White House economic proposal straight from the hookah room

Who could forget Robert Gibbs’ quaint expression that liberals should be drug tested for criticizing the White House’s center-right domestic policy? We now know why the White House finds this such an apt expression of its fears and contempt. A look at their new economic proposal shows that domestic policy is devised around the hookah. It looks like the only way the White House is going to lead us out of the depression is if the delivery of Oreos to the stoners overseeing the national economy drives massive hiring by Nabisco.

The Washington Post, that paragon of nothing if not “serious” non-leftist thinking, was the vessel by which the White House tentatively offered up its economic reverie (check the url; the White House-Washington Post (“WHWP”) consider this a “nl_natlalert”):

“With just two months until the November elections, the White House is seriously weighing a package of business tax breaks–potentially worth hundreds of billions of dollars–to spur hiring and combat Republican charges that Democratic tax policies hurt small businesses, according to people with knowledge of the deliberations.

“Among the options under consideration are a temporary payroll-tax holiday and a permanent extension of the now-expired research-and-development tax credit, which rewards companies that conduct research into new technologies within the United States.”

The WHWP floats this lead balloon evidently with a straight face. It must believe that only the “professional left” has any interest in the policy content of proposals. So while we are amusing ourselves with reading such things as the reports by the Congressional Budget Office and Moody’s Analytics (to name just what we’ve recently posted about)–which show that “tax cuts” are not an efficient method of stimulus (to use the hyperwonk expression which the Democrats now prefer over terms that refer to employment)–the WHWP continues to “eat Hasheesh and dream dreams” (see John Hay to Nora Perry, January 2, 1859 in Caroline Ticknor, A Poet in Exile: The Early Letters of John Hay (Houghton Mifflin: 1910) at 22-23; consider the parallels: both the man who would be Lincoln’s secretary and the WHWP economics alert team are smoking hashish right before massive national disasters).

No, he's not about to jump. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is getting ready to moon the "Professional Left." Again.

It’s not that Timothy Geithner or Larry Summers or Christina Romer (who is about to jump this rapidly sinking ship) or even the “head” of this Administration himself doesn’t understand policy. You don’t have to read a bunch of numbers to get it. Just do a “thought experiment.” If you were an employer would you hire someone at, say, $50,000 to get back, say, $500? A rational person (and isn’t that really what we all are to the economists?) would only do so if he can make sufficient profit from the employ whose net cost is $49,500 but not $50,000. And where is such an employer? Those who were going to hire anyway will pocket the money. Just another gift from the taxpayer to some random business for no apparent reason. Perhaps as a thank you for hiring one person? Those who can’t make a sufficient profit on $49,500 won’t hire despite the “incentive.” So it will be billions of taxpayer dollars to people for doing what they were going to do anyway. Just to get that tiny sliver of a fraction of employers who are on the bubble about hiring (in total) a relative handful of people. But this is what the ObamaRepublican economic-think boils down to.

After all, it’s beyond the scope of political discussion in this country to even consider actually hiring people to do useful things. We no longer are allowed to use government money unless it passes through the hands of at least one, and preferably many, layers of profit takers so that it is reduced considerably before it gets to its destination. That is the vigorish that neoliberals have to give to capitalism. Look it up in Adam Smith! It might be hard to find there, because it’s in eighteenth century language. Maybe it’s best to put it in politicalese: What’s good for AIG is good for America. Private enterprise is rational; that’s why you have to pay it. You can’t use government money to pay for health care. You must first give it to an insurance company, who pays for staff, buiding, advertisement, lobbyists and CEOs who make $24 million a year. That overhead is essential because they are the ones best able to decide how to use it. Same for green R/D. Same for infrastructure. Same for everything. Humans are too stupid to do anything unless they have shareholders to report to.

So this proposal is all of a piece with the larger “thinking” of the neoliberal “thinking” of the WHWP team. That is, if you give the “thinking” behind it that much credit. Which you shouldn’t because WHWP tells us this is not about policy. This is about politics. Let’s hear again from WHWP:

“Administration officials have struggled to develop new economic policies and an effective message to blunt expected Republican gains in Congress and defuse complaints from Democrats that President Obama is fumbling the issue most important to voters. Following Obama’s vacation and focus on foreign policy in recent weeks, White House advisers have arranged a series of economic events for the president next week, including two trips to swing states and a news conference.

“‘We’ll continue to do everything we can, understanding that recovery will require persistent effort. There are no silver bullets,’ senior Obama adviser David Axelrod said in an interview Thursday. ‘At the same time, we have to make clear our ideas and theirs, and the fact that the Washington Republicans, having helped create this recession, have attempted to block our every effort to deal with it.’

“But with the unemployment rate expected to rise again in jobs numbers due out Friday, panic is setting in among many Democratic candidates who fear it is too late for Obama to convince voters that he understands the depth of the nation’s economic woes and can fix them.”

So you see, it’s only about politics. It’s about hoisting them on their own petard. That’s what the American people really want and deserve, a good petard hoisting. After all, didn’t Hamlet tell his mother:

“For ’tis the sport to have the engineer
Hoist with his own petard: and ‘t shall go hard
But I will delve one yard below their mines,
And blow them at the moon …” (III:iv).

So “our” guys are going to give some free money to employers so the Republicans can’t take credit for doing or wanting to do it. And those guys who pocket the money will vote Republican anyway like they always do. Now does it make sense? Have another toke.

It’s all just politics. Nothing serious. Isn’t that what we voted for–to maintain a system of partisan political advantage at the expense of the American people? Or should I be drug tested?

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  1. September 8th, 2010

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