Book News!

In these tough times, we need to find joy and escape wherever we can, and preferably, on the cheep. So I’ve lowered the price of my first book, The Machine of the World to $10. You can purchase it at CreateSpace.com* or at Amazon.com.

My second book is being proofed as I write these words. I expect The Lives of Perfect Creatures to be available for purchase( and review!) in June.

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* I get a slightly higher cut if you purchase it from Create Space, FYI.

Viva la Revolucion!

I was hoping to live long enough to see the US adopt some Socialist ideas, I just didn’t expect it to happen like this, or this quickly. Yikes. John Quiggin:

A couple of days ago, I thought my call for full-scale nationalisation of the banking sector would remain beyond the pale of political acceptability for at least a week. But in today’s paper I read the following, very sensible assessment

“Inevitably, the US, Britain and Europe are going to end up with nationalised banking systems in one form or another, and with governments guaranteeing not only their deposits but probably all their liabilities. The nationalisation will be a temporary emergency measure. But for some time at least the systemically important banks effectively are going to be public utilities and must be regulated accordingly.

This taxpayer rescue of banking systems opens up a new and potentially very important avenue for unfreezing bank lending and restoring the flow of credit. If governments effectively control the banks, what is to stop them from demanding that they start lending again?”

And what wild-eyed socialist wrote this? Alan Wood in the Australian.

Meanwhile, calls for a guarantee of bank deposits are gaining force.

Of course, none of this constitutes a shift to socialism in any meaningful sense of the term. But it does mean, for quite some time to come, the end of neoliberalism (or free-market liberalism or whatever you want to call the set of ideas centred on the proposition that markets can do a better job than governments in managing risks of all kinds).

As John Quiggin points out, this isn’t Socialism in the usual, “let’s feed everybody and make sure we have health care and education” sense but in the, “let’s make sure the rich don’t suffer the depredations we gladly heap on the poor.” We being the Bush administration, which means that, as usual, it’s Conservative ideals turned all wibbly wobbly, so that now Free Market Capitalism = Socialism for the Rich. Swell.

The upside being that the next time some jackass politician* gets on TV and tells us that gollygee, we’d love everyone to have Universal Health Care but we just can’t afford to go down that road just yet, sorry, they are, as usual, full of shit. 700 Billion for bank bailouts is a hell of a lot more than Universal Helathcare would ever cost. I mean, that’s only slightly more money then we’ve burned in Iraq.

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* Sadly, that jackass politician may turn out to be Obama.

We Will All Retire to the Hobo Jungle

OK, look, this whole thing with Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae is getting out of hand. Now, I don’t claim to be an economist, but apparently I have one thing most economists don’t, and that’s half a brain. If the Fed bails out the owners of most of the country’s mortgage debt, this will lead to crushing inflation,* because the only way to do that is to print more money, which makes all the money worth less due to some weird voodoo invented by Warren Buffet.†

So yeah, I’ll never be able to afford to retire and may not be able to buy a house because by the time BushCo. and friends get through with the economy, the Dollar will only be good as toilet paper. But as Atrios pointed out, there is a way to avoid this mess: let them fail. Then rebuild Freddie and Fannie as federal institutions. This would force the shareholders to eat a turd sandwich rather than half the home owners in the country. I don’t now about you, but I won’t loose any sleep knowing a bunch of rich idiots are slightly less rich. And if it means my parents get to keep their house and maybe one day retire, I call it a win win situation.

The reason it won’t happen is because Socialism is evil and poor people have a moral weakness, or so I’m told by McMaverick McCain. Unless they are already rich. The wealthy should always be able to gamble with the lives and means of the people, and then get a government handout to ensure that they never, ever learn their lesson. That way, we can repeat this fun exercise in flirting with societal collapse again in a few decades. Fun!

Link via Aaron at Semiconscious.org

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*Or stagflation as they called it in the 70’s. Boy, wouldn’t it be great to go back to the 70’s? Rising gas prices, an unwinnable war draining the heart and soul of America and an economic malaise that could very well teeter into a new Depression. Sounds groovy!

† The weird voodoo in question is related to the fact that we have fiat currency. You may recall that this is what gets the Paultards and Randians in a twist, because we’re no longer on the Gold Standard, where our currency’s value is tied to a kinda sorta stable commodity. The fact that this commodity, gold, like all others also fluctuates never enters their dense little skulls. The short of it is that we’re kinda screwed and it’s all because some shriveled old uber-capitalists decided that it’d be swell to gouge the American citizens for a few decades. Unlike the old story of the Indians selling Manhattan for a box of beads, these guys sold all of America for a fat bank account, which they have thoughtfully moved offshore and are busy converting to Euros as we speak. That way, when we all get shit on real good, they will still get to keep most of their money, all the while, talking shit about how helping the poor is Socialism. This Buffet guy really should just stick to singing crappy songs about salt shakers and pirates.

Why A Recession Could Be a Good Thing

Amanda Marcott has a great little post at Pandagon regarding the looming economic downturn. She makes a solid point that I had yet to consider:

I hear that our economy is on a downturn and the government is going to give us money to make it right. What I say is that the economy has been on a downturn, and it wasn’t until the very wealthy saw their extreme wealth threatened that we saw any action on it.

The irony is this: The fix for our problems is actually pretty simple. Capitalism per se is not the problem. In its place, it’s a good thing. But we need the basics to be made into public property—access to nutritious food, housing, health care, day care—and we need to get our capitalist system out of short-term thinking. We need to make it unreasonable and unprofitable to gamble on third world debt and the way it can be used to manipulate foreign currency. We need to make capitalism capitalistic again, i.e. return the risk to it, instead of offering huge government bailouts to save its failures. And we need high marginal tax rates to encourage capitalists to make long term investments instead of the short term investments that rule our culture.

While I disagree that Capitalism isn’t the problem (as someone in the comments at Pandagon pointed out, forcing working class and lower middle class people into subsistence living with no social safety net is a feature of Capitalism, not a bug) I do agree that the Economic Downturn* has been underway for a while and it’s only now that we’re hearing about it because it’s suddenly affecting the wealthy, who thought that their wildly inflated housing prices would somehow insulate them form the cruel realities of Alan Greenspan’s Invisible Hand job.

Continue reading “Why A Recession Could Be a Good Thing”