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So, my diary transformed some of you yawning fxxking idiots into shrieking fxxking idiots. Particularly silly was "Are You Kidding Me? President John McCain's Economy Would Have Been The Same As President Obama's?"

Somehow, that particular shrieking fxxking idiot, and the shrieking fxxking idiots who recommended his diary, concluded that when I wrote that "there were a few economists who warned that we needed a stimulus package that was over $1 trillion," what I really meant was...

...wait for it...

..."an assertion (unmade, but clearly implied) that John McCain -- under whose putative presidency Social Security, unemployment insurance, food stamps, and other "automatic stabilizers" would have presumably (under the diarist's scenario) operated as they did under Obama -- would have presided over an economy that followed the same or a similar trajectory than the one we have had since Obama took office."

Now, let's look at the definition of an idiot: "An idiot, dolt, or dullard is a mentally deficient person."

1. I write that "we needed a stimulus package ... over $1 trillion."

2. In these people's minds, they read that, and it becomes... John McCain.

3. That, to me, is all the proof of a seriously deficient mental process. What else can it be called? I'm not yet willing to assign a malignant agency to the straw man that particular diarist erected. (And after how many years now of Republicans and conservatives erecting strawmen, such as, if you're against the war in Iraq, you're for the terrorists. For shame!) Perhaps that diarist will save me from being forced to the conclusion of malignant misrepresentation of my argument by graciously acknowledging he is, in fact, a fxxking idiot. Or even ungraciously- I really do not care how ridiculous such people want to make themselves appear.

But perhaps these people are not really idiots (let alone yawning fxxking idiots, but are merely confused. Or, more accurately perhaps, yawningly ignorant of the history of the First Great Depression. I saw a lot of such confusion in the hostile comments to my diary. Such as "Social Security is an economic baseline," so it really should not be used as a blah, blah, blah.

Why, yes; yes it is! Social Security is an economic baseline! That's the whole point! I wrote in my diary the previous evening, "What if there had not been the New Deal legacy of Social Security...?" To make the point clear, let us go back and look at what happened in the First Great Depression, when a financial crash of a speculative bubble decimated the general economy by a sudden contraction of credit -- which is pretty much the same thing that happened in 2007-2008. But in 1929-1930, there was no Social Security. Or unemployment insurance, or food stamp assistance program -- all of which I mentioned, and which, had I not been so damn tired would have tried to look up the numbers and added them to the totals of Social Security benefits to make the Obama stimulus look even more inadequate by comparison. But I thought that by just mentioning those programs, Kossacks reading my diary would make a little mental note that in addition to the $1.73 trillion in Social Security benefits in three years, there were added tens or hundreds of billions in unemployment insurance, or food stamp assistance program -- and the really curious would go look up the numbers for themselves, and might even share what they found with the rest of me.

It never occurred to me that what I wrote might be read by yawning f**king dimwits who would mentally transmogrify "we needed a much larger stimulus" into "John McCain would be no different than Obama." Well, silly me. Lesson learned.

Even more below, if you can bear it...

In the First Great Depression, there were no automatic stabilizers to save the economy. There was no "baseline" of Social Security.

So, people starved.

To death.

Nick Taylor, in his wonderful book, American-Made: The Enduring Legacy of the WPA: When FDR Put the Nation to Work, provides a great portrait of what happened. In New York City, there were 82 soup kitchens, and many regularly had people, waiting to eat, standing in lines that stretched for two city blocks and sometimes more. Parents who could not feed their children tearfully sent them to foster homes and orphanages, which swelled by 20,000 more kids in NYC alone. (Recall the scene in Seabiscuit where the young jockey is sent by his parents to live and work at a stable.)  Despite these efforts, New York City health authorities recorded 20 deaths by starvation in 1931, then 95 in 1932.  

How many people actually starved in the United States during the First Great Depression, nobody seems to know. However, one Ukrainian scholar - with an axe to grind against the United States - argues that 5 million to 7 million Americans disappeared from official U.S. government statistics from 1930 to 1940.

More recently, some jerk Fox New talking head made an ass of himself by asserting no one starved during the Depression. Need I go back and find some links to the utterings of that particular doofus?

I think a far better guide is John Steinbeck, who ended his masterful Grapes of Wrath with the scene of Rose of Sharon - whose own baby has died of malnutrition -preparing to save a starving old man by breast feeding him.

Then there were the homeless - many, many more in numbers than the starving. In New York City, Taylor writes, proposals were made to house the homeless in piers on Staten Island, in vacant warehouses, and in the Bronx Terminal Market at the Harlem River piers. In Los Angeles, the Street Railway Company donated 50 old streetcars to help shelter the homeless. In Detroit, the Dept. of Public Works borrowed 300 army tents from the Michigan National Guard.

