December 9, 2002

Rich Men On Economics

Walking into my neighborhood Spanish deli on Sunday morning I see the TV playing one of the Sunday morning political talk shows. The deli owner has seen me snarl at them many times before. He says, "The politicians, they don't know what they are doing, right?" as he puts my bagel in a bag for me.

"They know what they are doing; they are stealing all our money," I say. "The economy is fine for them."

It is apparently "rich men talk economics" day on this show and they have place New Jersey Senator Jon Corzine opposite failed presidential contender Steve Forbes to discuss what could be done about the economy. It is now legal to talk about it on talk shows since the election is over and there isn't much you can do about who is running the show. Both are known as multimillionaires who spent multimillions of their own money to get elected. But there are, yet, big differences.

Corzine is a strange case. Rich as hell, former Goldman Sachs man, he is humane, sensible, like a classic liberal. Corzine is saying "We need to get some buying power into the middle classes to stimulate the economy. The supply side tax cuts didn't stimulate the economy. We already have an overcapacity on the supply side..."

Forbes, of course is taking Bush's horse as hard as possible in the other direction. The tax cuts were small, he said. They should be bigger.

Forbes is the guy whose one policy that anyone noted him for was his "flat tax" proposal, which is a straight percentage of tax on all wages. The tricky part of that language is that it is on wages only. So rich people can make all the money they want on their investments and pay no tax. It is only the wage slaves who have to pay taxes. If you are punching a time clock and working in the factory, you pay that flat tax. If you are Donald Trump, you get a free ride. Great idea, Steve.

Corzine was also one of the very few senators who had the guts to stand against Bush's resolution to give him nearly unlimited power to wage war on whoever he thinks is a threat in the Middle East. Not Hillary Clinton. Not Charles Schumer. They both wimped out and jumped on the war wagon. But, Jon Corzine, is different. Maybe in his case being independently wealthy makes him an anomaly in the Senate, a senator who is not owned. Also a strange case of a man who made millions on Wall Street who cares about people who have less than he does.

The fact is, the liberal view of economics is actually better for both rich and poor. Once the rich get over the misery having to have some of their wealth go to pay taxes, the system actually works better when wealth is more equitably distributed. Corzine is right. If people are squeezed and worried about losing their jobs, their homes, of course they aren't going to be fueling the economy with consumer purchases.

The general Republican economic view is post-Depression trauma, that is, hording. They want to stack up as much money as possible to be ready for the next crash. But their hording, when as successfully empowered as it is now, brings on the next economic crash. It is a very fearful view of the world, in terms of both economic and foreign policies. And it brings on its own disasters as self-fulfilling prophecies.

Money is like blood. In a healthy system it has to flow. That's why Keynesian economics works: get the government to spend money strategically to stimulate the flow. Equitable distribution of wealth is an asset to the whole system. The wealth of the nation is now so tied up with the top 5 percent of the population, it is clogging the system.

The fearful foreign policies of the Republicans also create their own disasters, as we are witnessing now. Bush lamely tells us "Al Qaeda is being dismantled." The statement shows no comprehension of what Al Qaeda is. It's not like the U.S. Army. It is fueled not be wealth but by zeal. For every Al Qaeda operative Bush and company kill, ten more spring up in his place. Anti-American fury is growing by leaps and bounds the world over.

The Republicans are dragging us all into the cesspool of their own nightmare.

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