The Republicans Really Did Destroy the Country

Republican handiwork

I’m not an expert on economics, but I think I know enough about it to be able to come to reasonably-informed opinions on the issues.

I’ve been warning about the national debt to anybody who would listen since the late ’70s. You can’t run on deficit spending forever, yet that’s what we we’ve been doing.

That course was heading us to eventual disaster, but then GW Bush was installed as president by the Supreme Court and pretty much sealed our fate. Bush massively ratcheted up the already obscenely high national debt. His cronies (e.g., Haliburton, Blackwater, Goldman Sachs) looted the public treasury. He got us into two protracted, unfunded wars. His policies destroyed our manufacturing base, shipped many of our jobs overseas, and damaged the economy in numerous other ways.

Given our massive debt, enormous budget deficits, gargantuan military, and runaway spending that neither party is willing to curtail, it looks to me that a crash is inevitable. I hope I’m wrong. I tend to be a fatalist about life in general, so that might be coloring my assessment of things.

David Stockman, Ronald Reagan’s former budget director, is making the rounds these days warning of the bleak days ahead. He wrote an op-ed at the New York Times titled “Four Deformations of the Apocalypse”. Here are some excerpts of what he says:

[T]he new policy doctrines have caused four great deformations of the national economy, and modern Republicans have turned a blind eye to each one.

The first of these started when the Nixon administration defaulted on American obligations under the 1944 Bretton Woods agreement to balance our accounts with the world. Now, since we have lived beyond our means as a nation for nearly 40 years, our cumulative current-account deficit — the combined shortfall on our trade in goods, services and income — has reached nearly $8 trillion. That’s borrowed prosperity on an epic scale.

When the dollar was tied to fixed exchange rates, politicians were willing to administer the needed castor oil, because the alternative was to make up for the trade shortfall by paying out reserves, and this would cause immediate economic pain — from high interest rates, for example. But now there is no discipline, only global monetary chaos as foreign central banks run their own printing presses at ever faster speeds to sop up the tidal wave of dollars coming from the Federal Reserve.

The second unhappy change in the American economy has been the extraordinary growth of our public debt.… This debt explosion has resulted not from big spending by the Democrats, but instead the Republican Party’s embrace, about three decades ago, of the insidious doctrine that deficits don’t matter if they result from tax cuts.

The third ominous change in the American economy has been the vast, unproductive expansion of our financial sector. Here, Republicans have been oblivious to the grave danger of flooding financial markets with freely printed money and, at the same time, removing traditional restrictions on leverage and speculation.

The fourth destructive change has been the hollowing out of the larger American economy. Having lived beyond our means for decades by borrowing heavily from abroad, we have steadily sent jobs and production offshore.

The day of national reckoning has arrived.… [I]t’s a pity that the modern Republican Party offers the American people an irrelevant platform of recycled Keynesianism when the old approach — balanced budgets, sound money and financial discipline — is needed more than ever.

Stockman was also interviewed on All Things Considered recently. I’ll try to embed the interview below.

Bottom line: We’re undertaxed and overspent and have been so for decades.

28 Responses to “The Republicans Really Did Destroy the Country”

  1. deathgrindfreak Says:

    I couldn’t agree more…

  2. BravoWhiskey Says:

    Newsflash: the US is already bankrupt. What an astute observation. Bush Bush Bush Bush Bush

  3. S. Says:

    Bush was handed a good economy by Clinton,and it didn’t take him long to ruin it.
    I can’t help but wonder what things would have been like,or what they would be like now,had Kerry won instead.

  4. S. Says:

    Or if Gore had won Bush’s first term!

  5. Hieronymus Fortesque Lickspittle Says:

    I retired from the US Military and woke up. Once I became an atheist I started wondering who else was feeding me a line of shit. Turns out the government was the obvious second next to religion. We all need to quit this Nationalist fervor and realize we are all people regardless of nationality and that everyone just wants a better life for themselves and their children. Iraqis, Iranians, Mexicans, whoever. They are all Fathers, Mothers, Sisters and Brothers.

