspects. One who runs a household without taking into consideration the holistic well-being of the family—the distribution of materials, the relationships, the emotional growth, etc—are likely to find their family crumbling around them.

Mary rightfully points out this problem. The conventional economic indicators are grossly inadequate to answering the real question of our economic well-being, of whether or not the financial and productive activity is contributing to the health of our society. Slavish devotion to those indicators will lead to economic recommendations—Increase consumer spending! Get people borrowing!—which will not be conducive to the well-being of society.

We need to try to take into account the humanistic aspects of our economy. Is the wealth generated being distributed in a meaningful way throughout the economy, or does it pool among a few? Is that wealth meeting their needs for food, shelter, mental and emotional growth, etc? How are those at the lower margins doing? Is there a sense of security about provisioning, or is society anxious about their future prospects? Are people happy?

British Economist E.F. Schumacher insisted that we needed to take into consideration the human aspects of economics. From Schumacher’s ideas has grown the concept of the more holistic Buddhist economics. Some have even tried to find more holistic indicators, such as a Gross National happiness.

Given the financial troubles we’re facing right now, this may be an ideal time to reflect and reorient. I’m confident that we will better help society restore and maintain a healthy household if we must find a way to reclaim that broader perspective of economics.

Rabbi Lerner: Don’t Try Band-Aids to Keep the Tower of Babel Standing

September 25, 2008

From Rabbi Michael Lerner of Tikkun, a great essay which not only addresses the current discussion of a federal bailout, but which touches on a number of topics on which I hope to elaborate some day:

Rabbis of antiquity interpreted the attempt by humanity to build a Tower of Babel that would allow people to storm heaven as a symbol of human hubris and technological power gone crazy. It was globalization for the sake of power, not for the sake of kindness or goodness, so, according to the Bible, God ensured that the whole thing would collapse. Scrambling languages and created a multi-cultural reality provided a way for humans to develop their own less imperialistic goals, diffusing power and challenging the notion that the path to salvation lies with material conquests and technological prowess.

Our contemporary capitalist system and its globalization of selfishness has evolved into a similarly grotesque distortion as people are increasingly socialized into the goals of the system: accumulate as much money and power as possible, and refuse to allow any other ethical goals into the public sphere (we are allowed to pursue them in our own “private lives” but not together in social space). The human suffering that results is not only for the poor. As people internalize the ethos of the marketplace and its “looking out for number one” and its seeing others primarily in instrumental terms (“what can you do for me to further my goals or satisfy my needs?”), families feel increasingly unstable, education becomes training to “make it in a global competition,” and politics increasingly focuses on how to best assist the most powerful in their aims to secure or increase their wealth, or to protect American corporate interests as they increasingly seek to dominate world markets.

The pursuit of money and power is a huge ethical distortion for human life and destructive for a society. Whether manifested in the failed wars in Vietnam or the continuing bloody conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and soon Pakistan and Iran, or in the collapse of our banking, insurance, and stock market systems, the ethos of selfishness and materialism are not sustainable in the 21st century.

So the careful and skillful manipulating us into a mass hysteria that this all be worked out immediately and before Congress goes on recess to run for reelection, with dire predictions that nobody knows to be true, to rush to use our monies (currently proposing a trillion dollars, but there will be trillions more to come, because we will be nurturing a “culture of dependence” by the rich and their corporate holdings) to bolster this way of life. Democrats have bought in. Yet it is a huge error—it’s like trying to put bandages on the Tower of Babel. Of course, the wealthy all think that this is an immediate emergency—they suspect that a Democratic President and Congress might be more willing to demand a better deal for ordinary citizens in return for using their tax dollars this way. And they think that our tax monies (of which they contribute very little, should be used to “provide confidence to the markets”-meaning themselves). Many of them don’t care that the resulting inflation is likely to make most working people’s savings, retirement accounts, and social security considerably less valuable in real purchasing power terms. But they are wrong to fear the Obama election—the Democrats, including Obama, are as much committed to propping up the current system as the rich, in order to prove (to the pundits and inside-the-Beltway crowd and their wealthy funders who together constitute their primary reference group) that they are “responsible.” So their demands for “accountability,” re-regulation, and “limits on executive incomes” throws the merest little restraint while the hundreds of billions that will be spent will resuscitate the system of selfishness, keep the majority of corporate executives benefiting from the excesses they current enjoy, and not even touch on reshaping the fundamentals.

