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Balance sucks.

Even on a see-saw, balance is not much fun.

The balanced budget was sucky when Al Gore touted it in the nineteen-nineties. And, when the accounts of the United States were finally unbalanced by an excess of revenues, many collected as a consequence of "welfare reform" and other "full employment" strategies to have people getting paid and paying into the federal coffers, as a result of doing work (like managing a household) that they'd previously done for free, it turned out, as we now know from the statistics, that the vast majority of the people are no better off than they were in the prior or subsequent decade. Balance does not lead to an improved standard of living. Nor does it rebuild out crumbling infra-structure.

Now President Barack Obama is arguing that if we just balance more revenues from rich people with fewer services for the poor everyone's welfare will be improved. All we need is for Congress to strike a compromise.

The history of the United States is replete with compromises struck to overcome the obstructions of some representatives at the behest of the material interests of an ownership class. In the very beginning, there was the so-called Three-Fifths Compromise, which incorporated slavery into the law of the land, in Article 1, Section 2, Paragraph 3 of the United States Constitution:

Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.
Note that the reference here is to Taxes being apportioned -- i.e. passed out -- not collected. Which makes sense, since, as the issuer of currency, the federal Treasury first has to pass dollars out for them to be able to be returned (recycled) as revenue.

The next famous (or infamous) compromise was, of course, the Missouri Compromise, about which Wikipedia tells us:

To balance the number of "slave states" and "free states," the northern region of what was then Massachusetts was admitted into the United States as a free state to become Maine. Prior to the agreement, the House of Representatives had refused to accept this compromise, and a conference committee was appointed.
Same old, same old. What should be noted that it is one thing to compromise one's own interests; it is another to compromise away someone else's freedom, especially in the name of balance. To compromise someone else's freedoms and human rights is abusive. But, as noted above, we've got a long history of that. When MLK Jr. spoke of the arc of the moral universe bending "towards justice," it was clear we aren't there yet. Indeed, both DADT and DOMA are evidence of backwards steps.

Barack Obama wants to move forward. So why is he promoting compromise? As the chief executive, he doesn't really have much choice. The Congress has all the cards or, in this instance, all the dollars and the Congress is persisting in the pretense that revenue has to be collected first, before it can be spent. It is, metaphorically speaking, putting the cart before the horse. But, there is purpose in this apparent madness. While the Congress has traditionally focused on doling out the nation's resources and assets for the exclusive use by favored populations (miners, drillers, trappers, fishermen, etc.), as these resources have become less abundant and citizens insist on preservation, the wealth that Congress itself creates (dollars) has become increasingly attractive as an instrument or tool for rewarding some and punishing others.

As a result, we have this peculiar anomaly of dollars being virtually unlimited in their creation, but being artificially restricted or rationed by a Congress that simply doesn't want to be bothered providing for the general welfare of a populace that's almost certain not to appreciate their efforts. Can the President afford to antagonize them further? Probably not. Especially since the task is complicated by the fact that the Congressional myth of a hands-off body with no responsibilities has been such a long time in the making. After all, the Federal Reserve has ostensibly been tasked with managing the currency for almost a hundred years.

However, aside from "balance" being a sucky concept as regards the budget (a plan) or the national accounts or, as President Obama proposes, between revenues from one class and sacrifice from another, calling on the Congress for a compromise strikes me as a non-starter because the intransigence grows out of a lust for power. Depriving citizens of the necessities of life is not a happenstance; neither is interfering with a woman's bodily integrity, nor the subversion of the obligations of citizenship (voting, serving on juries, holding office, petitioning legislation and enforcing the laws). After all, the only entities directly affected by the civil and consumer rights revolutions are scofflaw lawmakers sitting in legislatures and their henchmen in the financial sector. Money and the law, together, have proved a potent pair to maintain the traditional hierarchies.

It's an abusive system. I'm not sure the President understands that when authority stands silent in the face of abuse, it becomes complicit. Does he recognize the sequester as just another variant of the rationing the Congress has been imposing for decades? Has it occurred to him that rationing promotes hoarding and that the hoarding by the rich is just an inevitable response to the rationing, regardless of whether it's sugar or nails or dollars that are being rationed?  Has it occurred to anyone that rationing an entity of which there is an infinite supply has even more negative consequences than rationing a naturally scarce resource, just because that the cause is arbitrary and malevolent can't be ignored? Congress rationing dollars raises the inevitable question, "what's next?"

It's not wise to compromise with deprivators who are never satisfied.

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Comment Preferences

  •  The "deprivators are never satisfied" (15+ / 0-)

    (great line, btw!) but isn't this much more about creating a state of constant crisis, thus rendering us ungovernable, so that more blatant forms of repression (surveillance, physical force, threat of arrest, search and seizure) will be harnessed in order to deal with the inevitable blowback?

