How Do You Solve a Problem Like Libya?
In “The Libya Intervention” [April 11] you compare the NATO activity in Libya with the Iraq War. But the Iraq War was entered on a whim of the Dubya Dimwit administration, which justified its actions with a suite of blatant lies. A more appropriate comparison would be with the 1991 Gulf War, where we used military force to halt mass atrocities by armies of criminals acting out the petulant rage of a self-obsessed dictator. I don’t question our intervening in Libya, but I do question our competence. I fear we will be less successful in dealing with Qaddafi than with Saddam.
New York City
I objected strongly to the Iraq invasion, but I felt proud to hear my president say that America had chosen to intervene in Libya because of who we are. I call that restoring our moral standing.
When I read the Wall Street Journal I know I will find soundly researched, reasonably objective news stories, but if I turn to the editorial pages (which I never do) reason and objectivity will be replaced by an ideology worthy of the Middle Ages. Sadly, I find The Nation to be equally praiseworthy, and guilty—with the opposite ideology. An example is your stance on Libya. Not all military interventions are equal. Kosovo cannot be equated with Iraq.
Be Sure Green Is Green
Amen to Mark Hertsgaard’s final comment in “Obama ♥ Nukes” [April 11]: “Let’s make sure that [alternative energy] is truly green.” There are a lot of wolves in sheep’s clothing out there. Something green must return more energy than went into building, maintaining and decommissioning it at the end of its life. This is known as energy balance. A wind farm or solar panel in the wrong place can fail this criterion if a large infrastructure is required to distribute the energy, or if geographic considerations result in the need for heroic civil engineering. Where are energy balance studies?
The Lies of Old Men
William Mitchell, in “Beyond Austerity” [April 4], debunks neoliberal economic myths used to justify destructive government policies. It is courageous for a professional economist to do so. He writes, “The analogy between national and household budgets is false—government can spend more than its revenue because it creates currency.” Mitchell concludes, however, that government budget deficits are needed to fund “increased public spending to directly target job creation.” If the government can “print” all the “currency” it needs, why should there be a budget deficit?
When the government prints and directly spends legal tender, it competes with private banks, which also create money. Banks charge interest on their new money, which vanishes when the loan is repaid. Newly printed and spent government money is free of debt and permanently increases the money supply. When “targeted jobs” build interstates and bridges, or a high-speed rail system, they do not compete for resources with home builders or automobile manufacturers. Infrastructure construction and maintenance is uniquely a government responsibility, and paying for it with debt-free new “currency” will promote private investment and economic growth.
ROBERT W. ZIMMERER
William Mitchell claims that progressive economists “with some well-known exceptions (Joseph Stiglitz, Paul Krugman and William Greider)” now advocate “fiscal constraint” rather than increasing overall deficit spending. Stiglitz and Krugman are impeccable neoclassical economists who apparently believe in the “special case” argument for massive Keynesian-style deficits during downturns. Otherwise, they are in basic accord with the general laissez-faire consensus of mainstream economics, which generally stands apart from the zany ideas of the Chicago School monetarists and rational expectationists, the supply-siders and libertarians driving the current wave of government-smashing austerity policies. Greider is a journalist.
There are, however, a few thousand professionally trained economists who have earned the term “progressive”—often known as “radical,” institutionalists, post-Keynesian, neo-Marxist or Marxist— economists. None of these practitioners are advocating “fiscal constraint” at present. Furthermore, most of these progressive economists would question Mitchell’s standard-issue Keynesian solutions, since while “Japan has been running large deficits since…the early 1990s,” as Mitchell champions, it has also languished in a morass of deflation and stagnation.
JAMES MARTÍN CYPHER
Universidad Autónoma de Zacatecas
I have no argument with William Mitchell’s logic; it’s his argumentative skills that need repair. After a long historical introduction, Mitchell lists five so-called neoliberal lies. He then proceeds to clarify the lies by repeating them in more or less commonsensical terms, pounding them even more clearly into his readers’ minds.
Those lies have curb appeal. If they are to be refuted, the language must be equally appealing. As Mitchell points out, the public has been hornswoggled by smooth-talking blue-eyed devils on Fox and other media outlets. If he had simply stated that demand is a function of money in consumers’ pockets and supply is a function of demand, turning supply-side economics on its numskull head, he could have proceeded to destroy the neoliberal lies in plain, organized words instead of deluging his readers with opaque jargon.
FRANKLIN LONZO DIXON JR.
Katha Pollitt’s May 2 “Subject to Debate” column said that Planned Parenthood received $317 million in Title X funding. Actually, Title X received $317 million in 2010, part of which went to PP.