  6. Brian Says:

    Heironymous,

    First of all, that’s perhaps the greatest name I’ve ever seen.

    Second, I agree that nationalism is very much a religion in its own way. Patriotic zealots blindly think their country can never be wrong about anything, and every other country in the world is a cesspool. Not by coincidence, nearly all the America-first people are also fundies, which stems from their penchant for blind obedience and stigmatization of “out-groups” that are from somewhere else or believe differently. I’d also add fervent sports fanatics to this group, but at least they’re not particularly dangerous, unless we’re talking about soccer hooligans or Detroit Pistons fans.

  7. OtherRob Says:

    …and teenaged Twilight fans…

  8. Parrotlover77 Says:

    Long term deficit spending is definitely a problem. But it seems the only “serious” talk you get out of Washington is cutting the social safety net. Does it make any sense to anybody that we are actually discussing in Very Serious intellectual circles what we need to do with Social Security when it is fully funded for another 30-50 years (depending on projection) when, right now, we are running trillions in national debt due to things like the obscene military budget? How many god damned air craft carriers do we need? Mohammed H. Christ!

    One thing I fear though is that we are starting to get a bit of a deficit obsessed on the left. Now, that’s not a bad thing — don’t get me wrong. But we are currently in a recession. The only way to get out of a recession (or, I should say, mitigate the recession) is to spend. You have to get people into jobs and that costs money. Republicans suddenly have discovered their fiscally responsible side (which they do when they are out of power), so it doesn’t take many on the left to cause some serious damage. We are already seeing it due to the filibuster nonsense, with the stimulus package being trimmed down and including non-stimulative tax cuts and so forth. A few blue dogs later, and some serious damage can be done.

    There’s a time and a place for deficit hawking. The time is a few years from now when the recession is over. And the place is the military industrial complex.

    I’m tired of the Pain Caucus telling me that I need to retire at 70, so I can enjoy six fantastic years of Social Security before croaking because we are out of money in a completely solvent part of the government. No, fuck that. The retirement age needs to be lowered to 55. That creates more jobs because people will be able to leave the work force before they are knocking on death’s door. And if we can spend 2/3 of our budget of bullshit military projects, we can spend a little on the Social Security trust fund out of the general budget. Why does SS have to play by rules the rest of the government does not?

  9. Ron Britton Says:

    PL:

    The Republican strategy since Reagan has been to run massive deficits until the Democrats are forced to agree to destroy all the social programs. Unfortunately, that’s working. As you can see by any other civilized country, it is possible to run a balanced budget and also have a good level of social services.

    The problem we’re in now, though, is they’ve spent 30 years running us into the ground. We’ve lost most of our altitude. I fear there is not enough room left to pull out of this dive (as I said in the article, I tend to be fatalistic).

    One thing you need to keep in mind is the international community is already balking at buying any more of our debt. If the world ever switches to a different international currency, there will no longer be a huge foreign market soaking up our debt.

    The first thing we need to do is cut the military in half. We’d still have the largest military on Earth by a longshot. That would go a very long way to putting things back into financial order.

    Where do you get your information about Social Security? It is now finally running a deficit. The federal government now needs to start paying back all of those IOUs it issued itself to disguise the true size of the deficit. This is an additional burden on the budget that would have been unnecessary if Congress had had the balls over the last several decades to be honest about how they reported the true size of the deficits they were running.

    The retirement age absolutely needs to be raised to 70. Where did this idea come from that people “deserve” a three-decade-long taxpayer-funded vacation at the end of their life? It was designed to be a social safety net that kicks at the last few years of your life to help you get by when you’re too feeble to work. If you want a vacation before that, fund it yourself.

