Monday, November 1, 2010

The Dean of Washington Rules

One of the primary U.S. history tropes can be summarized as "WW2 pulled the U.S. out of the Depression".

This is usually taken as a just a kind of fact. But (appropriately enough) on the weekend of Halloween the very-very-serious pundit David Broder actually used it as a template for the recovery from the Great Recession. What we needed to drag the U.S. economy from the economic doldrums of 2010 is...(wait for it)...

War with Iran.Now as far as this goes it is probably factually correct; government spending does help stimulate an economy caught in a depression cycle. People are employed in war production, they spend, generating orders for consumer goods, which in turn ramps up civilian manufacture, etcetera. All of this is acceptable Econ101.

Assuming you're willing to order a side of dead Iranian women and kiddies with that.

Dean Baker over at the CEPR does a perfectly good job of taking down the Dean for eliding that it has nothing to do with war - it's government spending that does the trick;
"Yes, that's right, all the forms of stimulus spending that Broder derided so much because they add to the deficit will increase GDP and generate jobs just like the war that Broder is advocating."
but it's worth pausing for a moment to consider this entire conversation.

David Broder, a man widely heard, widely "respected", vastly influential, is actually arguing that in order to help reduce your country's fiscal difficulties you embark on a course of action very likely to bring pain, fear, misery, wounding or death to themand themand these girlsand this entire group in order to kill the man in the middle and those like him.Oh, and as a "benefit" from a plan to reduce our nation's economic woes.

Now you might think that in a sane world, a place where proposing massive death and suffering for selfish economic purposes, in a part of the world where similar military adventures have led to lingering, pointless low-intensity wars, radically polarized, hostile populations, enormous economic dislocation and political dysfunction was considered inapt at best and monstrously inhuman at worst, that such a man suggesting such a thing would result in universal revulsion and violent condemnation.

You might think that such a man suggesting such a thing would have to flee, have to hide from plain sight for fear of being brutally assaulted for suggesting that those men, women and children deserved to die because U.S. unemployment is running a little high.

You might think that decent, humane Americans of all political stripes and categories would unite in reviling and rejecting such a vile scheme as worthy only of the worst villains of literature and the movies.

You might think that.

But you'd be wrong.


  1. Yeah, I was like, WTF? I had to check to ensure he wasn't being misquoted when I first heard about it.

    The thing is, it's not "war" that brings economic benefit - it's the mobilization of resources and manpower to prosecute a war. That's what finally brought us out of the depression and laid the groundwork for the next three decades.

    In the case of Iran, there wouldn't be any such mobilization - the unemployed wouldn't be drafted into service, the government wouldn't finance the creation of new industries, etc. There would be no massive investments made. We'd simply use the military we have which would actually result in an economic drain (actually, a future drain since the money would be borrowed), not economic benefit.

    Maybe I'm misperceiving things, but it seems to me that more and more of the so-called "elites" in this country are either going off the rails or finally being exposed for the intellectual frauds they are.

  2. It is interesting to note that to get a reporter fired, they merely have to make one bigoted remark.

    However, when a reporter makes a truly obscene remark (and incites the worst of war crimes to boot) it is par for the course.

  3. Ael:

    However, when a reporter makes a truly obscene remark (and incites the worst of war crimes to boot) it is par for the course.

    You speak a great truth. :) As in the case of David Brooks, who gets hired by the New York Times. Google "driftglass" and "david brooks" if you are unfamiliar and you'll see what I mean.

    Broder should have been put out to pasture years ago. Brooks apparently is trying to take up Broder's mantle of Mushy Punditry.

    As for more media madness, the Mickey Mouse network has hired Andrew Breitbart for election night coverage, whose protege was the infamous James O'Keefe, who bamboozled the NYT and Congress and Obama into killing ACORN.

    I watched most of Stewart's "Rally for Sanity" Saturday, and all of his closing soliloquy. His broad-brush description of cable TV news was unfortunate.


  4. Nice catch Chief. Broder imo reflects the confusion affecting the elite at this point in time. They know that the economic crisis is not over and may even get worse, but they have no way of dealing with it. Holding the financial elite accountable for their own corruption is not an option, so they look beyond the trainwreck of domestic policy to the trainwreck of foreign policy and attempt to convince themselves that the military might have the answer . . . it simply reflects what is the chief characteristic of the US today . . . exhaustion tempered by foolishness (consider Broder's assumptions as to how this new war would be seen by the international community).

  5. Wow, so it begins.

    I can't remember the marketing term. For example, Verizon's "Rule the Air" campaign that recently started. What the hell does it mean? What Verizon isn't telling you yet is that the future technology (LTE or 4G) when fully in place, they have an intent to make each and every 4G phone serve as a relay station for other phones, a "mesh network". This means that your neighbor will make phone calls that pass through your phone. Some people mind find this idea unsettling. So Verizon has a PR campaign that is attempting to desensitize you to the idea before they let you know understand the idea.

    What does that have to do with anything? This article may be the start of a PR campaign (or a continuation) to desensitize you to actions against Iran. The fact is, Israel could strike Iran any day now. They have done it in the past (Iraq), there is no reason to believe they won't do it now. As absurd as it sounds, military action against Iran seems to be moving into the "not if but when" category. Is your PR machine ready?

  6. Andy-

    Well said and right to the point. Sadly, Browder's remarks are not that far fetched. For today's Americans, war is a glorious away game, fought by someone else's children, who kill abstract alien people, who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. No big deal.


  7. Andy: I do think in this case the Broderian nostrum implied a full-scale mobilization of national resources. I tend to agree with you that such a mobilization would not happen.

    I think Broder is pretending that the governing class would recognize the insanity were the U.S. to think seriously of attempting a coup de main against Iran WITHOUT seriously ramping up both military hardware as well as some sort of draft-like move (nationalizing the entire Guard and Reserve, for example). A silly, transparent lie, but apparently it is not necessary to lie convincingly to become a national opinion writer.

    As Al so eloquently observed...WASF.

  8. I keep wondering when the American people are going to wake up. Like one does from a hangover, they'll look in the bathroom mirror and say, "Did I really get in bed with Glen, Rush, Sarah and Christine?" Did I really end up giving the same party that got us into this mess the power to do it again?

    Thank you sir! May I have another!