Thursday, October 28, 2010

The New Era of Fiscal Discipline


First, after consultation with others, I have decided to split up my posts by topic.  This way for those of you who aren't into Magic and/or politics and/or my random musings, you can read the posts you want to read without having to wade through the other stuff.  I will manage these the best I can with tags to help towards this end.  Anyways, on to the actual post...and for those of you needing a Musings is a funny picture of a shark.

Now, I keep reading articles about the federal deficit, responsible government spending, and the various economic implications of the Tea Party's platform/ideals and I feel like something has to be made abundantly clear.....calls for fiscal discipline, at least as constructed and put out there, are a gigantic ruse.  Don't get me wrong, there are times when fiscal discipline is a valuable tool to help guide decision making, in particular in terms of government spending.  As a principle, its really the only thing that keeps ridiculous pork-barrel spending from becoming even more ridiculous ("My constituents NEED me to have a 8 seat hot tub at my guest house!").  Moreover, while I think that the laser plane that the Air Force had been spending the last 10 years and $1 billion developing is awesome in theory, there are probably better and more responsible uses for defense funds.

It has a laser on it!

However, there have been a lot of conflated connections and relationships created by conservatives in this day and age between the current economic state of disarray and programs/things that they do not like under the guise of trying to promote fiscal discipline.  A simple example of this is health care.  Countless politicians have assailed the recent health care reform bill as a grotesque example of government spending gone wild (there are other complaints....but thats for a different day).  However, there are actual and unknown costs of no health care reform that aren't accounted for when these people shoot off at the mouth about the cost of the bill.  Between curbs on Medicare spending (something I would THINK that conservatives would be excited about) and most projections regarding how medical cost inflation will be controlled and the revenue created by the fines, the worst case scenario seems to be that the bill will be deficit neutral with many other projections saying that it will save money in the long term.  However, given that these same politicians simply find such programs unsavory because insurance companies hold a large amount of sway in the GOP and any government program is nothing short of the anti-Christ in their minds....they hide their biases under the guise of fiscal discipline.

Another example that is often brought up as a form of government waste is welfare.  It goes without saying that there are people out there who abuse the system to get a free hand out and that is deplorable.  However, that speaks far more of the need to reform the bureaucracy within the U.S. welfare system and not a need to cut funding under the guise of "getting rid of wasteful spending".  Why?  Because the absence of governmental programs designed to help those who are impoverished save a lot more money than people realize.  Without that source of income, many of these people would be forced to hand their children over to the state because they are unable to care for them, many would be forced to engage in less-than-legal sources of income to get by thereby putting a further financial burden on law enforcement and prison agencies as well as no gains in tax revenue, and more people would have to go in to foreclosure because either they can't pay their own mortgages OR they will not be able to pay their rent thereby threatening homeowners of rental properties (and we know what happens when housing craters).  What would a world look like in the absence of adequate funding for programs like welfare?  My guess is that fiscal discipline as a principle would be thrown out completely in exchange for trying to solve what could be an crisis of poverty that would make the situation of our current economic system pale in comparison.

What about illegal immigration?

Now, these two issues may not seem related, at least in regards to the current public discourse on the matter. However, not only does it show that those who are adhering to the principle of fiscal discipline don't apply the principle to programs that they like (due to racism or other biases), but also that they are acting on behalf of private interests that want to MAKE MORE money off of the situation by actually INCREASING the amount of spending (that doesn't sound like fiscal discipline...does it?).  First, one of the arguments advanced by conservatives in this day and age is that illegal immigrants are taking jobs away from law-abiding American citizens, thereby invoking, at least, the specter of American unemployment in the discussion.  Now aside from the fact that this is borderline ridiculous (there isn't a line out the door at citrus farms for orange pickers or at many of these jobs where illegal immigrants are working), something is lost in the discussion: illegal immigrants are single-handedly preventing a crisis with Social Security.  According to the New York Times in 2005 (the number is almost certainly higher now), illegal immigrants contribute $7 billion annually to Social Security with almost none of it being paid back out to them because, again, they are illegal immigrants.  $7 billion?!?! Why isn't this in the conservative calculation, especially when fiscal discipline is so in vogue?  Because conservatives don't like Social Security and want to do it their way with privatization as a main component and all sorts of changes to decrease the scope of the agency.  And what happens then?  Old people riot in the streets

We are coming for our money....and to fuck you up!

So what is the real motivation then?  Is it just motivation based on antiquated, racist notions that illegal immigrants are all criminals and that the nation should all have one, pale skin color?  I'm sure some of that exists and there is a special place in hell for people like that....but I think that the link below may have some clues as to what is going on...its a good read.

Prison Economics Help Drive Ariz. Immigration Law

Private prison entrepreneurs wanting to make money by imprisoning all of the brown people?  All I have to say about that is "Welcome to the new era of fiscal discipline"

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