The Local Crank

Musings & Sardonic Commentary on Politics, Religion, Culture & Native American Issues. Bringing you the finest in radioactive screeds since 2002! "The Local Crank" newspaper column is distributed by Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc.

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Location: Cleburne, Texas, United States

Just a simple Cherokee trial lawyer, Barkman has been forcing his opinions on others in print since, for reasons that passeth understanding, he was an unsuccessful candidate for state representative in 2002. His philosophy: "If people had wanted me to be nice, they should've voted for me."

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Column for 12 April, 2008

“Would your wealth or even all your mighty efforts sustain you so you would not be in distress?”
--Job 36:19

In the midst of all the extensive and vitally important media coverage of Barack Obama’s bowling score, Hillary Clinton’s courage under (imaginary) sniper fire and John McCain’s inability to remember even the most basic facts about the Middle East, there’s one thing you don’t hear about: the economy. True, you hear about the bursting of the housing bubble and arguments about whether or not we are in a recession (a “recession” is when my next-door neighbor loses his job; a “depression” is when I lose mine). And we have heard about the Bush Administration’s generous decision to drive the nation even further into a crippling debt of their own creation with a pittance of a tax rebate; in fact, the best line I heard on that issue was that if you spend your rebate in Wal-Mart, it will go to China; if you spend it buying a computer, it will go to Japan; and if you spend it on gas it will go to Saudi Arabia. Therefore, the only way to spend it on America would be to use it for beer, prostitutes or gambling at an Indian casino, the only businesses left in this country. No, the thing you don’t hear is that, slowly but steadily, the American economy is being dismantled from the inside out. Do a little experiment with me. Look around where you’re sitting at this exact moment and see if you can lay your hands on anything, anything at all, that was made in America. Go on. Give it a try. Give up? Closest thing I could find was a metal yardstick made in Ohio and out in the driveway, my truck made by union autoworkers in St. Louis. The fact is we are very rapidly approaching the point where nothing is “made in America.” Consider this: in 1950, 34% of American jobs were in the manufacturing sector and 59% were in the service sector. By 2002, only 13% remained in manufacturing while a whopping 82% were in services. The number of Americans working in business services (advertising, data processing, credit reporting, etc.) has risen from 656,000 in 1960 to 9,301,000 by 2002. American steel exports in 1969 were valued at $70.9 billion, representing 2.1% of total GDP. By 1998, it was down to $37.6 billion and a mere 0.4% of GDP. Just since January of 2005, when the US abolished quotas on textiles, the textile industry has lost 83,700 jobs, some 20.9% of its total. But that’s okay, right? Free trade and globalization advocates, including Bill Clinton and most of the Republicans, have assured us that these “old economy” jobs would be replaced by new, better and shinier “new economy” jobs in the “information sector.” Actually, you don’t hear nearly as much about the “information economy” since the dotcom bubble imploded. And while it is true that the overall unemployment rate remains relatively low, those high-paying “old economy” jobs where people actually made things, are being replaced by crappier, lower wage jobs. In terms of real wages (that is, adjusted for inflation), the average American has gone from making $302.52 per week in 1964 to $277.57 per week in 2004, and that’s after a brief period of rising wages in the mid to late 1990’s. Now consider this: the US trade deficit (the difference between what we export and what we import) hit a record high of $763.6 billion in 2006. And that national debt I mentioned? All $8.5 TRILLION of it? Every single dime accumulated under George W. Bush’s watch? Fully 25% of that is owned by foreign governments. So, can you still be an economic superpower if you don’t make anything and an increasing share of your of GDP consists of debt owned by other countries? What happens if those countries decide they don’t like us anymore? Remember the oil embargo of the 1970’s? Arab countries who sit on top of much of the world’s oil reserves got angry with America for refusing to allow them to eradicate the State of Israel, so they stopped selling to us. The US economy was hit hard as the price of gasoline skyrocketed and the government was forced to impose price controls and rationing. And we are much more dependent on the goodwill of other countries now than we were then. Worse yet, there are some signs we are approaching Peak Oil, the point at which the world hits maximum oil production (aided by the increasing demands of emerging economies like China and India). If that happens, gas prices won’t come down. Ever. Now, I don’t mean to suggest that American corporations are always worthy of protectionist trade policies; they aren’t. In particular, it’s hard to feel sorry for the automotive industry which grew fat, happy and lazy until it was eclipsed by better built, cheaper and more fuel efficient foreign models. However, the cries of the free trade warriors that free trade and globalization are inevitable and always good for America are starting to sound more and more like old communist propaganda about the triumph of Marxism and about as grounded in reality. Why is it that none of the major presidential candidates, now that John Edwards is out, will talk about this? Other than a few very mild tut-tuts about NAFTA from Clinton and Obama, and only then in states like Ohio and Pennsylvania that have suffered the most, the silence is deafening. If free trade and globalization are so great, why won’t any of the politicians even discuss them? How is the United States helped by lowering trade barriers that give us the choice between dismantling our environmental and worker protections or losing out to countries that don’t have them? Can we really retain our sovereignty if the only jobs available to our people are delivering pizzas and repairing computers made in China? Historically speaking, there is a name for countries that don’t make anything and whose economic fate is almost completely in the hands of others: a colony.



