February 2, 2010 by Ted Rall
Boom or Bust? We’re Always Wrong
NEW YORK—My father taught me to go left.
Not politically. He was a right-wing Republican. At the movies.
“Most people choose the right entrance,” he told me. “There are usually more seats on the left side of the theater.” I’ve found that to be true.
He dressed like a conformist. But Dad was a contrarian. “If you don’t know what to do,” he said, “do the exact opposite of what everyone else is doing. On average, conventional wisdom is always wrong. Run away from the crowd—and you’ll come out ahead in the long run.”
Never has the wisdom of his words been more apparent than now. Acting like Chicken Little proven right—this time, the sky really is falling—government and business are making decisions that are the exact opposite of the right ones.
Which is nothing new. Politicians and businessmen also do the exact opposite of what they should do during boom times too.
Consider prison policy. Hit hard by the Depression that began in 2008, cash-strapped states are releasing prisoners early. California’s early-release bill even eliminated supervised parole. Because the average recidivism rate is 80 percent, “[unsupervised parole] is designed to reduce the number of parolees returned to prison, essentially because the state will not know if they are violating the terms of their parole,” reports The Contra Costa Times.
But facing a state underemployment rate of 23 percent, California parolees have no real chance of finding work. Most will commit more crimes. From the standpoint of social stability and public safety, it would make more sense to keep them locked up.
If anything, a better time for leniency would have been the 1980s and 1990s. Jobs were plentiful. Wages were steady. Some employers, dealing with a tight labor market, would have welcomed ex-cons. Criminals could have gone straight. But leniency is not what happened.
Instead, “tough on crime” politicians pushed through longer sentences, fueling a massive boom in prison construction. In 1975 there were fewer than 600 state prisons in the U.S. By 2000 there were over a thousand —a 70 percent increase.
Many of those prisons are now being closed due to budget cuts.
If the leaders of our government and major corporations were smart, they would respond to booms and busts the opposite of the way they do.
During a boom, salaries are high. Stock prices rise. State and federal tax revenues go up. Governments run a surplus. Soon we hear calls to “give back” the people’s money—by cutting their taxes. As a result, tax rates fall. So do government revenues.
This is stupid. During a period of economic growth and low unemployment, governments should increase taxes. After all, people can afford to pay more when they earn more. And booms eventually end. So some surplus should be set aside for a rainy day.
During a bust, salaries stagnate or decline. Securities markets seize up or crash. Governments run into fiscal trouble. So they raise taxes.
This is stupid too. People are broke. The last thing they can afford during a recession is higher taxes. Governments should cut taxes when the economy sucks. They should be drawing on that big nest egg they should have stashed away during the fat years to pay bills and stimulate recovery.
The Stupid Opposite Game has been in full effect since the mid-1990s. Bill Clinton, who presided over the largest and longest economic expansion in U.S. history, slashed income taxes. Barack Obama, dealing with the gravest economic catastrophe since the 19th century, is effectively increasing them. To Obama’s credit, he doesn’t have a choice. The cycle can only be broken during a boom. It has to begin with that nest egg.
Then there’s spending.
Obama is a typical victim of the fear reflex, proposing a budget that freezes federal spending for the rest of his term—except for the military. Hit especially hard would be the Army Corps of Engineers and NASA.
This is exactly the opposite of the budget he ought to be proposing.
The Army Corps of Engineers builds the massive public works projects that create a ripple effect through the economy, immediately employing thousands of workers and leaving a legacy of infrastructure that can promote future economic growth. As FDR did during the 1930s, Obama ought to increase spending on infrastructure. Funding for NASA ends up paying a lot of salaries for scientists—people we ought to be encouraging.
The military budget, on the other hand, ought to be slashed. True, wars stimulate the economy. But they cost more than they earn—in lives, subsequent foreign aid and international contempt.
If CEOs and government officials were smart, they would be hiring like crazy. Millions of smart people are out of work. They can be hired much more cheaply than in the late 1990s. Plus they’ll stay longer. Competitors real and imagined have vanished. There’s less pressure to expand too quickly.
Venture capitalists ought to be loosening, not tightening, their purse strings. After all, there’s no better time to start a new business. Eighteen of the top 30 Dow Jones index companies were founded during economic downturns, including Johnson & Johnson, Caterpillar, McDonald’s, Walt Disney, Adobe, Intel, Compaq and Microsoft.
So what is a good contrarian to do? Celebrate. Take chances. Because the sky really is falling—and that’s great.
(Ted Rall is the author, with Pablo G. Callejo, of the new graphic memoir “The Year of Loving Dangerously.” He is publishing a new political manifesto for Fall 2010. His website is tedrall.com.)
