Rewriting the program of America’s economy: speculations on the long-term inefficacy of the Obama stimulus plan

There’s no shortage of perspectives on the state of the economy and proposals for the federal stimulus plan. I don’t claim to be an economist, but I’m an American and I have an opinion. And a blog. Watch me go.

I’m not clear whether Facebook is an enhancement or a detriment to my life. I might be causing myself undue stress reading popular analyses of our bad-weather economy. I’m not sure it’s a good idea to give Robert Kuttner’s article on the Obama stimulus plan any further airplay, because it’s conventional economy version 1.0 dressed up as a progressive 2.0 version – or perhaps just 1.4 or 1.5. Anyway, his article is here: http://tinyurl.com/85vwo4

Below is the comment I posted to his article. As with all reader comments on the Internet, they’ll fade into obscurity in about 3.7 minutes. I took my inspiration from a conversation this evening with a colleague. Perhaps I should tame my cynic and instead emanate rays of sunshine. I’m human, and we’re all moody. But what’s really got me on the edge of my seat are the popular assumptions that the economy will rebound, market mechanisms will continue to work and perhaps even yield environmental good, and everything will be hunky dory. Sounds like a scared ego holding onto the last threads, fighting like mad to continue its existence, slicky convincing everyone to remain calm, it’s all going to be just fine. And it will be fine – everything’s perfect as it is, right? – the paradigm will be quite, quite different. Anyway, my critique du jour (I think that’s du soir, to time it correctly) of Economy 1.0.

“Kuttner unfortunately misses the point. Bandaiding a failing system
without rewriting the software of the machine will produce the same
unsustainable results the current economy gives us. Giving the patient
a short-term blood transfusion doesn’t do anything to address the
fundamental flaws in the economic paradigm that is trashing the planet
and its people: growth. We have a brilliant opportunity to put the
growth monster to bed and focus our intellectual capital on building
and strengthening our natural and social capital.

Kuttner’s proposal concludes: “Stimulative Effect: Instant.” I offer:
Longevity: None. Why would anyone want to spend their hard earnings
propping up a health care and insurance system, as Kuttner proposes,
that are utterly flawed, when I could channel those resources into
retiring and rewriting real, function systems? They would do it for
the same reasons we do anything else under Economy 1.0: short-term
benefit. I appreciate Kuttner’s platform must remain moderate enough
to be published, heard, and taken moderately seriously. But he appears
to be a conventional economist dressed in a progressive thinker’s
clothes, evidenced by saying, “As the economy returns to normal…”
Conventional economists can’t cope with the notion that the economic
software, in its version 1.0, will crash into obscurity and not be
rebooted. He almost redeemed himself by saying, “We need a permanent increase in public outlay to pay for adequate levels of public and social investment.” Almost. But as long as the fundamental fiscal structure remains, the growth monster is poised for another kill.

We will benefit the most from leaders who will step over the finely constructed and defended line and have the courage to upgrade and redesign a new economy where people prosper and profits lose meaning. Expecting anything less from ourselves and our leaders, no matter what number comes before the Trillion, is unconscionable.”

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