Penn Jillette Commentary

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by freeny, Apr 1, 2009.

  1. freeny macrumors 68020


    Sep 27, 2005
    Location: Location:
  2. Shivetya macrumors 65816

    Jan 16, 2008
    He has a very valid point, Obama's idea he spend his way out of the problem is economic suicide. We already are indebted up to our necks and he wants to finish burying us. If that other guy had proposed this course of action the press would be filled with grieving children, Congress would screaming impeachment, and forums would be filled with people decrying the end of the world.

    We already were in deep ***** with rubber stamping Bush... and the press was screaming about deficits of two hundred billion or more and now? Where is the press?

    I guess it is so insane that no one can come to terms with it, in other words no one believes it will actually come to pass. It will and we will see a period of economic pain not seen since the days of Carter (and I lived through that, at least Carter didn't spend us into a ditch)
  3. Gelfin macrumors 68020


    Sep 18, 2001
    Denver, CO
    That was not his point. A close examination of the actual words present in the article reveals that he doesn't know if it's suicide. Sometimes things that sound like suicide are. Sometimes they aren't. He doesn't know, I don't know, and I frankly doubt you do either.

    I'm something of a fiscal conservative. All things being equal, I prefer for my government to manage my tax dollars every bit as responsibly as I manage my own accounts. I'm the guy who votes down every bond-funded state and local measure on principle no matter how much I like the measure it funds, because it's the government equivalent of putting it on the credit card, but also because it's a back door regressive tax. Everyone pays more in taxes later to pay off the bond, and the investor class (both in and out of state) pockets the margin. I desperately want my state to tax me upfront for what it spends, and moreover as somebody who can afford it, I desperately want them to tax me more heavily than they do somebody who cannot. I will never see this. In yet another failure of referendum politics, California is at the forefront realizing Alexis de Tocqueville's concern about the long-term viability of American-style government once the people figure out they can vote themselves money from the public till. All this is by way of establishing my general feelings about public spending.

    As such, the idea of "spending your way out" of financial hardship is as deeply troubling to me as it is to many others. However, as worrying as it is, it is absolutely clear that the economics of personal or even corporate finance do not scale straightforwardly to state economies. Case in point: even if we accept the right-wing mantra that it was World War II instead of New Deal policies that pulled us out of the Depression, we still "spent our way out" of the Depression. To say war is some unique kind of spending is just basic special pleading fallacy.

    Look at it this way: for every ship, plane or tank destroyed by enemy action in the war, we could have employed the paid the same manufacturers the same money in peacetime to build the same ship, plane or tank, and then blown it up ourselves, and had the same net result, and the same net stimulus. What does it matter how the resources of war were expended? War as stimulus is broken window fallacy writ large. The manpower invested in alternately causing, averting and repairing destruction in war is effort spent just to tread water. Carrying the experiment one step further, what if instead of building tanks and exploding them in peacetime just to make work, we invested that same manpower and those same resources in durable infrastructure and public works projects? Isn't that exactly what the "spend our way out" hypothesis counterintuitively suggests?

    As strange as it seems, on the evidence if either the New Deal or the war "worked," then it seems if you happen to be a nation then you can spend your way out of financial difficulty. The difference between war-as-stimulus and the policies some want to deride as "make-work" and "pork" projects seems to be just that we have faith in the former and are skeptical about the latter. An argument could also be made for the way the exigencies of the war realigned national priorities in a common direction, but this still suggests that the reason we think we cannot spend our way to recovery in peacetime is psychological rather than practical.

    I am still worried about a lot of possibilities. It worries me that by basing false economic expansion on individual debt spending, we have effectively clear-cut the productive capacity of the people and failed to replant. It worries me that we might be in too deep to "spend our way out." It worries me that investing in failed corporations might be the wrong sort of spending. All these things are complicated and we might just be screwed, but I, like Jillette, am willing to admit that although I hope what we're doing works, I just don't know.

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