I think that President Obama set the bar ridiculously low when he said that 75 percent of the stimulus should kick in within by the end of 2010, but the House bill did not even get over that bar. Why is the stimulus bill so filled with non-stimulus while it omits real stimulus measures, such as cutting payroll taxes?
I think the answer is that it is a reparations bill, not a stimulus bill. People who pay income taxes tend to vote Republican. People who live off taxes tend to vote Democratic. To the Democrats, the Bush tax cuts were a heinous evil, comparable to Germany's violation of Belgian neutrality in World War I. Now, they are demanding reparations, with hundreds of billions of dollars to be paid into teachers unions and other members of the coalition that won the election.
Most of the bill makes no sense from a stimulus perspective. But all of it makes sense from a reparations perspective.
[UPDATE: comments have been turned off. Apparently, some other blogger decided that my reference to "reparations" was a reference to reparations from slavery and hence a reference to the color of President Obama's skin. That had not occurred to me. I really was thinking about the Treaty of Versailles. But the comments were getting ugly.]Kling thought he was being clever by using Germany's violation of Belgian rights as an example of reparations. Sure, he was using a loaded word but he was not loading the word with meaning, right? His meaning was perfectly clear: Obama was trying to pass an economic stimulus bill because he wanted to give money to Democratic voters to punish Republicans who gave tax cuts to themselves. This is, of course, nonsensical, but if you believe that the economy did not need stimulus after the crash it makes perfect sense. And Kling has a basic philosophical dislike of government spending, not a racist dislike, right?
Kling begins somberly: “I think about what’s going on as an economist but I feel it as a father. My wife and I have three daughters between the ages of 19 and 25. And when I see what’s being done to their future I’m really angry. Back in September when they were talking about taking $700 billion dollars to unclog the financial system I wanted to yank Henry Paulson out of the TV screen and say to him: “Keep your hands off my daughter’s future.” But he got away with it. For me it felt like sitting there watching my home being ransacked by a gang of thugs. And now we’ve got a new gang of thugs and they are doing the same thing. So that’s how I feel, now back to how I think.”
Kling says this is a big bill, but not a big stimulus. There is nothing timely, targeted, or temporary about it. It is a simple transfer of money from one set of people to favored interest groups of the Democratic Party.Actually, Kling was a lot more nuanced at the time. He said some banks should be bailed out and some (maybe as few as 5) should be allowed to go under and worried that his view would not give enough support to foreign banks. He did not clutch his daughters and threaten Henry Paulson. Why pretend he did? Why did he feel the need to exaggerate his dislike of the stimulus when it was very clear that he disliked any government spending? Why did he discuss the bank bailouts rationally (for him) but use highly racially charged words for Obama's stimulus?--unless he thought playing on the racism of others would help him win his losing argument.
When Kling thought of favored interest groups of the Democratic Party, surely he was not just thinking of African-American members of the Democratic Party. No doubt he was just as upset at the thought of stimulus going to women or gays or immigrants, who are all too poor to pay taxes and all vote Democrat. It did not even occur to him that Obama was African-American, America was discussing reparations for slavery, and some Democratic voters are African-American, right?
We have three issues here: (1)Kling says he is not racist while using racially charged words. (2)All of Kling's proposals will hurt the poor and African-Americans are disproportionately poor. (3)We have not yet proven that Kling wants African-Americans to suffer merely because they are a different race.
What we are seeing is a contempt for the poor and powerless that is so profound it almost transcends race. It's possible that Kling is racist-he gives no proof otherwise-but any racism is almost secondary. It's the poor whom Kling despises. It is not true that "People who pay income taxes tend to vote Republican. People who live off taxes tend to vote Democratic."
Kling is attempting to manipulate his readers using their greed as well as racism to win. Kling might or might not be racist but it is his overt dismissal of the 99% is 100% clear.
So far so good, right? Mr. Kling is such a reasonable person, isn't he? Who doesn't want corporate/political control to decrease?
Most unfortunately it appears the respectable Mr. Kling is an idiot. That is utterly illogical. Kling has a PhD in economics from MIT. He is not stupid but as we very well know, libertarians are often forced to look stupid in the service of their masters. As we can see with Kling's race problem, it doesn't matter if he actually believes what he says. What matters is how much economic damage he can create for his employers, the Koch-created Cato Institute.
The homeowners who were victimized or unlucky or foolish or greedy are utterly unimportant. We need to move on and focus on the people with money who want to buy houses. Everyone will be better off if the poorer homeowners lost their homes in forclosure and got out of the way of the rich's profits.
Rob: Like many states, Oklahoma is facing a fairly significant budget gap and as severe as it is, it would almost be three times as large if it wasn't for the stimulus dollars that are coming in to all the states and here in Oklahoma. While the stimulus package has been criticized for not creating jobs has it in fact saved a lot of jobs certainly in the public sector?
Arnold: Well, my concern with that is that there's another way to save jobs in the public sector and of course this never gets me any popularity when I say it, but you could cut salaries in the public sector, right. If you have to cut your budget by ten percent, cut salaries by ten percent. You're not going to lose workers and people will be unhappy and I'm not saying that public sector workers have done something to deserve it, but this is the economy we're in. If you're in the private sector, you know, people haven't been earning as much. People are losing jobs. So if you're company is losing money, as a worker, you're going to hurt sooner or later and if your state government is losing money, as a worker, you know, you probably ought to expect to be hurting sooner or later.
Rob: Thank you for your insights.
If the private sector is suffering, make sure that the public sector is suffering as well. That'll solve the problem of dramatically curtailed spending in a consumer-spending-based economy. Again, Kling is not stupid. He is merely an employee doing his job. Kling's personal racism or lack of it is very secondary to his role as a servant of the elite, doing his best to create economic hardships for the poor no matter what their identity is. He makes many reasonable arguments against the collusion of the powerful but his libertarian policies would benefit only the very wealthy. Someone who wanted to end the collusion between finance and government does not advise the dissolution of government for the betterment of the people. It takes a Koch employee to do that.