My argument is that it was the automatic stabilizer programs of Social Security, unemployment insurance, food stamps that prevented a repeat of the scenes of mass homelessness and mass starvation we find in the First Great Depression. And, furthermore, if those automatic stabilizer programs of Social Security, unemployment insurance, food stamps had not existed in 2007 to now, we would have seen such mass misery, pain, and death. And, finally, that if we had seen those scenes of mass misery, pain, and death, because there had not been the trillions of dollars of money flowing to the people most in need via those automatic stabilizer programs, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Obama's stimulus) would have been entirely insufficient and inadequate.

Do I argue that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 had no effect? No I do not. Point to me in last night's diary where I do. What I argue is that it was not the ARRA, but Social Security, and the other programs, that "saved the US economy." Or, to use the exact quote I used in my diary: "rescued this country from Soviet-style collapse." And remember, "Soviet-style collapse" was another diarist's phrase, to which diarist I was replying. And for you yawning f**king idiots out there: yes, there IS a difference between "saving the US economy" and "having an effect."

Let us turn now to the question of the metrics by which we should judge the economic performance of the Obama administration. The stupid "McCain" diarist uses the metric of GDP growth rate in his takedown of the straw man he erected. Well, here are some other metrics.

I've used this statistical artifact of the depression that many people do not want to know before: the least advantaged of our citizens have seen a collapse in their life expectancy

(Above graph copied from Joan McCarter January 28, 2013 diary, 'We're all living longer'? No, we're not.)

I suppose I should add, for the benefit of the yawning fxxking idiots among potential readers who look at that graph, and cannot quite comprehend what it means: Our underprivileged citizens are dying faster now than they were a decade previously. And that is a bad development. B. A. D. As in, not good. It means that the underprivileged citizens are quite literally being killed off by neo-liberal (aka, conservative) economic policies. Oh, and there's this from the Washington Post a few days ago: Welfare reform took people off the rolls. It might have also shortened their lives.

I would also include the graphics showing how all the gains of the past four years have gone to the highest income households, but, again, it's late, and I want to finish writing this damn thing.

And here are some links to what I've written in the past, which anyone who wasn't merely interested in slapping down a straw man argument would probably take the time to research and discover what metrics I actually prefer for economic performance.

Roosevelt created 4 million jobs in one month
posted by NBBooks on 01/08/2010 07:20:15 PST

$3.195 trillion -TRILLION - for urban RAIL transit  
posted by NBBooks on 03/18/2009 15:18:40 PST

How FDR and Harry Hopkins dealt with bad governors  
posted by NBBooks on 03/12/2009 23:29:23 PST

And here's something I posted in January 2009, before many people had come to realize that Wall Street's political influence had become a serious threat to our survival:
Political Power of Just 6 Banks is the Problem  
posted by NBBooks on 01/28/2009 08:19:40 PST

I'll finish with some quotes from my January 2009, Stumbling Toward Stimulus  
posted by NBBooks on 01/09/2009 06:55:17 PST

Liu’s warnings are echoed in an unusual full page guest op-ed in the New York Times on January 4, 2009, entitled, The End of the Financial World As We Know It, jointly written by hedge fund manager David Einhorn, and author Michael Lewis, who chronicled the greed on Wall Street in the 1980s in, Liar's Poker, his comic memoir of his short career as a bond trader at Solomon Brothers:


 If we are going to spend trillions of dollars of taxpayer money, it makes more sense to focus less on the failed institutions at the top of the financial system and more on the individuals at the bottom. Instead of buying dodgy assets and guaranteeing deals that should never have been made in the first place, we should use our money to A) repair the social safety net, now badly rent in ways that cause perfectly rational people to be terrified; and B) transform the bailout of the banks into a rescue of homeowners.
I then quoted Ian Welsh on why the tax cut provisions of the stimulus were idiotic. (Really, I shall again aver here, the professional class in America is largely a bunch of idiots):
The problem is that giving money to people without pricing power (most middle and working class people) is pointless. People with pricing power, like health care providers, credit card companies (who can and will raise rates) and employers (who will take into account that their workers are now taking home more money and thus don't need as much from them) will simply take the money away. And at this time workers and ordinary consumers just don't have pricing power.

Likewise corporations are not going to create real new jobs if there's no demand. Who wants to invest into this economy? This isn't an economy where you hire new people, it's an economy where you take any money you've got and you use it to buy up distressed competitors and properties at generational lows. Then you rationalize your new acquisition with your own company by laying people off. We've just spent the past few months watching this play out in the banking industry, heavily subsidized by the government, now we're going to have to watch the government subsidize buyouts of non-financial companies. If at first giving money to corporations (banks) doesn't work, why not try it with even more companies?

Was I wrong then? Hmm? Was I?

Finally, as to my use of the word "idiots." I've always loved that snippet from Thomas Paine's The Crisis: "This plain language may perhaps sound uncouthly to an ear vitiated by courtly refinements, but words were made for use, and the fault lies in deserving them, or the abuse in applying them unfairly."

I think there is nothing unfair in terming someone who reads "we need more stimulus" and thinks "woulda been the same as John McCain" an idiot.

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