COPYRIGHT 2010 TED RALL
February 2, 2010 by Ted Rall
8 pm tonight in NYC: I’m talking comix and politics at the People’s Improv Theater: Check out the 8 pm listing @ http://tinyurl.com/y87o8p8
January 29, 2010 by Ted Rall
Hi! I’ll be on MSNBC’s “Dylan Ratigan Show” today at 1:40 pm West Coast/4:40 pm East Coast time to discuss my plans to return to Afghanistan and whatever else they want to discuss. The show’s website: http://tinyurl.com/ybj7og3
January 28, 2010 by Brooke Allen
Here’s a couple of the first pages where our heroine, unwilling to take the bus to school, waits patiently for it’s arrival… next to her mom who undoubtedly only improves the situation.
An age old drama unfolds as mother and child debate the importance of education and the attendance there of… in the end, per usual, Mom wins the debate.
Note: her Mom using her ‘outside voice’ inside (that’s a Mom privilege).
Being dragged to the bus stop by your Mom A.K.A. starting the day off right.
This poor poor bus driver…. I like to believe that she was employed strictly based on her crazy crypt keeper appearance…I also like to believe that she’s really 30.
January 28, 2010 by Terry
Hello from Angouleme. I’m at this year’s edition of the show that attracts as many as 200,000 people every year. It’s France’s San Diego. Lewis Trondheim has had many a page of his Little Nothings dedicated to this show, especially around his consecration with the grand prize here a couple years ago.
Just arrived yesterday and this morning, visited some of the exhibits. Blutch who is one of the main artists of the new generation like Trondheim was given the Grand Prize last year, so that makes him President of this year’s fair and also enables him to put up an exhibition of hois works. In a new space the convention didn’t have before, Blutch has what is this year a regular gallery type hanging of many never before seen works of his. Usually these exhibits mix a recreation of the artist’s world so this is a bit unusual. He also says right up front that he’s not showing his life work or best originals from graphic novels, but various creations he made which had never seen daylight since “and don’t expect any identification.” He’s an original and his work shows how creative and off the beaten path he is. Unfortunately not seen here so far, I believe.
Next to his exhibit is another excellent one of the history of humor cartoons but what I found most interesting was going to see the all new extension of the comics museum which finally has a beautiful new space to show off their extensive collection which they do by presenting a history of comics, with a strong French comics angle obviously but well and in a great space. As you walk over a pedestrian bridge to it, you pass a life size statue of Corto Maltese peering dreamily into the distance. When is San Diego going to do that?
All this with the possibility that Angouleme will no longer host the fair. There was a big debate that even threatened this year’s show, with an almost last minute save. It would be ironic for this city which has streets signs in balloons and two of its main streets named after Goscinny and Herge!
January 26, 2010 by NBM
Pop Syndicate says of Nowak’s new Graylight:
“Distinctively original and perfectly gorgeous artwork. Nowak employs a strange palette of colors, pastels mixed with earthy tones to create a lovely surreal vision of a winter landscape, a collection of characters utterly individual and reluctantly sharing a book with each other, much like the people in a Hopper painting. There is so much beauty in this little graphic novel that you will want to disassemble it and wallpaper your life with the pictures.
Intriguing story combined with powerful art makes Graylight a must-read.”
January 25, 2010 by Ted Rall
After reading that US military forces prohibited aid from reaching Haiti for as long as seven days after the earthquake–in order to establish “command and control,” whatever that is—hard-hitting editorial cartoonist Ted Rall and animator David Essman rushed out their trenchant critique of America’s bizarre post-9/11 practice of sending soldiers to disaster zones like New Orleans and the Indian Ocean after the tsunami.
Watch “Operation Haitian Freedom” here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oN8zVZzdbXQ
January 25, 2010 by NBM
January 25, 2010 by Ted Rall
Haiti News Coverage Turns Sublimely Ridiculous
Ah, “1984.” As the cartoonist Matt Bors says, it’s “the dystopian novel that keeps on giving.”
Orwell’s main character worked for a government ministry that controlled the future by changing the past. Its most effective tool: the Memory Hole. Pieces of history went in—poof!—never to be heard from again. Afterward, it was as if those particular events had never happened:
“The past was alterable. The past never had been altered. Oceania was at war with Eastasia. Oceania had always been at war with Eastasia.”
American news producers and editors have long been masters of the Memory Hole, purposefully omitting the most relevant information stories that would otherwise make the whatever the current regime is look bad. “President Hugo Chávez,” reported The Washington Post in a typical example of spin from 2005, “has recently accused President Bush of plotting to assassinate him.” Going on to slam Chávez’s supposed “bluster and anti-American showmanship,” the Post left something out: Chávez’s accusation was true.