This is an extraordinary moment, a crisis like this is a precious thing and should not be wasted. If we had any ethically or spiritually visionary leadership, they would reject any immediate bailout, and instead, talk of ethical and spiritual reconstruction of the society in accord with a New Bottom Line: that every institution should be judged efficient, rational and productive not only to the extent that they maximize money and power, but also to the extent that they maximize love and caring for others, generosity and kindness, ethical and ecological sensitivity, and awe and wonder at the grandeur of the universe.

To start that process, we should demand that any corporation receiving help from our government give a corresponding level of ownership and control of their venture to the people of this country. Moreover, any such corporation should be required to meet the terms of the Network of Spiritual Progressives‘ proposed Social Responsibility Amendment to the Constitution: that any corporation with an income of more than $50 million a year must get a new corporate charter once every ten years, to be granted only if it can prove a satisfactory history of social responsibility as measured by an Ethical Impact Report and as decided by a jury of ordinary people whose task is to represent the interests of the common good.

Meanwhile, the rest of us should be protected as the Tower of Babel collapses. So the hundreds of billions of dollars being thrown recklessly by our Congress into the hands of the very people and corporations that fostered the current meltdown, should instead be used to create a national bank that would provide mortgage assistance at affordable rates, buy up and restart in the hands of the people who work within them any at-risk corporations providing socially useful functions at a price not dictated by the need to ensure that the wealthy prosper, recreate ( for those who’ve lost them) and sustain (for those who still have them) pension funds for families with incomes under $300,000/yr., create a single-payer universal health care system of the sort now being used by Members of Congress, and provide strong incentives for alternative energy-oriented investment and a minimum wage that rises with inflation to ensure adequate compensation for working people.

Yet these are only baby-steps, and the moment is now to insist that the elections themselves be dedicated to exploring more visionary approaches to reconstructing our economy on the basis of caring for each other and rejecting the materialism and selfishness that has perverted our media and threatens to continue to destroy our economy in the years to come. Just say “no” to the demands for an immediate “bailout” of the wealthy with your tax monies-and take the time to use this amazing historical moment to put ethical and spiritual values back into our economic life!

Warren Buffet and Federal Bailouts

September 24, 2008

If you’ve been concerned about the state of the U.S. market, you can breath a sigh of relief: brilliant investor Warren buffet signaled confidence by investing five-billion dollars in financial giant Goldman Sachs. While relatively fit compared to many of the U.S. financial institutions in the news, Goldman Sachs has faced some challenges in the current turmoil. According to the WSJ, “its profits have waned and its stock got hit last week.” Buffet’s move can be seen as a sign that financially savvy minds are still confident in the economic power and resilience of the U.S.

Or perhaps it can be seen as a sign of something else entirely. Buffet has very publicly endorsed Treasury Secretary Paulson’s 700 billion dollar federal bailout proposal. Is Buffet seeing an opportunity to fertilize his investment with federal funds? He buys stock deeply discounted by the market slump, a massive injection of federal money reinvigorates the market, and the shrewd purchase yields a windfall profit.

I’ve seen plenty of plausible reasons to be skeptical of the the administration’s bailout proposal, from both sides of the aisle, including from both McCain and Obama. If this economic fiasco is one deep and momentous enough to require federal intervention (a debatable notion), it should most certainly be structured in such a way that the primary beneficiaries are those average people who are struggling to keep their small businesses, their homes, or food on the table. It should not allow the executives who ran these ships aground and held out a tin cup to Washington to walk away with golden parachutes. Nor should it fill the cups of savvy billionaires in the hopes that the bounty will trickle down to those who have suffered most from Wall Street’s short-sighted greed.

