So what do you do when financial analysts are warning that housing prices are headed for a “triple dip”, the second largest Swiss Bank (Credit Suisse) announces it’s piling 1,500 additional job cuts – many from the US – on top of its previously announced 2,000 (after a 12 per cent increase in profits this past quarter) and the federal government just sued one of the nation’s largest privately held mortgage brokers (Allied Home Mortgage) for a decade of “fraudulent lending practices that forced thousands of Americans to lose their homes”.
Seriously, could the economic Big Brains who think it’s a good idea to take money out of people’s pockets via spending cuts, while rejecting increased spending on our nation’s crashing infrastructure, try punching “Japan” and “lost decade” into the Google machine? Or perhaps just admit their relationship to understood economics is like Kim Kardashian’s marriage – shallow, somewhat entertaining, but ultimately embarrassing.
These right-wing members of Congress and inhabitants of the “pro-market”, think-tank-welfare world, with their flip reaction the ongoing economic crisis, have begun to remind me of an exchange between John Travolta (trying to steal and sell nuclear weapons) and Christian Slater (trying to stop him) in the movie Broken Arrow. Slater’s character says to Travolta’s: “You’re out of your mind,” to which Travolta replies – while wearing a spooky Herman Cain-esque, I-just-gave-a-massage-to-my-secretary smile – “Yeah, ain’t it cool.”
Apparently, the only stimulant conservatives favour is whatever Rick Perry was mainlining during his speech in New Hampshire the other night.
Infrastructure work creates jobs
What’s so maddening, however, is that the answer is quite clear to sane people and non-shills-long-term infrastructure projects that, in the near term, provide jobs, and further out will provide … jobs. And increased productivity. Ever hear of those train things or the internet? Yeah, well, people are more productive when they’re faster and stuff.
Part of what’s so frustrating is that not only was President Obama’s stimulus bill too small by half, which top economists predicted before it passed (but yay, Susan Collins liked it!). But the administration didn’t even defend it, which took something the Congressional Budget Office says saved up to 3.6 million jobs – and allowed it to be demonised by politically expedient grifters playing games.
These very same economists who were right about the stimulus are now clamouring for more infrastructure spending. Paul Krugman, who has been banging this drum for a while, pointed out in a recent piece how the very same crowd that flips out over any government spending on, for lack of a better phrase, people who can’t afford his and hers dancing water fountains from Neiman Marcus as a stocking-stuffer, continually push for spending for defence contractors without a worry in the world about the budget. Why? Because these hypocritical dunderheads say “such cuts would destroy jobs”.
So obviously the deficit hysteria is simply that, a pretend crisis to hide an ideology gunning for its greatest achievement to be reintroducing the elderly to the joys of the appetising and eminently satisfying Purina dinner.
In addition to economists, some in the business world who care about being good citizens and wellbeing beyond their four walls, understand the importance of infrastructure spending for our economy and people. Stan Litow, the head of IBM’s corporate citizen program, with whom I work on some of these projects, answered a question I asked him concerning the role of government in infrastructure development and improvements by affirming that “states and the US government can be major players”. Last week Litow and IBM launched their second Smarter Cities Challenge, inviting urban centres across the globe to apply for a grant, technological assistance and consulting services to complete a variety of projects that improve cities while creating jobs. In the past, this has included creating a smart grid in Boulder, Colorado, and improving transportation planning and delivery of services in Austin, Texas.
If only the federal government would build upon efforts such as these, to fix our decaying streets while creating jobs for the so-desperately unemployed who inhabit them.
Recently, a study was released [PDF] by the Organization for Co-operation and Economic Development (OECD), and, as with so many measures of our country’s health, the conservative vice-grip on our culture has taken us straight into the toilet in our rankings on social justice. At 27th, the US is far behind countries such as Hungary (17th) and Poland (20th), and quickly approaching Mexico (30th). Which perhaps is the conservative plan – to make the US so uninhabitable that nobody wants to immigrate here anymore – legally or illegally.
Charles Blow of the Times summed up the study perfectly, as “America’s Exploding Pipe Dream.” If only our infrastructure were instead a pipe bomb, as Krugman pointed out, we’d rush to fund it without end.
Follow Cliff on Twitter @cliffschecter
This piece was first published at Al Jazeera English
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