There was a congressman, during the depression, who argued that the government should spend the money required for economic recovery regardless of the fact that the experts said “there’s no money.” He said, rightly, that if there were a war, they find the money somewhere. And of course, that’s just what happened.
I’ve been thinking about that.
You and I just saw the government create $750 billion basically out of thin air, in order to assure that the banking system would survive, or in order to restore liquidity to international markets, or to avoid another Great Depression, or to pay off political allies, or to continue the ongoing looting of the American economy that has been rolling merrily along since Ronald Reagan. Choose one or more answers.
For whatever reason, when the government decided it needed an additional $750 billion for reasons that seem sufficient to itself, it — how shall we say it? — it “found” the 750 billion.
Of course it goes without saying that there is no such amount available to feed the hungry or clothe the naked or house the unsheltered. There is no such amount for creating a rational transportation network that would provide an alternative to the automobile. There is no money for renewing the nation’s housing stock, or paying schoolteachers, or creating urban gardens out of vacant lots. We just don’t have the money!
I don’t know why it has taken me this long to realize it — maybe it’s because everything in society was organized to prevent people from realizing it — but what a government can afford to do depends upon a couple of things.
The first is, will the expenditure of money result in creating new social wealth, or will it be the equivalent of throwing a party? That is, is it a capital expenditure, which will come back to you? Or is it consumption, which will leave you poorer?
The second thing is, is there the political will to do the unromantic things that keep society functioning? Education, healthcare, public safety, community, protection of clean air and water, provision of an adequate and nutritious food supply — all of these things are un-glamorous, and none of them make much of a profit for anyone as an individual. The only thing is, they are essential!
Certainly in the long term they are at least as essential as pyramiding debt, defrauding investors, providing lavish mansions and ridiculous lifestyles for the overprivileged, and destroying the currency and the economy.
Think about that, the next time you hear a politician say “we can’t afford it” to a matter of social capital, while saying “we have to have it” for things that no one needs but that some people make huge profits by providing.