BYU Professor Chris Foster on Animal Advocacy

July 23, 2008

Yesterday, BYU Professor Chris Foster gave an interview on KCPW’s The Public Square about animal advocacy and humane treatment. I think his arguments are very persuasive. Of course, I’ve never been a fan of the machismo and violence of the rodeo. And over the recent years, I’ve been moving my family more and more towards a plant-based diet. I’m not necessarily planning on a strictly vegan or vegetarian diet, if for no other reason that there are some meats and animal products which I really enjoy (sadly, my favorite meats tend to be the most highly processed, the various sausages). Any consideration of an outright ban is met with a fit from my palate. So instead, I’m simply seeing how many great meals I can make without meats, or with very small quantities of meat. I’ve found plenty of pasta, legume, or grain salads which are every bit as delicious as any meat entree. I’ve learned plenty of ways to get protein and the umami hit of meat without resorting to a cow (I’m not keen the texture of tofu, but there are plenty of ways to prepare great tempeh dishes!). I hear that many who go for a plant-based diet end up finding meat distasteful. If that happens, great. If not, we’ll continue to eat meat on occasion to satisfy those occasional carnivorous urges, but focus on plant sources of nutrients.

Concern for the treatment of animals is only one factor in my decision. The meat-based diet of modern U.S. society has been a key factor in the rise in obesity, heart disease, and various other ailments over the past few decades. Given the recent concern over food production and costs, it is worth noting that meat is a terribly inefficient source of energy; it takes many more times the amount of energy and land to produce a calorie of meat than to produce the same amount from plants. Many free-market advocates have made a big deal about the impact of increased biofuel production on food production, and their points are certainly not invalid. But long-term, the increasing emphasis on meat in diets throughout the world, and the increasing amount of resources needed to provide that meat, could be seen as a far greater threat to the world’s food supply than biofuels. Rather than encouraging developing nations to adopt the Western/U.S. style diet, we should probably be doing more to adopt diets more similar to theirs and to our ancestors. As Professor Foster pointed out, such diets would be much more consistent with the counsel of the Word of Wisdom than the hamburgers, hotdogs, steaks, roast beef, and other staples of the U.S. (and Mormon) diet today.

Sustainable Food Systems in Utah

April 20, 2008

There is a great deal of evidence to suggest that modern U.S. food industry, a combination of agribusiness and corporate food processors, tends to be harmful to our environment, our health, and the viability of our rural communities. Many of the leading agribusiness companies are actively attempting to use genetic modification and the loosening of restrictions on patent law to create virtually monopoly control of the agricultural sector.

But the agribusiness model is not an inevitable nor inescapable feature of our world. There is a growing movement to return to “slow food,” more sustainable ways of cultivating, obtaining, and preparing food, ways which typically hearkening back to the traditional methods which have stood the test of time. Mark Pollan, one of the primary spokesmen of this movement has come up with a slogan which distills the essential concept behind the Slow Food movement. “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants”—advice rather consistent with the essential dietary concepts of the Word of Wisdom.

Additionally, instead of relying on impersonal, sprawling international networks of commerce spanning thousands of miles, the movement seeks to re-integrate and bolster local producer-consumer networks. The U.S. has a strong rural tradition, as much here in Utah and in the history of the Church as anywhere. But we seem to have become confused as to what that means. Idealizing the superficial trappings of rural life—boots, hats, rodeos, or country music—does nothing substantial to support or honor that rural heritage. If we really want to show respect for that heritage, we should support the vocation and lifestyle which is at the root of traditional rural communities: the family farmer.

There is a growing assortment of alternative options from which you can make more sustainable food choices. And with the growing season soon upcoming, now is an good time to see what appeals to you. We can grow our own food through gardening (I know two local bloggers who are raising their own chickens for eggs and poultry in urban/suburban communities). There are a number of local organizations involved in education on local gardening, such as Wasatch Gardens and the Utah botanical Center in Kaysville. Maybe you would enjoy the dynamic community atmosphere of the various farmers markets around the state part of a renewed tradition around the U.S. over the past couple decades. Consider joining a local CSA, or (Community Supported Agriculture), in which you purchase shares of a local farmer’s harvest, providing the farmer more money up-front and therefore more financial security, and providing you with seasonal fresh produce. When you decide to eat out, look into one of the restaurants which chose to patronize local food producers.

As we support these alternatives, we will build more sustainable agricultural and economic networks. We will develop more ecologically beneficial food systems and protect the bio-diversity of the world’s bounty. We will promote more healthful diets.

And you may just find that real food tastes better.

