Friday, October 30, 2009

Dismantling the Economy

During the New Deal, the government left a legacy of buildings, parks, and public spaces. Gray Brechin deserves great credit for documenting this achievement.

In contrast, the U.S. is engaged in wasteful spending on war and bailouts that will leave a pitifully small legacy. What king of legacy will Obama leave?

I remember when the United States was going to prosper as an information economy, based on the premise that we are either the smartest or the best educated in the world. To ensure success in achieving this vision, the country is engaged in a massive defunding of education. California, of course, is the leader in this respect.

Presumably, imposing requirements multiple choice tests and scripted teaching in the poor neighborhoods will be all we need, once we can break the teachers' unions.

In line with the steady undermining of information in the information economy, the University of California is making some questionable choices. Here is one that has not been widely publicized:

California is contemplating a $10 billion bond to finance a massive statewide water project. One would assume that the state would want to have access to as much information for guidance in such matters.

Yet the University of California is getting ready to mothball its valuable Water Resources Center Archives, which a Sacramento Bee article observed, "For decades it has served as a shrine for engineers, lawyers and academics working to understand and improve the management of water, California's most precious resource." The problem is that the school cannot afford the $230,000 annual cost, probably equal to a couple of superfluous vice presidents.

Weiser, Matt. 2009. "UC Archives on Water Imperiled." Sacramento Bee (26 October): p. B 1.


Curmudgeon said...

There is a definite inter-generational warfare component to current policy decisions. The over 65s hold public power and are quite sadistically cutting all spending that benefits working age people and youth. Slashing education is little different in this regard from the pressure exerted by the over 65 medicare leeches to keep younger people from getting access to health care.

We need to find some way to politically castrate these senile wastes of oxygen there will be no legacy left for anyone else to inherit.

Abolishing social security would be a good start. said...


Hmmm. Seems a bit harsh. A decent medical care system reform that would lower costs, or at least contain them, while extending coverage, strikes me as more productive than eliminating social security.

There was talk of the fiscal stimulus being used for useful infrastructure, as well as for alternative energy, and so on, but there certainly do not seem to have been any noticeable achievements yet in these areas. I think that support for state and local governments continues to look like one of the better uses of federal stim money right now, which might help avoid things such as this elimination of the Water Resources Center in CA. Of course, in general in higher ed there has been a proliferation of overpaid and unnecessary administrators.

Curmudgeon said...

Culling social security would be more a matter of retaliating against the senility brigade for the slash-and-burn policies they're inflicting on services used by everybody else.

If the over 65s don't believe their kids deserve health care and don't believe their grandkids deserve an education, then the over 65s really don't deserve to have their retirements paid for using money from our pockets.

wordy said...

Curmudgeon, first of all, it's unlikely that your claim is backed up by voter and polling data. Living in Germany, I know for a fact that here it is exactly the other way around. Neoliberals expressly talk about having only a "short window of opportunity" for reducing pensions to the level they would like to see them at, because there is a rise in the median age of voters.There is indeed a very pronounced tendency for voters to turn to the left as they enter middle age. "To the left" - this also implies: support for public services, opposition to the privatization of natural monopolies. And, of course, lowering pensions is just another way of eliminating jobs via the elimination of the consumption that the pensions pay for.
It used to be that conservative politics fed off of the semantic operation of the "nationalization" of any issues, i.e., the packaging of any and all topical political statements in the language of national strength. I have the distinct impression that the successor to this meme of "nationalization" (not of industries, but the rhetorical space) is the concept of "generationalization". By the way, the fact that many oldsters intend to stay in the job market for longer than they originally planned clearly demonstrates that they are perfectly willing to do their bit. Your portrayal of the older generation as leeches is nothing but a product of neoliberal anthropology.
I could, of course, reply to you in the same mean spirit you exhibited. If I chose to do that, I'd just say that it is a good thing that there are not more young people in Germany since - at least for a rather large number of them - their main concern in the voting booth last time around appears to have been to ensure that Internet downloads remain free. We don't need people who can't even vote themselves a decent amount of job creation, whether via worktime reduction, increased provision of services, other means or any combination thereof. It's sort of self-evident, isn't it? If you can't articulate your needs in a democracy... Draw your own conclusion!
Sandwichman: your comment about my use of the word financing was ignorant. You can't evade the issue of resource allocation. You can always have worktime reduction as a consequence of the workings of the free market. In fact, after the next leg down - within the next two or three years - I expect more U-6-unemployment than during the Great Depression. You might want to engage in some allocative activities beforehand. Before going into full-on Kunstler-mode again, you might also want to construct a table juxtaposing the historical dates of worktime reduction milestones in the past with the percentage of GDP allocated by the state at those times. Then try again to tell us how Schumpeter would teach Wray a lesson. For that, you'd have to show that our current system with its historically relatively high rates of state spending somehow inhibits the processes of automation and rationalization. Good luck with that.

