I am willing to accept a modicum of secrecy in my US government. If the pillars of our democracy rest on a certain amount of secret alien dissection and Chinese cyberwar, I’ll go along. But one of those pillars is consent of the governed, and I cannot consent to stuff I don’t know about. A little-r republican system—in which people vote or don’t vote for various representatives based partly on what they do in office—does not work when we’re not sure what our government is doing. Call me Judy Garland, but I also believe that our elected leaders behave a little more scrupulously when they know the American people are watching. Secrecy protects Them from Us, and I personally am a longtime subscriber to the adage that government should fear the people and not the other way around. It’s Friday, as far as we know, and today’s link roundup is full of stories about things we should have known about earlier. Frankly, it’s harrowing. But before we get started, I think you need to watch this video.
Jon Stewart is referring to this Bloomberg story. The news that the Fed loaned money amounting to half the nation’s GDP at essentially zero interest and then allowed banks to use that money to buy interest-bearing treasury bonds—operatively giving them free tax dollars—is disturbing in the extreme. The only thing that could make it worse would be to find out that this stuff happened two years ago, and Bloomberg had to file a Freedom of Information Act suit to find out how much public money our ostensibly democratic government gave to private corporations without telling us. The answer is $13 billion, by the way. That’s how much the banking industry profited from TARP, a program so important that the Fed had to lie about its size or else we might not like it. I do not like it, Fed. I do not like that you gave $7.7 trillion to people who had just demonstrated their inability to successfully manage very large amounts of money, and I do not like that I and
my children the children I see in restaurants will be paying them a $13 billion reward for their incompetence. What I like least, though, is that instead of hearing about it as something you were doing, I heard about it as something you did.
As my father used to say, it’s easier to beg forgiveness than to ask permission.* Consider Carrier IQ, the recently-noticed smartphone application that is “deeply imbedded on Android, Nokia and BlackBerry systems” and records keystrokes, text messages, browser data and even location. If the government recorded everything happening on my cell phone without telling me, I would flip. Now that I know a private company is doing it, I’m not sure how I feel. On one hand, they’re more likely to use that information to send me advertisements than to put a cage with rats in it over my face. On the other hand, the government is more trustworthy than a for-profit corporation. Nah, I’m fucking with you—the Federal Reserve gave $13 billion in tax money to privately-owned banks without telling us about it. The government is a for-profit corporation, too.
I hope Jon Kyl is making a lot of money, because he just rented a place in the history of intellectual dishonesty. The man who is credited with sinking the deficit supercommittee via his refusal to consider any package that included A) cuts to Defense or B) a tax on incomes above $1 million is against extending the payroll tax cut. “The payroll tax holiday has not stimulated job creation. We don’t think that is a good way to do it,” Kyl said on Fox News Sunday. “The best way to hurt economic growth is to impose more taxes on the people who do the hiring. As a result, the Republicans have said, ‘Don’t raise the existing tax rates on those who do the hiring.’” First of all, let’s take a moment to remember that there is no concrete evidence of tax cuts—for the rich or for wage earners—creating jobs anywhere, ever. We don’t know if that works or not. Second, “the people who do the hiring” don’t pay salaries out of their goddamn personal incomes. The income tax is a tax on personal profits, not corporate revenues, and employee pay comes out of revenue. Jon Kyl knows that, just like he knows that members of the middle class spend a larger portion of their incomes than do the richest 1%. They just don’t give as much of it to senators.
Way back in the 1920s, when other gajillionaires were criticizing him for paying his assembly-line workers too much, Henry Ford noted that the people who buy Ford automobiles are the people who make Ford automobiles. An economy is like a circulatory system, and the harder you pump money out the more swiftly it flows back in. Venture capitalist and absurdly rich person Nick Hanauer makes a similar argument in this Bloomberg editorial, wherein he joins a growing chorus of very wealthy people who think our current tax code is kind of insane. The argument that we should continue to impoverish most of the population to make it easier for a small minority of rich people to hire us makes sense only if you envision an economy of servants. If you prefer an economy of buyers and sellers, a little parity sounds a lot more compelling.
I don’t know about you, but I’m depressed. Now seems like a good time to remember that we as a nation have been here before. Plutocracy rose in the 1880s and again in the 1920s, and we beat it back both times. They didn’t have secret microchips in their
cell phones stupid hats back then, but we have antibiotics, so it all balances out. You know what else we’ve done before? Posted Death Set songs. Micky didn’t like the last one, which I admit was not their best work. In an effort to both ingratiate ourselves and cling loosely to theme, here’s another one. Is this the end? our friends from Melbourne ask, the actual end? Or just the end again? And once more it is Friday.