  10. Jeff Says:

    The problem we’re in now, though, is they’ve spent 30 years running us into the ground. We’ve lost most of our altitude. I fear there is not enough room left to pull out of this dive

    Yep.

  11. Parrotlover77 Says:

    One thing you need to keep in mind is the international community is already balking at buying any more of our debt. If the world ever switches to a different international currency, there will no longer be a huge foreign market soaking up our debt.

    I dunno. China would be shooting themselves in the foot. We are their largest consumer. They have to lend to us to keep growing their economy, which they want.

    The first thing we need to do is cut the military in half. We’d still have the largest military on Earth by a longshot. That would go a very long way to putting things back into financial order.

    Word.

    Where do you get your information about Social Security? It is now finally running a deficit. The federal government now needs to start paying back all of those IOUs it issued itself to disguise the true size of the deficit. This is an additional burden on the budget that would have been unnecessary if Congress had had the balls over the last several decades to be honest about how they reported the true size of the deficits they were running.

    Okay, I see where you are coming from, but that’s not a fair assessment of SS. Because the government has borrowed against SS does not do anything to cancel the fact that when you count funds-in versus funds-out ignoring what was stolen from it, it’s solvent. The problem is borrowing agianst it. So, okay, I guess you can have this one because the true accounting of it isn’t the same as how I was looking at it, as a well-funded well-run program that benefits many and doesn’t go into debt as a result of paying out more in benefits that it pulls in of revenue.

    The retirement age absolutely needs to be raised to 70. Where did this idea come from that people “deserve” a three-decade-long taxpayer-funded vacation at the end of their life? It was designed to be a social safety net that kicks at the last few years of your life to help you get by when you’re too feeble to work. If you want a vacation before that, fund it yourself.

    Wow. I have never heard such a callous “I Gots Mine, Screw You And Yours” statement from a liberal in a long time. This is disturbing. We fund this 30 year vacation (which, if by 30 years, you mean the average life spam in is 85 under my proposal (it’s not) and is 95 now (it’s not!). And if you call a vacation barely enough to pay rent, and main some level of dignity after working really fucking hard for your whole life. But that’s the new “uniquely American” attitude. Work even after you are one foot in the grave! Work two jobs! Fuck you, oldie, you don’t deserve to retire!

  12. Parrotlover77 Says:

    I just reread what I said and it barely makes sense. It’s like I’m typing as if I’m speaking with my mouth full. Now that I’ve calmed down, I’ll translate.

    A call to raise the SS retirement age because “why should I pay for you” is disturbing to me. We fund social security for exactly the reason which you seem to be against. That’s fine if that’s your viewpoint, but considering that SS would be solvent (and then some) with the 50% military reduction you also proposed above, I don’t get why we should even be discussing passing Republican pet plans of killing the social safety net. SS is a drop in the bucket compared to the Military Industrial Complex.

    I should point out that 30 years of “vacation” is a stretch. A 30 year retirement from my reduced age proposal would mean living to 85. That’s nearly a decade more than the average American will live. Right now, under the current SS plan, a 30 year retirement would mean living to 95! For most of us, that’s not happening.

    Raising the retirement age to 70 would mean you get social security benefits for, on average, six years before your die. SIX! Holy crap that’s depressing!

    I’m relatively financially stable with no dependents, so I’m going to probably not actually need SS at all from a retirement standpoint. But I’m glad it’s there should my luck turn for the worse and I can’t keep earning what I do now.

    I sympathize greatly with the growing lower-middle class workers with little to no Union representation and increasingly worsening work conditions, longer hours, lower benefits, and lower pay. They need at least this. Nobody in this country should be forced to work past 55, IMHO, 60 at the latest. Sixty-five is what we define now and I think that’s too high. If you want to work longer, fine. But you shouldn’t be forced to. Age discrimination is so bad right now as it is, I can’t imagine as a 69 year old applying for an IT job. I’d never get one!

