Saturday, June 06, 2009

Can I still be simple if the problems are not?

conservative and liberal as a binarization of all political discourse and category does not serve us well.

I understand having a bill or debt to pay. I do not understand economics. So when bond vigilantes were first brought to my attention by Numerian at Agonist, I responded in full blooded pessimism. I can't be a bond vigilante until I buy some bonds of course. And I do not wish to shear away all the debt my government has signed up for because I know how many are unready for any such change and cling to one precarious niche or another afforded by that debt. But seeing we and our progeny are in hawk to the tune of about $40,000 per person, my intuition is that our government is out of financial steam and our average standards of living must take a hit as the government's debt service marches toward [4% times 40000 = ] $1600 per person per year. The per taxpayer number would be higher. In the past, US administrations have drunkenly looked at these damning numbers and dreamed that an ever expanding economy would tip us toward a net inflow to the coffers. It may have been so briefly during the Clinton administration but it is on the whole still a dream scenario.

But when TPM points me to Daniel Gross's seemingly clear and not too unbalanced recap of the Krugman-Ferguson debates over the signifcance of the jump in rates which the US government is obliged to pay to lure investment in its long term bonds, my simplistic self labeling as a person with fiscally conservative leanings just falls apart. If the optimistic interpretaion of Krugman's, which Gross upholds, is the correct understanding of bond yield trends, then I expect them to level off toward more historically typical values. But if nothing is done in line with Bernanke's warning that the borrowing is getting out of hand, then the long term treasury bond rates ought to remain aloft. And the longer they stay up, the more crushing their effect and the less our taxes will be spent on any thing to benefit citizen's needs in health, education, housing or transportation. In fact, only the brave individuals who continue to hold bonds in the run-away-debt scenario will gain much of anything.

In short, the fundamentals that I understand do not support optimism. There must be other fundamentals.

I need to get a copy of Daniel Gross's new book. Kevin Phillips book Bad Money handily converted me to a view that our economy is so busted and our self deluding tolerance for debt so entrenched that our decline is nearly inevitable. I am wondering if there are any nominally conservative authors [Philips is a special case] who have a book with the same conclusions as Phillips: fiscal policy since Reagan has been a formula for collapse. Pete Peterson? I should look up Martin Hutchinson perhaps. He predicted the Fed's woes a year before freddie and fannie went on treasury life support. He presently thinks "Most government debt markets (including some but probably not all of those in euros) are thus likely to suffer an oversupply crisis over the next year or so. "

I wonder if, like global warming, the US economy is a bad situation we have caused and our better informed students of economics will eventually form some majority warning that its nearly too late and painful corrective action or even more painful consequences await. And I wonder if, like global warning, a coterie of intellectual weaklings will be given equal air time to push a line of denialism?

Friday, June 05, 2009

Who would Jesus shoot?

Its more sad than outrageous. Pastor Pagano's "deep-seeded belief in God and firearms" [his words!] should cram enough cognitive dissonance into the average Christian's mind to cause an instant migraine. Well, OK, the pastor used to be a Marine. Lots of ex-military have a psychologically unhealthy admiration for what a gun turns its owner into...but a pastor? Who let the dog-face in? Even saloons in the lawless American west of cowboy legend asked patrons to check their weapons at the door. Does he preach in fatigues? Does his Summer Bible School teach marksmanship?

This stupid episode is catching attention as far away as the UK, where they are most probably shaking their heads to learn there is even greater depth to our national sickness than commonly assumed. The Telegraph article is one of the few that emphasizes that expression and support of our liberty in the right to bear arms was the intended message of the stunt. Well, I guess that will have to do for an answer to the question most of us are asking: "What was he thinking?"

People do things to "send a message", you know. But how rare it is when the message intended is the same as the message taken. Here are some messages that are actually coming across as a result of the Pastor's ploy:
  • I don't mean to comment on the Pastor's reading of his bible because for all I know Christianity does specify that one should go about armed.
  • But his reading of the constitution is deficient. His job falls under the first, not the second amendment.
  • Guns, and particularly the neurotic and in-your-face brandishing of guns on the paranoid pretext that your personal deadly weapon might be confiscated, are not about freedom...they are about security and borrowing a feeling of safety that your upbringing could not manage to instill in you. How many of the pastor's flock have been mugged or burglarized lately?
  • The protection of your faith is inadequate, even in the very seat of its worship and observance...So carry a Glock instead!
If you want something less imaginary to feel insecure about, please consider how unfairly lone men with guns and publicly used middle names have tried to trash the course of history, undoing the hope and will of the people? Thank god Pastor Pagano did not ask his faithful to start using their full names!

I could go on. Others surely will.

Oh, Look! Here , as a formerly living media fossil would have said, is "the rest of the story": In neighboring Tennessee, you may legally go into a saloon packing a gun. I guess there is a little TN-KY rivalry here on who is the freest state. So now its a question of where would you rather have Jesus shoot you: in a church or in a bar?