Last night, President Barack Obamapresented his case against the Syrian government and President Bashar al-Assad. In my opinion, the case is pretty clear. The Syrian government used chemical weapons against their own people. Then, to cover up their atrocities, they then shelled those exact same neighborhoods for three days straight. Then, they let UN weapons inspectors to come in with the hope that they would find nothing. Or at least, they would find nothing conclusive. The one thing that this whole ordeal has clearly shown us is the dysfunction of the Republican Party. On one hand, there are some of the Republican Party that have been yelling, as loudly as they possibly could, that a limited, targeted, surgical strike was not enough. We needed more. (Invade Syria?) Then, there are those who wanted immediate airstrikes. They didn’t even want President Obama to ask Congress for anything. They stated, clearly, that Obama had the authority and he was scared to use it. Finally, you had a group of Republicans who are calling Obama a warmonger. In my opinion, all of these extremes simply miss the point. I think the idea of Syria giving up their chemical weapons is a good one. Unfortunately, the implementation of actually getting them to give up their chemical weapons is going to be extremely difficult. For a second, it seemed that Russia was going to play a constructive role in the peaceful turnover of Syrian chemical weapons to the international community. Russian President Vladimir Putin decided to squash all that. The Russian president took to the New York Times. Not only is he falsely suggesting that the United Nations was founded so that we can start war only by consensus. That’s garbage. The United Nations was started to give Russia and the United States cover if they needed it. He even suggested that the rebels may have unleashed the chemical weapons. If, President Al Assad does not comply, we need to unleash the cruise missiles.
It is nice to know that I am on the side of those who argued that a decrease in spending (government spending) was bad for the economy. It is nice to know that I was right. No, I’m not some high-powered economist. I would like to think that I’m someone who sits back and looks at most of the available data and tries to come to some logical conclusion. It would be nice to say that the economy of the United States, or that the world for that matter, is based on some grand moral play. When people do bad things, like overspending, they will get punished for it. Unfortunately, the economy doesn’t work like that. Sometimes those who make the most reckless and thoughtless economic gambles aren’t risking their own money. They’re risking yours.
This is a convoluted way of saying austerity has failed. There was that one academic study that conservatives waved around which turned out to be incredibly flawed. It was so flawed, in fact, that a grad student was easily able to show that their data didn’t make any sense. So, where does that leave us? Austerity doesn’t work. The American economy is stagnant secondary to the sequester (Austerity 2.0), many of the European countries that embraced austerity (Ireland, Spain, et al) are “enjoying” pain without gain. Where does that leave us? In my opinion, the answer is simple. We need government spending. This is the good news. The bad news is that US lawmakers haven’t figured out that they are punishing the American people for no good reason.
On another note, the weakness of Democrats sometimes makes me want to vomit, right here, right on my keyboard. The Democrats made their argument over how bad the sequester was going to be. They rained all of this negativity about the sequester and what an absolutely terrible idea it was. They were right. Yet, the Republicans talked nothing but happy talk. Conservatives said that we would notice nothing with the sequester. Slashing government spending would be no big deal. No one would notice. So, for the first several weeks/months of the sequester, Republicans looked like they were right. There appeared to be no specific bad side effects to these massive government spending cuts. We then started seeing long lines at airports because of furloughed air-traffic controllers. Suddenly, Congress sprung into action. The Democrats caved. Instead of standing strong and clearly articulating to the American people that this is exactly what they were talking about, the Democrats allowed the Republicans to craft legislation to carve out an exception to the sequester. What the hell? All the Democrats had to do, in my opinion, was to stand up and point out that this is a perfect example of the consequences we warned the American people about. This is the sequester. The Democrats should have proposed only two options, repeal the sequester totally or continue to embrace it. Instead, they’ve allowed to carve it out. This is an excellent example of how to lose an argument even when you’re right.
The good news is that I was right on austerity. Austerity doesn’t work in this situation. The bad news is that the Democrats caved on the sequester.
It is kind of creepy that a landing gear from the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center was found yesterday.
One of the things that I find very interesting about our society is how myths continue to be perpetuated. One of my favorite myths is the notion that the United States government should balance its budget “because” it is just like your household budget. Absolute craziness. There are almost no similarities between the federal budget and our household budget. I know of no household able to set its own interest rates. I know of no household that is able to print its own money. Yet, we perpetuate this myth.
Paul Krugman went into some detail about the austerity myth yesterday. The austerity fantasy goes something like this – we have been bad as a country, as a nation, as a world. We’ve overspent. Therefore, we must cut back on spending in order to fix the problem. Sure, this worldwide cutback will cause some significant pain, but we are promised that it is going to be worth it in the long run. Again, garbage. There’s no evidence that austerity will pay off in the long run. Instead, as Krugman points out, austerity is about hurting those who really had nothing to do with the overspending. Austerity is about prolonged unemployment. It is time for our government and other governments around the world to recognize that now is the time to spend money on infrastructure. Now is the time to hire millions of unemployed citizens to get our economies back on track.
You know, it was less than two years ago when Netflix simply fumbled the ball. Subscribers were leaving left and right. It was unclear whether Netflix was actually going to survive. It appears that Netflix has weathered the storm and is heading in the right direction. Now, you have to wonder about JC Penney’s and if they can right the ship.