Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Tax Cuts, Krugman, Netflix, and Kili

This blog post is going to be about Everything. So much is frosting my patootie these days.

One week, you're at the top of the heap and the next you're lucky to munch on the scraps from the table.  Such is the case with Obama and the extension of the Bush tax cuts.  Yes, the Republicans snookered us back in the Bush years and they're doing it again now, as many pundits have pointed out.  Obama, who a month ago was looking like a one-term loser, is on the upswing because of his leadership on brokering a grand deal that extends the cuts and brings relief to the unemployed and small business.  Put me down in favor of not raising taxes in the middle of a recession.

The pundits are right---the latest deal is a short-term fix for a long-term budget mess.  Maybe that's the best we can do for now.  The long term cure is almost unspeakable to the folks in DC.  After all, the path to salvation begins with confession and contrition, does it not?, and we're unlikely to get that from our leaders, who are addicted to all gain and no pain.  Let's remember that the Republican tax cut strategy, which started during the first years of the Reagan administration, tried to disempower the Federal government from pursuing any activity apart from waging war and promoting interstate commerce.  Reagan, who is the real father of the Catastrophe through which we are now slogging, forgot the part about spending cuts to match reduced tax revenues based on the now discredited supply side economic theory.  And the Democrats, who rarely see a spending bill they don't like, were entirely complicit in the matter.  Can't anyone admit to mistakes and move forward with real solutions?  

We love Paul Krugman, but his columns these past few months have become unfortunate reminders of why economics as an art and science risks becoming irrelevant to public discourse.  Academic economists cling to their notions like dogs to their bones. They just can't let go and move on to the next course.  Yes yes, Paul was right that the federal stimulus package fell far short of what was needed to jump start the economy out of recession a year and a half ago.  But, so what?  What can progressive economics offer us now that a re-scaled massive federal jobs creation program is out of the question?  Not much, it seems.  Though not ideal, sometimes muddling through is the best we can do.  Voltaire was right.  "Le mieux est l'ennemi du bien."

Netflix.  Another example of one day you're up, the next you're down.  Aside from McCann's Oatmeal, Trader Joe's coffee, and BMW's, BobOnARoll has had no better consumer experience than the relationship with Netflix.  The conversion from timely delivery of DVD's to your mailbox to online streaming appears to have gone well from a consumer perspective, and Wall Street has rewarded management with a runup of the stock price, cover stories in business magazines etc.  OK, I guess we have to ruin this one now.  We'll show them !!  It starts with envious media moguls talking down the Netflix business model, then trying to shelve them in distribution negotiations next year and the years following.  I bet the Netflix guys have figured this one out----I hope so.

Finally, today, we end at the snows of Kilimanjaro.  Wait !  There are no snows on Kilimanjaro!  Well, anyway, it's a romantic ideal worth clinging to.....and I feel for Martina Navratilova, whose physical setback on a recent trek up the mountain prevented her from reaching the top. Not too many years ago, I was one of the lucky ones, along with my niece and nephew, to reach the top.  But, on any given trek, they say that even experienced climbers face an unpredictable struggle with altitude.  Making it once is no guarantee of being able to do it again, and I think I'll let my own personal record stand at One.  For one day, at least, I really WAS at the top of the heap.

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