Blogger dmarks said...

"Bush Administration’s generous decision to drive the nation even further into a crippling debt of their own creation with a pittance of a tax rebate"

When it comes to the national debt, Bush is only doing what the Presidents before him did. Clinton himself could not be bothered to balance one budget (each year, more money was spent than was made) and added two trillion to the national debt. The previous Bush and Reagan added a lot, continuing a trend [see this chart] that was really started to soar under Jimmy Carter.

Now, of course it has gone up more steeply under Bush, but if you look at trend charts, it is not a radical departure from what was before. The Democrats have not helped, either. Kerry proposed a wasteful budget that would have caused even more debt, and the Dems in Congress have generally chided the Bush budgets for not spending enough.

Also, considering the overwhelming vote, the rebate was equally as much the "generous" decision of the Democrats in Congress as it was of George W. Bush.

Replace "Bush Administration" with "Republicans and Democrats", and you end up looking accurate, instead of looking like you are bashing one party for something both have done.

4/12/2008 6:34 AM  
Blogger The Local Crank said...

"Clinton himself could not be bothered to balance one budget"

Clinton was the last president to run a surplus, which Dubya inheirited. Every single dime of this deficit must be laid at the feet of Dubya and the Republicans, since they completely controlled the budget process (at least until January of 2007).

4/13/2008 12:04 AM  
Blogger dmarks said...

I'd be interested in finding out about this "surplus". When I looked, I found that during the Clinton years, each year they spent more than they took in. That's a deficit.

It looks like there is a surplus in the last couple of years if you cook the numbers and intentionally lie about the spending part of it and claim it is lower than it really is. It's not a surplus if you include payments on debts. See this page for a discussion and this quote which summarizes the bogus claim of a budget surplus: "I'd have a great surplus too if I didn't count the interest on my mortgage."

I aleasdy gave a link which showed the debt increasing each year.

Yes, more research shows that there was no surplus during any Clinton budget years. I had to look for actual Deot of Treasury charts to get past claims by dittoheads and claims by the Hillary campaign (her Media Matters site).

Now, as for the statement "Every single dime of this deficit must be laid at the feet of Dubya and the Republicans". You probably do not know the difference between national debt and deficit. Anyway, "this decifit" is the one for the current budget year, and since Jan 2007, these budgets are ever more the fault of Democrats as well as Republicans.

