Dow 3600? Shut DC

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deficit hawks in the Democratic Party are at it again. Those fiscal
conservatives in the White House want to borrow another $984 billion
to maintain the federal government's illusions of fiscal solvency
until after the next election. AP's
Alan Fram claims in a recent Washington Post article
the Democrats see Bush's initiative as "a chance to argue that
Bush has mismanaged the economy and the budget.

Let's suppose that the Democrats wanted to make the most of this
"chance" to argue such a point, and let's also suppose
that this is the best possible time to make that case. I personally
might have argued it before supporting Patriot Act I and other police-state
boondoggles brought about as part of the Terror War, but then again
I'm the type of person who would read a bill before voting for it.
An extremist, in other words, allowed latitude for unconventional
solutions for recurrent problems.

Such as this one for this seemingly unstemmable tide of federal
overspending. It's simple, really; just shut the federal government
down. As constituted currently, it is clearly an unworkable proposition.
Subsidizing federal programs is much like paying an old drunk's
bar tab at this point; sooner or later, the money mark will be tempted
to push the venerable lush off his stool, hoping he finds his stupor
upon impacting the floor.

Oh, some would cry that it's impractical to shut down such a universal
benefactor as exists in DC. Think of the children, or those in their
golden years, or those in our public schools. Medicaid and Medicare,
of course; it would be sad to lose such things. And the interstate
highway system: where would our nation be without it? We might be
relegated to being a nation of thriving small towns with business
sections not bypassed as a matter of course.

If the DC government did little else but ensure the welfare of our
nation's poor and provide roads, I'd be tempted to think of it more
benignly, perhaps as a cross between the United Way and the Russian
Mafia. Sure, the enforcers embezzle from the weak and powerless,
I might reckon, but at least all they want is money.

However, that's not what DC is about. DC is about ideological enforcement.
About flag pins and Top Gun pilot landings and bombing runs that
show up well on cable. About pyrrhic victories in phantom wars against
abstractions. About untrammeled regulation of the individual's right
to live, love, hate, die, or distract himself in a manner of his
choosing. Ultimately, DC is about the abnegation of the human spirit,
the snuffing of the soul. Some call the road that loops around the
city a beltway, but it puts me in mind of a noose, choking not just
the city itself but the beleaguered nation held in its thrall.

So shut the damned thing down already, ersatz deficit hawks. But
such words are in vain; to shut DC down would be unthinkable for
such as AIPAC's John McCain or Colin Powell or even Dick Durbin,
who blames President Bush for wrecking the economy that was apparently
so flush when the Man from Hope was soiling White House linens.

Did I live through the same 1990s as Dick Durbin? The decade of
temp jobs, of "rightsizing," and of an unholy escalation
in the War on Drugs from an administration comprised of trolls,
philanderers, fast-food addicts, and One Worlders? When the 1990s
began, I don't remember fourteen-year-old girls dressing like street
walkers. But I do remember economic snake-oil salesmen convincing
a graying nation to bet their retirements on the overhyped stock
of leveraged out companies. Dow 36,000? It'll get back to 3600 first.

Sidney Margolius, in his 1971 book The
Innocent Investor and the Shaky Ground Floor
, described
a situation familiar to those observing the US markets currently:

market declines are often called shakeouts, meaning the smaller,
weaker investors are forced out. Declines usually are inevitable
when popular stocks are selling at excessive prices in relation
to any possible growth in near-future earnings [such as] famed growth
stocks then selling at forty-five to fifty-five times their current
earnings. Less than two years later most had lost 1/3 to 1/2 their
market value."

He goes on. "For small investors, who had paid high prices
in the late 1960's expecting gains or at least ordinary yields usable
for children's college, self-serving industry slogans that the stock
market was people's capitalism became bitter tea indeed." A
distasteful brew, perhaps, but an enduring one, as those hoodwinked
by the new economy realize all too late that they were bamboozled
by the same tricks and scam artists that have fooled generations
of Americans.

24, 2003

Gancarski [send him mail]
has written for CounterPunch
and other publications; Utne Reader dubbed his Internet work
“Best of the Web.” A writer for the local Folio Weekly, he lives
in Jacksonville, Florida.


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