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Web Letters | The Nation

Web Letter

This article, as is often the case in regards to material published in The Nation, reminds me of a recent incident at a college footbball game. A well-qualified player who was giving it his all in a game being played on his home field was booed when a pass was not completed. In this case the home team is being booed and the game has not even started.

Robert Castle

McMinnville, OR

Dec 7 2008 - 8:47pm

Web Letter

Volcker, Geithner, Summers, progressive, creative thinkers, really? Point well taken sir, thank you.

JAMES PINETTE

Caribou, ME

Dec 4 2008 - 2:38am

Web Letter

It's much too soon to spouting such harsh criticism of Obama's team. What came out of the people who were around Clinton was first and foremost a Clinton response. As Obama has said, he wants people who are tried and have experience--now is not the time to put in the second team and pray for a Hail Mary pass. If Obama filled his team with new thinkers, the global crisis we are in would implode. We need to say to the rest of the world that we going to have knowledgeable and experienced people working these situations. This is much more important in these desperate times than to have "new" thinkers and untried personnel running the show. Just because they aren't new on the scene doesn't mean new ideas won't be born. You have to remember, Obama is not Clinton. Clinton was an insecure people-pleaser, and I don't think for a minute Obama will put his popularity rating above making smart choices when it comes to running this country.

cindy white

Wallace, ID

Dec 2 2008 - 7:00pm

Web Letter

Failed neoliberalism? Old ideas?

Is everyone forgetting that the Clinton administration presided over the biggest economic runup in the history of the world? That he erased a Reagan/Bush deficit that many thought would never be erased, much less in Clinton's two terms in office? And not only did he erase the deficit, he created a surplus that would have insulated this country from various monetary calamities for years to come--if only George W. Bush the junior hadn't simply handed the surplus over to millionaires and billionaires. Who else should Obama turn the economy over to, but the people whose previous success in that area will be the benchmark for generations to come?

axel harting

Hot Springs, SD

Dec 2 2008 - 5:58pm

Web Letter

This is an excellent article! However, there is very little new under the sun. Capitalism, socialism and other systems have been tried before, so there is a record on how well they worked. Since everything has been done before, we have a historical record of their achievements and failures. We do not have to reinvent the wheel, or go through all the struggles of the Roosevelt administration. We know what worked, and just have to do it again.

But that is not enough! Conservatives were not quite as simple-minded as they are today. Also, while there were conflicts between management and labor, they sometimes combined to defend their mutual interests. Opposition to slavery in the North was opposed by working people, because it undercut "free labor." Labor and management in the North supported tariffs, because American industries and their workers were protected from overseas competition, and cheap goods produced by "free trade" wage slavery in Great Britain. William McKinley was not a "free trader," and defended his industrial base in Ohio, when he was in Congress. His speech against the Wood "Tariff Reform" on April 15, 1878, was a more readable version of Alexander Hamilton's "Report on Manufactures," though limited to the business side of the argument.

Tariffs are an essential tool for development in any country or, in our case, redevelopment. The Sherman Anti-Trust act will also be a valuable tool. Concentrated economic power provides an opportunity for widespread failure in any economic system. Management must be close to the means of production so that they understand the process and the market they serve. Holding companies in business are the equivalent of absentee landlords in agriculture, in that they have no knowledge of the companies they run or the markets they serve. Failure on a massive scale is built into a centralized economic system. Decentralizing the national or international economy reduces risk because failure is reduced to one company or nation. (McKinley's speech is available on Google Books in the collection "Speeches and Addresses of William McKinley From his election to congress to the present time," New York D. Appleton and company 1893. The Wood tariff speech is the first chapter.)

Pervis James Casey

Riverside, CA

Dec 2 2008 - 4:57pm

Web Letter

It may well be that the Obama administration will commence its campaign against the economic crisis with conventionally advanced policies generated by public figures that, for better or worse, enjoy the confidence of a doubtful marketplace. If these policies fail, then the consensus and impetus will exist to pursue unconventional innovations. As in war, no plan survives intact after contact with the enemy, and true innovation may be the new administration's strategic reserve.

On the other hand, the author of Beyond the Bailout State has a right to fear that bailout policies, though necessary, are rutted in some way. He is right that they are rutted in liabilities.

The nation has an $11.2 trillion debt, $4 trillion worth of debt interest payments per decade, and serial annual operating deficits that add $1 trillion to the US debt every two-and-a-half years. Proposed stimulus packages, ranging between $600 billion and $1 trillion, add to a black hole of debt and deficits. Stimulus measures and bailouts in the current fiscal environment are not the sort of "out of the box" thoughts or actions needed to solve the economic crisis.

The solution must be drawn from the asset column, because this cyclical recession is attached to an iceberg of growing debt. This is an accounting problem before it is an economic one: a question of this nation’s balance sheet, its assets and liabilities. America's unrecorded asset is 700 million acres of public land, one-eighth of the continental US, with underlying natural and mineral resources. A valuation of this public land provides an opportunity to add several trillion dollars to the asset column of America’s balance sheet. This does not entail a sale of public land but a valuation. Any stimulus packagee or bailouts, amortization or repurchase of the US national debt should be drawn from this as yet unregistered wealth.

Sioan Stephen Bethel

Brooklyn, NY

Dec 2 2008 - 11:53am

Web Letter

A truly brilliant essay by Steve Fraser. He gets it. To paraphrase, we have broken models for our economy, foreign policy and governance.

No matter the stimulus or lack of it, our economic model is broken. Even with a stimulus the economy will, by design, return to wasteful consumer spending, the accumulation of ever more unpayable debt and rapid economic decline.

The last four years of growth were a mirage that the real estate, stock and bond markets are now discounting. It was all a bubble bet with borrowed money and now it is gone. The real trouble is, for over twenty-five years now we have based our economy on borrowing to spend, not invest. The bill for this twenty-five-year debt binge is now due, but the economy is still configured for more of the same.

Our foreign policy has been belligerent and bellicose and even in the best of times underhanded and manipulative. The loss of our moral authority and will bode ill for years to come, years in which we will need them most to move forward with foreign policy initiatives. Obama's foreign policy team is made up of the champions of these failed policies. Our hubris abroad has and will come back to haunt us.

The country is now being run by special interests, with Paulson and Bernanke backstopping with trillions the very people and institutions that created the financial crisis of our regulatory system that is in shreds while greed and fear rip through our investments and savings evaporate. Congress gets no say, not that it wouldn't be manipulated by the very same special interests.

The United States is coming apart at the seams. The old remedies will not suffice--worse, they will lead into more intractability and, bigger by magnitudes, the same problems and crises later.

Michael McKinlay

Hercules, CA

Dec 1 2008 - 6:00pm

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