Joerg said...

"Kurzarbeit für Ökonomen, jetzt!"
That was very funny. There's a theory that the German language isn't well suited to humour, but you have shown that to be perfectly untrue.

And communication via blog posts and comments is hard (although easier than overcoming the limitations inherent in accepting the super-artificial scarcity of 140 characters). E.g., - if you are willing to do a bit of time travel -, I might have reacted to a blog post by John Maynard Keynes in which he voiced his opinion about Jews by trotting out the word "ignorant" - just as commenter wordy did with respect to one of your statements. I would still consider him to be as close to genius as economists can possibly hope to get.

It's not only noise that can make short work of signal. Lack of duration has effects, too.

TheTrucker said...

Posted by Michael Perelman

"I remember when the United States was going to prosper as an information economy, based on the premise that we are either the smartest or the best educated in the world. To ensure success in achieving this vision, the country is engaged in a massive defunding of education. California, of course, is the leader in this respect."

The destruction of the technology sector of the economy was accomplished primarily through the use of H1B visas. This destroyed the wages of computer science graduates and sent all the college people to "business school". The same sort of thing happened in nursing and lab tech areas. And if not for the national doctor's union (AMA) the same would have happened to physicians.

According to globalists, this had to be done to keep America competitive. The translation of course is that the financial weenies needed to be rewarded. We, the wage earners, must be competitive so the "better off" socker moms can drive their SUV's and the affluent can drive their Hummers. Because the only reason we need trade is for oil.

The best solution to climate change will be for the USA to tax imports with a double tax on oil. Cap and trade is not direct and forceful enough and it creates a brand new way to cheat the producers and reward the rentier while not resolving the deficit problems.

Michael Perelman said...

Speaking as a 70-year old, I would suggest looking at class interests rather than generational interests.

Eleanor said...

This is off topic, but I just read back through Econospeak. There seems to be a tone change. I have also noticed a tone change in a number of blogs I read, I think due to serious frustration with the current political and economic situation.

Maybe I am misreading the posts here. I don't always get irony and humor.

But I'm finding whatever it is -- anger or irony I don't get -- makes reading blogs less fun.

Eleanor said...

I was reading from the most recent posts back. Going the other way, things seem to have calmed down. Never mind.

Anonymous said...


pay attention to perelman and others who
recognize differences between social group
and class, how these crosscut and which
has primacy -
you merely facilitate the austerities and upward re
distributions which it sounds you're against.


Anonymous said...

How selfish is the comment made about abolishing Social Security. Obviously whoever posted that is so selfish and self centered that you forget that all these "old people" paid into to Social Security all their working years. The money they receive after age 62was paid by "them" and they deserve to get it. You, whoever the hell you are are "not" paying for it (SS) out of your pockets. For many that is all they have. When you get 62,(AND YOU WILL ONE DAY)WHY DON'T YOU JUST GIVE IT BACK. Do not pass go and do not collect it. What a terrible thing to say about older people. Why do you HATE OLD PEOPLE ? How sad. You selfish soul.

PQuincy said...

Heck, just one Vice Provost would do it, though in all fairness, university Vice Provosts don't make much compared to comparable private executives.

Anyway, it's easier to cut another 30 TAs for a quarter than to cut a Vice Provost....