    Besides, let’s analyze what this SS vacation would look like. In reality, it’s a living situation where you have enough to pay rent for a small one bedroom apartment and maintain a minimal level of dignity. Hardly what I call a vacation.

    This new “work until you die” attitude that’s developing in this country is really terrible. It’s the opposite direction a civilized society should take. After you put in 30-40 years of work, you should be allowed to just enjoy your life. I support a strong social security retirement program for the same reason I support a strong public (free!) health care system: it’s the morally correct thing to do. Do unto others, blah blah blah.

  13. Jeff Says:

    You realize, of course, that we’re never going to implement any of that.

  14. ericsan Says:

    During the 80s and 90s in Europe the retirement age was lowered and lots of companies bought out senior employees to send them into early retirement and replace them with younger, cheaper workers — as well as helping the government report lower unemployment numbers. My dad was able to retire at 57 with 90% of his pay *and* got a nice payout.
    Fast forward 20 years and the European governments are now having a hard time keeping up with the cost of pensions and social programs, because of increased lifespan, high unemployment rates and immigration, so they’re pushing back the retirement age again (65 and 67 is common).
    The thing is, they’re still getting a hell of a lot more than we’re getting here, and for less (their payments are not as high). Something tells me it has to do with the completely insane amounts of money this country pisses away into the military. The rationale behind maintaining bases in Germany escapes me, and whatever it is we’re doing in Iraq and Afghanistan is just the same: useless, extremely expensive and endless.
    I’d still like to know how come we pay so much to get so litte and somehow have been brainwashed into believing it was just fine and maybe we were too demanding.

  15. Parrotlover77 Says:

    Jeff – Yes, I realize that. The military budget will get a little tiny trim around the edges here and there, but will never be less than 90% of what it is now (and that’s being generous).

    However, the raising of the retirement age is very possible and liberals signing up under the otherwise worthy cause of deficit reduction scares the shit out of me. It’s just yet another way to piss on the lower and middle classes, while the fat cats up to get a larger slice of the pie.

    ericsan – There’s a balance to be found, I think. Buying out early retirement is not a bad thing, IMHO, as it does make room for younger employees and can be used to maintain an employment balance in the economy (as you stated). Now, that said, an early buyout + 90% current pay pension is probably a bit excessive and difficult to support when all other things are factored in. Let’s be clear here on a few points. Social Security is not the same, nor should it be, as a full retirement package. In my opinion, it should be set up to maintain a minimum, but livable, standard of living. In other words, you have a place to live, food to eat, and enough left over to get the occassional non-necessity. If you want to live at the standard of living you were at while employed, you need a retirement savings strategy of some sort. These are two separate issues, in my opinion. I just think that there is a happy medium between working poor people to their bones and to their grave, and providing a fully government sponsored country club plan. It’s crazy, I know.

    Can we at least agree that the cap on FICA is regressive and should be eliminated? (Old Obama promise from the campaign years.)

  16. Robert Says:

    Who would have thought the “tax and spend” liberals could balance a budget but there was actually a surplus, not a deficit, when Clinton’s time in office ended.

    Bush started his time in office with a record surplus that he quickly turned into a record deficit.

  17. Jeff Says:

    It’s just yet another way to piss on the lower and middle classes, while the fat cats up to get a larger slice of the pie.

    I know – but I think you know by now that I think it’s inevitable. I don’t get worked up about it much anymore. I think it’s inevitable. Humanity is nearly finished – and it deserves to be. We’re a loathsome species.

    On a brighter note – perhaps parrots will evolve to fill the niche!

    (In any case, at least I won’t have to type “blockquote” any more!)

  18. Jeff Says:

    Fuck – I screwed up that last comment. I didn’t mean to use “inevitable” twice. It’s 6:00am.

    Where’s my edit function, Ronald?

  19. Parrotlover77 Says:

    It could happen… There are a lot of very clever parrot species that grasp some very complex and abstract thought processes, including math. Who knows? A few more clever traits adapted to escape from predators and find hard-to-find food might be enough to push them over whatever the intelligence event horizon was for early humans which led to us.

