Monday, September 1, 2014

On Being Wrong: Isis, Medicare, Government Spending, Securing Our Borders

 Paul Krugman has been on something of a tear about all the economists who predicted the collapse of the United States government and the world economy because the tax and spend Democrats were passing programs which exploded the deficit and the national debt (two different things) and seemed unable to understand that running the government is exactly like sitting at your kitchen table and balancing your check book--if you spend more than you make you wind up in big trouble.

But, as Krugman repeatedly points out, this is not true in the case of the federal government and sometimes, like in the midst of a deep, scary recession, the best thing to do is for the government to spend money and save the economy, which, when it comes back, will settle accounts. We didn't worry too much about running up the national debt during the Civil War or World War II and George W. and the Republicans didn't mind deficit spending during the Gulf War in Iraq, but now they are howling about government programs which will drive us into debt  from which our grandchildren will be digging the country out.

Except, it hasn't turned out that way: Medicare, for example, is not dragging the economy down, and in fact spending on the medical sector is diminishing and Medicare is quite happy and solvent as is Social Security, despite Paul Ryan and Scott Brown and Mitch McConnell and all the Republicans saying it ain't so.

And then there's the Republican hymn book:  Two favorites from this are second psalm ("Yea, we have to secure our border") and the most recent, the thirteen psalm: "We have to crush ISIS and Obama already missed his chance."

But here's the question:  Yeah, like how?

With respect to the border:  Got any ideas how?  Great Wall of China?  Maginot Line?  Berlin Wall?  Ever see a border that was actually "secure?"   The sanctimony of a Scott Brown, who is reading the hymn, is mind boggling. Oh, we have to cut off the flow of these illegals!  Well, duh...But how? No answers from Scott on that one. 

And as for ISIS: So here we went in and destroyed a lot of Sadam Hussein's army, police force and political party and we thought, as soon as we did all that, we'd control the politics and the people left in the dust of that onslaught, but guess what? Didn't work that way in Iraq, or for that matter in Vietnam or in any other land where we just rolled in with a big military shock and awe, and expected to be greeted as liberators with flowers and candy.  So now, ISIS is Mr. Obama's fault. Nothing that Mr. Bush or his party did before is relevant because, well,  that is so yesterday.

And rather than stop and ask, " much can we accomplish by destroying an Army, if we do not destroy the movement, the hate, the idea which formed that force in the first place?  And, have we ever been successful stomping out fundamentalist types in Islam, or the  Aryan Nation or  the Ku Klux Klan?
Well, I guess we could always throw them all into cells at Gitmo and throw away the key. Gitmo, now that's a real recruitment tool.  What you do, see, is to say we reserve the idea of due process, justice, habius corpus, trial by jury, right to a speedy trial for our people, when they are within the borders of the United States, but if you got someone outside the borders of the United States, well we don't believe in any of that stuff. When we have American CIA or soldiers or operatives working outside our borders, well anything goes. We can torture or kill or do whatever we want. 

Now, I'm not objecting to shooting Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan. That was a good idea.  And killing an Al Qaeda leader using a drone, would be okay with me, if we could trust he really is a bad guy, i.e. is plotting to kill Americans.  But there are slippery slopes here.  You don't need to serve a warrant before you shoot a man with his finger on the trigger of a nuclear dirty bomb he has smuggled into New York City. But Gitmo?  

Oh well, all's fair in love and war. 
If only this were a real war.

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