Still, no one could have anticipated the soaring brazenness or the cynical linguistic savagery U.S. state-controlled media would deploy while “covering” the invasion of Haiti.
[Given that it took at least four days after the earthquake before the U.S. military permitted relief supplies to land at the Port-au-Prince airport, turned away planes from such NGOs as Doctors Without Borders, and that Defense Secretary Robert Gates refused to release aid until a full week had passed, one can hardly call the deployment of 10,000 troops a relief operation.]
Vanished from news accounts of Operation Haitian Freedom—poof!—was the United States’ century-long raping and pillaging of the country, including several CIA-backed coups that installed vicious dictators and a brutal occupation by U.S. Marines that lasted several decades.
There were hundreds of candidates to choose from in awarding this week’s Haiti Memory Hole Prize, but the winner is The Oregonian, the daily newspaper in Portland, Oregon. On January 15th the paper published an editorial titled “A muscular paternalism for Haiti” with an incredible thesis:
“If the nations of the world had devoted to Haiti only a fraction of the diplomatic and military energy they have spent over the past five decades on nearby Cuba, the country would be far more advanced and able to aid in its own recovery today.”
In other words, Haiti’s problem isn’t that the U.S. expropriated 40 percent of its GDP from 1915 to 1947. Or that the U.S. installed the father-and-son Duvalier team of “anti-Communist” dictators, who looted the Haitian treasury of more than $1 billion. Or that the CIA deposed Haiti’s popular, and only democratically-elected president, not once, but twice—because he had the gall to push through an increase in the minimum wage for Haitians who work in sweatshops owned by U.S. companies.
Those events couldn’t be responsible for Haiti’s plight. Not even a little bit. Because, if you rely on The Oregonian for your news, you’d never know that that stuff happened.
“Perhaps the scope of the current disaster will at last shock these countries, including the United States, to conduct a muscular intervention into Haitian affairs,” editorialized The Oregonian.
“At last”? What do they call a 20-year-long military occupation? Half a dozen military coups?
Like most of the world, Haiti would have been better off if we really had “neglected” them. How much of our “help” can these poor people stand?
At least The New York Times acknowledged “Haiti’s long history of foreign intervention, including an American occupation” in its coverage. But like other papers that ran sickening—and treacly cartoons falsely depicting a friendly (white) Uncle Sam patronizingly deigning to assist clueless dark-skinned Haitians in their time of need—the most pertinent details had disappeared into the Memory Hole.
Here’s an unexpurgated section of the Times’ background coverage:
“President Woodrow Wilson sent American Marines to Haiti in 1915 to restore public order after six different leaders ruled the country in quick succession, each killed or forced into exile. Opposition was intense, but it would be nearly two decades before the Marines would leave, in 1934.
“When President Bill Clinton ordered troops into the country in 1994 to restore Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was ousted as president by a group of former soldiers, Haitian critics raised that earlier intervention.
“A decade later, Mr. Aristide was forced out of office, and he accused the United States of orchestrating his ouster.”
Wilson said he invaded Haiti to restore public order. The real reason, historians widely acknowledge, was to transform the country into an economic vassal state, a Caribbean colony.
It’s true that Clinton brought Aristide back to power. But his predecessor, George Herbert Walker Bush, had ordered a CIA coup that removed him in the first place.
Finally, Aristide wasn’t “forced out of office” by some mysterious random power. The Times’ editors knew that. After all, their own newspaper ran a page-one story on March 1, 2004 titled: “Aristide Flees After a Shove From the U.S.” So when Aristide “accused the United States of orchestrating his ouster,” he was “accusing” the U.S. of doing what The New York Times reported that it did.
True, this information is available to anyone who cares to spend a few minutes Googling it. The point is, few people have the time, energy or inclination to second-guess everything they read. Like Winston Smith in “1984,” they start to wonder whether they misremembered events as they were originally reported. Maybe we really have always been at war with Eurasia. Maybe we really did invade Haiti in 1915 merely to “restore order.” Or maybe, if you live in Portland, this is the first time the U.S. or any other country has ever bothered to pay attention to Haiti. Who knows?
What I want to know is: Why do editors and producers do it? Why do they leave out the basic facts? It’s not like they get a call from Big Brother ordering them to spin or delete historical facts from their coverage. They do it voluntarily.
What are they afraid of?
(Ted Rall is the author, with Pablo G. Callejo, of the new graphic memoir “The Year of Loving Dangerously.” He is also the author of the Gen X manifesto “Revenge of the Latchkey Kids.” His website is tedrall.com.)
COPYRIGHT 2010 TED RALL
January 25, 2010 by Naomi Nowak
hi, just a quick note … i’m having a raffle at my blog (here!) for a free copy of graylight. i did it for house of clay and it was fun, so i thought, why not. put your name down if you like