New WPA? Keep Dreaming!

I’ve just about had it with all of the pundits who insist on comparing the “great recession” with the Great Depression.

Let’s get real here. First of all, whoever decided that this is the great recession in the first place? What yardstick is being used? Unemployment, right? Well, 1982/1983 was the winter of my discontent, when the official unemployment rate hit 10.8% and the industrial engineering/design profession in New York collapsed, never to recover. Although unemployment was a full percentage point higher, no one back then was talking about a “great recession.”

Granted, the circumstances which got us into this current mess are frustrating replays of what happened in the ’20s, but that’s where the similarity ends.

When the economy imploded in the early ’30s there were no bailouts to stabilize things. Andrew “The Lemon” Mellon made sure of that. As treasury secretary, he convinced Hoover to foreclose on the speculators and their brainless lenders. Fortunately, and mostly thanks to the current administration, we’ve been able to avoid pushing the self-destruct button a second time.

But what really irks me is the way some people talk about the need for a new WPA (PWA) program to rebuild America’s worn infrastructure.

Hey guys, are you serious? Maybe grandpa never told you, but WPA (PWA) was a massive slave-labor program that paid young men facing hunger (Yes, real, where’s-my-next-meal-coming-from, hunger) an average of $1 per day to live like bums in tent camps on a construction site.

Now, Google any inflation/CPI calculator and discover that $1 per day then, is worth somewhere between $15 and $30 per day now, depending on how you enter certain parameters for these programs.

Finally, consider this: Grandpa’s generation of have-nots was made up of peace-loving, compliant, loyal citizens who simply accepted hard times as part of life in America. Today’s generation of WPA candidates are just a bit different. These are an angry, jaded bunch of conspiracy theorists, armed to the teeth with AR-15s and AK-47s.

I think I’ll leave it to the pundits to tell these McVeighs that their $30-a-day WPA infrastructure job is calling.

Ron DiGiovanni
Easton, Pa.

Progressive Agenda

Alexander Cockburn’a column (“Run, Russ, Run,” 12/15/10 TPP) urges that Russ Feingold prepare in 2011 for an independent run for president in 2012.

I find that proposition hard to entertain. In this chaotic political climate? With Democrats split? With the gullible public approving the lopsided tax cut “compromise” by a large poll margin? With a vicious committee chair lineup for the GOP House? And a progressive movement weak except in admonitions and proclamations?

Further, it’s unfair and unethical to push the job of reining in the right on one reputable courageous leader when progressives themselves should be responsible for taking on the job. They need to lay a groundwork which will make a presidential run easier and, at the same time, link a candidate to a program. Some steps that activists may or should take:

• Pushing progressive ideas in Democratic party meetings;

• Developing a media liaison with progressive congresspeople to discover what key GOP plans are in the works and should be resisted at the grass roots; this info could be related by cooperating media;

• Finding a reliable lobbyist in the federal communications network in Washington to press for and/or discover ways to crack the corporate hold on media;

• Finding scouts to learn whether some legitimate and sane populists exist within the Tea Party movement;

• Finding reliable reporters in Washington who can inform us of Obama’s current political attitudes and inclinations: ie, whether he is continuing down the road to Clintonism or Bushism, or if there is still some hope;

• Building a Progressive fund with citizen contributions;

And finally, progressives need to continue at an accelerated rate the usual citizen activism: contacts with politicians, the media, organizations, neighbors, et al. In other words, we have work to do.

Jeanne Riha
Corvallis, Ore.

Fox Misinformation

News organizations usually don’t throw stones at one another. But with proof in hand, the Los Angeles Times came down on Fox News.

An internal memo was leaked from Fox News’ Washington manager, Bill Sammon, ordering all their reporters “to refrain from asserting that the planet had warmed (or cooled) in any given period without immediately pointing out that such theories are based upon data critics have called into question.” This was leaked to Media Matters during [December].

