Saturday, July 30, 2011

The dim prophet of doom

David Strom wrote an op-ed piece in the Strib this morning. Strom suffers from a disabling case of Ryan's Hysteria, the definition of which will, sometime in the future, read:
A mental affliction distinguished by the fixed and unwavering belief that the sky is actually falling. Named after an early 21st century Republican Congressman from Wisconsin in the former United States who held office shortly before Congress refused to pay its bills and the economy collapsed. There is no known treatment or cure for Ryan's Hysteria.
Strom is a former college instructor (in political science, not economics), former executive director of the Minnesota Taxpayers League, former executive director of the Minnesota Free Market Institute, former Patriot radio host and occasional front man for a couple of his advertisers, precious metal and currency swap scam artists now in or on their way to the can, and most recently, he's been saved from a life on the streets by the Republican Caucus in the Minnesota House.

I heard Strom described recently as a "desperate huckster," and I certainly don't disagree with that.

The first time I ever heard spittle-flecked rantings like Strom's about how we were under a mountain of debt, that it was going to kill the country, we were on the road to financial perdition, and that we needed to get rid of welfare and Social Security, was when I was about twelve (half a century ago). It was relayed to me, in all seriousness, by a friend of mine, a child in an extended family of Bircher-types.

So you see, Ryan's Hysteria predates, well, Ryan. It was nonsense then, and it is nonsense now. We don't have a debt crisis; we have (as a tweet I read said), a hostage crisis. Strom, in fact, complains that he and his misguided brethren are described in those terms: terrorists, hostage takers, or suicide bombers.

Why, according to Strom, they're the ones who see the light. Just like all the other messianic zealots and fools of history: David Koresh, Jim Jones, Nathan Bedford Forrest, Bud Grant (I always like to throw that one in there because of his leadership on the Indian fishing treaty litigation; that one ended so well), and well, the list is near endless.

One of Strom's rhetorical tricks is to project deficits out for fifty years. All of the debt prophets love to do this. But you should look at Strom's argument this way: it's like observing a car crossing the border into Minnesota on I-35 and predicting confidently that its final destination is Thunder Bay, Ontario.

If a publically-held company made fifty-year financial projections to investors, its CEO and CFO would be sharing cells next to Strom's precious metal and currency swap huckster buddies.

It is curious that the debt hysteria always surfaces during Democratic administrations, when in fact, more debt is run up at a faster rate when Republicans are the president. Bill Clinton was the president the last time we had a budget surplus, and you'll remember it was Alan Greenspan who said we needed to cut taxes to keep from paying off the national debt too soon. The nineties were a lot more prosperous time in America than the aughts and the era of the Bush tax cuts, too.

What needs to happen now is to prevent the Zippo raid on the United States by Strom and his zealot pals. The village does not need to be burned to be saved. In any near or medium term, it isn't even in need of saving.

Just letting Uncle Alan and George Bush's tax cuts expire would go a long way toward fixing the problem. That and cutting a military that spends as much as the whole rest of the world combined.


Some words from one of my correspondents:
I borrowed these numbers from David Cay Johnson's site: In 2000, individual tax receipts averaged $4500 per person. In 2010 they were at $2900. That's a 39% decrease (to say nothing of an overall decrease in corporate taxes, which fell 27%) during a period where we suffered a major terrorist attack, fought 2 wars, added on an unfunded Medicare extension (Part D), suffered a horrific natural disaster (Katrina), bought a non-Keynesian stimulus package (mostly tax cuts and individual/state aid) and bailed out Wall Street. [ ] We're running head first into global warming and default and [ ] one of the main political parties doesn't believe in anything going on in the real world.

No comments: