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September 10, 2008

That Voodoo That You Do
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 12:01 PM * 51 comments

Tired of the record federal deficit? Records were made to be broken!

Uncle Sam: $407 billion in the hole

Deficit up by $246 billion in a year. Federal agency cites ‘substantial increase in spending’ and ‘halt’ in tax revenue growth. Also says it will add Fannie and Freddie to future estimates.

NEW YORK ( — The budget deficit will jump by $246 billion to $407 billion this year, the Congressional Budget Office estimates in a report released Tuesday.

“Over the long run, growing budget deficits and the resulting increases in federal debt would lead to slower economic growth,” the agency said.

Last year, the budget deficit was $161 billion. The government’s fiscal year ends Sept. 30. The agency attributes the jump to “a substantial increase in spending and a halt in the growth of tax revenues.”

Well, duh! Cut taxes, increase spending, borrow from everyone and guess what happens. It’s Weimar Republic time down on the Potomac. Good thing we have those fiscally responsible Republicans in office, isn’t it?

Doubling the deficit in one year. And they said it couldn’t be done!

Comments on That Voodoo That You Do:
#1 ::: Robin Z ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2008, 12:11 PM:

Technically, the Republicans didn't/don't control Congress this year. Not that that's an excuse, mind, but it's not exactly a slam-dunk.

#2 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2008, 12:17 PM:

The Republicans are also talking "government shut-down" again. (Like it really improved their reputation the last time they tried this.)

DC area merchants (and anywhere else there's a large concentration of Federal employees), if they close the government this Fall, kiss your Christmas shopping season goodbye...

#3 ::: Giacomo ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2008, 12:19 PM:

Considering that they control the White House, and the Senate is basically deadlocked (depending on whether you judge Joe Lieberman as a Democrat In Name Only or a full-out Republican)...

Also, the overall trend in the last decade of almost-one-party-rule is horrifying anyway.

#4 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2008, 12:49 PM:

"Slower economic growth" -- har. Those guys sure have their deadpan delivery down pat.

#5 ::: Bruce Adelsohn ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2008, 12:58 PM:

Those wacky fiscal conservatives!

Though it appears he got his numbers off slightly, if the current projection is only -$407bn, the principle holds.

#6 ::: Rulial ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2008, 01:03 PM:

As far as assigning blame goes, the appropriate question isn't "Who controls Congress and the White House?" The appropriate question is "Which decisions created this problem and who made them?" From my perspective, the two main decisions were (1) going to war in Iraq, which has proved incredibly expensive and (2) passing a bunch of tax cuts based on overoptimistic budget projections. You might also add (3) lax regulation of the banking industry, which allowed the subprime mortgage crisis.

The budget deficit isn't going to be solved overnight, regardless who we elect this fall. Even if he does the right things, it will take a while for the new president to fix the problems he inherits.

#7 ::: Robin Z ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2008, 01:11 PM:

...and that's why "the other guys are in charge now!" is not an excuse.

(Hey, why does the "Spelling reference" have an entry for Barack? People misspell that?)

#8 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2008, 01:25 PM:

Speaking of that "Democratic-controlled congress" has anyone noticed the record number of filibusters the Republicans have used to block action in the Senate?

#10 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2008, 01:31 PM:

Threats of filibusters, mostly, because the Democrats can't get enough cats herded to reach a clear majority, and they've bought into the idea that they need at least 60 votes to pass anything. (Actually, someone should stage an old-fashioned multi-day filibuster, just so Congress understands what really it means to filibuster, as opposed to speaking.)

#11 ::: John L ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2008, 01:40 PM:

Well, it's just a number, after all. It doesn't really mean anything; they can just print more money to pay for it!

(That appears to be the prevailing belief in Congress from both sides of the aisle, anyway.)

#12 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2008, 01:43 PM:

Rulial #6: The Iraq war can be laid mostly at the feet of the Republicans, though there was substantial support for it among Democrats. I think the tax cuts were mostly just Republican ideas. The lax regulation of the mortgage market, including the recent excitement with Fannie and Freddie, goes squarely with both parties, and the underlying problems have been going on for a long time. (And I could maybe stand to go awhile longer before the next time I hear about how the collapse of quasigovernmental agencies to privatize profits and socialize losses is an example of a failure of the free market, but that's another rant.)

As far as I can tell, our fiscal management as a country hasn't been particularly good for a long time. A combination of unusually bad management and unusually bad conditions has made the situation much worse than it had been, but the broad pattern wasn't prudent financial management, it was spend/cut taxes/make promises today and let the problems land in the future.

#13 ::: Manny ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2008, 01:43 PM:

So far every time they have shut down the government (usually just a day or two), they have paid the employees for those days anyway by including the back-pay authorization in the continuing resolution or budget bill when it goes through. It's dramatic, but it doesn't save any money.

#14 ::: John L ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2008, 02:30 PM:

This country's financial debt is the 2000 pound gorilla sitting in the middle of the living room that no one, and I mean NO ONE, wants to talk about or even admit it exists.

The Chinese are more than willing to continue to float us loans, as long as we're willing to ignore the fact we cannot pay for them. This country's financial situation is exactly like someone who bought a house they knew they couldn't afford, and are hoping that somehow, some way, the future will allow them to sell it for an even larger home that they cannot afford. They hope no one will call in the debt before they can unload it on someone else, and continue the charade a little longer.

That's the way the US government is operating right now. The Chinese know we can't pay up; if we defaulted on the loans we'd take them down with us, along with everyone else.

We're the Fannie Mae of the world, but there's no one to bail us out.

#15 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2008, 02:31 PM:

McCain would have us believe that somehow cutting taxes on everyone, including the rich, staying in Iraq even when the Iraqis want us out, and starting a new cold war with Russia is "change".

It is change. It'll make things worse even faster!

#16 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2008, 02:36 PM:

If I read the CBO report correctly, the real deficit is expected to be $592 billion for 2008 (up from $342 billion in 2007). That's the shortfall when you *don't* take into account an estimated $173 billion surplus in social security taxes paid last year. In theory, that's supposed to be "trust fund" money available for future social security payments. In practice, we've spent it this year.

Why Congress and media often downplay this or omit mention of it entirely is not fully clear to me. I don't see that much of a difference between shifting the bill for our overspending to tomorrow's taxpayers and shifting it to tomorrow's retirees. (And, remember, another phrase for "tomorrow's retirees" is "today's workers".)

#17 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2008, 02:44 PM:

Sorry, make that a $184 billion surplus, not a $173 billion one. (I read the wrong column.) The total deficit figure of $592 billion still applies.

(This is taken from Summary Table 1 of the CBO's _The Budget And Economic Outlook: an Update_, September 2008.)

#18 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2008, 03:06 PM:

Giacomo #3: the Senate is basically deadlocked (depending on whether you judge Joe Lieberman as a Democrat In Name Only or a full-out Republican)...

It's actually worse than that: Senate rules are being manipulated to require supermajorities (not quite to the veto override level, but close) to get things done.

#19 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2008, 03:22 PM:

Manny @13:

I've been a Federal employee for over 30 years, and some shutdowns have been for much longer than 1 or 2 days, and I quote:

The second FY1996 partial shutdown of the federal government, and the longest in history, began on December 16, 1995, and ended on January 6, 1996.

Yes, we got paid for it -- afterwords, but that did not help with the bills that continued to come in while I and others like me wondered how and when we were going to be able to pay them.

So I don't find it reassuring to be told "It will only be one or two days." I know it can be much longer, and once was more than enough.

#20 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2008, 03:28 PM:

John, #14: IOW, the Chinese are doing to us exactly what we did to the Russians, just with a different MO.

#21 ::: Stefan Joens ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2008, 05:09 PM:

The only way out of this is to elect maverick leaders who want Real Change for You, stand up to fat cat trial lawyers, and hunt moose!

[/despairing snark]

#22 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2008, 05:14 PM:

Seriously . . . anyone who ran on fiscal prudence would be . . . well, they'd never make it to a primary.

You can't run on tax increases and program cuts.

#23 ::: Rosa ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2008, 05:41 PM:

Are you sure? Maybe it's because I live in a liberal bubble, but it seems like "We're going to raise taxes slightly, but we'll make sure no bridges fall down while you're driving on them and we'll extricate ourselves from some of our many overseas military presences in order to pay for Grandma to keep staying in that nursing home" would be a fine platform.

#24 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2008, 05:44 PM:

Stefan Jones #22: You can't run on tax increases and program cuts.

You can if it means steep tax increases for the idle rich and reduction of corporate welfare.

"idle rich" = "any rich person I don't like"

#25 ::: cajunfj40 ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2008, 05:49 PM:

Stefan Jones @#22:

You can't run on tax increases and program cuts.

What I recall from being a young volunteer for the 1987 Buddy Roemer Louisiana gubernatorial bid was that Buddy was going to raise taxes and cut programs, and he won. He was pretty boring, though, so the next election got Edwards re-elected (because David Duke would have destroyed the never-very-hale economy).


On the national level, though, I believe you're correct.

#26 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2008, 08:02 PM:


Point of fact, the Edwards/Duke Louisiana gubernatorial election was the first one I was legal to vote in... and a boatload of people I knew voted "Fast Eddie" Edwards into office on the principle of "Better the evil you know than the evil you don't."

Economics was the last thing on most people's minds, as I recall. You *knew* Fast Eddie was going to lie, cheat, swindle, fool around with pretty young women and give kickbacks to his buddies, because that's what he'd done the last couple of times he was in office, whereas Duke was both a flamboyant nutjob AND an unknown quantity....

#27 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2008, 08:08 PM:

#20 ::: Lee:

What would it take for the Chinese to take us down without majorly damaging themselves? The rest of the world becomes prosperous enough that we're only a minor trading partner?

#28 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2008, 08:32 PM:

Kickbacks? Hah, if I ever run for public office, one of my campaign planks will be a promise to donate at least a third of all bribe money I receive to some of my favorite causes, like the EFF, the ACLU and Amnesty International.

#29 ::: Jacob Davies ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2008, 09:38 PM:

And read this from DeLong quoting the Tax Policy Center on the revenue effects of the two candidates' stated tax policy.

Summary: if you like gigantic budget deficits you've enjoyed under the Bush administration, McCain is going to work out GREAT. The current 10-year shortfall projection is 2.3 trillion dollars. McCain adds another 4 to 6 trillion dollars to that shortfall.

Ah, the party of fiscal responsibility.

#30 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2008, 09:46 PM:

Stefan @ #22 "You can't run on tax increases and program cuts."

From Russell Long: Tax reform means, 'Don't tax you, don't tax me. Tax that fellow behind the tree.'

#31 ::: BigHank53 ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2008, 11:31 PM:

It's not Weimar Republic time yet. Zimbabwe is there, you bet.

One of the most interesting things I got out of my grandmother's stamp collection is a letter mailed in the Weimar Republic, in the late twenties. It has seventeen million Reichmarks of postage stuck on the front. When you hold that in your hand, you get a visceral feel for why fascists* can win elections.

I'm afraid things are going to get worse--a lot worse--before they get better.

*Real fascists, not the whiny spitbuckets we have in office currently.

#32 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2008, 02:25 AM:

BigHank53 @31:
Small pedantic correction: The Inflation was in the early 20s, and long over by the time the Nazis became a serious political force. The Nazis rose to power during the Great Depression, wich, in Germany, involved a lot of other hardships, but no hyperinflation.

Nancy Lebovitz @ 27:
What would it take for the Chinese to take us down without majorly damaging themselves? The rest of the world becomes prosperous enough that we're only a minor trading partner?

Alternatively, they themselves, or at least their richest 10 or 20 percent, becoming prosperous enough that the US ends up as only a minor trading partner.

At the moment, the Chinese government uses various large scale financial transaction tricks to make sure that Americans can afford Chinese goods wich they normally couldn't afford. What if they'd try to switch to using various large scale financial transaction tricks to make sure that the Chinese middle class can afford Chinese goods wich it normally couldn't afford? And since high oil prises seem to make all kinds of goods less competetive in places far away from where they are made at the moment, the Chinese goverment might even soon think that they have no other options left to make sure that someone can buy their goods.

#33 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2008, 05:52 AM:

I am currently watching the exchange rates with a combination of amusement and worry.

The Euro was originally launched in late 1999 at 1:1 parity with the Dollar. It dipped as low as 0.8 dollars at one point, but is currently trading at 1.39 Dollars to the Euro (having peaked above 1.5).

For comparison, for most of the 1990s and early 2000s the Pound (sterling) traded around 1.50 dollars. Over the past 3-4 years, though, the Dollar weakened progressively, dropping as low as 2.11 to the Pound. (Trust me, this hurts if you're a British writer selling novels in the USA, for which you get paid royalties in dollars -- I took a 25% pay cut between 2001 and 2008 due to the progressive devaluation of the dollar.)

Weirdly, the Pound has now slumped against the Dollar -- we're down to 1.75 as of today, which would make me very happy indeed if I didn't know this was due to the state of the British economy and housing bubble -- for the Dollar/Euro rate is static, and the Pound has also slumped against the Euro. But the underlying pattern is there: the Bush years concealed a hidden devaluation of the Dollar, which is why physical exports (of goods such as Caterpillar tractors) are doing great right now.

What's also interesting is that the Dollar devaluation (coinciding with the rise of the Euro as an alternative reserve currency) wasn't accompanied by high inflation -- at least, not initially: just by a reduction in living standards/earning power for the middle class. Cannibalizing their assets to fuel debt kept a veneer of prosperity on the lifestyle, but now the property-fed credit bubble has hit the buffers and there's nothing left but belt-tightening austerity and an exports drive.

Of course, no politician's going to get elected by saying "our predecessors screwed you, sold off the family silver, and emptied the bank account; you're going to have to work like dogs for the next generation just to pay down the debt, your standard of living is going to go down the pan, and if you want your bridges or roads fixing you're going to pay extra taxes until you bleed from the ears and nose". But that's what any sane politician elected to high office in the USA for the next decade is going to be confronted with.

Insane politicians are another matter ...

#34 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2008, 06:30 AM:

I was reading that there are plenty of investment opportunities in infrastructure in the USA just now, and the bodies in charge of bridge and roads etc are looking to privatise a lot of them to get rid of the necessity of paying for improvements.

Of course nobody seems able to explain to me how it is cheaper to privatise the roads and bridges. So it looks to me like it will cost the average american more to simply live and go about their daily business. Unless of course you are rich enough to have invested in the kind of company which buys up infrastructure.

#35 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2008, 06:45 AM:

Guthrie @34: anyone for a game of Monopoly?

#36 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2008, 06:57 AM:

When I hear words like 'Armageddon' used to refer to what might have happened had the US Treasury not intervened to prop up Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and I consider that most Americans are oblivious of the fact that the entire economic house of cards could collapse at any minute, I am astonished. I keep reading in the daily paper that capitalism is about individual initiative and the free market. Were it not for the fact that I and those I love have to live with the consequences, I'd be happy to see what would happen if the idiots who pontificate so readily on the subject had to deal with the actual reality.

#37 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2008, 08:38 AM:

Monopoly? Sounds like a good game to me.
But at least with the toll roads in the 19th century you could wander through the fields, or break the gates if the toll got too high, as happened quite a few times.
Whereas you have your toll road to work, it'll cost you, and you can't just drive around it. No doubt someone is writing a computer program to optimise the charges such that the average user won't find it worthwhile to get a new job, or to drive around the toll road.

#38 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2008, 09:47 AM:

Cajun@25, Thena@26: Don't forget the shenanigans with Clyde Hollowell (D) pulling out of the election at the last minute, thus actually remaining on the ballot to pull votes away from Roemer.

I strongly suspect* Fast Eddie came back to do only one thing: get riverboat gambling passed. He was happily retired, living in Las Vegas, gambling and playing around with women until he suddenly showed up to run for Governor again. Personally, I think Hollowell was paid to run/drop out, and Fast Eddie took advantage of Duke's presence to make a strong play that won him the governorship once more. After riverboat gambling was legalized in LA, he said he would not run again -- becoming a lame duck gov more than a year before the next election. He also played a lot of poker in the Governor's Mansion, and quite ostentatiously declared all his winnings, which were many. The local news people started hinted that these games were his payoffs, and the rest is history.