The GDP is rising, Productivity is Increasing—and Still Workers Wages Fall

April 17, 2008

Former labor secretary Robert Reich recently blogged about those recent comments of Obama which have been so distorted over the last several days. The point was to take the media to task for their superficial coverage. An interesting read. But what really caught my eye was the way he introduced the topic.

I was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, 61 years ago. My father sold $1.98 cotton blouses to blue-collar women and women whose husbands worked in factories. Years later, I was secretary of labor of the United States, and I tried the best I could – which wasn’t nearly good enough – to help reverse one of the most troublesome trends America has faced: The stagnation of middle-class wages and the expansion of povety. Male hourly wages began to drop in the early 1970s, adjusted for inflation. The average man in his 30s is earning less than his father did thirty years ago. Yet America is far richer. Where did the money go? To the top. (Robert Reich, “Obama, Bitterness, Meet the Press, and the Old Politics” ; thanks to Richard Warnick for pointing it out)

This isn’t the first time recently someone has pointed out that the “a rising tide lifts all boats” bromide of the Right just doesn’t hold water. Barbara Ehrenreich discussed the point at length a couple months back in The Washington Post.

It begins to sound a bit naughty—all this talk about the need to “stimulate” the economy, as if we were discussing how to make a porn film. I don’t mean to trivialize our economic difficulties or the need for effective government intervention, but we have to face a disconcerting fact: For years now, that strange stimulus-crazed beast, the economy, has been going its own way, increasingly disconnected from the toils and troubles of ordinary Americans.

The economy, for example, has been expanding, at least until now, and growth is supposed to guarantee general well-being. As long as the gross domestic product grows, World Money Watch’s Web site assures us, “so will business, jobs and personal income.”

But hellooo, we’ve had brisk growth for the past few years, as the president has tirelessly reminded us, only without those promised increases in personal income, at least not for the poor and the middle class. According to a study just released by the Economic Policy Institute, real wages actually fell last year. Growth, some of the economists are conceding in perplexity, has been “decoupled” from widely shared prosperity. (Barbara Ehrenrich, “The Boom Was a Bust For Ordinary People,”

Market cheerleaders balk at the notion that there is anything wrong. They insist that we naysayers are just being pessimistic. The U.S. is doing fine! And sure, superficially things look good for the average person. The dollar figure of wages are up. People have continued to buy houses, cars, electronics, and all sorts of knick-knacks and trinkets from Wal-Mart. But look a little beneath the surface, and perhaps it is a different story. Benefits are being slashed. When adjusted for inflation, Reich and Ehrenrich are correct; the compensation of the average worker have decreased. Perhaps this is partly why the number of households where both parents work—something about which the “family values” crowd on the Right often complains, but about which they rarely seem to consider the roots. The illusion of prosperity is built on the record levels of consumer debt U.S. citizens have accumulated. Is that going to fly if we hit a prolonged economic recession? Seems a shaky foundation on which to claim that all is well in Zion.

Some people complain that the phrase “Social Justice,” is a misnomer. They aren’t entirely wrong. Strictly speaking, much of the agenda to which social justice refers has more to do with compassion than justice. But neither are they entirely correct. I think there is something fundamentally unjust when prosperity is shared only by a select few of those whose work made that prosperity possible. When the economy’s productivity rises and wealth increases, but the average worker upon whose labors the profits are made sees a dwindling share of the fruits of that harvest, that is a call for social justice.

The Crandall Canyon Disaster and Market “self-correction”

April 1, 2008

In responding to my last post “The Triangle Waistshirt Fire,” one commentor assured me that the market is self-correcting and capable of protecting workers and the public. He raised the example of the Crandall Canyon mine disaster, suggesting that the the owner (Robert Murray) will somehow get his just desserts in the end. Perhaps he will. No mention was made of how the market will play a role in this, but no matter.

Ironically, today The Salt Lake Tribune reported on the status of the disaster fallout.

Crandall Canyon widow Wendy Black minced no words last September when she told a Senate committee: “It would have taken just one MSHA man doing his job to have saved my husband’s life.”

Her bitterness over the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration’s perceived failure to enforce laws protecting miners was reinforced Monday by an internal Labor Department audit that found local, regional and national deficiencies in MSHA’s handling of Crandall Canyon’s roof control plan (“Crandall: Labor audit confirms families’ fears”).

