new column: cry me a river, rich man

Trying to find someone who knows something about the economy in today's political climate is a lot like living in the land of the blind and trying to find a one-eyed man. With headline after headline of increasingly disastrous economic news - global in scope with Wall Street at the epicentre -it's become obvious that the dominant economic model that more or less began with Ronald Reagan, and continued on even through the Clinton administration, is severely flawed. Deregulation, creative financial maneouvres - it just goes on.

But the problem isn't simply with specific elements of the economy, but how the economy functions as a whole, starting with bedrock principles. Critically, there seems to be two parallel economies: one based on labour, and one based on money itself. The former, of course, is the easy-to-understand economy, based on concrete economic transactions that everyone participates in. But the money economy is arcane and cryptic, filled with such strange beasts as hedge funds and securitized mortgages. This is an economy based on numbers and abstract calculations - and when it fails, it takes everything else down with it.

Into this comes the myth of Republican fiscal conservatism, that is, fiscal responsibility. Why the Republican party still has any credibility on economic matters is a mystery to me. The budget for the Iraq war was kept separate from the national budget, a strange way to do accounting. Tax cuts for the rich have never trickled down, acting instead to shrink the middle class and polarize the rich-poor divide. Deregulation of financial markets made possible Enron and the like. It just goes on. For a more primal example of how Republicans are out-of-touch with economic reality, one doesn't necessarily need to get into the highly technical aspects of modern economics. We can return to a discussion of first principles, such as: what is wealth? Without necessarily saying that Democrats are shiny beacons of hope, in comparison to the aristocratic, let-the-eat-cake mindset of Republicans, it's at least clear that in the game of Lesser Evil, Republicans are not the ones to get us out of this mess. And so, in answer to the charge that non-Republicans are jealous of the rich folk's success - jealous enough to steal their money - I say:

Cry Me A River, Rich Man

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