*The subsequent trial and conviction on this topic leads me to think my suspicions were correct.

#39 ::: cajunfj40 ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2008, 09:49 AM:

Thena @#26:

"Better the evil you know than the evil you don't."

Well, yes, better the crook than the Klansman. By the time that election rolled around, my family had up and moved to the Frozen North (Minnesota). I was in High School, and I recall picking up that a very large quantity of hotel-room-night and convention-hall reservations would have been dropped the day Duke got elected. As a voter at the time, you've likely got a better grasp of what was happening "on the ground", all I have is what I remember from looking on in horror from afar. If Duke had won...

#40 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2008, 11:15 AM:

British investors owned a huge amount of the US's infrastructure and industry up until 1940; then we needed to liquidate it to cover the huge war import bill (especially as we took over the outstanding French contracts in the US). Before Lease-Lend, everything was cash on the nail in US currency or gold.

So the investors were told to hand over their stocks (they were swapped for UK government bonds) and they were sold, practically all at once. Supposedly, Joe Kennedy made an epic killing out of the deal because as ambassador he knew what was coming up next.

I wouldn't be surprised if the reverse were to happen.

#41 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2008, 12:44 PM:

Charlie (#33) The Australian Dollar has begun to revert to Pacific Peso status. It's gone from talk of 'parity', hovering at 96-98 US cents to just below 80 US cents in about a month. This included a drop of 4 cents in 1 day. This is said to mainly be linked to drops in assorted commodity prices.

Most of it has happened while I watched from my hospital bed, disconnected from the 'net. My online overseas buying of books & DVDs it's difficult to find here (which'll go into Oz circulation when I don't have more use for them) has been cut rather short, along with frustration of a long-held deep desire to have 36" of Elise's remarkable The Waters of Twilight are Endless (not to mention several other of her shinies). But I'm working on discarding 'attachments'. Luckily (???) she had a massive sale while I was out of contact, so many temptations have been removed, until new ones arrive.

It's good news for our tourism operators and other exporters, apparently. Still better than our situation with the GBP, where we're at about 45p – ouchie.

#42 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2008, 12:55 PM:

Charlie #33:

I kind of suspect the currency comparisons are messier than they look, because there's no absolute frame of reference. The Euro, Yen, Pound, Swiss Franc, Dollar, Yuan, etc., are all being actively managed/manipulated to control interest rates/unemployment and inflation, and that's happening in very strongly cross-linked globalized economy.

That said, I can't see any way to look at the economic news of the past couple years as anything but fking ominous. Much of the housing market stuff has the authentic feel of a bubble that everyone knew was a bubble, but which could not be permitted to deflate without hurting too many powerful interests. And we're still doing it--we're not going to liquidate Fanny and Freddie, because they're important to stemming the fall in housing prices (the deflation of the bubble) and encouraging more home ownership (re-inflating the bubble later). While this is in my personal financial interests, it seems like another example of mailing the bills for today's good times to our future selves.

Alongside this, we also get to see that our huge debt and continuously growing deficit make it imperative to protect foreign investors, even if that costs US taxpayers money. Similarly, the way campaign contributions and lobbying works, it's a good deal for politicians to make taxpayers bear the losses of the US investors who held Fannie/Freddie stock and bonds.

Of course, we will not hear any mention of this fiasco the next time some politician wants to use the good name of the US government to promise to cover any bad debts of some politically important company. Instead, we'll be told that such an action has "zero cost." I wonder how long it will be till we see that proposed--perhaps not long at all, as several other big banks are teetering, and the big US automakers are in big trouble.

#43 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2008, 12:58 PM:

Alex (#40) Lend-Lease. Yes, the UK took decades after WWII paying the debt they'd built up to the USA in the years of war before Pearl Harbour, as well as the remainder of it.