Since there is a difference between debt and deficit, a President can only really inherit the debt. Clinton passed onto to Bush a national debt that had gotten 2 trillion larger during his years. Then it was up to Bush to fashion a new year's budget for his first term. That budget could be a balanced one, a surplus one, or a deficit one. Bush chose to craft an unbalanced one, like had happened under each of Clinton's years. I don't blame
Clinton for Bush's budget, however. Bush had the choice of spending less, and chose not to do it.

4/13/2008 5:38 AM  
Blogger The Local Crank said...

Believe it or not, during the course of obtaining my Master's degree, I actually did learn the difference between a budget deficit and the national debt.

4/13/2008 3:26 PM  
Blogger dmarks said...

Then you should know that yearly budgets (and their surpluses, or in the case of all of Clinton's, their deficits) are not really "inherited". Budgets are worked out each year, every single year.

You can make a good point that the budgets passed under GWB are worse (or even much worse) than Clinton's because he has increased the national debt two or three times as much, but that does not let the Clintons off the hook. Not does the "return to the 1990s" campaign of Hillary look good when you realize that the 1990s still had a massive increase in the federal debt..... 8 years of constant deficits, two trillion added to the debt.... all in peacetime.

4/13/2008 4:59 PM  
Blogger The Local Crank said...

National debt in 1980: $1 trillion
National debt in 1988: $3 trillion
National debt in 1992: $4 trillion
National debt in 2000: $5+trillion
National debt in 2008: $8.5 trillion

And while budget deficits are not "inheirited," budget surpluses are. FY2000 had a $230 billion dollar surplus, with future surpluses predicted had Dubya followed the budget plans laid out for him. He did not. In fact, he tossed them out on nearly Day One. Thus Bush's already dramatic increase in the national debt is even more damning given the squandering of the surplus.

4/13/2008 9:13 PM  
Blogger dmarks said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4/14/2008 6:23 PM  
Blogger dmarks said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4/14/2008 6:26 PM  
Blogger dmarks said...

I keep finding the charts that show that the debt did increase during FY2000, which means no surplus for that year. What I've not been able to find is actual dollar amounts comparing money spent/lost (including payments and interest on the national debt) vs revenues. That would be helpful.

"Can we really retain our sovereignty if the only jobs available to our people are delivering pizzas and repairing computers made in China?

Or can we really retain our sovereighty if the Martians attack? If you look at the number of Americans employed delivering pizza or repairing Chinese computers, there's such a thin chance of significant growth in these two professions that would amount to anything. Might as well worry about Klingons instead.

I just don't think Americans are so terrible at everything. There is some ingenuity. Otherwise we'd have 95% unemployment today because nobody could bother to come up with new jobs after the home-farm sector shrunk and the blacksmithing/buggy-making/etc jobs went away.

4/14/2008 6:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The "spending rebate at walmart means it goes to china" comment is very misleading. Remember, to even have the luxury of being able to spend it at a walmart means that hundreds of US citizens were employed to build it, hundreds are employed to operate it every day, and hundreds of US citizens benefit from the convenience and savings it provides. Sure, the employees aren't given a six figure salary and a company car, but fairness means menial jobs get menial pay, and if a job makes someone better off than they were before you shouldn't just immediately complain "well why didn't you make them twice as better off?".

Also, this post makes no mention of the large number of winners from globalization, such as exporters of US corn and wheat, among many other US exporters.

It may also be interesting to note that average weekly earnings in US manufacturing have been steadily increasing for the past two decades (yes, after inflation). This data is available from Bureau of Labor Statistics.

4/15/2008 6:13 AM  
Blogger dmarks said...

"Historically speaking, there is a name for countries that don’t make anything and whose economic fate is almost completely in the hands of others: a colony"

I don't recall that definition of colony. However, with a huge sector of the economy that makes things, it doesn't apply to the US anyway.

4/16/2008 4:29 PM  
Blogger The Local Crank said...

"However, with a huge sector of the economy that makes things,"

13% = huge?

4/17/2008 9:40 PM  

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