Concerning Sammon’s order to all Fox reporters, the Times wrote that “the climate warming data are not in any serious dispute among climate scientists.” In their Dec. 24 article, the Times also asked Fox News to “crack down on ... partisanship in their ranks” or else “stop pretending to be an objective news source.”

For two years in a row, Fox News won PolitiFact’s Lie of the Year award. One was for their outright lies about “death panels” during the health care debates, and changing “public option” to “government option.” When the health care bill passed, Fox claimed it was a “government take-over.”

A study released by Programs on Interntional Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland found Fox News viewers were, in the words of Mark Howard, “significantly more misinformed than consumers of other news sources.” The study found greater exposure to Fox News increased viewers’ misinformation. So, as Mr. Howard noted, “The more Fox you watch, the less you know.”

It’s about time legitimate news organizations and places of learning took on the brazen lies of Fox News. You can learn more real news watching The Daily Show with Jon Stewart!

Carol Burger
Mount Juliet, Tenn.

Understand the Bible

William R. Lamppa (“Discount the Bible,” Letters, 12/15/10 TPP) makes a valid point, that “reading the Bible does not in any way establish its credibility.” And it is a difficult book, coming to us across 2,000 years and from a very different age and peoples.

Unfortunately (if it is unfortunate), it still influences us — all of us — for many, many reasons. And to understand our present age, it is still valuable to try — at least — to know and understand the Bible. And the last 2,000 years of the history of the world has been very much about the Bible, God and gods. Not to know these things is what leaves people vulnerable to those who say they “speak for God” but don’t, who say they are truthful but aren’t, who say they are “Christian” even, but aren’t. They say they base their beliefs on the Bible, but don’t even try to prove it from the Bible. They should!

No, it is not reading the Bible, but understanding it and believing it — or not — that matters. It can be understood and believed. We no longer live under compulsion of religious beliefs (here, at least), but we still need to at least know about religion. It’s here. It’s a big topic. And it’s not boring. Really!

Cheryl Lovely
Presque Isle, Maine

Gross Debt Production

I would like to take issue with Dean Baker’s front page article [“The Great Deficit Con”] in your 1/1-15/11 issue. He was spouting the same fallacy that the right-wing economists always claim. That is, that the giant GDP [gross domestic product] we have is an indication of a booming economy. GDP is the last thing we should use to gauge our economy. If Mr Baker bothered to check the definition of GDP, he would find that it is “The total value of all goods and services produced in our country.” This includes both the private and public sectors. This means that every time the Pentagon gives a no-bid contract to Blackwater, KBR or Halliburton, or any of the 100,000 military contractors we still have in Iraq, or the 150,000 contractors in Afghanistan, the GDP increases. In fact, the total cost of all our wars, none of which is payed for, is figured into the GDP. This makes the GDP more of an indication of debt than of production. It should be called Gross Debt Production.

I do agree with Mr. Baker that none of the bailouts should have happened, but I suspect that cost was also added to the GDP. The reason the government changed from the GNP to the GDP in 1993, and changed the definition was so it could be used to scam the public into thinking the economy is better than it is, and our budget deficits are miniscule. After all, our budget deficits are only a small percentage of GDP. Then they can continue with the ‘trickle-down’ (Reaganomics), credit card economy, and spend our money like drunken sailors.

Jerry Johnston
Colville, Wash.

Treating Symptoms, Not Disease

I agreed wholeheartedly with the gist of Dean Baker’s headline article “The Great Deficit Con” [1/1-15/11 TPP]. However, the economic nightmares the “Deficit Commission” are concerned with may not be as much of a Con as they are symptoms. Inflation, deflation and federal and state deficits are the predictable results of a much more systemic disease that is not being discussed anywhere and is the one that needs the light of day shown upon it. That root problem is the very way in which money works.

Fractional Reserve Banking, the Fractional Multiplier and the system of interest paid and earned create the symptoms, so saying the “symptoms” are not making the sky fall just ignores the fundamental underlying issues that must and will be addressed eventually.

