Cult vs. religion

pope-zappa-estate

It’s funny, how little patience I have with organized religion now. I guess it’s hard to take them seriously when they protect child-rapers and warmongers. (Image courtesy of the very funny Bartcop.)

The sequester is Obama’s fault

Dean Baker puts his finger on the very thing that drives me crazy about Obama. He never really tells voters the truth, having decided in advance what’s best and so it’s merely a matter of manipulating them into supporting his preferred approach — an anti-democratic idea to its core. And that’s where I think Dean misses the point. I don’t think he’s faking. I think Obama really does agree with the deficit hawks:

We know the Republicans love the Job Creators and President Obama has gone out of his way to show his love, also. But in the real world, investment in equipment and software has never been much above its current share of GDP, except in the days of the dot-com bubble. This means that unless we drug investors so that they are willing to throw hundreds of billions of dollars into the stock of worthless companies, we are unlikely to see any substantial rise in investment.

As a result, we are stuck with an economy that is mired well below full employment. President Obama’s top economic advisers from his first term all claimed that they understood this point. But they said that they could not get a bigger stimulus package through Congress.

That assessment may well be true, but the real issue is what President Obama did after the stimulus package passed. He could have told the country the truth. He could have said what all his advisers claim they told him at the time: the stimulus was not large enough and we would likely need more. He could have used his presidency to explain basic economics to the public and the reporters who cover budget issues.

He could have told them that we need large deficits to fill the hole in demand that was created by the collapse in private-sector spending. He could have shown them colorful graphs that beat them over the head with the point that there was very little room for investment to expand even under the best of circumstances.

He could have also explained that consumers would not go back to their bubble levels of consumption since the wealth that had supported this consumption had disappeared with the collapse of the bubble. The public would likely understand this point, since most homeowners themselves lost large amounts of equity and understood that they were much poorer as a result of the collapse of the bubble.

In this context, the only choice in the near term is between larger budget deficits and higher unemployment. The people who clamored for cuts in government spending and lower deficits are in fact clamoring to throw people out of work and slow growth.

We will never know if President Obama could have garnered support for more stimulus and larger deficits if he had used his office to pound home basic principles of economics to the public and the media. But we do know the route he chose failed. He apparently thought the best route to get more stimulus was to convince the deficit hawks that he was one of them. He proudly announced the need to pivot to deficit reduction following the passage of the stimulus and then appointed two deficit hawks, Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, to head a deficit commission.
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I don’t want to take away your guns

I confess, I don’t get the whole gun culture. (I don’t get football, boxing, NASCAR, or golf, either.) Some gun owners are creepy. There’s a psycho-sexual dynamic to certain aspects of the gun culture that just plain skeeves me.

But I do understand how some otherwise normal people can own a veritable shitload of guns without being a Doomsday prepper. After all, I own seven guitars (a candy apple red 30th anniversary model Strat, a Squier Tele painted to look like Jimmy Page’s, an FG-150 Yamaha acoustic, an old Silvertone archtop I use for playing slide, a black Takamine acoustic-electric that’s my workhorse guitar, an RF8 Alvarez, and a lovely little Luna cutout acoustic-electric), which is not completely rational for someone who lives in a one-bedroom apartment and is no longer a working musician.

I assume for most people, the love affair with guns is something like that: I like to play each and every one of those guitars. Each instrument has its own sound and personality, and I enjoy the variety. (And when I see the T-shirts that say, “My wife says if I buy one more guitar, she’s going to leave me. Sure gonna miss her”, I do relate.)

The difference, I think, is that I only know of one person killed by a guitar. It was considered unusual.

quickdraw

As opposed to guns, which are all too frequently used to kill people.

Now, I won’t get into in-depth arguments about criminals and guns right now, because that’s not the only part of the gun carnage that so disturbs me. It’s when ordinary people, under extraordinary stress, have access to guns. That concerns me.

I know it would never pass, but I’d be happy with a law that says if you have a bitter divorce and custody fight, you have to put your guns in escrow and you don’t get them back until the kids are grown. At the very least, family court judges or anyone who hears domestic abuse cases should be able to grant petitions to remove guns for a period of time, and put the owners on whatever the equivalent of a no-buy gun list would be. Some people would be much better co-parents if it was the only way they would ever get their guns back. Imagine: Every year, a judge would ask your ex if you’d been non-threatening and cooperative!
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