    I would never have even thought this a few years ago. From what I have experienced here in Wisconsin, I now feel it is almost the fate of a crashing empire.

    •  The numbers are not in their favor. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BlueDragon, Words In Action

      Some people have been obsessed with mass insurrection ever since the '60s and have been disappointed and scared that it hasn't happened.
      Also, the fear mongers are basically incompetent. If they don't get competent people to do stuff for them, they are out of luck.  That's why they are always looking for bi-partisanship and "compromise."
      Doing for people what they can't do for themselves is not always a good idea. It's something generous people have to guard against. Never mind doing what people want when they don't even know what they want. The Cons, for example, do not want success because success is terminal and what they want is to go on and on.

      We organize governments to deliver services and prevent abuse.

      by hannah on Sat Mar 02, 2013 at 08:17:27 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  You learn as a teacher that fair is not equal. (12+ / 0-)

    The same for "balance".  Balance does not mean what they think it means.

    Ask any competent nutritionist.

    They're doing it wrong.

    Even the President.

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

    by zenbassoon on Sat Mar 02, 2013 at 08:12:14 AM PST

  •  Balance would imply equivalent impacts (9+ / 0-)

    I balanced my budget the other day by not buying a deli lunch and going to a movie instead.  

    His balance is stealing a senior's lunch in return for a tax a on private jet.

    The senior doesn't get a ride on the private jet.  The senior just doesn't get any lunch.

    •  True. And then there's the element of (3+ / 0-)

      time. Money makes it possible for us to satisfy our obligations at great distance and over long periods of time.
      The problem with quarterly accounts or even annual budgets isn't the short term, it's that they are unrealistic in essentially excluding time.
      Galbraith said the problem is that the models are not dynamic -- they can't track changes over time.

      We organize governments to deliver services and prevent abuse.

      by hannah on Sat Mar 02, 2013 at 08:47:29 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Who is this "his"? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Eric Nelson
      •  I took it to mean what hannah had written (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        3goldens, Words In Action, Quicklund
        Barack Obama wants to move forward. So why is he promoting compromise? As the chief executive, he doesn't really have much choice. The Congress has all the cards or, in this instance, all the dollars and the Congress is persisting in the pretense that revenue has to be collected first, before it can be spent.
        That the hierarchy of "mingies" (conservatives) in positions of status within the structure have defined the choices, not any one individual whether that be the president or anyone else, that is "constrained" by..
        Money and the law, together, have proved a potent pair to maintain the traditional hierarchies.
  •  Seriously? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    You are comparing budget negotiations with slavery because of the word "compromise".

    Funny thing is, I remember that before this particular President was elected, Democrats could be counted on to point out the American medical system costs twice as much as European systems yet delivers poorer results. fast-forward five years and now we are asked to believe not a single dollar of Medicare spending can be reduced w/o crippling medical services.

    Well, was the American medical system overpriced five years ago or not? If it was overpriced then it's still over-priced now.

    In my mind, Medicare can cut out all those dollars is spends NOT negotiating prescription prices, AND, Congress can raise taxes on the top earners. We can do both these things without reducing the quality of health care and without invoking the spectre of slavery.

    •  Money is a measure of relative value, not (8+ / 0-)

      absolute value.
      I thought I was clear in pointing out that the balance issue was a Democratic invention.
      The nature of money has not been well understood, perhaps because until recently it was a taboo topic.
      Money as an instrument of control, rather than simply a measuring tool, is not a new invention.

      We organize governments to deliver services and prevent abuse.

      by hannah on Sat Mar 02, 2013 at 09:22:24 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Exactly. "Progress" that does not halt or reverse (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        hannah, Eric Nelson

        the concentration of income and wealth (read my sig) is hardly progress. The fact that more people are now working, but for less, is a victory for the plutocrats, not employees. As you say, money is relative. If the relative share of the pie continues to grow for the 1% relative to the 99%, then they continue to gain Power.

        When 1% take 121% of the gains from "recovery", people actually recovering from lost employment are trading down on wages and benefits. Current strategies by moderates don't even consider winning the Class War.

        by Words In Action on Sun Mar 03, 2013 at 06:09:41 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  If you look at what has already happened to the (0+ / 0-)

      minimum wage, for example, over the past 40 years, further compromise is really not compromise at all. It is wage theft and exploitation that continues in the face of a long history of the same. Pretending anything different is insidiously destructive, unethical "seriousness" that trifles with the welfare of a huge portion of our population, not just those earning minimum wage, but all those whose wages are based off of it (for example, those "enticed" by a $1/hr more because, hey, it's better than minimum wage). Every incremental "increase" in the minimum wage is a victory for the plutocrats, who continue to be enabled to concentrate income and wealth.