As Baker points out, a federal deficit of 80% of GDP is, in and of itself, not nearly the problem the deficit hawks want to make it out to be (their fix of austerity will make it exponentially worse however). The problem is that total debt, public private and business, has now shot up to 350% of GDP. At the height of the Great Depression when GDP had dropped by 25% total debt to GDP was pushed up to only 250% of GDP. Why are these ratios significant? Virtually all money is created in the lending process and is subsequently removed as loans are repaid. But no money is created to pay for the interest that all these loans must be repaid with. Interest therefore, must come from principal that is created as money is loaned but not due until well into the future. The debt-to-GDP ratio shows that we have tapped out our ability as a country to handle the creation of more money (debt) and therefore a shrinking of that debt must occur. Shrinking of debt — money exiting the system — is the very essence of an economic bust. Trade deficits, foreign investments and hoarding (money kept outside of banks) all add to the dilemma of loan repayment, and are rampant in our system exacerbating an already bad situation.

A little bit of thought about this dilemma and it becomes evident that our monetary system only works if there is growth. Trade surpluses, Inflation and government led deficit spending usually supply this growth when lending of other sorts is not increasing. Further thought on this problem reveals that at some point none of this will work as any system that requires growth to be sustained is an exponential one and eventually totally unsustainable. At 350% of GDP we are there.

One last problem with our monetary system based on interest; like all pyramid schemes it has the effect of vacuuming up wealth at the bottom and depositing it at the top. Currently the bottom 80% of the population has 7% of the wealth and yet carries 73% of the debt.

Take a look at the “Crash Course” videos on this site to understand this problem in more depth: www.chrismartenson.com/.

Rob Broadbent
Victor, Idaho

Cafeteria Independents.

Early January of 2011 there were 33% Democrats, 29% Republicans and 38% Independents.

This means, I think, that a small majority of Americans rejects both major parties.

I re-registered as “none of the above” or Independent, but my reasons maybe very different from those of other Independents.

The Independents are not necessarily members of a registered party such as the American Independent Party, but people that do not want to be labeled or pigeon-holed. They have their own priorities that may include some of the official parties’ priorities, but they can justify and defend only their own priorities, not a party platform. I am for instance for a rational and strict constitutional use of our military and only for true self-defense, not for global policing or nation-building.

Defense against terrorists in our country is best handled by law enforcement.

None of the two major parties have that position in their platforms.

I also feel that universal health care should be added to the Bill of Rights as is done in all other social democracies. Reducing the military could pay for that.

My one-time belief in the market correcting itself or in “laissez-faire” was proven wrong, so the economy needs rules and oversight by wise arbiters or judges.

Competition without rules and regulation proved to be chaotic and depressive.

In no other country on earth is so much money wasted in elections, so maybe a small group of observers can be spared to see how those foreigners do it.

Why can we pride ourselves in being innovative if we cannot solve these problems?

John A. van Huizum
Acton, Calif.

Time for a P-Party!

Having seen the impact a well-funded conservative lunatic fringe of the Republican Party was able to achieve imagine what a group of Positive, Progressive, Populist movement could do for the Democrats. It is time for a P-Party. “Piddle-down” should replace trickle-down to describe the current economic program. The impact for working Americans is “piddling.” Plunder, not progress, is the result of the current “don’t tax/don’t spend” plan facing the new Congress. Plunder produces private profits but not public good. Strive for a producing economy instead of a consuming economy. A productive economy creates value and jobs, a consuming economy creates debt. Participate or evil will succeed.

Jay F. Johnson
Redmond, Wash.


Re: my letter in the 12/15/10 issue, “Talking About A Revolution,” the date of the [Dartmouth College v. Woodward] case [which ruled that a corporation was an artificial being whose charter was a contract that could not be revoked by the state] was 1819, not 1919 ... I suspect it was a slip of the finger in my original e-mail, and I surely don’t wish your readers to charge me with woeful ignorance on this point.

Don Gordon
Santa Fe, N.M.

From The Progressive Populist, February 1, 2011


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