Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Fairy Tales of the Business Press

Brad Delong does a pretty thorough job of dissecting the inconsistencies in the so-called "conservative" economic line, the anti-Keynesian, austerity, drown-it-in-the-bathtub anti-government side of the economic argument we've been stuck in for three years. Why isn't the conservative side subjected to any logical analysis by the business press?

Is it just too complicated for business readers? Even for those "superheroes" who are supposed to know more than ordinary workers and citizens? Come on. Superheroes are capable of digesting this, even if they are busy. They ought to find time to think.

Or is it just too embarrassing for business readers? Businesspeople are worshipped as "job creators." Is it wrong to question their beliefs? Is it heresy to doubt the prevailing business thinking––which says that only private sector spending is holy?

Is it only heresy to doubt business orthodoxy if it endangers ad pages and TV air those businesspeople tend to buy as business owners?

How is it that conservatives, who seem to believe in an invisible hand of the market, who believe our economy is magically protected by fairies and elves (no government regulation required), are allowed to call Keynesian economics "a fairy tale" without being challenged about their own magical thinking?

Keynes, who was no liberal, had a fully rounded theory that was borne out by sustained prosperity and growth (and the absence of panics) during the best forty year period in the history of our country––and the planet.

The problem believers in unfettered capitalism had with Keynes was that he advised behaving more like ants than grasshoppers (to borrow from a cautionary fable. Keynesians prefer fables to fairy tales.) That we be prudent and save for rainy days, that we rein in our appetites during up times (with regulation and fair taxation) and support a flagging economy by spending and building during down times. Which is pretty middle-of-the-road stuff, economicswise. Or was Eisenhower a Communist?

The nagging suspicion that I keep having is that these so-called business conservatives, in order to help their Republican operatives, have been sitting on their capital for three years, not spending it, not hiring, not lending, blocking stimulus packages through their elected proxies, keeping the economy down, hoping to hang a bad economy around President Obama's neck like a burning tire. They hoped it might put a Republican regime back in the White House.

(It would be interesting to read the Republican emails with their corporate and banking clients, hoping and planning to foil Obama's recovery efforts. I don't doubt they exist. Airing them would be a good thing. It'd only be fair, considering the Republicans in Congress surreptitiously read the Democrats' emails for over a year in '03 and '04.)

The business sector wants Republicans back in full control. Oh how they want it. But we all know how clever the last Republican regime was. Taking a record surplus and making into a record deficit. Their energy policy resulted soaring fuel prices. Their laissez faire economic policy set up economic collapse. But that Republican president was a businessman. A failed businessman several times over, but a member of the club.

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