Friday, December 27, 2013

Talking to My Congressional Delegation on Unemployment Insurance

I live in Washington state, have been out of work for nearly ay year, and the unemployment extension will expire on my birthday. Thanks, Democrats.

I called both my Senators and my House Representative yesterday. Senator Murray's office, lead Democratic negotiator on the budget deal, is on holiday vacation. My rep's office expert on this subject has been furloughed. This leaves Senator Cantwell's office. I got to talk to a staffer who told me that an unemployment extension is not in the current budget, and the next budget will be written in two years. It is possible that there will be an amendment early next year. It doesn't sound like the Senate Democrats have the heart for another government shutdown, though it works in favor of the Democratic party. It appears to me, based on these two contacts, that the Republican budget blackmail has been successful. I await a callback from my Representative's office.

I may never vote for a Democrat in a national election again. If they're not going to stand for me, if they're going to cave—what's the point? And I will support a primary challenge to Senator Murray from the left.

[Added: My House Representative’s office called me back the day after I called. The staffer said that the issue will be raised, and that Pelosi and Obama will join in, though he’s not sure how much of a press Obama will mount. He says the outcome is far from certain. Myself, I think he underestimates Republican intransigence on this issue, and indeed on anything that ameliorates poverty, but I am not going to say anything to discourage him.]

Thursday, December 26, 2013

"A depressed economy for workers, but not at all for corporations"

Notes on a Krugman post, "Why Corporations Might Not Mind Moderate Depression" (NYT paywall, Edited from my remarks over there.)

Are we perhaps in a bubble again? Military production, maintained by tax money worldwide, that is real production. But how much of the "good" economy for corporations is due to pushing money around, rather than making anything real—a bubble economy? Or is the appearance of a good economy perhaps the result of converting productive capital into the wealth of rich—the kind of anti-capitalism that made Mitt Romney wealthy?

I am not sure there is more to be looted from the former good economy of the West, but if there is, I am sure someone somewhere has figured out how to loot it.

[2014.01.07 Editorial cleanup. .08: "somewhere" added.]

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Bitcoin and the unregulated economy or wtf, libertarians, again?

More from the Bitcoin discussion.

What is it with libertarians? We live in a world in unregulated trading has crashed the global economy and still libertarians ask for more data and more experiments. It is like climate denialism. Enough, already. Keynesian economics has passed numerous experimental tests. Time to accept it and move on.

I worry about (to misquote myself) an economy like a climate system, with arbitrary and unpredictable weather, vast storms, freezes, burns, droughts. This isn't a maybe thing; we know that without fiscal and monetary policy that is what we will get. And the very wealthy can work that system in their favor, so that only they will be able to save. And that is one possible future, and it ends with our civilization drowned.

Seriously, libertarians, wtf?

Friday, December 20, 2013

Bitcoin—Troll's Gold

It's troll's gold—a curse to the holder, and to those who desire it. It's deflationary, which means it's an inherently poor currency to do business in; it comes with a built-in sales tax. It provides an incentive for employers and debtors to delay payment as long as possible. It's money that comes with a built-in discouragement to exchange, and half the work of money is as a medium of exchange.

Science fiction writer Charlie Stross brought this up on his blog, and the post jumped the science fiction ghetto wall—it got cited on /., and David Atkins over at Hullabaloo picked it up.

And, yes, Bitcoin could become a problem. It was intended, after all to implement both the crypto-anarchist and goldbug agenda. But, really, isn't this what the biggest global banks have already done? Finance, beyond the control of the most powerful governments, and corrupting those governments. I do not think Bitcoin could make matters much worse, in that regard. Yet…

There's a dark side to Keynesian economics. Keynes-Hicks models provide tools which hold out the promise of an economy without booms and busts, without bubbles and depressions, without a 1%. Conversely, though, Keynesian management can be used to enable an aristocracy, to insure that money will only be a store of value for people who are connected with the people who run the system. A new tool of class oppression, in other words.

But there's a deeper darkness. Without the "somewhat comprehensive socialization of investment" that Keynesian economic management requires, a money economy is like a climate system, with arbitrary and unpredictable weather, vast storms, freezes, booms and busts. And that is what crypto-anarchists want to make a permanent condition.

Well. I do not think that is too likely. But a new aristocracy? Is that not what a faction of the world's very wealthy are working to create?

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Budget Deal: Not Even A Fight

My unemployment insurance will expire on my birthday. The budget deal that I am hearing praised? The Democrats didn't even put up a fight on unemployment. Now, if it had been the Republicans losing on one of their policy goals, we'd have heard about it 24x7 on the news. There would have been a filibuster and hostage-taking. Instead, the Democrats just rolled over, letting the Republicans avoid doing something that would cost them hugely in public standing and perhaps even votes.

I feel like I'm living in an abusive family, where the violent alcoholic father beats us routinely, and the beaten-down mother doesn't even raise a protest, and the neighbors all complement the mother on keeping the peace. Abuse survivors will often tell you they hate the complicit parent as much as the openly abusive one. The Democrats could have the vast majority of the public on their side if they just stood up, but they never do.

And what is this stuff with parents anyway? The parties are supposed to be working for the people, not the other way around. They're supposed to be our sons and daughters, not our parents, not our rulers.

No. This is not what the Framers fought for, in that long-ago time when they created the first modem democracy. No.