    It would be interesting to see how a culture based on a prey species evolves. Humans, after all, evolved as a predatory species, so you see it interweaved throughout society and history in various forms. Hell, our entire economy is based on a form of predation. lol.

    What would a vegetarian prey species do?

  20. Jeff Says:

    Humans, after all, evolved as a predatory species

    Not originally, I think – but then they became one. Possibly during one of the Ice Ages, although it might have happened earlier. Hard to tell from the other primates. We now know chimps are somewhat predatory, but there are also the Bonobos.

    The thing is – parrots don’t have prehensile hands. That was a big push forward. They’d have to evolve them, probably within a relatively short period of time. Same with the cetaceans – and there doesn’t seem to be any environmental factor that would lead to that.

    Primates – territoriality, predation, mammalian politics. All in all, a bad idea for higher consciousness (from an ID perspective!). On the other hand – prehensile limbs.

    Reality is a cruel joke.

  21. Jeff Says:

    What would a vegetarian prey species do?

    Well, maybe if seeds evolved legs… !

  22. Ron Britton Says:

    Where’s my edit function, Ronald?

    You’ll get it when I stop working 60 hours per week. If only I could retire at age 55…

  23. Ron Britton Says:

    On a brighter note – perhaps parrots will evolve to fill the niche!

    The rodents are probably in a better position to take over. They already have hands, so they can manipulate their environment better.

    The higher primates won’t take over, because we will have made them extinct before taking ourselves out.

    Rats and squirrels are equally intelligent, so we’ll end up with a bi-species society. When the scenario depicted in the movie scene above plays out, it won’t be chimps, gorillas, and orangutans. Dr. Zaius will be a squirrel.

    Here’s an untrained wild squirrel raiding a bird feeder.

    As you can see, it will be an entirely food-based economy. That’s all they care about.

  24. Jeff Says:

    Jesus, that’s amazing. I didn’t think about the rodents. That’s a very good point. Ray Comfort should be made to watch this video for about eight hours. Then he should be forced to run the course. With electric shocks for failure.

    “Take your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty rat!”

  25. Jeff Says:

    You know, those Giant African Pouched Rats are already more useful than we are. Better-natured, too.

  26. Parrotlover77 Says:

    The thing is – parrots don’t have prehensile hands.

    Stop being so mammal centric. Who needs hands when you have prehensile feet. I think that little Ringneck in the link has writer’s block.

    Here’s an untrained wild squirrel raiding a bird feeder.

    I love watching cute little animals navigate what is basically a rube goldburg machine. Nice.

  27. Draken Says:

    In the European countries where I live or have lived, The Netherlands and Denmark, there’s basic social retirement funding for people of 65 (now 67) years regardless of employment history. Enough to survive, but anything over that amount you need to save for yourself- either via the (mandatory) pension fund your employer has set up, or by private pension investment. Which is largely subject to stock market fluctuations and corrupt banks, muhahaha.

    But the real point is, our society is simply not prepared for elderly employees. People in their 40s typically pair a lot of experience with a lot of energy, and carry the prospect of 10+ years to come. People between 50 and 65 don’t pick up new tricks half as quick, nor are they as energetic as the younger ones. If you become unemployed at 55+, abandon all hope of getting another job before 65. I can see it happen around me, now.

    But don’t worry about it, Ron. If you work 60 hour weeks you’re probably going to burn out way before you ever get to pluck the fruits of these savings society or your bank made you.

  28. Parrotlover77 Says:

    Draken – That’s the new American Way. Work 60 to 80 hours per week, make the same as when you worked less (sometimes even a pay cut), raise the retirement age to infinity, die before you retire. Then your kids can do the same.

    HEY WORKING THREE JOBS IS JUST GREAT! UNIQUELY AMERICAN!