      When 1% take 121% of the gains from "recovery", people actually recovering from lost employment are trading down on wages and benefits. Current strategies by moderates don't even consider winning the Class War.

      by Words In Action on Sun Mar 03, 2013 at 06:06:31 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  It's bad enough when many of the people (7+ / 0-)

    who claim to be against "unbalanced" budgets, be it due to being in debt, in deficit, or both, are clearly dishonest, their real motivations being some mix of financial and/or professional self-interest, as evidenced by the fact that their proposed "solutions" to these "problems" don't actually solve them.

    But when you add to these the many people, some of them unfortunately very influential, who are against "unbalanced" budgets as a matter of principle, on ideological grounds, apart from their economic effects both pro and con, and a lazy and/or dishonest media that appears determined to either sleep its way through these "debates" without the slightest shred of critical analysis as to the true economic impact, cause and purpose of "unbalanced" budgets--let alone the true motivation of those who claim to be against them--or willfully lie about such, and politicians who have their own self-interested motivations and other failings wrt this issue, and you have a real mess in terms of the public's being able to understand what this all means.

    Put another way, people who understand economics understand that by and large, "unbalanced" budgets are not only inevitable and unavoidable in a modern economy, but actually a GOOD thing, and not at all the evil that the above make it out to be, whether sincerely or not, but the unbelievable amount of noise and confusion that exists about this topic, both deliberate and inadvertent, makes it all but impossible for most people to grasp this. Thus, the inevitable reduction to the silly and inapplicable "family budget" analogy, making dealing with this issue harder than it should be.

    Why doesn't Obama just announce a new War On Deficits and appoint a Deficit Czar, and be done with it? Experience shows that whenever you declare war on anything amorphous like drugs or terrorism, it guarantees that that enemy will never, ever be truly "defeated". Put Tom Friedman or Maya MacGuiness or Michael Bloomberg in charge of it and give them something useful to do for a change. And give them $100B or so to work with so they don't feel left out.

    What a silly, stupid, ridiculous sideshow this fake budget debate has been.

    "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

    by kovie on Sat Mar 02, 2013 at 08:58:27 AM PST

  •  The way things work in American history (5+ / 0-)

    particularly with regard to dealing with the South is that you compromise until you can't compromise anymore.  Recall that for the first two years of the Civil War official U.S. policy was still not ending slavery but merely bringing the Southern states back into the union.  Lyndon Johnson, as Senate Majority Leader, passed compromised civil rights bills in 1957 and 1960.

    But at a certain point it became clear for both men that being uncompromising was necessary.

    In Lincoln's case he signed the Emancipation Proclamation only after it became clear that the South would never return willingly, that only unconditional surrender would end the war, and the ordering emancipation of slaves was militarily essential to making the South surrender.

    In Johnson's case, he knew he would never consolidate his support in the election year of 1964 unless he passed a strong, uncompromised civil rights bill.  Then his hand was forced by events in Selma in 1965 to call for voting rights legislation.

    In Obama's case he does seem far less accommodating now than he was circa July 2011.  But it has not yet become necessary that he be totally uncompromising, at least with regards to the fiscal matters.  The fact is that the public still wants this "balanced" approach that Obama is pursuing.

    Until it becomes necessary, either because of intense and widespread public pressure or otherwise, to stop pursuing a balanced approach and pursue one that is all or mostly revenue-based, then it is unlikely Obama will do so.  Unfortunately we're not there yet.  The most passionate voices for an uncompromising approach are few in number in the halls of Congress and wield no power or influence.  That needs to change if we want this "balanced" approach to go away.  

    “Th’ noise ye hear is not th’ first gun iv a revolution. It’s on’y th’ people iv the United States batin’ a carpet.” - Mr. Dooley

    by puakev on Sat Mar 02, 2013 at 09:09:49 AM PST

  •  Excellent piece, thank you. n/t (6+ / 0-)

    We live in a nation where doctors destroy health; lawyers, justice; universities, knowledge; governments, freedom; the press, information; religion, morals; and our banks destroy the economy. -- Chris Hedges

    by Jim P on Sat Mar 02, 2013 at 09:11:58 AM PST

  •  I find it fascinating that the tbaggers (6+ / 0-)

    who now control the congress absolutely delight in closing down government. And Obama has been making the same gesture over and over and over "Here congress I'm throwing seniors under the bus! Go fetch!" and they are not interested at all in actual governance. So one is deliberative in their dysfunction and the other is just repetitive.

    American Television is a vast sea of stupid. -xxdr zombiexx

    by glitterscale on Sat Mar 02, 2013 at 09:54:03 AM PST

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