There are some suspicious souls who look on it as America deliberately taking the opportunity to make sure the UK wouldn't maintain its superpower or imperial status as a serious rival to the USA at the end of the war. [FU] I couldn't possibly say such a thing.[/FU]

#44 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2008, 01:03 PM:

Just to continue in the dark-themed vein of my previous post, this is why I don't believe we'll see substantial action on CO2 emissions in time to change much w.r.t global warming. It's hard to believe you'll get anywhere with "I'm going to make everything in your life cost 25% more, in order to avert bad things coming in a couple generations," when you can't get anywhere with "I'm going to raise your taxes a few percentage points, to address the growing deficit and the way it's going to grow faster for demographic reasons in the next generation."

IMO, the best way to get out of the global warming trap is to innovate our way out, because unless adapting to global warming is made a lot less painful, I can't see it happening. The best way to get out of the deficit trap, I'm much less clear on--the big bomb there is Medicare, and we've had no success so far at stoping the growth of medical costs. (And the likely way to decrease that growth in the next few years is to extend something like Medicare to every citizen in the US--a win in terms of making sure poor people with breast cancer have a better chance of survival, but not too likely to do much to reduce the deficit.)

#45 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2008, 11:50 PM:

guthrie, #37, in the DC area, a number of people prefer to use the Dulles Toll Road and pay than to use free public roads in the same orientation. Virginia is counting on this working with toll lanes on part of the Beltway, too.

#46 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2008, 04:43 AM:

@43: We paid the last instalment on New Year's Eve, 2006. I thought that NYE was a good one!

#47 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2008, 07:03 AM:

MArilee #45- here in the UK we have a toll road north of Birmingham that was/ is supposed to help relieve the Birmingham ring road which is overloaded. As expected, what happens is that the tolls are high enough that lorries use the public roads, and richer car drivers use the toll road, but to be honest, in terms of sheer traffic numbers, I'm amazed they make any money at all. I've used it twice, both times I was bypassing Birmingham and knew the ring road would be packed, and so it proabbly saved 30 to 60 minutes and a lot of hassle. But my impression is that what is planned in the USA is many times greater than the Birmingham road.

#48 ::: Juli Thompson ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2008, 08:17 AM:

Albatross @42

I kind of suspect the currency comparisons are messier than they look, because there's no absolute frame of reference.


That's why The Economist developed the Big Mac Index

#49 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2008, 02:25 PM:

#33 Charlie Stross: You think that's bad, the first tournament I directed paid me USD X a session, at $1.50 in Monopoly money/USD. The last one I did paid me USD X*1.15 - at par (strangely enough, I haven't heard the term Monopoly Money for CAD from Americans recently). I tell people that I got hired at one rate, and have taken a pay cut every time I show up since.

However, it would have hurt you more, as I, luckily, don't make my living running tournaments.

#50 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2008, 06:09 PM:

Juli #48:

So, if Charlie and Mycroft can just arrange to get paid in Big Macs, then purchasing power parity will work its magic and all will be okay....

#51 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2008, 06:27 PM:

albatross @44, I'm optimistic that we will innovate our way out of the global warming trap. There is a lot of money to be made for someone who can invent a reasonable, affordable engine that doesn't run on petroleum products, and likewise a lot of money to be made for someone who can reliably deliver solar and wind energy, as prices of oil and natural gas go up. If we can just get people into government who don't actively try to suppress this stuff for the sake of the oil industry, the free market will do what it does best. (It's not best for every situation, but for problems like this, it's the best way to innovate our way out of it.)

Health care? I don't know. Frankly I suspect that a single-payer system would drastically reduce overall costs, because there would actually be less bureaucracy.

Housing: As a homeowner it panics me -- only because of the way this country handles debt and bankruptcy. I'm afraid, and with some reason, that if I was foreclosed on, I wouldn't be able to get a a decent apartment, and possibly not even a job. This might even be true if I only had to sell my home for much less than it was worth, and carry another loan to pay off the difference -- all that debt looks bad on your credit report. I agree it's probably a necessary economic correction; I worry about the human cost, since it seems like so much of your status rides on your credit rating.

It would help if we weren't burning through billions on a war that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff admits we are losing, of course.

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