Friday, October 30, 2009

Suck It Up

The Phil Nugent Experience: Suck It Up

Phil Nugent on Hoover, Bush, Obama, Roosevelt, Clinton, and how far we allow our fellow citizens to fall.

"There was a time when the kind of government initiative that Roosevelt embodied, and that Bill Clinton and now Barack Obama have tried to extend to basic medical coverage, was considered strange and new, and it was allowed to become an accepted part of the national landscape because for a couple of generations most people, including those American politicians (Ronald Reagan very much not excluded), still had vivid memories of how much worse things could be without it. George Bush, Jr.'s effort to privatize Social Security was an important moment in the contemporary American history, because it served notice that power had finally passed into the hands of a generation of thoughtless spoiled 'tards who lacked both historical memory and any feeling for anyone who couldn't have their personal assistant hire a private jet if that was what it took to get them the hell out of the way of a hurricane. It's not yet clear how much the current population will remember the crash of '08 and its own lessons; it would be sweet to think that people will take the hint and stone the next person they see preaching the importance of markets unfettered by regulation, but the last several years would have been a lot different if they'd taken that same lesson from the S & L scandals that, along with the end of the Cold War, provided an appropriate capper to the Reagan era. Instead, that turned out to be one of the most mysteriously quickly forgotten instructional lessons of our time, brushed aside in what Greenspan himself called the "irrational exuberance" of the '90s bubble economy. One hates to suggest that an even worse crash might have been healthier for the long-term sanity of the nation, but it would be interesting to know how many of the people whining about the dangers of socialism at those town hall meetings would have eagerly mailed their Social Security funds off to Bernie Madoff, if only our former MBA President had had his way."


  1. It seems to be conventional wisdom at this point that the worst of this economic downturn is behind us. I'm not sold.

    We have unprecendented national debt, 10% unemployment, and interest rates near 0 percent. Interest rates absolutely must rise. Our creditors will demand it and inflation will require it. Higher interest rates will obviously limit consumer and business spending, which will further hurt the economy.

    It is possible Nugent will get to see what happens to "the long-term sanity of the nation" if we have a worse crash.

  2. I think the words about an "even worse" crash refers to the S+L crisis-if that had been more damaging, maybe we would have fixed the problems.

    I often worry about our debt load and the amount of control our creditors hold over us, but I also think about something Donald Trump said once-you're not broke until people know you're broke. Meaning that our creditors can demand higher interest rates all they want-but if we go down, so do they. In a perverse way, they can't let us go under, because it would hurt them (make all their paper that they bought from us worthless) as bad as it would hurt us(make us pay higher and higher interest rates to sell our debt).

    Every national debt is unprecedented, because it keeps going up. After you break a record, every dollar you spend breaks your own record. If you're trying to argue that Obama's debt is higher than any other president, you're right-but that's like saying that Star Wars made more money at the box office than Gone With The Wind. True, but not very illuminating.

    Is it possible that another downturn, or an extended one, is around the corner? Sure. I don't know, and neither does anyone else. But we had to do something in late 2008, and we did, and things are marginally better now-at least, they're no longer talking about businesses ceasing to function because they can't get any money lent. Do I think we would have been better off now without the stimulus spending, though? No.

  3. The guy better check his Presidents list better. There was no George Bush Jr. Bush was not a Jr., and oddly enough Al Gore actually is.

    And, incidentally. Bush's effort to "privatize Social Security" is mischaracterized, as he only planned to privatize a very small percentage of it. Which happens to have been a similar percentage to what Gore proposed also.

    Thanks to the knee-jerk reaction against any effort to fix the coming complete Social Security collapse, the train is still rocketing down the tracks to oblivion.

    The small percentages involved of both the Bush and Gore reforms, percentages people would have been allowed not forced to invest, were sensible at the time, and are still sensible.

    One reform that would save a lot of money in the program and cause no hardship would be means testing. As it is now, social security includes a large element of waste on welfare for the rich. But there's a knee-jerk reaction on this, and welfare-for-the-rich is very popular even among Democrats now (as seen how how many voted for the bailouts, and support for free healthcare for rich people).

    There are plenty of things wrong with the generation in power, but the very minor social security tweak proposed (allowing people to invest only a small percentage differently, and voluntarily) was a cautious measured approach to reform, and not any sort of example of "thoughtless spoiled 'tards who lacked both historical memory and any feeling for anyone who couldn't have their personal assistant"

    Jeanne: "We have unprecendented national debt"

    The party/group in power always seems to downplay the debt, don't they?

  4. This page has an interesting discussion of social security issues from a few years ago. It details Bush's support for a form of means testing:

    "The Pozen Plan, which Bush has now endorsed, is different. It reduces the benefits of those who make high wages in their working years by indexing them to prices instead of wages. Low-wage workers would get full wage-indexed benefits."

    .... hardly something a private-jet "tard" would do.

  5. "Reagan proved deficits don't matter."

    -Dick Cheney

    Phil's a pretty smart guy-I'm sure he knows George W. Bush is not a Junior, technically. I think he uses that construction just to vary his phrasing, or just to be difficult and contrary.

    You're absolutely right, though-Social Security is doomed, and means testing would be one way to try and fix it. Like a lot of things, though, I will be playing in the final group during the Masters before it happens.

    Is privatization a good route to saving Social Security? Maybe it is, I don't know. Maybe Social Security shouldn't be saved-it's an awfully socialist program, dontcha know.

    But I think what Phil is getting at is this knee jerk "let's privatize it-the market can do it better" is brought into question during the era of Citi and AIG and Madoff and Chase. They are the market-they are private companies. And they stole money and nearly destroyed the world. Do you blame people for not trusting them?

  6. "Do you blame people for not trusting them?"

    No, not at all. I opposed the bailouts, as did/do most people I know. Especially the way there was "no strings attached".

    The Bush and Gore privitization plans were really quite moderate. I can't find the information now, but I'm pretty sure that the amount allowed for voluntary private invesement in the stock market was as low as 2% and as high as 12%.

  7. "Maybe Social Security shouldn't be saved-it's an awfully socialist program, dontcha know."

    Well, when something crosses the line from charity (helping the poor) to becoming government handouts for the rich, that crosses a line into the socialism I do question. And without means-teasting, socialism does include a major element of handouts for the rich.


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