Sounds like any penalty or market “self correction” consequences Murray pays will be rather cold comfort to widows and fatherless children—not to mention the dead themselves.

It is worth noting that the Triangle Shirtwaist Company owners suffered no consequences for their disregard for the lives of their workers. With few prior regulations fully spelling out their responsibilities, they got off scott free. In fact, with the fire insurance payments, they made a tidy profit from the deaths of almost 150 people. Justice is supposed to be blind, but the illustrious market was apparently also deaf to the cries of the victims.

Also inspired by the Tribune’s article, Oldenburg of 3rd Avenue has written a fine post about the essential need not only for regulation, but for government to be committed to enforcing the regulation—something we’ve lacked for quite some time.

Jim Hightower: Immigrants Come Here Because Globalization Took Their Jobs Back There

February 8, 2008

If all of these Republicans, both nationally and in Utah, want to raise such a ruckus about immigration, maybe they should take a careful look at the roots of the problem. Jim Hightower explains.

The question that policy makers have not faced honestly is this one: Why do these immigrants come? The answer is not that they are pulled by our jobs and government benefits, but that they are pushed by the abject poverty that their families face in Mexico. That might seem like a mere semantic difference, but it’s huge if you’re trying to develop a policy to stop the human flood across our border…
…Because in the last 15 years, Mexico’s longstanding system of sustaining its huge population of poor citizens (including small self-sufficient farms, jobs in state-owned industries and subsidies for such essentials as tortillas) has been scuttled at the insistence of U.S. banks, corporations, government officials and “free market” ideologues. In the name of “modernizing” the Mexican economy, such giants as Citigroup, Wal-Mart, Tyson Foods and GE – in cahoots with the plutocrats and oligarchs of Mexico – have laid waste to that country’s grass-roots economy, destroying the already-meager livelihoods of millions.
…In our national imbroglio over Mexican immigration (yes, some illegal migrants come from elsewhere, but more than three-fourths are from Mexico), our “leaders” have set us up to look down at impoverished working people forced to leave their homeland and risk death in order to help their families escape poverty.
…Instead of coming down on them, why not start looking up – up at the executive suites on both sides of the border. Up is where the power is. The moneyed elites in those suites are the profiteering few who have rigged all of our trade and labor policies to knock down workers, farmers and small businesses, not merely in Mexico but in our country as well.
Immigration reform cannot be separated from labor and trade reform. We can’t fix the former without dealing with the other two.
…We must stop the exploitative NAFTAfication of such aspiring economies as Mexico and instead develop genuine grass-roots investment policies that give people there an ability to remain in their homeland. Then we must enforce our own labor laws – from wage and hour rules to the NLRB – so as to empower American workers to enforce their own rights.
…America’s immigration problem is not down on the border, it’s in Washington and on Wall Street.

Matheson is Right On

December 22, 2007

Very rarely do I find myself agreeing with Utah Representative Jim Matheson, a politician neither hot nor cold, one who usually tries to straddle the fence and like most of his “Blue Dog Democrat” ilk, is all too willing to be duped by those who would dispense with any and all ethics in the name of national security.

But when he criticizes both parties for passing a “patch” on the AMT which only widens our budget deficits, he hits the nail on the head.

Matheson called the parties “gutless” in a statement released after the House gave its final approval to a “patch” on the alternative minimum tax, or AMT.

He was one of 64 representatives who voted against the bill that will add $50 billion to the national debt.

“The Blue Dogs may be the last ones standing who put their money where their mouths are when it comes to fiscal responsibility,” Matheson said, referring to a group of fiscally conservative Democrats (Salt Lake Tribune, 12/20/2007).

It’s difficult to lay too much blame at the feet of the Democratic Party, since the Republicans and the administration could trump any move the Democrats made. Still, the Democrats could have stood on their principles and forced a showdown. If they had made their case of fiscal responsibility to the nation, they might have won that showdown. Alas, they decided yet again to back down.

(Typically, Chris Cannon showed his lack of integrity by criticizing the Democrats for level of spending in Washington, while completely ignoring the fact that the quickest and most effective way to lower federal spending would be to end this administration’s misbegotten wars.)